Participant Pedagogy: a MOOCMOOC Production

Posted on by Brooke

(This week, I am a learner in a Massive Open Online Course—a MOOC—that is on the topic of Massive Open Online Courses. Yes, it's a Moocmooc. Our assignment today is a short post about "participant pedagogy.")

In Jesse's post today and elsewhere, he kicks "learner-centered learning" up a notch (Emeril style!): for the course designer, it's no longer just a matter of asking, "What does the learner need in order to accomplish the learning that the course asks of her?" It goes further, asking, "What role does the learner need to take in joining in the design of the course during the course itself?" How do I design a course such that the learners, as part of their learning, make decisions about the structure and expectations of the course?

This raises for me a distinction that I have learned regarding course design: the difference between closed-ended "selected response" assessments (multiple choice, short answer, matching, true/false) and open-ended "constructed response" assessments (learning logs, presentations, discussion, portfolios, productions such as artwork). When we talk about these, we usually are talking about how to assess a student's control of a subject matter: geology, history, a language, mathematics, or whatever.

But Jesse's post makes me review the ways in which I empower students to participate in course design, and I realize that it is mostly in a "selected response" style: I allow the learners to choose among options that I have set. For example, for their final project, I will give the learners a set of rubrics that tell them what that project must accomplish, then I let them choose between, say, a thesis paper or a digital visual essay ("selected response"). What I have resisted doing is to allow them an open-ended choice: "Go ahead and come up with something that will accomplish the requirements of the rubric" ("constructed response").

My reasons for resisting this have more to do with how I perceive my own limitations than theirs: What if I fail to equip them to make good choices? (And by "good choices," I don't even mean "choices that lead to a good product"; I mean, "What if they make choices that don't even lead to a learning process? What if they don't even "fail well"?)

If you are an instructor, what kinds of "participant power" have you given your learners to shape their learning experience: closed-ended "selected response" or open-ended "constructed response"? If you are a student, what kinds of "participant power" have you been given? What kind have you wanted? What has happened as a result?

[Participant Pedagogy: a MOOCMOOC Production was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/08/15. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

First Day of School! So Hit Snooze Again, Already

Posted on by Brooke

Everyone brush your hair, hang your name cards around your necks, and gather outside with your best neighborhood friends while your family takes pictures: it's the first day of school!

My summer session begins today. It's on online class, six weeks in length (therefore "intensive"). The course is "Introduction to the Old Testament," essentially an introduction to historical-critical and literary-critical biblical studies. There's a separate course focusing on Bible content.

Of course, "first day" is a relative term. The learners have already accomplished some minor tasks in the last weeks: logging on, doing a one-question "Choice" about whether they plan to pre-read the textbook, and taking a diagnostic quiz called "Is Online Learning for You?"

For my part, the "first day" is--quite intentionally--a bit of an anti-climax. For one thing, I haven't slept well. I never sleep well the night before the first day. It doesn't matter whether it's a face-to-face course or online. First-day jitters, I got 'em. For another, an online course is largely asynchronous: there's no three-hour block during which we've all got to be "on" for one another. Instead, we're all "on" for one another off-and-on throughout the week.

So, I've developed strategies for the "first day":

  • No hunting trips: Undoubtedly there are a few students who have not accomplished all of the pre-course activities, or whose registration is in some kind of limbo. I have been in contact with them regularly in the weeks and days before the term. It's tempting (especially to us tightly-wound types) to want to get all that buttoned down. (OMG!! It's the first day!!) Forget that. Unless they reach out to me (and it's great if they do), it can wait until the second day. Or the third. Hey, it's their course.
  • Get a late start: As surprising as this is to me, most of the learners have not taken a vacation day from their employer to celebrate the first day by jumping onto the LMS at dawn. Or even at nine. A few of them will bang out their Introduction before work or on lunch, but if the earliest deadline isn't until Wednesday, why shouldn't I plan to get some additional exercise on Monday morning? Eat a hot breakfast for once? Pet the dog and catch up on my Instapaper?
  • Smile before Christmas: I get the thinking behind "don't smile before Christmas." I just don't accept the costs in trust, good will, and positive reinforcement. The first day is a great time to catch students doing things right and, as publicly as possible, pasting a gold star on that and posting it to the refrigerator. A new course is like any other fear-inducing new environment (say, prison, or an alcoholic home, or the Internet): noobs will have their radar up for "cues" about what will be punished and what will be rewarded. Reward is more motivating and cleaner in its outcomes, so I try to catch good behavior early on.

