Designer Chris Barr and I put together these “student blog medals” I’ve been dreaming about…
Two weeks have past since I started teaching in the SIM/UB program.
Two weeks of emotional roller-coasting as a teacher & disciplinarian.
Two weeks ever since I had a weekend free to do anything but grade.
Two weeks of wondering if I love teaching enough to do it for life.
Two weeks… and in a few hours more, I’ll be into my third.
I haven’t been blogging much this past week and now I feel like my head’s about to explode from the experiences I have to share. As you’ve clearly seen, I’ve just shared video captures from my COM125 Intro to Internet, as well as COM242 Mass Media Effects classes. Judging from the response I’ve gotten from my first lecture video, some of you might find these useful (e.g. learning from my mistakes).
Interestingly, I’ve put this pressure upon myself to being a responsible teacher (and a hip scholar) by spending every waking hour preparing for a good performance / lecture (that’s if I’m not busy grading). I’d typically start grading blogs from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon, dropping comments and suggestions on all 76 of their individual blogs. As my doctoral buddy MrBig has warned me, that’s too much time grading on a weekly basis, so I’ll have to figure out a better way of doing this.
While passion is a powerful motivator for me, the downside of this is that teaching becomes one huge emotional investment. I get especially saddened when a few students participate in the most negative sense of the word, by mocking me in class for my simplest mistakes. Such students make up just two out of seventy-six students in a class. Ironically, I am aware that these cats are smart, but lack the open-minded attitude required to appreciate my lessons. Perhaps for them, value comes in the form of an Ang-Moh or Caucasian lecturer, rather than a Singaporean one. Though this is rather disappointing, I’ve learned to appreciate the experience of difficult students, since it teaches me the value of resilience. I try not to let it get to me so that the better students can still enjoy the class, which fortunately, they apparently do when I read their blogs.
Speaking about reading student blogs, depending on how open they are, you really get a lot of valuable feedback as a lecturer. Though I wouldn’t recommend reading more than 50+ blogs at a time (beyond which you’ll feel like puking from overload), it’s a bit like mind-reading which is really neat. From what I understand, one problem about the teacher/student relationship is that we often do not know what each other is thinking. By reading what they have to say and dropping a teacher’s comment, both sides can understand one another better, yet maintain the respect we have for one another. You do need to be open to good and bad news though, and to know when to stay from getting too involved with your students.
About those medals you see above…
It’s something I’ve been trying to do ever since I knew I could run my own blog-enabled classes. For the past weeks, I’ve made it a point to highlight exceptional student blog posts in class. While this would help them gain a sense of recognition and pride in their work, it also serves to exemplify to other students the kind of work I expect. I would have to rotate student highlights though, otherwise the showcase might get too insular, resulting in a literal “class divide”.
I’ve just finalized the medal design as seen above, and will be awarding it to the best blog posts I’ve read this week, which is on the History of the Internet. These students demonstrate the ability to write meaningfully, instead of simply summarizing class readings.
- Kenny’s “Evolution of MMORPGs“
- Yepp’s “Is The World Still Round?“
- Melissa’s “Just How Interconnected Are We?“
- Amanda’s “Evolution of MUD (to IRC and IM)“
- Liyana’s “Pros and Cons of E-mail“
We’ll see how this medals business goes… it might work for or against the class, so I’ll keep you posted. Meantime, there is one more element I might try with my colleague Derek Lackaff, who is teaching the COM125 course concurrently in Buffalo. We’ve synced our classes right down to the blog assignments, so the plan is to try and see if we can have an intercontinental competition among our student bloggers (any sponsors for prizes?). By the end of the course, we’ll see which of our prominent student bloggers gains the most Technorati authority, Google ranking, etc. In a grand inter-cultural and pedagogical experiment, we’ll see which side naturally fairs better in the blogosphere. See my COM125 aggregator (Singapore) and Derek’s COM125 aggregator (New York) for all our student blogs.
I’m hoping to submit a paper documenting all this, including how we turn class blogs into a gaming platform. Using game mechanics highlighted by Amy Jo Kim, the point is to create friendly competition among students, which hopefully helps them learn better, and have fun at the same time.