Why I haet Blackboard Learn: 1. There is no mass edit. 2. It’s sticky as all hell. When you create something new (an announcement, test, file, module, -anything-), you get a dashboard with a box for a title and then a box for the text. Sometimes, you try to type in one of the boxes and you simply can’t. It hangs. The only way to work with this is to click in whatever is the opposite box until it un-sticks. So if you’re in the title box, click on the text area and wait for the page to unstick. What utter effing b.s. 3. ItRead More →

Teaching issues of race and other identity categories presents a challenge in a racially mixed classroom. Student responses to race-related topics are unpredictable, and can send irretrievably shut down classroom dynamics for the rest of the semester. Last semester, for instance,  as some intentionally provocative students claimed that black people really do like fried chicken, others genuinely bought into the stereotype, and the class deteriorated into a discussion about fried chicken, rather than the point of stereotypes. Reigning in these kinds of conversations get increasingly difficult, and conversations get more uncomfortable and tense as conservative rhetoric toward people of color gets more hostile. If theRead More →

Getting students invested in a public speaking class on the very first day can present a challenge. They see fear, a job skill, and something that they can wing through if only they can get over their nervous stomach and stand up in front of their peers without puking. How do you teach a student the value of a speech class? Here’s a fun activity for early in the semester that I’ve used successfully: 1. Assign students to search the web for the cheapest public speaking lesson, class, seminar or workshop. The class cannot be from a college or university such as a continuing edRead More →

Today has been an interesting lesson in stereotypes. Lesson one: A guest speaker from Deaf Services in BR come to the Interpersonal Communication class. He was dynamic and interesting, and the students loved him. The capital D is important to people in the Deaf community, by the way. Deaf culture is fascinating, particularly as it illustrates major concepts from communication studies. I’ve been fascinated about it ever since a friend of mine demonstrated the way that sign language is not a literal interpretation, but a more poetic one.  She did this by signing a song. Audre Lorde once said that it’s good to educate yourselfRead More →

New technologies erode the boundary between the personal and the public, as Joshua Meyrowitz observed about television in No Sense of Place twenty five years ago. Since displaying ourselves is de rigeur, thanks especially to Facebook and Twitter, I feel less guilty about doing it on my blog, even though personal disclosure was never my original intent. In class, students appear to enjoy my disclosure. Still, there’s an art to disclosing appropriately in the classroom, one that has taken me years to balance comfortably. As one friend put it, it’s easy “to hold your students hostage” to your personal narratives in class, which is anRead More →

The end of the semester is drawing near, bringing the closing blues. This semester started in such chaos with all the campus changes. I hope Christmas break brings its usual re-energizing rest (a little under a month away). I have excellent students this semester, which carries me through the weekly grind. Here is a random list of changes for next semester’s classes: 1. A service learning component to the interpersonal class. The project will be designed around a new “conversational partners” program on campus to help international students learn English. To that end, I joined this semester and met a great partner. She’s Chinese andRead More →

I generally recommend that professors NOT respond to student emails as soon as the messages arrive, even if it will take less than two minutes to respond, because it leads undergraduates to expect immediate feedback. If you routinely reply to student queries within minutes, later in the semester, when you don’t answer the 11pm cry for help the night before the exam, your students will become disgruntled at your “lack of responsiveness.” Don’t train them to expect service 24/7.

– Academic Coach