To the five people who read this blog: I’m playing with themes. I’ll find one that works soon and stick with it.
In the mean time, consider the distant reading I did of the entire program of the recent e-Learning conference put on by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. I the plugged the text of the entire program in Voyant, and searched for words that address poverty. You can see what I found.
To be fair, there were a couple of presentation about open education resources, but those focused on books, not students. Next time you attend a conference, scrape the entire program into Voyant and see what it tells you.
When I originally conceived of the title for this blog, I was stealing a phrase used about patients who have myriads of medical problems. Colloquially and away from patients, doctors call these patients train wrecks, everything is wrong. There may be mental, congenital, and emergency health problems confounding a team of physicians working like mad to put out one fire after another. When I asked what do you do when faced with such a disastrous coalition of ailments, how can doctors cope, my wife replied: “you can always make a train wreck better.”
I thought the same thinking applied to many of my students. Many students have poor to no family support, medical and mental health problems, food and housing insecurity and full-time jobs. One friend pointed out that calling students train wrecks wasn’t terribly respectful even if it was honestly expressed.
I’ve come to realize that there is a train wreck, but it’s not my students. It’s the world around them. How is that our country lacks paid time off for parents like every other western democracy? How is it that someone working minimum wage can still not earn a living wage? How can racism continue to shape our lives in such pervasive ways? How do women still only earn a percentage of the wage men earn?
What I find energizing about the train wreck analogy is that it highlights the scope of the problems my students face. I’m realizing that I’ve been working with a misplaced focus. It’s not about making the train wreck that is society a little better, it’s about helping students survive the train wreck successfully. Read that again, survive a train wreck successfully. That’s mine and every other community college teacher’s charge.
Last week, July 13–17, I attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Digital Humanities. This post is summarizes my reflections and attempts to point the way forward for my teaching.
You’ll recall my original project had four parts:
Create a course that adhered to an anti-poverty pedagogy course design principles.
Use only texts that were free to students (OER and library databases).
Build the course around digital history tools (that are part of the larger digital humanities–or DH– world).
Package the course and give it away.
I failed slightly less than I succeeded. Still, I believe I can realistically still accomplish this goal, in fact for two world history courses. Part of my confidence derives from my time at last week’s institute (#dhatthecc).
I learned too much for single post so I’ll just list three problems for which I have new options.
Problem: Students have too many DH website that require new logins.
Option: In the first iteration of my DH world 2 course, I had students create Omeka, google, ARC GIS, and a cloud storage accounts. Following an nice intro by @roopikarisam to how to install Omeka on @reclaimhosting serve, I was able to install serval plugins for Omeka. These plugins (versions of Neatline) will let students use Omeka for 5 lesson plans instead of 1, decreasing the mental bandwidth needed to learn a new user interface.
Problem: Assessment of digital projects borrows heavily from face-to-face assessment and lacks a nuanced estimation of DH competence.
Option: An short article in Digital_Humanites titled “Learning Outcomes For The Digital Humanities” helped me think through how to restructure my assessment rubrics in a way that honors the student contributions as DH creators and historical thinkers.
Problem: Students lack agency in what they want to get out of assignments.
Option: Jesse Stommel strongly encouraged participants at #dhatthecc to allow students to self-assess the success of an assignment. I am perhaps less willing to allow students to define all the outcomes for an assignment, yet I do think I’ve been missing an adrogological opportunity to include students in the assessment. I have content, skill, and metacognitive outcomes for my assignments, and @jessifer convinced me I should include a fourth category, something akin to “What do you want to get out of this assignment?” learning outcome on each assignment. Importantly, I think I can ask the students to self-assess and include their self-abasement in the assignment grade.
This is just the first of many thoughts on #dhatthecc . Many more thoughts and thank you to follow.