With the first week of classes over, I think it appropriate to reflect on it all went. Doing so not only begins a record of reflection I plan to continue for the duration of the semester but it also allows students to see more of my own perspective on course-related items. While this post (and future posts) will make specific reference to particular courses, I will refrain from identifying students by name. Should any recognize themselves in a post, they are welcome to come forward in the comments section. Furthermore, it is my aim to remain constructive with these posts. I intend not to voice complaints here; instead, I want to provide a kind of instructor's commentary. Here we go...
Most students seemed much more ready to use Blogger and Google Docs than Twitter. Preconceived notions about what Twitter's about informed some students' resistance to using it, but even those appear open-minded enough to suffer through the next three weeks. At that point, each student is then free to continue using Twitter or to stop. I worry about that point as I can foresee some kind of split occurring between those who continue and those who do not. Of course, this worry might have some egotistical origins. I could very well be overestimating my influence in this regard.
Requiring students to utilize Blogger and Google Docs as well as Twitter comes from a desire to streamline the communication process, removing the tediousness of sending emails/attachments back and forth, dealing with incompatibility issues, etc. However, I'm also interested in continuing class discussions in an online capacity. This is already happening for some, but not for all. I think more progress can already be noted with students engaging via Twitter as opposed to past (non)use of Blackboard. To amend one student's comments, Twitter's revolutionary in that its simplicity encourages participation while Blackboard does not. We'll see if that continues.
I'll be surprised if students' disinterest in grades also continues. It was quite quiet in each opening session as I described my intentions to withhold grades until the last week of classes and, instead, to provide substantive feedback on their blog posts, longer written works and oral presentations (check Scribd
for my syllabi and fuller justification). Only one student has so far made known intentions to negotiate a grade contract, but I've yet to receive an email about it. Perhaps more will be interested in contract negotiations as we move forward. So far, though, I'm rather happy with how it all went and students seem to be all right, too.
Despite being introductory, each class session this week left me energized and interested in what future ideas and observations students have. I just hope their honesty, openness and willingness to engage face-to-face increases online.