Laura Gibbs

Internet Classrooms with Many Doors

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Apr 8, 2017

This is my Pineapple Welcome cat. (You can make your own pineapple cat at cheezburger.)


pineapple cat


This week was super-busy (well, honestly, what week is not super-busy... but: 4 more weeks until SUMMER, which will be blissful), so I posted two items about open education without comments of my own, and this weekend I am going to linger over the morning coffee in order to write up my thoughts about both pieces, one today, and one tomorrow.


So, the first item was a revived post from Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy: Open Your Door: Why We Need to See Each Other Teach. She talks about the Pineapple Welcome in there. :-)


Jennifer's post was written very much from the point of view of classroom teaching and literally opening doors and sharing the classroom experience with colleagues. Jennifer emphasizes three reasons to do this:
Reason 1: Seeing Each Other Succeed
Reason 2: Seeing Each Other Fail
Reason 3: The Intangibles


As someone who teaches online, I also believe in the "open door" but the dynamics of the open door are different online. Some things you can share easily online that are harder to share in the classroom, and vice versa. The same-place same-time classroom space is good for seeing teacher-student interaction in the moment, which is great... but online teaching is very different; the centers of energy online are not in that shared time/space of the classroom, at least in terms of how my courses are designed.


One way to think about it is that I have many classrooms, and the doors to all of them are open, 24/7; the only thing that is not open online is the writing feedback which I give to my students privately (I use good old-fashioned email for that). So, that means there are MANY doors you can walk through in order to take a look. Why look? For the same reasons that Jennifer points out in her article: to broaden our understanding of success and failure and the fascinating complexity of human learning in all its forms, both my own learning and my students' learning too. :-)


Now, with many doors as opposed to one door, it is hard to choose which door to go through, so what I've done here is to list ten possible doorways you could use to visit my class:


1. Canvas Courses. I teach two courses, and I’ve set them both up as open courses, so you can click and go right there: and In addition to the class announcements, you'll see the blog stream from the student blog network, plus I've created a Growth Mindset "Bulletin Board" (using Padlet) with thoughts from the students.


Beyond this point, there's no more content that is in Canvas; just the announcements (plus the Gradebook where the students record their own grades). I've never put content in an LMS because we never had an open LMS before. Now, with Canvas, it's possible to go open (yay!), but I've got so much content accumulated now that I can't see really moving it into a Canvas space. And for me, that's okay. I like developing content online in open spaces with real tools, and I teach my students to do the same. :-)


2. Class Calendar. In the upper-right box of the announcements blog there’s a link to the Class Calendar; the calendar is the same for both classes, and each week then has its own page. The weekly assignments pages are the way students navigate the course; all the weeks are listed on the calendar (and I encourage students to work ahead as much as they want, although only a handful usually do that):

Online Course Wiki / Calendar 


3. Weekly Activities. Each week has the same structure. The week starts off with reading (the students blog about what they read), followed by a story post (either writing an actual story, or planning a story that they will write the next week), and then they work on their own project while also commenting on each other's blogs and projects. All the student blogs and projects are open (see below). Here's a typical week:

Online Course Wiki / Week 12 


4. Reading. The students choose what to read in Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics from a wide range of choices, and you can see what they are choosing in their reading posts. Here are the Myth-Folklore reading posts:

MLLL-3043 Mythology and Folklore Reading Notes 


5. Storytelling. You can see a stream of the story posts and story planning posts from the Myth-Folklore class here, and from Indian Epics here. Here are the story / story planning posts from Myth-Folklore:

MLLL-3043 Mythology and Folklore Story Posts


6. Projects. You can see this semester’s projects for both classes here; students choose either a blog-based portfolio or a website with a specific project topic called a Storybook:

Online Course Wiki / Myth-Folklore Projects

Online Course Wiki / Indian Epic Projects 


7. Project Archive. Equally important to the ongoing projects are the students' past projects; I feature this student-created content throughout the course since it is here that students can see the creative experiments of their fellow students from past semesters:

Online Course Lady: E-Storybook Central 


8. Comments and Feedback. The students interact with each other by leaving comments at their blogs; it's a mix of randomly assigned groups and free choice. Helping the students learn how to provide good feedback is a challenge, and of course I am always trying to think about how I can provide better feedback to them, so that is a skill we are learning about together.

MLLL-3043 + MLLL-4993 Comments 


9. More Activities. Extra credit since is a key element in the class, both for students who want to learn and do more, and also for students who, for whatever reasons, miss regular assignments during the week and need to make that up somehow. The extra credit options are also the same each week, and they appear on the same weekly assignments list as the regular assignments:

Online Course Wiki /  Extra Credit 


10. Orientation. And now that you've seen what the class is like when everything is running along week by week, you can go back to the beginning and see how I get started with the Orientation. Because of some logistical changes at my school having to do with my course load and enrollment, I'll be switching from a one-week Orientation to a two-week approach next year. It's a "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade" kind of thing, and I really am excited about redesigning the Orientation; so, next year I'll be going with a one-week Tech Orientation and then a one-week Writing Orientation. Here's the current one-week version:

Online Course Wiki / Orientation 


And now... pick a door! Any door! And come visit. There is always fun and cool stuff going on, and if you have questions about anything, you know where to find me.


Virtually speaking. :-)