• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Feedback

Readers discuss ways they've adapted their teaching in the new reality.

October 2, 2020

I have the best readers.

Yesterday I asked my wise and worldly readers to share examples of ways they’ve used the forced experiment of COVID-era remote teaching to try new things. A few representative samples:

Shelbey Rosengarten

In my Zoom-session classes, I’ve made use of collaborative technologies like Google Docs and Slides. I give each breakout room a slide to fill in with specific prompts and responses. (There’s a great site for teachers where I borrowed a template for this.) It’s fun to watch them fill things in while they are "in their rooms" and I can oversee the interaction on the Slides. They can see each other’s work afterwards as well. I have also used Google Forms to run surveys and collect short-form responses to readings. Next week we will try to "break" Google Docs and see the limits of that form of collaborative tech; promoting that goal of "How can we push the limits of this?" seems to be engaging, and lets them see I’m experimenting just as much as they are. I’ve made no secret of experimenting!

In the spring I used the Digital Thoreau site to have ‘social annotation’ of Thoreau’s essay "Walking." It was a good exercise for them to see their collective (but individual) notes in the margins. I’m also looking to experiment with Hypothes.is in the spring. (I just don’t need to oversee another tech just now, as mentioned above!) And I have a class that will do a bit of a "virtual exchange" with a university in Northern Ireland as well.

Karen Hall

The high-tech end was having a virtual 3-D model of on exhibition spaces (built by a fine arts tech with normally underutilized skills during lockdown/remote work) that had digital photographs, videos or scans of objects placed in, and a theater production that ‘moved’ between virtual spaces from the more officially educational (Zoom) to informal (Facebook, etc.) and niche (Discord). The low-tech end has been getting students to submit documentation of artworks rather than objects themselves, combined with scanned/photographed journals, and music students recording video of themselves introducing work as well as a recording of their performances. Some of this has relied on being able to bring students to campus in a limited way to use some facilities like the music recording facilities.

We’ve also found that supporting online assessment has given scope for some of our technical officers, who normally are managing the on-site studios/workshops, to use their full range of skills and creativity. We are hoping that having students (especially graduating students) engaging with this testing of digital alternatives also helps them not just showcase themselves but also pitch how they can contribute in decimated industry that is still heavily reliant on reaching their audience through digital platforms.

Paula Smith-Hawkins

We’re building a blog instead of a major exam. The student work is excellent. The students get points for entries, organizations, and presentations uploaded to the blog. I call it “our sociology lab.”

I love all of these. They focus on the possibilities opened up by the new format, and the students apparently pick up on that energy and run with it. Any experienced teacher can tell you that when the students are excited for the work, you’re already halfway there.

Given my discipline, I’m especially intrigued by the sociology lab. A poli-sci lab would be “run your own country,” but we don’t have the budget for that. Also, the IRB would probably have some concerns. Alas.

Thank you to Shelbey Rosengarten, Karen Hall, Paula Smith-Hawkins and everyone who took the time to write, tweet or respond on Reddit. All of these seize upon the affordances of the new medium, but in the classic spirit of discovery. Wise and worldly readers strike again!


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