Monday, July 21, 2014

Course Redesign Update: July 21 ... Stage Two begins.

Now that Stage One of the project is done (all 100 units posted), I am ready to move on to Stage Two, so I thought I should sketch out here just how that will work.

Stage Two is a brief stage where I am focused on getting the materials as prepped as possible before August 11; that is when I will be opening my classes up to students (I always open my classes one week early for anyone who wants to get a head start). So, this is really a kind of triage stage, in the sense that I am working based on a set of priorities while knowing that I will not be able to attend to all things for all units by August 11. Here are the priorities, starting with most important:

Proofreading Post Pages: This is something I feel I really must finish by August 11, even for the units that come later in the semester, because students may be browsing these pages and consulting them for their Storybook projects. So, at a minimum, I want to make sure I have proofread each page — for some units, that is very quick, but for other units (where I took the content from raw OCR rather than an already proofread product at Gutenberg or similar), it can be time-consuming. I've got 1625 pages proofed already, with 278 more to go.

Writing Overviews: Although this is a task that is hard for me (concise writing? argh, not my style, ha ha), I absolutely must have the overviews for all units done by August 11. The overviews are a crucial element in orienting students to where the stories in that unit come from, and also helping them see how the unit fits into the big picture overall. I've written 70 overviews so far, which means 30 more to go. The overviews are appx. 150 words long, and they appear on the index pages, as you can see here: Asian Units.

Writing Library Pages: Every unit already has a library page, but not all the pages provide exhaustive links to all the online sources available for a given item (like this). I've written up 78 library pages already, so that's just 24 to go. This is something easy to do, and also fun. I love seeing what books are online and in what formats. Since this is a more-or-less mechanical task, I can do this one while watching TV shows or listening to an audiobook.

Prepping Units for Use. This is the tricky new thing that begins tomorrow, and I've added a new column to the spreadsheet that rules my life so that I can prep the units for use while staying about four weeks ahead of the students. To do that, by August 11 I need to have prepped 28 of the units; by the first day of classes on August 25, I will have 53 units prepped. Prepping involves a whole series of small tasks, such as proofreading (again) and checking links, plus writing up some storytelling ideas for students who like to work from writing prompts. This will actually be a lot of fun because, this time around, I will be trying to look at the units through the students' eyes. Even better: as soon as school starts, I will be getting feedback from the students which will help me do a better job with that over time. I should be done prepping all the units by early October. For Stage Two, I just have to get the first 28 done. I'm starting tomorrow on that!

Adding Audio Links: About one-third of the units have audiobooks available at LibriVox, and I am linking the story post pages to the LibriVox file (like this). This is a totally mindless task, easy to do while watching TV, so it will be no problem to get that done by August 11. I am so curious to see how many students are interested in listening to the stories read aloud. Just speaking for myself, I love spoken word audio, and most of the leisure reading that I do is audiobooks rather than print.

Adding Images to Post Pages: This is something I really enjoy, and it is very important to me that eventually all post pages have at least one illustration, but it is not crucial to finish that now. I have all the images done for Weeks 2-3, so if I can make sure to get all the images done also for Weeks 4-5 that will be perfect, as I already have illustrations for all of Weeks 6-7 (I did not do things strictly in chronological order this summer). Depending on whether the unit is easy to illustrate or not, I can sometimes do this work while watching TV or listening to a book, but when a unit is harder to illustrate, I need to focus and really think about where to find good, un-copyrighted images.

Indian Epics Reading Guides: Although this is not part of Myth-Folklore, I am also revamping my Indian Epics Reading Guides and building up a big library of images to go with the Guides (like Myth-Folklore, Indian Epics has a very very very old website that needs to migrate to a more responsive platform). I won't go into details here, but you can see the results at the Indian Epics Resources blog. I've got 283 images done, and I'm aiming for about 700 by August 11, and I've also got just over half of the Reading Guides done: 13 down, 11 to go. Just like with this Myth-Folklore project, I am having way too much fun with this, ha ha. It was hard to make the decision to finally just ditch my old website, but now that the decision is made, I am moving full-speed-ahead. This is also something which, most of the time, I can do while watching TV or listening to audio. I need to write up a separate post on how I am managing this process, since it is quite different from Myth-Folklore, and I need both Diigo and Blogger to keep track of things for this one.

So, in addition to my normal course prep work (which will start on August 1), that is Stage Two of the UN-Textbook.

Stage Three is where things REALLY become fun, because that is when I can start adding lots of notes, thematic pages, commentary of all kinds. But I better not let myself think about that now because I have to keep the focus for Stage Two and triage for the start of classes. But once school starts, oh, I am so excited that content development will be part of my daily routine. That has not been the case for some years now because I have focused 100% of my efforts on the writing-and-feedback side of my classes. That has been a very satisfying and successful experience but, now that the writing-and-feedback aspects of the class are working really well (I think), the time has now come for the pendulum to swing back to the content development side of things for a few years at least. I am going to enjoy that so much, especially now that I have a super-flexible and responsive platform like Blogger in which to deploy my content and get lots of feedback from students (more on Blogger as a content development platform).

Meanwhile, to get started on proofreading today, I worked on the King Arthur unit. What a blast! Although, of course, it also made me think about was all the other King Arthur material that I want to add in future iterations of the content development process. I am glad that I chose to focus on the Holy Graal legends since I am sure that will be new to many (most?) of the students... but of course all the other Arthur legends are wonderful, too! And there is so much good Arthur material online, so for sure I will be adding more Arthur units later on.

Clearly, this is a never-ending project... the finest kind! :-)

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