Assessment of Student Work: It’s Not about You

This post is worth sharing again. I spent the weekend and part of last week reviewing and marking first year mid-terms. This post is worth sharing again and again. This morning I read some of this blog aloud to my first years. I even had the blog up on the screen for them to see. I do think it is important to remind students that the mark is not about you, but the work that was reviewed. We (me and the TAs) are not judging you as a person. I know that it might feel like it, but that is not the case.

If I could look into the eye of every student (undergrad and graduate) and say:

Your course grades do not reflect who you are as a person. The grade is only an assessment of your performance in this moment with these assignments–no more. You should not take the grades personally and wonder if this means that the person who assessed your work doesn’t like you. We are assessing so much work and it’s ultimately about the writing, analysis, presentation, ideas, grammar, spelling punctuation, directions, but not about you as a person. The assessment is about the performance of the assignment or the project and it is not personal. And, I also ask that you think about the assignment that you submitted. Was it your best work and did you follow the directions? Are you owning the grade and the comments? It is so to say that the Teaching Assistant or Professor has it in for you or does not understand you, but is there more there? A moment of introspection is needed so that you can think about the assignment and the expectations for your work.

I remember when I started teaching and I was more casual with the students. I would occasionally hear the following, “But I thought you liked me.” I conferred with my mentors and was told–you have to be more formal. Use your title and remind them that you are assessing their work and not them. Who they are has nothing to do with the grade. It’s about the writing and thinking. I re-worked my syllabi and did become more formal the following term and didn’t hear those personal statements again. March Madness on campus is really not just about basketball. It’s also about research, thinking, and writing. Mange your time well so that you do justice to your ideas. My purple pen is here to comment and tease out ideas. I pick up each paper and think~ what is here and how can I help? The assessment is really about the ideas. Please remember this.

Teaching as Mentoring

 

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Last week I blogged about Lessons Learned, when a class does not go well. This post picks up where I left off, but focuses on my best teaching experience to date. I love teaching. I view it as a form of mentoring and learning that works both ways. I learn from my students, and I have ample opportunity to work with them as they read and engage with the course materials, their peers, and me. Mentoring is important to me and this class offered lots of mentoring moments.

Last Fall I taught a new course for the Technology and Society Program, Digital Skills for Your Career and the course was amazing. I need to clarify, I co-taught with an awesome person and she helped make it successful. The students were also open to the material and learning. We also had colleagues from Career and Co-op  lecture about planning for your career trajectory, resume tips, and LinkedIn tips. The thing is that we had lots of exercises and group work for the class.

The students started off with putting together an About.me page, where they could think about who they are and what they’d like to share. The course was also meant to have them think about being in control over their digital footprints. They also had to populate a LinkedIn profile well, blog, and then give a presentation about themselves and something that they’re interested in as their final project. There was also group work during class sessions.

We had a wide array of guest speakers from government, media, technology, non-profit, entrepreneurs, and other educators. Everything fit in well and our office hours were quite busy with the students. The student feedback unofficially and officially (student evaluations) was extremely positive. What worked well is that we allowed them to be vulnerable. We talked about vulnerability and we saw that thinking and planning was frightening, and they needed a space to do this. We graded them on their writing, depth of analysis, and public speaking. Overall, the course was awesome. Several of the students shared that they were recruited via their LinkedIn profile, and others used the class to think about what was next for them.

I am teaching the course again, and by myself this time. We are going to read Tom Rath’s Strength Finders and Sheryl Sandberg’s Leaning in For Graduates. I also have lots of articles about using social or digital tools wisely. Overall, I am looking forward to the class, and I hope that this next cohort of students are as excited as I am.

Review: danah boyd’s Work

Read More Books

First of all, author danah boyd does not capitalize her name, so this is not a typographical error. I have read her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014) a few times and I’m now teaching it in my Technology and Society 400: Technologies of the Future seminar. She does a great job of offering a thoughtful and respectful examination of teens use of social media. The big takeaway is that today teens use social media to socialize with one another. It is their social space.

She is not offering a wagging finger at youth about narcissism or technology addiction. Sure, she covers cyber-bullying and cyber predators, but overall she treats teens with socio-political agency and not as mindless victims to technology. She also speaks to the digital divide and the ways that youth use technology for important personal connection, and establishing their identities.

My students talked about technology use and addiction and one student noted that addiction is serious term and that we should be mindful of the use of the term. The student was correct, and we chatted about technology addiction. When I queried the class about how many sleep with their phones near their pillow, I saw many sheepish smiles.

This book provides a good opener to the seminar. I find it better to start off on a good foot and not jump right into doom and gloom about data mining, terms of service, and surveillance. That is for next week! Seriously, we are going to cover lots of material about technology and culture and very little condemns it. The class has a major project developing a mock up for an app that is needed on campus or in the greater community. Right now some students want to add to the current mobile app and others want to enhance Fitbits or other wearables for students. From my point–the future is bright.

boyd, danah. 2014. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Have: Yale U P.

