I love how students transform from unresponsive mutes to vibrant knowledge-spouters when you find ways to let them talk. Too bad I couldn’t find a way to wake the network in Auditorium B from its unresponsive state, too, but we did fine anyway. Students are quite able to chat with their neighbours to try and figure out the aim of a newspaper site and an auction site from memory (we did dagbladet.no and qxl.no), and to discuss the connotations of today’s MIT homepage. Here’s a screenshot in case it changes, and look, a handy, Norwegian, explanation of denotations, connotations and associations – the difference isn’t obvious the first time you hear the words. The biggest change came when I told the students they were experiencing problem-based learning (that must have been the voice in my head asking where the 2 x 45 min lecture was) and asked them to spend fifteen minutes pouring over printouts of microsoft.com and apple.com‘s front pages discussing the differences with the two people closest to them. After all that at least ten different people (trust me, that’s a lot) took part in the larger discussion, and lots of great points were made. I even started getting the hang of their names! A great thing about teaching web design and how to read the web is that the students tend to have lots of very varied knowledge about the web.

For Wednesday the students are blogging posts comparing Microsoft and Apple’s websites. We’ll discuss these and do peer (and teacher) feedback on Wednesday – hopefully if we do a fair bit of very focussed writing like this, the graded blog post analysing a website, which is due in a month, will be totally honed and excellent. Perhaps they’ll spend a month writing and rewriting their Apple and Microsoft readings, or the posts they wrote about “Faen” and The Unknown, and their handed in work will be brilliant. Or at least they’ll have written several posts in the genre before handing one in.

I want to improve at writing productive assignments and tasks. I find it hard to describe what, exactly, a good, short post discussing a website should contain. Often my explanations seem far too long. Matt‘s assignments are exemplary and I’m secretly planning to steal them all for next semester’s Digital Media Aesthetics (if they hire me) but sadly, they’re not quite right for web design. They’re great for general inspiration, though. Just look at the wisdom in that assignment on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Maximum learning for the students compressed down into a manageable assessment load for the teacher. Perfect.

4 thoughts on “unmute

  1. Alina

    Its cool that you are so very positive about us! We’ll try to keep up to your hopes 🙂

  2. steve

    Last semester I taught a required first-year composition course with a text I wouldn’t have chosen myself. We spent the whole semester mired in reading that neither I or the students particularly cared about.

    Now I’m teaching my own course, and we’ve already had three class sessions more positive and exciting than anything in the fall. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to experienced instructors, but what a breath of fresh air to teach my own favorite books, on the topics of my own research and writing, and using the combination of academic and popular sources I’m most comfortable with (Puritan history, cable TV fishing shows, and bigfoot, for example).

    That mix really seems to encourage students to participate and get excited, instead of feeling excluded by sources they feel intimidated by. At the same time, the more accessible sources lead them into engaging the toughter texts in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise.

  3. Matt K.

    Steal away, Jill!

  4. Jill

    Thanks, Matt! Alina, it’s cool you guys are reading my blog! And Steve, yes, I think that’s crucial: you’ve got to care about what you’re teaching, or it’s just not going to be any good… That’s a bit like what Trond said last week, actually – his teaching improved each year until the fifth time he taught the same maths course. By then it was boring.

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