Category Archives: Announcements

Visual inquiry

Bass asks poses three questions about teaching: What am I doing now that I’d like to do better? What pedagogical problems would I like to solve? What do I wish students did more often or differently? Kathryn also posed a question in response to my post: What if “develop(ing) a willingness to experiment” became one of the learning goals for an online or hybrid class? Reflecting on these, I have deliberated about which units of my public speaking course could I move on-line, which activities in any unit could be enhanced by moving on-line, and how would I rationalize doing either or both of these in terms of achieving both my and my students expectations of the course, usefulness for their future courses, and grading. What are the risks?

As I’ve said in a recent post, I sometimes have a “flash of an idea for a little twist of technology right there, right then” especially when I hear students puzzling over how a point of context can be applied to her or him personally. For example, a student may ask what specific kind of visual aid or support would be appropriate for her to use? It can use up class time to coach the student personally, or a student may not have time to come to my office, or there may not be enough time to address a line of students waiting between classes for me to address each similar question fully. Further, there isn’t always time to take a teaching and learning moment to put them into an instantaneous discussion group, circulate through the group and still find them wanting me to address their personal questions. Often, once I incorporate a segment into the unit for the next semester, I find the students in that semester may have different needs or concerns.

Therefore, one opportunity to introduce hybridization into my public speaking course would be to expand in-class discussion on-line. I incorporate the Crossroads Research Project’s six kinds of quality learning: Distributive, Authentic Tasks and Complex Inquiry; Dialogic, Constructive, Public Accountability, Reflective and Critical Thinking. I use Bass’s scenarios as models.

I can envision expanding any discussions addressing one point of unit, but building on knowledge acquired from previous units. For example, I’d like to construct a scaffold for “guided inquiry groups” about Use of Visual and Audio Aids to Support Main Points. This could include incorporating their knowledge of units on Gathering Materials, Audience, Supporting Ideas, Ethics. A possible scenario borrowing Bass’s examples is a follows:

  1. Brainstorming: Whole class/in-class: What kinds of visual/audio support aids do I expect to find and where can I search? (List ideas on board). Create an assessment checklist.
  2. On-line: Small triadic groups would search for and publish possible aids for individual speech project, detailing each Mission Statement comprised of General and Specific Purposes and Central Idea (with main points), for the larger audience and the assessment checklist.
  3. Using the checklist, the smaller group would evaluated and comment on the items found, and publish it for the whole class and invite a global audience to evaluate.
  4. Publish and present findings in class about usefulness of studying, analyzing and incorporating a larger audience.

Risks: How much time an effort would this incur for both teacher to build, explain, promote, assess and monitor the students and scenario and results, and students to schedule and work? Would this take away from other studying? How would this be graded? What copyright legalities would we need to be concerned with? How to be assured of engaged individual division of labor?

Embracing the Chaos

One area of hybridity that I feel at once excited and anxious about is asynchronicity.   My unease probably stems from losing control, although empowering students is what attracts me to the hybrid course.   A specific assignment I’ve done in an f2f course but have not had that much success with, is getting students to examine the relationship between prose and poetry (haibun form) in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Interior.   In the f2f I begin by asking them to freewrite about what emerges in the prose versus poetry section of a manageable piece of text.  The students respond, but very superficially.   At first I thought this initial exercise might be viable as a general blog, even before we meet to discuss the text.   My thinking was that they would build on each other’s comments and work to create an initial understanding (they read a general introduction before we discuss the text, but I don’t give them a more specific background until I’ve gotten their initial, untainted reactions).  The risk is that students will simply parrot each other.

