Incipience and books

I am at the North American Conference on British Studies in Vancouver, Canada. The first day, at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (a vastly overpriced way to breathe among the trees), I saw bald eagles in the wild. Apparently they’ve only been here a couple of weeks, for the salmon. Funny to first see ones national bird in the wild in another nation.

Among the other brilliant presentations I saw today was one on H. G. Wells as futurist, and Sarah Cole (author of a new book) talked about how Wells used terror and war. She focused on The War in the Air and The Invisible Man, and among other things talked about incipience. Wells built suspense through his pauses, as New York waited to be attacked by German airships. His invisible man also assumes that the only option for his invisibility is to do horrible things. It is the impending doom, the feeling sportscaster Charlie Steiner talks about when you start the 8th inning and the Dodgers are behind by one, that aspect of modernity that Cole referenced as a highlight of Paul K. Saint-Amour’s Tense Future, that “pre-traumatic stress disorder”. The great sin to Wells, she said, was lack of foresight.

Certainly it is popular to cast Wells as a prophet — it was even in his lifetime. But the period of his life I’m studying doesn’t have that. He has confidence, but it is focused on the present, on the importance of teaching science, not his later stories about man’s response to science.

Then this evening I went to UBC for a book launch for Sheldon Goldfarb’s book of musings on Sherlock Holmes. He had written a script for him to ask questions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, played by an actor. It was an interesting way to discuss, in dialogue form, some of the themes from the Holmes stories. He implied that Holmes was needed in a time of waning faith, and used Doyle to express the idea that where he (Goldfarb) saw meaning in so many characters being named Arthur, or so many women in the stories being strong and smart, Doyle himself was just writing stories to make money.

That tied the day together. Wells turned to fiction to try to make money, because a friend told him he was working too hard to become a great essayist, and should just write made-up stories. It was easier and more lucrative. In the Doyle character’s whining about how no one looks at his many other books, it became clear that the popular books are what make the money.

But I do understand incipience. It’s what happened as soon as I entered MacLeod’s bookstore this afternoon. Books piled high, on the ground, leaning on bursting shelves. A feeling of impending doom. There it was, an early edition of Wells’ Certain Personal Matters. And more. The proprieter noted my conference name tag, and asked what I studied. I told him, and he showed me more in the science section and then, checking to make sure the till was minded, led me through a Staff Only door into the basement. (Yes, I will follow a strange man into a locked basement if books are involved.) He waved at the back wall. “Elizabethan back in the corner,” he said. “so left of that earlier, to the right…Victorian should be about here” and left me there. Only hunger and the need to get to UBC for Holmes prevented total bankruptcy.

NACBS sessions

More session reports! (I know, you’ve been waiting — but I do this so I remember the sessions.)

Petitioning and the Politics of Nation, Gender, and Empire shows the problems with titling panels, as it was really more about the process of petititoning the government, not so much politics or any of the sub-factors.

Laura Stewart’s “Petitioning Practices in Early Modern Scotland” looked at how political petitioning (petitioning in order to criticize the government) and ordinary supplications interact, in this case as regards the Covenanter government of Scotland in the 1640s, an era surrounding the English Civil War. Although it’s hard to quantify the total number of petitions, case studies provide a variety of significances, including whether a petition can be considered libel, what language supplicants used in their petitions, and how government critiques can provide a foundation for a petition.

Richard Huzzy and Henry Miller’s “The Rise and Fall of Petitions to the House of Commons, 1780-1918” was a good example of the kind of research you can do with a grant, in this case from the Leverhulme Trust. They were able to sort and recategorize thousands of petitions and numbers of signatures. Between 1833 and 1918 Parliament received 950,000 public petitions on 29,500 different issues, and their charts showed spikes in certain years. The categories included colonies, ecclesiastic, economic, infrastructure, legal, social, taxes, war. They had broken down colonies but I was sad to see that “education” wasn’t its own category, as that might have been helpful for my work. They noted certain politically organized pushes for petitions, which were clearly used to mobilize support on certain issues.

Ciara Stewart’s “Petitioning against the Contagious Diseases Acts in Britain and Ireland: A Comparative Perspective” helped me understand the foundational idea of many papers. It’s important to narrow the focus to a single argument with depth of sources. To me, petitioning against the CDA would have been its own paper, but it’s clear now that I’ve attended the conference that this is not the best way. By focusing closely on the Ladies National Association in Ireland and its composition, then comparing it favorably to the English LNA, Stewart was able to prove that the Irish branch should be taken more seriously. The paper avoided the usual discussion of whether the CDA was a good idea or not, though it did mention the reasons for supporting petitioning against it: the double standard it promoted by not examining men, the fact that the examinations were forced, and the arguments about the likelihood of police grabbing women to examine even if they had committed no crime (“protect your wife and daughters”). Previous historiography had sidelined the Irish LNA, and I recalled that the purpose of most papers is to oppose previous historiography. I tell students that this is an “although” thesis (“although we’ve been told that the Irish LNA was just a side branch, it was actually significant”).

