I am slated to teach Introduction to new media again (very happy about that). In this course I try to have a signature project for the students that is relevant to their life or the current socio- cultural, political, and historical context. Last time, all of my students were seniors so they did a “master of your own domain” project. This semester, I am planning on some how getting a video capable drone and having the students push the drone to its creative limits through making experimental digital shorts, with the backdrop of learning about the current political and legal, commercial interest etc. conversations around drones.

So… I sent an email to a few drone companies asking if they have any form of educational discount as I will more than likely end up having to purchase the drone myself for use in the classroom, especially if I can’t find an adequate discount. One company replied, not only not answering my question (they suggested a different model), but they started the email to me with “Dear Sir“.


It wasn’t an auto email. Someone replied and called me a sir. I think there are two reasons for this. Someone sees teaching fellow/professor and assumes male… (and I guess Jade is sort of unisex, but I’ve never met a man named Elizabeth) and drones seem to be for boys and men… specifically middle aged white men with a good amount of disposable income. Now, I am not saying they are the only ones who use drones for fun. However, I spent almost all of Saturday and half of Sunday watching people’s drone videos and tips, and comparisons, etc (I should probably be ashamed of the amount of hours I spent (seriously, it was more than 15)… and none of the people coming from the US did not fit that demographic. It was a bit shocking. I didn’t expect it to be so homogenous. So, I feel even more determined to have my class use a drone for the purpose of a creative intervention. The demographics of my University and the major means our courses tend to have more women than men. I want them to make videos and share them.

Boys grow up and get remote control toys like airplane and cars. I guess girls are supposed to get easy bake ovens and baby dolls. Boys grow into men and the toys are upgraded to drones. Girls become mothers and get the kitchen. That is what this is feeling like. When girls are depicted as doing surveillance it is almost always to show they are crazy and unhinged. There are a few things where women get to be spies or thieves too with special gadgets, etc, but the popular trope of the snooping girlfriend or wife seems to be dominant and pretty well accepted. When are doing surveillance they are generally super cool spies, action heroes, military (or related career) men, or hobbyist with a bunch of disposable income and time. I was one of those little girls that loved cooking, but on a stove… and even more than cooking loved my chemistry set and my race track. I always wanted remote control vehicles instead of the barbies and baby dolls i would get. The barbies lost their heads, and the dolls were never touched. I longed to see commercials as a kid that showed that things like hotwheels were for me too so when I told my family and other kdis that I wanted boy toys it would be normal. This is part of the reason the lack of representation of girl droners out in the world populating the YouTubes was so… epically sad for me. That this seems to be so culturally ingrained, and from a young age makes me sad too. But it seems to be our popular surveillance culture. I desperately want drones to be for girls too though.

Anyway, if anyone out there in the silence of the internet has suggestions for affordable video capable drones, please send them. I’m thinking that all the companies will say no about educational discounts right now (and all of them might call me a sir), but… I will find a way to make this happen.

Also, if there are any amazing girl droners or research out there and on gender demographics and/or the culture of drone hobbyists (did a search and found nothing), that would be awesome too.

In #FutureEd there has been much talk about trolling. The exact quote is “no sympathy for the trolls”. Trolling will not be tolerated. When you are working with a group of over 10,000 people, that is understandable. Still, I think there is a place to play with trolling in new spaces of learning. It is afterall a big part of our digital culture. Given that we tend to think through things through our theoretical foundation, I find that I am fascinated by the performance of trolling.

My Classroom Experiment

The second week of class there were three Jade’s (me, and two anonymous students), one of whom loved the D. I blame Robin Thicke for this.

I was teaching media and popular culture. Blurred Lines was constantly on the radio and the feminist backlash against the video had just started. It’s use of hashtags, representation of women, issues with race and sexuality, the bizarre stuff with animals, the nudity, everything made it the perfect place to start the class. We’d be going over all the components. Plus, the part where in the background where the video says “Robin Thicke has a big Dick” really needed to be discussed because… c’mon! So the introduction to the course on the first day was a series of technological fails with a screening of the video and a brief discussion of the video. We would come back to it for the next two weeks.

