Day 29: How YOU doin?

2 11 2009

Today we tested my theory that we were still having connectivity problems in our classroom. As class began, I asked all the students with iPhones to switch from wi-fi to 3G. Some of them had been doing this already, since it seemed to alleviate some of the connectivity issues they experienced. Naturally, I had a few students who did not know how to make this switch, and I told them it was not a big deal. Once half the class was switched over, connectivity was smooth for the rest of the day.

We took a quiz today using Survey Gizmo; I e-mailed the link to the class just before starting time, then provided the password in class. Note to self: send the link earlier in the day so they all have it already resident on their devices. This just saves the hassle of two or three having to find it during class time.

For me, one of the huge drawbacks of large class sections is the difficulty in gauging how the students are doing. In particular, my first-semester freshmen are at some risk of getting lost in the crowd, falling behind, and giving up. So after the quiz, I gave them a simple one-question poll: “How you doin?” The question was about their general college experience, and the response choices were:

  1. Great! Flying along!
  2. Pretty good. A few bumps
  3. Fair. Not sure what I’m doing
  4. Not so hot. Looking like a rough landing
  5. Epic Fail. Not at all what I planned

As I expected, the responses ran the gamut (note: what is a gamut, anyway?), with “2” being the most popular choice. This exercise didn’t tell me anything about any particular student (actually, a close look at a few faces probably would have let me pick out the ones who chose “4” or “5”), but it let us, as a group, talk about success and failure, frustration, caring for one another, and other topics. It also let me look them in the eye and tell them to hang in there (and invite them to come see me if I could help them).

Is this as good as sitting around the table with five students and knowing all of them personally and well? Not even close. But large classes are a reality, and anything that helps me help them (and bridge the teacher-student gap) is welcome.

So how you doin?

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