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Laura Gibbs

#TotalCoLearner: Week 2

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 30, 2018

So here we are already in Week 2, and I don't want the week to get away from me without writing a new post about my #TotalCoLearner experiment this semester. I completed my first week's posts early (Myth-Folklore Course Diary: Week 1 ) for much the same reason as my early-bird students: I knew that the first week of school was going to be bonkers, especially since I was traveling that weekend. So, I was glad not to have to think about doing any schoolwork last week... and then when Week 2 arrived, I was ready to get into the reading-and-storytelling routine for the class.


And it was so much fun! I did the reading (plus the extra credit reading because, yes, I am a reading nerd)... and then this morning I wrote my first story of the semester, just as the students were also writing their first stories. You can see their (our!!!) stories in the class blog streams: 

Course Wiki / Myth Stories 

Course Wiki / India Stories


You have to scroll on down there in Myth-Folklore to find my story; it's this one:

Week 2 Story: Metamorphoses of a Flower


screenshot of flower story post


I was really happy with how it turned out... just having written this story makes the whole experiment worthwhile: I will be including this story in my Chain Tale project (that was my big summer project), and now I am confident that even though I am super-busy during the school year, the Chain Tale project will not go dormant. I will have new stories to add to it all semester long!


Even better: if my students are writing chain-tale stories, I can invite them to contribute to the project also! Admittedly, the students are not obsessed with chain tales as I am, but as it happens, there is a chain tale in the Anthology of Myth-Folklore stories this week, and quite a few students will probably choose it for their story retelling because, honestly, it is an awesome story. In fact, here are the student stories so far that are inspired by the same story that I started from:

Week 2 Story: The Student and the Advisor 

Week 2 Story: Moon Man, Shine Bright 

Week 2 Story: The Wise Salesman 

Week 2 Story: The Man with Three Wishes


And that's just as of Thursday afternoon. Most of the story-writing will happen tonight, so I am sure there will be more stories to add to that list. My story is just one among the other variants, no different from the stories the other students are writing as they reshape the traditional story into something new.


So I could go on and on and on about how much I love watching the first stories take shape each semester (including my own, ha ha)... but I have other work to do, so I will just quickly list my three main takeaways from this week, just like I did for my Week 1 takeaways post here at the Community:


1. Joy of creativity. I don't know if all my students will experience the joy of creativity that I do, but I have been feeling happy all day because I wrote a good story. And I am looking forward to more days of joy throughout the semester!


2. A writing model. I hope that my story can be a good way of modeling for the students without being intimidating. Yes, I am a fairly skilled writer, but there are going to be students in the class who are even better writers than I am (THANK YOU, Professional Writing majors: I learn new writing strategies from my PW majors every semester!). Plus, all writers, more skilled or less skilled, all struggle, and I am glad I have a way to share that with the students too. The author's notes to the stories are the place where I can share that insight into my writing (and my writing struggle) with the students. At first, many of the students are really not sure how to use the author's note, so that's another good thing I can model for them too as they get used to the idea of reflecting on their writing and sharing those reflections with their readers.


3. Being part of the commenting. I am so excited at being able to participate in the story commenting! Usually all my efforts are focused on the students' projects, and that means for the students doing Storybooks, I don't get a chance to read and enjoy the stories in their blogs. But now I will be getting a chance to read those stories, in addition to reading the stories in their Storybook projects. That commenting will start next week, and I am really looking forward to it. And I will be receiving comments too, which is cool. I've done class assignments in the past before just for fun, but I've never had a class blog that I put into the blog randomizer with everybody else like this. I think that is going to be so cool! :-)

This is a test of the weird problem I am having with the word  being stripped from posts.


is stripped

on-line is not


URLs with  are also a problem: 


Course Lady homepage


Screenshot of what I see in the editor:

screenshot of editor view


Screenshot of HTML:


screenshot of HTML


Let's see what happens when I publish!
I hope it won't happen it again (because really, it is so weird and frustrating)...

but at least if it happens again I hope I have documented it in a useful way this time. :-)

It's the end of a long but great week, and I wanted to write up a few notes here about the first-week experience before I forget!