One of the first assignments the students had to do was keep a media & technology diary chronicling their consumption and engagement with media over a 24 hour period so we could discuss it in class. Rather than having them say things out loud and writing them on the board I created an etherpad document that was projected on the screen behind me. Etherpad is an anonymous collaborative document tool that allows many people to write together in real time. It has a chat bar in the side box too. (I’ve created an active document here in case anyone wants to see what it looks like.). The students were asked to write down the main media they were consuming so we had a working list to talk through. They immediately found the chat box. And realized they could make their names whatever they wanted. And that I wouldn’t be able to tell who was who… and it would all be projected behind me.

The first thing people started doing was making their name “Jade”, “Real Jade”. The Jade’s were like some grand internal monologue as I could talk while Jade was saying things in the chat like. “I don’t really mean that.” or “I hate you all”. At one point the class gasped and started laughing though. Given the conversation from the week before, “the D” was in circulation in the classroom space. The person I started referring to as “Fake Jade” (going by the screen name “Jade”). Posted “I love the D!”. It was… interesting. Which is what I told the class, and I thanked Fake Jade for sharing his or her love of the D. There was only one instance of someone saying something offhanded to a student comment, and I shut it down right away. I told them for the class period it was fine if they wanted to troll me, but they weren’t allowed to do that to each other.

The Classroom Discussion When we met for class the next time I started with a discussion about what happened in the Etherpad, but I needed to address the issue of loving the D. The first question I asked them was if they thought something like that would have happened if I were male? What would change if they had said that and I were male? or if I were a different type of female? We then had a good conversation about trolling and power dynamics and classroom trolling dynamics. I explained that anytime I’ve opened up an etherpad in a classroom the same thing happens. There is trolling. We turned that into a discussion of why anonymity in digital environments might invite trolling. I think a lot of it has to do with power. The students sit in a classroom where they are supposed to take in everything that person in the front says without questioning it. Worse, a lot of the students think that all I wanted was for them to agree with me. The trolling gave them a chance to start the class with shifting power dynamics. I am okay making myself vulnerable in that way, because after the discuss I tell them they have to be vulnerable too. I know that all of them are coming in with biases, lived experiences, prejudices, and strong beliefs. They are allowed to leave the class with those, but inside of the class my only request is that they consider what is being said, and ask the questions or make the statements they’d be scared to ask or make in other place, because the classroom is the space where they are allowed to be wrong with minimal real life consequences. I then forbid trolling sort of. I tell them the only one who gets to troll the class is me. I didn’t ask and didn’t care who Fake Jade was. He or she provided a great teaching moment.

Post trollpocalypse class dynamics Any time I’ve opened up the etherpad the classroom dynamics have changed after. Students are more open with each other and with me because I “play” with them in the chat. We have really great conversations after about what happened. I don’t ignore any of the bad stuff. In fact, I focus on it because I find it fascinating on a personal level. Plus, I’m snarky. I get to be snarky about what they are doing. They, in turn, open themselves up and realize I am serious when I say it is fine to ask or say just about anything you want in this class, chances are it is relevant to the topic. You just have to be okay with use dissecting it after. This openness has been invaluable when teaching sections on race, gender, and sexuality. I’m positive I get questions and comments that most people don’t (I’ve talked to lots of people about them and they are usually shocked), but it is because in addition to making the classroom a space of thought experimentation, I assure them that it will be a judgement free zone. By allowing them to have that moment of ultimate power through anonymity and control of the screen immediately behind me, and not holding it against them, they seem to trust me when I tell them that.