What have you learned about yourself and "first days"? How do your routines reflect that?

[First Day of School! So Hit Snooze Again, Already was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/06/25. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]


Posted on by Brooke

The "Unconference"

Many of my readers will already be familiar with the "Unconference" model of the professional conference, especially through its use at THATCamps. Those who aren't familiar with THATCamp or the "unconference" can get a quick history in Episode 2 of the Gradhacker Podcast. Briefly, an "unconference" is an academic conference for which the sessions and agendas are, for the most part, established collaboratively on-site, at the outset of the conference.

I've been to one THATCamp, and was deeply impressed by how well the on-site collaborative planning went. The veteran supporters clearly had a lot of experience, and used that experience to empower newcomers to fully participate efficiently and successfully in the session planning. I wound up taking some notes on what made it work well.

  • Canvassing for provisional ideas before the event: in the days and weeks before the unconference, attendees can write tentative proposals into a comment section on the THATCamp's blog.
  • An intentional eye on "splitting and lumping": watching for opportunities to split a compound idea into separate sessions and to lump similar or related ideas into single sessions.
  • Fixed "Bootcamps": an anchor set of planned sessions, showing enough variety that many tentative proposals can be hooked into the Bootcamps rather than require a session of their own.
  • Asking attendees what sessions should not be held concurrently. Attendees loved this.

So, this got me thinking about what else I could "Un." This Spring, I took a shot at "un-ning" my Moodle training sessions for faculty and Ph.D. students.

The "Untraining"

Most of our faculty and Ph.D. students have had "basic training" and some experience with our Moodle learning management system, which we have used only since Summer 2011. I wanted to continue to offer "Moodle for Users" advanced training, but since this is an entirely optional training, I have to make it attractive to a lot of really busy academics who have other, more immediate, demands on their time.

So, I set it up as an Untraining, using the strategies listed above. I would canvass for ideas ahead of time, encourage splitting and lumping, and offer one or two fixed concepts to be taught. (At this time, I am the sole facilitator, so concurrent sessions is not an issue…though I'd love attendance to rise until it becomes an issue.)

Attendance was small, largely for institutional reasons; for example, many faculty tend to arrange their schedules to come onto campus for packed, marathon TWRs, while working from home on MF. And a lot of our Ph.D.'s commute a good ways. Nontheless, participants responded positively to the "Untraining" aspects of the advanced training, and remarked that they were relieved to find the session worth their while.

In 2012-13, I will look for ways to make attendance easier, and to fully "market" the advantages of the Untraining model in my invitations.

Have you "un-ned" anything besides a conference? What might you "un," and what sorts of challenges or promise do you think it has?

["Untraining" was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/06/14. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Re-thinking My Creative Commons Licenses

Posted on by Brooke

I'm rethinking my copyrights.

Bethany Nowviskie wrote recently that she is dropping the "no-commercial-use" specification—the clause that prevents people from making money off her work—from the Creative Commons copyright she holds on much of what she makes. Briefly, she concludes that, if she is already making the content available for distribution, and requiring that the work be attributed to her, then the "no commercial use" clause only functions to slow the work's dissemination…and thereby to limit the dissemination of her name and ideas.

Creative Commons offers six kinds of license (scroll down). All six require others to grant you attribution for your work. To select a license for what you make, you have to decide whether others may re-mix your work into derivative works; whether others may use your work for commercial projects; and whether those using your work must license their work with the same license you have chosen.

Recently, I was collecting photographs from Flickr to use in a recorded presentation. In this case, the presentation is to be published on our school's web site. While we won't be "selling" the images, and the purpose of the presentation is educational, we are putting the video next to an Admissions link: not very different from how an overtly commercial site might wrap the images in clickable advertisements. Therefore, I had to restrict myself to Flickr images employing Creative Commons licenses permitting commercial use. You know, that thing that I myself don't allow for my own Flickr images. And I thought of Bethany. If someone wants to use my Hebrew learning images, and is willing to grant me attribution, do I want them to be frightened off by the fear that using them in a tuition-based context will violate my "non-commercial" clause? Even if they're used in a work published for profit…well, look, I do make some stuff for private distribution and (hollow laughter) potential profit, but if I've made something for open distribution anyway, I don't lose anything if someone incorporates it into a non-free work, and I gain by their attribution.