What I want to write about is the syllabus in my classes.

Or lack thereof.


cat in tree

Who needs a syllabus? I'm busy EXPLORING.


Yes, I have a syllabus, because occasionally I am asked to submit that for some bureaucratic purpose (like if a student wants to get a course approved for their major, etc.). I put my syllabuses on-line:

Course Syllabuses 

And I keep them super-short (one page), because the audience for these syllabuses is really bureaucrats or maybe prospective students, not students who are actually in the class.


But what the students encounter when they start my classes is not the syllabus, but instead the Orientation Week. Here is a link: Orientation Week.

This IS the syllabus. You can consider the items listed below to be the syllabus, broken up into separate sections covering all the class procedures and guidelines. If you would like to look at a simple one-page overview in a more traditional syllabus format, you can do that here: course syllabus


The idea is that by working their way through these Orientation Week activities, the students are learning about the DIFFERENT ways they can design this course, and they are gaining skills and experience that will help them when the regular class activities begin in Week 2 and they are choosing what to read, what to write, what assignments to complete.


Even better, as the students complete these activities, I am learning more about them at every step, which is really just as important as the students learning about the class. It's a mutual thing: for this class to succeed, the students need to know what possibilities await them, and I need to know how they are reacting to those possibilities -- what are they excited about, anxious about, unclear about, etc. And I also need to know about their larger goals and personal passions so that I can start helping them to find ways to connect that existing motivation to things they could do and learn for the class.


Here's a quick overview of how that works assignment by assignment; where the assignment results in a blog post, as they all do after students create their blogs, you can browse through the blog stream and see for yourself!


~ ~ ~


Design Your Course. There is a Google Form to fill out here, and when students tell me what 6 hours they want to use for the class, I show them how the weekly assignments can be arranged to fit that schedule. Any 6 hours will work! (They then review this schedule at the end of the week to see how it looks after they learn more about what is going on.)


Create Your Blog. When they send me their blog address, they let me know if they have blogged before. Most of them have not blogged before, so they might be a little bit nervous, but most of them are also excited to learn how this works... and pleased to find out that it is not really hard after all.


Picture a Favorite Place. (see their posts) This assignment is such a pleasure. People often go in completely different directions with it (from a full-blown fully illustrated travelogue to just a single picture, and it's all good; anything works), and I make sure to comment on these promptly. It lets me see if there is anything about blog posting that is causing them trouble (rarely happens, but sometimes they might need some tips), and I also start trying to build connections to the class content, especially the India class where the content might be totally unfamiliar. So if they post about loving the snowy mountains of Colorado (as many of them do), I comment back about the sacred places of the Himalayas that are part of the Indian epics, etc. This semester I learned that one student saw a moose in Montana, or maybe it was Colorado (anyway, it was definitely about a moose), and that the moose is his favorite animal, so of course I am already urging him to a do a Moose Storybook (something no one has ever done for my Myth class ever!).


Browse the Storybooks. (see their posts) This is also such a fun one to watch: the students browse past projects looking for inspiration. It's a way to get them ready for the idea of building a website in addition to having a blog, and also to see the range of storytelling that goes on in the class. The most important class content is what the students create, and so I am glad that the first piece of content they meet in the class is content created by former students. I learn a lot from seeing which projects attract the most attention. (The Twine-based Dungeons and Dragons choose-your-own-adventure project from last semester is, not surprisingly, getting a lot of attention, so need to write up some Twine Tech Tips!)