In my case, then, an example might be “although the focus of historical study for higher education in the Victorian age has been on universities, extension courses, and the examination system itself, correspondence courses for degree exams were a significant means of advancing education among the lower middle classes…”

The session I was looking forward to the most was next: The Educational Institution as a Category of Analysis in Modern British History. The chair, Peter Mandler, noted that education has been a missing element, long neglected in British social history, although it is well-served now. Emily Rutherford’s “Opposition to Coeducation in British Universities 1880-1939” had a thesis that I would summarize as “although the historical focus of gender in universities is based on women trying to gain access to higher education, there are important elements in resistance to it, particularly personal comfort levels and administrative constraints”, including the role of donors. The wishes of donors (she cited donors who wanted to support single-sex institutions) could be at odds with the wishes of administrations. In some cases, like that of Queen Margaret College at the University of Glasgow, it was wasteful to teach women-only classes, and the argument was made that biases against women would mean lower marks for them than if their exams were mixed with men’s. (Later in the Q&A a concern was raised about the cost to working-class boys of middle-class girls dominating classes.) The speaker also introduced the interesting case of Edward Perry Warren, an art collector and scholar of the idealized male Greek life cycle of homosexuality, who funded a male lectureship on the condition that the lecturer live at the college and there be a passage between his house and the boys’ lodgings.

Laura Carter’s “Locating Self and Experience in the History of Secondary Education in the UK: The View from 1968” discussed a project that followed baby boomers and their perceptions about their education into adulthood, and meant to extract education from the history of social change. Many of the students, as adults, regretted missing opportunities while they were in school, but none regretted attending a modern secondary school. Although when asked about moving up socially, those from manual worker families cited money and luck as primary factors, and non-manual labor families cited education, all named education as the key to self-improvement. Also interesting was that among those who didn’t go to university, men cited external reasons (like jobs), while women cited family responsibilities which prevented them.

Sussex University Chapel

William White’s “‘A Symbol of all this University Doesn’t Stand for’? The Place of Religion in Post-war University Life” had an implied thesis, of course: “although historians cite the removal of religion from student life during the 1960s, conflicts over chapels and religious buildings on campus show much student interest in Christianity”. We should be asking why new chapels were being built all over if religion was in a downturn. White wisely printed out his slides, rather than projecting them, to demonstrate the modernist architecture to which many students objected on aesthetic grounds. He also noted that the student body was changing in the 1960s from more local attendance to students who were more mobile, national in their  perspective, and residential since they came from elsewhere. Thus residence halls were another architectural feature of the era. The new welfare state was, in effect, taking over from local churches, with chaplains in the NHS and religious programming on the BBC. Christianity saw a resurgence after the war, and there was an ecumenical movement.

Commentator Laura Tisdall noted that we need to take school out of the “history of education”. The history of education is not seen a real history, and needs to be integrated into modern history. It’s been neglected, she said, because the subject is embedded in teaching training colleges and departments of Education rather than History, that there’s a sense that we know it already since we’ve all been to school, and that it is associated mostly with the history of childhood (which has seen a proper resurgence). University history is even more neglected, and further education is positively marginalized. So although I enjoyed the papers, the commentary was even more important in sorting out where my work fits in History as a discipline. I have struggled with History of Education societies, which seem to be composed of educators who dabble in history. What I’m doing, as I’ve mentioned, is more traditional history — education just happens to be the subject.

Dorothy L. Sayers by Granger

The last session I attended (other than my own) was just for fun: Aspiring Writer and Aristocrats: Renegotiations of Elite and Mass Cultures, 1890-1940. Abigail Sage’s “Print Media and the Aspiring Writer in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries” examined periodicals like Young Man and Young Woman which encouraged potential fiction writers with advice columns. She even quoted HG Wells as saying he was  part of a whole generation of aspiring writers. Mo Moulton’s “Murder Mysteries, Socialist-Utopian Science Fiction, and the Mediation of Elite and Popular Cultures in the 1920s-1930s” looked at Dorothy L. Sayers and Muriel Yeager as representative of conservative modernity, both reflecting pessimism about human nature. I learned a lot about the character of Lord Peter Wimsey (whom I’ve seen on TV but never read), and about Yeager’s relationship with Sayers, and about Sayers’ interest in Christianity. Wells was mentioned here too, as a utopian author, with Yeager saying she opposed his views, but certainly The Time Machine is as dystopian as anything she wrote, so she must have meant his later work on socialism. I am, however, beginning to wonder whether one can present a paper on writing during the 1890s without mentioning Wells!