Ladies Learning Code: Why the #YYJ Chapter is Great

I am lucky to live in Victoria, BC and work at UVIC. I have met some wonderful people on and off campus. I have been involved with Ladies Learning Code Victoria (#yyj) Chapter as a volunteer, learner, and sponsor. And, here I am again at an event. This weekend’s event is a Python session. We have approximately 40 learners here and a mentor at each pod.

The energy in the room is amazing. My favorite part, though, is the introduction of the mentors. Every mentor is either affiliated with UVIC or is a local business worker/owner who wants to see more women working as a programmer or developer. It’s quite breathtaking to meet the students involved with the Women in Computer Science and Engineering members. The learners vary in age from 15 – retired.

This time the session was held in one of our Active Learning Classrooms. The room is set up with the instructor in the center, and the students in pods. The set up requires lots of interaction between the students, and the instructor. I am happy to share that the attendees were blown away with the room. I do not feel smug, but rather like I am seeing the consequences of months of hard work by the leadership of the local Ladies Learning Code chapter, and the Classroom Infrastructure Committee at UVIC. OK, I take it back, maybe I feel just a little smug. Smug, and very happy.

Whenever I can see some active learning taking place, I feel a sense of pride. And, here I am witnessing the magic take place, as one of our undergrads leads the session. Yes, she’s teaching the session and doing an amazing job. Ladies Learning Code does a great job connecting our students and the local community.

 

Girls Learning Code: Scratching at the Surface 

This last weekend I volunteered at one of the local Ladies Learning Code events. I helped by doing social media for the Girls Learning Code event at St. Margaret’s, an all girls school in Victoria, BC. The “code” for the day was learning Scratch, and the girls had fun designing games. The school had donated space including the use of their labs, a large area for the girls to eat their lunches, and then the presentation of the games. We ended up using a computer lab at the Junior School and another lab next door at the Senior School campus. Thank you to the school! 

The day was fun and the girls demonsrated their wicked skills with Scratch. Some of the girls were familiar with Scratch, and others were new to it. Regardless, they had fun. The labs were warm with the hum of the computers and the din of conversation among the girls and the mentors roving around to assist. The mentors donated the bulk of their day to help. And, I want to speak to the mentors. 

The vast bulk of the mentors were women, and virtually all of them shared one message. They wished that Girls Learning Code existed when they were young, and that we need more women in the tech industry. One mentor noted that she has never worked on a project team with another woman. And, another mentor noted that in some of her Computer Science courses she is the only woman or one of three in a class of 50. Yeah, re-read those sentences. It’s 2015. We still have work to do. 

A few of the mentors were men and they echoed the comment. “We need more women and girls coding.” The mentors were great and coached the girls through the day. But, I really hope that the girls were left with the messages that it’s cool to like Math, Games, Computers, and Science. The mentors were introduced to the parents, and again the mentors shared their stories. I am sure that some of the girls and parents left the event with a sense of optimism. I hope to see these girls at more of the Girls Learning Code events. 

I used #llcyyj on Instagram, Vine, and Periscope. The Twitter handle is @llcvictoria. 

   

Getting Involved in Your Community

This post is both for students and non-students. More then five years ago, I resolved (without it being a New Year’s Resolution) to get more involved in my community more so. I am already engaged on campus and within some networks in Political Science and Higher Education. What I wanted to do was expand these networks and friendships off campus in the city where I reside.  To this end, I started to attend more community events and actively networked more off campus.

It is too easy to get lazy and keep on going to the same old haunts and seeing the same people (some wonderful). At first I must admit, it was a little strange. Would I meet people? Would it be fun? Yes, to answer both questions. I have networked, relaxed, and socialized and in the process have met many people. Some of the connections have proved fruitful for former students—yes, I have helped students get internships or jobs. But, it has also been great for me. I feel like I was getting comfortable and not exploring the city and making Victoria my home.

Specific to students, getting involved on campus and networking is not only fun, but can also help you with your future career goals. And, you will meet your peers who are going through the same things that you are. You might even make some life-long friendships. As an undergraduate advisor, I want students to feel like they are part of the campus community. Why? Students are apt to be more successful and happier during their studies. Seriously. Check out the clubs and course unions. And, for community members–come onto campus and network with faculty, staff, and students.

I include a photo below of the wonderful Hudson Mack, who invited me to attend his class at Royal Roads. Thank you to Hudson and his great students! Hudson took the photo.

Janni and Hudson

Girls Learning Code Day

Today my youngest daughter and one of her friends attended Girls Learning Code Day activities at UVIC. It was a packed day of coding in the Engineering Computer Science Labs for the kids and their parents. The crowed was packed with girls, a few boys, and lots of parents. The girls and their parents stormed the Ivory Tower or in this case the tower of the Engineering wing. This day probably saw the most girls and women in the building than at any other time.

There were numerous mentors at the event, too. The mentors were a good mix of UVIC graduate students, alum, and local mentors from tech companies or other businesses in Victoria. The Girls Learning Code Day took place across Canada and was sponsored by MasterCard. I would like to thanks Ladies Learning Code national, the Victoria Chapter, Erin Athene, and Linley Faulkner for all of their hard work in putting together the successful event.

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