Monday, May 25, 2009

Things that annoy me: A rant!

I like to think of ways to make things better rather than just complain...

Something like elluminate can be used as it has been by the department of ed in Victoria to run online tutorials with voice and typed messaging available, speakers notes can be annotated by the speaker and live questions answered with all of it being recorded for those unable to be here. Check out some of the previous free recordings here.

This would be of more assistance than the useless forums that are not moderated or led by the tutor/lecturers. They have been from the start a place for anxious fretting and whinging, with little discussion of actual topics. When a student mentioned this in one forum the response was inadequate. Just like in a face to face tutorial, conversations need to be kept on track and an idea given of what the teacher is thinking – that means that essays are not such a case of ‘guess what the teacher is thinking’ and that the teachers need to be online in these forums more often, directing not just answering questions.

The requirement to set up a blog rather than being required to post to forums suggests that those running the courses couldn’t put in the time to manage the forums if students really used them for their correct purpose. The worried posts about blogs suggest that the course is pitched to older teachers wanting a change of ‘career’ for the last 10 years of their teaching life, who have to learn the farce that is ‘web 2.0’ from scratch**. People who can be fooled that a podcast and a forum are high tech and giving you better teaching. Same stuff, different bucket.

Ah, essays... first we are being ripped off by having to hand in assignments before the 13 weeks of study is over. I guess this is convenient for the lecturers and markers but highly unfair as there is very little turn around time between one assignment and the next. If the response to your first essay is inadequate and then the lecturers do not respond to that, how much time does it give you to get back on track and do a good enough job on the next one to pass? I’ll let you know when they get back to me! My friend doing the same course has waited over a week now for a response to her questions (our marks were 2 points different) and the lecturer has repeatedly said they will call and haven’t. We have busy lives too and think it would be respectful to actually schedule a time and make it happen.

Just for an example here are a couple of pics...
One is an essay that I wrote for my dip ed. It wasn’t very good – being a pass grade only subject I didn’t care a whole lot – but look at the level of feedback! Yes a little excessive but plenty of help to improve in a distance ed subject where you don’t have direct contact with the lecturer. The second is what I got back on an essay where I passed by 0.5 of a mark! I got a general response on the front page that included “Use readings and text” Text being double underlined. I would have got a bad mark in anything I did in undergrad study if I had not gone further than the text and readings. To then find inside that nothing is commented on except punctuation and referencing gives me very little to understand where I am getting it wrong. I'd expect that on a 80+% assignment.

I just don’t get it.
In my ‘scholarly paper’ for the other subject I failed miserably. The comments tell me all the things I should have done – that they were expecting but these related to the rubric not the question. I have always answered the question, am I supposed to write to the marking instead. Apparently. The phrase I found really galling was “At this level of study...”. At a masters level course I would expect to go beyond the readings and text not to regurgitate what is in them (as appears to be needed to pass), to take one aspect and expand on it. At this level is a ridiculous statement to make when there are different requirements for any course one does. These should be articulated not left to the expectation that it is understood – “at this level”. Specifically because what the marker was commenting on was ownership and voice used. I have other post grad papers that have been marked down for the very thing they think is expected “At this level”! Do things change so much at a Masters?

In reading what was expected the real question they should have asked was

Is your school (or the school you know*) an information literate school community? How could you as a librarian make it one?

This would give the opportunity to define and then have an opinion using your voice and give a range of problems and ways to solve them. Focusing on one problem as the question asked has led my marker to believe that I do not know the difference between information literacy and information technology skills. I disagree with that but if the marker doesn’t like the focus of your one problem, you are stuffed.

I also thought the comment that I didn’t “...demonstrate and understanding of the unique skills that the teacher librarian has to contribute...” was a bit rich considering at this point in time I do not believe that TLs have “unique” skills. I haven’t seen anything in my readings or practice that suggest that there aren’t others in the school who can do the same. The difference is the position we are in to deliver, organise, and see the big picture of what is going on with the school’s information needs. It comes past you every day. The conversations you have with frustrated teachers at the circulation desk, the rushed requests, the books tubs created, the classes that come in to the library, their wants, needs and how the teachers are using the library, the reasons why students are sent to the library in class time – all give us in the library a view of how and why both teachers and students are using the library and the information within it. Unique skills? Nup. [This has also been an interesting thread on oztl_net called what we teach and what we do]

The one good thing I got out of that essay was an introduction to Diigo – a social bookmarking site. I am trying to starting it with a year 9 class doing research on social issues important to them as it will give an opportunity to discuss the value of the sites they are using and the use of information from the internet – something that is sorely lacking in most research assignments set. In bookmarking they have to use the URL of the page. I know that sounds simple, but last year I had year 9s giving me science research with and as references! If only I could get them some time in a computer room to teach it – I may try using a projector to teach it and see if they’ll do some at home then discuss postings to the site after...

Yep, I spent the time since the last post writing this thinking if I got it out, perhaps I could find the focus to continue with my uni work. I’ll post, turn off the computer and probably do something other than read n write.

Ah well, it’s hard to go on without answers.

*because this is entry level TL, but incredibly biased to teachers working in libraries already...** I wonder if that is because the NSW government is giving the uni lots of money to give their teachers a basic grounding in what they should be doing and make sure they pass by making it colour by numbers (or write to marking criteria, never mind the question).

No comments: