The danger of big projects. . .

So my previous posts have sketched my summer project as a narrative. But I can’t work based on paragraphs, so I’m using a project management tool from zoho.com. For those who don’t know, project management is one system for ensuring any project gets done. It breaks down the project into categories based on what needs to be done, when, by whom, and in what order. Any organized mind would define the same categories, project management just gives you a format, and perhaps more usefully, well-designed software, to make the organizing easier.

 A staffer at Normandale’s institutional research office trained me on project management in a couple, short sessions, and I immediately saw the value for my scholarship, teaching, and service work. Much of project management gets used on huge projects, like building university parking ramps, but the basic ideas inform any project. 

I find that using project management software helps me sequence what I need to do, and keeps me realistic in my timeline goals. For example, I can’t create tests for me course until I’ve first researched the sources, developed my digital history skills, and created the course design principles. If I’d known about project management in grad school, I dare say I would’ve complete my dissertation faster and with less static with my advisor. 

I’ll try to share the spreadsheet version of my project later. I don’t think zoho allows for linking to their website to share that way. 

 

 

Free is better. Why I’m giving away my course.

Part 4 of this project isn’t terribly exciting, but it holds the most promise. After I’ve created anti-poverty-course design principles, built a course based on those principles using free primary and secondary historical sources, and incorporated a panoply of digital history tools into the course lesson plans, I want to bundle this course and give it away under some type of create commons licensing. There have been a variety of efforts to collect and publish syllabi, which might help researchers and intrepid faculty willing to mine others’ syllabi for nuggets of androgogical gold.

I’m not interested in mining syllabi for research, Continue reading “Free is better. Why I’m giving away my course.”

The hubris of a digital historian. . .

Writers spill way, way, way too much ink writing about the future of education as it relates to computers. I’m not going to rehash all debates or research on digital education except to say three things:

  1. Technology does not equal progress forward for humanity. Witness the history of weapons, or, say singing cats videos. If you’d like to read someone who understands this and writes about education, see Hack Education. (Hat tip @Trianglemancsd for sharing)
  2. Students demonstrate uneven penetrations of knowledge about technology. Older does not equal clueless, younger does not equal skilled.
  3. Technology skills do help get students jobs.

Given theses issues, how do I as a teacher work to ensure digital technology benefits my students, rather than act as barnacles on their career ships?

Continue reading “The hubris of a digital historian. . .”

Books cost money too. . .

Text books cost too much money. Everyone but book reps and some professors say so.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics charts the costs of textbooks through its Consumer Price Index. In the last ten years, the indexed cost of books has gone up around 260 points.  Imagine if a cup of coffee cost $3.40 in 2004 and now cost $6.00 in 2014. Outrageous, I know, everyone knows it.
Continue reading “Books cost money too. . .”

It can’t wait for a sabbatical. . .

When I tell folks what I’m doing this summer, they say, you should wait for a sabbatical to do that. But my students are drowning, and I don’t know if I can save them, but I can give them a fighting shot at swimming to safety on their own if I go now. It can’t wait. This is my blog about how to build a better (world history) course. I write in the hopes that others will see my work, help me, and perhaps consider how to help poor students succeed in their courses. And, if I write my thoughts down, maybe they’ll be better thoughts than when they’re tangled up in my head.

This is not a blog about feelings or inspiration: I have both, as do you, but we don’t need better feelings or more inspiration, we need better tools to teach our students.

I’m increasingly distressed at the failure of my poor students. These folks can be train wrecks as students. They often come from un-supportive homes, have uneven or limited access to technology, they are ignorant of college as an institution and ignorant of how to navigate institutions in general. I can see their failure and I know it’s historically rooted. Responses to poverty tend to be condescending (poor dears) or systematic (let’s create a scholarship fund), neither of which I find useful.

After years of teaching poor students at four and two-year schools, I started asking colleagues: “If I could do one thing to help poor students succeed in my classroom, what would that be?” Most folks suggested additional resources (buy them tablets, pay for college), which I can’t do. Others suggested pointing out resources my college already has, which is sound, but insufficient. You see, most students drive to college, walk to the classroom, finish the class, and drive to work or home. Car- class – car. Continue reading “It can’t wait for a sabbatical. . .”