This weekend, in response to a Prof Hacker post, I was experimenting with making my syllabi available on GitHub for other teachers to "fork" (duplicate in whole or in part to re-mix into their own "branch" syllabi). I began to attach a "CC BY-NC" license (allowing distribution and derivative works but forbidding commercial use), when I thought of Bethany again. Almost anyone creating syllabi is making them for a course that charges tuition, a commercial use. I want my colleagues to use the work without fear, as long as they grant me attribution.

This blog is a different story. For one thing, I do not want the content re-mixed, because words taken out of context combined with attribution sounds to me like a recipe for abuse. Also, the most common commercial use of blog posts—scraping the RSS feed and surrounding the content with ads—is unethical: posts tagged "Education" wind up scraped onto sites that plug the worst of the for-profit-education scams. Here at Anumma, I'll keep the "CC BY-NC-ND" license, allowing distribution with attribution but forbidding re-mixing into derivative works and also forbidding commercial use.

But, the GitHub syllabi (on which I will write more soon) are available for attribution alone, and once I've had time to sit on it a bit, the Flickr images are likely to follow.

What are your copyright practices for your own open work? Do you agree that a "no-commercial-use" license is unnecessarily chilling for educational use?

[Re-thinking My Creative Commons Licenses was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 20121/04/23. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Borrowing Syllabi: Collaborate, Re-mix, Acknowledge

Posted on by Brooke

A number of years back, Chris Heard posted the flowchart [link updated] by which he assessed a certain paper-writing assignment. I have mentioned before that I picked it up and modified it for my own use. At that time, I incorporated much of it into a checklist for the students to consult before submitting the paper. More recently, convinced of the value of rubrics for assessment, I have developed that into a three-column rubric. I realized recently that, some point, in the heat of revision, I had dropped my standard acknowledgment of Chris's original work.

Katharine Harris wrote recently on the value of including acknowledgments in syllabi: if we are smart, we are re-mixing assignments and assessment tools designed by others, and as an ongoing research project in curriculum, a syllabus should reflect that.

"Re-mixing" syllabi created by others (or their elements) is not different from how designers of open-source software "fork" already-existing applications: taking a tool that exists, then copying and modifying it into a new creation, is to create a new "fork" for that tool. Brian Croxell talks about "forking a syllabus," and Lincoln Muller offers tips on using GitHub—an online resource for sharing and forking software code—to collaborate on and share syllabi, assignments, and assessment tools.

I have begun developing an online lesson for faculty on the value of using plain text [in] the writing process and in collaborative writing, and a section of that lesson will include the use of GitHub for sharing modules from syllabi: policy statements, projects, assessment tools, and so on. I will plan to work out parts of that lesson here on the blog.

How have you built on tools drawn from others' syllabi? What are your habits regarding acknowledgment?

[Borrowing Syllabi: Collaborate, Re-mix, Acknowledge was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 20121/04/18. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Blog Discovery: "Academic Workflow for Mac"

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I don't know why I haven't seen this blog already: Academic Workflow on Mac. For me, this blog fits nicely in the gap between the "productivity on the Mac" resources (like Mac Power Users) and the "academic productivity" resources (like Prof Hacker). "Academic Workflow for Mac" looks at familiar critical issues in productivity—note taking, task management, emailing—from the perspective of an academic in higher education…using the Mac OS/iOS.

The blog now has a long-overdue place in my blogroll, and I am sure I will be linking to it often.

The blog author is Aleh Cherp, professor of environmental sciences at Central European University.

[Blog Discovery: "Academic Workflow for Mac" was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/04/11. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Use Verbal Phrases in Bullets, Lists, and Outlines

Posted on by Brooke

Wherever my students have needed to write bulleted lists or other short phrases, I have found myself urging them to use verbal phrases rather than just nouns or noun phrases. This has led me to review and change the way I write outlines, lists, presentation slides, and other works calling for short, undeveloped prose.

