Early in March it appeared that the coronavirus would soon close down the campus and our classrooms. We were advised to consider how we might continue the educational experience for students if campus is closed. Rather than simply announcing to class to “read the book, the exam will be held on finals week,” I enrolled in an online class on “Everything you need to know to teach online.” Why bother. I was ready because I had written about this before (Orth 2018). Maybe now students would return from their extended spring breaks and abandon the “cram, pass, and forget” strategies they learned so well and engage with a community of practice in learning about fish—just because it’s fun. Classes begin online Monday, March 23rd.
Five pedagogies of public writing, twitter/facebook and infographics, digital storytelling, online communities, and electronic portfolios were already part of my teaching strategies. By the time the semester is over, I’ll be able to share more about my experiences with virtual field trips, virtual jars of unknowns, and the online lecture. I anticipate students teaching others and posting essential fish facts and annotated photos on Flickr. Perhaps they will get past dreaming of catching a musky and learn to pay attention to mandibular pores, cheek scales, and branchiostegal counts. The Virginia Tech Ichthyology blog will have posts of student writing on fascinating fish topics. In place of in-class essays, students will have developed and posted infographics on fish topics. Their stories “on becoming an Ichthyologist” will be searchable on YouTube. And the Virginia Tech Ichthyology Facebook group will have rallied in support of student attempts to remember sayanus and blennioides and more.
Today, March 20, 2020 I remain optimistic that I can deliver meaningful and interesting lessons in Ichthyology, Principles of Fish and Wildlife Management, and Fisheries Management in the next 8 weeks and celebrate the first online commencement exercise. By the time you read this the spinning wheel will have ceased and the videos will be uploaded. I’ll know more. Maybe I’ll never return to campus. Keep calm and wash your hands!
Orth, D.J. 2018. Social media may empower fisheries students via learning networks. Fisheries 43(3):130-138.