RSS as Rorshach test

RSS as Rorshach test

I was so excited by the title of an article I saw in my RSS feed reader, provided by The Kept Up Librarian: “Is it time to start sharing the course management system?”

Before I clicked on the link I had the whole article mapped out in my head; what if other players in the university system were invited into the classroom via course management software? Of course I immediately thought of subject librarians; how amazing would it be if, for instance, an instructor’s students are required to blog about their readings before each class, and the subject librarian were given access to scan over student thoughts and add comments where they feel they’re required? Suggesting sources, reminding students about special collections, helping to answer reference-type questions that arise. With an emphasis on encouraging information literacy, a subject librarian could be using that access to prompt students to question the sources they’re encountering. And what about colleagues, other faculty members? What if the assigned reading were written by someone who was invited in to look at and comment on student responses?

Back in 2002 I delivered a guest lecture in an environmental science class instructed by my good friend Jason Nolan at the University of Toronto. It was a very enjoyable talk (for me, at least). The students were attentive and had lots of questions. But what was actually quite wonderful was the chance I had after the class period to continue my communication with the students and answer questions that came up after we had all gone home; I was invited to follow the class blogs and comment on the student’s feedback about the lecture in the days that followed. There were some lingering questions that I was able to answer and the feedback was quite useful and helpful to me. The dialogue between me as a guest lecturer and the students was vibrant in class and out.

So when I saw that title, I got to thinking about courseware sharing, about inviting people into the classroom in all kinds of interesting synchronous and asynchronous ways. The range of useful collaboration could be huge. Other faculty members, librarians, TAs, advanced graduate students with a particular interest in the subject at hand, scholars at other universities, community members who are putting classroom theories into practice; the possibilities are endless.

So I was so excited to read this article.

And it turns out not to be about this at all. It’s really talking about how a courseware system (probably WebCT) could be used in staff development. And that’s true, don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good point. There are lots of things that could be used in staff development, certainly. But gosh. I was sort of hoping for something else.

RSS Headlines: a Rorshach test for the overly-enthusiastic.

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