Backwards Design, Forward Thinking

By: Abigail Perdue (Wake Forest)Black pencils and Design word

For the first time in a long time, I find myself teaching a brand new course. Not only is the course outside my discipline, but also I’m offering it virtually. And while I feel far more confident with regard to virtual teaching than I did last spring, I still consider myself a novice.

But instead of battling anxiety and fear like I did during my first semester of teaching, I feel energized, excited, and cautiously optimistic. All this “newness” is invigorating. Why? Because the events of 2020 have shown me that I grow the most when I venture outside the reassuring confines of my comfort zone, and the lessons learned from that challenging year have made me a stronger teacher and a better human being.

When I first started teaching, I had no idea how to design a course. Thankfully, I had seasoned mentors who generously shared their syllabi, course materials, and thoughtful advice with me. But in the process of pouring over how others taught the course, I risked losing my authentic self. Self-doubt sometimes led me to secondguess myself, deleting innovative ideas that seemed to contradict others’ approach. If left unchecked, eventually those doubts can cause you to unintentionally erase yourself entirely, fashioning a copycat course that doesn’t reflect your signature style or personal goals.

Backwards design is an approach to course design that enables you to emulate the best practices of your colleagues while remaining true to your pedagogical objectives and teaching style.  I first learned about backwards design at an excellent training given by Dr. Betsy Barre of Wake Forest’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Later, I had the good fortune of hearing this concept reinforced and endorsed by our Dean and Teacher Extraordinaire Jane Aiken. To my understanding, their remarks derived heavily from a book entitled Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.

In this post, I’ll briefly explain my personal understanding of backwards design and then share how I recently used it to design the virtual Professional Responsibility course that I’ll be teaching for the first time this spring.[1] Continue reading “Backwards Design, Forward Thinking”

Share our content!

Using Padlet to Create Community

By: Professor Heather Gram (Wake Forest)

Person Gather Hand and Foot in Center

Like many educators this past summer, I found my days consumed by webinars, conferences, and virtual meetings all designed to introduce me to new technology for the fall.  While most were helpful, I still felt overwhelmed at times.  Would I be able to figure out my third Learning Management System in five years? Could I learn how to effortlessly pop into pre-designated breakout rooms without accidentally ending the session for everyone?  And if I taught online, how could I build that same rapport with students that comes naturally with face-to-face classes?

Luckily, I stumbled onto a demonstration of Padlet™ and recognized that it might be what I was looking for. According to a 2018 article, “Padlet began as a free digital bulletin-board where teachers and students could exchange ideas, materials, and comments.”  It has “a simple interface that allow[s] users to drag and drop files from their desktop and add links from the web onto a web-based canvas (called a ‘padlet’).” While  Padlet™ originally offered the unlimited creation of padlets, two years ago it capped the number of free padlets per person to five.

Padlet™ immediately reminded me of the high school locker that I shared with my best friend.  That locker had been a place where I could post notes to her about assignments (“Do you understand the reading for tomorrow’s class?”), questions (“When is our AP History test?”), and articles about movies, music, and more.  Padlet™ seemed to provide a similarly creative way to reach my students in a less formal manner than just posting announcements on Canvas™. Continue reading “Using Padlet to Create Community”

Share our content!

My Virtual Conversion

By: Abigail Perdue (Wake Forest)

Photo Of Woman Wearing Turtleneck Top

If you had asked me last August whether I would like to teach my fall Appellate Advocacy course fully online, I would have said, without hesitation, “Hard pass.” Jaded by my own scant experience with online education (primarily in the form of mind-numbing CLEs), which had always been vastly inferior to face-to-face learning, I had honestly never given distance learning a second thought. Although I rarely speak in absolutes, I was wholeheartedly convinced that online teaching could never be as effective or rewarding as an in-person experience. And then COVID happened.

Bracing ourselves for the great unknown, educators across America immediately took drastic, emergency measures to minimize COVID-related course interruption, hurriedly transitioning our classes online. Most of us entered this new frontier without the benefit of formal training, preparation, equipment, or intention like astronauts sent to the moon without spacesuits. And although I did my best under the extenuating, unforeseeable circumstances, I found myself eager and anxious to “get back to normal” this fall.

And then COVID continued. Looking back, I realize that I, like so many others, was probably working through the stages of grief in a way. Armed with the flexibility and power of a growth mindset (thank you Dr. Dweck!), over the weeks that followed, I moved from denial that COVID would prevent face-to-face teaching in the fall all the way to acceptance of the “new normal” (that I needed to plan a virtual course).

Over the summer, my law school, like many others, provided countless workshops on virtual teaching and launched small learning communities about best practices in online education. I participated in a fabulous conference about remote teaching held by William & Mary. On my own initiative, I underwent other training as well. Applying the principles of positive psychology, I framed each training as an opportunity to learn something new, to innovate, and to reexamine longstanding notions about how and what I should be teaching.

Then something remarkable happened. Continue reading “My Virtual Conversion”

Share our content!

Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown (Brooklyn Law School)

A new book for introverted shy and socially anxious lawyers

Midway through pandemic lockdown in New York City, my television was tuned to CNN one Saturday morning while I exercised in my kitchen. My ears perked up at hearing an elementary school principal in Washington, D.C.—Dr. Sundai Riggins—relay in an interview how students who were not talkative in in-person classes were expressing themselves more frequently in distance learning. I thought, Wow, I wish every educator (and politician) could hear that message!

 When the law school where I teach switched to “emergency remote learning” in March, I too noticed students who rarely raised their hand in our live classroom quickly embracing online communication tools such as the “hand-raise” and “chat” features in Zoom. These electronic functions enable quiet students to signal a desire to contribute without having to interrupt their more voluble classmates or teacher to be heard. (Introverts resist interruption—to themselves and others.) This got me thinking, Are other educators across the country noticing an uptick in participation by quiet students during the pandemic? Continue reading “Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning”

Share our content!

Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Three)

By: Joy Kanwar and Kim D. Ricardo

This is the final installment in our three-part series on avatars in the classroom. In Part I, we introduced the avatar framework.  In Part II, we encouraged faculty to use avatars early in the semester to create an inclusive classroom culture, and to eventually help students build toward professional identity. Here, we provide specific details for when and how to create avatars for these purposes.

Law School Avatarification

 Although our ideas are new in a law school context, scholars in other disciplines have found it useful to consider the avatar as an extension or an agent of the individual in virtual spaces.  One study coined “avatarification” in the undergraduate classroom as the “utilization of virtual self-representations within a mediated environment in order to facilitate interactions in that environment.”  Avatars can assist in making the online classroom a space where students can express multiple, overlapping identities (or intersectional identities) and form part of a community.  As discussed in Part II, avatars allow for students to not only express the qualities of their current selves, but also as their aspirational or evolving lawyer-advocate selves. Continue reading “Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Three)”

Share our content!