Evalution

Every time I sit to write about my teaching, it feels like a confession. For 5 semesters, I have sinned against better judgement, and based my grading on what must seem to some as pure whimsey. Of course, the syllabus says evaluation will be  “based upon adherence to directions, expression of design principles, technical proficiency, creativity, as well as individual progress.” Clearly stated, ambiguously delivered.

My lack of hard criteria led to some highly subjective grading, led by the senses and sense of the student’s progress, and I was and still am generally generous. There were a few I judged especially harshly that I can still recall, and it is true I don’t know if I was very fair. It’s not a science, video making. Thankfully, it’s an art.

90% of the work is video projects and assignments. I give directions, and I judge if the moving pictures and sound fulfill it. The skills assignments are simpler, as they are fairly straightforward. Judging some of the more free-wheeling creative projects is, well… I know good work when I see it. OR so I think.

THIS semester I have FINALLY crossed the Rubricon.

painting of caesar crossing the rubicon, with letter grades pinned to the each soldier

I managed to come up with consistent criteria for skills assignments, and I am using this one rubric for all of them. It’s pretty general, and it’s working pretty well so far. And wow is grading easier and faster. The lack of specificity that such a generalized rubric offers does make it tricky when a crit sort of describes what happened in the video, but not exactly. And it’s hard to stick to it when I end up grading by the rubric and still feel that it deserves a higher or lower grade. Yes, father, I have fudged at times.

The big plus has been having clarity, especially when a student questions their grade, as they did today. I can point to the directions and the rubric and the points in the box. The downside of this emphasis on measurement is they only do the minimum. I haven’t figured out the motivation to excel yet. Encouragement isn’t enough for the majority of students.

The other downside is this quick click rubric schtick. Boom boom boom, save, and the grading is done and justified. I don’t feel the same necessity to explain my reasoning in  detail,  as when I didn’t have as much to go on, and so I would explain and explain every high and low. Past feedback was lugubrious. Now it’s a bit off the cuff, citing a few things here and there, to assure them I am watching. The speedgrader lives up to its name, but personal feedback from the teacher is the heart of my class, and I mean to keep it deep for projects.

Grading is an art, too?

 

 

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October 11, 2018 · 8:31 am

Prepping into the Wind

I just stumbled upon a document called “Weekly Class Action Plan”, which I prepared the week before classes started. It’s week 7, and perhaps I’m ready to use it. I do a hellishly anxiety-ridden month of prep before every semester, and, looking back on some of those lost weekends, hindsight is giving me the thumbs-up to go easy next time. While there were spurts of wildly creative juice, much of what was produced withers on the vine.

Such as my mindmeister map of the progression of learning.

Such as the photo of me holding a tomato with my wife in a hammock in the background.

Such as the hand-drawn style video of how the network connections work.

Such as how I was going to introduce students to seeing things artistically.

And so on.

But THIS! This is coming into play 2-nite. At last.

printed sheet of paper called weekly class action plan

I make weekly notes that pertain to specific lessons for every class, so this document is about the general flow of things (very general!). I consistently wish I used class time more efficiently, and during the outbreath after the sometimes grueling 2.5 hour class period, I wonder what just happened. Will a plan keep it on track?

There are certain things I want to do every time, like the 5-minute share with a partner, watching videos, working together, and the show n tell. Oh, and the “relax” part, and especially the “be prepared” part. What often happens is: I start talking, and pretty soon the class is over. I need the discipline to make sure some of the things on the action plan come in to break up the incessant lessoning I tend to do.

When I first moved to Prescott, I got a temp position at a company that processed Readers Digest Sweepstakes entries (the losing ones). Here’s a plug for the value of education: I was tapped for room supervisor because I was the only one there with a BA. One of my duties was leading everyone in 15 minutes of stretching twice during shifts, and it was the best part of the day.

My students need time to stretch, and it’s my job to keep their bodies, eyes, hands and brains limber during long evening classes. That’s what the action plan is all about: keeping it flowing, listening and inspiring, while we grapple with crazily complex creative editing technology. I created this document after reflecting on what went right. If we follow the plan, will teaching and learning be different?

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October 2, 2018 · 4:34 pm

I’m Not an Artist!

Ok, yes, I hear that. I have that voice in my head, too. And, can you think like an artist, or maybe just SEE like an artist? I would venture you already do that. Have you ever looked at some artwork and thought (and maybe said), “that’s not art!” We have all said that, because for some reason all humans have an opinion about art, whether we “like” art or not. Let’s start there.

Seeing is a skill.

We’re not making art videos, we’re making videos. We want to like them, because we made them, but sometimes we don’t like our work. It’s not uncommon that someone else might actually like the video we made, even when we don’t.  What makes it likable, aka: good? Think of a video that was good. why was it good? Start there.

