Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professor Site vs RateMyProfessors: great idea!

Feline Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Last night, after wrapping up my Microbiology class I stopped to chat to the other instructor teaching the same course (we switch lecture and lab rooms). With the class winding down (this is finals' week) we shared some of the frustrations  with a small but usually rather vocal group of students. These are the students who do not do very well in class and approach us with comments such as "I have never done so bad in any other class,"  ask for extra assignments (while they obviously cannot cope with the current ones), or bluntly declare "I NEED to get a B in this class." While there are many reasons for their low performance, the majority of these students are simply not ready for science courses, even non-major ones, but somehow the system let them in. This is a big problem and I do not intend to talk about it now.
The point is, there are always some students who are not doing well in my class. I have tried many things:
  • emailing my students weeks before class starts with "heads-ups", 
  • sending the syllabus, 
  • directing them to podcasts of lectures so they can start listening ahead, 
  • having a "pre-test" the first week so they can have a feeling of what is the level of knowledge required in the class, 
  • asking them to write reflections on their learning, 
  • sometimes almost forcing them to discuss with me in person

...and still, some of them fail, drop, or slowly disappear along the lines. And then one reads the comments in RateMyProfessors and gets depressed...
This morning while going through the Twitterfeed, I stopped to read this interesting blog post by Scott MacLeod about the use of social media by educators, or in fact, some controversies surrounding it. The controversies are the same as always: how people become addicted to the new media and shun personal relationships, family time etc etc etc. For me, Twitter is a constant source of professional development through a continuous conversation/brainstorming with other educators. This conversation most often goes one-way, but sometimes it becomes an engaging conversation. 
So I was pondering this morning how to address new students more effectively, allowing to "see me" before class in some online form, be able to figure out in advance if they are ready and if they have the skills/tools they need for the class. I was just trying to decide between a VoiceThread conversation, a FB group, or some other kind of online community, when Michelle Pacansky-Brock's tweet appeared announcing a Google Site template for a "Professor Site" that students can access before class. Basically, a Dr. Jekyll to match RateMyProfessor's Mr. Hyde. I leaned back with a big smile. While building sites from scratch has its appeal, it is also a big job, and I confess I am very happy to have this template available. One less problem to tackle... 
And I found out thanks to my Twitter Learning Network..."nuff said"  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment