I’m a huge proponent of self assessment and it’s also important that I model that. With that, here is my assessment of my second section of teaching EDIM 516 at Wilkes University.
While I certainly improved from my first effort in spring, I still have lots to learn. I try to communicate that often with my students and encourage their feedback. I’m never sure if that makes them feel more comfortable or less knowing their instructor doesn’t always know what he’s doing.
Let me break down my assessment in a few categories.
It’s a 7 week course and that’s not something I can change. Each week there is a new topic. I used the first 2 weeks to introduce the concept of digital literacy and also to introduce some tools to support curation. The next 4 weeks explore an emerging topic. Thus far I’ve had students explore: Network Filtering and AUPs, One to one computing/BYOD, Flipped Classrooms and Gaming and Gamification. I chose these topics because I know lots has been written about them and they contain a certain amount of controversy. The final unit is a chosen topic from each student and they present their findings as a media presentation that explores the topic and its nuances.
It’s a reasonable format for 7 weeks I think. Some students feel I need to spend more time focusing on the tools and I agree. Many of them use them but aren’t fully understanding how. RSS is integral to creating a curated magazine and tracking emerging topics but not all fully take advantage of this.
I’m not sure this is the best use of my 7 weeks or if these are the best topics. As well, some of the most interesting topics get explored in that last unit of student choice. Examples include: (what texting does to language, interactive whiteboards, MOOCSs and Khan Academy to name a few) While that’s good, it might be nice to have some of these discussed earlier.
I essentially have 3 assignments: Weekly blog posts, developing a curated magazine and a final media project. The weekly blog posts are to include their comments and conversations both on their own blogs and on each others. The specifics change somewhat each week but essentially it’s some type of response to the topic. I feel like I should offer more variety here but am weary of complicating and adding more learning to their plate. Maybe I’m just not creative enough.
The curated magazine is my attempt at updating the typical bibliography to include updated, ongoing stories and articles on a given topic. Most students choose a tool like scoop.it to share their findings but I’m not sure they fully understand the way the find sources and use those sources and hashtags to keep these updated. I require them to post this during the last unit. I think at the least I should have them post this earlier to not only get feedback but to see how to keep it updated.
The final project is often a source of frustration and major learning for students since many have never created a video of this nature or created a video at all. Given this is a degree in instructional media, I don’t feel bad about this and yet may need to be more directed. I do offer some very specific suggestions but many evidently run into problems. I did create this for some and I think it did help.
Click full screen to view it.
The formula for assessment I’ve been touting is “rich documentation + meaningful feedback = deep learning” I ask my students to reflect and share in a variety of ways, what they know and understand. In addition, the comments they provide and receive is integral to the deep learning. My role is to simply be part of that feedback. What I struggle most with is in the method by which I give feedback. Using Desire to Learn (now called Brightspace) has been a new experience for me. I don’t really like it. The university uses it to offer a consistent experience for their students. I’m used to using a variety of tools and while I know that’s also daunting for some, I try and chose the ones that make sense for my course. Most Learning Management Systems default to text as its primary mode of communication. I think this is such a waste of the affordances of the web. I try to combat this with regular video updates to the class with general feedback and information.
I’m not sure I do as well providing individual feedback. I do comment on their blogs but still struggle with that mode of communication. I believe as Joe Bower says, “Assessment is a conversation, not a spreadsheet” and there is something very difficult for me to make conversational. I instituted some open office hours and a couple of my students took advantage of that. I found that easier for me and I think the students who participated, felt similar. I need to get better at providing meaningful feedback via text.
Overall my frustrations continue in my efforts to build community when in fact it may be impossible to do in 7 weeks. Distance learning has too often been sold as an easy, convenient way to get class credit. The lack of synchronous learning unintentionally promotes a sense of autonomy of time and can easily conflict with efforts to build community. Without community, this is just a correspondence course. I’m not very interested in designing learning that way.
Part of my struggle is the constraints of time, the constraints of the format and platform and my lack of direction and specifics needed for students to efficiently navigate and be successful. I know I have a few ideas for improvement but need to wrap my head whether or not my ideals around community can be effectively incorporated into this class.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have either from an instructors or a students perspective.