Introduce Yourself. (see their posts) I take a quick look at these as they go by, and I'll start commenting on all of those over the next two weeks. Right now, though, the main goal was to build the comment randomizer so students can start commenting on each other's posts! I got that up and running first thing this morning, and the students have indeed started commenting. That commenting assignment is not due until the end of next week, but some of them are really into the social aspect of the class and ready to start meeting their classmates right away, so I was really glad I got the randomizer up and running (here it is).


Learn about Growth Mindset. (see their posts) I love reading these posts. Some students have heard of Dweck before (especially if they work at a tutoring center on campus or do volunteer work with young people), but most students have not. Some students totally get it; some students are not so into it (like many teachers, they initially think that Dweck's "not yet" is a self-esteem thing, not realizing that it is about process and feedback... but they'll learn more about that next week)... and for some students, this assignment provokes a huge blog post, where they find themselves looking back over their school career in a wholly new way. What I learn from these posts can be a big help to me when I am giving students feedback about their writing and their websites (which is the main way I end up interacting with students in the classes each week).


More about the Class Assignments. (see their posts) This is another really useful assignment for me to learn about the students' interests, while also helping the students focus on how they will strategize from week to week. For some students, it is the extra credit options that will bring real meaning and value to the class, and that is absolutely fine with me. There are lots of different ways to look at the "extra" options in this class (do students need help maintaining a really impossible set of demands on their time? are they eager readers who want to read a LOT for the class? do they want to take this chance to learn more about web-based technology? etc. etc.).


More about the Class Tools. (see their posts) It really helps me to know what kinds of technology students are interested in, and it's also a big help to know if a student is feeling really anxious about the class being fully on-line and using technology tools that might be new to them. How much (or little) feedback I give people about the technical aspects of their blogs and websites often depends on what I learn about in this post (and from other clues they give me too).


Time Management. (see their posts) This is the last assignment of the week and it is designed to help students move smoothly into the regular assignments starting in Week 2. I ask them to look back at the tentative schedule I had suggested for them earlier, and they can decide if that still sounds good to them or not. Time management is often the single biggest challenge that students face in school, and I want to be as proactive and helpful about that as I can. I was delighted when I got this email from a student who wanted to share these same materials with his mentees in the freshman engineering program: yes!!!


screenshot of student email


I am always so happy if students can find those moments of transfer, connecting what we are doing in these classes to other aspects of their lives.


~ ~ ~


And yes, that is a lot of assignments! It's that way every week; I use a "microassignments" approach to make the coursework more manageable, and also to help keep the focus while also building connections from one assignment to the next. In a sense, it becomes a kind of data analytics because the students' work in the class happens in these discrete moments, each time leaving behind a trace in the blog stream or blog comment stream or (later) at their class websites. To me, that is the data I need to do a good job as a teacher; for more about that, see a post I wrote earlier today about UX and observations.

So, I know some people advocate doing a syllabus-quiz or something to get students to engage with the syllabus. For me, though, I've found it best to just ditch the whole idea of a syllabus and turn the week into a series of learning activities. I really enjoy it... and I always hope that it can be enjoyable for the students too, while building lots of good momentum for Week 2. :-)

Laura Gibbs

Tips on Blogger-in-Canvas

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 23, 2018

I'm writing this blog post for Jonathan Yoder in particular, but also for anyone who is interested in using Blogger as a kind of "content gateway" in Canvas so that you can quickly and easily publish content in a Canvas course space, or in multiple course spaces if you want. I use a Blogger page as the homepage for my classes, but of course you could also set it up as a content gateway separate from daily announcements. To get a sense of what that means, you might take a look at this Blogger blog in my Myth course:

Homepage: embedded in a page so that I can use it as the homepage

Daily News: as a redirect tool app in the sidebar menu (it displays more nicely that way without the righthand menu)


Here is the freestanding blog itself, outside of Canvas: 

To simulate the mobile view, just add ?m=1 to any address at the blog: 


I get all the advantages of blogging, with the convenience for the students of seeing the content right there in Canvas. I've written about that in other posts here at the Community, but what I'm going to detail here at Jonathan's request is how I set up the blog in Blogger, using options that give it a clean display in Canvas and a good mobile view too. WordPress has a ton of options, I know, but I like the fact that Blogger actually doesn't have that many options; I don't really tinker with the blog design. I spend all my time on content!