The very last session (last session, last day, and I was the last speaker) was the one I was in: Popular Culture and Popular Education in Victorian England. Anne Rodrick’s “‘Lectures Both Scientific and Literary’: Organizing Mid-19th-Century Lecture Culture” discussed the General Union of Literary, Scientific, and Mechanic’s’ Institutes and how they debated the best ways to provide lectures to the public. She compared their efforts unfavorably to the American Lyceum system, and showed how particularism and provincial concerns prevented a well-organized lecture culture. Martin Hewitt’s “Providing Science for the People: The Gilchrist Turst 1878-1914” explored how the Trust developed and promoted popular science lectures, and also noted some problems with development. While the lectures were highly successful due to their high quality, low ticket price, friendly connections with local authorities, and massive advertising campaigns (even door-to-door) to get people to attend, in the long run it was difficult to sustain. There was also some question as to how many attendees were actual rural or manual laborers, and complaints that the low cost made it difficult for other lectures to get an audience. My own paper, “‘Preposterous and Necessary’: H.G. Wells, William Briggs, and the University Correspondence College” focused on the development of the UCC as a viable method for lower-middle-class people to study for the University of London examinations and earn their degrees. I argued that distance education like that offered by the UCC was essential to the success of the examination system, although I need to work further on that approach. I was asked no questions, and got the sense that my paper was too broad, more like a class lecture rather than a research report (I had, in fact, written it for presentation rather than publication). I made slides but there was no adapter for my iBook to connect to HDMI, and tech support didn’t show, so I was glad I’d made sure my visuals were illustrative rather than essential. I came out feeling I have a great deal of work to do to get close to the quality of the other papers I saw, but that’s a good reason for going, yes?



NACBS first day and Providence

We started early today, and I saw a number of excellent papers.

I attended the session on Popular Fiction and Representations of Politics and Empire in Britain, 1880-1950 because it overlaps the period I’m working on and, let’s face it, in addition to his scientific and pedagogical writings, HG Wells did write some fiction.

The first paper was “Popular Fiction and the Politics of Anti-Socialism, 1900-1940”, by Liam Ryan, so it was a little later than my period. The main idea was that some popular fictions, particularly mysteries and spy thrillers, pushed a conservative agenda. We can tell this by how socialists are treated in the works. For example, in John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, the hero helps thwart a Bolshevik plot (I think he meant anarchist — the book is 1915) , and characters are mocked for their working-class sympathies. Dorothy L. Sayers’ character Lord Peter Wimsey is scornful of socialists, and Agatha Christie’s plots ridicule “champagne socialists”, with plots that reveal socialist characters to be secretly wealthy, and socialism as an error of the young. Questions following the paper delved into why it isn’t ok to be rich and socialist (and why Bernie Sanders gets criticized for that), how the authors are middle-class so they’re also making fun of artistocrats also, and how high brow characters can be aligned with lower-class characters, since neither is self-conscious.

James Watts’ “Flora Annie Steel, Henry Rider Haggard and the Use of Fiction in the History of Imperialism” asked questions about the popularity of fiction, which might be read as factual. Steel had lived in India for almost 20 years, so one might take her as an authority, and Haggard’s character Allan Quartermaine, although presented in fictional settings, reads like real life. They also contain tropes I hadn’t thought about: luxury represents moral corruption, bad acts lead to bad ends, financiers are duplicitous.

Nupur Chaudhury’s paper was changed from the program, where it said she would talk about representations of Indians in Kipling. She also spoke about the depictions of Indians in women’s periodicals as well, especially the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Although she proved clearly that these sources demonstrated prejudice against Indian culture a la Edward Said, I felt the thesis was factual rather than interpretive.

The moderator, Jeffrey Cox, commented on the papers, and noted a teaching problem with texts that use objectionable language. How do we teach texts that contain misogyny and racism, when students (and others) object to the use of language? He mentioned, for example, a new version of Huckleberry Finn, where all instances of the word “nigger” have been changed to the historically incorrect “slave”. (Although he said this edition was by Gates, I think it was Auburn English prof Alan Gribben.  I just used Gutenberg’s version and came up with 214 instances of the word.) Looks like teachers are working well on this one.

Christopher Bischof’s “Curios and Curiosity: A Teacher and the World in a Sutherland Community, 1899-1930” introduced me to William Campbell, a Scottish schoolteacher who liked to collect things but had little money. Apparently the history of collection usually focuses on the finding of objects rather than their use, but here the collection is significant in that Campbell got people to donate things, and shared his collection with the community. The paper also sought to debunk prevailing ideas of Scottish precociousness in democratic education, but pointed out that Campbell went through the pupil-teacher and teacher-training system originally adapted from England. It also highlighted the long-standing interest of Scots in the larger world.

I then learned some food and nutrition history I hadn’t planned on, because the two other papers cancelled. Lacey Sparks’ “Low-Hanging Fruit: Interwar Nutrition Education in Britain and Africa” introduced me to the programs, based on science and women teaching women, designed to increase nutrition in meals. I found it interesting that in Africa, this could be difficult because fresh food was not always available. Thus tinned food, which was being discouraged in Britain for its lesser nutrition, was encouraged in Africa.

At the lunchtime plenary, Mark Ormrod of the University of York spoke on “England’s Immigrants, 1330-1550: Aliens in Later Medieval and Early Tudor England”. There were several fascinating aspects to this paper — I had planned to eat instead of taking notes, but took notes anyway. The work presented is based on the data shown at Ormrod traced the rights and laws pertaining to immigrants, noting that until about 1500 trustworthy immigrants had rights. I was surprised to learn this included the “jury of half tongue”, where half the jury had to speak the language of the accused. (I imagined what would happen if we did that now in this country.)

