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Grant: Teaching Online

Wednesday: March 25, 2015

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I was contacted by our Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching department at one of the universities I teach at, letting me know that they had a grant with my name on it if I would be interested in taking a course about how to teach online. Duh – of course!

I am not sure how I was nominated for the grant, or if everyone gets one as they take the course, but I am very excited and it couldn’t come at a better time with my current financial woes.

The class starts Monday, but I have already poked around. See, although I am teaching online already, this program interests me very much – beyond the financial carrot:

  • While I have taken an online course as a student, that was many, many years ago. I’ve forgotten what worked and didn’t for me as a student, and technology has changed dramatically since then. What do online courses even look like today? This course will teach me how to design an online class.
  • (What does teaching itself look like? This course might show me how not to feel like such a fraud! Oh, I still giggle at the cosmic joke that life has played on me!)
  • My university is transitioning to a new Learning Management System, and I haven’t had the motivation to look into it yet. I had decided that I would do it when it was essentially forced on me – but approaching it early and with training is a far better idea! This course will teach me how to use the new LMS.

By the way – that new LMS, Canvas? Golden in comparison. Gosh, why didn’t I look into it sooner?!

From what I gather, my classes are already set up pretty much exactly how they need to be, which is great news for me. Of course there are things to tweak and new ideas that I will learn, but the bulk of the course design is solid. One of my fears when I initially accepted the grant contract was that it would be very taxing to start over from scratch – especially now that I have it running fairly smoothly. Thankfully, though, the most work will simply be taking those ideas to the new LMS. Phew!

I am also looking forward to taking this class with other people. I only know one other enrolled, and just barely. He is another physical anthropologist, in a Lectureship position so he gets to participate a little more than I do in the department. Though I seem to have more teaching experience than him (at least when he was first hired), I am interested to see his ideas about teaching anthropology, and seeing the other “students”‘ comments on what works or doesn’t.

I have plenty of questions that I hope get addressed. How do you direct students to participate *meaningfully* in discussions? How do you objectively grade discussions? How do you handle the time-sap that internet communication brings? How to you keep the class fun and personable when they only know you through a screen? How do you keep from getting bored? And so on.

At the end of the course, to accomplish my grant requirements, I will be peer reviewed for the fall semester. Once I fully pass, I will be certified to teach others how to teach anthropology online. This is cool, but at my small university, unlikely to mean much (I was given the disclaimer as such). Clearly, minimum enrollment would just never be satisfied!

Unrelated side note: I am trying to find small ways to still be “active” in the science community so I nominated myself to be Vice Chair for the Anthropology Section for the Indiana Academy of Science. I could not attend due to car woes, but the current Chair let me know that someone present claimed the position, but no one took on Chair itself. Did I want to be the next Chair? I hemmed and hawed and decided to decline instead – how rude is it to take a title if I cannot commit to the responsibilities? I may wish I had taken the role, but there are always future votes when I can actually be present.

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AAPA 2013 Poster

Sunday: January 6, 2013

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Part of the grad school experience is attending and presenting at conferences. In the past, I have presented at both the Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology Association (BARFAA) and the Indiana Academy of Science (IAS), but last year I did not get to attend the American Association of Physical Anthropology (AAPA) (I held down the fort in the Monkeys, Apes, and Humans class instead). This year, I submitted an abstract for a poster presentation (literally a giant poster), coauthored with my advisor, a former student, and two colleagues from other universities.

Due to some miscommunication, the abstract was submitted prior to my colleagues finding a glaring error that, while not changing the data, was important enough to seek correction. Once submitted, the AAPA policy is no further editing, so I was not sure what could be done and truth be told, as my blog intends to portray, this was a very stressful event for me. I will leave it at that else I raise my anxiety again.

Long stressful story short, the poster was accepted. Not for a couple of days more was it made known to me that the edit would also be granted due to the special circumstances (thank you so very much!).

I am not sure of everyone’s stance on the AAPA – which is the same organization that produces the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (AJPA), but I consider both (as one and the same) in high regard. Not in the way that I am special for getting a poster accepted (it is likely a fairly straightforward process), but in the way that this is where all the knowledge of bioanthropology collides. Students like me will be in attendance alongside professionals with huge names.

I will now be traveling to Tennessee in April, with the daunting task of answering questions about my topic during the presentation schedule, and hopefully meeting my colleagues to explain everything in person.

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Semester II

Monday: January 23, 2012

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After I get situated with all the new assignments, I will begin posting class notes again.

Aside from my cohort, I share classes with some undergrads I already know which is cool. We also share classes with some biology grad students (mostly focused in forensic anthropology). At first that seemed daunting: perhaps because their program is not new but well established, or perhaps because there are so many of them. I am not sure, but I felt like it would be hard to keep up, that they must be more advanced than me, something. Silly of course, because they wouldn’t be taking the same classes if that were the case! They all seem cool so I look forward to getting to know them.

I did get the TA position for undergrad Monkeys, Apes, & Humans (all three of us were fortunate for a position) – two classes back to back with two different teachers. I am also sitting in on the undergrad Human Evolution class to refresh myself and hear perhaps other perspectives as well as updated discoveries. I will be working on a project for the Indiana Academy of Science coming up in March, traveling to Portland for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in April, and writing up a report on my own research by the end of the semester for Archaeology of Eastern North America (with the possibility of publishing). I’ll also have had to decide what my thesis will be, write a paper in Molecular Anthropology, and do fun things with teeth in Dental Anthropology. My job as the Research Associate is going much smoother this semester too, I feel like I have the system down and will really get to make a dent in the project.

This semester will cut me deep to my core, though: I have a class at 8:30am. Since that aligns with a lot of businesses, I give myself about an hour for traffic, with an hour before to wake up and get ready, and with winter upon us, an extra half hour just in case. Meaning that I wake up at 6am. For the last half of my life, I have been on a night schedule, waking roughly by 1pm (last semester I averaged 9AM and that was rough). Going to sleep at 9pm makes me feel silly but hopefully I will get the hang of it quickly (why yes, I need 9 hours of sleep). You must keep in mind that as you scoff at my hardship, if most people wake up by say even 7am, imagine trying to wake up by midnight. Exactly. Add to that, my school is in another time zone, an hour ahead of what I am use to. Having a home and husband on Central Time prevents me from fully switching to Eastern so I feel caught oddly between. Oh, and need I even bother mentioning I am not a morning person?

Overall, I feel busier than ever. I’ve had one week and it really feels more like a whole month!

Here’s a quick sketch for a dental lab assignment. I do not have Aperture reloaded yet so forgive the crummy quality, I used the print-screen option to resize the image.

sketch of a mandible

Quick sketch of a mandible, highlighting key features.

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