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 glue
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
Blackboard continues to suck. I’m at a new institution, and I have learned that admin regulation of features accounts for only a small amount of Blackboard’s suckage. My current school has foregone some convenient features, but adopted other nifty ones. In the end this just illustrates that Blackboard’s suckitude and lack thereof amounts to installing car mats, electric windows, and an awesome stereo inside a poor-performing but market-dominating car. Blackboard is gobbling up the learning tech market, and now that it’s the big gorilla, it’s defining the industry with its suckage. Here is why Blackboard continues to suck: 1. Still cannot mass edit exam questions.
1. Everyone who cares about how teachers teach and learners learn (cf http://chronicle.com/article/TeachingLearning-About/146403/) 2. Every teacher, professor, PODster, colleague, and faculty professional development expert who taught me about teaching. 3. Every administrator who realized that pedagogy and faculty professional development should be funded and supported institutionally. 4. Every student who put up with my insensitivities, failures, and experiments as a teacher. ∞
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 digital
Testing should be as much about learning as assessing. Even though I believe this, I caved in and started giving multiple choice exams years ago. Blame it on Swiss cheese memory. Blame it on some fantastical conversion experience wherein I now believe memorization and identification are rigorous! That’s hogwash. To redeem my unpalatable decision, I give the students a chance to develop test taking skills with a nifty worksheet (stolen from the learning center at LSU). The worksheet helps students review their test results, figure out why they missed particular questions, and then group their incorrect answers into patterns. The students meet with me to
Students who take public speaking classes are fearful of delivering speeches. Although we work on speech anxiety in my classes, that is not our focus.Anxiety is a “fight or flight” physiological response left over from the “caveman” (That’s Sexist!) days when we needed adrenaline to face a predator. Since classmates are not predators, folks shouldn’t worry. There are many silly myths about how to handle speech anxiety, such as have a drink to knock the edge off, or look over people’s heads instead of making direct eye contact. Anything that keeps you from engaging with the audience is a mistake. The silliest of all is
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 the
Making class notes available ahead of time to students can solve a lot of challenges for teachers and students alike. Teaching at a community college often means working with students who need help learning notetaking and other “college ready” skills. Also, today’s students often come to class without reading beforehand, and with little skill in listening to lectures. This means that active learning, which relies on applying concepts, can be difficult, and teaching often defaults to a “sage on the stage” model just to cover enough material to get through an activity. The strategy of giving out notes ahead of time can compensate for these
Using PowerPoint in speeches sucks. Always. Many speech teachers probably feel the same. PowerPoint becomes a teleprompter, which defeats the purpose of giving a speech. Last semester, I taught Business Communication for the first time in my entire teaching career. In thinking through that class, I felt obligated to teach PowerPoint since it’s expected in the business world. Also, the POD listserv, discusses visual resources a lot. Those two things motivated me to teach PowerPoint and to do it well. As a result of these explorations, I experimented this semester. One thing I incorporated is a Pecha Kucha format speech (you can use Prezi too,