He also showed how well immigrants were integrated geographically — there is no evidence of ghettoization despite periodic outbreaks of prejudice or violence (this was not true of Jews, who had been expelled in 1290 — only converts were tolerated). By the 1450s, economic changes meant that immigrant workers (many of them craft masters and merchants) were seen as a threat. The Statute of 1484 during the reign of Richard III created alien taxes, reduced immigrant rights, and implemented more stringent standards on their products. Even so, there was still plenty of inclusiveness, though more so before the Reformation than afterward. The connections to Brexit anti-immigrant sentiment, based on economics, is obvious. For my students, this would be a theme: when the middle classes are economically threatened, they have less tolerance for immigrants.

The big education history session was Education and Empire: Networks in the 19th-20th Centuries, with Gavin Schaffer moderating.

Alex Lindgren-Gibson’s paper, “Enlisted Orientalists: Autodidact Soldiers and Educational Networks in the Raj” told how soldiers were ill-prepared for their stint in India, and that their education, for both colonial knowledge (local culture) and imperial culture (knowing how British rule worked) was gained mostly from each other. Although colonial knowledge was presumed to lead to social mobility, the case of a man named Lambert showed that even taking exams on local languages didn’t guarantee advancement. There was a concern not to educate soldiers too much. I was somewhat disappointed that, for my work, there wasn’t more on the exams themselves, but I was taken with the idea that learning local language wouldn’t move you along anyway when the elites had studied classical languages at university, but I would need a lot of work to demonstrate this.

Hilary Farb Kalisman’s “Colonial Crossings: Educational networks across Britain’s Middle Eastern Mandates” showed that too much unregulated education could cause revolts. The idea of the American University of Beirut was to create an educated elite for government employment through university inside the mandates (previously colonies). It instead led to a rise of the effendi, young, urban, educated, partially-westernized discontents.

Darrell Newton’s “Gaining Firsthand Fear: Colonial Students, Racialism, and the BBC” looked at West Indian students in Britain and their issues with prejudice, including being rejected for housing. The BBC tried to create some radio programs to discuss issues of racialism; some were successful, others were sidelined.

By the time this session was over, I was stiff from sitting, and needed to walk. Besides, there are three second-hand book shops within walking distance. So I headed toward the river and educated myself about Providence. First I found something I’m more accustomed to seeing in England: a World War I memorial. It’s part of a revitalization project as Providence reclaims its riverfront (I have a soft spot for any city that claims its river). It’s a large, well-designed memorial park:

Providence River

Irish Famine Memorial, Providence

Holocaust Memorial


First World War Memorial

Base of First World War Memorial


I walked over a pedestrian bridge (there are several) back into downtown to find those bookstores. And now I began to understand why people love Providence. It’s one of the cleanest, nicest downtowns I’ve seen. A few potholes or broken pavement, but for the most part very well-tended, growing while keeping its centuries-old traditions.

I get it now. And I only bought four books, but at three different shops. Got back to the conference in time for the reception and planning for our panel. A very good day.


More photos…

Learning at TCC (and why you shouldn’t clean up your profile)


Sessions attended:

Communicating Change
Lee Henrikson

Using Skype in the Online Classroom
Therese Kanai &  Melissa Holmberg

Creative Crossroads: Learning Partners Collaborate
Selia Karsten

Keynote: SMILE (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment)
Paul Kim

Creative Infusion: When Academia Meets Creativity
Jennifer Harrison & Crystal Hofegartner

Student Attitudes Toward the Addition of a Social Media Tool to Increase Social Presence in an Online Learning Environment
Joan S Leafman & Kathleen Mathieson

Managing Issues of Safety, Privacy, Copyright, and Technological Change in Web 2.0 Instruction: Lessons Learned from Teaching a YouTube Course
Chareen Snelson

Digital Dirt: How to Survive and Thrive in a World with Social Media
Michele Hinto-Riley & Erica Arnold-Wyche

Designing and Evaluating an Online Resource Site for Distance Educators
Billy Meinke

Technology Integration & Training for Online Course Development: A Needs Assessment
Melissa Kunitzer

Providing Qualitative Feedback in Online Teaching with Minimal Effort, yet Reaping Great Benefits
Brooke Estabrook-Fishinghawk

Going Paperless: Advantages & Challenges of the Paperless Classroom
Derek Snyder

Using Teamwork in an Online Course: Five Useful Strategies
Leanne Chun and Lani Uyeno

Promoting Continuous Quality in Online Teaching: Implementing A Comprehensive Faculty Development Program
Holly McCracken & Eileen Dittmar

Visual E-Communications to Enliven Collaborative E-Learning
Janet Salmons

OpenCourseWare and Open Educational Resources: Forward to Credentialed Learning Outcomes?
Jason Caudill

Applying Delta Theory to analyze online communities
Hery Yanto The

Organic Gardening: An Online Course Design
Rachel Kirkland and Jordan Day

Teaching with Technology Centers
Kasey Fernandez & Salynn Kam

TCC 2012 ParticipantI attended many sessions at the wonderful TCC Teaching, Colleges and Community conference out of the University of Hawaii (yes, everyone always groans that this conference is online instead of in Hawaii!). Several made a distinct impression on me and will change my practice.The first of these was Creative Infusion: When Academia Meets Creativity, just as a good reminder that we should encourage student creativity in all our classes and Managing Issues of Privacy, a good reminder on that subject.