This is how I troll

At the end of the semester we started going over some global dynamics of popular media. While lots of places see the US stuff, we tend to not watch the external stuff. YouTube’s first video awards saw Girl’s Generation win best video of the year though, and Big Bang’s T.O.P. was voted one of the sexiest male musicians in the world. Only, I really like d-dragon. So, we watched some Korean pop videos. I told the class about T.O.P.s success, and then played the video above claiming it was T.O.P. when he was younger (really I just wanted to hear the song because I prefer G-dragon). A few people questioned because the title said something else, and half-way through a student said they thought they saw something that said 2013… but I told them they were wrong. And they went with it. When we met next time I told them I’d lied to them about something and they’d get extra credit if they could tell me what the lie was. It took about 5 minutes but they figured it out. And then we had a discussion about all the things they’d told themselves to make it so they could believe I wasn’t lying to them. We used this conversation to have a bigger discussion about access to information (they could have easily confirmed I was wrong by looking it up on a computer or smart phone). We used the moment too, to discuss their built in programming that makes it so they automatically believe the person at the front has to be telling the truth, and how that can be dangerous at times. We then did a recap of class discussions where I knew my personal beliefs were way out in leftfield (we had an animated discussion on marriage proposals. I am against them 110%), and I would never want them to think they had to think like me. It is a reminder that at the end of the day they have to decide what they will incorporate into their lives from their classroom experiences.

How I killed trolling When I opened up an etherpad in my current class, Intro to New Media, I let them know that it usually makes students troll and we talked about it before we used it because trolling is a part of the social/digital media ecology. There were no trolls that day. Well. There was one, but the student was trying to be a “good troll”. She or he just gave lots of anonymous compliments and used the screen name good troll.

The role of privilege I am not a code switcher. I’m just Jade. And Jade happened to be raised in upper middle class mostly white suburbs when she wasn’t living in Hawaii, a upper middle class area of Chicago, or Chelsea in NYC. I am non-threatening. I am somewhat ethnically ambiguous in as much as people tend to think I’m mixed with everything and I code as neutral. I have a fairly thick skin and have very strong beliefs on the classroom being a space of suspended reality. This means I can troll freely. I have a good idea of the types of things people will say, and I’m not afraid to give it back. I would never, ever, ever encourage this activity for everyone. In addition to it being a risk for me, it is a risk for the students as well… and all of these things, personal positions, societal perceptions, power dynamics, number of people involved, etc need to be taken into consideration. It could go wrong very easily. I know that I am privileged to be able to use this activity, but it is my social privilege that makes it work.

because to me it is part of critical pedagogy… or something. (Is critical pedagogy a thing?)

I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their own style of pedagogy. So here is a part of mine. I’m about to embark on a new teaching trajectory where I get to put making before theory as much as I want (and based on the syllabus I think I might be failing a little but we’ll see how it plays out), and I am looking forward to it. The reason is, I have an immense amount of faith in my students to take what is given to them and surprise me with what they teach me. Every semester I am amazed at what they teach me with their unique ways of seeing the world. I know that if I just gave them papers to do though, I wouldn’t get to know how inspiring every student I’ve had to date is. And I’m not just saying that to say that.

I am lucky to be in graduate school in the department where I am for one reason above all others. That reason is the freedom my department gives me when it comes to teaching. I’ve TAed for Communication and Gender, and been able to teach in performance studies and media studies. My teaching is reflects my diverse interests, and for that I am thankful. My heart is with media studies though. It is where I have the most fun. That being said, I am greatly informed by my performance studies training in as much as I think that there are multiple ways to express deep thought and reflection, and those ways are valid, encouraged and should be submittable for grades. I love that people are getting into critical making because I think it is an “in” for people who might not have a performance background to begin exploring other ways of learning, assessing, and thinking through problems and theory… (I’m still not sold on the 3D printer thing though).

As I’ve been thinking through why the reactions people are having to critical making on the interwebs bothered me so much I started kept coming back to a performance studies classes I taught. I consider performance to be a form of critical doing or making, just not with circuit boards and code. To highlight why I was thinking of this I will tell the story of how the class went through four students.

