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All People > Laura Gibbs > Laura Gibbs' Blog > 2017 > May

Discussion keeps going on at the Folders-in-Pages feature request... which just makes me realize how uncomfortable I am with rigid content development systems (static, linear) as opposed to the kinds of hyperlinked, flexible, customizable content that we make using online tools with tags/labels. Over time, you've probably noticed how systems like Gmail have moved away from folders to labels, and it is the power of labels that makes me such a devoted user of blogs, which have always been label-oriented. Google Blogger, in particular, has some great label features that are quicker and easy to use than WordPress, which is a big reason why it is my blogging platform of choice (I keep trying WordPress for various experiments... but I find myself coming back to Blogger).


So, I wanted to share here one simple example of the incredible power that blog labels give me in designing the navigation for my new Aesop's Books project. What I am doing with this project is bringing together what will eventually be hundreds of Aesop's fable books that are available at digital libraries like Hathi Trust, and I am then extracting the fables from those books and also the illustrations, building a system that will make it easy for people to browse the books themselves and also to browse based on fable types. Thanks to labels, the content repurposes itself automatically.


Even though I've only been working on this for a week, it is really coming together. Here, for example, is a book that I have finished indexing, Detmold's gorgeous illustrated edition of the fables: click on the Detmold label to see it all.

Aesop's Books: 1909 Detmold's Aesop 

(There's a randomizer there too, showing one of the Detmold fables at random.)


Then, let's say you are interested in one of those fables, like the fun story of the fox and the crane; at the bottom of that post you'll see that it is labeled Perry 426, which is fable indexing system created by Ben Perry; it's super-useful. You can see the other fox-crane/stork fables that I've got at the blog so far:

Aesop's Books: Perry 426: Fox and Crane 

(It's a popular fable, so there are four of them.)


It's easy to add label gadgets to the sidebar, too, so I have a gadget for browsing the books (i.e. book labels), and a gadget for browsing the fables that come in multiple versions (the Perry labels with two or more posts).


I am also using this system to pair up illustrations from books NOT in English so that I can have the illustrations from those books appear on the same page with an English translation from another book. So, for example, here is Barlow's gorgeous 17th-century Aesop (it does have English text, but it's 17th-century poetry by Aphra Behn that is hard to use; I've worked mostly on the Latin versions of the fables in his book):

Aesop's Books: 1687 Barlow's Aesop 


So, you can look at an image from Barlow, and that image is linked by means of the index labels to other posts sharing the same Perry number, providing an English translation for that fable, like here in the story of the fox and the grapes (the origin of the saying "sour grapes"):

Barlow post only: 

Aesop's Books: The Fox and the Grapes in Barlow 

ALL the fox-and-grapes posts:

Aesop's Books: Perry 015: all posts with fox and grapes 


I love the way that all I have to do is come up with a consistent scheme for labeling the fables based on the features that people will use when browsing... and beyond that, the system takes care of itself. It even keeps automatically counts the number of posts per label so you can get a sense of just how much stuff you will find when you click.


Right now, that's not such a big deal (there are just 150 fables or so right now)... but by the time we get to the end of the summer, there will be a couple thousand fables at least, and it will be very nice having Blogger do the counting for me.


Happy summer, everybody!!! I'm looking forward to a happy summer of blogging.


Pinging Linda J. Lee for the folklore. :-)


blog screenshot

Laura Gibbs

Par-Tay Game with Pandas

Posted by Laura Gibbs May 25, 2017

We're making ACRONYMS and making MEMES at the Par-Tay today! And yes, there are point-prizes available, thanks to the awesome party organizers! :-)


ACRONYMS: here are some ideas!ACRONYMS / MEMES: some more ideas!

1.Make a P.A.N.D.A. acronym sentence. (This is not as easy as it looks!). Example:

Party All Night; Daytime: Asleep!


2. Make a P.A.N.D.A. acronym list. Instead of a sentence, find words that start with the letters of panda:

P is for Playful

A is for Abilities Unlimited

N is for Napping Hard

D is for Determination

A is for Awesomeness


3. Or... make an acronym of your name. Example:
LAURALoving All U Rockin' Admins!


Share your acronyms in the PARTY CHAT area.

