To Twitter or Not to Twitter
Twitter Logo, courtesy of Creative Commons/Google Images.
by Reynol Junco
The following article was…
Allegory with a portrait of a Venetian senator (Allegory of the morality of earthly things), attributed to Tintoretto, 1585. Courtesy of Creative Commons. Copyright Wikipedia:CC BY-SA.
Donna M. Qualters • Tufts University
Melissa McDaniels • Michigan State University
Perrin Cohen • Northeastern University
Reprinted by permission from The IDEA Center. May not be reproduced or used without…
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Part I (an opening)
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets
In systems that exhibit little to no change, prognostication is rather straightforward: a…
[Reblog from Education Week; original story written by Laura Heinauer Mellett on September 18, 2013 9:57 AM]
“Social media is one of the trendiest ways teachers are enhancing lessons and engaging students both in and out of the classroom.
With just a…
Note: Link opens as a PDF.
This new research article explores how Twitter, and other social media technologies, contributes to new and traditional literacy practices. It offers models of using Twitter as a learning tool, explores how Twitter is used by…
Experiments in Creative Approaches to Science Education
Experiments in Creative Approaches to Science Education, by Mika Munakata and Ashwin Vaidya
Performing Arts as Pedagogy, by Christopher Parker
Performing Arts as Pedagogy by Christopher Parker
Lauren Worsham in Dog Days (photo by James…
Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid
Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid by Dr. Kirk McDermid, Department of Philosophy…
Hurricane Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey East Coast region on Monday, October 29, 2012. In its wake, homes were destroyed, businesses ruined, miles and miles of coastline washed away, and lives disrupted, some tragically. Montclair State University closed for the full week, an unprecedented event in the University’s history. The following Wednesday, November 7, 2013, the already battered region was hit by Nor’Easter Athena. While not as devastating as Sandy, it complicated efforts to return people to their homes, to restore power and services to still struggling communities, and to allow people to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
As educators, it is always our job to promote a supportive, professional, calm demeanor in class – storm or no storm.In our Faculty Teaching Circles meeting held on November 12, we discussed concerns and ideas for returning to teaching and supporting students, while maintaining course expectations and curricular goals. As well, we acknowledged that educators in different disciplines will necessarily need to address this situation differently, according to what makes sense for their particular course goals. One of our attendees was able to fold the event into course assignments (a first-year writing course) and to have students analyze how events such as Sandy affect cultural and social behaviors in certain settings — not all educators can be that flexible or adaptive.
The following list poses some thoughts from our discussion, as well as some resources we identified as potentially helpful. Even though we can’t get back the last two weeks, or even the last three months, and anticipate the devastation we would be confronting now, if nothing else this experience teaches us that we need to think about how we can be ready for traumatic or catastrophic disruptions in the future.
1. Being prepared: build in contingency plans into your syllabus and course design. The following advice is taken from the Santa Barbara City College on building a syllabus (adapted). It is simple in its recommendation: always plan your course expecting that somewhere, for some reason, you will miss a week (illness, bereavement, conferences, or natural disasters). Attendees yesterday confirmed that they have a “throwaway” week built into their course — this material is “what we’d love to cover, but can afford not to if we have to cancel class.” We also affirmed that, when we review our syllabi with students at the beginning of the semester, we should discuss with them the “plan” for emergencies or unanticipated course disruptions. Be sure students understand your commitment to continuing class — being understanding (and realistic) but consistent with your expectations — and that you provide clear lines of communication (see #4 below on forms of communication) for them.
2. Keep on Truckin’: Know how to emotionally and socially support your students when returning after a catastrophic event: the Huffington Post published a blog post by Professor Lori Ungemah, who helpfully parsed a government document (available as a .pdf download here) and adapted its recommendations for university/college educators. Her advice:
3. (Not so) Wild ideas: Adapted from epidemic or post-9/11 sources: one syllabus I found had a built in plan in the case of an undefined “Epidemic” [it was posted in January 2011 - Swine Flu? Zombie Apocalypse?] . The professor advised that all assignments would still be due, but moved online (Blackboard). Indeed, most of our group had in some way provided digital/virtual ways to submit assignments via Blackboard or by email. Some instructors simply crunched together assignments after missing the week, without an attempt to skip the material or try and squeeze it in later in the semester.
