An unnamed but much appreciated member of our class sent me this (slightly edited) email message:
I just feel that during this whole class you give the impression that you have all the answers and many times set in “judgment” of others. I think that you may be interested in knowing that I am not the only one who feels this way in this class and many of your students are setting back wondering “what is this class supposed to be doing” … I think that many of us were under the impression that we would be provided with effective tools for developing on-line teaching environments and the majority of what we have learned is how to “come up” with a bunch of blogs for the purpose of trying to receive a half-way good grade for that week which we have learned is impossible in your class!
First, let me publicly thank this Un-Named Hero for the feedback. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from you on this course but negative feedback delivered personally is much harder to do.
Next, let me address the points raised in order:
- I apologize for appearing to “have all the answers.” In reality I just have a lot of questions. Most people aren’t aware of how few answers there really are in education. Next week’s unit on research will be dealing with that, I hope a bit more successfully. One of the problems with answers is that an answer for me isn’t going to be, necessarily, an answer for you. Ultimately, I think that the best we can hope for is to agree on the questions and respect each other’s answers.
- At no point did I ever intend to sit in judgement of anybody. I appreciate that intent is not always carried in text the way we’d like. It *is* my job in this little activity to help focus and guide, to serve as the bridge between all of you and the un-known and un-suspected content that’s outside your collected ZPD. For some that’s been a long walk in an unexpected direction.
- I’m gratified to know that many of you are asking the question “what is this class supposed to be doing” because that’s the first step in resolving the puzzle that I’ve set for you. That’s not an idle statement, and I sincerely hope that it means you’re actually thinking about it and not just throwing your hands up in disgust.
- As for “providing” anything least of all tools, I’m sorry to say that this probably my biggest problem. I don’t “provide” anything in this class. To anybody. What I do — and all I’ve ever committed to do — is to teach about the tools. I do that by modeling them. I use them in this class and you all get to see them in action. No, I don’t “teach” Breeze and I don’t play with a lot of high-end technology. We did the toolbox thing early in the semester and, while I appreciate that it’s a slim set of applications, my opinion is that if you don’t master those first, then the rest don’t matter. High end tools that require high end machines and major bandwidth are useless in the face of rural, dispersed, and poor populations. So this criticism is spot on. I don’t provide anything except expertise, perspective, and the willingness to share both.
- As for grading, I’ve addressed this multiple times in a variety of venues, but in the interest of keeping the argument and response intact I’ll re-iterate it here. Everybody in the class has the potential for earning an A. Even now. There is nobody in the class who cannot get enough points to – not just pass – but be highly successful if you measure success by your GPA. Some of you will walk away from the course with an A and little else. Some will walk away with a lot more. My grading schema is simple, posted, and applied as fairly as I can. If you believe you’ve been denied points you should have, please contact me on IM or email and make a case. I grade this way on purpose and with an objective which I have written about extensively. It’s neither arbitrary nor capricious. It’s not something I do because it’s “easy” to give every student direct feed back on two dimensions every week. If anybody has concerns on this score, please contact me via IM or email — even phone if you feel the need — to disucss it with me. I’m always open to talk but I reserve the right to say “no” in my class — just as you do in yours.
Once again, thank you to the Unnamed Hero who emailed me and raised these important issues.