The Blogger theme I am using is called PICTURE WINDOW. It is one of the old-style themes, which I personally prefer. I like to have a blog sidebar (even though I know it is suppressed in the mobile view). The newer themes are mobile-first designs, and while they are very popular with my students (most of whom also use Blogger), I am loyal to the old-school designs. And most of my students do their class work on laptops, so Picture Window is a good choice for me. The Settings: Themes lets you explore all the options, and then you can customize the theme you choose. You can change themes at any time; it does not affect the content of your posts.


screenshot of Blogger themes settings


I have customized my chosen theme in only a few ways. The crimson color scheme works nicely for me (it's close enough to my school colors), and for the background, I use one of the transparent images; transparent is one of the image categories you can choose from):


screenshot of transparent image options


For the width, I made the choices based on content readability, both for the posts and for the widget content I use. (Yes, the width is awkward when Canvas has both left- and right-hand menus, which is why I encourage my students to switch to the "Daily News" view, where there is no right-hand menu as there is on the homepage.)


screenshot of widths


I also added a snippet of code to the HTML file to force links open in a new tab. That's because I might occasionally have a link to an http page, and in Canvas, that link will not work. By default opening all links in a new tab, I don't have to worry about whether a link goes to an http or an https page. The snippet I added is highlighted here:


screenshot of HTML snippet in Blogger theme


I know some people are not believers in opening pages in new tabs, but I don't want my students to go down the rabbit hole of opening pages inside Canvas and hit a dead end with an http link. To be honest, I only have the blog inside Canvas as a convenience; I'm actually happier if they are out on the real Internet where they can bookmark the webpages they might use later! That's why I encourage them on the homepage view to just open the blog in a new tab of its own anyway:


screenshot of blog as homepage


I hope that is a start on answering your questions, Jonathan Yoder, and now we can use this space to discuss further. I really hope your teacher will have a good experience with this. For me, blogging is the fastest way to publish and share content with my students, including in Canvas. :-)

Laura Gibbs

4-Week Feedback Bootcamp

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 15, 2018

So, as I've explained in earlier posts, this is the YEAR OF FEEDBACK in my classes, where I want to try to do a better job with feedback myself, and also help the students to develop and practice feedback skills (something new for many of them). You can see my earlier posts here: 

I'm pinging David Lyons for this, since I know he is a feedback guru for Instructure too.


My Fall semester has started now (it's Week Zero, a chance for students to begin if they want a head start), and some students are already done with Week 1, ready to move on to Week 2... which is when the 4-Week Feedback Bootcamp begins. I am really excited to see what they will think about that!


In this blog post, I'll explain how it works for the four weeks of the "bootcamp" and I've linked to the assignment pages for each week (those are pages at my class wiki, although the Feedback Gallery is something I deployed in Canvas, and my Diigo Library of feedback resources is also in Canvas).



1. Week 2: Feedback for Learning (click for details)
This assignment builds on the growth mindset materials from Week 1, emphasizing the idea of using feedback to learn from mistakes. Neil Gaiman is my spokesman:


Neil Gaiman quote


This is great in theory, of course, but nobody likes finding out they have made a mistake (especially after the way mistakes are usually punished in school with bad grades).


