2020-09-29: Experiment 6
A good question from the synchronous class today was about the questions for this week's assignment. Historically this assignment has produced dramatically different student work. A large group of students answer the questions robustly, especially the "why" questions. A smaller group of students write as little as possible. This is one case when you want to go with the crowd.
I've graded half the Experiment 4 assignments and may get the rest done tonight, if I skip watching the debate :() .
2020-09-25, 14:15: Consultations 5 (and 4 for Section 10)
It's clear I need to set strong expectations for consulations, as this assignment remains the one that has the widest range of answers. For the record, you finding something interesting does not constitute a substantial contribution, unless you give an example the helps us understand the history we are working with for this week. I read a great many "I found this intersting, and I've read it before" which I believe was true but not useful to students looking to better their Experiment. Without clearer guidance from me, I see how some students responded this way, so let me own that part of it- and note that I was liberal with points.
Going forward, please always focus on your work for the weekly Experiment in the Consultations. I'll give clearer guidance to help us all do that.
95% of the writing remains strong, with good editing and paragraph structure. There's a couple "i"s where it should be "I," but overall there are few writing issues: keep it up.
--- A privacy thought.
Normandale is in the midst of redoing our website. You can politely register any thoughts you have on tracking by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
2020-09-24: Last Minute Voyant Help
For those last-minute folks who are experiencing difficulties with the original Voyant website, here are two other instances that should work.
2020-09-24, 14:31: Closing Quiz 4 and Opening Quiz 5 graded
Answers to question 6 on both quizzes varied wildly. The strongest examples used clear references to the evidence, and the historical context. For example, on the Voyant question, a strong answer both noted the different word counts, but also noted the historical context of the texts and authors. For example, Journey to the West is a travel story: it makes sense in the 16th century that the characters would discuss food as there was not enough of it. Journey to the West is also the most religious of the three texts, and food is often used as a theological or spirtual metaphor.
For Closing 4, question 6, I was looking for specific references to the author's lives or to the countries in in which they lived. General statements, such as "Fiction tells us so much about the past, what they thought and how they lived" lacks evidence. Many students pointed out the Shakespeare's familial poverty likely influenced his writing: great example.
Answers of only one sentence or that lack all reference to history will continue to receive a "try again" 1 point.
2020-09-23: Reflections and Stress
I've graded the Reflections to date. D2L seems to have an error that periodically wipes out all my Reflection grades, causing me to have to regrade all the Reflections.
As you can imagine, this causes me stress. You likely exprience stress as well, perhaps over this class, or college in general, or some combination of family, life, work, and our world.
Please reach out to others to help manage your stress. That can be me for a chat about whatever you'd like, or the Normandale counseling team or friends and family. Our counselors can offer a quick mental health tuneup, or provide multi-session personal counseling or referrals.
This morning I experienced stress related to our national elections, this afternoon I experienced stress related to the Breonna Taylor case, and then D2L ate my students Reflections grades. What history does teach me is that the sun will rise and I'll keep going. Let's do that together.
2020-09-22, 15:49- Experiment 3
Experiment 3 was an example of how examples matter. Section 10 (synchronous) included a great deal of information about the article they read and wrote well, but included much less about why they chose the metadata they did. Many students did identify which type of metadata they included, which indicated to me they were thinking about the metadata. Section 00 (asynchronous) included almost no details about the content of the articles they chose, and focused on why they chose particular metadata. Given the parameters of the assignment (if you look at the learning goals) you'll find that the latter strategy did a better job of what the assignment asked. That said, the writing from section 10 was especially strong.
Both groups sometimes described metadata in a circular logic way. For example, "I chose the century because that tells us when things happened and I chose the city because that tells us where it happened." Yes dates and places tell us dates and place. More importantly, why did YOU include dates and places as metadata as opposed to what ruler governed the area or what the dominant food was? Being explicit and deliberate in writing is key. Other students used the metadata supplied by the publisher, which was fine if you explained it. As with all historical writing, examples are key. For example, one student noted that the publisher metadata could help establish credibility, but only up to a point. Beyond that point, the credibility of the author mattered more.
2020-09-21, 21:46: Voyant
This week will challenge you, tying together distant readings and secondary sources. To the extent you can, give yourself time to work, reflect, and then work again on your experiment.
2020-09-17, 21:09: Closing Quiz 3 and Opening Quiz 4 Graded.
The multiple choice scores were decent on both. Question 6 had a many types of answers. On the question of the Ottoman empire and Busbecq, I was looking for some sense that a secondary source summarizes material and provides analysis. A primary source is created at the time and therefore does not have a broad perspective. A single example from one of the readings of these ideas earned full credit (4 points).