1. Make a meme of your panda acronym (see left).


2. Make a Party Panda meme. Start it off with:
Party Panda says: ____


3. Make a Canvas Panda meme:. Start it off with:

Canvas Panda says: ___


I've got some pandas ready to go at Cheezburger: use this Flickr Album to find a Cheezburger link OR use the images below to find a panda you like. Click the number and make your meme!


Of course, you can use any meme generator and/or any panda images that you want. The Cheezburger gallery is set up just so that you don't have to be herding pandas. They are all ready and waiting to be memed. :-)


Share your panda memes HERE IN THE COMMENTS section.


This animated gif shows all the pandas, and here are the numbered links to the Cheezburger pages (see Google Doc for image sources). Remember to use the option for bigger font size in Cheezburger when it's a larger original image.


Panda 1 - Panda 2 - Panda 3 - Panda 4 - Panda 5 - Panda 6 - Panda 7 - Panda 8 - Panda 9 - Panda 10 - Panda 11 - Panda 12 - Panda 13 - Panda 14 - Panda 15 - Panda 16 - Panda 17 - Panda 18


animated pands

Flickr Album: This screenshot of the Flickr Album shows all the pandas; you can also visit the Album and find the Cheezburger links there in the description for each image.


Flickr album screenshot


Sample acronym/meme panda. This one is for a single letter:


D is for Determination


Sample Party Panda:


Thank Panda It's Friday


Sample Canvas Panda:


Keep on Learning

I made an exciting Canvas connection yesterday: this Fall, I'm going to be making a trip to Creighton University in Omaha to help Father Greg Carlson teach a class on Aesop's Fables where the students will be working with his AMAZING Aesop Fable Collection (over 8200 books!), and it will culminate in the students curating an exhibit for the Lied Gallery there on campus (how cool is that???). Plus, there will also be an Aesop exhibit at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha. I feel so honored to get to participate in all of this, and it is going to be such a thrill to finally meet Greg Carlson in person, and also to meet his students as they begin their explorations of Aesop.


And here's the Canvas connection: from the class syllabus, I found out that Creighton uses Canvas, which gives me an incentive to develop some Aesop widgets for Canvas, and it also makes me confident that I'll be able to interact with the students during the whole semester, not just for my visit to Omaha. They are using my book of Aesop's fables English translation as a textbook for the class, and I will be able to make myself available via Canvas to answer any questions they have at any time during the semester! As for the widgets: my Canvas Widget Warehouse does not have any Aesop widgets yet... but I can promise that by the end of the summer it will! And, given the timeless popularity of Aesop's fables, I am optimistic that the widgets can be useful to lots of teachers, in addition to being a good resource for the Creighton class.


world's classics book cover


I've been working on Aesop's fables ever since I was in grad school back in the 1990s, and I'm just as thrilled and fascinated by the fables now as I was all those years ago. Previously, my focus was on Aesop's fables in Latin (I even wrote a book: Mille Fabulae et Una, 1001 Aesop's fables in Latin), but for this project I will be focusing on English-language materials.


So, as with all new projects... I set up a blog: Aesop's Books. This will be a great way to collect and share the literally hundreds of full-text Aesop books that are freely available online, along with the illustrated fables that I will be publishing as blog posts. A perfect opportunity to harness the power of public domain and OER!


I also set up a Google Sheet that will help me simultaneously generate blogs posts along with javascript widgets. I've already got two widgets up and running in the sidebar of the blog! Here's what the sidebar widgets look like — I loaded up the illustrations from two Aesop books, and they appear at random each time the page reloads:


sidebar screenshot

And here's a blog post: The Obstinate Goats. This is what the content looks like (the HTML comes from the spreadsheet; I just copy-and-paste). By keeping all the content (text, links, image URLs) in a Google Sheet, I hope to create a system which will allow for lots and lots of reuse, such as widgets with text, widgets without the text, fat widgets, skinny widgets, etc. etc.