So, the idea with this assignment is for students to realize that feedback is really important, while it is also natural to feel uncomfortable with feedback, especially feedback that points out mistakes or problems to work on. The students write blog posts with their thoughts, and these posts are a really useful way for me to get to know the students, while also preparing them for the important role that feedback will play in the class overall. It's also useful for me to see which articles they choose to read, and what they say about those articles. I'll try to make some good "feedback cats" based on the articles that the students really connect with and find valuable.


mother cat and kitten: I need feedback to help me grow



2. Week 3: How to Give Feedback (click for details)
For this assignment, students continue to explore feedback resources and articles, sharing their thoughts about those articles in a blog post. This time, the focus is on giving feedback, and different strategies for giving feedback (often the only strategy that students know is the "sandwich" approach, which is actually a not-great strategy to use compared to others). I also introduce the students here to the Feedback Gallery that the students from last semester created; you can see that here in my Canvas Feedback course:
Canvas Growth Mindset: Feedback Gallery

I am really hoping that this Feedback gallery (by students for students!) will help students this semester who learn best from seeing concrete examples. I really like the fact that I can keep adding more/better examples to this Gallery every semester, since I'll ask the students to help me with that later this semester, just as I asked them to help me with that in the Spring.


screenshot of feedback gallery


3. Week 4: The WWW Feedback Strategy (click for details)

I've been recommending this WWW strategy to students for a few years now (it's just something I made up on my own), and it seems to work pretty well. The "wow" factor seems especially useful in getting them to zoom in on something specific as opposed to generic praise. Unlike the previous two weeks, this week is a split between learning about feedback and actually practicing. So, for this week, the students read about WWW, and then they leave feedback comments on stories in other students' blogs. This is a way for them to get to see the difference between these feedback comments (longer, more detailed) as opposed to the more social comments they leave on the blogs as part of the blog commenting assignment each week.


graphic of the word WOW


4. Week 5: TAG Feedback... and Let's Pretend! (click for details)


TAG graphic by (Mari Venturino)


This is the week I am most excited about. I present the TAG feedback style (which is very similar to the WWW style; they're both good!), and then I present this amazing new idea for feedback that one of the students suggested last semester: LET'S PRETEND. The idea is that instead of writing the feedback as the reader, you write the feedback in the voice of one of the characters in the story. Doesn't that sound cool? I am really excited to try that style of feedback myself. My hope is that, just as students feel more free to write in the voice of a fictional character when they compose their stories, they will also feel more free to write detailed feedback in the voice of a character in the story.


Yes, it's weird, but if it works, I am going to be really happy to have this new strategy to recommend to students, especially students who struggle with writing feedback. And hey, if it doesn't work, then that will be my failed feedback experiment for the semester. I tell the students that I want them to take risks in order to try new things and learn new things, and the same goes for me too: I will be asking them to let me know if this new way of doing feedback is fun/useful or not. I am soooooo curious how "let's pretend" will turn out! Hopefully in Week 5 I will have my first indications of that, assuming at least some of the students will want to practice the "let's pretend" feedback style. And since I enrolled myself in one of my classes as a student, I'll be trying it out in Week 5 for sure.


Then, after these four weeks of learning about feedback and practicing in Weeks 2-3-4-5, the students are ready to start giving each other feedback on their projects in Week 6, when the Storybook and Portfolio website are ready to go; most students put their sites up in Week 4, but some might not do that until Week 5, but by Week 6, almost everybody has their project site in place, ready for visitors.


So, that's what I have in place for the first semester of the YEAR OF FEEDBACK. I have some other ideas for after the "Bootcamp" is over in Week 5, but I'll save those for a separate post. :-)

I just got a very eye-catching and useful email today from the College of Arts & Sciences Canvas team at my school: isn't this cool??? The graphic links to this helpful webpage with all the content plus additional links:

Profile Pic and Alias Email 


Canvas Tuesday Teaching Tip graphic


I shared it at Twitter, and a professor in the College of International Studies chimed in to say that he thought it should go to all faculty at my school, and I agree. Maybe this initiative from my College will go campus-wide. 


tweet from faculty member


And I wanted to share it here because the graphic design is so cute!


