Experimenting with Google docs

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Aug 302011

I’ve been using Google docs to store my assignments and teaching resources for a few years now, not to mention for sharing those documents across FYWP. This semester, however, I’ll be integrating Google docs more fully into my courses as a replacement for WebCT. For each class, I’ve built a website with a corresponding calendar embedded in it to list when readings and assignments are due. Student work will be submitted, peer reviewed, and graded using collections (ie, folders) in Google docs, one per student, and those collections will be created and administered by me to prevent accidental sharing or removal of documents.

If there’s interest in this experiment, I’ll be happy to say more about it and give a demonstration at our FYWP faculty meeting later this week. And perhaps I’ll use this space throughout the semester to provide updates on how the experiment is going.

Here’s an example of a class website for WR101. You’ll need to be logged into your own Emerson-specific Google docs account to view it.

Creative Approaches to the Syllabus

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Aug 272011

There’s no denying that syllabus bloat is a real phenomenon. Every semester, it seems, there’s a push to put more and more in the syllabus. And there’s no denying that it can sometimes be useful to treat the syllabus as a meaningful resource for the whole semester.

However, as Barbara Fister complained at Library Babel Fish this morning (via Mary Churchill), the syllabus is increasingly seen not as a resource, but something everyone skips without reading–Terms of Service agreements:

When you add all those rules to the traditional stuff – course description, the list of assigned texts, the class-by-class schedule, and information about major assignments – these documents get incredibly long and complex. . . . We traditionally go over syllabi on the first day of class, and then we’re annoyed when students miss an assignment or fail to adhere to a rule because “it was in the syllabus.”

And even as the syllabus has bloated beyond all recognition, its basic format has been basically unchanged: the professor’s contact information/office hours, a description of the course, some policies, and a course calendar. While different professors provide these in varying amounts of detail, they still look pretty similar. @ Profhacker

Some interesting and inspirational examples of syllabus design here. The discussion about online vs. print syllabi is particularly interesting to me, because of my “paperless” classroom approach — eventually I’ll figure out the best way to make my web-based syllabi available to administrators for filing.

Jul 232011
I’ve never taught the same course the same way in my life and never will; new generations bring differing skill sets, and even classes from the same generation have divergent needs and interests. Many of you probably have files such as mine: notes, lectures, and lesson plans filled with marginalia, crossed out material, sticky notes, and addenda. In electronic form we have material that is version 1.9, and that doesn’t include the number of lessons we’ve trashed in class in favor of alternatives that were never documented. We revise because that’s what good professors do: bring experience to bear, stay current with new research, and engage in constant rounds of self-improvement. ~ Rob Weir @ insidehighered.com

With August almost upon us, it’s time to think about syllabi for the fall. Unless you’re less of a procrastinator than I am, and have already taken care of all this. In which case, good for you, ya big show off. For the rest of us, this piece by Rob Weir is a good place to start.

The Flexible Final Project

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May 042011

While I have not received feedback from students on this project, leaving the project open (rather than forcing students to argue a certain way) seems to have been a good decision. The quality of projects already appears higher, and I am sure the arrangement is less stressful for students. The purpose of this assignment is to encourage students to think about the available means of persuasion, including the various media available to them, and then use them to make an effective argument. I hope that this assignment has given students a chance to reflect not just on persuasive strategies, but on the advantages and pitfalls of various media for making specific arguments.@ viz.

Disaster Pedagogy | viz.

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Apr 122011

My class,Rhetoric of Tragedy, is based on the idea that the events we normally label“tragic” are always points of contestation. The right way to remember, what weshould do to ensure that it never happens again, who to blame—all of these arecontroversial questions that provide an opportunity to study how we argue. Butit can be hard to talk about these conversations in class, especially when youare looking at visual rhetoric. How do we address these contemporary eventswithout making the classroom an upsetting place?

What an intriguing course description. I imagine something similar and quite powerful could be developed as a section of WR121.

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