So, on Monday we had the next session with the learners that I blogged about with the NMC guests last week. What a difference a week, and having only the students present makes!

My anonymous interlocuter might still hate the course, as is her right. What we were doing was getting the students to read a text and decorate the shells provided. They were required to give references to the text, and, for the vast majority of the items they were given them (whether, like rocking chairs from inventory, or like gas ranges, created on the fly), and talked through rezzing, positioning and so on. And, you know what, despite a fair number of them still being far, far less SL-savvy than I'd hoped at this point, every single student managed to do it. A few even managed to do a little building of their own.

Did literature learning occur? Yes. They scoured the text, they learnt more about referencing, they were challenged if they asked for really obscure things and they learnt, albeit informally, about justifying their choices and arguments - part of discussing, in an academic sense, any source material.

Did SL building learning occur? Also yes. To the best that I could see, each student rezzed, positioned and rotated items. Certainly an important part of building skills, especially if we're going to expect them to primarily shop for the items for their displays. Turning them into fully-fledged builders of complex exhibits in 8 or so classes is above and beyond - although the good ones who are getting more SL time are starting to learn building in more depth too.

There are issues, certainly, that need to be, and are being, addressed. One of the students is developing to be a griefer, pushing others around, which we will have to keep an eye on. I was very good, I didn't orbit him, despite temptation and provocation! There's a student that hates reading (why is she doing a second year literature course I would like to know?). We (the staff) had an issue where we weren't quite sure what available in each other's inventory - for example there is a butter churn, which Desi had found somewhere around. Fortunately she was around when this was asked for, so I didn't try to build one for the students.

But, if last week was a 3/10, this week was a solid 9/10. Given I've never seen, or taught, a perfect lesson, that's high praise.

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  • Eloise's thoughts and fancies 
    Student thoughts on Willow Springs
    Yesterday the contemporary fiction class I've blogged about here and here came to the end of their "Willow Springs" or Mama Day part of the course. I'm not going to comment on every single part - although you can read the entire (anonymised) text of t ...

13 Comments

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  • One of those  
    Eloise,

    I am writing to tell you that I have a hard time adjusting to your way of conversing. I did not ever tell you that I “hate your course” (as stated in your latest posting). In fact, I applauded Desi’s and your efforts to tread the path undiscovered by others.

    Nor did I ever assume , as you stated in your last comment, that “the participants seemed unwilling and/or unable to 'listen' or read signs “ (refers to your posting from June 26 about the open lesson with the NMC crowd). I actually always refrain from calling people “unable”, I was only saying that posting directions on the walls did not prove to be an effective way of communicating important information to the class participants and suggested that both of us can learn from this shortcoming.

    I do think that being a professional does not incur the usage of derogatory words and phrases, like the ones to be found throughout your latest postings, including calling educators a heard of unruly deaf cats. Those educators took the time from their busy schedule to come to your class and learn and offer their feedback. They also gave you a wonderful chance to test drive your classroom ideas, so they deserve nothing, but respect.

    My only purpose of having a conversation with you was to identify where we can learn TOGETHER, not blame you and Desi. I assumed that by writing this blog you are looking forward to feedback that can prompt you to reflect deeply about what is occurring both inside and outside the classroom. The productive conversation is not happening, however. You seem to be feeling very defensive and perhaps the best thing for me would be to exit this conversation.

    Lastly, like you I am fascinated with opportunities SL can potentially offer for teaching and learning. I believe, that if I analyze critically what I experience in SL, I can help enhance teaching and learning experiences of others. I sincerely wish you good luck with the class!
    • Eloise  
      Hi again, anonymous interlocuter.

      Thank you for your closing good wishes. Like you with my writing, I have a hard adjusting to yours. Perhaps it is a "two nations divided by a common language" issue.

      Granted you didn't actually use the term hate, but you did state you felt that the combination of studying literature and building in SL on this course was a situation where "technology was taking over the class" and given it is continuing and developing further it seemed reasonable to presume your feelings of disquiet on this matter would increase.

      I still struggle to read your paragraph about the signs as a situation for mutual learning - it's all directed at me. There's nothing in your paragraph, nay your entire post that suggests "so, when it comes to my classes I won't do that" in there to me. Does that make me feel defensive? You bet. You continuing, in this post, to selectively quote - why pick "unable" out of "unwilling and/or unable" to highlight and have a dig at me about choices of words continues to evoke this "in a velvet fist" feeling - and is very clearly a difference of culture thing. There are all kinds of reasons why they might have been unable to read the text - couldn't get close enough, didn't know they were there, couldn't be bothered, couldn't manage the fonts used etc. I'm guessing from your objection you are relating the use of unable to disability in your mind.

