oxymoron67: (Default)
The reflective essay is extremely hip right now.

It's like... well, I was going to compare it to a fashion trend, but I'm fat, so fashion trends for me usually come down to "How do I avoid plaid and flannel NOW?"

Anyway, the idea is that, once students are finished with their assignment, they should reflect on the process and what they've learned.

And then write about it.

These are usually the most boring things to read, unless the student has that combination of insight and a sense of humor.

Problems with the refletive essay?
1) Timing.

If the professor gives the reflection assignment AFTER handing out grades, the dissastified students will not relfect, rather, they will use the paper as an attempt to raise or complain about the grade.

2) The questions asked in the assignment

The professor has to VERY careful about what questions are asked and how they're asked. I've seen (and had to answer) things like "What did you learn from this assignment?"

That's not a good question for this. Most students would think "You KNOW what I've learned already. You're the one who came up with the assignment. You've seen what I've turned in."

Questions like "What was the most difficult part of the assignment for you?" or "What was easier than you thought it would be?" sound like they should work, but they tend to get one or two sentence answers at best.

3) We say we want honesty...
... but usually, we just students to say how wonderful it was. In other words, the reflective essay doesn;t encourage reflection so much as it is an assignment wherein students don't give their actual opinions/thoughts but try to figure out what the professor wants.

Which defeats the purpose of reflection.

I think the reflective essay is a nice idea, I don't think it works well.
oxymoron67: (Default)
We had the "online winter meeting" of the seminar on Friday.

Let me rewind to the days before. The folks in charge were still pressuring me to work on the assignment that I felt was not well done and useless to what I do.

One of them volunteered to SIT WITH ME while I do the assignment. To keep me on point, I guess.

When I pointed out to her that I would still feel that the assignment was useless and Godawful with her sitting next to me, and that I'd end up fighting with her about it, she was stunned. (Also, sitting with me? Hello?)

Then I pointed out that if the seminar leadership wanted to do a giant showpiece for the winter, midyear seminar, they should make sure that it worked for everyone in the seminar.

That objection, like all my others, was hand-waved away.

So, Friday rolled around. The first thing we were supposed to do was comment on our assignments. I typed up a list of issues I had with my assignment on posted them.

Interestingly, three of my colleagues agreed with me.

Then we had to comment of the whole let's use wikis" part of the assignment.

Well, these three projects all used wikis to post reaction papers to the projects. That's it. Nothing multimedia. No audio. Nt even pictures. Just block paragraphs of doom.

I pointed out that using wikis was unnecessary here, that message board on Blackboard could do this. Further, if you're going to do something with wikis, do something INTERESTING with them. A reflection paper isn't a good endpoint for this.

No one said anything about that point. I don't care, I stand by it.

The rest of the seminar was uninteresting: we were in a chatroom. Then we filled out a survey.

The interesting thing about the survey? They never asked questions like "What can we do to improve this seminar?" or "What did and didn't work for you?" All the questions were of the "Isn't how we handled X wonderful?" type.

I'm probably going to bring that up in an e-mail or the next meeting.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Fortunately, the final meeting about the dumbass research assignment is tomorrow, and is entirely online.

One of the seminar leaders actually told me yesterday, after I discussed my objections for approximately the fifth time, that she would be glad to come to my office and sit with me while I did the assignment.


I told her that wouldn't work because than I would just argue with her the whole time. Which is what would happen.

So, I checked the wiki where ten of us were supposed to post about this assignment. Five or six people did it. The rest of us? Not so much.

Rereading this ungainly mess has reminded me of another issue I have with it: the wiki is the end game. After all this pointless jumping through hoops, the end product was a reflection paper posted on the wiki.

That's it. Nothing multimedia, nothing audio, not even any photos. Just a paper. I guess this project is groundbreaking because it's a paper... ON THE INTERNET.

At a conference, I saw an Italian class's wiki project: everyone was assigned a different region of Italy and had to produce a guide to the place: the cities, places to visit, famous people from there, the history, culture and food. And they had to narrate parts of it. It worked because the end game was something substantive, not just some reflections.

I'll probably say that tomorrow. The "I'll sit next to you while you do this" seminar leader said that I'll have nothing to say tomorrow. She should know me better.

