Interactively Rich and Informationally Diverse Techniques
1. The Butterfly Attractor had two wings:
a. The Right Wing Attractor assumed order, consensus and stability.
b. The Left Wing of this attractor was, of course, Conflict; it assumed that class, race, and gender divisions of labor were not functional.
c. Then there was a well ordered Point Attractor... members of which would take the shortest route possible through the knowledge process. They read the text, took notes and took the tests.
d. There was a Torus Attractor. Students in it could make small excursions from text/test but stayed pretty close to traditional pathways through the knowledge process.
e. Then there were Self-Organizing Attractors which could create their own unique approach to the content of the course. One such was a reading group which selected books to read and discuss; one such was a video group which made a short video of the major sub-cultures on the VT campus.
C. Pathways through the Knowledge Process With
such a syllabus, it was technically possible to have 580 different pathways through the
knowedge process. The bookkeeping for this sylabus was difficult but 'Neal' Flora gave me
a very competent grad student, Ania Zajicek, who became my Senior TA, and senior co-author
of the article we six prepared and published.
In most large courses, there is one and only one pathway through the knowledge process...that taken by those in the Point Attractor above. One size fits all. Not good pedagogy.
D. Non-Linear Learning. One of the features of WWW is that one can 'visit' web sites anywhere in the world. That pathway/route is both unique for each person who 'surfs' the web and most of all it is non-linear. In the first embodiments of the GFCLC, most of the pathways through the knowledge process were confined to the small world of the course...one could 'jump' non- linearily to different menu items and thus diverse learning modalities. A typical menu includes:
These pathways did permit a much more informationally rich knowledge process
than found in most courses but still it was parochial compared to the current versions
used here at U/Vermont.
E. Hyper-textualized Learning. The essence of hyper-text is that one can jump, skip, hop and bounce around from one text/file/source to another.
Rather than going through a text/book/file word by word, paragraph by paragraph
in serial order, hyper-text buttons permit one to move anywhere on a menu rather than
cycling through the menu sequentially.
In the GFCLC, one can 'push' any of a dozen buttons in order to find/use/apply material from the course.
In the Drama of the Holy assignment, I limited the assignment to a fraction of the class membership. Any 20 could have 'pushed' that button. When a student did select this button, s/he would send me a post; I would read it, switch the window to his/her class list and 'charge' her account, 20 points.
The knowledge tree used in traditional menus is set such that when one takes
one branch, other branches become unavailable.
Not so in Hyper-text teaching protocols such as the GFCLC. Students could push a button in Conflict Analysis; in Symbolic Interaction; in the Sociology of Religion, in Deviancy/Crim, in the Sociology of Education or anywhere else within the boundaries of the course content.
They could spend points on tests, soaps, movie labs and/or field assignments.
In linear protocols, all the buds available on a branch are close to each other. In hyper-textualized teaching, students may select 'buds,' i.e., terms from diverse branches on the learning tree...to munch on/mull over.
Most courses are organized such that all field assignments must be done in a
given field or forest.
In the GFCLC, one could take the terms to entirely new fields and forest. In one course here at UVM, Soc43, Survey of Mass Media, most of the buttons took one to a place on campus or in town at which to do field assignments.
But, over Spring Break, students move out to all parts of Vermont; to the North-East; to the USA and some outside the USA.
For each class, I created a 'button' some fraction of the class could push while on Spring Break.
a. In the Intro Class, students could do the Drama of the Holy where ever
they went. I asked them to look at the type of religion, the solidarity mechanisms used,
the class status of members, and seven other features.
b. In the Crim course, I set a button which would take them to the Security Department on any campus. I asked them to look at five prevent- tative measures used there; I asked them to use any concept from lecture/text to analyse explain, apply to any of five kinds of crime, and gave them smaller 'buttons' to push within that assignment.
c. In the Media Class, I gave them a special lecture on Freudian Revisionism and allowed up to 20 students to 'push' that button. They were to use any 10 concepts from that lecture to analyse the ads in any magazine they chose while on Break.
One student, Oliver, was going to San Francisco over Break...he and I constructed a Special Project for him involving content analysis of four hours of programming on Radio Pacifica...a station very different from those available here.
F. Spending Points. In order to give the student in a mass class more control over the knowledge process, I 'give' each student generic 200 points to spend on the menu items. Usually it 'costs' 20 pts to push a menu button.
1. Students must convert their 200 pts into Quality Points which then serve as base for final grade.
140 quality points = C
160 quality points = B
180 quality points = A
2. Students must 'spend' at least 100 points on tests. Most spend them by
mid-term...but some have points left unspent at the end of term. These can be spent only
on the Final Exam.
It doesn't take students long to realize they can skip the final if they spend their other 100 points of menu items.
3. Market Socialism. Points are not spent in a completely 'free' market. Cost and profit dynamics were used to attract students to some ways to spend points; profit margins varied...generally, the more work and creativity required for a field assignment or special project, the greated the profit margin...I allowed 20% profit on some assignments; 50% percent on assignments which entrailed audio-visual reports to the class.
a. Students can 'buy' tickets to only 3 movie labs. They are very popular;
students would spend all their points on movie labs if I let them. But...
b. In order to enrich the knowledge process, I force students to spend points on at least three menu items.
c. In order to create 'demand,' I often permit a 'profit' margin. A student can 'earn' up to 25 quality points by spending only 20 points on selected buttons. Thus, I give a profit declining profit margin on movie labs, field assignments and special projects.
G. Class Lists. I set up mail lists for each class at U/Vermont, TWU and elsewhere.
The lists were used to notify students of new field assignments; to give review sheets for tests; to schedule movie labs and to provide a set of key terms which would be used in analysing movies. I post exemplary reports with which to help other students improve their own work...as well as other items of general interest to students.
Students could contact me any time from any where on campus or, if they have
access, any where while on Spring Break.
I check my mail at 7am and a 3pm; thus any student can be sure that I respond in timely fashion to any query/menu item/button they wish to access.
Conclusion. With this syllabus, one can de-massify large classes; can provide informationally diverse and interactionally rich pathways through the knowledge process.
It is a lot more work than linear teaching/learning processes but well worth it...if one would gladly learn and gladly teach.