      I'm sorry that you object to having trying to manage the entire group of visitors as "like herding deaf cats" but I stand by the description. I am however confused how this has mutated in your brain to me calling them a "heard (sic) of deaf cats" but perhaps the herding cats analogy is British and fails to translate.

      Good luck with your courses.
      • One of those  
        Eloise and Beth,

        "Hearding" was a typo, :-). But I take your point, Eloise, - professionalism in everything, including spelling (a big smiley face here).

        Beth is right - the discussion of positive moments in the lesson was missing and might have softened our conversation. Actually, an important thing I take for myself from this – constructive criticism includes talking about positive moments because they help us understand and, consequently, deal with the shortcomings.

        Also, just a comment – I am NOT disquieted about this particular course and your way of experimenting with it. I only saw one lesson that I gave my opinion about, so there is ABSOLUTELY NO way I can judge the whole course by it. What I am disquieted about is how technology is used for teaching and learning in our everyday experiences and the fact that technology tends to take over the latter two.

        True, I was worried when you mentioned that students in this class are required to build. From what I have seen so far, SL takes a very steep learning curve, and assuming your students first hear about SL in your class, a few months (and summer courses are way shorter, about a month or so) are probably a very short term to become comfortable with building.

        I also believe that for the kind of purpose you are setting for this class (and my guess would be the purpose is to acquaint students with trends in Contemporary English Fiction and teach them how to analyze and be able to express their opinions about this kind of literature), making paper collages might have been just as sufficient, especially because students might be able to find newspapers and articles from the beginning of 70s if they look around.

        So, my point is that instead of focusing on how to teach them building skills in SL, helping them become excited about the subject matter might have occurred easier with a pair of scissors and construction paper.

        On the positive note, in this class I am seeing two extremely enthusiastic people and very passionate about what they are doing in the classroom. I wish, we had more teachers like that around…
      • One of those  
        Ah, yes, forgot to tell you. As far as I understood the spider (note-giver) is your creation and what an excellent piece of work (talking about positive moment here!)! I was trying to script something similar, can only do one card so far, but do not dare to ask for your sharing the script (talking about negative moment of this conversation). A big smile, :-) .
  • Beth Ritter-Guth  
    I wish the poster would identify him or herself as this would make our conversation honest and transparent. I value the feedback provided and will take into account all that (s)he has shared (the writings on the wall not being entirely effective, for example).

    I wonder if the criticism FEELS negative and not constructive because of its construction and anonymity. Perhaps a discussion of what worked mixed with what didn't (and, trust me, I am ALWAYS looking for constructive feedback) would have been useful. Maybe some suggestions for improvements or better ways to deliver the material might be useful?

    Perhaps the missing void here is that - as the content instructor - I have never heard from this poster. If the person posting TRULY wishes to share feedbak, it would seem to me that emailing Desi (aka me) would be useful?

    Eloise, Laura, and Daliah were on hand as assistants for the class, and I appreciate every ounce of help they provided. I appreciate constructive feedback and hope this person will, in fact, email me to continue the discussion.
  • Beth Ritter-Guth  
    Summer courses are (by nature) shorter and present unique challenges. However, it must be reiterated that students aren't required to learn how to build for class, but they do need to know how to navigate basic concepts in SL. That said, the bottom line (as they are told in class and in their Blackboard syllabus) is that they are graded exclusively on their reading, writing, and assessment of the literature; they are not graded on their ability to use the technology.

    The point of using SL to teach literature is to help students dive deeply into the text. While the presetnation for the buzz was held on the 2nd night of class, it would be interesting to see if the poster feels the same way when these same students create Dante's Inferno and Linden Hills side by side to explore the textual implications of pride and greed.

    Constructively, I have rewritten the Buzz assignment in SL to include one less activity (to give students the opportunity to master the two skill sets needed), but the literary terminilogy review is essential to teaching literature.
  • One of those  
    Beth,

    You said: "the bottom line (as they are told in class and in their Blackboard syllabus) is that they are graded exclusively on their reading, writing, and assessment of the literature; they are not graded on their ability to use the technology."

    Now Eloise in her comment that she made on July 7 says: "The "building a scene" part of the course is built in to the planning and the ASSESSMENT of the course, and well advertised".

    If SL building is written into the course assessment that means students are graded on the use of technology, right? Or am i getting this wrong? Thank you for taking time to clarify it.
  • Beth Ritter-Guth  
    Eloise does not have access to the WebCT management system, so she probably does not know the grading structure for the course. Further, since she hols her PhD in Biology (and not English), I don't really expect her to know that standards of assessment for English.