I hope we will be getting more of these, and I'll add them here if we do. :-)

Laura Gibbs

Fall 2018 has begun!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 13, 2018

I know everybody has their own back-to-school schedule... and for me, the Fall semester starts today, August 13. That's because I add a "Week Zero" to my classes, giving students a chance to start early if they want to do that. Often students are taking an  class because they are super-busy, perhaps even adding this class on top of an already full course load (my school instituted flat-rate tuition a while ago, which means you see students taking 18 and 21 and even 24 units in order to "get their money's worth," for better or worse). So, if someone knows they are going to be really busy and I can grab them now, before the rest of their classes start, that's a good thing! Here's the email I just sent out:


semester has begun email


Week Zero is also a huge advantage for me: if students go through the materials now, they can help me find and fix broken links, instructions that are not clear, anything that's missing, etc. etc. Because... feedback. One sure way to improve your work is to get feedback on what is not working, or what is not working well, and you need feedback to do that. Feedback is actually the theme for all my course design improvements this year in fact.


So, if I can get feedback from the early birds this week, that will lead to a better first week when school officially starts. It's not a good feeling when someone writes to tell me I messed something up (ugh, I feel terrible; that's natural)... but better to find out now rather than later. Just like software, courses can have bugs too. The sooner I can find and fix them, the better.


I also have a LOT of students, so if I can spread out some of the start-up activity (getting their blogs up and running, plus getting to know each student individually), that makes my life easier too. The next two weeks will be really hectic, but better to spread it out over two weeks rather than squeezed all into one week!


And here's something really cool: I opened up the Canvas courses and assignments this weekend, and several students noticed that (they were probably logging on to Canvas for something else and saw the course cards on their dashboard...?) -- anyway, they got started this weekend, so my blog network already has three student blogs up and running!


You can see those blogs in the Canvas course space (click, it's open): The blogs are a very important part of the class, so the blog menu item is up near the top of the menu. Depending on when you click that link, you might see something very different from this screenshot because it is a LIVE blog stream, changing each time any student in the class (well, in the two Myth classes, combined in a single stream) adds a post to their blog:


screenshot of blog stream in Canvas


In addition to the blog stream of all the posts, I have automated streams that show specific assignments. The first blog post assignment is a Favorite Places post (instructions). You can see some posts from this semester there at the top, plus posts from last semester below if you scroll. I really like being able to give even the early-starters examples of blog posts to look at when they go to write their first post because, for most of them, they have never blogged before. The whole idea is that there is no "one way" to do this, so being able to browse through past student posts to see the variety can help them relax and think about what they want to do with their own post:

Course Wiki / Favorite Places Posts


screenshot of favorite places stream


That page updates automatically, just like the blog stream page in Canvas, so as the 100 students add their posts in the next two weeks, you will see it all there. This Favorite Places page shows only favorite places posts; the blog stream will show all the posts -- even now, you can see that difference: the blog stream has a test post by one student, but that test post does not show up in the favorite places stream.


It's all thanks to the power of Inoreader; I documented my use of Inoreader to run my blog network last fall semester, tagging all the posts with #Network2017: 


Now I'm just waiting to see how many students take me up on the offer to get started early... even if it's just one or two, that's great. And sometimes it's as many as half the people in class. It's very random from semester to semester. It probably depends a lot on the weather in Oklahoma ha ha. The heat wave has broken and it's really cooled off this week, which makes outdoor adventures preferable to an  class. Which is great! I'm about to go outside and enjoy our unnaturally cool weather today myself (it's a miraculous 74 degrees out there... in mid-August).


Happy New Semester, everybody!

So, I wrote yesterday about how I was going to take my own class together with my students (totalcolearner), and it looks like Wasi Khan might also want to try out being a guest in the class; this is something that I've always thought would be fun, finding a way to let someone join in the class, even to do the whole semester, without being officially enrolled through my Canvas course. It's an obvious possibility given my open course design, but it's not something I have ever tried before!


