Oregon State University|blogs.oregonstate.edu

Blog Example

  October 10th, 2011

Hi, I thought this older blog I used to use would be helpful to those wondering what might be the differences or possibilities with using a blog. This was designed for one student in one of my first terms teaching the class, who told me at the end of the second week that she was “legally blind”. I was completely lost as to how to help her with a course that relied in visual information, but I quickly adjusted not only the material and the assignments, but also my idea of what “viewing art” can be. So, most of the material on here is me reading all the books and articles.

The mp3’s in the posts has since been disabled and I didn’t think it necessary to fix for the purposes of your viewing. It’s pretty much just adding it in like a picture. What I was excited to discover were the widgets “boxnet”, the videos, and the widget at the top which is already in Blogger’s editing to add if you want. The videos are there also through Blogger’s editing. Best way to see inside the editing process and the choices you’d have would be to set up an account.
Last I checked (a year ago when I set up this blog), WordPress didn’t have the videos or slideshow options, but I believe there’s enough online to find a free app that has an “embed” code like Boxnet has.

Anyway…sorry to give you more to read. Here ya go!

Brain Freeze

  October 10th, 2011

I’m supposed to write about “learning outcomes”. My brain is frozen. I have no reference for these words—and I am a person who likes to have answers. I am a person with an MFA in Writing from a famous art school in Chicago. I am a person who has dedicated her life to the keyboard and the page.Writing is my strong point in life, it might be my only point! A week ago I was confident, but tonight I’m stretched out like Wiley Coyote squashed flat under the Road Runner’s boulder. Add to that: a growing obsession to check the time as it measures a building storm of anxiety in me.

I look up “learn” in the dictionary, I google it, search for it in Wikipedia, I read up on theories. These are sources I can usually depend on to spark some original thought, but tonight I find nothing. Nothing that inspires thoughts of my own. I need a story, an elaboration, a picture even! I pace the room, eat a bag of Dorritos, have a glass of wine…Where are my finely honed skills? Where’s familiar ground? Where is my faithful muse!!

Sigh. Let it go. Go do something else. Work on the Planning Chart. But there I am surrounded by the auxiliary troops: “Outcomes” “Assessment” “Final Assessment” “Resources Needed.” Someone pushed me out of a plane! I grabbed a book on my way down:

“You cannot fold a flood
and put it in a drawer”
Emily Dickinson

The parachute opens. Emily, in these two brief lines, demonstrates the success of a failure. She writes “cannot” while simultaneously doing the “cannot”; she demonstrates that the flood of her passions can fit into a “drawer”, a container, of a poem. I am on the road to recovery. Another book clarifies it further for me: “…the act of writing is a process of improvisation within a framework (form) of intention.” Lyn Hejinian. Improvisation, the unplanned, paradoxically functions within a framework of intention.

The dilemma for teaching art in a system made up of a web of intentions and outcomes is that creativity happens in the accidental, in the “failures”, in the unplanned moments. Art thrives on chaos. Artists learn to hope for a fortuitous failure of their own planned outcome in hopes that the failure will act as a rupture, opening up the work to a much larger idea than what they could have planned on. How to encourage a Jackson Pollock or Gertrude Stein in an educational system that requires measurable outcomes?

I don’t know, but I’ll throw out some ideas. Feel free to add to this in the comments. I will surely appreciate any help.

Learning Outcomes ask us to state our intentions, not our demands. I think this might be a beginning. This keeps the door open and allows us the means to measure information while leaving the door open for improvisation, spontaneity, and playfulness. It allows us to invite students to design aspects of an assignment that aren’t pertinent to our specific outcomes. For writing it could be word count, style, format, medium, subject…(as some of you have mentioned in the discussion).

My goal: To write the learning outcomes so they function as a support for an open doorway and not a wall.

Thanks for listening. I think I can do the homework now.