The worst they can do is kick me out of the seminar. I can live with that.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I was going to post the worst of the sentences my students wrote for the Final -- a few of them are planning on visiting Utopia over Winter Break and the less we say about the sentences with "Aggregate" the better -- but then I ran into a colleague in the departmental office.

Colleague: Do you know how to calculate percentages?
Me: (stunned) ... Yes.
Colleague: IF a student got 43 out of 50?
Me: It's an 86. You just multiply it by two.
Colleague: So that's how percentages work?
Me: Well, technically, you take the number of correct answers, divide by the total number of answers then multiply by 100.
Colleague: But that's not what you did. You just multiplied by two.
Me: (flabbergasted) Well, fifty is a special case.... is your final a fifty point test?
Colleague: Yes.
Me: Okay, if you take the total number of correct answers and multiply it by two, you'll get your percentages.
Colleague: THANKS! (He returns to his office.)

Okay... how does one become a tenured full professor without knowledge of basic math skills? His specialty is the performing arts, but still.

I mean... percentages! It's not like he was doing Calculus.
oxymoron67: (Default)
By and large, I've enjoyed the online teaching seminar.

Until today.

Today, we ended up learning how to do wikis and inquiry-based learning.

Seminar leader: You need to use wikis for group work.
Me: What if you don't do group work?
SL: Everyone does group work.
Me: Not me. Group work favors the lazy and unmotivated at the expense of the students who give a damn. I refuse to play into that.
SL: Oh.. that's right. You have issues with group work.

Still, the discussion on wikis was fine: it was interesting and on point.

Then came the Inquiry based learning. Or as I like to refer to it, Hell.

For the inquiry based learning part, we were split into three groups. My group was given three pages of directions in block paragraphs of doom and eight point font.

The first thing we were told to do was READ THE DIRECTIONS ALOUD. See, the directions are so complicated, that we have to read them aloud so that everyone can understand them, because if different group members interpret the directions differently, this all falls apart.

My thoughts? I'm not in fucking second grade. And given how this was explained a SECOND time, while the discussion leader was staring directly at me, my reaction was probably written all over my face. Further if the directions are THAT complex and THAT up for interpretation,. someone did not do their job when they wrote them.

Also, anyone who has done the research on reading aloud in a classroom situation knows that no comprehension actually happens during these exercises. The person reading is too busy focusing on the reading to worry about comprehension and the other people are all not paying attention because they;re worried about when they're going to have to read. Reading aloud in class is useless.

Since I was the "speech person" in my group, I was chosen to read the document. So I did. Including all the abundant typos.

First, my group had to look at two photos. These photos were of Native Americans, some in traditional garb, some in Western garb. Both photos were taken in perhaps the saddest portrait studio I've ever seen. Honestly, it looked like a repurposed kitchen.

The shot with the traditionally garbed Native Americans? In the center of the shot, there was this... thing. A sack? An oddly positioned desk? A sadly deformed desk? The other shot had three (I assumed) brothers dressed in identical outfits while a fern and mirrors were in the background. For all the world, it looked like they were in a barbershop.

We were supposed to write a reaction to these photos. This reaction could be a poem, a story or a brief essay. My group members all wrote observations in essay format. I decided to do mine entirely in haiku. Mostly because it was the only way to keep myself interested in this bullshit assignment.

See after this, we're supposed to brainstorm something, then get back together and answer a bunch of stupid questions, then we split up again and answer another bunch of idiotic questions (for reflection!) then write up a bunch of crap to be put on the wiki.

The way I've described this is much more straightforward than the assignment itself.

This isn't going to help me. I'm not going to write up a poorly conceived, badly proofwritten, needlessly convoluted, two month long group work assignment. That's painful for everyone, with absolutely no upside.

If this is what inquiry based learning is, it needs to be taken out back and shot, like Old Yeller.

And it will continue to be a colossal waste of my time until Jan. 20th. I don't appreciate that. My time is valuable.

Now, if they had given us the theory for inquiry based learning and said "come up with something for your discipline"? Maybe that would have worked. But not this. This is utter fucking bullshit.
oxymoron67: (Default)
My application is almost finished: the essay is all that's left. Two of my three letters of recommendation have been submitted (the third is written and will be submitted soon); my transcripts are on order and I take the GRE on Sunday.

