Monday, January 07, 2013

What's Up With the Green Page?

So here's the scoop.

There's a web page: The "News From the Real World" page, or colloquially: "The Green Page" (because it is green).

On that page I put articles about "Pittsburgh Arts, Regional Theatre, New Work, Producing, Copyright, Labor Unions, New Products, Coping Skills, J-O-Bs...Theatre industry news, University & School of Drama Announcements"

If you look now, posting has been slower over the break.  In a normal week there are 60+ posts.  You could look here: for a better idea of the posting tempo.

I have a boatload of sources for articles.  One of them is if anyone sends me a link to anything I usually post it eventually (the sourcing is a much longer email).

As a standing assignment for a bunch of my classes (In the Spring this is Basic PTM, and Scenic Fabrication & Installation) students are required to read articles from the page and post 5 substantive comments each week.  My intent here was to give more writing assignments as we had previously identified writing as an area in need of improvement.  I'm also hoping to build discussion amongst the students regarding the content of the articles.  In that dimension, the more students that participate the better.

That's really the heart of the thing.  So what I most want is more instructors to add the reading & commenting as a requirement for their classes. (this spring I have: DP Frosh, PTM Sophomores, Grad1 TDs - anyone else would be improving the pool).

When a student comments on the web page I get an email with the comment.  At the end of each week I go through the emails and count to see who did their comments and who didn't (occasionally I throw out comments I deem to be too shallow, and when someone says something I think a particular instructor would like to see I forward the email).  This fall I also started picking a "Top 5" comments.

In order to make sure people do their comments each week I generate a quiz.  The quiz is based on the articles that were posted in that week and are generally short, factual answers.  

For each comment they have done during the week they get to skip one question on the quiz - if they've done all five they can skip the quiz entirely.  Once a week each instructor using the quiz gets an email from me with the quiz, the key, and the comment count.

There are ten questions on the quiz, but they need only answer five.  The quiz is supposed to be impossible - the idea is to motivate people to actually do the comments.  But they do get this way to salvage some points if they forget.  Only once have I had a student that purposely didn't do the comments and study for the test.  She never really did that well.  Occasionally I have someone that will habitually do 3 or 4 comments assuming they will be able to get 1 or 2 answers on the quiz.  That's actually been a fairly successful strategy as it turns out.

How people implement the quiz varies by instructor.  Kevin gives everyone the quiz.  Tina asks who hasn't done their comments and has them take the quiz but doesn't do the rest of the class.  I give everyone the quiz and then we score them in class by exchanging papers and take time to discuss some of the articles from the quiz if they are interesting.  Totally up to the instructor.

This is the syllabus language from my class:

In keeping with the School of Drama’s efforts to promote community, students in this class are required to follow the News From the Real World web page found at:

Articles on this page will cover a wide range of theatre and entertainment topics.  This material will be covered on exams, and students are encouraged to post their comments along with the stories on the web page. 

There will be weekly quizzes covering NewsPage items.  Students may place out of quiz questions by commenting on the stories online.  Quizzes will be 10 points; each identified online comment counts for 2 points.  Comments must be attributed and substantive.  The heft of a comment is completely up to the instructor.  Students are encouraged to create a blogger account for commenting.  Remember, this is published to the world and there ostensibly forever – use good judgment.
From there it’s all gravy.

A group of folks (so far it’s been me, Joe, and Jed) picks one of the five top comments as the “comment of the week.”  That student gets a certificate and their comment goes into the Weekly Newspage Mailer.  I’m also thinking there might eventually be an invitation only event for the year’s comment of the week recipients – still developing.

Speaking of the Weekly Newspage Mailer, five of the stories included in that email are the ones that get the most student comments in a given week.  My hope is that people getting the mailer email are not just looking at the articles but are also looking at the student responses (probably they aren’t, but I am trying).  The Newspage Mailer goes to the SOD Faculty & Staff plus Grad Students.  I’ve been debating emailing it to all SOD students.  There’s also a d-list of external people that get the weekly mailer too (alumni, professionals, my cousins…)

Most recently those top five articles are also grist for a weekly Podcast (there’s a decent one here:  The podcast is SOD Grad students.  They get Applied Internship hours for participating.  I’ve thought about adding undergrads, but I am undecided on that question.

That’s the scoop.

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