onsdag 22 augusti 2012

De-anonymizing students

In line with my previous blog post, this blog post is about a specific practice I have adopted in one of my courses - that of taking a photo of each student. Why on earth would I do that?

The course in question is a project course that runs over a whole term (it actually starts next week). The first half of the course consists of (many) guest lectures and the second half consists of project work where I seldom meet the students face-to-face. Around 50-70 students usually take the course.

The obvious answer is of course that I would (otherwise) never learn to connect more than a fraction of all students' faces to their names without some kind of mental aid or herculean memory effort. That would make the course very impersonal and I don't like that. Taking a photo is a way to de-anonyize the students; when I get an email, I can know who it comes from. It's also a way to being able to (after the course finishes) better recognize students and greet them! It might sound weird not to be able to do that, but if you meet many (100+) students each year, it is hard to keep track of all of them - especially a year or two later. I easily recognize many of the names, but I'm more hazy about the face and about connecting names to faces.

Another reason to take photos is that I put together a document with names and faces and disseminate it to (only) the course participants. That's a great way to help facilitate for the students to get to know each other and also to subtly/implicitly make it easier for students to form groups and work together with people they might not have known before the course started. I would assume that it is especially useful for those who know few other course participants beforehand rather than those students who already have relatively extensive networks and know many other course participants already beforehand.

...the only problem is that my camera doesn't work right now, <lens error>.

My question to other teachers is: do you use any de-anonymizing strategies, and if so, which?

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