Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm Caught Up, and a Question

First: I've commented on everyone's project proposals, I think. If I somehow missed one, let me know. They all sound promising, although some are a little vague still.

Second: If you haven't done a proposal yet, do one ASAP. Passing is good, and correlates with doing a final project, which correlates with proposing one.

Third: I'm pretty happy with the work everyone is doing on the blog now, now that you're actually having conversations, and saying all kinds of things that I wouldn't have thought of (take Lance's "Horrible Post" as a great example). It took a while to get to that point, though. So I have a question for all of you: is there anything I could do next semester to get the blog working at that level sooner? E.g., do I need to learn to shut up, or do I need to post more prompts, or is it something that just takes time? What do you think?


Nik said...

I dunno, Adam. I think the key to the whole blogging issue is that Lance feels comfortable enough in the classroom setting to do something outrageous on the blog. Personally, I think that since the blog is faceless, it should be that comfortable anyway, but I'm also more than comfortable in your class. I'm just fairly self-absorbed, so reading what other people have to say (and therefore commenting on it) isn't something I do without prompting.

That's another thing. It's pretty easy to read what someone else has said, but unless you have a lot of extra time or something really awesome to say in return, it's not likely that you're going take MORE time to write anything out.

I think you might try to make it clear that while you don't want completely random bs on the blog, it IS an open-ish forum. If a student has a thought, any thought, that even remotely pertains to the subject matter in class, they should blog about it. Maybe people think that it's necessary to blog only hyper-intelligent things (which is so not true, re: everything I've ever blogged).

I think students especially are more inclined to respond to something that's casual. This feels really casual to me, especially since you're not asking for introductions or conclusions or anything, but I'm also on a completely different comfort level in this class. Some people may not be.

Was any of that helpful? Basically, I'm saying you might emphasize that while this is an academic blog, it's not... pretentious. So long as there's a little sliver of relation between what you're saying and what's being (or has been, or will be) discussed in class, it's ok to say what you wanna say. Also, maybe encourage students who don't feel as comfortable talking in class to blog instead.

OH, also, let them know that they can blog under names that aren't theirs. Maybe come up with a system where you know who they are, but no one else does? That might make people more inclined to blog regularly.

A. Benevent said...

If you want the blog to work like this next year, earlier (and you're sure that's what you want), I'd suggest just posting some of your own random musings here or there to try and break the ice. Maybe encourage everyone else to sound off on what they think every now and again by luring them with extra points or something.

Just remind them in class that the blog is for doing assignments, yes, but at the same time is for off-topic thoughts, interesting links, and making fun of your classmates.


LSack said...

I just want to say that the statement "(take Lance's "Horrible Post" as a great example)" is fantastically ironic.

As far as the blogging aspect goes, I would say that people feel more comfortable in class now to say something on the blog. I would disagree with Nik that the blog is faceless-- granted no one sees you while you type up whatever it is that you're typing, but each of us has a pretty good idea of which person is which in class. I would agree with her, though, that commenting on someone's post with the expectation of something sensational requires a lot of time. Time that students have yet would rather spend playing Halo 3.

It's interesting that you (Adam) talk about needing to shut up; I feel to the contrary. In my humble opinion, I think I've learned so much more from you talking and explaining than I have from any students in the class or their blog (and understandably so, as you have the Ph.D). It's not so much a matter of shutting up as it is a matter of having people understand that no matter what they say, their opinion is valuable in some aspect and even if what they say lacks complete relevance (did you catch those two politicians making fun of each other on TV?) they should know that they won't be derided by YOU or have their grade drop.

Adam, some things you just cannot help in why students would not post or speak up in class. It is, some way or another, a lack of confidence that prevents a student from voicing their analysis or opinion or whatever. Why doesn't Timmy speak up in class when he won't shut up when he's drunk? Liquid Confidence friends. The answer, Adam, is to crack open a bottle of Jack and pass it around the class. Or, y'know, offer candy or some sort of small reward at the beginning... or something. Students are like dogs, PAVLOV US!

Posting prompts may help more, but I think you would have to be a bit more general and, especially with ungraded blog entries, let the student decide if they want to do research or not opposed to you providing links and saying they must respond to a question using specific evidence.

I'll conclude this by saying that the reason I have little trouble posting or commenting is because I've come to recognize my classmates and you, Adam, as intelligent, motivated individuals who will empathically attempt to see my side of an argument. Or they just don't care (the students, that is) and therefore, both work for me!

Mike K said...

My advice is for you to talk more, but chill on the Ph.D. speak. When we write graded blog entries, you respond in teacher mode, which is fitting. However, you should post ungraded blog prompts or entries yourself and liberally sprinkle it with incomplete sentences, "like"s and "and stuff"s.

As others have said, you should break the ice with the same style and voice that we use in daily person-to-person chats.

Other than that, I think I didn't pick up the blogging until I felt comfortable in the class and we stopped being strangers to each other. No one talks in an elevator unless you know the person. Same thing. There's nothing you can do about that.

Adam Johns said...

Thanks for the responses. I'll mull over them more when my mind recovers from the end of the semester, but you've all given me things to think about. I Mike's point about talking in an elevator is certainly true, but you've also all given me some ideas on how to speed things up a little bit.