Blog Post

Teaching Archive

As the quarter seems to speed past, I wanted to take a moment to talk about what I'm doing this year and, hopefully, solicit some feedback. Teaching with Technology is a Graduate Interest Group at the University of Washington with which I have been involved for the last couple of years. We've done a lot of work that I'm really proud of, including a presentation on screen-capture platforms for teaching writing in active learning classrooms. It's also how I came to be affiliated with HASTAC. As the group continues to grow and evolve, we are pushing for more tangible and easily disseminated resources that focus on using technology to teach towards a variety of interdisciplinary skills. With that in mind, our goal for the year seems surprisingly simple: create a teaching archive.

On the surface, yes, an archive full of teaching materials, lesson plans, ideas, programs with instructions is great and fairly straightforward. Our particular interest, however, is not just amassing these artifacts; rather, we want this archive to be as function as possible for as many people as possible. This has led to a couple of ideas: 1. Organizing the archive by targeted skill/teaching goal (eg close reading; annotating; identifiying research source types). 2. Formatting material to be readily adaptable. In other words, not just cutting and pasting a lesson plan from a specific class, but sketching a more broad picture of what that lesson plan might look like across a variety of classrooms. The idea here is to make it easier for someone to take material from the archive and put it into action in their own classrooms without having to do too much of the translating work themselves. 3. Provide some sort of framing commentary for each artifact, a mini-review of sorts. For each lesson plan, software program, platform, etc, a brief paragraph in which a reviewer talks about what the tool is especially useful for as well as any caveats/things to be careful with. These caveats may be in regard to assumptions about students, time needed for optimal efficacy, and/or logistical issues.

Questions about which platforms would be best for this kind of archival work (espeically with regard to searchability) will need to be addressed, but probably not until we are a bit further along in the process of collecting materials in the first place. What seems most valuable right now is the utilty of the material. SO, what skills (micro or macro) would people most like to see in an archive of this nature? What kinds of materials would be most helpful? And, of course, what materials do you have that you would be interested in sharing? Our group is housed at the University of Washington, but we really want to reach a more global community of teachers from a variety of disciplines and classrooms. Bottom line: this is what I'm up to this year and I'd love to hear what people have to say/share!

 

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4 comments

My biggest request would be that it provides an rss feed so technologists can easily follow new entries.

Good luck,

Todd

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Hi AJ,

This sounds like a great project, and I'm interested to see where your group takes it! I thought you might like to see how our lab has started archiving our lesson plans - this post by Rachel Mazique is the typical format: link. We're still working on sorting our own search, as you can see. Maybe our combined HASTAC forces can develop a solution for both of us!

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Yay, who doesn’t love unsolicited advice. Take all of this with a big grain of salt, but this is on my mind and I am happy I found someone to talk to it about.

I have been involved in building resources like this on several occasions and have watched many others try to build archives as well, none of them have really worked, which is a shame because teachers desperately need what you are trying to create!

Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes.

Legal Stuff to consider, we learned this the hard way:

·      If you haven’t already, you might want to determine to what extent content on the site will be open to the public, or if all materials should have a creative commons license, and then post this information somewhere so people who visit the site know how much freedom they have to use and alter the materials. You could leave it up to each individual poster, but it might be easier if everyone on the site worked under the same agreement.

·      Make sure you get permission in writing, or send some sort of consent letter to every person whose work you want to post on the site. Or, if you are letting people post on their own, you could set up a terms of agreement that appears whenever someone tries to post something.

·      If you are using a non-university supported platform, make sure you check with them to figure out how you can link it to the university. One of my colleagues used word press to build a beautiful site but couldn’t host it on the University’s network due to a slew of legal problems with permissions, moderating, and so on. The whole thing had to be disassembled and rebuilt on a designated university page and she lost a ton of content.

Considerations for organizing the site. We always struggled with the best way to organize the archives and while we never really figure out a perfect system, I can tell you what didn’t work as well.

I like the idea of organizing by skill and goal, but I feel like it could get messy if that is the top layer of your organizational system. I may be completely misunderstanding you, but the way I am reading it, the archive would be organized primarily by teaching goal or skill.

So for example, a close reading archive includes everything that is related to close reading? Guides on teaching close reading; in-class activities for a chemistry class, or an engineering class, or an English class; freewriting prompts for an English class discussing close reading in literature; close reading essay assignments; etc. If it does include everything, would you break it down further into disciplines or by type of activity or assignment?

In my experience, categorizing first by themes rather than by type got to be a little unwieldy because there are endless variations on themes and you have to do a lot of cross tagging as they overlap. The same thing happens with organizing by teaching goals, the categories are nebulous and activities nearly always cover more than one category.

If you organize by type: in-class activities; essay assignments; group presentations, multi-media projects, service-learning projects, self-evaluation, peer-grading, workshops, etc. or in your case, by technology type, its easy to decide where to file everything because each category is fairly discrete and has well-defined parameters. Then you can drill down by breaking each type into categories by skill or teaching goal.

Or, you could just do both: set up a way to navigate by theme and a way to navigate by type and let people can choose how they want to navigate. Oooh, then you could set up analytics to watch how people use the site and see what they spend the most time looking at. Okay, now I am geeking out a little.

I would love to see more classroom management guides. How to keep discussions lively; strategies for encouraging reticent students to talk; how to prevent ELA students from getting sidelined in discussion or group work, etc. Also, advice on teaching critical reading skills would be greatly appreciated. In-class activities are always a plus. If this gets going let me know, I have a ton of material I would be happy to send your way. 

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This feedback is SO valuable! Thank you so much for your thoughts, especially with regard to legal and technical issues. We are still very much in the idea-generating stage rather than the technical construction stage (we hope to have this happen in Spring). While my tech literacy is...mediocre, at best, we are fortunate enough to have an IT person as part of the group. I will certainly raise these concerns and ideas at the next meeting our group is having (next week). Hopefully we can continue some collaboration! If anyone is interested in getting more involved, feel free to join our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/542284772524977/)  or get in touch with me here. 

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