Laura Gibbs

Fall countdown begins... today!

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Jul 17, 2017

I know a lot of people are doing their InstructureCon countdown now... as for me, I realized that this morning, Monday, July 17, is when I need to start my semester countdown because CLASSES START on Monday, August 14.


One month from now.


How did that happen???


I basically had way too much fun this summer with projects that I would gladly work on for many more months, especially my Aesop's Books project, where I've ended up with over 1700 illustrated English fables published as of today. I'll be using this for my classes too, and I've got way more than enough to work with also... so I have to force myself to stop spending several hours each day having fun with Aesop. But it was VERY fun for the past six weeks! I'll still try to post a few new fables every day... but now I need to focus on things to do for my classes.


And I have a lot to do! 


More students, new project workflow. Because of budget cuts at my school, I have a 20% increase in the number of students. For a writing-intensive class, that means I need to rethink the overall project workflow so that I can provide good feedback to the students about their projects in the time available. More students/projects, same amount of time = I need a different project workflow. I'll have more to say about that in future posts; I've been pondering some solutions. This is pretty huge, and I need to start working on it now; I want to have this in place by the end of the day on Monday, August 7. I need to spend some time every day working on this big project since I'm still not really sure how it is going to work. I've got THREE WEEKS here, which is a lot of time, and I just need to make sure I work on this every day. 


Two-Week Orientation. Another big change is that I no longer have control over my waiting lists (that's a change related to the new class sizes), and that means I could potentially get new students enrolling on Friday of Week 1. The only way I can see to cope with that is to have a two-week Orientation (which means during second week of Orientation, late arrivals can catch up). The more I think about this, the better it seems; I probably should have made this decision on my own long ago instead of being prodded by the waiting list problem. So I am going to give up my Week 15 Review Week (which was not very useful), and redo that as a second week of Orientation, so the first week of Orientation will be about class procedures and tools, and then the second week of Orientation will be about the reading and writing activities. I'm really happy about that, but it's a huge change, so that is also something I need to work on every day so that I will have the Orientation Weeks (plural!) ready to go by the end of the day on Monday, August 7. Like the new project workflow, this is a big change, and it is also a great opportunity. I know I can get it done if I spend an hour or so on this every day for the next three weeks.


Re-organize H.E.A.R.T. materials. I've done a good job of reorganizing my Growth Mindset materials because of the CanvasLIVE presentations, so I've got a good Growth Mindset Canvas space, and I've really cleaned up my Diigo resources and also my Growth Mindset blog. Now I need to do the same for my Learning by H.E.A.R.T. materials (especially the Challenges) which are very similar to the growth mindset stuff (H.E.A.R.T. stands for Health/Happiness, Empathy, Attention, Reading, and Time... all areas of focus for my classes). The Diigo resources are a total mess right now, for example. Much clean-up required. This will probably take a solid week, so I will start today and try to finish it up by Monday, July 24. I will start today!


Re-organize Writing Support materials. I need some re-organizing here, but it's not as big of a mess as the H.E.A.R.T. stuff, especially since it is not really about Diigo, just about the Writing Lab blog. I've got some fun stuff to add! This is not going to be difficult, so I think I can work on this the week before I leave to go see my dad for a few days, using July 25-29 for this project. As I work on this, it will also be a big help in redesigning the writing project workflow, and also thinking about what I want to do with the writing part of the Orientation.


Re-focus Daily Announcements on extra credit. Extra credit serves a lot of purposes in my classes (making up missed work, exploring new kinds of learning, finishing the class early), and one of the biggest regrets students express at the end of the semester is that they did not take advantage of extra credit earlier on. I think that is because students are used to extra credit being a desperation thing at the end of the semester (and it can work like that), and not used to the idea of "banking for the future" and also just exploring and going beyond the minimum. So, I want to re-do my Daily Announcements so that, ideally, most of the material in the "extra" part of the Announcements will point students to extra credit assignments they can do right at that moment if they are intrigued by the item in the Announcements. I'll say more about how I want that to work in a future post; I've never written a post here at my Canvas blog about the way I see extra credit work, so that will be a good post to write. This is not actually work I have to do now (I write the announcements day by day), just planning; after I get back from seeing my Dad, I will work on this on Friday, August 4 to make sure it is in place before the big get-ready week of August 7-11.




Better structure for the reading and extra reading assignments. Some students are doing just great with taking notes on their reading; other students really struggle with that. So, I want to revise the reading notes instructions in terms of specific strategies students can choose and use. I had left that very free-form to see what would happen, and it's clear that because students are really accustomed to reading-for-a-quiz, they have a hard time with reading-as-a-writer, which is what they need to do in my classes. Same also with the extra reading: I left that very free-form, but again, that doesn't work for a lot of students who expect more direction. So, I'm going to do separate pages with more specific suggestions for extra reading week by week (while also leaving open the free-form option for students who are ready to make their own choices). I will work on this on Monday-Tuesday, August 7-8 (on Monday I will do Myth-Folklore, and on Tuesday I will do Indian Epics). Hopefully, the extra week of Orientation will also help with this!


Google Sites / Other Tech Tips. I experimented earlier in the summer with building some Google Sites of my own using the new design system, and I decided that I really do like it. it's not a tool that really works for my own projects (it's just not very scalable for massive content; I need a blog for that), but for my students, it is a great option because it looks good and does not require any HTML (in fact, it won't let you mess with the HTML, which is another drawback for me). So, I need to write up more Tech Tips so that they can take advantage of all that Google Sites offers. I also need to review the existing Tech Tips and add some new ones; I can do this on Wednesday, August 9. I can also use that day to update my Student Project Archives with last semester's projects; last semester was the first time people were using the new Google Sites. 


Canvas / Assignments. Then, on Thursday, August 10, I will set up the Canvas space (THANK YOU to James Jones and his amazing date-changer; otherwise, that would take me not one day but two), and then rework the weekly assignment pages plus the assignment instructions. I will use Friday, August 11 to finish creating the new assignment instruction pages that I need (I know I need week by week extra credit reading instructions, and the new project workflow will require new pages also).


Okay... I feel better now! The thing about working on my classes is that there is always an infinite amount of stuff I would LIKE to do... but a limited amount of time. I think these are good priorities, and it is not too much to try to get done in a month (although it's really more like three weeks than four since I am going to see my dad). When I was pondering the need to really get back to work this morning, I saw this lovely graphic by Debbie Ohi at Twitter, so I am going to use that to inspire me, blasting off into the wild blue yonder of a new semester, riding a blast of creativity. :-)


girl riding a pencil into the sky