Live blogging from CALICO: When good projects go bad…

(updated June 3)

Sharon Scinicariello (University of Richmond) did a wonderful presentation on things we don’t often hear about at conferences: No matter how much you plan, there are projects that sometimes just don’t work. And sometimes saving those projects from the brink of disaster is more work than originally creating them

The tools being discussed:



Upon the initial creation of the tools, the essential elements of a successful project were in place:
1) faculty buy in–>they developed the tool and created all of the content in
the project
2) developed the tool to meet the curricular needs perceived by the faculty

Project Goals:
provide chronological sense of literary movements
provide learners with opportunities for autonomous learning

Tech support:
Faculty member/lab director: made sure that the site met goals
Academic tech support: copies of D’weaver and Contribute given to one and all (blogger note: WOW)
(paid) Summer workshops for faculty
Created to be sustainable, to be frequently updated

Faculty incentives and awards:
Grants to fund the curriculum
incentives to attend workshops
got credit towards promotion (both for teaching faculty and administrative folk)

Evaluation and revision after being used in courses for one year
Student and faculty feedback:
–too much content
–too little guidance for students

creation of itineraires—> guidelines to suggest this is how you as the user should go through this site
development of a literary criticism site to mediate the problem of some of the students doing work outside of the class, some of them not doing that

Student reactions part 2:
the students STILL hated the tool, and the faculty were totally frustrated
some background info the program was meant to fill the gap that was created when courses went from 3 credit hours to 4 credit hours….discovered that these students were doing 2 X the amount of work that was expected in comparable courses in other disciplines…

What went wrong:
the faculty thought were focusing upon curricular integration not course integration: the students were focusing on the curricular goals…wat do I have to do to get a good grade in this course?…the tool was not explicitly linked to any course content…it was very difficult to assess the student learning because it was not woven into the coursework.

Sharon talked about the tensions of using a tool such as this that could provide a rich digital experience within a university culture tat values face to face instruction (Richmond caps their enrollment at 20 for intermediate classes, 10 for advances level…wow! blogger envy rears its ugly head)

The student culture at small liberal arts colleges, Sharon commented, was not geared for autonomous learning: the students needed to be taught how to do this kind of work for it to be productive for them.

The disconnect between truly engaging content and interactive content: or, the faculty’s ideas of meaningful content vs that of the students

The Fatal Flaw: Lack of Connection
Sharon talked about how students see the pieces of the classwork, faculty look at the bigger piece…students saw the tools not connected to any piece whereas the teachers saw them as connected, just not overtly.
Faculty wanted to meet curricular need without fundamentally changing any courses–> which meant in some cases adding on more tasks for the students to do without articulating the relevance of those exercises.

Sharon commented:
==successful technology integration a requires change in doing business.
==successful projects involve STUDENT COLLABORATION (liveblogger comment: huzzah!)

So now it is time to SAVE the project:
Another curricular revision and progress was made as they integrated the tools with the courses…wich involved changing the way the teachers taught the material (so that the tool makes sense with the curriculum and the coursework)
tighter integration with “standard” texts
Thoughts about using the tool as a resource and a catalyst for student collaboration

Note from the blogger: several presentations at CALICO concluded with a “When in doubt let the students bash on it and create something new”….With te realization tat you (the teacher) might be amazed at what they can create. And this creativity is not because it is technology and they are (supposedly) WebGen-ers but because they are used to working in a “small pieces loosely joined” model of accessing and also creating knowledge.

To discuss further:

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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