Posts Tagged ‘writing course’

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e-Pages: When?

posted: 3.27.13 by Barclay Barrios

I had planned on colon-titling this post “Write!” but as it turns out the correct subtitle is “When?”  Specifically, “when” is the problem I faced in class this week, as in “when are students going to turn in this draft?” or “when are students going to show up for class today?”  Both of these are suddenly pressing problems, although I can’t say if it’s because of our local institutional quirks or simply the way writing classes work.  Hence, this post—part explication, part plea.

About half my students turned in a draft for this assignment.  I’m wavering between two hypotheses.  First, it’s midterm season.  Technically, for us, it’s just after midterms since we just had our spring break (early, yes, I know).  But there’s also a more general issue with this course.  As a spring section of our first semester writing course, it tends to have a very high fail rate, in part because many students taking the course weren’t able to pass it in the fall.

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On Board with Blackboard

posted: 6.25.07 by Barclay Barrios

To continue the “working with imperfect technology” theme . . .

I’ve never been one for Course Management Systems (CMS). WebCT and Blackboard (Bb) always struck me as being imagined for a huge 300-seat lecture course and not specifically for my 22-seat writing course–it was just too much, too big, too complex, too everything So, while I’ve long been a tech kinda person, I’ve also long avoided using CMS of any kind. But that’s changed recently and one of the reasons it’s changed is the Community site feature of Blackboard. One of my colleagues here actually suggested we start one for the writing program and I’ve been so glad that I followed his advice.

The first thing the Writing Program Community site does for us is provide a central document archive where we can post sample assignments, syllabi, and policy statements. These are organized by course so people moving into a course for the first time have one place to look for all the stuff they need to get ready to teach. We’ve also used the discussion board with some limited success (it’s hard to get a critical mass going for sustained discussion, ya know?), most usefully when we want to toss out an issue and get feedback and commentary. The most exciting tool, though, was Teams (though now it seems to be missing… did some new version of Bb come in and rename or lose that tool?). Teams created a mini wiki within Bb. We used it to have all teachers in the program contribute collaboratively to a draft of our new grading criteria. I loved how we could tap into a Wikipedia-like harnessing of the “wisdom of crowds,” and I loved too how every teacher got an equal chance to make any alteration to the developing draft.

The Community site seems to play a bigger and bigger role for me as WPA each year. It provides a virtual space of community, which is handy when you have 60 GTAs, 20 full time instructors, and 10 adjuncts spread over 8 courses on 4 campuses. But I imagine my view is skewed by my role as WPA. That is, I don’t think it functions to create a true virtual community; it’s more like a virtual office where you can drop off or pick up some important forms. I’m not sure what it would take to turn that into a virtual lounge. In my experience, community isn’t planned; it just happens. Still, I’m happy for this feature in Bb. It makes my life easier and it has a lot of potential for us yet to explore.

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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