Finding Resources

There are so many options! My students already complain that my course goes too fast. I want them to be able to apply the content of my course to various news stories, but then that’s more work and more content. ūüôĀ

I wish more of my students realized learning is work. On of my friends, @kemckee2003, has a Ph.D in agricultural education, and she suggested I make a blog about learning activities and the philosophy behind the different activities we do during the course. I think I need to start doing that so that the activities I do with students will not seem like minutia, and will have greater context, and be directly related to improving students abilities to postulate answers to my course objective questions.

At this point you may be wondering how I’ve managed to digress ¬†to education advise from friends immediately after writing the title of this blog on finding new resources.

As it turns out, most of the resources I’ve curated since I started teaching are Facebook posts that friends from undergrad and graduate school have posted. They’ve all gone on to become nurses, and doctors, or have PhD’s in agricultural education, or masters environmental management. While I’ve already outsourced the finding of new information to my Facebook family, this assignment did make me realize that I was essentially in a closed sandbox. All the people I was getting “new” information from had received a similar education to my own, had similar political beliefs and a similar socioeconomic background. Using things like Diigo¬† or Feedly¬†will really¬†open up my sandbox to a broader array of inputs. Finding individuals or organizations on Feedly and then reference mining their RSS feed was particularly useful. Broadening my searches¬†is highly desirable, especially considering the diversity of VCU and the shear number of students I need to try and relate to, and make appealing science lectures for. This especially useful when I teach Quantitative Biology and Concepts of Biology. In Quant Bio I am always looking for news stories to try and corresponding data sets for students to work with, and in Concepts of Biology news stories are a great way to provide context and application for the course content.

Making the spreadsheet of curated resources also got me thinking that I have a lot of on-line resources, but currently they are just sitting in folders on blackboard. They are neither searchable, nor particularly apparent to students. I am now hoping that over time I will not only expand my curated list of resources, but also append better metadata to each resource and develop some sort of searchable website so that students can type in keywords about topics they are interested in, or need help learning and find related content. I think making a course web page where students can tag resources organically is a great idea because they are the ones learning this material for the first time, they will be the ones best able to assess which topics a video is best suited to nascent learners. Additionally, having students search through my curated lists would help them develop the ability to determine jargon from critical science vocabulary, one of the questions from list of course goals. Linking the course goals with my resource library would also help students see the structure behind my course design.

5 thoughts on “Finding Resources”

  1. Love this reflection. I know that students are always asking about relevance (“Why do I need to know this?”) and I think that’s a theme here for you. It may not be as much of an issue for biology students (or more specifically biology majors), but it comes up a lot in conversations I have with faculty members. By writing and sharing about the learning activities and the philosophy behind the different activities would make the purpose explicit right up front (“Before you ask yourself, here’s why we’re doing this…”). Also, by engaging students in curation and the exploration of curated content, you’re showing them that this stuff is “real” and out “there” in many ways. This isn’t just learning for the sake of learning.

    Carry on!

    1. Relevance is definitely still an issue, even for majors. They think they want to be doctors and we are learning photosynthesis and respiration. They don’t realize these are the most basic and fundamental pathways and that a huge chunk of modern medicine is based on interrupting other more complicated pathways. This is actually a huge mental leap because they don’t know about all the other pathways. I talked about this on the first day. Probably need to mention it again…

  2. Let me add my appreciation for this post, too. Sounds like you’re really jumping in and making the most of the many resources out there.

    BTW, making your philosophy transparent is an important insight, I think. For me, a small example of that was group work, which I’ve always used but for a long time didn’t explain why. I guess I thought it was self-evident, which it’s not. It really helped to explain to students why I was requiring this.

    And kudos on your Sheets embed; a handy trick to have up your sleeve.

  3. Wow I like the idea of the spread sheet embed! I will try and create one for each of my classes. Liked the reflection too, and I agree that if we share with our students the idea behind a specific assignment it makes it easier for them to see the point of it and for many it motivates them to keep going!
    Excellent post:)

  4. Really like your spreadsheet w/links for organizing resources. I am going to organize the resources that I’ve learned about in OLE for some colleagues and think this would be a great format –

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