The Obstinate Goats

Yeah, that fable is pretty harsh. A lot of the fables are harsh. Life is harsh! But the moral is a good one: be kind and courteous. Especially if you're trying to cross a dangerous torrent!


Anyway, I started working on this yesterday just as soon as I found out Creighton was using Canvas... and I am so glad to have this excuse to reacquaint myself with the joy of Aesop all summer long. I'll write up another blog post about this project when I have the first Canvas Aesop widgets ready to go! :-)

I don't have a lot of time for just exploring and having fun at Twitter, but during the summer, I can definitely spend some time playing at Twitter while listening to music and just relaxing. The main way I use Twitter is by TWITTER LISTS (it helps me to focus and also it eliminates ads!), and I made some new lists to enjoy this summer. Twitter lists can be public or private, and the lists below are all public. You do have to have a Twitter account to access a public list, but that's all you need: you can click on the list links to see the latest activity at the list (or to see the members), and you can also subscribe to a list. If you do that, new tweets from the list will show up in your Twitter stream automatically.


CARTOONISTS. I love cartoons! I was following some of my favorite cartoonists already, and what I did yesterday was to go through the cartoons I've saved to share with my classes: for each cartoonist, I looked to see if they were at Twitter... and most of them were. This is going to be a really fun list, and now I won't miss new items from my favorites.


WRITERS. This was also a fun list to make: I went through my Kindle and my account, and I then checked to see which writers were at Twitter. The result is a long and eclectic list since these writers are each using Twitter in their own way. I will probably tinker with this list as I get a sense of how each writer is using Twitter (and whether that does or does not work for me)... it's going to be a fun process encountering book authors in this new online space!


CANVAS. I've got a Twitter list of Canvas and Canvas Community people, but it is very hodge-podge. If you are using Twitter, leave a comment on this post with your Twitter handle so that I can add you to the list!


DOMAINS17. Because I'm an adjunct without travel support from my school, I don't go to a lot of conferences... but I decided to spend my own $$$ to go to the Domains17 conference in June, and this Twitter list has the conference organizers and speakers. This conference lines up with my interests so perfectly that I know I will have lots to learn from everyone who is attending, and I hope there will be an attendee list too so that I can add them to the Twitter list.



And if you're interested in integrating Twitter and Canvas, I've got lots of tips about that here:
Twitter4Canvas CanvasLIVE


... and here's a cartoon from one of my all-time-favorites, the great Grant Snider — create your own hoops!


Message to a Graduate by Grant Snider

My school has online end-of-semester evaluations from the students, which means we have access to their responses as soon as the final grades go in. I really value student feedback in my courses, but these end-of-semester one-size-fits-all evaluations are just not very useful, which is why I build in other ways to get feedback from my students throughout the semester. I'm sure other instructors make those kinds of efforts as well, but what I want to focus on here is the abject failure to collect more/better learning data on an institutional level. My guess is that my school is typical of higher education: students complete optional end-of-semester course evaluations with a few rating questions and a few open-ended questions (my school has a drawing for iPads as prizes in an attempt to raise the low response rates), and instructors are required to submit a final grade for each student. As for self-assessment, which I personally think is the most important: there is no self-assessment. No student self-assessment, and no teacher self-assessment either.


I've summarized the situation as I see it in this chart:


chart showing lack of student/teacher self-assesments


Especially in a digital world, it would not be hard to expand our current assessment efforts in order to do more. Self-assessments would help acknowledge that the most important element in any learning situation is the learner herself: if we want to create lifelong learners (and surely we do, right?), then we need to help learners — all learners — to set their own goals and assess their own progress is the most important thing we can do in my opinion. Self-directed, self-motivated, autonomous learners. That applies not just to students but also to faculty; for faculty to continuously improve their teaching, they need to reflect on their teaching and constantly set new goals for themselves.


Nothing in the current system is proactive in that sense; it is all reactive and backward-looking. The result is a kind of terrible "blame game" i.e., teacher gives student a bad grade: "you didn't learn!" and students give teachers bad evaluations: "you didn't teach!" That is really not the best way for everybody to improve, which is what we want and need, right? Students need to improve their learning and teachers need to improve their teaching. In both cases, we are the ones most essential in making that habit: students need to take responsibility for improving their learning, and teachers need to take responsibility for improving their teaching. I believe that self-assessment is the key ingredient in that type of ongoing transformation and improvement.


Things are even worse when we look at "big data" and the analytics movement. There, instead of 3 out of 8 possibilities (see chart above), we are relying on only one data point: grades, and only grades. As far as I know, end-of-semester evaluations are not used for any big-data initiatives at my school (or anywhere?). Indeed, because we make promises of total anonymity to the students, we cannot even put the data to use for their benefit. For example: a student who rates many of their classes as being poor in quality might be a student who could benefit from an advising intervention even if — especially if — their grades are good.


So, anyway, that is how things look from my vantage point as an instructor at a big public university. I try to promote lots of opportunities for self-assessment in my classes, and I practice self-assessment as part of my own professional development... but none of that feeds into the institutional data-gathering efforts at my school. Are people doing some good self-assessment initiatives at other schools? If so, please share here! That would be great to hear about!


For resources (LOTS of resources) on feedback and its importance in learning, here is my Diigo library: Feedback Articles and Infographics.


And of course I have a cat for that. :-)


To grow yourself, you must know yourself.


To grow yourself, you must know yourself.


And that cat was in turned inspired by this reflection infographic from the ever-awesome Jackie Gerstein:


Growth Mindset: Personal Accountability and Reflection

So, I gave myself a very relaxing week off last week... and now I am ready to get back into my routine again, which of course includes growth mindset cats! I already had a good routine going for new cats and new infographic transcripts (see my last Growth Mindset Update here), so I carried on with those today (see new cat and new infographic below)... and I also decided on a strategy for developing and sharing the growth mindset challenges that I have as summer project goal.


For the past two years, students have been choosing from a very informal list of growth mindset challenges. Based on what I learned from watching their choices and reading their posts over the past two years, I've decided both to expand on those options and also to add some prompts to really get them to engage more deeply so that they are not just looking for confirmation of what they already belief (although that is important too!), but also expanding their ideas in new directions.


After playing with Google Docs last week (specifically, using Google Docs inside Google Sites), I decided it would be a good option for this content development project too! I'm not sure just what format the final set of challenges will take, but Google Docs is definitely a good way to develop the content and also to share as I keep on developing it! So here is the routine I have started:


GoogleDocs Folder. I created a Growth Mindset Challenges folder and made it public.


GoogleDocs Challenge pages. I then wrote up a new Challenge page using the Padlet I created near the end of last semester (that is going to be such a great resource to have in play from the start of the year this time!). You can see that document here: Learn from Other Students.

My goal: I want to create a couple of these Challenge pages each week in order to have a good set of around 20 or so challenges by the end of the summer. Then, when I have the challenges ready, I'll figure what the best way to share them with the students will be; I might continue to present them as GoogleDocs, or I might switch to something else. I'm not sure about that yet!


GoogleDocs NEW Challenge. I then created a document that is for the newest Challenge. So, whenever I add a Challenge page to the folder, I will quickly copy-and-paste the contents of that new page into this page: See the NEWEST Challenge here.


And... that allows me to display the newest challenge at my Canvas Growth Mindset course space! I just embedded that New Challenge page into a Canvas Page, and every time I add a new challenge and update the page, the content will appear in Canvas. I also included a link to the folder so people can access the other Challenge pages too.


You can see the page in action here: Canvas: Growth Mindset Challenges.


canvas challenges screenshot



This allows me to stick to my goal of having fresh, new content at this Canvas site... while not actually doing any content editing in Canvas at all (because, really, it's a pretty terrible space for serious content development).


So, I am using real content tools outside Canvas (Blogger, Diigo, Padlet, Pinterest, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and now GoogleDocs) to create and share my content on the open Internet, which also means new content showing up in the Canvas space too thanks to the power of embedding and RSS.


