Yes, Blackboard is broken, but with some mental reframing, spit, and bubblegum, anyone can smash it into a different direction. Also, who’s sick of calling this making-do business a “hack”? Let’s go back to jury-rigging or MacGuyvering. Also, your mileage on these so-called hacks may vary depending on your institution’s implementation of Blackboard. The easiest way to get Blackboard working is to give up on it. Stop trying to make it do what you want (like display a leaderboard), and instead embrace the simple principle that Blackboard is JUST A GRADEBOOK. Then, pretend Blackboard is just like an old spiral gradebook, take some sparkle glueRead More →

“While we may not talk about it, we know a syllabus reveals a lot about our colleagues,” writes Linda Nilson in The Graphic Syllabus. The book, published in 2007, talks about how bureaucratized syllabus developed in response to various political pressures in higher ed, the old-style syllabus (which was simple and teacher-centered), and the learner-centered syllabus (which is guide-on-the-side and visually oriented). But, let’s reconsider that quote in light of the cookie-cutter syllabi that higher ed mandates today. “While we many not talk about it, we know a syllabus reveals nothing about our colleagues except that we are expected to follow in line.” No childRead More →

Again. People are talking about the VARK again. Most research has discredited the VARK. Just Google it and you’ll see the debate pop up right away. But I still like it, the same way I like astrology, Tarot cards, and various other personality tests. The VARK is a framework that can over-determine or define people once we buy into it too much, and any framework or typography can lose its helpfulness if its overly rigid (hardening of the categories”). Lately, I have been rethinking my commitment to this schema, and why I like it, because POD folks trash it regularly. Their skepticism and rejection isRead More →

Look, let’s be frank. Some schools swear by the VARK. Some researches say the VARK has been disproven or no research has substantiated it. Due to my own academic training, which emphasized the metatheoretical and critical, I believe that something is useful and super-awesome until it’s not. To me, the VARK makes total sense, and whether or not it’s a legitimate framework or voodoo is irrelevant. There are other frameworks that I overlay with the VARK when I teach, but the VARK is language people understand. The problem, the MAIN problem is when teachers are unwilling to engage in pedagogy at all. They teach entirelyRead More →

The Blackboard app sucks more than Blackboard itself. The mobile app is teacher unfriendly. In fact, it’s downright teacher-hostile. Remember, the medium is the message. Since Blackboard has yet to master mobile-responsive design, the mismatch between the website and mobile app causes users to get mixed messages. This is a huge headache for teachers and students alike. Additionally, instructors cannot access the grade center, or grade anything, which renders Blackboard Mobile pointless for teachers.  The app is just an added burden for instructors to address in course design, without much payoff. What the app is useful for 1. Uploading docs at the last minute. 2.Read More →

Learning about learning, Part I The VARK I know my VARK and where I fall on the inventory of learning styles: Visual. Auditory. Read/Write. Kinesthetic. Someone recently asked me if I remembered Amy Grant’s song, “Every Heartbeat.” My reply: “Yeah, that’s the song where she’s wearing that cute polka dot dress and big sunglasses and there’s a dog. Like, she’s trying to be Taylor Dayne, but without sex.” Clearly, I am not an auditory learner even though I suffer from severe blabbativity and motor-mouthedness. I type super-duper fast, and I suffer from a rampant twitch-speedery that developed over years of living online as a digitalRead More →

Stealth texting or crotch texting in class. What a nightmare. I can’t make up my mind about permitting mobile devices and other technology in class. Even though I geek out over the latest tech toys, my class policy alternates every semester. Lately, my approach has been NO DEVICES whatsoever (without a disability services accommodation letter). This works best when students hear a thorough explanation and rationale. Unfortunately, last year I decided to “flip” some classes, creating situations where students need tech for activities, and causing a quandary. So, here’s my general NO TECHNOLOGY approach: Students get upset when it comes to outlawing technology in theRead More →

The Black Doll, White Doll test was used in the Brown vs. Board of Ed case to contest desegregation. A 17-year-old high school student made a documentary, A Girl Like Me, revisiting this test today to see how much things have changed. Not much. The clip is great to show in class for discussions about race and identity. It’s useful for talking about how communication influences perception and the self. The Black Doll, White Doll test asks black children to choose between a white doll and a black doll, asking questions such as “which doll is the prettiest” (they pick the white doll),  “which dollRead More →

Maymester is almost over. The students were dynamic and engaged. Only one or two students seemed to struggle with the material.  Summer students are always stronger, perhaps because they know they have to work harder in a compressed time period, and perhaps because summer school includes university students. Culture of Learning Summer, though, reinforces my confidence about doing things a certain way. It’s harder during the school year to feel that confidence. The student culture can be demotivating. Students walk away from good grades simply by absenteeism and failure to do their assignments. 1. Reading: At universities, the primary struggle is getting students to readRead More →

An article about contemporary students’ sense of entitlement is all over the Canadian papers today. It cites a UC Irvine study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The article discusses how entitled today’s students feel. Here are some stats from the article: The study asked approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25 whether they agreed with these statements: If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade – 66.2 per cent agree If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve aRead More →