After giving this more thought, a general response is certainly valid but rather uninspired.  How can I use out of class sources/experiences to enrich this task?  Here are a few (random) ideas that hopefully expand opportunity (getting them excited) and diminish risk (parroting each other) concerning the prose/poetry question in Basho, in an asynchronous environment:

  • Students divide into groups (by sub-topic) and create a list of blog questions about the text. The class could edit this into one list.
  • Students send the text (short section) to someone outside the class by text message/social media, and elicit a response (report in blog format and/or f2f)
  • Go to nonliterary websites and research a contemporary context for the prose and/or poetry section, then present (online?)
  • During class time, give them 20 minutes to go outside the room, read the section of the text aloud (ask permission to read it to a class in session, go to the lobby/hallway where students congregate, go outside on the street, etc.) and elicit responses. They would work in pairs/groups, and one member would film the reading on their phone. They would then return, present their readings, and discuss the experience with the class (this scares me, a good sign).

During the f2f course, they increasingly narrow their focus: categorize information (narrative, historical, etc.) in each section; compare the physical appearance of each section; sentences vs. poetry lines; diction, etc.   These exercises could be blog work, but these tasks might be best in class, then I could organize more creative ways for them to respond online.   For example, if they’re comparing the physical look of the prose and poetry sections, they could research how other kinds of information look on the page and consider how shape informs content.  Ultimately, this is what I’m pondering:  will giving my students more authority/independence lead to more profound involvement, more confusion, or both?

The Coat of Many Disruptions

You know that feeling, the first week of the semester, when you realize that you have the most amazing and brilliant group of people ever assembled in one space, and that this course, finally, will be the holy grail of course design? Then, usually by week three, you get the first round of essays or presentations and that feeling dampens a bit. 

I have that euphoric feeling after reading everyone’s posts (without the inevitable letdown because I will never have to grade your papers—which clearly would be brilliant anyway).  I can’t think of a better way to end my day than by reading your thoughtful, provoking, and insightful thoughts on the two articles we assigned. I really enjoyed them.

Some common threads that strike me, and I will add, refine, and edit these thoughts after sitting with them for a while, are the exciting possibilities that come with experimenting, questioning, and trying new tools. Moreover, many of your posts and comments emphasize the importance of creating discursive and disruptive moments in the classroom. Others remind us that we need to temper this compulsion to innovate with pedagogical and institutional realities. We do not teach in an ideal environment and there are constraints and responsibilities to consider.

The following questions seem to haunt many of the posts: what are we giving up by hybridizing our courses, what unknown effect will these concessions yield, and how can we innovate and disrupt without completely losing the thread of content?

Many posts also admit a certain anxiety about technology and the rapid changes and advents of new tools. How do we keep up? Yet those of you who voice this anxiety tend to argue rather eloquently for the importance of openness and a willingness to learn over technological skill acquisition. This feels a bit scary to write, but I think it is totally okay not to know things. Technological things. I think it is fine, even admirable (albeit terrifying), to use digital tools in the classroom that you are not completely comfortable with. Indeed, on a related point, several of you comment on the places in the texts where Groom and Lamb and Bass discuss how technology changes the role of teacher and learner, and transforms the very idea of a classroom from a contained space to an open one.

These questions, these anxieties, and—most importantly—these inspiring, scholarly, idealistic, and pragmatic thoughts are, I think, the best way to start the project of thinking through hybridization and online teaching. There’s a ton of work to be done, yes, and some of it will fail, some of it will make you feel inept, and some of it will confuse the hell out of your students. Hybridization will definitely change your role as a teacher, your course structure and content, and what your students get out of it.  And that’s awfully exciting.

Welcome to the Site for the CTL 2014 Summer Seminar

Over the next two weeks we will work and think together in this space about the implications of hybrid and online education in specific contexts at Baruch College. To see the schedule for this seminar, see the “Schedule” page, which is also linked at the top of each page on the site. You’ll see new content appear on the blog, including posts from your fellow participants and additional resources for your perusal. We’ll do our best to keep things organized as the content builds, but if at any point you’re unclear about what you should be doing, where, and how, please reach out to Kate O’Donoghue for clarification.

If you’d like to receive email notification of new posts on the site, please enter your email address into the field above the “Subscribe” button on the left side of the screen.

Looking forward to an enjoyable two-week conversation!