Speaking about what you see is a skill.

It’s hard to see your own work, to overcome subjectivity. That would theoretically be objectivity, to see objectively, as if you had no attachment to it. Is that even possible? I have opinions on things I haven’t even seen yet. How can I see anything without my own position coloring the view? Right there.

What you speak is from your own unique vantage point.

That’s a beautiful thing. Sharing our unique perspectives helps us see videos more clearly.  This course is all about paying attention to what we’re watching. We will learn to see what qualities are present in the videos we watch, and apply that so as to speak and write skillfully about each other’s work.

 

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October 2, 2018 · 3:21 pm

Creative Constraints

I get to teach a class in video editing, ART139. It’s called art video because it’s in the Art Department and that’s what my degree is in. That’s right, I majored in art and still found gainful employment, so there.

Teaching is hard – ask a teacher. The hardest part for me is not in the doing of the teaching, though, but in the judging and grading and deciding who wins and who wins less. I want them all to be stellar. In their own way, of course, they are. In the arena of educational achievement, however, fulfilling the assignments is the game. I generally allow a huge range of creative possibility within each project, ringed by a common theme, a limit on total duration, and other overall details such as adding credits, etc.

Despite the wide latitude, sometimes students go off on tangents that are wide of the mark. And even when the work is pretty good, if it veers outside the outcomes, it’s not going to pass. That’s that. Teachers with more experience may have hardened to this routine, but my skin is thin and callouses are still in the development stage. I use words carefully designed to project criticism with the softest blow. Some blow softer than others.

This was my response to a student who knew that their project was out of the assignment bounds, but felt they didn’t want to work within those limits.

-That’s the right attitude; live your artistic freedom.
And
The danger in not having constraints is that it often leads to artistic ‘ruts’, where one does only what comes easily.
Anytime you are working with the external world, i.e. other people, boundaries emerge. If you choose to engage that world in school, business, and so forth, the challenge is compromising to fulfill a shared goal. Growth happens within those constraints, sometimes painfully, but usually creatively.

“Life is about living with limitations and constraints of one type or another, but constraints are not necessarily bad, in fact, they are often helpful, even inspiring as they challenge us to think differently and more creatively about a particular problem.”
http://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2007/03/can_limitations.html

Kind regards,
Thatcher

I’m thinking a lot about this sticky area of assessment. What do you think about measuring creativity?

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September 24, 2018 · 8:53 am

New to Online Teaching?

Good news: if you don’t like to be in front of a people, this is the mode for you.

Bad news: it’s a (fill in your favorite word for ‘large amount’ here) of work to set up and monitor. Being organized is king. Make no mistake, online learning is about building a website. The best sites are massive, multimedia-rich interactive websites. You up for that?

Would you like some help?

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August 13, 2018 · 8:27 am

Prepping 1 – Taking Student’s Advice

~20 hours prepping over break.

The issue I now see from last semester’s reviews is that the (almost weekly) assignments became repetitive. These ‘skills’ assignments are focused on a few skills so that it’s a concentration: text, motion, speed effects, and less about making a cool video. Some people do that, but generally it’s a little rote and mechanical. I’m going to keep that part, AND add the creative. The creative part is the story, the meaning, the beauty, the intention behind it. That can be judged. You know what, you don’t have to get crazy wild about the artistic verve – though that might be nice(!), you’ve just got to make some sense. SO instead of single focused exercises, we’ll make each one a little work itself, and combine skills. FGS, that’s what video is. It’s NEVER one thing. There’s always everything: sound (or silence), composition, movement (perhaps), time is going by, necessarily, and something is happening on many levels. It’s going to mean making them more interesting and more scaffolded. Because dang it, what got repetitive is we didn’t do credits differently. More repeated elements have to be racheted up so the whole thing grows.

 

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December 31, 2017 · 10:22 am

It’s going to happen

Getting the email was a a sigh of relief: I can go on with my life now. This was the first wave of cancellations, and with no JTED students enrolled, mine was down for the count. I went to see for myself.
It wasn’t to be. Or was. My class made for spring.
Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 10.31.33 AMWhat wasn’t to be is a semester without teaching, having more time for focusing on some other true passion. Was is meant to be? I wanted to teach so bad, if only one more class, a merciful second, third (well, actually the eighth) time to get it right? 2 JTEDs now, meaning it will run, even with only 7 in the adult section. Fifth semester in a row.
I feel nauseous. It will pass, and then the euphoria will burble up. And down. And I’m enthusiastic I’m disappointed I’m driven I’m exasperated. The art of teaching is a cruel master. I am given this chance to fulfill a deep desire to give my full attention on this course, knowing it will probably be the last, no matter how good. With all it’s foibles and failings, fall was the best class yet. I was sort of hoping to quit while I was ahead.

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December 16, 2017 · 10:30 am