I keep my Canvas classes open (,, but non-enrolled participants cannot record points in the Gradebook by taking quizzes and see a running total as my students do. Of course, someone who's not a student doesn't need a grade anyway, which means they can just skip all the points, but I can also imagine someone who might want to use the points as a kind of progress tracker in the same way that my students do.


And that means they would need a simulated Gradebook. A Google Sheet would work, of course; a Gradebook is just a spreadsheet after all.  So, thanks to the amazing power of James Jones's Adjust-All-Dates API, I was able to snag all the assignments and dates from my class in spreadsheet form (same assignments and dates for all my classes; just the class content varies).


I copied the info I needed into a plain spreadsheet (one without the API script), and then I added a few more columns:

  • a week-by-week column for filtering
  • a conditional column to pop up "due today" and "due date expired"
  • a column in which the learner can record points completed
  • a reference column with points for each assignment


Here's the spreadsheet: DIY Assignment Tracker. Take a look and see what you think!


I've already completed my first week of work, so I quickly recorded the points there. Now I have 30 points total.


I like how the filter lets me display Week 1 by itself, or I can display Week 1 and Week 2, and so on.


screenshot of DIY assignments spreadsheet


Once again, James has saved me a BIG chunk of time with his API superpowers: thank you, James! Your API spreadsheet magic was exactly what I needed to get this up and running in just a few minutes. :-)

So, for lots of reasons (some selfish, some strategic, and also just for the sheer fun of it), I've decided to take my Myth-Folklore class this Fall. Yep. I'm not just going to do some of the assignments as a kind of quality control (which is what I usually do...). Instead, I am going to be a student in the class. I'll complete every assignment (and if I don't, I'll do extra credit to make up for it), and I'm going to put my blog and my class project into the randomizer along with everybody else's work, so students will be commenting on my stories and project and I'll be commenting on their stories and projects too, in addition to the kind of feedback I usually do.


Yeah, it's kind of weird. But I think it's going to be basically a very good kind of weird. If all goes well, I'll take my Indian Epics class in the Spring. (Which is actually the class I enjoy the most in terms of sheer learning... but for practical reasons, it makes sense to do Myth-Folklore first.)


If I understand how "Student View" works in Canvas, I'll be able to record my points in the Gradebook the same way that real students do. If not, I'll just make a quick Excel spreadsheet to do the same thing. This is going to be a really hard year for me because of my dad so, I'll be honest: if I get a C in the class, that is fine with me. Which is the same thing I say to my students who are juggling a lot of things in their lives.


School starts for me on Monday, so yesterday and today I did all my assignments for Week 1, repurposing an old blog to use for that. Here it all is: Myth-Folklore Course Diary: Week 1


For my Introduction post, I wrote about going to InstructureCon! That was really fun because the way my class works is that over the course of the semester, a couple of people read your Introduction post every week and leave you comments, which means a lot of students will end up seeing that post and getting to see the guy shot out of the cannon video. And seriously: that is just COOL. I can't embed the actual Twitter video here in Jive, but it is embedded as video in my blog post. :-)


screenshot of cannon video in Introduction post

So, I'll have lots to say about this experiment as the semester goes along. I'll use #TotalColearner as my hashtag for these posts. Is anybody else up for an experiment like this? In the classroom, you cannot exactly be a student at the same time, but for anybody who teaches , it really is possible, depending on your course design. If you do give it a try, even just for a couple of weeks, use #TotalColearner to label your blog post so we can connect and share experiences.


For now, here are 3 quick thoughts I have going into this:


1. Being a student together with my students feels totally right to me. I have always had the colearning spirit in mind, and I like the way this takes my philosophy and makes it more obvious to the students. When I say I want to learn together with them, I really mean it. And now they will see that more clearly. I think they will feel okay about that. I hope so anyway! I definitely don't want to make anybody feel uncomfortable.


