Hello everyone, once again I am making this a public post mainly just because it seems easier than printing it out or emailing it. I already had the website open and everything… This is much more difficult the second time around, because I feel like my questions/etc are largely still the same as they were the first time, so we shall see what we can come up with here. I have some new musings at the very least:
*First, an update to my concerns about laptop/computer access. There has been some serious pushback on the “bring your laptop to class” directive. For various reasons, some students have been reluctant to bring their laptops to the class and the workshop, despite being informed of the importance of doing so, and this puts them in a situation where they can’t “do the thing” when the class time is spent working on projects. Now I realize this is a case of the student shooting themselves in the foot a bit, but part of our responsibility as teachers is to minimize foot shooting right? What do you do about the kids who just won’t bring their *%&# laptop to class? It seems like at some point you have to either hit them with an actual repercussion to, ah, “inspire” them to start bringing it — or just accept the fact that they won’t be participating along with the rest of the class when it’s time to work… Is there any way around this? Or is it just an inherent disadvantage to the laptop-centric structure?
*It seems like a big part of the task of freshman comp is getting across to the students that it is okay to have an idea. Early in the semester there was a lot of reticence about coming out with their opinion about something or owning an idea. There was a lot of “what do you think about this?” – “I don’t now…” but as the semester goes on students are becoming more confident about expression and also, I think, starting to realize that their opinion counts for something. This seems in my mind to be connected to the “open inquiry.” Because they get to choose their topic/idea, there is some level of control afforded to them and with that comes an element of, I guess self-respect (though that is more loaded of a term than I would like). Anyway, it seems like this is a key element of “academic writing” (here’s what I think and here’s why it matters) that would be easy to miss or neglect — the confidence to feel that your ideas are legitimate and important.
*The conference/gallery walk dealio we did just before the break was interesting. Perhaps it is skewed a bit because the people “elected” would have been the more confident/prepared of their groups, but it was nice to see them all “owning” their ideas, and it struck a serious contrast to the “I don’t know/care” attitudes of earlier in the semester. It seems like the idea that they could say something important and have someone listen to it is catching on. Or at the very least they are getting interested in their work, the importance of which cannot be overstated. It seems like a good modeling opportunity as well, students who are less confident/enthusiastic about their ideas might see that it’s okay to be interested in what they’re doing in the class (ie not ‘uncool’) and also that their ideas, once presented, will be taken seriously. Could go a long way to dispelling the fear that their ideas won’t be “good” or will be trivialized/ignored.
*As I think about my own syllabus/class, one of the main hurdles seems to be public interest. The students are smart enough to “do the thing” no problem, but they have to want to do it. It’s tempting to put distractions down to the use of digital technology, but then I think back to all the notebooks I filled with doodles and the fact of the matter is that if they don’t want to do it they’re not going to do it, whether or not they can check facebook whilst not doing it. So the question becomes how to make the horse drink? I think the open (or at least only loosely restricted) inquiry could be key for this, give them the opportunity to flavor the distasteful drink of “schoolwork” with something they find appetizing, and the experience becomes less painful. So then the trick is to find a way to keep the class coherent and yet allow students enough freedom to write on a subject that doesn’t make them want to chop their own hands off to get out of their assignments.