And Now Classes Start….

This is the week that classes get underway. It’s a little strange (I think) how my university does it. Classes start on Tuesday. I have one class that meets on Tuesday, but the other meets on Monday. So this week – no Monday class. My Monday class will meet a week from today and then have Labor Day off. By the time my Tuesday class has had three sessions my Monday class will have had one. I don’t get it, but it’s out of my control.

So – what are you looking forward to in your classes this semester? Do you have any specific goals for your teaching? Last year I had a lot going on what with applying principles of gamification and then working on how to use twitter effectively. Just one of those was enough in and of itself.

This year I don’t have any large scale grand overhauls in my teaching like I did last year. This year is looking like it will be all about refinement. And that’s fine. We don’t need to be doing complete overhauls of our teaching every single year. There are moments where we need to slow down and just tweak. I think that’s my jam for this year. Here’s a brief look at what I’m refining this semester:

Twitter Use

In some ways, twitter use will look very much the same as it did in the spring. I’m still using classroom tweeters. Tweeting during and between classes is optional (for the most part – more on that in a second). I’ve left sign up slots for parts of class, and people can sign up and commit to tweet during a specific segment of class when we meet F2F (because both my fall classes are hybrid). I’ll take a look at what people did and award XP. Pretty straight forward and easy to do.

I have added an option to tweet during class but without signing up for a slot. Doing so this twitteroption requires students to create a Storify and post it to the class wiki within a specified time frame.

I do allow for anyone to tweet between sessions – again, totally optional but it does earn you XP. I’m realizing now that I set this up so I have to go in and count tweets. Dang it. I told everyone to tweet 3-5 times a day for most days. Can we say dang it again? I’m not big into counting. I’m going to leave it in place as I’ve sent the syllabus out. I could change it. Class hasn’t started yet. But I’ll leave it. I’m changing this in the future.

One of my classes has to engage in an extended twitter chat. We do this during our online meeting weeks (see here and here). While I do want students thinking about quantity and quality – and I do give guidelines about this – I’m ultimately not counting tweets. I’ve got a new system for awarding XP in twitter chats which asks students to think about what they got out of the experience. I’m interested in seeing how this goes.


Blogging is a requirement in one of my classes and optional in the other. However, I’ve made the decision to shift off of individual blogs and use a class authored one. I’m hoping this gives us a better way to bring in and grow readership. The downside, of course, is that this blog will only be used during the fall semester (much like theĀ Politics of Reading blog only generates new content in the spring). It limits our audience I think because we are not regularly generating new content.

However, after a year the Politics of Reading blog seems to have generated good readership, and it continues to grow. Even in the off months, stats are showing that we consistently have more viewers each month in Year 2 than we did in Year 1. We have about 800 more views in August of Year 2 than we did for the entire Year 1. While it would be nice to generate steady content for the majority of the year – at least in the fall and spring semesters – the consistent uptick in views leads me to believe that people are interested and finding some value in what has been written.


I’ve refined the gamification principles a ton. A ton. I’ve written a lot about gamification, and you can see the posts (and how I evolved in my thinking and application) here. I’ve focused on thinking about how I can use gamification for creating options for my students. Not everything is optional (or at least not without consequences!), but gamification has allowed me to open up my teaching. Could I do the same thing without it? Yes, probably. But the concept is what got me here.

In particular, the application of gamification principles helped me think about class participation. I had gotten rid of grading in class participation long ago because it was far to subjective for my taste. But with thinking about pop-up quests in class, I could start to see how XP could be awarded and used in a way that was much more objective when it came to scoring participation in class. Pop-up quests are here to stay. At least for awhile.

It’s easy to think about gamification in terms of points. When you view class through the lens of a video game it all becomes about points. And yes, I do allow for XP to be awarded throughout any given class. Opportunities are constant.

XPBut, as the instructor, you can’t get hung up on the points. You have to think about the experience you want your students to have and then work backwards into the points. Consider what you are asking them to do – in terms of length of time and complexity – and then consider what the XP could be worth. Sometimes I offer a range of XP for a single in class quest based on decisions students want to make about how to engage with it.

And that’s it. That’s my starting point for the academic year. I’ve got some new quests I’m trying out, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go and sharing that with y’all.

In the meantime, I will note that I have planted an Easter Egg in the syllabi for both my classes. It is the exact same egg for both. It does require students to do some work in advance of the first day of class, but it is minimal and ends up benefiting them as the semester progresses. To my knowledge, only one person has found it. Or maybe multiple people have ignored it. Who can say? I’ll update on that soon once the deadline for it has passed.

Have a great semester!

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago