Online, hybrid, flipped, and flexed

Well, here we are, as they say.

In my mind, English classes often operate on a kind of flipped model: read the assigned text or complete the assigned writing outside of class; in class we discuss. When I have taught online courses, I typically make “mini-lesson” videos that go over assignments, strategies, background to texts, etc. that students can view at their leisure and respond to online. My main goals as an English professor are to get students to think about the texts we read and the writing they do in a new light, to acknowledge that they are seeing things differently, and to connect with each other through reading and writing. I typically achieve all three of these goals in in-person classes. I struggle with the third one in online courses, and I’m not sure what to expect with the hybrid/hyflex model I’m trying this semester.

In preparation for this week’s classes, I did hours of painstaking behind-the-scenes work linking documents and apps together, creating email groups for cohorts, google forms for surveys, padlets for discussion, folders for course materials, and pages in Canvas that link them all together in one place. It’s the sort of work that is hard to notice from the user’s end—unless it doesn’t work. Then it becomes really obvious. I also drafted procedures for what to do if Zoom breaks down and how to run class if I become unable to attend. I sent calendar invites for the rest of the semester with both the physical and virtual locations for class included.

I taught my first hybrid course on Tuesday, and it was a fiasco. Not a disaster, because we did cover most of what I had planned, but a fiasco because I arrived in my classroom to discover that the classroom computer had no webcam! No worries, I had my laptop! By I didn’t have an adapter for my thunderbolt 2 port to the VGA. No big deal! I joined the Zoom room from both my laptop and classroom computers – one for projecting and one for audio and visual communication with the virtual attendees. I had students projected behind me, in person in front of me, and computers to my right and left streaming the in-person class to online students and projecting the online students to my in-person class.

I spent the whole hour and twenty-five minutes awkwardly dancing between them. At one point, I moved the computers close to each other and spent two minutes trying to copy and paste a link using the keyboard for the wrong computer. Ridiculous. At another point, my laptop died, and I had to fish out my power cable and restart the computer. When I did, the virtual students lost sound, and I didn’t notice it in the chat until 10 minutes later. Also, 3 students joined the Tuesday class virtually when they were meant to join on Thursday.

It was pretty stressful.

But in the end, we got through it. I ordered an adapter and bluetooth headphones with a mic. I’ll probably get a laptop stand. I knew what to expect for Thursday, and the class went more smoothly—just awkward pauses while I moved people in and out of virtual breakout rooms.

I’m interested in how these challenges are pushing me to clarify what I care about in the classroom and challenging me to facilitate community building in new ways. I’ve made a lot of pedagogical decisions in response to the pandemic that I’m not sure will have the intended effect, but I’m interested to see. I’ll keep you posted!

A photo of overstuffed bookshelves in a used bookstore.

Citizen Scholar

After a long day of one meeting after another, I managed to make it to my primary voting location and cast my vote. No line, and the lady at the desk said that 500 (out of 2000 registered) in my precinct had cast their bcitizen scholarallots. That’s probably not too bad, considering the work day hadn’t ended for most people. (I was there at 4:00.)

There’s a lot of conversation in the Humanities right now about the need for public scholars, that is, people whose writing and research reach a broader audience than the 8% of the population with graduate degrees.

I’d be into that.

As a person who sits uncomfortably in that 8% (What do I need all these degrees for!?!), I’d like to imagine ways to make the kind of research I do relevant and accessible to the people I research, to the teenagers (about 15 million) and teachers (about 3 million) who spend the majority of their waking hours preparing for or going to public school and school-related activities. I was one of those teenagers and also one of those teachers. I am invested in the project of improving conditions for teaching and learning.

And I guess I’m blogging about it because even though people say to me that my experience and investment count for something in this business, I don’t often feel very much like they do. I’m trying to put my finger on why.




So here’s a video I made in case you are using WordPress Reader to follow the class blogs. It is less than a minute and a half, and it will show you how to add non-wordpress RSS feeds to your WordPress Reader.

It was easy and fun to make. Let me know if it actually helps. I’m interested in how people make these kinds of videos for “flipped” classrooms, and what that might look like in ELA classrooms. I like the idea of being on hand to help students work through their practice/implementation of what they learn in class, but I spent a good deal of time altering what I did in class in response to what students did/did not understand about the literary texts that we read, and I’m not sure that we wouldn’t lose something important by relegating instruction to a pre-recorded lecture. Something about the immediacy of ideas, maybe? Or maybe all that time I spent reading aloud to my classes could simply be podcasted or posted to youtube, and we could have class discussions that went beyond getting through the text together.