I could have the whole thing wrapped up by Thanksgiving.

But... nerves.

Part of me thinks I'm a no-brainer:

1) I have tenure. If they want proof that I am capable of functioning in the Academic environment, this is, perhaps, the ultimate measure of that.

2) 20+ conference presentations across the country.

3) I come with funding. Since I'd be attending grad school at a different college in my university, they wouldn't have to find funding for me.

4) They have mentioned that they encourage interdisciplinary work. This would work for me: combining Linguistics with either Public Policy or Urban Education.

But.., downsides

1) On the theoretical/applied scale, this Department of Linguistics is much more theoretical than what I do now. I have the background for this, back when I was a grad student in the French department, I did lots of theoretical coursework. This could affect my chances. I don't know.

2) No publications. My current position (non-instructional instruction staff) doesn't require it and, honestly, language/communication and technology.. you'd be surprised at how few publication option there are.

3) I've been out of the game for almost a decade. Yes, I work in Academia, but I work on the other side of the desk as it were. Returning as a student? Serious adjustment. Not just personally, but professionally. I'm working a full time job plus an extra class.

Well... who needs spare time?

I want this. For career purposes, I almost certainly need it to advance.

It's just... my experience in the French graduate program was less then optimal. Since I was the only grad student specializing in Linguistics in the department at the time, I was kind of left to my own devices. Which, in some respects, rocked: I took a lot of classes on a wide range of subjects.

BUT I also got no support from anyone. My advisor's "advice" frequently was "You know what we're offering. Find out what Linguistics and Spanish are offering and take whatever."

The only support from the French department that I ever had was when I decided to transfer.

In the end, this worked out. I ended up specializing in ESL, and landed a tenure track job a year after graduating (almost unheard of), whereas, a Ph D in French... yeah, not many jobs there.

Still, I wonder if it'll go sideways again, you know?

Work stuff

Oct. 24th, 2011 03:28 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
I saw an essay about falling behind in class and it struck a chord with me.

Unlike, say, an Algebra or Trig class, or a part I or a two part sequence, Voice and Diction doesn't have a "next class", so I don't have to worry about covering all these topics so that the students can go into further detail when they take Voice and Diction 2: The Voicenning.

I mean, we have a Phonetics class, but that class is about phonetics in general, and it's much more theoretical than what I do.

On my syllabus, I include the topics we will be discussing: consonant and vowel sounds, the International Phoetic Alphabet, stress, rhythm, etc. I almost always include intonation.

I don't know why. I've never actually gotten there.

I prefer to take my time, and make sure (most of) my students understand what we've already done. So, I tend to take longer on the vowel sounds and rhythm in particular. This doesn't bother me. I know people who this upsets because they're all "The syllabus is a contract", and... it is and it isn't.

In my mind, the syllabus is a contract in terms of grading, attendance, class participation and plagiarism policies. Things like that. Scheduling? Not so much. That's something that can be affected by other factors. I tell my students outright that the schedule is subject to change.

Heck, I even give them an option sometimes. Take the midterm. It's tomorrow. A few weeks ago, I gave them the choice of this Tuesday or next Tuesday -- I don't care and I've had semesters when I've had five midterms in a week. If I can help them avoid that, all to the good.

And.. since I was thinking of syllabi anyway, I wrote a (very) rough draft for the hybrid course I'll be teaching in the Spring. Here, I;m having trouble.

First off, no one tells you how to write a syllabus. This is sometrhing that everyone flails around with themselves.

Secondly, the research that I have read on syllabus design says that syllabi need to be less than 5 pages and preferably around 3.

This is warring with the idea that the professor needs to be as explicit as possible when writing the syllabus for an online or hybrid (half online, half face-to-face) class.

I decided to try breaking it all into pieces. I've written the general overview, though I left out grading and attendance policies, which is astonishingly stupid. The information for the weekly recordings, the states project and the technology they need to use will be all in different files and folders. I think that makes sense.
oxymoron67: (Default)
My college has students who speak 127 languages from 160 countries.

oxymoron67: (Gay Army)
I have a meeting for the online teaching seminar on Thursday.

The work we have to do for it?

Read chapter 5 of this book about teaching online that includes such helpful hints as "Know how to attach documents in an e-mail."

