Professor Chris Phillips, Lafayette College
Course: Inventing America: English 332/American Studies 362
Commonplace books were popular in the 18th century, but go back to the Renaissance. You read something; you want to keep it in mind; instead of memorizing it you write it down so you don’t have to remember it. This is something Jefferson used to keep track of his speeches; this is something that a number of writers and readers during the 18th century used also to communicate. You write down something, you write a comment, you take it to a friend’s house and they copy down things they think are interesting, and they write a response in your book. It’s kind of like Facebook groups in 18th-century form.
In class, I wanted students to get a sense of what this type of text world was like. So they kept commonplace books throughout the semester. The students kept notes of their reading; they would write responses to it, they would add in different things from our trips. Some of them would cut out pieces of brochures and glue them in, some would write long reflections, and then they would write responses to each other.
Toward the end of the course, I wanted them to think about the other dynamic of commonplace books which is that a lot of times when say Jefferson was putting a speech together or when someone like Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson wanted to publish in a magazine, you’d have to take something out of this manuscript world and get it into another medium. So the students constructed a course anthology, and it was up to them to decide the medium, and they wanted to use a wiki.
They thought this was the best way to publish a commonplace book that still looked like what an 18th century commonplace book might look like, just no longer in manuscript form. So students entered excerpts from their books. These are quotations, reflections, and responses to each other. Someone added a link to a museum we went to as a way of adding a memento rather than scrapbooking it in.
The benefits of using the wiki were that it was simple to set up, but it also opened up interesting discussions about changes between media, changes between anthologizing practices and got us into questions about what it means to work in a system where you don’t keep track of intellectual property. Nothing is attributed in the anthology, and the students wanted it this way. Commonplace books were about collective authorship so this was our chance to use some of the newest technology to construct one of the oldest types of media they’ve been involved in.
Professor Mark Burford, Reed College
Course: Music of the Caribbean
Unlike my courses on European art music, for which there are numerous anthologies and CD sets or multiple recordings of canonical works, several other music classes I teach, and the way I teach them, require that I accumulate materials from several sources, especially recordings. For these courses, which generally center on popular music and non-European musical traditions, I have used Moodle primarily for four purposes: (1) creating a “virtual mixed tape” of listening and viewing examples for each class; (2) providing “liner notes” with background information to complement this assigned listening; (3) posting assigned reading; and (4) providing a clearinghouse for course-related resources and other items that come to my attention over the course of the semester. For these purposes Moodle has been an indispensable part of my courses. The annotations for the listening assignments have been particularly vital. These allow me to give the students some context for the recordings—personnel of performers, instrumentation, date and location of the recording, song lyrics, performance context, significance of the particular recording, etc.—and to draw connections with other recordings we’ve already listened to. Providing this information saves valuable class time; students can come to class with basic information and we can hit the ground running during conference. From a practical standpoint, it is remarkably fast and easy to upload materials and, more importantly, to adjust on the fly, since material can be shifted around or supplemented as necessarily.
Professor Lee Upton, Lafayette College
Course: Advanced Creative Writing
From a student in Advanced Creative Writing: “Professor Upton uses the Moodle site as a compendium of material to inspire our writing. She has links to dozens of major literary magazines, so that we can log in any time we need some inspiration. She also has links to visual art sites to stimulate us if we start running low on creative juices. In addition, she has posted links to exciting electronic content, like recordings of authors actually reading their work. She has really turned the site into a writer’s resource.”
Professor Alex Montgomery, Reed College
Course: Weapons, Technology, and War
I organized POL 359 by topic rather than by week, which allows for more of the course to appear on a screen at any one time; it also exposes the underlying structure of the overall course in a meaningful way and corresponds to how the syllabus itself is organized. The supplemental materials (e.g., Super Ballistics Videos) are grouped together with the relevant parts of the course, and assignments are placed exactly where they are due (e.g., after War at the turn of the Century, but before the next section on War between 1900 and 1945). Additional readings or readings from books that haven’t arrived at the bookstore yet can easily and quickly be posted (e.g., Biddle2004), and important handouts are posted early and prominently in the course (e.g., 01.1-01.2.Posen.graffle.pdf). This also means that when I need to refer back to those handouts I can pull them up on the projector for everyone’s reference rather than having to count on them bringing them to class every day. Similarly, they provide a handy place to store short video clips to be played in class, so I don’t have to bring my laptop: e.g., the Gettysburg videos. Finally, important items that could be changed are placed at the top (Syllabus, Endnote bibliographies, etc.).
Professor Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, Lafayette College
Course: Introduction to Women’s Studies
I teach Spanish, Women’s Studies, first-year seminar and VaST next year, so I am familiar with teaching a language people have no idea about. And women and gender studies is certainly a personal experience, but also a forum, a space, a class to talk and think in but it’s also a language of theory and history, a lot of which is completely unknown to students. And so in the texts we used in class, there was certainly vocabulary and terminology that was defined by someone else, but what I used the glossary for was to have students come up with their own definitions of words we were making use of.
As humanists we sometimes use 10-dollar words when a 5-dollar word would suffice. But I’m in the business of thinking about 10-dollar words, so I wanted my students to think about 10-dollar words and offer them with a rebate to their classmates. So now we have a way to keep track of the 10-dollar words they found useful or new, and these led to discussion in class.
To do this, I created two class glossaries to separate the sections of content we were covering, and students were asked at several times during the semester to submit entries to the appropriate glossary.
I also posted a Word document that is essentially a glossary criteria: here are my expectations, define the term and define it in the following way, and provide the citation if you’re citing directly. They were also allowed to use their own definitions where appropriate. We added definitions several times throughout the course, and had an extensive set of glossaries by the end of the semester.
You can rate definitions and add comments, and I choose to use a custom scale to rate these check, check plus and check minus, and also added comments where appropriate.