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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Course Links for the Curious

I just finished a great video convo with Michelle Pacansky-Brock, and I promised to follow up with some links to different course materials, sort of a "key" to how the courses work. This is something that might be useful to others too, so I'm listing the links here!

I teach two courses, Mythology-Folklore and Indian Epics. The Myth class is usually around 50-60 students (technically it's two sections), and the India class is smaller, around 30-40 students (one section but overenrolled). In some ways the classes have a separate identity because the students mostly interact with the students in the same course they are enrolled in, but they also interact with the students in the other class too, especially towards the end of the semester when they are looking at each other's projects. For me, it really feels like one giant class because the courses are identical in every single way EXCEPT for the weekly reading. That is why you will not find a lot of separate links below; most of the course materials are used in both classes just the same.

The best way to get a sense of what the courses are about is to look at the student Storybook projects from the past, so here they are: Mythology-Folklore and Indian Epics. Those are some pretty long lists of links, and nobody really likes lists of links, which is why I built the randomizer to show a project with a screenshot at random. The randomizer also shows up on the front page of the Course Procedures site, in various blog sidebars, etc. I can even put it right here! (I love randomizers; I use a tool built by one of my students long ago to create them: RotateContent.com.)




The key entry point for the students is the Class Announcements; once school starts, there will be class announcements every single day, including weekends. Here is how that looks: Week 5 of Spring 2016. As you can see, the announcements are about all kinds of stuff, not just due dates and reminders, although those go up at the top. The announcements and the class Twitter stream are both ways I try to convey to my students the fun and excitement of the topics we are studying in these classes.

The way the students get started each semester is with the Orientation Week. It is designed to answer all their questions and to introduce them to the digital spaces/tools for the class. It is also meant to be fun! I am just now finishing up the revisions there to open up the classes on August 15 — official start of school is August 22, but students can get a head start if they want, and I'm grateful to have them test it out to make sure things are working before the rest of the class arrives for the official start.

So, the best way to get a sense of how the class works is to look through those Orientation Week activities. By the end of the week, students will have a blog of their own, and it will already contain several posts. I start interacting with them beginning with the very first blog post. Later in the semester, the blog space really belongs to them and I don't comment there much, but during the first week of class, my #1 activity is watching the blogs come to life and leaving comments.

There are lots of support sites that the students will encounter, either during that Orientation Week or when the "real" class activities start in Week 2. Here are a few of the most important ones:

Myth-Folklore UnTextbook: This blog contains the reading materials for the 100 different reading units that the students will be choosing from.

The Indian Epics class does not have a single UnTextbook like that, although there is a main Indian Epics Reading Guide site, plus a separate site for the Public Domain Ramayana and Mahabharata and the image gallery that goes with them, and also our Library's collection of Amar Chitra Katha comic books (how cool is that??? we have the whole collection!).

My big project this summer was to collect even more free reading materials online, which I have listed at the Freebookapalooza site. My goal is to help every single student find materials that they really want to read and use for the class, and gathering these books is the first step in my next phase of context development. There are so many awesome books! I have over 800 right now, and I'm still thinking I might get to 1000 books by the time the semester starts (I have about 2000 bookmarked; I just need to write up the posts and grab an image for each one). I built a randomizer for this site also which is for browsing by region too; it's at Library.MythFolklore.net. (The India region will be the most useful for students in my India class; all the regions are useful in Myth-Folklore.)

Some other important support sites for the classes are the Writing Laboratory, the Growth Mindset Cats, along with more motivational support at the Learn by H.E.A.R.T. site.

Plus, last AND least, is the LMS. I've switched to Canvas this year. Students only use it to record their grades (I don't grade). I do like the way the Canvas classes can be fully public, so if you want to see how I have that set up (no log-in required), here are the links: Myth.MythFolklore.net and India.MythFolklore.net. (I haven't cloned the Myth course into the India space yet; I'll do that at the end of this week to be ready for soft start on August 15.)

I also created a Canvas demo course just for fun where I tried to see how many external tools I could make work inside Canvas; you can see that here: Canvas.MythFolklore.net. There's nothing I really want to do inside Canvas, but I thought it might be a good way to encourage faculty who do rely on the LMS to also work with Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.

And since Michelle and I were reminiscing about the OLD DAYS of teaching online back in the early 2000s, I had to include my old friend, the Bloglines Plumber. :-)