So, yeah. I can't imagine THAT will be useful.

Here's the thing: this book is clearly aimed for people with ABSOLUTELY NO comfort level with instructional technology and give them tips on establishing fully online or hybrid courses.

I already have the technical end of things. I already incorporate technology fully into my classes. Further, i would say that anyone who can't/don't use e-mail and BlackBoard (or whatever their institution's course management software is) already have no business trying to teach online.

We also are supposed to compare the syllabus that we found for the last seminar with our own.

Before I discuss my issues, I admit that this is a good idea. We should compare what we do with what other people have done. Learn from others.


I have yet to find someone who is doing what I do as a hybrid on totally online class. This doesn't necessarily mean that people aren't doing it: just that my google-fu hasn't found them. I have found voice and diction syllabi online, but they aren't for online/hybrid classes. They're posted online for face-to-face classes or on professors' personal websites.

So, the syllabus I found isn't an exact, or even a close, match, really. It's a syllabus from an Intro to Communication Studies class. While both courses are in the same discipline, they do very different things. (I've taught both.)

One plus to building this from scratch*? Lots of publishing/conference opportunities. But it will be a ton of work.

Especially since I'm piloting a new book while teaching my hybrid course.

*"scratch" isn't from zero here. I come in with lots of knowledge about what is out there on the internet and what I want to do with it.

Work today

Sep. 15th, 2011 09:01 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
I'll write about tonight's class later... maybe even tomorrow.

Today, I had a meeting for the Online Teaching Seminar.

It was held in a building three blocks from my office. When I went to the meeting, it was 60ish degrees and humid.

The seminar started off with a discussion of an article that I absolutely LOATHED. It was all about how teachers aren't really teachers, they're co-learners and should act accordingly. Oh... and technology.

Many of my fellow seminar attendess loved this thing and thought it was oh, so informative.

When I was asked for my opnion, I said that I didn't agree with the basic premise of the article, and therefore, I found its argument invalid. I was not asked to contribute again,.

At least in that section.

From there, one of the seminar leaders gave us a tutorial on some advanced functions on Blackboard. I'd already done this stuff before, but most of the room hadn't. It was good.

Next, we split into groups to discuss meeting plans. My group is three professors from our Business and Technology Department, one from the Math Department (in fact, the one who I would have failed if she were in my Speech Class) and me.

So, it was me and a group of sassy women. It was sort of like The View, if that show was staffed by intelligent, interesting people with manners.

Finally, we had to spend fifteen minutes updating our e-portfolios, reflecting on what we learned.

One of the reflection questions was "What are your highest expectations for your mentor/mentee relationship?"

This is how I answered:

I expect to be able to cook like a classically trained French chef. I expect to become fluent in Greenlandic Eskimo. I expect to learn the location of Amelia Earhart.


Ok, actually, I expect to have an exchange of ideas (blahblahblah boring)

Then there was this exchange:

Math prof: what did you write about the article.
Me: Nothing. I hated that thing.
MP: Me too. I thought it didn't say anything.
Me: And there's no polite way to say that.
MP: I know.
Me: So... nothing.
MP: Yup.

Then I left (around 5:30). In the two and a half hours that I was in this seminar, a cold front passed through, causing storms and dropping the temperature by about twenty degrees.

So running back to my office and classroom in the rain was fun.

Tonmorrow, some folks from a sister college are coming to visit us and discuss their online classes. Should be interesting.
oxymoron67: (Default)
One of our deans forwarded this article about focusing on college students who drop out with only one semester or so to go before graduation.

This is a new (within the past few years) idea. Usually, when colleges discuss raising graduation rates, we talk about helping incoming students with remediation, tutoring programs and counselling. The idea here is that students stand a better chance of succeeding if they're acutally prepared.

At my college, where over 80% of students need some sort of remediation, we also do things like pairs and clusters: two or three courses organized around a theme. The student takes all three at the same time. This establishes a sense of community among the students and studies show that this helps at-risk students.

Well, now, we are turning our focus towards those who have almost completed their degrees, but have dropped out. My college is trying to figure out how to help those who have dropped out with 45 or more credits. We're a community college, graduation is 60 credits for us.

I am not on the committee studying this here, though I do know that this is a new initiative here, so I don't know the statistics or what initiatives are being propsed, but these students are now on the radar. This is a good thing.