Student 1: Probably a genius or some kind of savant. Best writer I’ve read in a long time. Performances were amazing. Got theory right away. Self motivated, but didn’t have to work hard. Contributions to class discussions were always unexpected and spot on.

Student 2: An amazing motivated student. Extremely intelligent, but had to work hard at it. Performances were good. Writing was exceptional but not near the level of Student 1. Eagerly participated in class discussions and helped other students walk through the process to get them to understand. Asked great questions.

Student 3: Had a learning disability. Had trouble with traditional assignments. Came alive when performing and able to express understanding and openness without restraint or fear. Performing allowed the class to meet an entirely different, expressive, hyper-intelligent, super-confident, stellar human being.

Student 4: Writing assignments showed lack of depth. Had a hard time communicating the connections that were being made during class discussions. Final performance was absolutely breath taking and brought many people in the class to tears. Absolutely nailed everything we did in the class from beginning to end in a snippet that we were all able to experience together. produced something that was probably a once in a life time experience for everyone in the class that day. In fact, writing this now I can go back to that moment and I still tear up a little bit.

The reason I think these four are so important is because if I hadn’t had a critical making or doing I would not have been assessing these students for what they really understood, synthesized, and learned from the course, especially student 4. Student 1 and 2 would have been fine no matter what. I can’t imagine though, not knowing students 3 and 4 the way that I know them simply because I didn’t allow them a different means of expressing their thought processes.

While I realize not every class can allow a space for some type of doing or making (can I just simplify and call it “faire”?), the ability to incorporate faire into my teaching repertoire has been a net positive for everyone. There are students that exist in the space between student 2 and 3 who were able to explore new ways of thinking and determine what they enjoyed doing more, and as a result, they were able to make decisions about future classes and… I say this having spoken to students in the 2.5 area… future types of jobs, because they had a better idea of what different types of work feel like.

I see so much critique happening of people doing things like “critical making” without thinking of big questions, but for me, a big part of critical pedagogy is allowing a space of exploration so that the class has a life of its own, and so that as many students as possible have a chance to succeed and to show the connections they are making. I don’t expect everyone to have the big questions when they teach, or to think through all the layers of power dynamics we all exists and teach in, not everyone has to (thank goodness for them). But that doesn’t mean that their students will not. And that doesn’t mean that trying to do something different, something that might allow student 3 and 4 to shine when normally they might just give in to the idea that they won’t do well, should be critiqued for being shallow or pointless. It just makes me… sad. Especially when I see this coming from people who are against essays too. I’m just not sure what to think.

For all of the woe is me grad life things that happen to me and every grad student in the world, I can say there is one thing I am 100% grateful for in my department. They allow me to teach and give me enough freedom to ensure that I never have to bring a course into being that I wouldn’t want to take myself. This is important to me. Whenever I am planning a syllabus, I try to plan it around things I will be happy to grade, talk about, read about, write about, discuss, tear apart, and all those other fun things that happen in class. A few years ago I was in probably a classroom situation with Cathy Davidson and we were talking about grading. Something was said that made everything make sense to me. I can’t remember the direct quote, but the takeaway was what I now say when I explain my classes. You can either grade on retention and application or on learning outcomes. If you are grading on the latter, most people should be able to get an A. I do the latter. Rather than explain all of this I thought I would dissect components of a recent syllabus of mine for a Media & Popular Culture 400 level class with Cultural Studies bent.

Basics to help this make a bit more sense. It isn’t a secret that I am a black female, of unknown age, who lets the class know that I am both heterosexual and a mother because I think it is important to acknowledge that we all have unintentional biases. I am not the normal person they see at the front of the classroom so it is something that we confront very close to the beginning. The class was separated in the following sections:

Part 1: Current Media Landscape

Part 2: Gender and Sexuality

Part 3: Race and Racism

Part 4: Theory, Theory, Theory

I places Part 2 and 3 before Part 4 because I consider them to be the excesses of theory in that while theory can help us understand them, everyone in the class has a lived experience that means they confront gender and sexuality, race and racism etc on a daily basis at different levels of awareness. My body at the front of the room makes them more aware of that experience than if I were a cisgender white male… and that is fine. It leads to amazing discussions early in the class.


