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We had a great conversation this morning on the students’ perspective on the Wikiblitz assignment. We began by going over the article, and noting all of the changes, deletions, additions, and omissions that had occurred in the five days since we last looked at the article. In the spirit of the Heavy Metal Umlaut video I used Jing to make a short video showing how the page evolved from its one-line birth in 2005, to what we see today.
I’m no filmmaker.
But it was instructive to see how the interests and early structure that emerged in the article’s first few months have set the skeleton for all subsequent revisions. Once a structure emerges, it seems it takes a lot of energy to over-rule it or otherwise make substantial changes. The article we blitzed is about a particular place, and we noted how political history about the place was quickly expunged (but leaving a section on first nations land claims in the area).
So – a class that earlier in November had a significant number of students who felt there was nothing wrong with Wikipedia as a resource for their university level work, still like it and will refer to it, but understand now how it generates knowledge and the limitations of that knowledge. And they all promise never to cite it as a basic resource ever again.
We shall see, eh? But in general, a good experience and one that the students enjoyed doing.
Some student observations:
‘The fact that many of the changes made by the class were reverted [by other Wikipedians] means that even an ‘any one can edit’ site like Wikipedia is in fact conservative and resistant to change. Why is that? Perhaps its because people take ownership of particular pages… I also thought it was quite amazing how the anti-vandalism bot reversed some of our changes…this feature designed to preserve the presentation of fact has the effect of preserving misinformation as well…’
“The fact that the people writing and editing Wikipedia pages could in fact be just like us – first years with little in-depth knowledge – is actually rather frightening…’
I tabulated the content of my students’ feedback:
|Gist of comment||# of mentions by students|
|ease of use||1|
|the way Wikipedia ‘self heals’||3|
|lack of professionalism||3|
|content is contested||5|
|fact that it is ‘in public’ compels professionalism||1|
|authority lacking – these people could be just like us!||2|
|futility of trying to improve articles||2|
|where do wikipedians get their sources?||1|
Context: FYSM1405a is a first year seminar designed to give students an understanding of how historians can create ‘signal’ in the ‘noise’ of the internet, and how historians create knowledge using digital media tools. Given that many students when doing ‘research’ online will select a resource suggested by Google – and generally one within the first three to five results – this class has larger media literacy goals as well.
The first section of the course looked at the sheer mass of historical materials available on the internet, asking, how do we find our way through all of this? How do we visualize or otherwise identify what is important? The structuring readings during this module were reflections by the seminal author Roy Rosenzweig (founder of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University). We also looked at how the ‘doing’ of history was itself an ‘unnatural act’, in Sam Wineburg’s felicitous phrase. This led to a second module where the students explored the idea that we never observe the past directly; we are always building models to fit what we ‘know’ into a system of explanation. In digital work, these models are explicitly written in computer code. Understanding how the code forces a particular worldview on the consumer is a key portion of becoming a ‘digital historian’. Computer games are another kind of model of the world; historical computer games are some of the best selling games on the market today. How do they represent history? Can we subvert or challenge these representations?
A consideration of gaming and an ethic of ‘playing’ with history led to the current module focussed on crowdsourcing history. Wikipedia is, in a certain sense, a kind of game where competing visions of common knowledge vie for dominance. We looked at simulations of termites as a metaphor for how crowdsourcing can create knowledge (the termites interact in a world with the simple instruction ‘pick up a piece of wood when you find it; put it down when you encounter another piece of wood’. From an initial random scattering of wood chips, a single pile emerges in the center of the world.) We looked at the history of Wikis more generally, and that of the Wikipedia itself specifically. I created the image at right to help the students situate when it is appropriate to consult Wikipedia (and when to cite it; the difference between using it as a tertiary source, and a primary source for a particular argument where it advances or illustrates the argument in some way).
The Wikiblitz assignment: To understand how the process of knowledge creation actually works on Wikipedia, by improving the article related to our local region. This assignment was partly inspired by the UBC SPAN312 2008 semester long experiment in writing collaboratively on the Wikipedia (for an analysis and post-mortem on this experiment, see http://bit.ly/13VZmJ ; other similar projects are listed here http://bit.ly/aWhq4p ). Two short videos were prepared for the students showing them the mechanics of how to edit a Wikipedia article.
Instructions to students: Examine the article. Identify areas that are logically weak or poorly written, or areas that are otherwise incomplete. Using a pseudonym, log into Wikipedia and make a substantial improvement to the article. Email me with your pseudonym and a brief description of the changes you made. All changes are to be made within class time.
