Astute readers may have noticed something different about the tweets displayed on the right side of my home page. My short transmissions about food, always frequent, have now taken over the feed. New names appear in my mentions, and the mysterious hashtag #GSR150 accompanies most of my posts.
Well, I’d like to share what I’m doing and some reflections on the project.
In a nutshell, I have worked Twitter into the curriculum of my General Studies 150 class. The course is entitled “La Vida Local: Examining Local Food and Farmers Markets in D.C.,” and is my take on the wonderfully flexible requirements for this course, namely that I use the theme “City as Text” and that I help students develop a foundation of academic research and writing skills.
Better than mucking through dry scholarly articles from an academic database to learn about our topic, I decided the students would build their knowledge through the Twitterverse. In addition to weekly readings and classroom activities, I gave them a Twitter to-do list. It included setting up an account, adding a bio and photo, and following a list of food markets and organizations focused on sustainable edibles. Most of my iPhone-wielding, Instagram-loving undergrads mastered this handily. But then came the requirement that would prove contentious and sometimes downright loathed: Tweet every day. Continue reading
Yesterday, news of the Common Core State Standards exploded. A front page feature in The Washington Post brought them to my attention, and I guess a few others’, too. By 9:30 a.m., more than 300 comments trailed the piece. The standards in question were adopted by states as early as 2010, sprawl across a 66-page document (PDF), and raise some questions about genres and communication.
This effort toward K-12 education reform is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
What was the deal with these standards, and why would I—a college instructor and non-parent—really care? Well, the goal, according to the document, is “to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.” So yeah, I do care about students’ readiness to tackle my course material and do well in their professions. But I also have to make a confession: I learned from a crazy, mixed up set of genres and I liked it.
I was the kid who read Flatland: A romance of many dimensions for extra credit in ninth grade math class. My Civil War bookshelf comprised the fiction of Toni Morrison and Margaret Mitchell alongside the documentation of Howard Zinn, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs. I saw some high school classmates grok their longing through Whitman, while others soaked up our health class textbook with fascination. Later, I would understand nonfiction by John Hersey and Maxine Hong Kingston as deeply literary work. So when I saw something about required amounts of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry on reading lists, I perked up. Continue reading
Like most college instructors, I use the Blackboard online learning system. And like some of those (possibly misguided) instructors, I believe I can keep students’ attention by adding color to the software’s dour design.
It’s easy to do. You just go into an assignment, click “Edit,” and in a few seconds you can make the title of the assignment a pretty color.
Oh boy! Color! Can you feel the excitement?
For a few semesters now, I have been noticing two things about the color choices for such titles. First: Each option on the color wheel that pops up has a formal name. Second: Those names, without exception, make me want to slit my wrists.
Want to turn that project title a grassy green? You’ll have to slime it with Obscure Dull Spring.
Would you like to soften the headline for the test by applying an “It’s a Boy!” azure? It’s Medium Faded Blue for you. (Thank goodness Evite doesn’t use the same color system as Blackboard. Planning your little fellow’s baby shower could get depressing real quick). Continue reading
Filed under Humor, Teaching
I traveled this stairwell many times this semester, but it was only on the last day that I noticed its Escher-like quality. I had submitted my grades a few hours before. “Relativity,” he called it.
Photo by Rhea.
Anyone who has seen my Facebook page, Twitter feed, or blog knows that I teach college English and writing. Fewer know that the posts about my failures and triumphs would have looked like drunken freshman scribbling if not for cyberediting.
Since the semester began, I have been checking and double checking the spelling and syntax in every handout or email I write to the students. Then I sleep on them and in the morning, I check them some more.
I live and die by the wiggly red line.
In the midst of this semester, I showed up to take my ASL Proficiency Interview. Walking into the reception room, my goal was to learn where I stand in my second language. Little did I know that 20 minutes, five conversation topics, and one frumpy pink shirt later, I would be redeemed in my first. Continue reading