But the one that really got me participating (and it was easy to do with TCC’s structure) was Digital Dirt: How to Survive and Thrive in a World With Social Media. The big concern was that students post party pictures and other questionable material all over their social media sites, and employers increasingly look at these sites before they decide whether to hire someone. The advice was that we need to share this information with students and encourage them to clean up their act. It is our job to caution them.

At first I was nodding my head. But I’ve been reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. People who use social media a lot, especially young people, use it in a very personal way. Their profiles and status updates are tied to their image of themselves and their relationships with their peers. It’s not just a matter of not thinking ahead to an employment interview. It’s that the identity of some young people is embedded in their social media, and that the authenticity of these identities is extremely important in their lives and in trusting each other.

In addition, the advice seemed to encourage cookie-cutter profiles, without sins or mistakes. If I were an employer seeking a creative person, or one who’d been around the block, or one with life experience, these profiles would leave me cold. If Ray and Anderson are correct about the Cultural Creatives, then the workers who will be most in demand are those who can not only think outside the box, but create a new box. They will be artistic, open-minded, and authentic. A clean Facebook profile will be an illusion and a sham.

I suppose if you want a job that does not require a Cultural Creative, but rather a bean counter or bureaucrat, you might want to make sure your profile was free of sin. I don’t feel I should be responsible for encouraging students to create a profile designed to impress someone hiring that sort of person.

The other significant session for me was Promoting Continuous Quality in Online Teaching: Implementing A Comprehensive Faculty Development Program, because it taught me that not all for-profit institutions offer lousy faculty development, creating stables of ill-qualified part-timers to teach canned classes. I totally admit to extreme prejudice on this issue, but Holly McCracken and Eileen Dittmar are clearly doing incredible work at Cappella, creating faculty development staffed with volunteers who just want to help each other teach better. Experienced online faculty sharing with those who are new is the heart of their system as it is of our Program for Online Teaching. I was delighted.

2012 Active Learner


Learning at (?) Sloan-C

Sessions attended:

Blend Your Own Faculty Development Program Using Open Components from Blended Learning Toolkit
Kelvin Thompson and Linda Futch

How to Successfully Evaluate Blended Learning
Chuck Dziuban and Patsy Moskai

Openness in Blended Learning: Perfecting the Blend
David Wiley

Private Investment, Technology and American Education
Marc Parry, Tom Cavanaugh, Anthony Picciano, Alexandra Pickett and Karen Swan

Blended Learning Scale, Ambivalence & Analytics
Chuck Dziuban and Patsy Moskai

Blending with Social Media
Tanya Joosten

Faculty Blended Learning Process: How Instructors Learn to Teach Adult Students in a Blended Program
Karen Skibba









I wasn’t at Sloan-C Blended Learning Conference in the usual sense; I was a “virtual attendee”, an experience I’ll cover in another post. Some of the take-aways for me included the leadership role of the University of Central Florida in these subjects, including the open access Blended Learning Toolkit, which provides professional development resources to UCF and beyond, with everything licensed Creative Commons. Just the whole attitude of the university seems to be right on target.

Chuck Dziuban‘s approach impressed me enormously. During the first session, about assessment, he noted that faculty trying to put their multiple-choice quizzes online said their students were cheating and his response was “duh”. One can’t simply lift an on-site element (like a paper test) into an online environment – there must be adaptation.I was somewhat disappointed in David Wiley’s keynote, not because everything he said wasn’t true, but because I had heard almost all of it before and was hoping for a newer, more radical perspective.

The plenary session on Private Investment, Technology and American Education was excellent in grappling with the moral and procedural complexities of private funding for public education. Often this funding, desperately desired by public universities having their budgets cut, comes with unwieldy, unethical, or impossible strings attached. Being told to build a building, or have results within 15 months, or perform class visits when classes are not in session, were big challenges.

In addition, Tony Picciano was very clear about the influence that donors like the Gates Foundation have over the Department of Education, and how Congress does nothing about it since many of them concerned about education want this money coming in also. Companies work through bureaucrats, not educators. Shared work doesn’t count: Tom Cavanaugh at UCF noted that the sharing they do of work like the Toolkit influences schools that aren’t partners to the grant, so it isn’t included. The goal of not “selling your soul” when accepting private grants was clearly a difficult objective, and the choice of not taking the money might be difficult when public funding sources expect the private sector to jump in.