On the question of Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Wu, the strongest answers tied the specific historical context of one of the author's lives to his writings. There were multiple answers that included lots of words, but no actual history. Here is my attempt to explain that type of answer:
"We learn a lot about the past from the lives of authors because their context tells us about their lives, which are different than our lives today. Many things influenced what they wrote, and how they thought about their world. I feel I know so much more about these books having learned about the context of the authors' lives."
The two most powerful expressions in your history writing are "for example" and "such as." For example, "Many things influenced what they wrote, such as the time Cervantes was a prisoner of war and then included some of that experience in Don Quijote." Or, ". . . context tells us about their lives, such as Shakespeare writing so many comedy plays in order to keep 16th century London theater crowds happy." Little examples of history can make a big difference in demonstrating your learning.
There was one student who just dropped a brilliant bomb of analysis on the Cervantes, Shakespeare, Wu question. You know who you are and, bravo- very well done.
2020-09-16, 20:37: Consultations
I may need to give better guidance on the Consulations. This week's consultations read a bit more like reflections. Many students engage the material, but many others simply reflect on what they enjoyed or learned (which is appropriate for Reflections). Consultations are all about the material of the class and how to do the assignment. Given how many students wrote similarly, its clearly on me to provide stronger guidance for this assignment.
I am heartened by how many students went down personal-interest rabbit holes in their Experiments thus far.
2020-09-16, 10:32: Experiment 2 Graded
UPDATED: 2020-09-17, 10:22
I've graded both 1102 course
only graded the synchronous class, but thus far, the work is pretty minimal. Not bad, but not strong. I'm reading mostly short paragraphs with only quick checks of wikipedia for credibility. Or, students write that they did more credibility checking, but do not document that in either prose or citations. I'm not seeing students concluding non-credible websites are credible, so I'm heartened by that.
Many students referenced history.com. That website does have factual information on it. It is NOT credible however because it does not published its authors, nor does it distinguish its entertainment material, such as a history of the fictional city of Atlantis, from its legitimate history. The lack of signed authors is huge. If someone handed you a note saying you had a fatal disease, but it was unsigned, would you trust it? It could be true. Still, in most of our work lives, we rely on experts, whether that's the stocker at Target who knows where the toothpaste is located, or the historian, who knows the language of the originating culture.
Britannica is fine, as I may have mentioned before. That said, it's not strong as it is written at an 8th-grade level. Getting off the open web, as many students have done in their subsequent work, is important. Our Normandale Library databases make research much easier. And, so you understand, checking the credibility of one encyclopedia, Britannica, with another, Wikipedia, and doing nothing else, is pretty weak lateral reading. If you ever have to do research for a job, please don't stop your lateral reading at the two most-popular encyclopedias. Many of you investigated the linked sources, and checked the authors: good. That's following information upstream to more credible sources.
2020-09-15, 16:58: Voyant alternative sites
Here are two alternative Voyant servers if the main site is not responsive:
2020-09-15, 11:25: Help at Normandale
Normandale has a licensed psychologist on staff to help students work through their mental health concerns. See her appointment page to schedule a mental health tune-up, or to learn more. From her website:
For individual mental health appointments with me, please call 952/358-8261 or proceed to scheduling below.
In the case of emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
In crisis, please text MN to 741741 – available 24/7/365
National Suicide Prevention hotline – 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) -available 24/7/365
2020-09-14: Lots of emails and a few calls.
I"ve been answering lots of emails and had a few Zoom calls today. Please use the Book it! link to schedule time with me, if just to check in. We don't need to do video: audio is fine.
I was teaching at the University of Minnesota on September 11, 2001. I brought a radio into class, turned it on, and we listened for 20 or so minutes before I told students we couldn't proceed.
I now have students who volunteered for armed service and sacrificed their physical and mental health for the wars that the US government pursued after 9/11.
If you have a professor over 40, they were likely teaching on that day, and have similar experiences with veteran students.
2020-09-10, 12:46: Consultations Week 2 Graded
NOTE: I mis-posted a note to my World 1 students here earlier. Below is accurate text.
Overall the consultations were ok. A number of students didn't comment on someone else's post, which cost a point. Please read the consultation prompts carefully: I try to clear guidance on expectations for your work.
2020-09-09, 22:23: Consultations Week 3
I just finished reading your Consultations for Week 3. I found some fantastic analyses of how results come up. One student speculated that searches for "Christianity" might be higher because it would grab "Christian" results as a root word where searches for "Islam" would not necessarily pull results from records with "Muslim" unless the metada fields were connected. Thus, someone could conlcude there are thousands more articles on Christianity than Islam, when in fact the metadata skewed the results.
Several students noted the abundance of sources on Europe, even when compared to North America. That is both the product of cultural bias and real historical source absence: we don't have as many written sources about the Americas in general and the Native American source base was systematically erased during the genocides of the modern era. There's also a language issue. If you read Chinese, you would find a staggering quantity of scholarship on China that won't turn up in our English language sources.
