My subconscious is a better teacher than me

Does that title make any sense? Sometimes I feel that there’s this little brilliant teacher hidden inside of me. I come to class unprepared, and I improvise. I quickly throw a lesson together because I got distracted looking up articles for my students to read outside of class (We’ll read about online shopping; online shopping connects to facebook; people who use facebook are narcissistic; narcissism is responsible for the current economic crisis; *five hours later* screw it, let me just go with that original article on online shopping).

And then, boom! two weeks later out of nowhere, the genius of everything I didn’t plan hits me.  Like, oh, that day I threw together that crazy vocabulary activity in 5 minutes because I knew it would waste 30 minutes of class time? Well, you see, it’s amazing how well that prepared you for the TOEFL prep exercises we’re working on now and the article we’re going to summarize.

But really, it feels like a fluke. I don’t know why things worked out so brilliantly. I don’t think it’s just because I’m that amazing. I just want to thank the little teacher who lives in my subconscious. Please don’t ever leave me.

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I took a cooking class and here’s what I learned about pizza!

Lessons I learned from the awesome cooking class at the Culinary Institute of Virginia:

1. Bleached flour is bad. It’s even illegal in Europe.

2. All-purpose flour is a lie, particularly in the South. Use bread flour for pizza dough.

3. Whole wheat flour is not that much healthier than the other stuff.

4. If you really want to make awesome pizza, you have to buy a pizza stone. Having an oven lined with fire-bricks also helps, but is not necessary.

5. Learning how to make pizza dough is also apparently a sure-fire way to impress people. I’ve never gotten so many comments or likes on a facebook post.

A reflection on my tech experiments thus far…

Since I’ve been trying a few new things with my students this summer session, I thought I should take a moment to see how it’s been going.

For all classes, I’ve used Jing to create how-to videos so I don’t have to spend so much time explaining how to do basic stuff, like create a Google account.

My thoughts: This is going really well.  Students have told me how much they appreciate the videos because they’re easy to understand and they like that they can watch them as much as they need to.  Only downside so far is that I can’t put Jing on my work computer (stupid university rules), so I have to do everything from my laptop.

For my writing class, we’ve been blogging through Blogger.

My thoughts: This is going pretty well.  Most students seem to enjoy the blogging and they have created some really cool blogs!  On the downside, I still have two students who have yet to create their blogs.  And, it’s hard to come up with a new blog topic every week and fit it in to the already hectic class schedule.  I figure this will get easier with time.  Once I have my assignments set, I’ll know what to do, and I won’t feel as rushed.

For my speaking/listening class, we’ve been using Google Groups to post listening logs.  The students find videos online each week, and then they post these videos in our group and comment on them.

My thoughts: This is going pretty well.  I have one student who never posts.  The others post, and they have even found some really interesting videos.  I feel like this assignment could be done just as easily through Blackboard, but as we don’t have Blackboard, we’re settling for Google. Until I get access to Blackboard, I’ll have to keep using this.

For my reading class, we’ve just started using Diigo.  Students find articles online and post them on Diigo for all of us to see.

My thoughts: We’ll see.  Again, I feel like this assignment could be done just as easily through Blackboard, if I had it.  Diigo offers some cool features like highlighting that make it worthwhile, but the students have to download the toolbar to be able to use these features.  If we had a lab where I could send the students to use Diigo, I wouldn ‘t mind asking them to use this feature.  But I think sometimes they don’t like downloading new stuff on their computer, and I can’t blame them. Why download something you’ll only use once in one class?

Of course, I’m hoping that my students see the advantage of the programs/websites I’ve introduced them to.  Blogging is a great way to practice their writing and to keep a journal of sorts on their experiences abroad.  Google groups can be useful for staying in touch with friends or classmates and sharing information.  Diigo is a great place to save research, which will be especially helpful for the grad students I teach.

But so far, things are going better than I expected.  The first attempt at anything new in the classroom is always the worst, so I’m learning what the problems are now, and I think things will be better with future classes.

The greatest chocolate chip cookies EVER

These are so amazing, I can’t believe I actually made them. I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but that honor goes to culinary genius David Leite.  These cookies may hold the answer to world peace.  Thank you, David, for creating such a wonderful recipe.

Awesome, splendiferous chocolate chip cookies recipe found here.  Buy the expensive chocolate.  Wait the whole 36 hours (it will almost kill you, but then the cookies will revive you).  And then don’t share the cookies with anyone else.

Assumptions you shouldn’t make when blogging with students

Today my students began blogging in full force.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

You shouldn’t assume that…

1. They know what blogs are.

2. They know the difference between a website and an email address.

3.  They know the difference between a username and an email address.

4.  They can find Google, Blogger, or their email.

5.  They will remember how to do this on their own, even after you’ve explained it 20 times in class.

You can, however, be sure that they will find ridiculous pictures online and know immediately how to upload them to their blogs.

Blogging about my other blog

Yes, I have two blogs, but for good reason.  I’m getting my writing students started on blogging (wish me luck), and I created a sample blog so that they’ll know what to do.  I also plan to link to all my students’ blogs from my page.  (The idea is that they’ll read each other’s blogs and comment- we’ll see.)  It’s pretty sparse right now, and the first post is dumb (but it was just a sample post), but I’m excited because my students seem to be excited about the project.

I put together a Jing video explaining how to create a blog, which my students were really impressed with.  On a side note, it’s so nice to have students who care.

Here’s the blog if anyone wants to check it out.  Anyone blogged with their students?  Thoughts?  Advice?