The past few weeks have seen a lot of discussion over computerized essay-grading. Some people admire its labor-saving potential (because who really likes grading a huge pile of student essays?) while the louder crowd argues that, among other things, a computer can’t read. I see this discussion as part of a broader trend that stretches back into the early days of the modern computer.
In my last post, I gave an introduction to streaming music resources available through the W&M campus libraries. Today, I’m going to give an introduction to some resources you can use beyond the library. If the collections that we have available through our streaming services or in the library aren’t meeting your course needs, these Web resources might be just what you need!
In light of the Harvard email-snooping flap, I had originally thought about writing on digital privacy, except that a news item on the Chronicle’s website caught my eye this morning and got me to thinking about the apocalypse. Well, not the literal apocalypse–just an educational one. Maybe “epochal change” or “paradigm shift” would be better terms.
This post will be a departure from my usual spotlight on tech tools. I seem to be having a lot of conversations lately about academic freedom, intellectual property, and access to academic resources. In a way, this does tie into our discussion about technology because technology — especially Internet databases — is supposed to make more things accessible to more people. The Internet is supposed to be the great equalizer.
Recently Scott E. Page did a presentation at the University of Wisconsin Center for Educational Innovation where he reviewed his experience teaching his Model Thinking course twice through online course provider Coursera. The talk he gives is a very interesting insight into the process of creating a very successful MOOC (massive open online course), but ties the experience into the typical role of a professor. For him, the mission of the professor is to share important ideas as deeply and with as wide an audience as possible.
Since I have been at W&M, we have gone from the relative freedom of the Web left over from the 1990s to the more managed reality of the content management system. Content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress, provide easy ways to build websites and have your students present their work on the Web, but the CMS does have its drawbacks. In order for it to allow for the easy creation of polished-looking sites and let your students focus on writing, the CMS makes many of the other decisions about the website for them. Thinking through what a CMS-based student project often accomplishes may help you better refine your web-based student projects.
As an undergrad at W&M in 2002, I completed my first website for an assignment in an American Studies class. Ten years later, the Web has changed, but I am not so sure if I can say the same for many classroom Web projects. Publishing content on the Web is far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a category of Web applications called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows people to publish content to the Web without much technical skill. This is great because it allows class projects to focus more on writing and Web publishing. However, I wonder if we have lost something in Web projects as CMSs like WordPress have become more prevalent. I think it is time to reevaluate what a semester-long Web project should look like.
On the “worth watching” list of experiments in online learning is a project at Bryn Mawr, a small liberal arts college that values personal interaction with students. Although using online learning at a college like Bryn Mawr sounds a little counter-intuitive, faculty involved in the project hope to “reinforce their hands-on teaching model rather than to subvert it” by using online course modules. How does this kind of model work, and what can we learn from this online learning experiment?