Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Appointment Tools

I'm still searching for a good tool to use for letting students sign up for appointments with me. I don't use paper sign-ups, in part because students kept emailing me to ask for times and it was hard to keep track. I want a tool that allows me to establish a time range and the length of appointments, then allows students to sign up themselves.

Last week I thought I had found it with the Google Calendar. I've been using Google Calendar for over a year instead of a date book to organize my life. It works pretty well. I can access it from my computer or phone, and with limited success I can add events to it from my phone. Since I'm usually by my computer when I set up meetings, the phone-awkwardness wasn't a huge downside. Last week I was blocking off chunks of time for appointments and noticed the Appointment Slots feature. I was excited. It let me choose a time range and the length of appointments, and then it created slots where students could sign up.

The major downside is that you need a Google Account to even view the calendar. Not only that, but you must have activated your Google Calendar. I recognized this might be a lot to ask students, but I figured they probably all had Google IDs anyway.

They did not. Over half of them did, and were able to sign up on their own. The others I had to sign up, just like before. Also, it was difficult for me to view the calendar version with the sign-up slots on it, and difficult to modify appointments. I will not use this tool again.

Instead, for the time being, I will go back to using my Wiki, where anyone can post anything without signing in at all. It still runs the risk of someone deleting an appointment time (luckily I can undo changes), and it's annoying to set up, but it's the best thing I've found so far.

If you have an appointment sign-up tool that works for you, please share!

p.s. I've just discovered another problem with Google Calendar. If my students don't set their calendar to the correct time zone, they think their appointment is several hours off.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Putting Meat on Jane Austen

I'm teaching Persuasion right now in my Intro to Fiction class. When the students were in small groups Wednesday, I overheard two male students talking about how surprised they were that there was more to it than romance. "There's more meat on it," one said. I consider this a success, that I have taken a book that students expected to be fluff and shown them the depth and complexity.

To be fair, the romance in Persuasion is complicated. Austen emphasizes the depth and complexity of the emotions experienced by Anne and somewhat shows those of Captain Wentworth. I don't try to de-emphasize the romance, but I spend more class time on other aspects besides the romance plot, like ways of dealing with suffering, models of parenting, tensions arising because of class or rank, and Austen's style. I try to give the students something to chew on.