Student work

Most of the written projects I assign call for paragraphs of developed prose, rather than outlines or bullet points. But sometimes an outline is unavoidable; our institution requires an outline as part of a student's Masters thesis proposal, for instance. And occasionally, I will offer an assignment that asks for short phrases rather that developed sentences. For example:

  • a presentation whose slides follow the 1/1/5 rule of "no more than five words per slide";
  • a worksheet to be filled in with short phrases;
  • a list of "critical issues" regarding a particular biblical text.

So for example, if the student is writing a Venn diagram comparing the birth narratives in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, I may see items like these. My proposed improvements follow in parentheses.

  • the angel Gabriel (> angel Gabriel appears to Mary)
  • the star (> star guides three wise men)
  • shepherds (> shepherds receive a revelation)

Look how much more content comes to the fore by the inclusion of a verb (often with its object). Similarly, a list of critical issues surrounding a biblical text may look like this:

  • redaction (> vocab changes suggest redaction)
  • genre (> formal elements point to novella genre)
  • the word "virgin/young woman" (> meaning of alma is disputed)

(Note that, in the last example, I offer a passive verbal phrase. This is still verbal! Don't make me go all Pullum on you about the misunderstood and maligned passive verbal construction.)

Again, in the list of critical issues, the inclusion of a verb forces the student to actually articulate the critical issue, rather than merely evoke it with a noun or noun phrase.

I began asking students to incorporate verbal phrases into their bullets and outlines simply so that I could better understand what in the world they believed they were doing. The results have been excellent: often a piece that looked shoddy in its first draft proved to be really well and carefully conceived once I could see the "verbs behind the nouns."

Professional work and productivity

Only as a result of all this have I found myself looking at the outlines and bulleted lists that I produce in my own work, whether for others or, more often, for my own consumption. I find it much easier now to "keep the thread" from one stage of a written piece to the next, instead of staring dumbly at my pre-writing and wondering what the heck my ideas had been.

Some of my readers will know of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" methodology, or will use a task-management tool like OmniFocus. When creating Projects and Tasks in a productivity scheme or tool, it is essential to give them names that have verbs: not "Jill's thesis" but rather "Read Jill's thesis" or "Annotate Jill's thesis" or "Return Jill's thesis"; not "Presentation" but rather "Brainstorm presentation," "Outline presentation," "Collect graphics for presentation," and so on. A noun phrase just sits there and stares vacantly at you. A verbal phrase pokes you with a stick and issues a command.

What is your experience with short phrases in outlines, presentation slides, task management, or wherever you read and use them? Do you do okay with noun phrases alone, or have you also found that you need a verb to bring things into focus, whether in others' writing or in your own?

[Use Verbal Phrases in Bullets, Lists, and Outlines was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/04/09. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Frequency Lists: Quizzes

Posted on by Brooke

My earlier post about biblical Hebrew and Greek frequency lists has attracted a decent amount of interest since I posted it. In this follow-up, I offer biblical Hebrew quizzes based on the Hebrew frequency list.

I very much like being able to offer my vocabulary quizzes in a series tied to attested frequency. By doing so, I know students are getting as much possible "bang for their buck," learning the most frequently-attested biblical vocabulary first.

These twenty quizzes progress from the most common biblical Hebrew vocabulary (Quiz 01) to words that are used only 50 times or more (Quiz 20). I deploy these quizzes over the course of a full academic year. Most quizzes include four categories: verbs; nouns; adjectives; and "particles," including prepositions. I used my beloved Accordance Bible software to generate the original frequency lists.

I say "quizzes," but perhaps I should say "quiz banks": each of the twenty "quizzes" is in fact a list of about 30-35 words. For my part, I have dumped each "bank" into our Learning Management System (Moodle), and for each quiz, a randomized sample of each category is placed into a quiz of ten (10) questions. Students are given the Hebrew, and need to write in an English translation. You can, of course, use these "banks" to create paper or electronic quizzes, and can include as many or as few words out of each "bank" as you like in a given quiz.

Verbs are written without Masoretic pointing (nikkud); all other parts of speech are written with pointing.

In the "11-20" file, I follow every word in each "bank" with a numeral showing how many times it is attested. So, you always know where you are in overall frequency. (I like the idea, but not enough to go back and put those numerals into the 01-10 file!) For example, in Quiz 12, most words are attested 100-125 times, with the particles attested 133-140 times. (I allow the categories to fall slightly out of synch with each other, in order that each quiz can include all four categories of words.)