By and large, well done on the consultations.
2020-09-09, 21:23: Reflections Grade
I've read and graded your reflections. I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of most reflections. You will earn 5 points for each reflection. Over 16 weeks, that sums to 80, but I am going to drop the lowest two, so your total in the gradebook is out of 70 points. As of today, 2020-09-09, you should have 10 points for one week of reflections. You're Reflections grade will look odd in the grade book as we are adding points to an eventual total. To calculate your % Reflections grade, take your earned points (5) / # of weeks x 5. So, in week two, 10/10 = 100%. Week 5 might be 23 / 25 = 92%
Here are some things to consider in your reflection:
- This assignment is to reflect on your learning. Some weeks you may focus more on new knowledge you gained, other weeks you may focus on a new skill. I find it all fascinating and useful, just keep those groups (knowledge and skills) in mind so you aren't writing exclusively on one.
- Honesty works best for these. If you had a rough week, didn't understand something, or struggled with motivation, it's better to write that as you discuss your learning as it will shape my next week's teaching. If you found something fit nicely with your existing knowledge, which let you take your learning beyond the expectations, that' also great.
-Students did a great job copy editing their reflections. I found almost flawless capitalization, punctuation, and language usage: keep it up.
2020-09-08, 20:38: Experiment 1 Graded
Two different pictures based on the section. The synchronous class tended to under-answer the questions, writing minimal responses. Of note, the response questions had multiple parts, so only answering one part didn't generally earn full points. The asynchronous class answered at sophistication and length I expected. The best practice was clearly to post the questions and interlace the answers as that ensured students did not forget a question.
Both classes did outstanding in the quality and editing of their writing. Keep it up.
2020-09-08, 14:50: Quiz Grades
Quiz grades are now up to date. Please continue to read laterally, that is to evaluate credibility of sites not based on the site itself, but what other sources tell you about that site. Everyone concluded that the Tree Octopus site was not credible, but a few started by evaluating if they thought the site "looked professional." Site appearance is not part of the SIFT process: we need confirmation from other sources. As I like to say, you can't tell a liar is lying by asking them if they are lying.
Curiously, while employing SIFT for the Tree Octopus, many students didn't use SIFT for evaluating AskHistorians. Many students lookup up reddit itself, or proceeded in their evaluation based on their existing knowledge. Those that added Wikipedia or did general searches found that the strict moderation of the site along with its popularity with experts make it a credible site. As many of you noted, being a credible place to start research does not make it a high-quality research site. I gave full credit for many different types of answers, all of which walked me through their evaluation process.
Students have paid greater attention to copy editing for spelling and capitalization this week: well done!
2020-09-04, 15:41: Reflections
Your Reflection assignment is submitted in the Reflections discussion board on D2L. Only you and I can see your Reflections, so you will not see other student posts. It is easiest if you respond to your first post, which allows you to see all your previous reflections in one thread as the semester progresses.
2020-09-03, 13:54: Reflections on your Week 2 Work
Overall I found the consultations to be useful, thoughtful, and occasionally witty working through your websites. Many students are finding credible websites that, nonetheless, do not provide high quality historical information. Encyclopedia Britannica, which comes up at least a half-dozen times, has information that is credible. That said, the Encyclodpedia is written at an 8th grade level and rarely recognizes the last ten years of research on a topic. So, my first reflection is to encourage you to think about the difference between credible and high quality. As a metaphor, it's the difference between edible and delectable food.
My second reflection is to be mindful of how different groups encountered each other during our period (1400-1900). It's false to imagine one group "discovered" another group or that a particular group of explorers went into unknown territory. There have been indigenous groups in almost all parts of the world for 10,000 years. People today often use the language of, say the 16th century, and talk about how "we discovered the Mississippi." History is about the past, so the use of first-person for pre-1900 events is inaccurate. More importantly, Native Americans had been using the Mississippi for thousands of years, so it can't be discovered so much as newly recognized, much like I might "discover" that beating egg whites before adding them to pancakes makes for better pancakes. Our language should reflect what we, people in the 21st century, accurately know about the past.
2020-09-2: Move done
My family is back in our house (we were in an apartment for a while) and I am grateful for all the hard work y'all did today. I'm back at it tomorrow in the A.M.
I am moving from one home to another today. I am officially not working (I took a personal day), but I will check in as I can to answer questions. I would appreciate it if you could hold any grade-related or D2L questions until Thursday, unless it impacts your ability to turn in work. Thank you!
I have received at least 10 emails asking me to open a quiz or discussion board up again. Per the syllabus, except in the case of hospitalization or deployment, there is no late work. Please read the syllabus to review the grading guidelines.
