Laura Gibbs

#TotalCoLearner: Week 6 - Colearning and Dogfooding

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Sep 30, 2018

I'm always pretty aware of how fast the semester goes by, being doing this #TotalCoLearner thing as a student in my own class I am MUCH more are of that: it's intense! I actually didn't get any work done during the regular week because I was so busy with my job (just like many of my students who work, some of them full-time!), so I scrambled yesterday to do some reading, write my story, and complete some other assignments to finish up Week 6. Gasp! I should probably do some Week 7 work too, but luckily next week is one of my easiest weeks of the semester in terms of teaching (almost all the project assignments that come in, both Storybooks and Portfolios, are revisions)... anyway, I'm just glad I managed to keep up for Week 6. Things were looking pretty grim on Friday (I had zero points for the week!), but it ended up okay after all. Here's Week 6 at my blog; I had to declare the story for Week 7 because I missed the deadline.

For my post looking back on the experiment this week, I want to use this article from Jennifer Gonzalez that I saw making the rounds at Twitter yesterday: Dogfooding: How Often Do You Do Your Own Assignments?


dogfooding article screenshot


I am seriously not inspired to use this "dogfooding" term from the world of computer programming (it even has an article at Wikipedia: Eating your own dog food), but the ideas in the article definitely resonate with my #TotalCoLearner experiment, so I'm using the sections of Jennifer's article to prompt my reflections today, and I highly recommend reading her article first; there's a lot she covers that I have not touched on here.


1. Set Realistic Expectations. Because I've been teaching my classes for such a long time, I'm pretty clear about the expectations for my assignments, so I'm probably not going to see any revelations there. But the classes are now the result of 15+ years of continuous experimentation where student workload has been one of my foremost considerations. I do ask a lot of my students, and I'm pretty confident that I am not asking too much. The biggest change I made in that regard was inventing the Portfolio project option several years ago (an alternative to the Storybook project option)... and sure enough, I am doing the Portfolio option myself as my project!


2. Write Better Instructions. Absolutely! I'm always trying to improve my instructions, with that double challenge of making them more clear AND making them shorter. Doing the class assignments has prompted me to read back through the instructions and edit them, more so than usual this semester. Doing that in the context of actually completing the assignments has been super-helpful!


3. Troubleshoot Complex Activities. Again, I've done a lot of this already... but one thing that has emerged from me doing the class this semester is that, because I chose to use Twine software for storytelling, I was able to write up some Tech Tips to help students get started with that admittedly complex tool. I am really happy about that; it's something I've been meaning to do for two years... and I probably would not have gotten around to it this year either if I were not taking the class and writing my own stuff in Twine!

4. Get Your Timing Right. This goes up there with expectations and workload. I've been hyperaware of the time factor since I started teaching  because this is a huge challenge for any fully  class: you don't get that automatic 150 minutes of classroom time that is guaranteed. I really need to my students to spend 5-6 hours of time total per week, and it is not easy to get them to block out that time in their schedule the way they do block out time for classroom classes. So, I haven't really gained any insight into the time my assignments take, but I sure am grateful for all the flexibility I provide about deadlines. I would not be able to participate in the class without that flexibility, and the same is true for many of my students.


5. Create Models. I really don't want the students to obsess about my work as a prototype, but I am glad that my blog, stories, and project are part of the big mix of blogs, stories, and projects for this semester! I really like the way that my stuff just goes into the mix and it's pretty clear that as some students start commenting on my stories, they don't figure out it is me until after they have already made their comment. Which is perfect: that's exactly the idea between #TotalCoLearner. And having my blog not so much as a model but as a place to experiment is really cool; I have made some good improvements to the Blogger Tech Tips by documenting the experiments I have tried at my own blog, some of which were directly inspired by experiments I saw at other students' blogs (one guy had a favicon for example; I had never thought of doing that, and now I love my little fox favicon... plus a couple of other students have now added favicons to their blogs too!).


fox favicon


6. Revising the Mind of Beginner. I cannot exactly simulate that in my work for the class because my situation as a reader and as a writer is very different from most of my students (except for the professional writing majors, who are often better writers than I am). By using Twine, though, I was able to get at that beginner's mind, and it's been great! Before I had just played with Twine to see how it worked; I had not used it for actual story writing, and I also had not experimented with embedding a Twine file in blog posts; it works so well! For next semester, I am going to enroll in the India class, and I am going to build my whole project in Twine, creating a kind of Twine option that people can choose right from the start of the class if they want. Probably only a few students are going to want a technology experience like that, but I am really glad to be able to offer it to them, and that never would have happened if I had not enrolled myself in Myth-Folklore this semester. Whoo-hoo! Here's a student's Twine game-story embedded in my course announcements embedded in Canvas: how cool is that?


twine in blog in canvas


7. Tweak Your Design. I'm always tweaking my design, but this experiment has given me new/different opportunities to think about how to do that. I also had fun designing my spreadsheet for tracking my progress and I'm pondering some radical possibilities about making something like that available to my students as an alternative to the Canvas Gradebook. I probably won't go that route... but honestly, if I find myself facing the New Gradebook with my students' assignments marked as missing/late like they were during that awful few weeks last year, then I will definitely have to find an alternative, and my experience building my own Google Sheet Gradebook has given me a ton of ideas for how much more useful that would be compared to the Canvas Gradebook.


screenshot of progress-tracking spreadsheet