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Room for Everybody

Room for Everybody

Notes for Workshop for College Seminar Faculty
Bryn Mawr College
Anne Dalke
August 26, 2008

What I Do On-Line

CSem Syllabi: linking, updating, archiving

* Questions, Intuitions, Revisions

* Food for Thought: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Course Forums: weekly student commentary and conversation
site for the shy: "illusion of anonymity" on the net
synchronous vs. asynchronous conversation/not
inclass--> out/class(ed): commentary from outside

Web Papers

Student Blogging and Performances

Why I Do It:

Bryn Mawr Now: Publishing Student Work on the World Wide Web

Education as Interactive Conversation

3 thoughts, in order of increasing profundity:

*the time limits on presentations made in real-time, vs.
the endless space that is the virtual world: a space that has no time limits
(students can take all the time they want to say all they're thinking,
go back and add notes, taking the time to revise thoughts as they arise)

*importance of attending to intersection between real/virtual spaces:
in particular, between student on-line postings and our follow-up conversations in the classroom
--taking in shaping and organizing students' on-line comments
--finding a productive place for starting off each class session
--by finding threads among their postings, or
--spots where their comments don't quite jive, or push against one another
--this lets the students know that I'm attending to what they say and that it matters/
is useful for further conversation among us all.

*downside is precisely identical to the upside: they realize that what they say matters/
that it's useful for further conversation among us all. But then they can get self-conscious.
They notice--and are pleased--if their comments are used in class;
they notice--and are disappointed, and say so--if they are not.
They realize that what they say will have consequences-->
that they might be asked to elaborate further on what they thought when they posted,
to think further, in conversation with others, perhaps to re-think or change what they were thinking.

And then the class forum seems less of a free space, less a spot for untethered ruminating,
more a place that has consequences in real life. And then the ruminations become less productive.
(A catch 22 if I ever saw one.)

*Last spring Joshua Aronson spoke to the faculty here about "stereotype threat":
the phenomenon of students thinking that--because of their ethnicity--
faculty may have low expectations of their performance.
Which (presumably?) engenders performance anxiety,
which (actually?) lowers task performance....

I find myself of two very different minds about this initiative.

--On the one hand, anything that gets faculty to attend to struggling students, to think about and try to address their vulnerabilities, is a great thing, and I want to facilitate that process.

--On the other hand, there's something pretty absurd about realizing that the point spread we're talking about here is-- due to the compression that is grade inflation--just tiny (from 3.12 to 3.37). I also have doubts about the wisdom of trying to help kids, who aren't flourishing, to meet long-standing cultural standards of performance, rather than thinking harder about what it is we are requiring them to do, re-working the rubrics we use to measure it, questioning the whole matter of measurement...

...turning (for example, and now we loop back to point #1) time into space, quantitative measurements that judge them against one another (and so place some lower on an ascending ladder that doesn't have room for everybody) into qualitative judgments, or something more important: a recognition that there's space for everyone to contribute to the on-going conversation that is this ever-enlarging intellectual life. There really is room for everyone here.


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