Follow Up: During a subsequent class, the students will review how the article evolved during their blitzing of it, and the subsequent changes made by the wider Wikipedian community. They will be asked to reflect on how much of their contribution survived the interval; why did those parts survive? Why did some parts get reverted or deleted? How does the Wikipedian community deal with citations and points of view? Their reflection will be written before the class discussion, taking the form of a short paragraph, and will form the jumping off point for the class discussion.
Part one of this assignment – the wikiblitz itself – was conducted on November 26th 2010. Part two – the reflection and discussion – will take place on December 1st 2010. On December 1st, the students will be shown a time-lapsed video illustrating how the wiki page changed over the course of the blitz and the subsequent week. They will then be given the prompt to take 15 minutes to write down their reflections on their experience creating knowledge on Wikipedia. They will then share their observations with their seat mates to either side, before sharing with the class as a whole. Their written reflections will be taken in for grading as per the rubric (noting that the majority of the points concern their actual engagement with the Wikipedia page).
Rubric for this assignment
|Blitz||Editing||Major contribution made||Minor contribution with several corrections made throughout the text||Minor edits only|
|Wiki Style||Observed Wikipedia’s house style||English is generally correct, but NPOV is not observed||English is problematic|
|Sources||Cited appropriately||Citations problematic||No citations|
|Reflection||Knowledge creation||Reflection shows deep thought on how knowledge is negotiated in a wiki||Reflection shows some awareness of how knowledge is created||Reflection shows little awareness beyond the student’s own point of view|
Total points: /12
The students should see how knowledge creation on Wikipedia is as much about style as it is about substance; how Wikipedia constitutes a kind of peer-review; how the ‘neutral-point-of-view’ (NPOV) provisions lead to particular kinds of rhetoric and judgments regarding knowledge credibility and suitability.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, there is a troubling piece written by a fellow who writes and sells papers for/to students. Which got me to thinking: shouldn’t text analysis be able to solve this?
Here’s my thinking: I’m willing to bet every author produces unique combinations of words and phrases – a concept that Amazon for instance uses to improve its search functions (“statistically improbable phrases“). As the ‘ghost writer’ points out, most of the emails he gets from students are nearly illegible or otherwise atrocious. So – what if at the start of a school year, you sat all of your students down to handwrite a couple thousand words, any topic. Writing by hand is important, so that you get that student’s actual genuine writing. Scan it all in. Perform text analysis on it. Obtain a ‘signature’ for that student’s style. Then, when students submit their papers, analyze them again and compare the signatures. Where the signatures don’t match within a certain range, bring the student in to talk about their work. Chances are if they didn’t write it, they probably haven’t read it either…. Repeat each year to account for developing skill and ability.
Perhaps I’m naive, and text analysis isn’t at that level yet (but I’m willing to bet it could be…). If the problem is a student submits someone else’s work as his own, then maybe if we had a clear signal of his own true work, all this latent computer power sitting around could be brought into the equation…?
Just a thought.
Inspired by what many others are up to in their classes (and in particular, Prof. Fernsebner; but see also Brian Croxall), I had my first year seminar students use Zotero to create a group library related to digital history & the local history of the Ottawa region. Below are the instructions I gave them:
Add 5 references to your personal zotero library with annotations; transfer those references to our zotero group online bibliography.
- Download and install Zotero in Firefox. If you do not have Firefox installed on your machine, click on the Firefox link to obtain it. It’s free!
- Review the help videos for zotero on our course website, and on the Zotero main page.
- Sign-up for Zotero Groups at zotero.org/groups/
- Search Groups for ‘1405a-digital-history’. Click on ‘Join Group’. This will send me a short note saying that you wish to join the group. Once I ‘approve’, you’ll have a new ‘group library’ on your ‘collections’ screen on the Zotero interface in Firefox. At the top you’ll see ‘my library’. To copy an item from one collection to the other, find the item you want; click and drag it to the other folder.
- Now, find some resources/references concerning digital history, and the history of Ottawa & the Ottawa Valley / Outaouais! You should begin by asking yourself – what aspects of this course have I found most interesting so far? Key words might be things like ‘digital history’; ‘digital humanities’; ‘history GIS’; ‘serious games’… and so on. Look at the ‘readings’ section of our course website. Did you know that Google allows you to search for similar resources? Try it out: go to google.com, click ‘advanced search’, click ‘more’ and put the link in the ‘page-specific tools’ box.
- Collect your resource, and annotate it by clicking on the ‘Notes’ tab in the zotero interface. Things to think about when creating your notes:
- Who wrote this? Is this person credible (ie, do they work for a reputable institution? Are they well-known? What do others say about this person? Can you even find the person’s name?)