Technical notes on download files:

  • I offer files in name.rtf and name.txt formats.
  • Word for Windows seems to handle the name.rtf files well, and Notepad does well with the name.rtf files.
  • On the Macintosh, Word for Mac is a disaster with nikkud, and TextEdit works only fairly well, representing the nikkud well but changing word order. I recommend Mac users open either file in Pages, Nisus Writer, Mellel, or almost any word processor except Word. I also had good luck opening the name.txt file in the free text editor TextWrangler.


Quiz banks 01-10 in name.txt format
Quiz banks 01-10 in name.rtf format
Quiz banks 11-20 in name.txt format
Quiz banks 11-20 in name.rtf format

I hope readers find these helpful! Let me know if you use them, and whether you have any suggesions for improvement.

[Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Frequency Lists: Quizzes was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/04/07. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Exegetical Thesis as (Digital) Storytelling

Posted on by Brooke

The "exegesis project" is a The Big Project for masters students in a biblical studies course. Usually, it's a paper, of course. This term, I hope to encourage students in my "Book of Daniel" to consider doing the project in the form of "Digital Storytelling." I realize that this calls for a two-part explanation:

  1. What makes exegesis "storytelling"?

  2. What makes exegesis "digital"?

I am going to take these one at a time. Today, we will stick with the first. In beginning to learn exegesis, one of the big hurdles for students is that they are asked to bracket their spiritual autobiography long enough to attend to the biblical text's own historical context. That being so, what can I mean when I ask them to accomplish their exegesis as "storytelling"? I'll break it down:

What makes it "exegetical"?

  • The body of the work asks questions about the meaning of the biblical text for its author, and for the community to whom the author appears to have written, in that author's own social and historical context.

  • The work's arguments rely on publicly available evidence and explicit lines of reasoning. They do not depend upon private revelation, confessional dogma, implicit lines of reasoning, or logical fallacies.

What makes it "a thesis"?

  • The work is organized around the defense of a single claim, or thesis. A thesis is NOT, then, an opinion, a narrative, an “exploration,” or a review. A thesis should be defensible, relevant, and manageable. By “defensible,” I mean that it is a proposition that can be established by publicly-available evidence (not private revelation or confessional dogma) and an explicit line of reasoning. By “relevant,” I mean that the thesis forces your reader to re-evaluate the biblical text; the thesis "makes a difference" to how the biblical text is read. By “manageable,” I mean that the thesis can be argued comprehensively within the constraints of the assignment; it is not too big an idea for the word count, and also not so small that the paper falls significantly short or has to be “padded up.”

What makes it "storytelling"?

  • Even when presenting data (as in a lecture, or a thesis paper), there is a "narrative" of sorts: you lead the reader from a starting place, through a terrain known only to you, to a destination. A good presenter "knows her narrative": you could take away her slides or her paper, and she can still guide you through the "narrative" of her subject matter or thesis (Ask a student about a recently-completed paper; if they can do this, it's probably a good paper.)

  • We commonly ask our students to "book-end" their thesis with an introduction and a theological/hermeneutical conclusion. The project should begin with a statement of the student's interest in the biblical passage. It should end with her own assessment of the passage's theological claims as determined by exegesis. (Are those claims moral? coherent with other biblical passages? intelligible to today's reading communities?). This conclusion should also include claims about how the text might, or might not, lend itself to preaching and teaching in particular, well-defined communities of hearers. This is to say, the thesis project is a "round trip," beginning and ending with the student's own pressing theological and hermeneutical concerns.

So…What makes it "digital," if it is?

Stay tuned. In a follow-up post, I will look at the phenomenon of "Digital Storytelling" in the digital humanities, and how it might serve as a platform for "exegesis as storytelling." In the meantime, what do you think of this way of putting things? Does "storytelling" offer a useful lens, or muddy the waters?

[The Exegetical Thesis as (Digital) Storytelling was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/01/30. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Letters of Reference Check List

Posted on by Brooke

So, one of the duties that feature heavily this time of year is “letters of reference”: for Ph.D programs, for scholarships, for employment. (The other duties you know also: students need help planning Winter or Spring courses; students struggling with current course work are looking for life lines; and grading for the current term, so well managed up to this point, has just now spun out of control.)

