Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A further thought on this Blackboard grading thing

I am seriously thinking I need a dual-monitor set up. I have found that I can have the grading system open in multiple tabs or windows. This means that, with enough monitor space, I could have the grading open in one spot while having the discussion submissions open in another. Side-by-side. This would also make grading the comments easier, as I have to create grading columns for them in Blackboard (for the blogs, it's set up while you're setting up the blogs, and the gradebook column will thus pull up submissions in the blog forum).

Sigh.

I've been thinking about this since last semester, when I used my netbook to type papers on, and my office desktop for the internet (browsing, using google book search to find page numbers, etc.). I think it's about time.

Okay so...

Maybe it's time for a knitting post.

Is it?

Well, it is now.

After lots and lots of planning for this year's knitting, I suddenly cast on for a hat this week. My second Koolhaas hat (Interweave link and Ravelry link).

Granted, this hat is on the list of things to do this year (my New Year's resolutions were all craft projects, because, well, it was just planning rather than HEY I WILL GO WORKOUT ALL THE TIME, or CLEAN ALL THE THINGS, because let's face it, I won't do those all the time). But, like resolutions, I'm not sticking to them (or to the letter of them).

My list for this year (in the order I meant to work on them) with Ravelry links when available):
Certain UFOs.
Truffle Cardigan.
Some sort of denim a-line/pencil skirt with pockets.
Hoodie with pleated arm warmers as sleeves.
Themis.
Koolhaas.
Asymmetrical Cardi.
Brilliant Retro.

And some sock patterns to be determined.

Considering how much I want a Themis, it will probably end up on the needles next, but I am not sure, because, well, I've already finished an abalone cardigan that was nowhere on that list.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pardon the interruption, we will have a moment of silence

And then a very large freak-out.

So, apparently our email system has UPGRADED. I'm sure it's got lots of nice, new, lovely things, but for the moment, I am going to do this:


Ahem.

For those of you who don't know me, I am what we might politely call, "detail-oriented." This translates to "pain in the neck when people change things." Microsoft updates Office, and sets Word's default font to Courier New: I get mad. The paragraph settings are 10 pt after. I get irate. Someone moves my mail-cubby in the office. Sparks fly.

After having this sort of reaction far too many times, I have come to realize plainly and simply that it is me. I don't like things changing once I am used to them.

So, email system, you are on notice. I hate your new font, and my inability to change it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blackboard and grading

Okay, last semester I assigned weekly reading journals to my students. They emailed them to me, or brought them to class. It worked pretty well, except that in addition to the time it took to read them, I also wrote way too much on them. My comments probably were mostly unread (as was painfully obvious when one student turned in a rough draft for the "research" paper that was just two journals pasted together, with no research and no revisions). Also, it's fine to spend that time when you only have a few students, but when you're teaching two courses, it snowballs.

So this semester I made use of the "blog" discussion threads on Blackboard. I started one thread for each week of blog writing (or one for two weeks' worth, if it was the same novel; this may be amended).

Interesting things to note:
1. In a blog discussion thread, all the blogs are displayed. All of them. There's no picking and choosing which blogs to read before all of the text shows up. Granted, Blackboard automatically will show ten at a time unless you change your settings, but if you were looking for a post by a specific student (and if you haven't selected the grading option for the thread), you have to sift through all the posts.

2. Having selected the grading option, I grade through the grade book. Clicking on the assignment for the post, I then can have it display posts for each student involved. It not only shows the blog(s) they wrote in the specific discussion thread, it also shows the comments they have written on the blogs. I have yet to start grading their comments, but this makes it easier.

3. Looking at comments through the grade book does not prevent you from reading the corresponding blog easily. Above the comments, it will say "Comments on ______". If you click on the blog title, then it comes up in a pop-up window.

4. Rather than just assign grades - or having to remember what I wanted each level of grading to be for blogs and comments - I also set up grading forms (I needed one for a week's blog, and one for two weeks of blog; though, I am pretty convinced that I will split those two weeks threads up). This has been an immense help, as the students should be able to see what is wrong with their blog without me having to type explanations for everyone. I am still trying to write some comments, but am keeping it pared down to style issues.

I am fairly certain that I will continue to do weekly blogs online rather than have them emailed, but I am still figuring out what I think specifically about the blog versus regular style discussion thread. Blackboard also has a "journal" style thread that can be kept private, but as I feel the blogs help us all interact and learn more about the readings, I like keeping it open. I may have to play around with journal threads the next time I am planning a Blackboard course, though.