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For the last couple of years, one of my favorite radio shows has been one that’s called Crap From the Past. It’s a one of those things that make me love America: amateur radio shows on public radio that are not very scripted and can be either very terrible or very glorious. CFTP is often very glorious in a cheerful mayhem kind of way that I can identify with. But it can also be very terrible. My spouse finds the show infuriatingly annoying… The show has been on the air on various stations since the early 1990s, hosted first by a physics grad student and then by a physics PhD (same guy), and all shows are available on the internets at Archive dot org.

This episode should be the soundtrack for this semester.

More on jigsaws and video lectures

In my post from March 31, I mentioned an assignment in which students in my US Judiciary class were asked to create mini online lectures on aspects of the Supreme Court process. I think it was a smashing success: Six of the seven student teams have created their videos, and a seventh is on the way. Not only that: the other students are busy watching and commenting. I uploaded the videos into TechSmith Relay, since this has two advantages: First, the videos can be restricted to the class only, so that student privacy can be guaranteed and FERPA won’t come knocking on my door. Second, there is a feature that lets students comment and ask questions about a specific point in the video. Neat! I can see video views, and there now in the high 70s and 80s. Not bad for 29 students. (OK, some of those views must have been me, but still.)

Continue reading More on jigsaws and video lectures

POSC 386: April 8, 2020

Here is today’s message:

(I hope you all appreciate the checkered shirt and red-and-blue bow tie.) Here is the script, and here is the audio-only version.

If you’re in POSC 386, check out the video lectures that you and your fellow students have created. They’re amazing! Leave questions and comments!

Stuff to do until the week is over:

  • Watch my series of eight short lectures on the Court’s decision whether or not to grant a writ of certiorari (about 28 minutes total)
  • Participate in a debate about a current case and whether the Supreme Court should grant cert.
  • Leave questions and comments.
  • Work on your second exam essay(s).

As usual, everything can be found in the Canvas modules. Have fun, be well, and stay in touch!

POSC 386, Monday, April 6

Here is today’s video message for my class:

Here is the sound-only version, and here is the script.

In brief, I am impressed by the video lectures that were created by the class. I hope that everybody had fun creating the videos and has fun watching them.

This week, I offer a synchronous online class meeting where we can discuss questions and comments about the Supreme Court process. Students who for various reasons cannot join the synchronous session or prefer asynchronous work, can alternatively leave a comment or question in the videos on Canvas.

I am producing and posting a series of video lectures on the writ of certiorari and the question of what leads the Supreme Court to grant or deny cert. Watching these videos will be followed by an online debate about a current case in the US appeals court: The case of the former mayor of Allentown, PA, who is incarcerated for corruption and has asked to be released because he fears to be exposed to the Corona virus. The debate question will be whether the Supreme Court should grant a writ of certiorari in that case, should Pawlowski (the former mayor) petition for it. Here is a bit more background on why this case may have some broader significance.

Stay safe!

Beyond “One Post and two Responses”

Here is the final draft of an essay that I wrote for this week’s installment of the CFI Teaching Toolbox. I thank my colleague Emily Gravett for feedback and edits.

Discussions are great teaching tools. They can help students achieve a wide range of learning objectives: better understand course concepts, apply content to real-world examples, explore different sides of a question or controversy, analyze an important question based on the class readings, and more. Going beyond the traditional learning objectives of Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning, class discussion can enable students to make connections with fellow students, learn how to deal with different opinions and emotional reactions, and build community. Finley (2013) notes outcomes such as “increased perspective-taking, understanding, empathy, and higher-order thinking, and more.”

Class discussion is an activity well-suited for online learning environments; in fact, participation online tends to be higher than in face-to-face discussions (Orlando 2017). An Edutopia resource guide notes that online discussions can foster community building, reflection, consensus building, critical thinking, and student leadership (2009).

Online class discussion typically takes the form of a discussion board. Watch a video lecture, take a quiz, participate in a discussion board: this is the common trifecta of online classes. The discussion board typically asks students to post a response to a question posed by the instructor and to respond to at least two other student posts. The instructor hopes that this assignment will spark sustained online interactions among students, but often this is not what happens: students do the bare minimum, and that’s that.

This state of affairs is sad, considering the promise that online discussion offers. Even in our current situation, where we have to create online learning experiences on the fly and with little preparation, well-designed discussion boards can offer students and faculty some of the personal interaction that for many of us is at the center of our work as educators. So, how can we create and facilitate discussion boards that are effective, engage students, and help achieve the outcomes promised in the literature? It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always work, but here are some suggestions:

Continue reading Beyond “One Post and two Responses”

Online Jigsaw!

Today started with another oops moment. Yesterday, I spent several hours creating class activities, a feedback survey about the first week, and another short video lecture. I posted everything in a Canvas module—and then forgot to make the module available. One missing click! and the students couldn’t access the materials. Welcome to LMS land!

Continue reading Online Jigsaw!

POSC 386: March 26, 2020

Today’s video message covers a number of topics:

  • Future video messages will be on Sundays (or early Monday) and Thursdays
  • Summary comments about discussion boards
  • Some participants will need more planning than others.
  • “Men at work” signs in your home?
  • The Pomodoro technique!
  • Fixed and growth mindsets
  • When you have online learning, make lemonade: Learn how to be effective in an online work environment!
  • Stay tuned for optional (that is non-required) online activities.

You can find the transcript here (docx), and the audio-only version here.