David Meens



This institute has provided a number of tools and skills that will very likely transform my teaching for the better in the coming semester and beyond.  The many possibilities are daunting - precisely because they are so far-reaching and transformative.  Here, I will briefly discuss two of what seem to me now the most valuable take aways.


First, I intend to use the new web-based platform for my class that I’ve created through Google Sites to enhance the clarity and coherence of expectations and information, and to enhance my course climate.  Translating my vast syllabus for INVS 4402: Democracy and Nonviolent Social Movements into a set of web pages allows for cross-linking material, so that students can quite easily look at the overall breakdown of assignments and grades and then look at the detailed assignment description and instructions by just clicking on a particular title.  The announcement feed and calendar that I’ve built into the home page of the course website will allow for easy communication with the entire class, and a new assignment of a weekly poll will require that they visit the site at least weekly.  The use of Jing for screencasting is a wonderful augmentation for this communication--my inaugural (draft) announcement is a screencast that uses the embedded google map on the “Contact” page of my website to talk students through how to find my office.  This has been a difficulty for some of them in the past, and this screencast will be available to them whenever they need it.   


Second, I intend to use the collaboration tools in Google Apps to facilitate effective peer-to-peer feedback and teamwork.  Starting with small group assignments in the first third of the semester, which I’ve noticed helps students feel they have some connections and more at home in course, will benefit from these tools.  It also gives me greater leverage grading their participation in group work, since I now know how to see the history of changes to team products. 


In conclusion, this Institute has given me ways to augment much of what has been working well already in my courses, and allows me to avoid some activities that didn’t add any value - strictly logistical issues can take up less time, clarity and organization will benefit the students and me.  I am grateful to FTEP for this week.  Thanks so much!


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