- When was this published or posted? Was it in response to some wider current in society? (for instance, something published on terrorism in October 2001 might have a very different tone/point of view than something published in August 2001)
- What kind of historical questions or problems could this source be useful for?
- Are there any obvious flaws in this resource?
- Tag the resource using descriptive labels, under the ‘tags’ tab. (This will allow you to search and create subcollections based on these labels. Use as many as you’d like.)
- Transfer your citations to our group library.
- IF SOMEONE ELSE has already uploaded a source that you wished to contribute, please find a different source. So you’re better off completing this assignment ahead of time, rather than at the last minute.
And here is the rubric I’ve used to grade their submissions to the group library:
|Zotero Group Library Joined?||No (no points)||Yes (1 point)|
|# of unique items added to the group library||One or two (1 point)||Three or four (2 points)||Five items (4 points)|
|Quality of annotations (see instructions, #6)||A random assortment, with no obvious connection to the course demonstrated or little reflection on utility (1 point)||Some randomness, but also some awareness of why the sources are valuable, and in what way (3 points)||Resource obviously connected to the class, and annotations show reflection on the utility or appropriateness of the resource (4 points)|
|Annotations are tagged with descriptive labels||No tags (0 points)||One or two resources are tagged (.25 points)||Three or four resources are tagged (.5 points)||All five resources are tagged (1 point)|
So far, so good. But one thing I didn’t count on, was that I can’t search by user-who-added-items in the group library. This has been a major time sink, in that regard. I have to click through each record in the group’s library page on the web, noting the resource, who created it, and when (since some students appeared to have added to what others submitted).
So while overall I’m happy with how this assignment panned out – I wanted them to learn to use Zotero, and in terms of the basics, that’s what they’ve achieved – I think I could’ve planned this out better. Aside from the technical difficulties in retrieving what each student submitted, there’s the more important question of whether or not my rubric does what I wanted it to do. And there I think it falls down – “connection to the course” should’ve been defined a wee bit more rigorously, for instance. I was imagining ‘connection’ meaning, a connection with the issues raised in our readings – but many students simply took that to mean, ‘he talked about enigma machines once, so this website on the mechanics of the enigma machine therefore is a good resource to collect for digital history’. Well maybe it is, maybe it isn’t: but since I didn’t spell out that I wanted them to spell out the connections… well my bad.
So. A good assignment to teach a useful skill, but as for fostering anything deeper, I think my instructions & rubric let me down. Lesson learned.
In the UK, the Higher Education Academy has various subject centers for promoting excellence in teaching and learning in higher education, including one for History, Classics and Archaeology. Recently, Kimm Curran and Lisa Lavender from HCA put together an edited volume of case studies (which included my own modest contribution on my oral examination experiment a few years ago at Roehampton U). I can’t find the volume on the website, which I suspect is just an oversite; the contributions are all enormously interesting, and I recreate the table of contents below:
- Teaching Core Skills in History via WebCT: Quizzes (Max Jones)
- Embedding Time Management Skills (Alan Greaves)
- Divide and Grid (Helen Kaufman)
- Using VLEs to Improve Student Learning in Large Humanities Courses (Max Jones)
- Weblogs and module journals in History (Matthew Ward)
- Blended Learning in the Delivery of Skills: engaging the distant learner (Sam Riches)
- Does Inquiry-based learning increase student engagement? The case of a first year history survey course (Jamie Wood & Alex Ralston)
- Group debates as a form of assessment (Fiona McHardy)
- Using the Oral Examination for Promoting Undergraduates’ Learning in Roman Archaeology: A New Lecturer’s Improvised Experience (Shawn Graham)
- A Thousand Years in One Semester: the application of good practice to design, teaching and assessment in an historical survey course (Rosemary Gill)
- History and Employability (Steve Caunce)
The HCA Subject Center is also calling for papers for a conference on archaeological education:
The Higher Education Academy’s Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology and the Council for British Archaeology have joined together to host a joint conference on Archaeology in Education in September 2010.
We are now asking for conference proposals that address aspects of teaching archaeology at any educational levels from Key Stage 1 through to PhD, and in any context from the avocational to the professional. Conference proposals might be for either formally delivered papers, or a proposal to host a workshop based around a specific issue for discussion or activities. In particular we would like to see proposals that focus on teaching and learning issues and how they can be addressed, and/or case study examples of specific learning.