Sometimes it’s hard to write a good letter. Scratch that: it’s always hard to write a good letter, in the same way that it’s always hard to get to any of the housekeeping that fills itself in around course work, administration, office hours, and (hear my hollow laughter) scholarship. What tends to really make the difference is the student herself, by performing at a high level in the first place, by getting the request in to me nice and early, and by giving me lots of information instead of requiring me to make of the letter a whole new research project. It’s arithmetical: time not spent housekeeping a letter is time spent writing the letter.

Over time, I have developed a “check list” that I return to students who ask me for a letter of reference:

The Check List

  1. Whenever possible, please plan to have given me 30 days to write. If not, give me as much time as possible.

  2. If I have written a letter for you in the past, please remind me of this, telling me when that was and who it was for.

  3. Please include the full name and appropriate title for recipient of letter.

  4. Please include the full address for recipient.

  5. Please include any information materials about the program/scholarship/job/etc, unless that information available clearly on a web page (see next). This can be in electronic form or hard copy.

  6. If the scholarship provider, program, employer, etc. has a web presence, please include an URL for that web site.

  7. Please remind me what classes you’ve had with me, and what term(s) they took place. Or, remind me of our other ties. (Sorry, I really can remember, but if you save me these minutes, I’ll put them to better use for you working on the letter itself.)

  8. Please give me clear instructions for delivery: mail directly, return sealed to you, &c.

  9. Please include a portfolio of work you have done for me in the past. (This may not be necessary, I usually still have anything that we have exchanged in electronic format, but at least check with me about this). Material can be electronic or hard copy.

  10. Please offer me a few sentences on how I can really help you with this. What talking points would be helpful? What are the details of the impression you hope to convey? How does my letter contribute to your overall package?

  11. Always remember that a letter writer’s “stock in trade” is honesty. The very best way to secure good letters of reference is to distinguish yourself from your peers early and often in course work. Thanks.

The whole point is to be able to quickly organize the resources that will inform an interesting, positive, distinctive letter.

What do you think? If you teach, have you composed a similar check list? If you are a student, do you have any thoughts about these kinds of requirements?

[Letters of Reference Check List was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/11/17. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

THATCamp Pedagogy This Weekend (Picking My Feet Edition)

Posted on by Brooke

Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie?

I'm on my way this morning to THATCamp Pedagogy (ProfHacker post), an unconference on teaching and learning as an aspect of digital humanities (THATCamp home). The unconference is in Poughkeepsie NY, and is sponsored by Vassar College.

Besides the "unconference" sessions, there are planned "boot camps" on:

  • integrating digital projects into undergraduate courses;

  • teaching with Omeka;

  • the undergraduate's voice in digital humanities;

  • "So Long, Lecture."

I will plan to live-Tweet as opportunity allows. On Twitter, you can follow me for the weekend at @anummabrooke to see my Tweets alone, or follow the hashtag #THATCampedagogy (note the single "p") to follow all Tweets on the unconference.

[Addendum: the hashtags actually used at the unconference have been #THATCamp and #pdgy]

Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie? (Not Safe For Work!) [Update: cut from French Connection since blocked on copyright grounds]

[THATCamp Pedagogy This Weekend was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/10/14. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Biblical Scholars: Care to be Interviewed?

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I have assigned my "Introduction to Old Testament" students to interview a "real biblical scholar." Students will collaboratively come up with questions for their interviews during October, and conduct their interviews by phone or Skype in early November. They will then write a report on their interview.

Here is how I describe the report to them:
The student will have already prepared and refined a list of questions, independently and in collaboration with colleagues. She will have contacted the subject, arranged the interview, and held the interview, in accordance with instructions.

The report should demonstrate that the student asked questions appropriate to academic biblical studies, while also appropriately inviting the subject to reflect on “essential questions” related to the practice of academic biblical studies. The report should contain an introduction, a list of questions, and a body that communicates the subject’s responses to each question, and a conclusion. The report should show evidence that the interview has prompted the student to “step back” and reflect on her practice of biblical studies both for our course work and longer term.

I would like volunteers to either have a completed PhD, or else be ABD with a full-time academic job in biblical studies.

