Teaching English Studies Through Blended Learning

Yesterday I and approximately 30 other colleagues attended Teaching English Studies Through Blended Learning at the School of English, Leeds. Many thanks to David Higgins for organising what was a lively and stimulating event.  I think we all came away with copious notes and heads full of ideas about teaching HE English in the twenty-first century — in part in relation to e-learning, but by no means exclusively.  I particularly appreciated the mix of presentations and opportunties for reflection and discussion.

I kicked off proceedings with “@likeabatoutofhell @ClosetCase @MsDisillusion @TheBlooferLady: Tweeting the Victorians — New Adventures in #OnlineEnglishTeaching”.  This was a way for me to demonstrate how I have integrated a range of discussion forum activities across my two Victorian Literature modules (many described in detail in other posts on this blog).  It was my first chance to share my Fin de Siecle Twitter session with the wider world, in which my class chose a character from a range of late nineteenth-century texts, also chose a twitter name for them, and then tweeted as Dorian Gray/Dr Jekyll/Dracula/assorted New Women characters, etc.  But we did this all within the VLE discussion forum and not on Twitter.  This provoked interesting discussion: some colleagues told me I could have done this in Twitter if I’d wanted, although I expressed concerns about the rest of the twittersphere potentially joining in.  The ‘walled garden’ metaphor for the VLE came up (which for some is a good thing; for some not), and questions about boundaries in online learning spaces.  I will post about this Twiiter-like activity in more detail another time.

Fiona Douglas (Leeds) talked about developing self-assessing interactive study skills activities for students (and, importantly, NOT calling it study skills but ’Studying and Researching English’) using Articulate software.  Greg Garrard (Bath Spa) then  introduced us to his Poetiks poem reader, which can be used as a tool to aid students with understanding scansion.  I must admit that I feel slightly queasy at the prospect of a computer somehow being able to ‘read’ a poem.  My first mischevious thought was to wonder whether if I tried putting Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh through (longer than Paradise Lost) it would blow up.  Greg is a powerhouse of radical and queasy-making ideas to other English lecturers, as one of our subsequent small-group discussions revealed.  He’s an advocate of cutting down the number of texts we teach students and slow reading.

Alison Johnson (Leeds) used the database Scopus to show how many articles are being written about blended learning, and gave two of her PhD students, Alberto Gomez and David Wright, the opportunity to have their say about how online learning facilities available to them at Leeds had helped their studies.  Laurence Publicover showed us the blog he’d started to accompany a module on ‘Literature and the Sea’, and Paul Maddern took us round The Seamus Heaney Centre Digital Archive, which is a treasure trove of recorded poetry performances.

There’s lots more to say about the day, and I may well post again.  In the meantime Ms E-Mentor has decided it’s time to join the twittersphere, and I’m now tweeting as @MsEmentor.

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