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Thursday, September 11, 2008

When did I become so crotchety?

I am the first to admit that there are a lot of things going on with my Principles class - they've got clickers and Aplia to register for, plus podcasts, videocasts, Powerpoint slides and occasionally extra stuff to read, all posted on Blackboard. I get that there's a lot, I really do. That's why I have handouts that explain everything, why I explain things again in class, and when I get multiple emails from students with the same question, why I will email the whole class with my explanation (and post the text of that email on Blackboard, since some students don't get my emails even though I've told them to fix their accounts so they will).

And yet, I know I will still get emails from students with questions I have already answered. At that point, is it terrible of me to be a bit annoyed/ bewildered? Of course, the supportive teacher in me feels compelled to answer every one of these emails, repeating the information one more time. But the crotchety adult in me can't help but preface my response with "As I mentioned in class" or "As it says in the handout on Blackboard". I want them to know the information is out there because I think it's important for them to learn to look for information on their own (imagine going to your boss and asking for some piece of information that she had already given you!) but every time I write it, I can also hear my mother's voice in my head - you know, that "I've told you a million times..." exasperated voice. But I can't seem to help myself. On the one hand, I'm sure some of them DID look and for whatever reason, couldn't find the answers themselves, so I don't really want to sound bitchy. On the other hand, I know some of them are just lazy. I just wish I had some way to figure out which students fall into which group...


  1. Have you tried showing them as an in-class demonstration where to go and how to get there via blackboard? If you haven't, that might be an effective way to go. I would imagine that it would be annoying to take class time to do that, but it might cut down on a significant amount of emails. If you have already done that, I would suggest just repeating it at the beginning, middle, and end of each lecture. Again, that's probably annoying to do that as well, but at least you know that the relationship between mentioning it and the amount of emails is an inverse one!

  2. Jennifer,

    I have taken to making "online tours" of key course procedures via Jing. You can use this tool for free and make up to 5-minute screen captures that can be linked to from your course.

    Here's the URL:


    and here's one of my "online tours"


    Let me know what you think.


  3. Tough question: How to balance empowering students to find their own way versus showing them over and over. I can't imagine having as many students in a course as you do, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. One thing I do the first day or two is tell the students several times, "Everything you need for this course is on the course website" (which in your case would be Bb). I also tell them I plan to give a quiz at the end of the week on the contents of the website. The quiz is designed to be pretty easy (one question) for anyone who carefully explores the website. Most people get the question right, they get all the points (I grade it yes or no), and they feel like they've put something over on me. Oh, and when students ask questions later on, I tell them publically "It's on the website," and then I show them where. Over time the class seems to learn to look for themselves.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! Mark, I think the screencast idea is a great one. I did one for registering for Aplia and now that I think about it, I did get fewer questions about that process than I have in the past. It also means I don't have to take class time to do it, which was something else I had been considering, so I like that. And next semester, I could easily add a clicker question or two about stuff on the website, as Steve suggests. Thanks!


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