If you are interested, you can respond here in comments, or else email me at my work address: brooke dot mylastname at garrett dot edu.


[Biblical Scholars: Care to be Interviewed? was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/09/20. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

If You're Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont'd)

Posted on by Brooke

So, mostly what I've been doing is supporting my faculty colleagues in their transition from Blackboard to our new Moodle learning management system.

But, partly what I've been doing is continuing with the biblical Hebrew resources in my series, "A Foundation for Biblical Hebrew," a series that uses communicative learning tools as a supplement to an elementary biblical Hebrew curriculum.

This is, "If You're Happy and You Know It." Some points I had to work through, and on which I welcome feedback:

  • I decided that being happy and knowing it was best expressed with perfect verbs joined by we-gam.

  • I decided to use the masculine plural pronoun suffixes; sorry, but there's just no room in the song for a more up-to-date solution to the problem of gender inclusivity. In English, I usually use the feminine singular as the "representative human" ("each student must see to her own work").

  • "Let your lives show it": going with the jussive here, naturally, verb-subject.

  • For the commands, I abandon personal pronouns: "clap a palm"; "stomp a foot"; etc. Again, only so much room in the scansion. This—leaving pronominal suffixes off of body parts where they are the objects of verbs—accords well enough with biblical usage (Psa 47:1; cf. Isa 37:22; but Ezek 6:11).

  • Main learning points: body parts, the masculine plural imperative, the masculine plural pronominal suffixes -tem and -kem; the conditional particle ʾim.

Feedback encourages, as always.

[If You're Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont'd) was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/09/12. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew)

Posted on by Brooke

I’ve worked into biblical Hebrew the children’s song, “The Wise Man Built His House upon a Rock.” I happened to hear the Boy singing it one morning, and I found myself putting most of it into Hebrew while shaving. [update: the following version updated from original posting.]

I like it as an exercise for my students because it’s simple, and because the vocabulary is so well attested biblically: build, descend, ascend, fall; wise, house, rock. The choices I made about verb patterns could give rise to fruitful conversation about the qatal, yiqtol, and wayyiqtol. It’s good for me, too: I had initially been drawn to the Infinitive Absolute for the concurrent action of rain falling and floods rising, until my search for biblical parallels suggested I was on a wrong track. (I’d be on firmer ground if the two verbs shared a single agent.)

Another song I plan to put into biblical Hebrew is a version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” While not all of this vocabulary is biblically well-attested, it has value for communicative teaching of Hebrew: it uses words that have high “pay off” for daily usage. (So, I’d be open to songs that use body parts, colors, numbers up to thirty, and everyday objects.)

A third song I have planned is “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” A fourth is a surprise.

How about some revision of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” with all biblically-attested animals? More advanced would be a revision of, “Hush, Little Baby (the Mockingbird song).”

What other simple children’s songs can you think of that might be put into biblical Hebrew? The song should be fairly short and simple. Ideally, they should EITHER 1) feature vocabulary that is biblically well-attested, OR 2) feature vocabulary that has high pay-off in terms of everyday nouns and concepts like body parts, colors, numerals, and so on.

[The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew) was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/07/05. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

RBoC: Not-Yet-End-of-Term Edition

Posted on by Brooke

End of term? Not even Spring Break yet! (Next week, insh'allah and the creek don't rise).

I have in mind some writing on pseudonymity and nymity in blogging, on a recent Chronicle op piece about keeping quiet in faculty meetings, on ancient language “reading examinations,” and on “feeling like a writer.” This is what I’m doing instead:

  • Facilitating faculty training on our new Moodle learning management system (so long, Blackboard);

  • Arranging to offer similar training to our platoon of TAs;

  • Preparing biblical Greek reading exams for 2nd-year Greek students and Ph.D. candidates;

  • Catching up on a self-paced UWM online certification program in online teaching and learning;

  • Working up a couple of videos for our seminary admissions page;

  • Keeping up on quizzes, exams, and papers for Elementary Hebrew, Elementary Greek, and Intro to OT;

  • Experimenting with a couple of new productivity helps to organize the above and more;

  • Eat, sleep, you know. Maybe try for a haircut.

What do you find this week  among your RBoC?

