I’ve finally had the opportunity to complete the DIY activities for Blendkit Week One. The activities for this week involved creating a Course Blueprint in which I identified course goals, performance objectives, and learning outcomes, and how different assignments fit into the learning objectives for “modules” within the course. I also created a “Mix Map” in which I thought about which activities could/would/should be done f2f, which activities done online, and which activities would move between the two venues. Here are my thoughts after doing these activities (and I’ll include links to the Word docs with my drafts, too). For the record, I am focusing on my Composition I course for these activities. To see example templates for these activities, go to this page of the Blendkit2012 site.
Mix Map (click here to view/download my current draft)
I really enjoyed developing this map, as it made me very aware of how much I long to employ a truly “flipped classroom” model; much of my in-class time is devoted to what I call “studio time,” where students work on drafting/composing projects in a space where I am readily available if they have questions. Of course, since this is a writing course, many people could say that this studio time is unnecessary–why not just release students to draft on their own schedule/in their own time? There’s something to be said for the energy that is created in a classroom space where so many people are working, and I’d like to retain that in a blended classroom. Lately, I’ve found myself becoming a bit more traditional in the classroom set-up; this semester especially, we’ve been talking a lot about example texts, and I need to bump up the in-class drafting time, so this exercise reminded me of what I value in my classroom. I think a blended environment would encourage me to leave the more traditional discussions of example texts for online venues in favor of focusing on generating texts during class meeting sessions. I’m still chewing on this, of course.
Course Blueprint (click here to view my own idiosyncratic version of the course blueprint)
On the other hand, I struggled with this activity. For some reason, conceptualizing my class in the terms put forth in the blueprint template throws me off. I appreciate the way that this activity requires me to think through how all of my class assignments/activities relate to the overall objectives of the course. Where I struggled (as you can see in the draft) is distinguishing between course goals and performance objectives, and then with considering how different learning outcomes fall under different performance objectives. While I do separate my course into sequences (each sequence being a major project–5 total: class database project, personal essay, review essay, essay exam, final revision project), and each major project has a different focus, I view the interaction between major projects and course goals as a messy, recursive, always-changing mass (much like writing processes in general). In other words, I feel like all of the assignments can speak to all (or most) of the course goals in some way.
I suppose I could be more specific in some respects. For example, one of my course goals is for students to develop an understanding of basic grammatical concepts. I could be more exact about which concepts we learn in which sequence, and then identify the parts of the major project assessment rubric that focuses on a specific concept (like avoiding sentence fragments or comma splices). The problem, though, is that these grammatical concepts change every semester depending on the group of students I get, and they often change as the semester progresses depending on the needs of the class. Some students come in with an advanced knowledge of grammar, while others have never had formal grammatical instruction at all. And, let’s face it, teaching basic grammar concepts to college students can be an uphill battle, for reasons that neither the students nor I can control; grammar is best learned at a young age (much like foreign language instruction), and while it’s not impossible for a college-aged student to learn these things, it can take more time. On top of all that, this is a writing course that requires discussion of concepts like rhetoric, genre, and critical thinking…it’s difficult for me to say “yes, they will learn this in the first sequence” and then move on to other concerns. Instead, they are introduced to concepts and build on those concepts, adding new concepts and refining their understanding of the ones they learned about first. I realize that this is what students do in all of their courses, but there’s something about the nature of this composition course that made it difficult for me to build a course blueprint similar to the examples provided. I’m going to have to keep working on this one; perhaps looking at it with fresh eyes tomorrow will clarify things for me.