April 4, 2020

Stommel Comments on Grading During Coronavirus

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer of Digital Studies, commented on an EdSurge.com article, “To Grade or Not to Grade? During Coronavirus, That is the Question.”

Crises tend to insert new words into our lexicon. For educators in the era of coronavirus, one such term is “continuity.” It’s become both a strategy and a rallying cry as classrooms darken and instruction shifts online.

Except—striving for continuity may be a bit delusional right now. Or it may be an effort that betrays misplaced priorities. That’s the view of Jesse Stommel, a digital learning fellow and senior lecturer at the University of Mary Washington.

“I don’t want there to be ‘continuity.’ I want my students to deal with their lives,” he says. “I don’t have any expectations of continuity in my course. I let go of that the instant this started to happen.”

Like Stommel, some faculty and administrators are wondering whether the pandemic demands they shed traditional practices, at least temporarily, rather than sustain them at all costs. One custom they’re reconsidering? Grading. Read more.

Stommel Mentioned Chronicle of Higher Education

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer of digital studies, was mentioned in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled, “How Can You Find Time to Connect with Students – When There’s Never Enough Time?” The article lists several professors to follow on Twitter who can provide useful insight on this topic, including Stommel, “[who] explains his discomfort with the idea of ‘scaffolding,’ which he argues breaks learning into neat chunks without being responsive to students, in an essay for the American Association of University Professors. Read more.

Stommel Quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer of digital studies, was recently quoted in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “A Teacher’s New Year’s Resolution: Stop Fixating on the Data,” which encourages teachers to lessen the focus on objective measures, rather than learning itself.

Stommel discusses scaffolding, which the author defines as “a popular teaching practice in which faculty members provide support and assistance for students as they initially try to carry out a task or activity, and then gradually reduce that assistance.” The author then shares a recent tweet by Stommel, who said, “We’ve taken for granted that scaffolding is necessarily good. Any pedagogical approach should be looked at with one eyebrow raised. Especially one as widely accepted as instructional scaffolding. Scaffolding should be done with students, not before they’ve arrived on the scene.” Read more. 

Stommel Interviewed by Chronicle of Higher Ed on his ‘Start by Trusting Students’ Philosophy

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer in digital studies, was interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “Forget Grades and Turnitin. Start Trusting Students.” In it, he talks about his #4wordpedagogy, “Start by trusting students.”

“There’s a lot of talk in faculty development about best practices. But every teacher teaches at a different institution, they teach different students, they’re a different body in the classroom, and so the idea of best practices seems flawed to me,” Stommel said to the Chronicle. “Instead I think about best philosophies. That’s really where ‘start by trusting students’ came from. That looks different for different teachers in different classrooms, but it is a place to put your foot as you enter a classroom.” Read more. 

Stommel Interviewed by PBS on How Students Should Communicate with Professors

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer in digital studies, was quoted in an article on PBS.com entitled, “Don’t email like you text, and other tips for writing to a professor.” Stommel cautioned against using a one-size-fits-all approach for teacher-student communication. “Stommel … warned against advocating broadly ‘for one specific way students should address teachers.’ The relationships between teachers and students are ‘idiosyncratic and influenced by the pedagogical approach of individual teachers, the institutions where they work and the specific courses they teach,’ he said. ‘And teachers from marginalized communities have different challenges than those with more privilege. There is no one and no easy solution.'” Read more. 

 

Stommel Quoted in Chronicle of Higher Education Article

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Learning

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies

Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies Jesse Stommel was interviewed for a Chronicle of Higher Education article on a company called RaiseMe that is offering students “microscholarships,” small credits towards their bill in exchange for completing tasks such as meeting with academic advisors or getting involved on campus. The article said while some colleges and universities are embracing the program, some faculty members like Stommel are a little more skeptical.

“Stommel likes that RaiseMe gives students ‘very visible and clear goalposts’ for what they should do, he said. But he worries that solutions like microscholarships can obscure the bigger student-success problems for colleges: The financial-aid system is broken, Stommel said, and students need a lot more high-touch, human support. ‘It feels a little like ‘There’s an app for that,'” he said. ‘There’s an app for retaining students — and it’s more complicated than that.'” Read more. 

 

Stommel Comments on Cellphones in Classrooms, Teacher-Student Communication

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer in Digital Studies, commented in several national media outlets on students’ use of cellphones in classrooms. “It’s better to help students figure out how to manage distractions instead of trying to eliminate it,” said Stommel to NBC News. He believes that schools shouldn’t ban the devices from classrooms. “It’s better to harness it and help make it productive.”

Read more. 

“What I’m particularly opposed to are blanket device bans that fail to recognize that different humans learn in different ways at different times,” Stommel said in another interview with Yahoo news.

Read more. 

Stommel also spoke to Inside Higher Ed about email communication between students and teachers:

Stommel “warned against advocating broadly ‘for one specific way students should address teachers.’ The relationships between teachers and students are ‘idiosyncratic and influenced by the pedagogical approach of individual teachers, the institutions where they work and the specific courses they teach,’ he said. “And teachers from marginalized communities have different challenges than those with more privilege. There is no one and no easy solution.’ ”

Read more. 

Digital Native

Caitlin Murphy ’12 knew she was prepared for a job that combined her history and digital studies degrees and thought a position at PBS would be the perfect fit.

Not long after she submitted her application, Murphy got a call from the internationally renowned public broadcasting network.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

They had reviewed her resume and delved into her online portfolio, which she developed while a student at the University of Mary Washington, and it wasn’t long before she had the job.

“When I applied for the position, they said my online portfolio was one of the main reasons they had contacted me,” Murphy said. “It really helped me get a foot in the door. I don’t think I would have gotten called if I hadn’t had the portfolio I did.”

Murphy is a program associate at the PBS headquarters just outside Washington, D.C. She screens upcoming programs, like “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Foyle’s War,” to make sure they meet PBS’ standards.

The position requires an eye for detail and the ability to research, skills Murphy said she honed while a student at UMW.

“Caitlin took full advantage of the liberal arts experience at UMW,” said Jeff McClurken, chair and professor of history and American studies. “Not only was she a history major who wrote a thesis that earned her departmental honors, but she also crafted a second major in digital studies, anticipating our development of the formal digital studies minor by nearly two years.”

Her digital studies major combined her passion for history with her love of technology in a multi-disciplinary way, combining classes in English, art, history, computer science with ds106, UMW’s open online digital storytelling course.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s portfolio, which she shared during her job interview with PBS, included work from her classes and internships, as well as her work on the James Farmer Lectures project.

“She co-produced a site making the words, sounds and images of Civil Rights leader James Farmer available to anyone,” McClurken said. “She then took an assignment in my class to create a digital portfolio and ran with it, producing an amazing site featuring her projects in several classes in multiple departments.  It’s no surprise to me that PBS hired her based on her work.”

Now, all incoming students have the opportunity to create an online presence like Murphy, through the Domain of One’s Own initiative, launched in August 2013. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios.

“Mary Washington does a really great job of providing opportunities for students,” said Murphy. “A lot of departments are working really hard to integrate digital media into day to day classes and projects. The integration of creating a website, blog or video project to create content that is still valid and historical really provided something a traditional class didn’t.”