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This is an old revision of TheFinalPaperBJR made by BonnieRobinson on 2018-05-01 10:15:09.


The current education system is heavily lopsided with extrinsic reward systems, starting in the earliest elementary grades. Students are constantly earning prizes and trinkets and free stuff in return for their efforts - most of which is not creative but is quantitative. By the time the students arrive at my college composition class, many of them have no recollection of coming up with a project or paper on their own. Teachers have assigned very prescriptive work, again reducing (if not obliterating) the creative and emphasizing a measurable outcome. Of course, teaching at a community college, we serve a population where 60% of the newly enrolling students test in under-prepared. A large number of my students claim they have never been asked to write a paper on their own. They tell me about templates or highly structured worksheets they were told to use for the process. Most of my students have never written creatively, certainly not for enjoyment. By and large, my students have rarely been asked to think.

Krug's title, Don't Make Me Think, is a phrase regularly resounded in my classroom at any given time during a semester. Students quickly recognize that my assignments are designed in a way to make them think, and a few of them are excited about the freedom that allows right away. Several of them take a while to get comfortable with the idea, and a few never do embrace it. Personally, I find thinking to be such a rewarding process in itself that I have a hard time understanding the students' perspectives. They will often self-describe as lazy, but I watch them put in double (if not triple) the amount of effort to reproduce something rather than to create something unique. My theory on all this is not that students don't want to think, but that they don't recognize what thinking looks like, and they aren't aware of the many ways of thinking. It's almost a fixed mindset thing. Students identify either as thinkers or non-thinkers.

In the past, I've attempted to tap in to their intrinsic motivation is by forcing them out of their existing comfort zones and creating new comfort zones. I quickly try to undo the fear and intimidation students have about thinking by having them do it often and by having the thinking be something more playful. I also try to preserve time and space for reflection, so students can begin to recognize the thinking process at work and see the results. This course on Web Content Design has given me some new ideas about how I can perhaps have more success in helping students develop the meta-cognitive skills and be more intrinsically motivated.

The concepts around Web Content Design made me reorganize my teaching philosophy. I want to develop curriculum and a classroom environment where students are expected to think and to think about thinking...and if all goes successfully, to discover a new appreciation for the process.

Administrative Details

Here are some things I learned from Krug:
Krug's concepts are ones I plan to employ immediately when it comes to developing content for the courses I teach, both the online content as well as the face-to-face. I thought Krug's principles are really useful when applied to the more administrative aspects of the class. Krug's principles will assist me in being able to clearly communicate information that the students need to know but don't really need to think about.

Beyond rethinking how I present the administrative content, I have been reconsidering the materials and curriculum of my courses. The readings we tackled and the emphasis on linking, really gave me a new perspective, and I'm excited to apply these ideas in an upcoming semester.

I can't stop thinking about how students would respond to a |Hypertext Garden - both the actual piece linked to here and just the concept. I really like the idea of designing my class from the perspective of a gardener. I'd fill the space with lots of enchanting artifacts which the students could explore of their own free will. There would be certain paths they could take, some marked, some hidden, some leading to shortcuts, some leading deeper. I am very curious to see what students would do with this amount of freedom. I'm imagining a garden where some areas are meticulously groomed and sculpted (meaning, I'll provide more specific instructions, more information about the texts provided and specific texts to read), other areas of the garden would be more like a large state park with several paths to choose from, some easier, some more challenging, several possible look-out stops for deeper learning or further reflection, some additional tools provided to get a closer look or dig in a little deeper, a camping area for those who want to spend more time in one area... (I'm not sure if these metaphors are coming across clearly in terms of how I would set up the curriculum, and I don't even know exactly what it all would look like myself, but it's a vision that I'm excited to execute). Finally, there would be the wild flower and wilderness section of the garden - just a mass of hyperlinks for students to explore by either forging their own paths in, standing back and admiring from afar, or carefully selecting wild flowers of their choice to pluck and keep. Students would have the opportunity to develop this land into a new gardenscape for the class or for themselves, or they could leave it as is and just be a visitor.

Essentially, what I'd like to do is provide a lot more choices (via hyperlinks) and show students that not all reading is the same, not all texts are the same, and you do not think the same way when you engage with these texts. It would be nice for students to recognize that they were more intrinsically motivated to read certain texts (and to figure out why). I feel like exercises like this would boost my students' confidence and move them to self-identify as "thinkers." Pieces that we read in class that I think would be really conducive for this would be:
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