Session Proposal: Blended/Hybrid classes & labs: Using online time to improve in-class experience

Kirk Anne, CIT, proposes a discussion session on blended/hybrid approaches to teaching. Is it possible to use online resources to prepare students for a better in-class experience? Can we use pre-class online evaluations to streamline the in-class delivery of material and provide correction to misunderstandings of the material? Would it be possible to use online sessions to reconfigure in-class meetings for better scheduling?

Build Something Together Proposal: Breaking the Four Walls

Lytton Smith, Asst. Prof. of English/Creative Writing, proposes a session that would seek to bring together examples of practice from across Geneseo that involve not just “getting outside the classroom” but deliberately breaking the four walls, if you’ll excuse the pun, whether that involves engagement with the social lives of people, ecological excursions to sites, historical attempts to reconstruct space, or the identification and use of field sites.

The aim would be to create a living showcase of current practice, a hypothesis for possible future practice, and a wishlist of resources, including training. We would aim to cover ideas both large-scale – an entire semester in which the classroom is constantly departed from – and small-scale – a short assignment or class period activity transportable between courses. The aim is to help others adopt such practices within their classrooms by providing a range of models.

Session Proposal: Build Black Lives Matter Resources

Emilye Crosby, Professor of History, proposes a workshop for building a set of Black Lives Matter information and teaching-related materials that could be used as an introduction for interested people; a starting place for organizations looking for study or discussion material; and/or as a resource for faculty looking for ways to build the subject into their classes. She would start things off by sharing some of the materials she’s used and talking about her experience teaching Black Lives Matter.

Together, participants will look to share and consolidate their work in a Google doc to serve as a public resource, following the example of The Election Clapback syllabus.

Session Proposal: Digital Tools and Projects

Joe Cope, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Inquiry, Discovery, and Development proposes a group show-and-tell session in which participants share examples of digital tools or projects that they have incorporated into classes or projects. The aim of this session is to share information about tools that faculty have successfully used in class projects (e.g. story maps, timelines, analytical tools, etc.) or projects that rely on a digital component (e.g. group blogging, website creation, etc.). One option for presentations would be a lightning round format – presentations of no more than 5 minutes designed to provide a quick overview of different types of tools that may be of interest to others in the group – followed by a group discussion and brainstorming of ways to link digital work across the curriculum.

Session Proposal: “Real life” across the curriculum

(Beth McCoy, Distinguished Teaching Professor of English) While meeting last semester with faculty, students expressed that they wanted instructors throughout all the disciplines to make room in their courses for conversation about “real-life” issues, especially those related to justice and power.

Given training, course content demands, and just plain time, however, many instructors may feel that making such room is impossible.

But technology and cross-disciplinary collaboration can help not just to begin to honor students’ desires, but also to fulfill College values,  imagine possibilities for meeting GLOBEand deepen student and faculty engagement with important conversations.

We’ll center our brainstorming around a brief piece by Alondra Nelson on Black Panthers’ engagement with science, politics, and medicine. From there, let’s imagine how technology, public writing, and collaboration might open up possibilities within and across the disciplines, and in STEM not the least. (We can even “build” a certificate in public writing/communication!)

Session Proposal: Library Partnership

This session proposal has been withdrawn. Alan Witt, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Milne Library proposes a session for the Metagogy Unconference focused on building a course or curriculum with a library partnership integrated throughout. Preplan either lessons or projects so that a library session or series of sessions can be easily slipped in while supporting the overall curricular goals of the professor. Mesh information literacy concepts with the goals of the course.

We’re holding an unconference!

The Metagogy Unconference for SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff will take place March 24-25, 2017, in Doty 302E and surrounding rooms. Register here.

Update: Activities begin at 9:00 a.m. on March 24.

What’s an unconference?

From THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp):

The shortest answer is this: an unconference is a highly informal conference. Two differences are particularly notable. First, at an unconference, the program isn’t set beforehand: it’s created on the first day with the help of all the participants rather than beforehand by a program committee. Second, at an unconference, there are no presentations — all participants in an unconference are expected to talk and work with fellow participants in every session. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture; going to an unconference is like being a member of an improv troupe where going to a conference is (mostly) like being a member of an audience.

So this is going to be about technology?

Not necessarily. The Metagogy Unconference will provide an opportunity for SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff to share and discuss innovative pedagogical methods. These needn’t involve digital technology at all. What we’re borrowing from THATCamp is the unconference model, not the emphasis on technology.

How will it work?

Participants will convene in Doty 302E (the digital seminar room) on March 24 (time TBA — watch for details) to create the schedule based on sessions that have been proposed on this website. (See below to learn how to propose a session.) Sessions will run through the end of the day on Friday and, if desired, into Saturday. There will be a keynote presentation on Friday by Matthew K. Gold, Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center.

Update: Professor Gold’s presentation is titled, “Open Teaching: The Promise and Perils of Networked Digital Pedagogy”

So this is going to be about the humanities?

Not necessarily. All disciplines are welcome. The focus will be innovative pedagogy, not the humanities or technology.

How do I propose a session?

The easiest way is to use this simple form to propose your session. We’ll post it right here where participants and prospective participants can see it, and we’ll attribute the post to you.

That said, the best way is for you to post it here yourself. To do that, begin by creating an account on the English @ SUNY Geneseo network. Once you’ve created your account and logged in, join the group Metagogy. As a member of the group, you’ll now be able to post here.