And finally, as I mentioned above, here is today's new infographic with a new cat too... see it in Canvas or at the blog


With effort, I can develop new skills.


canvas space screenshot


Update. I wanted to make sure I created one more Growth Mindset Challenge to make sure my system for feeding the new challenges into a Canvas space was going to work... and it does!


I added a new Challenge in the Google Docs folder: Challenge: Make an Acronym


Then I copied-and-pasted it (that literally takes a couple of seconds), into the New Challenge document... and — presto, it's magic! — the new Challenge is there in Canvas, along with a link to the folder so people can browse.

So far, so good! :-)


acronyms screenshot

A friend of mine at Google+ just shared this article, and I think he may also be here at Canvas Community ... Doug Holton ... yes, there he is! Anyway, I thought this was a really interesting research project, asking students themselves to rate the Quality Matters Rubric components based on what they value most highly. Specifically, the study was looking for differences among students new to online courses and those who had more online course experience, but of course that "number of courses" is just one way to differentiate among students, and a main theme of the study is: 


Students in the same course are not homogeneous as some faculty believe.


The more I learn about my students and have opportunities to interact with them, the more aware I am of their individual perspectives, goals, needs, anxieties, etc. etc. etc. That's one of the things I like best about teaching online: I really do get to interact with the students one-on-one more than in a classroom setting, and I can also design my classes to flexibly respond to that wide range of individuality, more than I ever could in the classroom.


Anyway, here it the paper online: 


The Impact of Previous Online Course Experience on Students’ Perceptions of Quality
Emily Hixon and Casimir Barczyk
Purdue University Calumet
Penny Ralston-Berg
Penn State World Campus
Janet Buckenmeyer
Armstrong State University
The purpose of this paper is to explore whether experienced online students (who have completed seven
or more online courses) perceive the quality of their courses differently than novice online students (who
have completed three or fewer online courses) or students with an intermediate level of online course
experience (those who have completed four to six online courses). Overall, 3,160 online students
completed a survey which asked them to indicate the extent to which statements derived from the Quality
Matters rubric contributed to student success. The results indicate that students rated some items
differently based on their previous online course experience. Novice online learners felt that having
netiquette guidelines clearly stated was more important than experienced online learners. Experienced
learners rated several items as being more important than novice and/or intermediate online learners,
including items related to self-introductions, appropriateness of assessments, relevance and quality of
instructional materials, clarity of requirements for interaction, ease of navigation, and availability of
required technologies. The implications of these findings for course designers and instructors are


EXCITING NEWS... just in time for summer! The second edition of Michelle Pacansky-Brock's book is now available:




Michelle has a website with additional materials here:

Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies – by Michelle Pacansky-Brock 


And this page has an order link to buy directly from Routledge with a 20% discount coupon code plus a very cute little intro video about creating the second edition:

Get the 2nd Edition! – Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies 


Michelle has been such a great spokesperson for the human dimensions of online learning and the ways in which we can connect and learn together online; I am really excited that Routledge wanted to do a new edition of the book, updating it with new materials and building on Michelle's ongoing experiences as an online educator and instructional designer. So, check it out, and you can also follow Michelle on Twitter here: @brocansky.


MPB book cover

So, now that I'm on a roll for this summer with my network of Google Sites (see previous posts: 

A Summer of Google Sites Begins and  Sites and Subsites with Google Sites )

I went ahead and set up a course space in Canvas that I am calling "Story Lab" ... I don't exactly what I will use it for, but I will certainly use it for something, creating a resource center for my students to encourage their own storytelling experiments; here's a short URL to use:


Right now, the homepage contains a dynamic Diigo feed that automatically shows the latest stories that I am adding to the websites. I bookmark a new story; it shows up on the page:


Story Lab Screenshot


A goal that is taking shape in my mind right now is to teach my students about folkloric storytelling styles. Right now, my students are very good at storytelling that is inspired by modern styles (television, movies, novels, etc.), but they are not very aware of traditional storytelling styles found in folktales, fairy tales, and mythology. So, my guess is that I will be adding on pages to this site to give them information about those styles and to provide examples they can use as models.