I took the most notes on Chuck Dziuban’s portion of the presentation on ambivalence in student evaluation of blended classes, because I think his work applies to all classes. His research shows that students who either love or hate a class or teacher tend to focus only on two factors: the course landscape and instructor engagement. Those who are ambivalent (i.e. there were some things they really liked and others they didn’t) create an averaged evaluation score that tells us nothing. These ambivalent perspectives take into consideration a larger number of factors that are important to assessing quality, including the course rhythm, expectation rules, assessment of their progress. When students are only partly happy with a class, there is much more information. We tend to interpret a middling student evaluation as meaning the faculty performance is middling, when it may be instead balancing good and bad aspects. I saw a big argument here for not considering the aggregate of a student evaluation at all.

Dziuban also noted, to my relief and frustration (since I’ve been trying to figure it out) that there is no set pattern to why students withdraw from classes. The biggest indicator of the likelihood of failure, his research shows, is cumulative GPA. The modality of the class, its level, the class size, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. mattered far less or not at all.

Tanya Joosten’s presentation on social media for educators (the title of her current book) was excellent. She has done work on the things many of us know but didn’t have proof for: students spend the most time in Facebook, don’t check email at all, and use mobile technologies. Having been worried about the creepy treehouse effect, I was happy to learn that Facebook could be effective in the way I’m using it (Groups, not friending) and that I could expand use further with Pages (I need to look into how this stuff shows up on students’ Walls, which is what they want – I know Groups don’t). Finding ways to text message assignment reminders and using Facebook helps students stay organized – it’s their planner, clearly. And they don’t use Google Plus.

Overall, a good conference with some severe limitations to communications, which I’ll be discussing elsewhere.

Best. Workshop. Ever.

On Thursday, the Program for Online Teaching facilitated a workshop we called, depending on where you looked it up, “Where the Hell Do I Start?”, “Start Here!” or “Beginners Workshop”. A one-day, seven-hour experience, we had a full house of 24 (and more on the wait list), almost all of whom rated the workshop “Extremely Useful”. Here’s our formula:

1. A 1-hour online synchronous planning session with the facilitators to come up with the idea (after a grueling “how do I do this?” session in August where attendees clearly wanted their hand held as they clicked a mouse),
2. A 5-hour planning session with two workshop leaders (fueled by coffee in cups the size of your head),
3. Dedicated, knowledgeable, calm, reliable, flexible, volunteer facilitators in an approximate ratio of 1-to-3 with attendees,
4. A firm commitment to:
* avoid anything that might cause the workshop to be taken over by one instructor’s needs or technical questions
* avoid any technical or educational jargon (I was forbidden from saying “instructivist” and “connectivism”, for example)
* avoid focusing on tools instead of teaching
5. A pattern of activity that uses a classroom for presenting and collaborative work, and a lab for individual playing and help, and going back and forth between them to keep everyone moving,
6. A $20 fee to not only pay for lunch but add value and responsibility to the idea of attendance, and
7. Good facilities and a crucial teaspoon of technical support.

Can’t wait for the description of what we did? No need to wait till the movie comes out — here it is.

[vimeo 19056991 w=400 h=300]

Beginners Workshop from Program for Online Teaching on Vimeo.

The objectives

Goal: Provide novice and beginning online instructors with direction in creating their first online class, and an opportunity to focus on their own needs.

By the end of this workshop, beginning online workshop participants will:
1. be assisted in determining their own online pedagogy for one class
2. set up and storyboard an online class
3. set up Blackboard to match their own pedagogy as expressed on their storyboard
4. determine which course design elements to add
5. review a road map of resources to learn how to add these elements

The set-up

Got approval through professional development
Workshop announced two months in advance by newsletter, email, and on the POT website
Each participant signed up through professional development’s website
Each participant paid $20 to Academic Senate for lunch and materials
Participation limited to 24 attendees (the max in the computer lab)
One facilitator bought pastries and one two dispensers of Starbuck’s coffee
Another facilitator brought drinks for lunch
Lunch of sandwiches, salad, breadsticks and cookies ordered from Pat and Oscars with delivery
Porfolios created by one leader with POT stickers (not the Chinese kind, made at Office Depot), and the following pages:

What we did

Coffee and pastries in the courtyard 8:45
Nametags for all.

9:00-9:30 Classroom: Show and Tell
We passed out the packets.
Pilar welcomed attendees and introduced the Show and Tell videos:
Jill’s screencast
Lisa’s screencast
John Turbeville’s screencast
Janeen’s screencast
Pilar’s screencast
Lisa worked the technology (played the videos).