Beverly Nelson, Art Department faculty, Classes: Art 199-Writing Art History, Art 400-Writing Art Criticism.
Artist: William Wegman. Title: Untitled. Date: 2000. Genre: color photograph. This image is copyright protected by law.





The sleeper in the back of the room

  October 9th, 2011

I’d love to say that I’m such an engaging lecturer that I’ve never had a sleeper in the back of my classroom but sadly that’s not true.  I have.  And I know I’ve had sleepers in my online classroom too but I don’t have to see them.  The benefit to my online classroom is that sleepers don’t really matter.  Students have to be self-motivated enough to learn the material, turn in assignments, and take exams without having a scheduled time to show up for class.  The student who might sleep through my lecture on models of nutrient uptake might find my online presentation really interesting and be actively engaged in our online discussion.  A student who is engaged in the classroom might find online courses difficult because they must find their own time to view material and they don’t have me standing in front of them 3x a week saying “Hey isn’t this cool!” to get them excited about a topic.

Basically I think online courses are great because they are available to a wider population than can come to campus and take classes.  I love the variety of people I’ve had in my classes.  Teaching Perennial Plants to someone in Qatar definitely expanded my list of plants to consider, although most of the plants she had growing around her wouldn’t grow in Corvallis.  The drawback I see and I don’t think you can avoid is that online you don’t have an instructor right there who you can stop and ask questions of.  There are ways to make that difference OK but I think for some students on campus will always work better.  It just depends on how they learn.  And the reality is that there will always be sleepers not matter how engaging we are on campus or online.

Some thoughts on how I’ve set up my online courses…

1 – keep the course design simple.  I use a Course Information section, a Course Documents section, an Assignments section, and an Exam section.  Course Information contains the syllabus and calendar.  Course Documents contains the topics we’re coving in class grouped in 3 week blocks.  Under each topic there is text, ppt, and links to further reading, usually only 2 or 3 things per folder.  In Assignments I have an explanation and a link for them to turn in their work.  Exams contains, well, exams.  I like this arrangement b/c students never open 1 section and feel overwhelmed by what they see.

I also prefer discussion boards to blogs b/c it keeps all the course interactions in 1 place. Students don’t have to leave the course Bb site and log onto another site to contribute to the  course.

3 – I use discussion boards and I use groups for the boards.  I arrange my discussion boards with individual threads for individual topics so that there is never an open ended “jump in” type expectation.  As discussions develop I encourage students to start threads for ideas that they think are interesting or important and I start new threads when a new idea pops up.  This helps avoid discussions that get so convoluted that you can’t remember where it started.  Using groups of 10 or so also keeps discussions more focused and seems to give students more of an opportunity to make new contributions rather than just agreeing with each other.

Of course I’m teaching a science course so they types of discussions and information I’m presenting may be very different from a writing course or an art or music course.

Sarah Finger McDonald

Mind the learning gap

  October 9th, 2011

I have my teaching gig by way of my law degree. My career goal was always to pursue farm, food and environmental policy issues, so I feel right at home in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Policy choices and legal problems are inextricably intertwined, so I love thinking about the material. My ultimate goal is to teach my students the process of policy and legal analysis and problem solving.

The traditional law school teaching method is the “Socratic Method,” where professors question students on the cases that we read for homework, but rarely ever make a statement of fact or law in class. As law students, we were most frustrated with our Constitutional Law professor, who would only make non-committal whines and squeaks in response to student answers, so we couldn’t even tell if a fellow student was correctly answering the question!

But by the end of the class, I found that I learned a tremendous amount from that professor because I was challenged to evaluate the answers for myself and check it against my own understanding of the material. We students then wrestled with the “right” answers in our own small groups by articulating the material for ourselves.

Moving from that unique educational environment, I keep in mind that I am teaching an undergraduate course, not a law school course. There is a learning gap here, both in the material, the readiness of the students, and the course environment. I try to use a “modified” Socratic Method of my own invention in my class, and use the same approach on the Discussion Board. I ask students to explain a case and respond to each other. I jump in with clarification or congratulations on a job well done, but I try to let them sort out the issues. My goal is NOT to teach them how things ARE, or SHOULD be, but to give them tools to evaluate these problems and make the arguments themselves.