For a sense of the workflow that leads to the Diigo items displayed on this page, here is what I do:


1. Books. I collect public domain books with stories I can freely reuse. I have a mountain of said books in my Freebookapalooza, which I'm presenting on for CanvasLive later in June:

Building a Library of Free Online Books 


2. Stories. I then get stories from those books, and I publish the individual stories as Google Docs.


3. Web Pages. When I have enough stories to make a new Google Site, I create a new site, and then add a page for each story, embedding the Google Doc in that page.


4. Images. For each website page, I use Google to search for an image, and then I create the page banner while also including the image at the bottom of the page, next to the image citation.


5. Bookmark. Then I bookmark each page with Diigo, adding a brief notation. I also Diigo the image, using the image at the bottom of the page (Diigo doesn't recognize the banner image).


6. PRESTO: the Diigo feed automatically appears in the Canvas page, thanks to the Diigo RSS which I subscribe to in Inoreader. Details on using Inoreader for a live RSS feed in Canvas here:
Using Inoreader to Bring Blog Posts inside Canvas 
(that's about blog posts but it works for any RSS feed, and Diigo has RSS!)

Just a quick update on my Google Sites post from yesterday (A Summer of Google Sites Begins): I am more and more impressed with Google Sites as a webspace! I wouldn't want to do actual writing of content here (I'm keeping all the substantial content inside GoogleDrive)... but I've created a kind of "super site" with "subsites" for my tiger stories, and it looks like it is going to work great! I have one set of tiger stories from India (on a page with subpages), and then I will add the other sets over the coming week. You can see the first set here:

Tiger Stories - India 


india tiger stories screenshot


In other discussions, I've mentioned how impossible it seems to me to do serious content development inside Canvas, and this fun adventure with Google Sites convinces me of that even more so. Working with Google Sites is fun, really easy, and the limitations (which are considerable) pretty much force you to stay organized, while also making sure that your content is going to be mobile-friendly. By combining Google Sites with Google Drive, I think I am going to have a really fun summer of content development, and I am excited about the possibility of using Google Sites side by side with my students now, just as we are co-bloggers using Blogger.


Is there anybody else having fun with the new Google SItes? Now that I have found my combination strategy using embedded GoogleDocts, I am really happy about this! :-)

This is the sure sign that I am a total nerd: today is my first day of summer and I could not wait to build a site using the new Google Sites! My students have been using that in the Spring semester for their sites, but I have not really even had a chance to play with it myself. This morning, though, I built my first real Google Site, and I am really happy with the results. You can see the site here:
Days of the Week: India 


Days of the Week India screenshot


My school is not using Google Apps, unfortunately, but I know that a lot of people here are at Google schools and are using the Google Apps integration with Canvas, so I though these notes might be of use even though I am not actually publishing content in Canvas. If you want your students to be designing sites, the new Google Sites is really fun, and I believe it is one of the tools that can be turned on as part of Google Apps. I'm also using GoogleDrive here for the content management. Anyway, here are some notes about this project and why I am really excited about using Google Sites and Google Drive:


1. Google Drive for content re-use. I built 100 "reading units" for my class UnTextbook that are based on specific books from specific regions (you can see the UnTextbook here).
Mythology and Folklore UN-Textbook 

That's been great, but now I want to build some THEMATIC units: stories about tigers, about the devil, love stories, riddles, etc. etc. So, that will involve re-using the same stories for multiple units: a story like "The Leopard And The Crocodile" might show up in the "Congo Stories" unit but also show up in the "Stories about Crocodiles" unit and also "Stories about Leopards." Obviously I don't want to be copying-and-pasting the content because that leads to an editing nightmare; the goal should be to take literally the same content (same file) and display it in multiple locations. Well, Google Drive is my solution for that. Google Sites really makes it easy to embed Google Drive files, and I can also go back to my old UnTextbook and iframe the Google Docs in there as needed. Plus, it gives me the content at Google Drive for any kind of long-term future re-use, and Google Drive is also easy to back up locally etc. etc.