Just so people know what they are getting into and what I hope will happen in the class, I have four standard objectives that get modified slightly depending on the course topic. They are generally the following though. And #4 will never go away!

Course Objectives

1. to read scholarly and popular texts critically; 2. to practice constructing and shaping arguments; 3. to find a voice in writing and presenting media; 4. to creatively experiment


The class works through 100 points for Participation (in Class & Online), a Media Presentation, a Mid-Semester Check-In (aka a midterm with a less stressful name), and a Final Project.

1.1 In Class Participation


1.2 Online Participation


2.0 Media Presentation


3.0 Mid-Semester Check-In


4.0 Final Project*





1. Participation

1.1 In Class Participation

For a 400 level class I decided to not to do a grade for attendance, but there was an in class participation grade. This meant that while people were not required to be there, it was in their best interest to be as it was the easiest way to earn those points. Points then went up depending on how much the student engaged or help guide the class. Basically this was my way of saying this would be a discussion based class more than a lecture based class.

1.2 Online Participation (posts for points not grades)

Rather than having essays due throughout the course students were required to write blog posts throughout the semester on various weeks.  The idea behind how these posts were designed, and why they were grade for points and not necessarily content is because the class blog was a private space where students were allowed to be unsure, share things that might not be a “normal” thing to be shared in a classroom space, or, just a place to have a conversation. The timing of posts and limits on when they can be posted encourages students to plan ahead of time. Because they are due in separate weeks and at different times (in relation to the material the students are talking about), they serve as a tool for me to see how students are understanding and thinking about course material. The posts helped steer class discussion as well. I should not that this is the assignment the students had the hardest time committing to. Those who did all of their posts all ended up with really high grades overall, even on the objectively graded materials. There is a very clear link between grade outcomes on all assignments and completion of the blog posts.

1.2Online Participation: Blog Posts (8 Total, done in separate weeks) 

Media Object (2) For these posts you will find a popular media object and provide a brief commentary (150-300 words) linking it to concepts and discussion from the class. These posts should also include 1-2 discussion questions. Due anytime before Nov 22nd.

Reading Reflection/Reaction Posts (3) These posts need to be made BEFORE we discuss a reading in class and show an engagement with the text. The purpose of these posts is to highlight areas you find interesting, or confusing. These can be thought of as thought experiments in 200-400 words. Due no later than 11am the day reading is discussed.

 Discussion Reflection/Reaction Posts (3) These are due no later than 1 week after a class discussion. These posts should continue threads from the conversation in class, engaging the conversation in a larger cultural context. These posts can also address questions or concerns brought up in class that did not have an adequate answer, linking it to concepts from readings in 250-450 words. Due no later than 11am one week after a reading is initially discussed in class.


You will need to make a blog post for 9 of 12 weeks. There will be no make up blog posts, and only 1 post/week will count towards your final grade. Nov. 22 is the last day to post to the blog for credit.

Potential Extra Credit (up to 5%)

If you regularly contribute to the blog over the semester, in the form of engaging comments/discussion on other people’s blog posts primarily, and/or additional posts you can earn extra credit. This requires engagement throughout the semester though. Bursts of activity at the end of the semester will not count towards these points.


For this course students were required to put together media objects to share and discuss with the class. In all honesty, they over thought this assignment and had a very hard time sharing. Instead they more often than not tried to teach. I imagine this has a lot to do with not having a sharing presentation modeled well, and that is something I’ll continue to work on in my pedagogy. Because this was one of the competency assignments, a rubric was distributed to explain point distribution.

