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.

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.

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