Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teaching journal

As I near the end of the sometimes overwhelming, but always exciting summer session, I find it helpful to reflect on what works. For me, a tool that has always worked very well in my journey as an educator is journaling. Keeping what I call a "teaching journal" allows me to track my notes, successes, problems, and ideas for future semesters. In the past four years, the summer session became a time to play with the ideas in the teaching journal and explore new ways to teach familiar concepts or content the students found challenging. I often go back and explore my journals (even from different classes) just to get new, fresh ideas on topics I teach every semester or as a reminder to consider the difficulty students had with certain content. There are now several "staple" activities that I always use and which have permanently etched themselves into the landscape of my classes. Little things that are easily forgotten from one semester to the next are also a part of the journal (such as having students divide into groups by drawing colored paperclips and sorting by color...a little thing that makes group work slightly more engaging from the start...especially if you pick zebra print or other patterned paperclips).

This is, of course, no longer a hand-written journal. It, like everything else in my life, has morphed into an electronic version of ideas and thoughts that can now travel easily and be shared with a click of a button. I learned more about collaborating with others in higher education during a free webinar about Adobe's amazing Educational Exchange. If you haven't explored this great resource, consider checking it out. The entire site is a collaborative wonderland for those in all areas of education. My interest in pedagogy and classroom communication, fostered through my first teaching journal many years ago, led me to explore this feature and I have found several exciting new activities that may work well in my courses. Perhaps most importantly, after exploring the site I felt that little burst of energy that comes with sharing ideas with others who do what you do. This is really important at my institution, where I am the only person in my discipline. With Education Exchange, you can share a resource with others or search through resources educators have posted. I spent a shameful amount of time when I *should* have been grading this morning scrolling through "all higher ed" resources. I cannot wait to further use this interesting site--it is a giant, collaborative teaching journal, what's not to like?

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