Coming this Fall... BIG CHANGES

As some of you may have seen in the class announcements, the Ning blog service I use (their "mini-Ning" as it is called) is being discontinued, and I cannot afford to pay out of pocket for a regular Ning. So, after having used Ning very happily for 5 years as the blogging platform for these classes, I've decided to switch to Google Blogger... and then, like a chain of dominoes falling, ALL kinds of possibilities open up for making changes to the class.

So, below you will find information about my current plans, and if you have thoughts about ANY of these items, I would really appreciate your comments and feedback! There is a Suggestion Box for anonymous feedback. Alternatively, if you want a reply (and I would be so glad to have back-and-forth discussion of these topics with anyone who wants to do that!), then feel free to send me an email instead of using the anonymous Suggestion Box.

Here are the changes I'm looking at for Fall:

1. Blogger for Blogging. The Ning was a fun space to use for blogging because everybody was there "together" as it were. But it had some real drawbacks too: the blogs all looked the same, you couldn't have your own blog labels, etc. When I first started using Ning, people could choose their own designs, and that was so much fun. Ning discontinued that option for the mini-Ning already a few years ago, and I have missed it a lot. So, even though we will not have the "togetherness" of the Ning, everyone will get to design their blog to make it more personal, more about your own identity online, which I think will be great!

2. Blogs, NOT Quizzes. Because the Blogger option will allow people to label their blog posts and organize the blog into different sections, it will be possible now to have Reading Diaries as a way to keep notes about what you are reading. That means... NO MORE QUIZZES. I'm sure you are as glad about that as I am! The Desire2Learn interface for quizzes is terrible, just as frustrating for me as for you (I get no useful feedback over time to help me improve the quizzes, for example). Since the goal of the quizzes is just to help you engage with the reading, I am sure that keeping a Reading Diary in the form of a blog post will be even more effective than the quizzes were, and the flexible Blogger space will make that so easy to do.
Sample Myth-Folklore Reading Diary
Sample Indian Epics Reading Diary

3. Storytelling Blog Posts. Because of the Reading Diary blog post each week (two posts in Indian Epics, A and B), there will be be just one other required blog post per week: the storytelling post.
Tuesday: Reading Diary
Wednesday: Reading Diary, continued
Thursday: Storytelling Post
There will be an extra credit option for an essay-type blog post, like now, but no required essay. Just the Reading Diary post(s) and a storytelling post each week. And yes, this will be the same schedule for both Indian Epics and Myth-Folklore (right now, they work differently).

4. Early Bird Extra Credit. Early Bird extra credit for the reading will work this way now: if you do the first part of the reading for the week on Monday rather than Tuesday, you will get extra credit. So, rather than cramming the reading into Tuesday-Wednesday, you would get extra credit for doing the first part of the reading on Monday:
Monday: Reading Diary: PLUS Early Bird extra credit (reading)
Wednesday: Reading Diary, continued
Thursday: Storytelling Post

5. Streamlining Desire2Learn. Without the reading quizzes in Desire2Learn anymore, the D2L interface should be much less confusing, especially in Myth-Folklore. Also, there won't be blanks anymore in the Myth-Folklore Gradebook for the different reading quizzes, so the points total in D2L will not be all messed up as it is now. Yay!

6. Myth-Folklore: New Content Website. Now that the quizzes are gone, I can dramatically expand the range of reading options. Before, there was just no way to cope with more than two options per week (even having two sets of quizzes in D2L was so confusing, as you guys know). But now, there really is no practical limit at all to how many reading options there are in each week, and I will be able to constantly add new content. The old website was over 10 years old (!!!), and I could not add new content, and even fixing broken links and other errors in the old content was really difficult. Now, however, I can constantly add new content, and you guys can have a whole range of choices every week. During the summer, I will work to make sure there are at least two options per week for Fall, then I will expand that to three or four options per week in Spring, and then just keep on adding content. To see what a new content unit will look like in Myth-Folklore, here are some units I have completed as a kind of pilot test:
English Fairy Tales
Welsh Fairy Tales
Tibetan Folk Tales
You can see more units under development here: Myth-Folklore Readings.

7. Storybook OR Portfolio. Every semester, there are a few students who get behind early on with their Storybook and find it hard to get back on track. There are also a few students each semester who end up not really satisfied with their project plans after the brainstorming is over, so they struggle with the Storybook all semester. Perhaps even more importantly, I know there are students who have a minimum amount of time to commit to the class, so having the option to spend less time on the project would be something highly desirable. Here's my idea for a solution: when Week 5 rolls around, people will get a chance to opt for a Writing Portfolio instead of the Storybook, and that Portfolio would contain your five best storytelling blog posts which you would revise with feedback from me and other students just as the Storybook pages get revised. It would be a website, like the Storybook, and the Portfolios would be listed with the Storybooks on the class list, but the five pages would just be your five storytelling blog posts, revised (and expanded as needed) to meet the same guidelines as a Storybook story. It would be less work than a Storybook because it would not require any extra reading outside of class, and it would also be building on a story that already counts as a storytelling blog post. I honestly have no idea what people will think of this overall, but I know that for at least some students it could be a good option. I am really curious to see what will happen with this one as people ponder their options in Week 5 next Fall!

8. Pinterest. In addition to Blogger, I want to give people a chance to share and connect using Pinterest (and also Twitter; see next item). I really appreciated the feedback from people about Pinterest and Twitter this semester, and I am excited to make them part of the class; they are tools I really like. The way Pinterest will work is that everyone will have a Pinterest Board for the class, and you will pin things there each week: you will pin your storytelling blog post, you will do some pins related to the weekly reading, and you will also pin each new story you add to your Storybook/Portfolio, plus you will pin items as you do brainstorming for your Storybook. Along with your blog, I hope the Pinterest Board will be a fun way to look back on and reflect on the class experience for you when the semester is over. Here's the Indian Epics Board I've been keeping on and off this semester; I'm going to enjoy re-pinning your Pinterest pins next semester - that will be even more fun than pinning on my own as I have done: Indian Epics Pinterest.

9. Twitter. Like Pinterest, Twitter is a great tool for sharing and connecting online. I'd like to encourage everyone to use Twitter, but at the same time I realize that some of you are already using Twitter and you don't want to clog up your personal Twitter account with class-related tweets (I only use Twitter for school-related stuff, so for me, it's not a problem). To make sure nobody feels obligated to use Twitter, it will be optional; for any of the Twitter assignments, you will be able to choose to do more Pinterest pins instead. (With Pinterest, since you can keep things separated by boards, I don't think it will be a problem to have a Pinterest Board for this class, even if you already have a Pinterest account.)

10. Review Weeks in Myth-Folklore. One of the nice things about Indian Epics is that it has always had two review weeks at the end of each epic. Everybody needs a chance to pause and look back. So, in Myth-Folklore, there will be two review weeks also, just like in Indian Epics (Weeks 8 and 15). With this change, the calendar and assignments for Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics will now be identical, which I guess is really more of an advantage for me than it is for you guys. It will make it a lot easier for me to send out the grace period reminders, for example, if the classes are synched up like that.

So, those are the changes... I am going to be VERY busy this summer getting it all ready to go for Fall, but I am excited too: I think the classes are good now, but it is always possible to improve things — and I really think these will be big improvements to both classes. Anything I have not mentioned here is probably staying the same, but if you have ideas about anything I have not mentioned here, please feel free to share that in a comment too. Maybe there are some more things I can change as part of this makeover. I would REALLY appreciate any feedback you can offer! You can type as much as you want in the Suggestion Box text boxes; here's a link to open the Suggestion Box in a new tab.