Jack Norton
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I am faculty in the History and Political Science Department at Normandale Community College. You can read about my efforts to create digital history courses that embrace an anti-poverty andragogy here.

I am also the former campus leader for our faculty development group, called the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Normandale’s faculty development blog is here.

Website down

This website was down from around 22:00 on 2018-10-11 to around 01:00 on 2018-10-12. I was notified by students of the problem around 10 pm and immediately placed a service request with the server company, which restored the site. My apologies for the inconvenience. For your information, I keep backup copies of our course materials at https://github.com/jackhistorynorton . The repositories are called world_history_1, world_history_2, and Minnesota-History . “Github” and “jacknorton” should produce search results that get you to this page.

Class cancellation: 5 September 2018, Wednesday.

With aplogies, I will be absent from Normandale on Wednesday the 5th of September 2018 due to illness.

Why run a course on the open web?

A number of students have asked about why I run our course through my own website, rather than putting everything in D2L. The answer to that question could fill a book, a really dull book. Still in answer to your questions let me summarize my reasons.

  1. The average time (mean) it takes most US students to earn a degree is 38 months.[1] The median is 33 months. Either way, that’s around three years. MN State archives all D2L courses after two years. I can provide longer access to course readings and materials than Normandale does.
  2. I don’t trust D2L with student data. Yes, I’ve read their privacy policy. I still find their policies insufficient, specifically their sharing of data with third-party vendors. I don’t track you on my website. You visit, you use it, you are done. The wordpress installation I use tells me what country users have visited from, but nothing else. Learners should be free to access information without someone spying on their learning. If you read a paper book, no one jumps over your shoulder and says “I see your reread this passage about boxes three times? Are you looking to move? There’s box store 2 miles from you.” I’ve designed my website to respect your privacy.
  3. Having the course on the open web means never having to worry about access. You can look at it. So can your mom or dad. Or a prospective student. Or a former student who needs a syllabus to transfer to another school but feels awkward asking me. The course is open: welcome.
  4. D2L breaks stuff or makes using the web harder than it needs to be. If a link is broken on my site, I can see the problem. With D2L, every link needs to be processed and double checked because a straight link (say www.startribune.com) won’t always display. It takes three steps to link a document in D2L when every other web publishing platform makes it one or two steps. I can work faster and, thus, have more time for students, if I’m not in D2L.
  5. Teaching on the open web holds me accountable for my work. It is not just you that can see my site: so can my congressional representatives, so can my colleagues at other colleges, so can MY mom. Being public in my teaching demands courage, professionalism, and accountability in a way that a closed web system does not. I do not think all learning should be open: we need private spaces to explore and fail. Nevertheless, I think open can be good for a public institution, even just as a model.
  6. Teaching on the open web is an experiment. That’s a reality. I’ve been doing it for one year now and will evaluate my results over the next year. Minnesotans deserve great institutions of teaching and learning and we will never get there if we don’t explore and innovate. We cannot accept the provided-but-insufficient technology solutions in education. We need to forge our own paths. I’m proud of the work all my students have done this past semester in their own educatoon paths. Their independent work, as featured on the History at Normandale Blog is a testament to their intelligence and skillls.

1 https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012271.pdf