2.0 Media Presentation

Media Object/Cultural Artifact: Theoretical Engagement Presentation, and Discussion Leadership

In groups of 2-3, you will produce a 15-20 minute presentation that relates a popular culture artifact to the concepts examined in the lectures and readings. You might choose to screen a music video, online role-playing game, silent film, news report, or podcast. You might opt to circulate a print artifact or some other physical cultural object around the class, or address some current or past cultural trend through slides or a performance. This activity is designed to help us frame the week! At the beginning of the week your group will be responsible for bringing in a media object such as a television episodes, a series of songs (no fewer than 3, no more than 5), a music video, part of a film, a website, etc. that will help us frame the discussion for the week through a common cultural object.

Following a brief exposition of the artifact or phenomenon in question, you should be prepared to elaborate your perspective critically:

What are some of the forces underlying its production and consumption?

How do class concepts help us to understand its existence and circulation?

Public controversies surrounding the artifact are often useful here, to draw out its position in culture.

Presentation Grading Rubric

Points Item Details Point Breakdown
8 pts Follows general guidelines as outlined in the syllabus
  • Show engagement with the course and course readings, especially from the presentation week.
  • Successfully begin to frame the week.
  • Presentation fits within the time requirements.
4 pts Discussion questions/Leadership
  • Prepare two discussion questions, as a pair/group, directly related to the readings.
  • Meaningfully engage discussion questions with the class.
3 pts Creative engagement with Media Object/Cultural Artifact
  • Display of reflexivity in thoughtfulness in media object/cultural artifact
  • Successful use of object to aid in understanding of course material
  • General Preparedness.




Midterm (Boo!)

I was teaching an introduction to media history, theory and criticism course, and the students were super stressed out on the day of the midterm. We’d been going over semiotics and I asked if it would be better if I called it something else. We decided to rename it the mid-semester check in. It is a take home assignment with short, medium, and long answers. The students have to answer all the short answers, and one medium and one long answer. I try to come up with questions that allow the students to reflect on their thinking rather than showing a lot of citations.

3.0 Mid-Semester Check-In (Formerly know as “The Midterm”)

This will be a take home assignment designed for me to assess your level of understanding of core concepts in the class. It is a chance for you to show me what you’ve learned, and for me to make sure we are all on the same page, so to speak.  You will be provided with a document that has directions and a series of prompts to respond to on DUE DATE.

Here are two of the questions that produced some really wonderful responses.

Mid-Semester Check In Example Prompts

Short Answer (30 pts, 10 pts Each)
Understanding Media & Popular Culture
Respond to the following in half a page or less3. In this course “Gender & Sexuality”, and “Race, Racism, and Representation” were discussed as spaces that are beyond our theoretical frames as they are grounded in lived experience and reproduced as stereotypes in popular media. Identify another area of cultural excess and discuss how it is portrayed in media and how this reflects or highlights larger cultural attitudes or norms.

Medium Answer (20 pts)

Reading/Watching Media: Textual Analysis

Respond to one of the following prompts in 1-1.5 pages.

5. Read the lyrics to the song “I Don’t Need a Reason” by Dizzee Rascal http://rapgenius.com/Dizzee-rascal-i-dont-need-a-reason-lyrics

Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlzgDVLtU6g


Explain difference in meaning that can be inferred from the lyrics and the video and place them in a larger cultural context (It is okay to write from a US perspective on this!) and/or the media ecology the song exists in.

Long Answer (50 pts)

Respond to one of the prompts below using theories, concepts, and discussions from the course, in a 1.5-3 page essay.

6. Gender and Sexuality

We all consume the same media, yet certain media are targeted towards certain genders. We’ve read and discussed romance novels and sports this semester. If the content of these items stayed the same,

Option A: how would targeting males instead of females as the intended audience of romance novels and erotica change our cultural understanding and discussion of these media objects?


Option B: how would targeting females instead of males as the intended audience of prime time sports change about the ways these sports are culturally discussed, understood, and sold/commodified?