To post, click +New in the black ribbon at the top of your page. (You’ll only see it if you’ve created an account, joined the group Metagogy, and logged in.) Write a post proposing your session, clearly indicating, in the body of your post, which of the three session types below applies to your proposal:

  • Discuss a topic: Propose a topic for informal discussion, such as “The Place of Diversity in the Science Curriculum” or “The Challenge of Assessment in the Humanities.” By proposing a discussion session, you’re also signing up to be the discussion facilitator.
  • Share a skill: If you have expertise in, say, a particular pedagogical method or software application for teaching, propose a session in which you share your expertise. Remember, though, that the session should not be a presentation. No shiny powerpoint with screengrabs and bulleted lists! Your session should be hands-on and give participants an opportunity to try whatever methods or tools you’re sharing.
  • Build something together: Propose a session in which participants work together to create a tool for assessment, a certificate program, a general education curriculum, a platform for online discussion, or something else. The aim in this kind of session should be to move beyond ideas to some kind of concrete, if rough, deliverable.

What if I don’t want to propose a session but just want to attend?

No problem! Your active participation is the important thing. Come ready to discuss, learn, or build. That’s all we ask. Well, that and one more thing: please consider registering, just so we know that you plan to come. (If you don’t register, you’re still welcome at the unconference. Registration is purely for planning purposes.)

I need help!

Still unsure how this works? Having trouble posting to the site? Open a new discussion thread in the Metagogy discussion forum. Be sure you’ve joined the group and are logged in before you try to post. Or email

Grading and assessing student writing using Google docs and forms

A while back, I posted on using Google forms to collect assessment data as you grade.

Since then, I’ve been working to integrate my workflows for helping students to draft essays, marking up the finished essays in Google docs, and assessing the class’ work in forms.

Here’s what that workflow looks like right now.

Logging blogging (and other things, too)

One of the challenges of asking students to do a lot of online work—this semester I’ve asked my ENGL 340 students to blog, tweet, post to online forums, and leave marginal comments on Walden—is keeping track of all that activity. I don’t use myCourses—all the work is on open platforms like Twitter and WordPress—so I don’t get automatic analytics about the activity. A solution I’ve devised that seems to be working pretty well is to ask them to log this activity themselves and share it with me in a Google spreadsheet.

This semester, I’ve asked each student to maintain an independent spreadsheet. For each activity, they log the date it was completed and the URL where I can find their work. That’s been a big help—but not as much of a help as it might have been. Next time around, I’ll create a Google form that they can all go to in order to log this activity. That way I’ll only have to visit a single spreadsheet to view their activity, and I’ll be able to sort by student, activity, date, or URL.

I also keep track of my students’ tweets using IFTTT—but that’s a story for another day.

One last thing I’ve recently been tracking in a spreadsheet is attendance. I’ve never taken attendance in my classes after the first few meetings. It uses valuable time, and it just feels too much like K-12. But I’ve always worried that not taking attendance sends my students the message that I don’t really care whether they show up. And although I can’t prove it (having intentionally denied myself the data), I’m pretty certain that my attendance has suffered as a result.

Last semester I hit on the idea of creating a spreadsheet at the beginning of the semester that’s shared with everyone in the class. I called it “Who’s here?” and put the students’ names in the leftmost column. In each successive column to the right goes the date of a class meeting. The first thing I do in every class meeting is open this file on my own computer, projecting it on the screen at the front of the room. I ask students to put an “X” in the box where their row meets that day’s date. The bottom row automatically sums the results. As the semester rolls along, the whole class can see the general pattern of attendance (which, by the way, seems to me much more consistent—and high—than in the past). Attendance doesn’t count as part of their grade, but the exercise simply focuses everyone, briefly, at the beginning of each class, on the question of presence. Who’s here? Who’s not? The pattern of X’s tells a quick and graphic story.

Though there’s no credit attached to this accounting, it seems to make students more accountable. I’m impressed by how consistent they are in “checking themselves in” at the start of each class. In fact, if I’m a few minutes late, I invariably find that a student has created the new column for that day, heading it up with the date, and that many students have already indicated their presence.

An Innovation

We’ve talked a lot in Metagogy about the “porous classroom” (leaky, Ken Cooper quipped) and getting students to work on critical sources, following last year’s assessment. So my innovation for this year offers a way to combine this with group work that hopefully gets all groups paying attention to one another.

One challenge of my ENGL458 Major Authors class has been that M. NourbeSe Philip is a writer not well known to the students and, more crucially, exists within several literary and cultural contexts with which students have varying degrees of familiarity: Canadian writing, experimental writing, Caribbean studies, Black studies, feminist writing, Afrosporic writing, (poetry, even). How to get students informed enough to respond to the literary texts, without the course ceasing to be about the texts?

I’ve frequently created a two-page handout with four paragraphs on it, two front, two back: excerpts from four different essays discussing topics relevant to the literary text at hand, but not directly about it. Students split into groups to discuss and summarize their paragraph. Then they have to apply the paragraph to a specific moment in whichever text by Philip we’re reading. They present both elements to the whole class; the exercise takes about 25 minutes, and means that we’ve got four perspectives into the discussion, with some students choosing to follow-up on the essays excerpted in later writing or presentations.