January is almost a blur. As I reflect on the last month the best analogy is a roller-coaster. Sharing my ups and downs will hopefully help someone out there feel comfortable sharing their journey with me. Great value can be obtained from talking one another through it all.
Success #1: Interactive and Empowering Introduction
My first class was a success. A lot of careful planning went into the delivery of the introduction to the course. Students seemed engaged and appreciative of the interactive approaches used. In particular, a combination of Mentimeter and Ontario Extend inspired liberating structures resulted in happy students.
Another huge part of that success was surveying my students about how they want to learn. I have Jess to thank for that. All I did was slightly adapt her survey to my course. Very rich data was obtained, which helped me understand how to help students. There was a lot of variability in how my students want to learn, but the simple act of asking
Failing Forward #1: Baby Steps
Students clearly said they prefer hands-on activities and wanted to learn scholarly writing. The best way to learn to write is to practice. I talked to some English teachers for ideas and put together a series of activities for the second class that had them working collaboratively on those skills. Some of the activities in class went well. However, students were not able to write as well as I had hoped and we did not get through all of the activities. I was quickly reminded that I need to budget more time for questions and confusion. The activity was really helpful for me to gauge where to start in the next week when talking about scholarly writing: The very beginning.
It was really hard to gauge how effective some of the activities were. I wasn’t sure if I should continue the process in the next class. The one reply I got to my follow-up survey was extremely harsh. The student was obviously angry. Based on my gut feeling I opted to scale back from application to basic instruction for the next class. I also decided that I would survey less and during class time in order to get more responses.
Students have been confused about a lot of things this term. I didn’t understand why. Honestly, I still don’t. Instructions were explained in the syllabus in detail, in an infographic and verbally in simple terms. My Moodle shell is well organized. I have asked for feedback from peers and students to try and ensure clarity. Over the course of this month, I have learned that I need to explain things like I would if I wanted my child to follow the instructions in multiple places. It sometimes seems redundant but I am continuing to try and find the balance between overcrowding Moodle and clarity and concision. Students need simple instructions. They get confused by new terminology. In my course a “quest team” is just a group and that is what I should call it.
Success #2: Teamwork is Key
My grandmother became palliative and was really suffering for about a week. At times she appeared seconds away from death. She has somewhat recovered and is not suffering right now. However, it was a very difficult week for our family.
During that time my team really supported me. Both of my bosses were understanding, Marnie was able to run a workshop for my students if I needed her to and Sarah saved the class. My course plan would have fallen apart if scenarios were not released on time. Thankfully I had gotten the planning documents done before I was needed by my grandmother and Sarah finished all the programming and made sure it was all working. I was able to focus on my family because of her support, which was amazing.
Throughout the entire term I have been supported by the Hub team. I have a lot to thank them for from designing the badges for my course, to video editing and problem solving Moodle issues it has been a pleasure working with them all.
Success #3: Food is Engaging
I can’t remember exactly where I pulled this idea from, but it might have been Jess. Based on the assessment of the writing skills of my students the next class was all about hamburgers. Essay hamburgers. Throughout the
Food was also central in one of the scenarios in the course. The students love talking about food because they can relate. It makes sense based on the results of their learning preferences survey.
Success #4: Fun Role Plays
After working through two scenarios students had the opportunity to ask actors follow up questions live in class. I asked that they prepare the questions in advance but also allowed some live questioning in a Google document or by raising their hand. I was really nervous about how this would play out but it was a lot of fun and students appeared to be lerning.
Failing Forward #2: Ditch the Tech Sometimes
Both in my class and in the role of a student sometimes technology is not the solution. What we use should depend on the objectives of the lesson. I would like to think that I am techy but have had issues with not being able to get things to work properly. Testing it in advance is
Failing Forward #3: Cheer Up
Sometimes I can be too hard on myself when things do not go well or as planned. A lot of small things didn’t go well, but that is okay. I decided now is not the time for a PhD. I reevaluated my list of self-imposed expectations and backed out of some of the extras that do not add enough value. We cannot be all things to all people. It is all about how we frame our “failures.” Attitude is everything. I decided to be happy.
Success: Keep On Trying
January ended on an up going pretty well overall. I felt pretty discouraged sometimes, but kept re-evaluating things, talking to my team and trying new things. That is what innovation is all about. Taking small (and sometimes larger) risks is good as long as we learn and the students don’t suffer. Last year I taught the same course as this term and so far I would say it is going much better with all the innovation going on. I hope the students feel the same. I am going to keep asking for their feedback and keep readjusting to make each week just a little better than the last one.