2.  I NEED CREATIVE TIME. I put that in all-caps because that is a lesson I learned last semester. Trying to take care of my dad has been emotionally draining in ways I never imagined, and it means I don't have free time the way I used to. But if I am a student in my own class, hey, I can take some time to write some stories and tell myself I am doing that for my job. It's official. :-)


3. I will find problems in my class that need fixing. Doing the first week's assignments, I did not find anything huge that needed fixing as a result of doing the assignments myself, but I did find a lot of little things. And I also put myself more in the students' point of view, seeing each assignment from a new angle. As I do that week by week, I am sure I going to get a lot of insight I would not have otherwise.


Okay, now I am ready to move on to Week 2. I hope to finish Week 2 today and tomorrow, and then open my classes for students as of 12:01AM on Monday. I am ............. excited!!!!!!

I've written about YouTube playlists before (my previous playlist stuff): I am a fan! YouTube playlists are helpful to teachers because they let you organize your stuff, and they are even more helpful for students because they put the videos you are sharing with the students IN CONTEXT. I always want students to have more to watch if they are curious and want to learn more, and with YouTube playlists there can always be more to watch!


So, getting ready for Fall, I spent all day yesterday doing a massive clean-up of my class videos. Because... they were a mess. I had some in YouTube playlists (where they belong!), but also some I had blogged about, some bookmarked at Diigo, and some floating around in temporary playlists. So, I made that my big task yesterday, and I've got that all organized. My class-related videos are in six playlists:


Myth-Folklore Playlist

Indian Epics Playlist

Indian Music Playlist

Growth Mindset Playlist

HEART Playlist

Writing Playlist


And I've got those playlists embedded in my class blogs (see the sidebars):


Myth-Folklore Untextbook

Indian Epics Reading

Indian Epics Images

Growth Mindset: Feedback!

Learning by H.E.A.R.T.

Writing Laboratory

(Robert Carroll, that Writing Lab blog is the one I wanted to share with you to pass on to your wife!)

And in my main class announcements blog I've got a randomizer that displays one of those embedded playlists at random (the randomizer script runs off this table):

Class Announcements

... and that's what I use for my Canvas Course Homepages:


screenshot of video widget embedded in blog inside Canvas


These videos are really important for me because they help me connect with students who are not big fans of reading; if I can use the videos to help grab their attention and make them curious about a topic, that can lead to a whole chain-of-learning that then unfolds.


Now that the videos are in the playlists, I can reuse them systematically all semester long. Here are some different ways I will be reusing them:


* refresh playlists daily. I take literally one minute each day to pop a new video up to the top of each playlist; that keeps the embedded playlists "fresh" wherever they appear. Every day every blog will have a new featured video, plus the link to the playlist. I don't have to update the blogs where the playlists are embedded; I just update the playlist!


* videos daily announcements. I feature 3 videos every day in the class announcements (one Myth video, one India video, and one "meta" video about growth, learning, etc.), and I use a spreadsheet to keep track of which videos I have used so far by putting a date in a column, and then sorting on that column to see which videos I have/haven't used so far (since that is over 300 videos total, I need a spreadsheet to help me out!). Plus I updated my spreadsheet so that every time I share a video I will be doing it with the playlist address; you can compare the difference:

video by itself:

video in playlist: 

(that way the students can go backwards/forwards in the playlist if they want; the playlist navigation is always there when YouTube displays the video if you include the playlist information in the URL)


* video challenges. lots of the videos are available as "challenges," which are blog post prompts (I'll write more about that in a separate post here later)


Plus now that I have everything cleaned up nicely (for the first time in a long time... it was definitely a mess!), it will be easy to keep adding more videos too. Of course I am promising myself that I will keep things all organized now that I have comprehensive playlists and procedures in place for adding new videos; we'll see if I can manage to really stay organized once school starts... or not. Fingers crossed! I don't want to have to spend another day next summer cleaning everything up, ha ha.


And here is that Shakira video for your listening/viewing pleasure... part of the Growth Mindset Playlist. :-)