Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I Do When I Should Be Studying

The other day I posted about wanting a sense of connection and two of you left comments so naturally I replied; both the comments and my replies had my mind racing. As usual.

Resource found here.
I pulled this resource from the DIY MFA website and I’m trying to brainstorm a few things.  I mean, I know I’ll get back to doing the weekly quotes because I keep accumulating more and more.  I feel overwhelmed by how many I have but that isn’t going to make them go away and I’m sure more than a few of them I’ll drop along the way.  I always do.  

But collecting and sharing quotes comes easily and it doesn’t do what I would like to do with blogging. 

So what have you commenters made me think would be  interesting enough to keep my blog alive?

Image found here.
For one thing, a Netflix streaming club, which would not be unlike a book club only we would watch movies.  A small group of people who come together online to talk about a movie we all agreed to watch, rotating who gets to choose from one week to the next.  I just need to gather a group of people who are interested in doing something like this and then figuring out the best way to pull it together so we can share and maybe share with others.  Not sure where/how to begin.

Image found here.
As for the salon idea . . . I love it.  I love the idea of it but it would require a commitment from participants that my past online experience suggests is not so easily come by.  Not impossible because I see websites where people come together and collaboratively share ideas, stories, etc. exploring an agreed upon theme. Poems, images, expositions on texts, book reviews, etc?  Stuff.  Random but reflective of the individual but with an ecumenical (dare I say global?) spaciousness so that there would be overlap in ideas and maybe even some disagreement.  A healthy debate is okay, right? 

Imagine people of different philosophies all discussing “acceptance” or “integrity”?  What does “grace” mean to the person who does not believe in a higher power?  What is the difference between a Buddhist understanding of detachment and a psychologist’s?  And how would an artist express “compassion” or a poet explore “meaning”? 

And I think it boils down to one simple thing:  I’m tired of exploring deep things alone and not have others to discuss them with because it is often in the discussing I really begin to understand what I’m reading. 

Maybe I just miss college.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Coursera Thoughts Part Eight

All of my posts about coursera can be found here.

As the Fantasy & Science Fiction course comes to a close, the Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) course is gearing up and once again the glitches are coming.  Now, I’m bound to compare this humanities course with the other so, before I begin looking at the glitch of the week, let’s look at the two courses side by side.

Fantasy & Science Fiction
Modern & Contemporary Poetry
Every other week
Word Count
Yes:  250-320
Essay Content
Clear but clearly confusing
Clear and specific
Peer Review Grade
Essays on Forum
By author
Forum Essays Anonymous
Author’s choice
Peer Review on Forum
Usually by essay writer’s choice
Forum Reviews Anonymous

This week, the first of the ModPo essays was due and many students were surprised to find their essays shared on the forums and not anonymously.  I don’t know if this was a glitch but I did see some people who were balking, perhaps because they were already familiar with the anonymity afforded in other courses. 

So where’s the glitch?  It seems that the essays that were graded by the professor and the TAs were given a priority in the random distribution so that anyone who had already received a peer review would receive more than anyone else.  Soon, some essays had five or more reviews while others languished with one or none. 

Before I even noticed there was a problem (but admittedly after some students brought it to the attention of the forums), there was an email saying “Uh oh, we have a glitch.”  The email explained the error and asked all students to seek out the essays on the forum which had received one or no reviews and submit something.  Even those who have not submitted an essay could jump in and do this and were encouraged to do so.


But this morning there was another email saying that the glitch has been fixed and asked all students who had not already read and reviewed the required four essays to refresh the page and read the new essays that would appear.  And what if you had already read the required four essays?  These students were asked to please read one more because now that the problem is fixed.

What?  A problem was exposed and the professor found a means to work around the glitch before the coursera web designers can even get moving?  And then when the problem was fixed the professor once again communicated with the students to keep the momentum of the reviews going? 

Eric Rabkin
Image found here.
In the meantime, when there was a glitch with the essays in the Fantasy & Science Fiction course where students could not submit their essays and started emailing them to the professor.  Now, perhaps Dr. Al Filreis learn from Dr. Eric Rabkin’s but when Dr. Rabkin and his TAs started receiving essays from students who were unable to submit he chose to respond with an email as well.  His email said that he had no intention of reading any of the essays and that the students needed to stop sending him emails and if they have any issues, they should bring them to the forums.

Wow.   Way to dismiss the concerns of your customers while showing them just how insignificant education can really be, and basically laying a foundation for what followed. 

I’ve expressed my frustration with how blatantly some of the students have abused the system, when they are not busy anonymously abusing other students on the forums.  But now I wonder.  Maybe those students would have not been turned into trolls if the professor and his TAs had shown some of the same commitment to the success of the course and expressed a sincere appreciation for the education that anyone in education should have—regardless of whether your students are sitting in the same room with you or somewhere, out there, online. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Word Verification Gone

Image found here.
Remember when?

I've been frustrated with the changes that Blogger has made and how it makes me feel sick.  Then I had another issue come up with one of my other blogs so I had to set it to private for reasons I choose not to explain further.  But I am determined to be blog again, I just need to have a reason, above and beyond posting about MOOCs, to do so.

First, I chose to remove the word verification because, as you've all noticed, changes have been made and the verification has become impossible.  It takes me at least three attempts to post a comment and when my time is as precious as the next person's, I'm less inclined to bother leaving comments.
Image found here.
Now it looks like this.

So my gift to you:  No More Word Verification.

This is true on this blog and my book review blog.

Yes, I will still be blogging about my MOOC experience.  For one thing, I'm taking another coursera course and want to put my thoughts into words.  For another, I'll be starting another MOOC hosted on a different site altogether beginning in October.  And, last but not least, I have invited a friend of mine to take yet another course with me; rather, I am taking it with her because I want to show my support of what she is doing and thought that by my taking it with her she would feel less overwhelmed by the idea.

However, there is more stuff coming in October as well, things that could result in my sharing more of my creative writing.  This is part of my taking on an internship in hopes of learning new skills.  Given that I am also still taking an online medical billing & coding course there are things I want to share.

But this is the most important thing of all.

I have been thinking about the old salons where people would gather together and share things they have learned.  I know that there are a lot of such things out there on the internets.  Why there's even a website by that name, if memory serves.  But I am thinking of something far more specific, inspired by The Elders but obviously on a smaller and more intimate scale.  Or maybe it would be nothing like them but something else, more rooted in the idea of my mother sending everyone she loves the same book and saying, "This is what I will be reading and focusing on this year and I would like you to join me."

Maybe I'm just disappointed because the Banned Book Group on goodreads is dead and I am not motivated to keep the momentum going because 1) I didn't create the group to begin with and 2) they keep choosing books I've already read.

Of course, my yearning to connect on a meaningful level doesn't require some deep discussion or exploration of morality and ethics.  It could be as simple as creating a netflix streaming movie club or maybe my taking photographs with my fairly pathetic digital cameras and boring you without words.  Who knows?

I am clearly open to suggestions.  Are you interested in something like a salon or just a typical book or movie group?  When I'm asked by some internet person I don't know in real life, "What would we do if we could hang out for a day?" I almost always answer, "I would want to sit down somewhere comfortable, perhaps with a cup of tea or coffee, and just talk and get to know you."

Maybe that's what it is I'm trying to find a way to do with my blog and I seem to be inviting you to join me.