Ok, so my goal is partially to teach them how things are currently done, how things ARE. We review the current status of environmental law, what the courts have said about different statutes, what it means for polluters and for people affected by pollution. But the law is ever evolving, so it means (almost) nothing to know what the law says right now. Thinking about this helps me to break down my class objectives. We have to start with recollection and comprehension. That will take a more traditional content delivery. But then we need to quickly move to the process tools of analysis, problem solving, and synthesis. Maybe even on to creation of new ideas and tools to solve legal environmental problems. I am realizing that I have been using the “objectives” already without the labels attached. I hope I can do them in a more conscious and methodological way. Now, on to the tools! How to convey this information in the online environment is my challenge.


  October 7th, 2011

Hello Everyone,

I am a little late posting this week but I am here now. This fall I am teaching for the honors college as well as teaching online and homeschooling 2 children.

I enjoyed reading many of your comments and will post a direct response later.

I am still thinking about my role as an online educator. I feel like this is still

a very unchartered territory and that being open to a variety of new modalities

and teaching methods is the only way to navigate this educational

model. That being said, one of the aspects that I truly like about online learning is the variety of students that enroll in the class. I like that there are freshwomen, full-time working folks and parents. This adds to the perspectives and diversity of experience (and location)

to the course.

(I am not sure why the post formatted this way)!?


Dana Reason

Why is this so scary?

  October 6th, 2011

Now, normally I’m a “fools jump in” type of person, but I have to confess this blog post idea took me back a bit: I felt a bit vulnerable just going for it and posting without complete crystal guidelines as to what I meant to be doing, so I was glad when Olga (thanks Olga!) asked for some more guidelines on what we should be posting about. And this comes from me, one of the “Gen-Y kids” who should be totally all over “new” (I guess blogging has been around for a while now) technology!

It turns out being given too much freedom of scope for an assignment can be a scary proposition for a student! This was an important lesson for me: if I find not having an explicit set of guidelines for an “assignment” difficult, than how would undergrads feel if I did the same to them?



Not a Sage on the Stage, Not a Guide on the Side: Who Am I?

  October 5th, 2011

A Guide on the Side, that’s one of the best things to be when you teach.

At least, that’s what I heard.  As a guide on the side, you never ignore the ways students learn from each other (and do not fall under a #5 pitfall of designing an online class!).  You center your perception around student learning rather than your own teaching.  I like this idea, but perhaps it’s the “on the side” part of the metaphor that throws me off; perhaps the “guide” part is more important.  I would like to guide students on their own path of learning toward the class learning outcomes. But what exactly does it mean to be “on the side”?

Sure, there was a Sage on the Stage, who, probably, was one of your favorite professors ever.

Wasn’t there? Well, mine was, because there were no other kinds. My schooling happened in traditional dimly lit classroom environments in Eastern Europe (former USSR) where classroom activities were not encouraged.  Even the chairs and desks wouldn’t move. However, the professors were passionate for teaching and learning, and they were inspired, inspiring, enthusiastic, and came across as a “students’ revered and primary access point to the desired knowledge”.  Many students held them as role models and wanted to become as bright and knowledgeable.

In graduate school I took classes from the US professors who came to teach to the former USSR countries. They were no less impressive in terms of how much they knew in their chosen discipline, yet a different breed altogether. They structured classes between lecture and discussion; they let students bring in what was important for them, but they always made sure that some topics got developed and some died out. Perhaps, the concept of a “content curator” describes this approach which shaped my learning in graduate school.

In the context where the word curator is used most often, that is, in museums, the curator is the one who has a lot of power and authority over visitors. The curator is the one who has the last word on what gets included in an exhibit and what gets taught in a program.

I have rejected being a sage on the stage, so I won’t want to fall for a curator.