To register an interest in attending or to make a proposal, please send your name and affiliation (if any), the title of your paper or workshop and an abstract of 100 words to Lyn Hughes at email@example.com
Also worth checking out is the session proposal for TAG2010: Should students design their own curricula?
The Subject Centre is proposing to hold a session at TAG 2010, this year held in Bristol. The sessions will be called ‘Taking Ownership of the Course: student involvement in the archaeology curriculum’ and it will explore whether students should be actively involved in designing their archaeology curriculum? How important is the experience and age of teaching staff? Are there benefits that students bring from their recent experiences of learning?
Recent discussions at TAG, and elsewhere, have revealed tensions between what lecturers would ideally like their students to know about archaeological theory, and how students would like to learn about theory. Sometimes, these different opinions can be framed in terms of the difference between acquiring a depth of knowledge or an intellectual history, on the one hand, contrasted with a desire to be engaged in a debate or difference of opinion to stimulate interest, on the other. Lying at the heart of the matter is the ever-expanding nature of archaeological enquiry, the increasingly restricted time available to students to give to their studies, and a modular system for the university curriculum that tries to balance directed learning and student choice.
At a national level, the funding councils that support universities have asked institutions to encourage greater student engagement in their learning. The implication of this desire is that students are not particularly engaged at the moment, and if they were more were engaged, students might benefit more from their university education, and express higher levels of satisfaction with their time spent at university.
It seems appropriate to explore this idea at a student conference like TAG, and papers and discussion will reflect on the tensions in designing an archaeology curriculum, the possibilities, benefits and problems of student engagement in its design, and effective strategies by which students might become more knowledgeable about engaging with their learning environments.
To contribute a paper, please contact Lyn Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org
TAG website http://www.bristol.ac.uk/archanth/tag/index.html
The entire website (both the Academy and the various subject centers) are well worth exploring for anyone interested in pedagogy & practice.
There was a recent PBS Frontline documentary called ‘College. Inc’ that ‘exposes’ the world of for-profit education. It does not however address the way instructors are provided teacher-training in this industry, nor the fact that this industry provides jobs for many MAs and PhDs that get churned out by the regular sector. (Pay is an issue I am not going to comment on, but for an interesting experiment, see this calculator)
I currently work in this industry, as a faculty trainer (but I’ll be moving on soon). I took the job because I wanted to see the business of education from the inside. And I also like to eat, pay my bills, etc. I’ve learned a lot about teaching, having to teach the teachers; as I don’t want to torpedo my academic credibility, I bust my butt to make sure that the people I train to facilitate classes uphold academic rigor, and best practices in online education. I will not be party to degree mills. As a faculty trainer I concentrate on building up instructors who can at least help those weaker students attain some measure of success. I put my credibility on the line whenever a faculty member who I’ve trained steps into the online classroom.
I was asked the question of whether or not, given how these online courses provides so much of the materials one would normally create for themselves, there was any way for the instructor to be truly creative in his or her teaching. Initially I chafed at this when I first joined my current employers a little over a year ago, and you would have found me firmly in the camp that found this restrictive, to have so many of the materials pre-made. But after awhile, I came to realize that there was a great deal of stealthy freedom involved in this structure. (In the face-to-face world, I often ended up taking over an already running course, or being parachuted in at the last minute, and so had to work with the existing structures, which is probably a factor in my thinking here.)
If you think of these pre-made course shells as a kind of seminar course, one where some library god has already created the readings for you, as well as the assignments, then you can then bring all of your energies, your creativity, to bear in the actual conversation you have with the students. Note that my emphasis is not on you the instructor, but on your students. You can get to know them, understand where they are in relation to the materials, and concentrate on meeting their needs as learners. The materials provided are just the jumping off point, not the ending point. In my history classes for instance, I’ve sometimes provided links to outside resources that flat out contradict the provided readings. In the ensuing conversation for instance, we end up covering much important ground on the nature of history and the role of the historian.
The Frontline documentary didn’t talk much about the faculty perspective of the online experience, and I was disappointed in that. Not everyone is suited to teaching online, and it would’ve been interesting to see what Frontline made of the faculty experience.
A post over at Inside Higher Ed does provide a faculty trainer’s point of view. I’d like to draw attention to this paragraph:
The training is, in a sense, an extended job interview. It’s where the institution learns whether the new hire can use its learning management system software and how he or she works with other people in the training course – and might interact with students, Barrett said. “What we rely on is the teacher trainer. The teacher trainer is going to do an evaluation at the end, to tell you whether they think this person is a good candidate or this person needs some assistance.”