9:30-11:00 — Classroom: Understanding the Guiding Force of your pedagogy
-Pilar briefly described to attendees what would happen throughout the day.
-Lisa led them through the Questionnaire so they could start to understand their teaching style and goals. Talked about how each score might lead toward focusiing more on either presentation or interactivity.
-Pilar asked them to get with the person next to them to discuss what their Guiding Force is when they think about their class. Facilitators circulated amongst the groups to help them figure that out– what guides your class? (Your syllabus, Textbook, Course pre-made software, SLOs,…)
– Pilar shared examples of 2 course designs and how they are organized (based on guiding force), allowing questions but limiting them to course design
– Participants created their own draft of a course map from a blank storyboard, separately or in pairs as they preferred – presenters walked them through essential components (which were listed on worksheet for guidance), for about 20 minutes

11:00 Computer Lab: Using Blackboard to set up a course your way
– Pilar demonstrated how to set up Blackboard to match their pedagogy by first erasing all menu items and anything forcing Bb’s innate pedagogy
– Everyone assisted, and Karen Korstad from Academic Info Services set up blank Bb classes to play with

12:20 lunch on the patio 4800 building, dealt with the fact that Pat and Oscars didn’t bring forks (a good lesson in the need for appropriate technologies)

1:00 Classroom: Determining what you need to learn to create what you want
– Jim and Jill focused on “what do you need to know now?” — determining knowledge needs so they could list what kind of tools they might want to use to fulfill their goals (synchronous meeting, short video, audio recording, etc.).
– The rest of us were on hand to help with questions, discussion.
[The goal: Determine which elements you need to add to your online class based on your pedagogy for your class, and produce a comprehensive needs list — what categories of tools?]

2:00 Computer Lab: Accessing Resources, tools and help
Lisa + Karen presented Resources and Help, Jill demonstrated how to set up voice communication inside Bb since there was much interest in that; we got out the headsets for people to play with Wimba, Audacity or Eyejot, but couldn’t do Jing because the lab didn’t have it installed

3:00 Classroom: How do we prepare students?
We all returned to the classroom to discuss: based on what each instructor plans to create, what will students need in order to understand how their class works and be prepared (including technologically) to participate fully? Lisa led discussion of what individual faculty need their students to know how to do, and wrote a list on the whiteboard. Then we listed ways to make sure that happens, through syllabus quizzes, low-stakes usage and tutorials. We sent everyone back to the lab on their way out to do the survey.


We got immediate feedback via SurveyMonkey, which all but one attendee filled out.

Of attendees, 56% were associate faculty, 44% were full-timers.

Experience: 74% had never taught an online class.

Goals: 87% took the workshop to enhance their teaching skills.

Satisfaction: 87% said the workshop was “Extremely useful” in fulfilling their goals.

Among the things participants found most useful was access to expert teachers, help setting up their course, a thorough introduction to key components of getting started, seeing what others were doing, being introduced to various tools, and “Understanding that these online instructors do not let the technology drive the course”.

Among the things participants wanted was more attention to their individual questions, the avoidance of too much computer detail, and 2 or 3-day workshops.

Of the activities they might consider participating in now that they’d taken the workshop, 83% wanted more workshops, 78% intended to explore online tools independently, 78% were interested in POT’s Online Teaching Certificate, 65% planned to participate in the new automated online Blackboard training, 57% would participate in Bb workshops, 39% intended to discuss online teaching issues in their department, and 9% intended to start their own blog.

Lessons learned

We consider that we have both inspired and educated 23 people to become independent, pedagogically-driven online instructors, and couldn’t be happier. Suggestions for ourselves:

  • Make sure the computer folks don’t reimage computers on the day before or day of the conference.
  • Get Starbucks to put the milk in containers that actually pour.
  • Get Pat and Oscars to bring forks to prevent raiding of people’s offices at the last minute.
  • More cookies.
  • Make an open board for participants to post questions that can be addressed throughout the day.

The Insanity of the Two Location Workshop

Yes, we did it back on May 7, and perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but all went well.

We had me in Elluminate with the online participants, and Elluminate showing on the screen in the lab on campus, where Jim Sullivan was presenting. We had a video camera there plugged in as a webcam, and a microphone on a long cord. Online, we could see and hear Jim, and also talk ourselves in the chat. On campus, they could see me (if I had my webcam on), hear me, and read our chat.

We had one volunteer, our wonderful Laura Paciorek. She sat at the computer in the lab, got things hooked up, and communicated with me for set-up and throughout the session using the chat. We had one helper from Media Services, our fantastic cameraman Alan McCarron. The only thing that didn’t work was the room speakers in the campus lab — but the desktop speakers on the presentation computer worked fine so they could hear online participants. The subject was using online resources for professional development.

It went so smoothly that this semester, the Program for Online Teaching will be offering simultaneous on-campus/online workshops on the First Friday of the month at 2:30 pm PT. We’re calling them simulcasts, but since the participants on both sides can actually participate, they really aren’t “casts”. I don’t know what to call what we’re doing.

Our first of the year was last week, on September 3.

We tried for the same setup we had on May 7, but this time I had more support from Media Services, so it got increasingly more complex as more technicians got involved. At least five people from Academic Information Services, in various capacities, responded individually to try to help get this going, even meeting separately for a trial run. Ultimately I think it was made clear that all we needed was a person manning a video camera that can plug into the USB port and act as a webcam, plus a pair of computer speakers in case the room system doesn’t work.