Another resource I tried when searching for tips on how to return to teaching after a catastrophe was to search for teaching tips that addressed the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I didn’t find much, but this sentence from a course on how to teach student-veterans returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan seemed to offer some helpful advice: “Not only are some student-veterans [students after a disaster] struggling with financial pressures and dealing with physical and mental health [emotional and physical responses to the event] disabilities (including the “signature wounds” of TBI and PTSD), they also share the challenges many nontraditional students face, such as childcare, “relearning” study skills and understanding (often unspoken) academic expectations. Only a well-informed faculty can understand and address such challenges to ensure retention and degree-completion (italics mine).” From this, we can extrapolate some clear guidelines: provide clear guidelines! How have assignments, schedules, course expectations changed? How are you addressing absences, or the continued impact on students’ lives outside class? Communicate your response and any administrative guidelines clearly and as soon as you can.
Soem faculty had uploaded video lectures and/or live-streamed their classes via outlets like Ustream (free) for students who still had transportation issues or could not otherwise make it to class.
4. Communication: obviously, most of us already do this. We clearly state (in class and on our syllabus) the methods available to students for contacting us. Most faculty in our group rely strictly on email or Blackboard, with little or no preference for phone (cell or office) or social media outlets. This may be adequate, though some educators provide their cell numbers for texting purposes, or create a class Twitter (which most students will receive as a notification on their smart phones) for creating lines of communication. Some may create course pages on Facebook, or ask that students post to Blackboard. Really confident and trusting faculty could even set up a study buddy system that maintains a communication chain for all students in a particular course. Not many of us felt this was viable at the university level, but if any of our readers know of or use this method, please tell us your experience.
The point is, be sure students know how to communicate with you, in any situation.
Finally…it must be said…
One of the most frustrating aspects of events like these is balancing the very real predicament students (or you!) may be experiencing: transportation issues, lack of power, cable, Internet access, homelessness, or other effects. But we acknowledged that we also suspect that several of our students have taken advantage of this disaster to avoid work, exploit the missed time to skip class, put off turning in assignments, or otherwise excuse themselves from participating in class. “Of course, we can’t be insensitive to their experience,” said one of our group members, “but…”…But often we intuitively know when a student is BS-ing us. We didn’t have any real advice for this situation, other than to express that we all know it’s happening, and it is just another (minor) effect this storm has left in its wake.
Additional resource (not directly related to teaching, but this discussion imparts important concepts of leadership through difficult situations or conditions):
Ernest Shackleton’s Lesson’s for Leaders in Harsh Climates (NPR Interview with biographer Nancy Keohn): http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2012/11/ernest-shackletons-lessons-for.html
The Research Academy held its first Teaching Circle meeting last Wednesday. I decided to start the semester with a topic that repeatedly comes up in teaching consultations and faculty discussion groups: getting students to do the reading and/or out-of-class work. I observed a class a year ago in which the new young instructor, finishing up the 90 minute class, asked who had done the assigned reading. Not one hand went up. She rather desperately searched her student’s faces: “No one did the reading?” she asked incredulously. No response. I knew this felt awkward for her; she was being observed (at her request) by her colleagues and she didn’t know how to handle the situation. Carry on? Cover the material anyway? Her plan had been to lead a discussion around the concepts in the reading; if no one read it, she would essentially just be teaching the material. She decided to skip the reading altogether and finish up with some group work on a different topic.
This is hardly a singular experience. Nearly every (every?) teacher has faced a class of students who are unprepared. They didn’t read, they didn’t watch the video, or do the review. Luckily, there are definite ways to handle this. First, why don’t students do the reading? Our group, squeezed into a library classroom, brainstormed the following reasons behind the student-didn’t-read phenom:
These are some of the primary reasons that students don’t complete assigned reading. It is important to know why they aren’t reading because this directly informs how you can make some alterations to instruction in order to address these issues.
The participants offered some ideas on what they are doing to counter the no-reading issue:
As you may have guessed, there is a lot of research and expertise available that supports our group’s ideas of how to get students to read, as well as provides some additional ideas. What the experts say:
From Karl Wirth, Malacaster College (http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/activities/27560.html):
After completing the reading assignment, write brief responses (i.e., at least several sentences) to 2 out of 3 questions:
Too often, when we read the words on a page we do not fully integrate that new information into our existing knowledge structure, and so we fail to gain new understanding of the world around us. Research in cognitive science and learning tells us that “deep learning” requires that the learner reflect on new knowledge and create personal meaning from it.
To help us reflect more deeply on readings in this course, we will use reading reflections. These reading reflections are designed to help the reader engage with the material in a deeper way, and to construct new meaning from it. The reflections also have the advantage of providing the instructor with detailed information about your learning in the course. This not only helps guide the daily preparation of course activities, but also helps connect us as a community of learners.
