A Fortnight of New Curriculum…

My three (yes, that’s right, three) sections of 1121 couldn’t be more different in student body, vibe, tone. Two are at night, and I am finding those the easiest (thus far, anyway). My day section is more challenging, but very rewarding. Sorry to say it, but I feel that the reasons are largely physical, practical, and not at all as theoretical as this PD site might like.

Time: At night I have 2 and a half hours (as opposed to one hour and fifteen during the day) of contact time. Giving the students the sheer time they need to complete in-class writing exercises — and discuss them adequately — as well as to hear me comment/lecture/offer modeling or advice has been key. New concepts are always great, but the students need more sink-in time. This first UNIT asks for metacognition, and sometimes a nice juicy space in which to feel and hear helps.I work hard to get a flow going. Then — oops, gotta stop. Q: Could a new 1121 be a longer period?

OpenLab/Tech: Another, voiceless but very present, force is leading my current class structure and its name is OpenLab. Now that I am using it to harvest all my assignments, I need to more fully exploit its functionality or I fear it will be ruling me. Example: Student Portfolios. I know little about how to make these (yes, I have signed up for the Session later this month), and yet I think they can become a very necessary outgrowth of this new 1121 pedagogy. We want transfer? How great, then, to give them such a marvelous tool. Another Example of how OpenLab is affecting me semester is the simple fact that I still am funneling questions and tech problems inadequately. Many of the students are stuck in a tech rut. Can’t log on, etc., etc. I also feel much the same. I still don’t know how to use the grading plug-in properly. i am not as high functioning as i ought to be. As above, so below. How can I fault them?

Okay, those are some negatives. On the positive: yes, this has been a GREAT two weeks. I am reading materials I would not normally have read, I am engaging my friends and family and colleagues in conversations about teaching in ways I had not previously. I love my job. I always have. Now, I feel a sense of excitement and relevance. I also sense that the rocky path I feel below my feet at times is something that I am also helping to smooth by walking it. So: I won’t hold back my honest impressions. It is all for the good.

Needs: + Ways to incorporate the Baldwin essay that make me feel like “me” and not like someone else it teaching. I am struggling with it. + A TA or some helper to get my tech and grading structure in better order. +Time to talk to some of you, individually, so that I can remedy my small issues as they arise.

Gratitude: I am so glad I am on a platform for change. I pinch myself every now and then and tell myself I deserve it.

2 thoughts on “A Fortnight of New Curriculum…

  1. Aaron Barlow

    I like the way you describe OpenLab. I have concerns with it that go far beyond anything I have expressed and you make me think of them. Voiceless presence? Yes. But it does express itself, intruding into our classrooms beyond invitation. We sometimes contort ourselves for its sake, turning around what should be a tool, making us its tools.
    The problem, as I see it, isn’t OpenLab by itself, but is the movement toward reliance on the digital without enough care, without exploring its ramifications or the ways it can be used to actually weaken education–especially when it is not completely under the control of each specific classroom teacher. Administrators, always looking to save money, can (and do) replace real space for learning with digital space, real personal interaction with digitally mediated interaction. They can do this without ever consulting teachers or exploring the pedagogical significance of their moves.
    I use OpenLab, but I continue with caution.

    1. SSchmerler Post author

      Thank you so much for this thoughtful response, Aaron. I want to talk more in person about how tech functions (or doesn’t function) in the classroom without being whiny or contributing to what I call the “culture of complaint” — that thing that too often happens in faculty rooms when too many faculty are chatting over hastily eaten lunches and not really taking notes, getting or giving helpful feedback, or seeing anything on an actual computer screen. A few keystrokes, demonstrated by a colleague, can be amazingly empowering.
      I find that once I get a practical answer to a specific tech problem, I suddenly feel “heard” and acknowledged and a lot of my stress about tech goes away. I then can compose a practical and even-headed theory for how to partner with my new non-physical co-teacher (and ever-open eyeball/manager) which is OpenLab.

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