There was some confusion about the camera, because Alan had used a regular video camera (the Sanyo Xacti HD) as a webcam, and it had worked great. When that set-up was tried this time, it didn’t work and the feed was switched to a regular webcam (which had given us a poor image on May 7 so we hadn’t thought of using it).

We had also purchased a USB omnidirectional microphone over the summer, with the idea that it could just be placed in the middle of the campus lab so we could hear the presenter and all participants. This didn’t work, and the presenter ended up carrying the microphone around to be heard properly.

Last, we were told the room speakers were now functional. They weren’t, but we still had the desktop speakers standing by and those did.

As it turned out, we didn’t even need a cameraman, because our newest faculty volunteer, Lyle Blackmon, did a great job managing the camera.

So for next time, we need to:
– use the webcam in the lab
– use the microphone with the long cord in the lab
– keep using the little speakers since the room speakers still don’t work

Our feedback from doing this has been very positive. The late afternoon time on Friday works for both associates and full-timers tied up in meetings till 1:00. Those who really need a f2f experience prefer being in the lab with the facilitator, and those who cannot come to campus appreciate participating online.

The only thing that went really wrong is that I failed to press the Record button in Elluminate before we started! The microphone issue became apparent immediately, and I focused on solving it instead of recording. Ah well, the price of experience. Enjoy what I did record using this link.

Notes from Sloan-C’s Emerging Techs

Notes from Sloan-C’s Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium, which I attended as a live virtual participant:

From Social Media and Enterprise 2.0 as a 21st-century LMS with Linda Wallace of Pepperdine: Idea of Google Apps as a mid-point between an LMS and a PLE was briefly mentioned but I think was a valuable perspective.

From Engaging online dialogue: The pedagogy of annotation-enhanced discussion forums with Cindy Xin of Simon Fraser University, Canada: need to try Marginalia in Moodle, which allows students to add comments and annotations to each other’s forum posts.

From eScholars: Encouraging the Use of Emerging Educational Technologies Through a Collaborative Faculty Development Program, the idea that everyone offering cool faculty development tracks gives stipends to faculty participants and are run by instructional designers instead of faculty. Very depressing.

From Enhancing Moodle to Engage Students; Powerful Teaching that Makes Moodle More Effective, a combination of tools embedded in Moodle for interaction, including free tools like VoiceThread and Xtranormal (and paid-to-adapt WizIQ, AuthorLive) in a great web page to demo these.

From How 2 Lrn W Ur iPod: Using a fully online Moodle course to teach students how to be better learners with technology with the brilliant Kevin Kelly of SFSU: the idea of an “online flex hybrid” where students can choose whether to come to on-site class and participate or view the class live or recorded online and participate asynchronously.

From MERLOT classic award winners on Brief Hybrid Workshops: University of North Carolina, support for the idea we are already developing at POT for faculty development of creating brief under-5-minute learning objects (oh, that term!) surrounded by support materials and synchronous or asynchronous community discussion for various topics. Excellent webpage resource as an example.

From Beyond Grades—Comprehensive Student Assessment Using Common Desktop Tools with Rebecca Peet of UCSC: the old-style workaround gradebook: using Microsoft Excel as a rubric-styled gradebook with a template to fill in the blanks, and Word’s Mail Merge to send individual grade reports to students via email.

Buzzwords and jargon were rampant! This bingo card would have been useful. Also I kept hearing turn key. But some jargon was helpful. Somewhere I picked up the concept/jargon of “iterative development” — I think we need to consider this perspective for both Blackboard and Moodle instead of just “buying” them.

From Educational Networking: Building Models for Social Networking in Education with Steve Hargadon: Social networking + LMS + live collaboration is his future model. Hargadon seemed somewhat enamored of Blackboard’s recent aquisition of Elluminate as fulfilling this model. I don’t like social networking tools (blogs, wikis) inside closed systems that disappear when the class is over — I think this undermines the broader learning goals of those tools. Instead of seeing social networking under an educational umbrella, I’m seeing education happening under a social networking umbrella. Let’s deal with that.

From Where’s My Stuff? Are your students content with your content? with Sherry Lindquist: techniques to control what students see. I agreed with this in terms of preventing confusion and having students feel overwhelmed. I did not agree in terms of controlling release of forum responses until a student has responded. If you have to do that, you’re writing a lousy prompt. Disconnected students will drop if forced to put themselves forward like that. Connected students will contact each other in Facebook. I’d rather see them learn!

My biggest disappointment was the fact that few (if any) emergent technologies were introduced (Voicethread is not at all new), and virtual participants had to rely on Twitter (hashtag #et4online) to participate in real time becauase Mediasite’s commenting was not really that synchronous. Also, many of the cool techniques were based on individualized activities and feedback impossible for me to implement with 200 students each semester.

Connections were great, though. My favorite co-participants included Kelvin Thompson, with whom I hope to be writing an article called “Linking Out and Widgeting In: Leveraging Your LMS with a Crowbar”.

I don’t feel dirty, but I would like an edupunk virtual conference to clear my palate…