Some folks forget this. I have seen plagiarism in these training sessions that I run (very rarely, but disheartening all the same). Those individuals do not pass the training. The article closes with some thoughts on academic freedom:
Barrett said that only a third of the online institutions he’s taught for grant instructors academic freedom. “The rest are, you go by the instruction modules that are given, do not deviate from them. They have people who will come in and look at what you’re doing, will look at what you’re introducing, will comment on things that are a little bit different.” A few attendees shook their head in dismay.
This is true enough. If you’re going to teach online, then academic freedom might be something you trade away in exchange for regular work. Having spent many years hustling from one short term academic job to another, teaching other people’s courses, I’m tempted to say, ‘what’s the difference?’ … but if we want to see online teaching at the university level develop to have the status and security and academic freedom that ‘regular’ faculty have, then the regular folks are going to have to engage with the online folks. Teaching online has to be seen as honourable and a as legitimate a course to pursue as face to face teaching. When it is, then some of the other shortcomings discussed by Frontline might conceivably change.
Or perhaps it’s the other way around… All I know is that I have done my best to inculcate new online teachers with the need to treat their students with grace, empathy and rigor; to do otherwise is dishonest and does us all a disservice.
I am looking forward to the next stage in my career though.
Just came across what seems to be an experiment in a classroom using Civ Revolution on the iPod for history teaching… will be interesting to see what happens. http://ipodgamesforlearning.pbworks.com/Civilization-Revolution
The primary focus of this project is to develop a curriculum for an after school program or “club” for at-risk students at the middle and/or high school level. This program would use the game, World of Warcraft, as a focal point for exploring Writing/Literacy, Mathematics, Digital Citizenship, Online Safety, and would have numerous projects/lessons intended to develop 21st-Century skills.
Bravo, and well done! One that I will follow with interest…
Some archaeological entries in this year’s competition:
Posted by dmlcAdmin 2 days agoThe heritage sites of the Mississippi Delta are important cultural monuments. This project brings three key Arkansas heritage sites into Second Life, allowing direct access to those sites for students and the general public. This virtual learning platform will be designed to allow a direct engagement with historic material.The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is planning a new exhibit called Treasures of the Earth. The goal is to create an adventure in archaeology featuring three major archeological discoveries and a lab where families can use technology to learn about science and uncover clues to the past.Dive a hundred feet below sea level and take a voyage back hundreds of years in a virtual simulation game to learn how scientific archaeological methods are used to survey, explore, excavate and interpret submerged cultural resources.Stone Mirror introduces archaeology via participation in a 3-D “virtual dig” of Çatalhöyük, Central Anatolia (southern Turkey). Based on Swigart’s Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic, students experience both past and present to create a “path of inference” from discovering objects to creating narratives describing their historical meaning.
Posted by dmlcAdmin 2 days agoThe goal is to create a system of virtual collaborative environments able to teach how to virtually reconstruct ancient worlds in 3D, involving a community of young users. The system is based on the following archaeological case studies: Roman imperial Villas, ancient Chinese tombs and Mayan sites.
I just realized. I’ve been intermittently blogging now for three years, as of this December past. In that time, I think I’ve remained more or less true to the ‘mission’ of Electric Archaeology – to try out new techs, recount experiments, disseminate my research, in new media for archaeology and history. There have been times when I could post thoughtful, in-depth pieces; and times when I’ve merely passed on the interesting things that have turned up in my inbox. As of this morning according to WordPress, Electric Archaeology has had over 85,000 views, spread across 394 posts. There have been 329 comments made. I have 62 categories – clearly I need some rationalization there.
I sometimes toy with the idea of moving Electric Archaeology to my own space, so I can put some better analytics on it, but for whatever reason, that just doesn’t happen…
The all time most viewed posts on Electric Archaeology (the most recent posts of course are at the bottom, having had less chance to be viewed):
The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses. Think of it as online book clubs for open educational resources. The P2PU helps you navigate the wealth of open education materials that are out there, creates small groups of motivated learners, and supports the design and facilitation of courses. Students and tutors get recognition for their work, and we are building pathways to formal credit as well.
The pilot phase of P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University) ended in October, after having run for six weeks with seven courses and approximately 90 participants. Last month, the pilot phase volunteers, including the course organizers, met in person for the first time at the first ever P2PU Workshop in Berlin. The goal of the workshop was to integrate pilot phase experiences into a working plan for the future of P2PU. Judging from the outcomes, the workshop achieved its goal. Check out CC Learn’s video download of the workshop at Blip.tv, Vimeo, or YouTube. (It’s CC BY, so feel free to share and remix!)