I do like the way Elizabeth St. Germain continues talking about it, “the one who prunes and trains the branches that extend from your expertise out into the world”.  I like the idea of students growing the thoughts and ideas and me suggesting, “Feed this one with the works of C. Wright Mills, and it will flourish.”  “This idea needs some time in a dryer environment.”  “If you want to grow this, it might now grow here.”  Can I be a master gardener in an online classroom?

Being a master gardener in an online classroom means supporting the branches that lead us toward the learning outcomes. Perhaps, sometimes branches that lead away in a way that is putting the entire plant off balance can be snipped.  We all do it, and it seems to me that it is easier to do in the classroom face to face than online. What is said in the classroom disappears in the air if it is not supported by the instructor and the rest of the students. Online, it is written down on the discussion board.

How do you train and prune the branches on the discussion boards?

Ecampus and Use of Blogs

  October 5th, 2011

Hey Everyone

I haven’t read anyone else’s blog posts yet, and hope there’s not much in the way of redundancy here.

While nothing beats face to face interaction with a student, I do enjoy teaching within the online environment. One of the reasons has to do with that lack of interaction. Specifically, how to overcome it. Students can hide quite easily, and I enjoy reaching out to them via general announcements and individual emails. I’ve called students as well, which on some occasions has shocked them. For the most part, they have enjoyed this effort to welcome them and encourage their involvement.  

Coming into this training, I’ve considered myself fairly competent with regard to Blackboard navigation and overall use. I’m immediately reminded that I’ve kept things fairly simple in the online courses taught so far, which has its benefits for the student user. They don’t need to work too hard when trying to find presentations, assignments, assigned readings, etc.

On the other hand, maintaining the status quo can make things a bit stagnant, and perhaps I need to challenge myself a bit more when designing courses. There are other tools I should start to use, including blogs and journals.

Regarding those blogs,  I’m still not quite sure what the difference is between a blog and a Discussion Board Forum. I’ve definitely gotten used to using the Discussion Board for student interaction, but have a slight hunch it’s perceived as archaic by some students. Kind of like insisting on using a VCR when everyone else has moved on to streaming video. Does anyone else have an opinion on Discussion Board vs. Blog?

I plan on using blogs in the future, but am not certain if I should use it as a replacement for the Discussion Board, as a supplement, or something completely different.  Thanks all.

Welcome, Course Developing Bloggers!

  July 29th, 2011

What are we doing? Why are we here?

Learning objectives for blog assignments in our workshop:

  • To use social media to reflect on learning and to connect with a real audience
    • Posting your blog entries is one part of what you’ll do here, but commenting on others’ posts is just as important. Who knows? You may also see comments from visiting readers, such as colleagues here at OSU, colleagues from other campuses, authors we’re discussing, or tween pop star Justin Bieber. (Well, it could happen … this is a public blog!)
  • To share artifacts created for your courses
    • Collaboration = Inspiration!
  • To learn from each other’s reflections and creations
    • Two heads are better than one!
  • To bridge the gap from this training to your classroom
    • Blogging begins during our professional development workshop and continues through your first term teaching the course. Hopefully this will help you apply the concepts we study together for the benefit of your students.

How often do you need to blog?

  • Participants will need to post three original blog entries during this six-week professional development, during weeks 1, 3, and 5. Be sure to comment on at least two of your colleagues’ posts, as well. However, you are welcome and encouraged to post and comment more often.
  • In addition, participants are asked to post at least two more times during the term they first teach the course.

What are these categories and tags all about?

  • Categories have been created for you and are based on the learning outcomes for our training. Each post you write should relate to at least one of our class categories. Placing posts within categories is an organizational strategy, but it’s also a form of metacognitive reflection.
  • Tags are up to you. Try to come up with at least three tags for each post.

How long do blog posts need to be?

  • Use as many words as you need to get your idea across. Keep in mind that blogs are not dissertations. Most blog posts are between 100 and 500 words. This one is just over 300, which makes this a good place to stop!