Friday, 30 January 2015

Post 42: Whipping through marking... what a festival! And a week's mish-mash! And a StandStand Review!

So many assignments to get through, so many words to read, writing lots of comments/feedback, and trying to be fair while assessing student work.

Now don't get me wrong: I love my students to bits, and it's very very fun getting to meet them all (and trying to remember all their names!). They are a delight. And while it wipes out the majority of the energy that I start the day with, especially teaching 3 hours in a row, it has been great so far. I really do enjoy marking, but as this is my first time TAing an introductory-level course, and there are quite a few factors that are different in TAing one such course, as opposed to an upper level course.

For one, this is some of the first times that students are taking on the assignments that they're taking on. So for example, some of them don't yet know that hand-written work is not acceptable for university assignments (and some seem to have ignored that it was stated in the syllabus).

Ah yes, speaking of: a good many students don't read the syllabus. So you have to keep reminding them to go back to that thing, which is really the contract for the class.

My Dotmocracy in action: Students in my fourth tutorial voting for small scale food production
as their theme to research for the semester. 
On that note: repeat everything at least twice, especially important information, or you'll find out exactly who wasn't paying attention when you said it that one and only first time.

My students are learning how to engage with the research process right now, and we've gotten the first assignment out of the way: making a bibliography of 8 quality sources (on the topic we've specified), and explaining why each source is authoritative.

A lot of students don't yet know what makes a source authoritative (which makes sense; if they did, they wouldn't be here), and while some of them get half way there, it's clear they don't yet understand what peer-review is, and how to dig into how good journals really are, or what reputation a newspaper's specific journalists have... well, that is the fun sleuthing that they are starting to learn. From what I've noticed, many seem to have trouble differentiating assessing a source's credibility, and for now are simply writing a summary of the article. (Hence the reminder to go read the assignment outline). So I think we'll be revisiting some material next week.

For this second major assignment, we're asking our students to put together summaries of about 150 words on each of the 6 articles they've chosen from their original 8 (or swapped out with better sources from peers or researched new ones). For these, they will answer the question: "What is the author arguing/talking about?"

Awesome participation as my students wrote themes from their initial stab at researching their theme;
this one on the 100-Mile Diet. 
I'm really hopeful that they'll do well with this one, because quite a few of them have already been doing summaries for the first assignment, which means they won't do well there, but hopefully they will on this next one.

Through all of this, I've had the most excellent company for marking! I've teamed up with Edward White, the TAC from Sociology, (whose workshop on surviving marking I completely enjoyed last semester at the TA Conference, and blogged about here) whose delightful company has made getting an early start on my marking a real delight. This week on Wednesday he spoiled my colleague C— and I with the most delicious rice pudding: super rich, creamy, and with real vanilla... MMMMMMM! We snacked on this through the afternoon, and I wasn't hungry until 8PM! Plus, it's really great getting his seasoned reasoning and opinion on how to mark certain work. It's been great.


Aside from the marking, I've really been enjoying the Christmas gift that I bought myself way back in the fall. It arrived just before Christmas when I was home in the Kootenays, so I got to open it when I got back: it's called a StandStand. And I love it!! (Or I really did, once I had added a bit more glue to one of the little knobs that holds the three pieces together when its dissembled; it kept falling out. BUT -- it was a very simple fix, and after a night's drying, was ready to go again.)

My work desk with my StandStand deployed! :) 
I simply don't have the money for a standing desk like the TableAir  ($2200) or NextDesk (which rings in at about $1500 for the base model). For those interested, on top of a great summary of the health problems that come from sitting too much (sedentary lifestyles), Mark Lukach at the Wirecutter has had a ball testing out standing desks alongside his coworkers, which you can read about here. I am aware that Colin Nederkoorn has come up with a 22$ IKEA DIY, but I am neither near an IKEA, nor have the time to wander out and get these materials, so in the fall last year, spending about $65 on this Kickstarter project seemed like a good idea.

The StandStand has been really really great! I love how portable it is, first and foremost, and because it's so lightweight, I can easily switch between standing and sitting, which research supports is a good thing to do (too much standing = bad; too much sitting = worse). It's suuuuuper easy to assemble and dissemble, which I also really love. My little StandStand has been really great, and definitely an investment suitable for my lifestyle and income right now. :) (Though I am glad to see the price of standing desks falling; one of the most affordable, the Stand Desk now comes in at about $500. )

And the best part of it is that I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable using it. I've started to pull it out when I'm with my colleagues at work, and I even used it this past Wednesday when I was marking with Edward. :)

The semester is already whizzing by; I can't believe it's already January, but I have 80 lovely students to keep me from dwelling on the time. Back to marking I go!

One more awesome photo: a mixture of lichen and stonecrop from a romp in
East Sooke Park this past weekend. I love the colours!


  1. I'm so glad you like your StandStand, Heike! It's very satisfying to know that something we made can have this positive impact. So thanks for the good word! Thanks too for your good will with the knobs--we're redesigning that feature (with a longer dowel that passes through the center panel into both outer panels when they're stacked) and are optimistic that the dowels will be able to survive shipping better now. Good luck with your teaching and research this semester! --Luke

    1. Yes!!! I'm really really enjoying it! Thanks for coming up with something that really speaks to both my personal health values and pocketbook! :) And yes, all good with the dowel (I have now learned a new word!)! It was a very easy fix.