Well, the first week of classes is over: it was hectic-busy like always, but a happy success. If you want to see what my students are up to, you can check out the blog stream in my classes:
India.MythFolklore.Net: Indian Epics
And now I'm ready for another post in this Let's Talk about Grading series! As I said in an earlier post (Visible Learning / Invisible Grading), all the work the students are doing leaves a digital trail there in our blog network, and in a few weeks there will also be websites where they are publishing more polished work for a bigger audience (in particular, for future students in these classes). The point of the work IS the work itself, not the grade.
In this post I want to write about something similar: by taking myself out of the grading loop, I am able to be a true COLEARNER together with my students. If you are the one who is giving grades in the class, it's hard to then put yourself side by side with the students as a colearner. It's also hard to be a true colearner if you are in a physical classroom, up there at the front of that classroom. The traditional classroom puts you in a different physical position than the students, and traditional grading puts you in a different power position with the students. I feel very lucky that by teaching online and by not doing any grading, I am able to join in my classes as a full student in every way, while also carrying on my role as a teacher/coach.
Last semester I was a student in my Myth-Folklore class, and I wrote about that here at my blog with the hashtag #TotalCoLearner, which is also the hashtag I use at Twitter. This semester, I am a student in the Indian Epics class, and I am even more excited about this learning adventure because I have some important reading I want/need to do, and being a student in the class means that I will get that reading done! Just like my students, I really appreciate the class structure as a way to make sure I organize my schedule to make sure I find time every week for the reading. Like me, they are also choosing what they want to read; for the first part of the semester, I'm reading the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana, and later I'll also be reading Chitra Divakaruni's new novel based on the Ramayana, Forest of Enchantments (it just came out this month!). I started planning my semester project (just like the students do), and I also wrote my first story of the semester: King Trumpet and the End of the World. I needed to finish Week 2 over this past weekend because I don't have time for schoolwork during the week, and that's true of many of my students who work full-time; they also work ahead and do most of their schoolwork on the weekends. My blog posts show up in the blog stream along with everybody else's (that's my Ramakien post in the screenshot above), and students have already started commenting on my Introduction post, just as they comment on the blog posts of other students. It's a little weird, but it's cool: the colearning experiment is a total pleasure for me, and it's also something fun/useful for students in the class. Everybody wins.
It might be possible to be a colearner in a class with grades; I don't know, though, because I've never had to do it that way (I have not put grades on student work since my first semester of college teaching). For me, a big part of the #TotalCoLearner experience is that it really is total: the work I am doing for class is, assignment by assignment, the same as what the students are doing, and we don't need to be graded for the learning to happen. Instead, we need feedback, and I'll be getting feedback on my stories and on my semester project from the other students, which is really exciting. One of the reasons I don't do a lot of creative writing outside of school is that I don't really have an audience for it. Now, just like my students, I'm not writing for a grade; I'm writing for an audience.
Are you doing some colearning together with your students? If so, share it with the #TotalCoLearner hashtag here and/or at Twitter!