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Sunday, September 7, 2008

First week

Well, I survived. And aside from the fact that my students are still having a lot of problems registering their clickers, it was mostly good (btw, if anyone out there is shopping for a personal response system, let me NOT recommend eInstruction, if for no other reason than I shudder to think how much worse their customer service would be if they had any more customers!).

I always feel nervous on the first day of classes. I don't know how old I will be before the first day of the semester just feels like any other day, but I sort of hope that day never comes - as Jon Becker reassured me via Twitter, "the butterflies mean you care". Even though I felt a little sick to my stomach, I know that most of the butterflies were due to excited anticipation (I'd say only 10% was dread and fear :-)). But some semesters are worse than others and I know that I've been particularly nervous about this fall because a) I haven't been in the classroom for several months, b) both courses are basically new so there is a much higher probability that something will go wrong, and c) lectures in the 500-seater will be recorded. Although no one but my students may ever watch them, there is something about knowing that they could be seen by others, perfect strangers, that feels very odd.

My 500-seat Principles class did get off to a rough start - I forgot to start the recording to capture the lecture! I remembered about five minutes in and fortunately, we hadn't done much anyway, but I felt pretty dumb. Of course, once it was available, I couldn't resist playing it to see how I sounded. But I hate listening to recordings of myself - I say 'um' way too much and always sound so much more Californian than I think I do (I don't really know how to explain that, since it's not that I'm, like, all Valley, but there's just a cadence that I associate with California that I don't really hear in my voice when I'm talking but always notice when I'm listening to a recording). But it's also kind of neat to be able to go back and hear exactly what I said. I can imagine that being pretty useful for those inevitable days when things don't go well.

With 22 students, the Economics for Teachers class is the smallest class I've ever taught. I consider this mostly good, as I'm hopeful that we will be able to have some real discussions, but it's also challenging, as I'm hopeful that we will be able to have some real discussions. It's so much easier to just get up and do the chalk-and-talk lecture. But no pain, no gain, right?


  1. Have you thought about Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com/) as an alternative to clickers?

  2. I feel compelled to speak up for einstruction. I have used the einstruction system for 3 years, and have never had any major problems. The only registration problems were mainly the result of careless students. The einstruction help line was unfailingly polite and helpful.

  3. @Sherman: thanks for the link. I'm not quite ready for something that requires students to have text messaging on their cell phones (though when I stop and think about it, it's probably the same cost over the semester as a clicker - hmmmm...). I may have to try this in my smaller class though...
    @anonymous: since you're anonymous, I don't know how biased or unbiased you are so all I can say is that while I'm glad eInstruction has been great for you, they have only been mediocre in my book. I'm sure there are worse companies out there - I also certainly hope there are better.


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