As to the article itself, I wish it was meatier.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I'm doing it this time. (I meant to do it last year, but got hung up on the personal statement, and then the job interfered.)

I've already asked my boss for a letter of recommendation. I can't imagine he'd say no.

Still, I'm scared. For one thing, my grades were not the greatest. I mean they were good, especially when I went to the ESL area.

On the other hand, I already have a full-on career in Academia and the multi-page CV that comes with it. My CV is light on publications, but I have presented at over 20 conferences around the country, done committee work, participated in college wide initiatives and seminars and am in the process of putting a class online.

Not for nothing, I EARNED my tenure.

I just get nervous. I already screwed up the PhD thing the first time I tried. (Of course, THAT Ph. D. would have been in French, where there are no jobs right now AND the faculty there were not particularly supportive.

I mean, I want the PhD, for personal reasons as well as professional ones. Even if I don;t get a faculty position, a PhD would give me a $2500/year raise.

I'm doing it through CUNY so I won't have to pay, though I would only be a part time student. (Of course, working full time AND teaching a class... I'm not sure I'd want to take more than two classes.)

So, that;s where this stands.
oxymoron67: (Default)
1. The colleague who wants to do a presentation with me at the IT conference in December stopped by my office today.

We discussed it, and came to the conclusion that a "Best Practices" was the best bet.

I have said before (and I mean it) that I'm not a fan of the phrase "Best Practices", mostly because what works for me at my institution with the constraints I have may not work well elsewhere.

So, while I'll call it "Best Practices," I'm thinking that it's more of a "Here's what works for me, maybe you can adapt it. Hey, you might even have suggestions for me. That would be cool" presentation.

Anyway, we'll likely be talking about how we incorporate sound technology into classes.

2. The professor who is teaching Voice and Diction this summer also dropped by today. We work well together because we're sounding boards for one another's ideas. For instance, my News Project assignment is based on something she does; and she includes many more recordings in her class.

She discovered something that I've been saying: students who record their recitations do better than those who recite in front of class.

Which isn't to say that our students SHOULDN'T do presentations in front of class. It;s just that there should be a mix of activities.

She wants to work with Storycorps so we discussed that. In the Fall, she will likely be teaching a half-online, half-class Intro to Communication Studies course, and she's looking for activities.

These conversations got me thinking. I may change a few things in the Fall. From what I have seen, many of my students have trouble interpreting charts and graphs.

Actually that;s not true. They seem to always understand the basics of them, but they can't EXPLAIN them.

I may add that (and videotape it) as one of my weekly recordings.

Advertising. I want to work with advertising, but I can;t really figure out how. Given all the other work I have them do, I don't think it makes sense to make them do a video based ad... those coming with a "radio" ad might work.
oxymoron67: (roll eye)
Last week, the powers-that-be sent out a call for papers for the next IT conference. Here is the theme:

Instructional/Information Technology in (my university) : Confirmations and Speculations

Seriously? Seriously?

We might as well just call the conference "Computers! Yay!"

I mean, I can easily whip together a "Best Practices" presentation for this, and, in fact, I probably will, since the person I presented with at the conference in March wants to team up again.

I think, for us, best practices is the way to go. Best practices in including audio. That will make us stand out. I can talk abut my News Project and The States Project. Heck, I can even talk about my weekly recordings, in terms of length and vocabulary choice as well as in terms of cultural importance, as I should include an American cultural component in my class.

Easy. Pretty much done.

My issue with this theme is that it feels too broad. Granted, it is a University-wide, pan-disciplinary conference, so, by its nature, it has to be broad, but this just feels like someone said, "To Hell with it, just tell them to put together any old thing,"

Do you know what kind of conference would be fun? Rather than focus on what works, someone, somewhere should have a "Oh, Dear Lord, this totally bombed" conference. We could discuss projects that crashed and burned and how we can (or cannot) salvage them.

Frequently, there is something constructive in failure. I could talk about the first time I tried to teach powerpoint or the first time I had my students summarize stories on Storycorps. Total failures. Have I ever told those stories?

Honestly, I still haven't quite figured out the best use for Storycorps in my classroom.

But a Crash and Burn themed Conference could be loads of fun.


oxymoron67: (Default)

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