2. Google Sites, side by side with my students. My goal is always to use free tools that my students can use too, and even though we are not a Google Apps school, we can still use Google Sites as part of our individual Google accounts. My students used the old Google Sites which was okay but very clunky, and now with the brand-new Google Sites they can build sites that look the way they think websites should look, and which are also very mobile friendly. You can see this semester's Storybooks here (the Storybooks are websites that they build, and most of them used Google Sites; their Portfolios are in Blogger or WordPress):

Online Course Wiki / Myth-Folklore Storybooks 

The biggest challenge I face in teaching students how to use Sites is getting them to credit their images. Google Sites makes it scarily easy to add images to your site without crediting the source, so by building my own sites with image credits at the bottom of every page, I can hopefully model that behavior for my students (plus it is so much fun finding images to use with this "banner image" style). I'll also gain familiarity with Google Sites and its features that will allow me to do a better job of helping the students with their sites.


3. Modular resources. I am really excited about how each of my units will now be a freestanding website; that will make it easier for other people to reuse the materials if they want. Right now, the UnTextbook is modular, but all the units are part of the same blog. Now the units will be more freestanding, and I think that will increase their usefulness to others. This unit on the days of the week is a good example: I intended for my students to read all of it in order to learn about the storytelling traditions of India (one of the classes I teach is about India)... but I could see someone linking to this site as a resource just for learning about days of the week in other countries, where the students might or might not read the actual stories. I am pleased that the shortest story of the group is a really nice one about the god Shiva if someone opts to just read the shortest of the stories.


Anyway, this is just the first of many to come. When I asked my students which possible improvements to the class they were most interested in, these thematic reading units were their topic choice, and I am going to have so much fun creating them this summer. I've got basically an infinite amount of content I can use, and it will be fun wrapping up that content into these elegant little Google Sites wrappers. 


HAPPY SUMMER, everybody!!!

The semester is finishing up here, and students are commenting in their blogs about what they liked / didn't like about the class, what went well / not well, etc. (I get all my best ideas for how to improve the class next time from the students.) So, one student who is a professional music major shared this remark in his blog, which made me really happy (you can see his whole post below; he also remarks how social online classes are... I sure wish that were universally true!):

This class has IMMENSELY helped with how much I write and how creative I am in my writing. I used to have a lot of trouble splurging out words onto a piece of paper. Now, it comes so easy to me that sometimes I write far too much! I have another online class that I am enrolled in that also requires a lot of writing. I have found that because of this class, the writing assignments for my other class are a piece of cake. I cannot be as creative in that class, but the effects of writing quantity are still in effect.


As I mentioned in another post, I use creative writing projects in my class instead of analytical or expository writing. Some of my students are professional writing majors (like the student whose project I shared in that post), while other students don't see themselves as writers, at least not to begin with. My goal is for ALL the students in the class to see themselves as writers by the time the semester is over; I don't always succeed, but when I hear from students like the one quoted here, that makes my day!


When I first started teaching, I did use traditional papers, and the students were clearly bored and frustrated, and I was not having any fun either. When I switched to creative writing (and this was back in the year 2000, before I even started teaching online), everything changed: the students were excited about their writing, and I was having fun too. When they started writing stories, the students were eager to share their writing not just with me but with their fellow students. They also wanted to revise to make their writing better, and they wanted to experiment with writing styles they had never tried before, and on and on. (More about my story here.)


That alone would have been reason enough for me to switch to creative writing... but the learning transfer is what made it even better: students from all kinds of majors (science majors, engineers, music majors like this student, etc. etc.) told me that the creative writing in my class had improved their writing in their other classes. The creative writing increased their confidence, helped them find their voice, gave them a sense of writing-as-process, and connected them to real audiences. It made them feel like... writers.


So, for me, creative writing was how I made that shift from "assigning writing" to "teaching writers." Here is a great chart from Allison Marchett at that summarizes the shift:


teaching writers

Of course, you can move from "assigning writing" to "teaching writers" without changing to a creative writing approach. But with creative writing, not only do I get to "teach writers" ... I also get to have fun!


Here is the rest of the student's blog post. :-)


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