Your response need not be long, but must clearly indicate careful reading and thoughtful reflection. You must respond to two of the questions.
What is the Main Point?
Reading assignments often contain a lot of information. What is the main concept that the author is trying to get across? This may, or may not, have been explicitly stated in the reading. Why did the author choose to emphasize this point, and not some other? Your response is not a summary of the chapter, but an analysis of it in a way that creates new meaning for you.
What is Surprising?
Your response to this question should be reflective. Did you learn something that is in conflict with your previous notions of the world? Did you learn something that fascinates you in a way that you didn’t expect? How does this new knowledge connect with material in other courses, or with other parts of your life? Responses must also clearly explain “why.”
What is Confusing?
Responses to this question require careful reading and reflection; it is only though the process of reconciling new information with our existing knowledge structure that we become aware of inconsistencies, or “gaps” in our understanding. Responses to this question should be specific and actionable – that is they should outline a clear path to understanding. Responses must also clearly explain “why.”
Rubric for Evaluation
10 points Responses to both questions are labeled and clearly indicate careful reading and deep reflection. Responses submitted before class meeting.
5 points Responses are not specific, do not clearly indicate reflection, or are submitted soon after deadline.
0 points No response, or response submitted more than one class period late.
From the IDEA Center, Idea Paper #40 - Getting Students to Read: 14 Tips, by Eric H. Hobson, Georgia State University (http://www.theideacenter.org/research-and-papers/idea-papers/idea-paper-no-40)
1) Using appropriate texts:
2) Rate your reading material: (e.g. absolutely essential, good supporting material, exotic, appealing to experts, or idiosyncratic choice). Only material that is essential should be labeled “required” and students will be held accountable for reading (such as graded reading assignments or readiness quizzes). Consider not using a text if no text can be categorized as essential; instead, build a course reading packet that supplements and complements the course. Any additional texts can fall under Recommended Reading.
3) Course readings should show up as part of in-class presentations (yours or the students), factor into course projects, or appear on exams. Connections between the course and the reading should be obvious.
4) Scaffold your reading assignments. Aim most assignments at “marginally skilled” readers, slowly build up the difficulty level of the readings, have students identify concepts or terms they struggled with for group/class discussion. Develop necessary reading skills and interpretative/inter-relational analysis skills. Preview the readings; relate them to course activities; practice reading skills in class (marking text and understanding why certain things are marked, summarizing concepts, identifying confusing or unclear ideas, forming questions).
5) Use the syllabus as a teaching tool: “Effective syllabi do more than identify required reading materials; they provide background about the materials so that students understand why the reading assignments contribute to learning and how they relate to other course content and course activities (Grunert, 1997; Maleki & Heerman, 1992).”
Source: Turn to Your Neighbor (Peer Instruction Blog): http://blog.peerinstruction.net/2012/09/04/how-one-professor-motivated-students-to-read-before-a-flipped-class-and-measured-their-effort/
Peer Instruction (at least concerning homework and reading assignments) emphasizes effort over getting it right. So, in class, students would compare answers and work together towards a correct answer.
1) Questions associated with the reading.
2) Students will be prepared to be called on to lead discussions on the reading. Assignment is random (cold-calling). Set up communication climate to establish trust and openness for ideas in the classroom.
3) Make the reading MEAN something. Reading should ALWAYS be separate but related to the class material, else what’s the motivation to read it?
4) Credit (grade) for Reading Assignments.
Grunert, Judith. The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. Bolton, MA: Anker, 1997. Print.
Hobson, Eric H. “Getting Students to Do the Reading: 14 Tips.” IDEA Center, Idea Paper #40, (2004), 1-10. Print.
Maleki, R.B. & Heerman, C.E. “Improving student reading.” IDEA Paper No. 26, Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, 1992.
Nist, S.L. & Kirby, K. The text marking patterns of college students. Reading Psychology: An International Quarterly, 10 (1989), 321-338.
Schell, Julie. “How One Professor Motivated to Read Before a Flipped Class, and Measured Their Effort.” Turn to Your Neighbor, Peer Instruction Blog. 4 Sept 2012. Web. 2 Oct 2012. <http://blog.peerinstruction.net/2012/09/04/how-one-professor-motivated-students-to-read-before-a-flipped-class-and-measured-their-effort/>
Wirth, Karl. “Reading Reflections.” Carlton College, Science Education Resource Center. 29 May 2012. Web. 2 Oct 2012. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/activities/27560.html>