The Myth of “Teaching in my Jammies”

Working from Home

This is the image I get when I think of online teaching. Curled up in a chair and feeling quite devilish knowing that I was typing up lectures for students to read on blogs while in my Hello Kitty jammies.

BUT, after the readings and discussions, I see a different way to teach hybrid Eng 28000 [Great Works I] classes online and maintain a sense of face time with the students. What about incorporating video responses? I know we are in the experimental stages so I can just daydream out loud. But what if there were two components to reading responses? One in which they responded on a blog with quotations and analysis. Another form of response, just to keep things fresh and exciting, would be video responses or question sessions. This would not take away from office hours, which I would always keep in person. But I mean what if their assignment was to design a set of questions about the texts and they tag someone in the class to ask and the person tagged responds back in video format. A kind of conversation that happens that allows online friendships to happen. I am in agreement with Meechal, my favorite classes were those that allowed me to build relationships with my classmates and the professor. We may not lose that in a hybrid environment. Perhaps by bringing play into the classroom, we can still create friendships. I have to say that I have made a lot of friends and professional contacts just talking to them in an online setting first then developing it f2f [my fav new acronym btw]. Perhaps this concept of tagging would then allow people to pick on each other — I only see this in a wordpress document with their emails connected to getting notifications, or a system that allows them to see when they are tagged by someone to respond to the questions.

This is only one assignment that I have to play out. But the medium of video and audio may be a nice way to build different kinds of listening and engagement skills. Audio alone is a good separate assignment because it teaches us to listen. These things would be fun and important ways of being connected to one another and feeling like a live [as in lively, noisy, constructively messy] class.

Video, Audio, Writing, and Images would be a way to introduce a variety of forms of communication and analysis strategies. Using these media formats as a way to scaffold toward in class meetings, papers, and a final performance [something that is an important part of my classes] would be actually some fun ways to teach an ancient literature course.

Last night, I watched a one woman multimedia performance “One Drop of Love” by Fanshen Cox DiGiovonni. It was absolutely amazing. The text, the translations was one way to absorb her life history. The audio  interviews with her family members, after she had just done a performance of her mother, her father etc, was powerful. The photos of her childhood and images of U.S. census records were all such an incredible way to immerse the audience in her life history.

I can’t help but think how useful this would be for teaching. How does Gilgamesh come alive? When we see images of Gilgamesh. When we see Cuneiform. When see video of the reception of Gilgamesh:

Epic of Gilgamesh

And students are allowed to role play characters or rewrite and perform [recite and record themselves] then I’d say that they’ve been immersed fully in the text and then can find the lines more alive, and more accessible.

So maybe there is a way to keep the sense of analysis, community, collaboration, and levity in a Great Works class even if it is hybrid. So maybe I shouldn’t be so nervous about hybrid classes… maybe…



5 thoughts on “The Myth of “Teaching in my Jammies””

  1. But I mean what if their assignment was to design a set of questions about the texts and they tag someone in the class to ask and the person tagged responds back in video format. A kind of conversation that happens that allows online friendships to happen.

    I like this idea, and how you’re trying to build out from your experience with Voicethread. Faculty often fear a loss of sociality when their instruction is moved online or partially-online… of course, socialization happens in online spaces, just differently than it does in f2f ones (I agree, a great tla (three letter acronym)). The challenge in front of you is how to you construct a workflow that sustains the dialogic exchange that you rightly notes deepens students’ connections with course materials….

  2. I totally agree with you about the importance of play in the classroom. I want students to connect with what they’re learning and to feel some joy. But of course, I also want some element of rigor. I want them to do the reading, to feel accountable, to engage, to work hard. It can be a tough balance. I also love audio assignments. Students need some guidance and handholding with the technology, but there’s definitely play in creating audio projects and most students engage in serious, rigorous, but playful ways with audio projects. It’s the assignment that I’ve found most strikes that balance. It takes a lot of time, though. You have to commit some weeks to it (I’ve found) because there’s a learning curve. So I feel like I have to really make it count and design a project that is meaningful. I’ve yet to use it in a GW class, but I’ve always wanted to. Now that I’m committing to the annotation project for fall, I’m finding it hard to work into my syllabus in the meaningful way I want to do it. Sigh. So little time…

  3. I echo Luke’s comment about workflow and Cheryl’s (and yours, Zohra!) about play. I’ve also used audio “essay” assignments in class, using Audacity, as a way to get students meaningfully engaged in using sources and to see the importance of citation and fair use. The two times I’ve done it, the results were pretty awesome, but I felt I still needed to work on transferability of skills to other, written, assignments. But, like many on this site, my time is so tight that I didn’t use an audio assignment this past semester in a content-heavy, face-to-face, literary studies course. I couldn’t figure out and rationalize the workflow. But in a hybrid! And using audio and video as communication tools! That is neat. It’s great, too, when students get some helpful secondary skills, as they would in your assignments–learning how to record audio and video and embed it in a website is a skill they will certainly use again.

  4. Zohra, I really feel you on this: One of my biggest fears in limiting f2f time in Great Works is the loss of that connection. I fear losing both the pleasure, play, but also the rigor that comes with searching something out together—how in a class my ultimate goal is for Cheryl’s rigor to emerge from the play and pleasure. One the comments that always sticks with me from my students is that my class is the rarity in their Baruch experience where they know the names of their fellow students, feel like they know their classmates beyond their names through the discussions we have, and are confident that the teacher knows their name and a sense of their personality. (When Cheryl told me this past January that many students are assigned numbers in some classes and that’s how the professor identifies them, I was FLOORED.) I do think that hybridizing the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean this connection will diminish, and, Zohra, ideas like yours could be beneficial ways to make sure it doesn’t. Why I am drawn to the idea of hybrid classes is that it hold potential for new forms of connection alongside the traditional mode of students and teacher sitting in a circle working through a text together.

    1. What is interesting about voicethread is that you can actually write on it, sketch as you are recording. My students have used it in the past as a way to make notes as they lecture. I always call it a lecture that they are presenting. All projects, regardless of how creative, must be submitted with a Project Rationale and require outside resource to show they have researched. For example, on hand, I have a voice thread project by my student from Arab American Literature class and she wrote about parent-child relationships: If you see, it is handled like a full lecture rather than something that is playful. So there is rigor involved in the creative projects. One of the resources I use as handouts for students when they start their projects is through the Schwartz Communication Institute — thinking about thesis even in oral presentations — this and other hand outs support work that is intellectual and creative. I am going to upload a lot of the students projects [with their permission] on my blog — Some are up already but others need to be posted. I don’t think there is a loss in rigor as they play with these systems. I have to really think about how they can do video tag questions. Each response is always supported by external research or textual references. We learn early to always state pages, set up the context then get into quotes. Anyway, I realize I need to upload a lot more student content to show how effective these projects have been.

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