Over the last few days, I’ve been involved with the final workshop in a consortium in which I’ve been a participant. My university, along with twenty other small, private, liberal-arts schools, was part of the first cohort of the Council of Independent College’s Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction. This weekend, our two-year grant-funded experiment came to a close. A new cohort of schools starts their two-year program tomorrow, and I’m honored to be serving as a mentor for that group. The questions this project sought to answer reflected, I think, the somewhat ambiguous nature of the enterprise: can small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) use blended and online learning in a better and more mission-appropriate way than larger institutions and (especially) MOOCs have done? And is it a worthwhile and sustainable thing for us to do in these tenuous and resource-starved times? Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Online Learning and the Humanities.”
Early last fall, I wrote about my plans to add a fairly elaborate blogging component to my upper-level Latin American history course. This semester-long blogging assignment was, I hoped, a way for me to replace the “traditional” research paper capstone assignment,which I believed had become at best stale, and at worst, counterproductive of the goals I had for my courses. I wasn’t the only one questioning the standard research paper assignment or its structure; in particular, a great, provocative article on the subject by Rebecca Schuman affirmed my thought process and provided the impetus for me to radically rethink the research and writing components of my upper-level courses. So off we went. Continue reading “The Great Student Blogging Experiment: Some Results”
THIS JUST IN: Distracted students are distracted! Also: sometimes there are things that distract students! And we all know what to do with things that might potentially distract students: BAN THEM! At least that’s what we’re told by the avatars of pedagogical wisdom populating the comment threads below any article talking about students’ use of technology in the classroom.
At the beginning of the summer, as I settled into planning for this fall, I made the decision to jettison the traditional research paper assignment–which had heretofore served as a capstone project–from my upper-level History courses. If you’re interested in the thought process that led to that momentous decision, I blogged about it then. After a summer of planning, and a few weeks of implementation, I feel even more strongly than I did then that I made the right call. I’m convinced that replacing the 15-18 page, double-spaced, works-cited-appended, immaculately-cited-in-Turabian-style research paper with an ongoing, curated digital project will lead to better work from, and better learning by, my students. Continue reading “Launching the Great Student-Blogging Experiment”
One of the fascinating things about language and popular discourse in the age of the internet is how quickly the cycle of expansion-to-repulsion occurs. It usually goes something like this: a word or phrase enters the popular vocabulary and quickly becomes a trendy, go-to word for the “smart set” (which was itself one of those phrases); moves into the mainstream, where it is appropriated for all sorts of purposes not related to its original meaning; and finally, after having reached peak cultural saturation, is banished to the land of annoying cliches, living out the rest of its existence on businessmens’ page-a-day calendars and motivational memes posted by your mom’s Facebook friends. The examples are legion: “take it to the next level”; “think outside of the box”; “at the end of the day”; anything with “silo”; “leverage” as a verb, not a noun—hell, “jump the shark” jumped the shark years ago. I propose we add another one to the pile. It’s a word that has not only become trite, but advocates for outcomes that range from irritating to disastrous. Ladies and Gentlemen: I hereby propose that we ban disrupt. BEGONE FOUL BUZZWORD
InsideHigherEd.com’s John Warner had an interesting and thoughtful blog post today, writing about his struggle “to figure out what to do about cell phones and computers in class.” And aren’t we all? If you haven’t heard a faculty member complain about students texting in class, you haven’t been listening; this scourge of classroom decorum everywhere may well have supplanted parking, travel funding, and associate-provost-proliferation as the top grievance of academics. Laptops and smartphones are the bane of classrooms today in the same manner as hemlock was for those in ancient Athens, it seems.