    Students in my English courses are graded by the standards expressed by the Modern Language Association. I will gladly email you a syllabus if you are interested in seeing the rubric.
    • Anonymous  
      Beth,

      I very much appreciate your offer to send me your syllabus. I do not really question the fact that your syllabus does not reference SL building skills as a requisite for successful completion of the course.

      However, I do think that all assistants (with or without a degree in English) in your team MUST BE ON THE SAME PAGE in terms of what this course is all about. As I per my conversations with Eloise, she refers to SL building as an important component of the course (a quote from her posting made on July 2 “Given I am going to continue to defend the use of SL for the students to build their scenes in, a class which combines a useful activity in research and direct academic learning without (we had expected) being too taxing, and combines some basic SL buying object, rezzing objects, positioning objects and embedding notecards into objects type skills strikes me as actually very useful and contributing strongly to the overall course”).

      So clearly, her vision of what students accomplish in this course through SL are quite different from yours.

      Which makes me think of the outmost importance of careful planning and communication that should happen between all team members in order to meaningfully use SL in the classroom (exactly what I was talking about in my July 2 posting).
  • Beth Ritter-Guth  
    You assume, incorrectly, that Eloise and I did not plan carefully and that we failed to communicate. Those are assumptions that you do not have the credibility to make. That Eloise uses the word "assessment" isn't problematic; in context, it can be applied in a number of ways.

    It strikes me odd that you are still commenting about what you think worked and didn't about a back end process you didn't participate in at any level. Further, you refuse to identify yourself, and that, alone, calls into question your motivation and credibility.

    Throwing stones at a process you don't understand, making blind accusations about people you do not know, and then hiding behind anonymoity is not sharing; it is bullying.

    But, our work is transparent, so we accept that it is open to anyone criticize. And, for your one post about all that you didn't like, Eloise and I have received countless emails and IMs about what people did like. Some even made constructive suggestions, but they, of course, signed their names.
    • Anonymous  
      Beth,

      I do not accuse you. I do not assume things unlike you did in the message above. Like I told Eloise, I was just trying to learn WITH and from YOU.

      I also assume that this blog is out there to welcome opinions, which I thought I did give rather politely. My identityy will not add anything to my comments, because I am just trying to reflect on what I see both from the class I participated in and from your comments here.

      I have no doubt you received positive comments and in fact if you read my postings you will see my praise to both you and Eliose for treading this path. I just think neither of you provided for satisfying answers, so I was trying to elicit further clarifications. Instead, I hear you accuse me of bullying, which is not true and actually not polite on your part to assume -both as a human and a professional. With that I think I will exit this conversation.
      • Eloise  
        Farewell anonymous.

        I hope you feel you've learnt from these blog posts.

        I feel I have - that, by hiding any attempt at a name you seem to feel that you are free to comment unceasingly critically, with, after prompting, one moment of positive feedback and occasional "I'm trying to learn from you and your example" comments that fail to make the recent of your commentary accessible.

        You seem to consider this acceptable and professional behaviour. It feels like an emotionally bruising encounter, one that, although it was Beth's original comment feels like bullying to me too.

        You may have, hiding in your comments, a number of valid thoughts but your style of presentation makes it hard for me to find them.

        If you are actually a teaching professional I pity anyone to whom you give feedback if this is your normal standard. I am, amongst other things, qualified to observe and assess those giving feedback according to the standards in the UK, and you wouldn't pass according to those on this display.

        I have, several times, considered refusing to approve your comments, not because (as with so many others) they're advertising drugs or similar, but because they are received, however they are intended, as offensively aggressive. Communication is a two way street - but the emphasis of the initiator to consider how it is received is hardly rocket science - in fact we teach it in Level 1 Literacy in this country - but you seem unable or unwilling to amend your tone. It isn't just a cultural thing, since I assume from timings, and your IP address, that you are in the States and Beth finds your attitude to be bullying too.
  • Beth Ritter-Guth  
    While I accept that people can and should provide feedback at will, I think comments of the kind you have made require a check of credentials. Are you credentialed to evaluate a course in college level literature? Without knowing your identity, I can not assume you have those skills; knowing who you are would add validity and weight. As it stands, you could be "Cranky Pete" and be 17 years old without experience to know what is right or wrong as far as lies education at the secondary level. You SAY that you are credentialed, but, without evidence, I can not accept that as truth. I can SAY that I am a dentist or pilot, but that doesn't make me one.

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