The long answer was graded on a rubric, but it is a bit long.  I might upload it later.   Students did well (some of them even said they really enjoyed answering the questions!). They were put in a strange position though that did require some discussion. A lot of them were convinced they didn’t have any biases and/or weren’t influenced by the media they were consuming. They found that when they had to do the switch they were falling into stereotypical thinking and that was surprising for them, but awesome for classroom discussion. The answers to the medium questions were beautiful. I loved seeing the connections my students were making. Just… really lovely. And the short answer was my way of saying “I know we’ve spent a lot of time on gender and race stuff, but there are more things that are treated similarly in media”. There were lots of great responses, like romantic relationships, citizenship, body size and shape, beauty, ability, etc. Which made me glad, because my biggest fear is that students feel locked in by what we have time to cover in the class and don’t feel they have the freedom to think outside the syllabus.


I am required to have a final. i teach media classes though, and I think one of the better ways to make the theory part of the class make sense is to have students put theory into practice through creative engagement or media making.  To encourage experimentation the points for this are placed in to various components, some of which are Pass/Fail for full or no credit. I’ll mark those with a **

4.0 Final Project (35%)

Option 1: Traditional Project (Theory into practice) & Presentation Group work encouraged. Requirements to be determined by instructor and student.

Option 2: Traditional or Experimental Paper (Theoretical exploration) & Presentation 10-12pp, double spaced, times new roman, 12pt font. Must be done individually.

*Important Dates (and % of final grade):

Oct .14: Final Project Proposal Due (10%)**

Nov. 11: Final Project Workshop (5%)**

Dec. 04: Final Project Object Due (15%)

Dec. 06: Final Project Presentation (5%)**

Most of the project was points/no points to limit the stress. As long as students followed the directions (most of which were negotiated and agreed upon in class) for the assignments, they received the points. By taking out the qualitative measure, and reminding students that they were encouraged to experiment, students were able to propose things they hadn’t done before. It is always awesome to see the work of a first time DIY film maker or webmaker. Seriously. It makes it worth it. I’m ahead of myself though. Once I received the proposal and knew the type of projects students were thinking about doing, the ways they were considering executing them, and how they thought they were seeing them in relation to class content, I was able to make sure as we went through the theory section of the class I did my best to make it relevant to the topics proposed. I created a Final Project Guidelines (PDF) document. And distributed it to the students. The requirements were discussed in a class session after the first workshop before this was created and distributed.

Workshop days  are days where students get to talk to their audience members. One of the most important things for me with the final is that they know they have to present it to the class, and so they should get feedback to see how the class, their biggest audience is reacting and what input they might have. I usually create worksheets for them to fill out for these to turn in at the end of class so I can see where they are. The worksheets let me know if there are any red flags or project issues that are individual are universal that need to be addressed. The biggest universal issue is usually project scope.

The last part, the presentation, is what we do during the time slot our final is slated for. What I think is awesome about how this all comes together is, the diversity of the students and what they are interested in means that in the 2-3 hours we meet, have baked goods and soda together and listen to everyone talk about what hey worked on/thought about  for 4-6 weeks we end up with this really kick ass course review because people are interested in different things and make different connections and tend to bring them together in some really amazing and innovate ways.


So that’s that. A lot of the points are based on showing up and attempting the assignment. Grade breakdowns seem to indicate that students will end up with a grade I would have given them had I been grading on retention/knowledge acquisition based on their in class participation/attendance patterns, familiarity with the course literature, and effort put in to what they put out. I just shared bits of 1 class, but I’ve taught 8 classes now with this format I think. Inevitably every semester I have 1 disgruntled student that is used to doing minimal effort, no attendance and passing with an exam and a paper who ends up with a C or a D that tried to get points for the credit no credit assignment. Hardline though so it doesn’t happen. For that one student though, there are maybe 2 who apologize to me for not doing the work and getting a bad grade. They want me to know that it isn’t a reflection on me or my teaching and they can do better/be better students. So far I’ve had 4 of those students take another class with me. They all went up at least a letter grade. I’m proud of them.