[RBoC: Not-Yet-End-of-Term Edition was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/04/12. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Plagiarism Paralysis

Posted on by Brooke

I’ve want to write a post about plagiarism, with reference to an excellent series of educational “what-is-plagiarism?” posters that I recently discovered.

But, the company publishing the posters won’t return my emails asking for permission to reproduce them.

[Plagiarism Paralysis was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/04/06. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Teaching Carnival: Backstory (and New Carnival)

Posted on by Brooke

The newest Teaching Carnival (4.8), by Annie Vocature Bullock, is available!

Linking to this edition of the Carnival, ProfHacker Jason B. Jones also fills us in on where it began, and how one can host or contribute to a Teaching Carnival.

It is through the Teaching Carnival that I began to get to know most of the blogs in my Academic Blogroll. (See my right sidebar, underneath my regular Blogroll.) While I don’t love the other Carnival in my life less, it is the Teaching Carnival that most often makes an immediate difference to my daily practices of teaching and writing.

You can always find past Carnivals on the Teaching Carnival Home Page.

[Teaching Carnival: Backstory (and New Carnival) was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/04/04. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today

Posted on by Brooke

What do students in Higher Education see today? What do they “see” in the sense of, “What are their visions?” And, what do they literally see from the place in which they are expected to learn?

This is the question posed by Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. Wesch is well known for his work so far in gathering and analyzing the experiences and voices of higher-ed students in an internet age.

Watch some of the YouTube videos tagged VOST2011. For an educator in Higher Ed, the videos are rather hypnotic, occasionally disturbing, and often illuminating. Take the following as an example:

More upbeat, but not less analytical or thought-provoking, is this piece from a student at University of the Philippines:

In the professorial circles in which I run, I am probably among those more likely to identify with the students of VOST2011: besides being a “distance pedagogies guy” (in progress), I am after all a Gen-Xer, and until a subject matter grabbed me in my Masters work, felt continually disenchanted with and alienated from the structures of education, while still identifying strongly with other students as a peer group. At the same time, however, I am formed by an exceptionally traditional and modernist Ph.D. program, and believe as strongly in “disseminating data” as in facilitating constructivist activities for peer-to-peer learning.

Professors: What do you think of Wesch’s call for submissions, and what do you think of some of the videos? How do they speak, or not speak, to you as educators?

Students: What are your visions today? What do you see from the place where you are expected to learn?

[VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/03/25. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Writing Process: An Interview with a Fourth Grader

Posted on by Brooke

Writing is thinking.

Writers know this by hard experience. Writing is not simply reporting on thinking that has already taken place: the thinking that goes on happens by writing, or it doesn’t happen at all. It is this knowledge that brings a writer, again and again, back to a writing process.

In recent years, I have seen—anecdotally—a sharp decrease in understanding about a writing process. Otherwise excellent students can be heard to say, in the last week of the term (out loud, where people can hear), “Yes, I plan to write that 8000 words paper for Prof A  today, tomorrow, and the next day, and then I’ll write that 3000 words for Prof B in the two days after that.” It’s not laziness: you heard me say “otherwise excellent students.” It’s not simply a function of being overwhelmed: compared to earlier years, the students are not taking heavier loads or working longer hours. Rather, my sense is that, on average, fewer students have received, in their secondary and undergraduate education, a grounding in a writing process.

My current syllabus attempts to force a writing process on the students by requiring stages toward a final thesis paper, with students reviewing one another’s work at each stage:

  1. Research report, written to rubrics and submitted for review to three peers;

  2. Thesis statement with plan for defense, written to rubrics and submitted for peer review;

  3. Complete draft, written to rubrics and submitted for peer review;

  4. Final draft.

Early results have been underwhelming, with a sizable percentage of students simply failing to accomplish the research report. Again, this suggests a lack of familiarity with the benefits of a writing process: anyone who has benefitted from a writing process in the past will be eager to embrace it later when given the opportunity. At the same time, students who accomplished the research report have been eager to get to the peer review.

So now you understand why it is that, when my fourth grader, lying in bed and chatting before lights-out, began to talk about “the writing process” as they learn it in elementary school, I leapt for the laptop and began to record. Take ten minutes, and learn how it’s done.

[The Writing Process: An Interview with a Fourth Grader was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/03/22. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]