There are basic issue of fairness at play in grading. I find it ethically impossible to weigh student difficulties against each other. I have had students give birth to children, lose friends to car accidents, break ankles, deploy overseas and in country, attend weddings, go to Vail for Spring break, take care of younger siblings, and oversleep. Rather than say "student A has an honest reason but student B is an untruthful slacker" I build two weeks of grade slack into the course. You don't have to ask for it: it's there. If you never need it: great. If you do need it, your grade benefits from the two drops and you can stay focused on moving forward in our course without other assignments hanging over your head.
A couple of notes on grading. Per the syllabus, your lowest two grades in each category are dropped. D2L only drops what it can see, so your first two grades are going to display as dropped or zeroes in every category. Once you have three grades in a category, D2L will drop the lowest two, even if those are high grades.
For question about 5/9 on quizzes, see my post of 2020-08-27, 10:05 below for an explanation.
Grading Criteria for Quizzes: I include grading feedback for the sixth question of all our quizzes. Such criteria will indicate your ability to demonstrate historical thinking at a proficient, developing, or basic level. I award 4, 3.7, and 3.5 points respectively for these levels, out of 4. If you answer in a single sentence or do not give a good faith effort in answering the question, you will earn a 1 out of four.
You'll note that all three grades are "A" grades even though a 3.5 means you are not displaying the tested historical skill. I do this because I want to get a picture of where you are in your historical thinking, but I am not "testing" you in a final sense. Rather, the sixth question is what we call a formative assessment, a question designed to demonstrate knowledge without a high stakes grade.
Of my 105 students this semester, 60 have filled out the Get to know
'ya form that helps me understand you as a learner. If you haven't done so, please do fill it out. And thank you!
As well, we have around 60% of student who have added a picture or avatar to D2L. Having an image helps me an everyone using D2L think of you in a humane way, so please upload a picture of yourself or an avatar. Click on the grey figure in the upper-right of D2l to access your profile.
On the quizzes, you have 5 points for the multiple choice questions. The final question is worth 4 points, and I need to hand grade it. As a result, immediately after taking the quiz you will have a grade of a maximum of 5 out of 9. Once I've graded the last question, you will receive full credit for your answers.
Several students emailed about the gradebook on D2L. Your lowest two grades for each category are automatically dropped, so the term "dropped" will appear next to you lowest to grades. If you only have one grade, regardless of the grade, D2L will drop it. Once you have three grades in a category, say 76, 84, 98, D2L will drop the lowest two going forward.
I'm seeing some responses in Experiment one that are minimal. For example, "Do you know someone who believes in conspiracy theories." If you answered "Yes." that doesn't help me understand what you've learned about the SIFT process. History is about using evidence to explain, so showing me more evidence enriches your explanation. There are many fully- explained answers as well. Please use the more robust answers as you models.
Join today's classroom at https://minnstate.zoom.us/j/95886395008
Password is in your email. Scroll down.
Office hour zoom meetings will be held in my individual Zoom room. The meeting id is my phone number (952 358 8911) or you can join the room here.. The password will be mailed to your Normandale email.
Team meetings will be in Microsoft Teams, and phone calls I will initiate using the number you've given me.
My synchronous section (1102 10) has their own zoom room and instruction were sent today inviting you to join that room every Tuesday at noon. Our syncrhonous sessions are a required part of the 1102 10 section course.
An introduction to our course websites (captions available)
Please read this first before looking at the rest of the course.
A terrible thing happened? Are we going to talk about it?
I've been teaching for 20 years, and this question comes up frequently. I am happy to discuss current events with students one on one. In face-to-face class or virtual class settings, the need to address a contemporary event varies. I taught on 9/11, and was the person from whom 19 students learned of that event. We talked about it a lot that semester. I've also taught through 18 years of the U.S. deployment to Afghanistan, the Syrian civil war, the Arab Spring, and now the 2nd civil rights movement following the killing of George Floyd.
There are two sometimes competing forces in a history course: the need to better your historical thinking skills as laid out in the syllabus and the need to help you make order of your right-now world. History can provide deep insight into why things happen, but not if we let contemporary events drive all our investigations. Whatever our feelings about a contemporary event or person, that feeling is not necessarily relevant to the study of a period at least 100 years ago (and all my courses end by 1914 at the latest).
So, will we talk about contemporary events? If students bring events up in office hours or virtual rooms, we may address modern events, briefly in group settings. As an employee of the state of MN, I do not advocate on behalf of any political candidates, although I do reaffirm the values of Normandale Community College and the MN State system if politicians speak against those values in ways that disrupt student learning. I am open to many viewpoints, but I am not neutral. I am for all my students, and therefore I am anti-racist, and feminist, and many other versions of anti-prejudice. Or, put another way, I'm pro-student. It is not my job to teach students what to think about historical or contemporary events. It is my job to give you the skills to draw evidence-based conclusions about why events happened.
So, "are we going to talk about it?" Maybe. If you want to talk about it, I'm here.