Designing for Kindness


Kona Jones

Video Transcript
Hi, everyone, and welcome to Designing for Kindness. My name is Kona Jones and this is a topic I am super passionate about and I can't wait to share more with you on. So to start with: Kindness is the glue that connects people and creates community. And I think that's so important and hopefully you're feeling in a similar way, and that's why you're here at this session, that kindness -- especially now more than ever -- is so important. There's so many things going on in our world that kindness can really be the thing that helps us connect with each other, regardless of all of those other things and all of the craziness. I also want to make sure kindness does not equal easy.

Kindness doesn't mean that students don't do the work or that students get a free pass. You can still have a very rigorous course and you can still get -- In fact, what I find is that the more I integrate kindness into my class the more I get back from my students. I often will have a student say, well, you're putting so, how can I not put 100% in? Students can tell when you're all-in and you care about them, and they will do more for you, and they will try harder, even through their own struggles, if they know you're there supporting them and trying to make sure that they're going to come out of your course the best way they can. So for ours, here, the single most important strategy -- and I love this quote -- that we can use to help our students succeed is to care about them as learners and human beings. This is -- I love this quote.

I think this is so valuable in terms of -- The biggest thing we can do is just care for our students, right, just care for them. If you haven't read this book, it's from How Humans Learn, it's a really great book, but this is by far one of my favorite quotes from the book. So, in that kind of line of thought, this is feedback from a student perspective that I got from a previous semester's student, and they said, "I really appreciate your help, encouragement, and time. Even when I didn't complete my work and was giving up," you were kind, considerate, and thorough with wanting us," as students, to succeed. " And it's like, right there, because I was kind, because I showed some empathy, I still had the student, she still had to complete all of the work, she still had to do everything required, but by just showing that kindness I was able to retain her and get her through and pass the course, and for me that's that power of being kind, and really showing students that I'm human and you're human, and let's work together to try to get you through the course.

So, kind of our overall, what are we talking about today? What are we going to go a little bit further into is how can you approach your course to reduce student anxiety and promote kindness and community? So what can you do both for those two things, what are we going to do for that? And what we're going to do is how can you build your course with kindness in mind? So what can you do to build that and keep kindness in the forefront? I'm going to focus on the course welcome, the getting started information and our organization and directions. We could spend hours upon hours talking about this topic, but for today we're really going to focus in on just these three topics. And so to get there, we're going to start with one of my courses, this is an example course, and just kind of talk through different parts of the course and where they're hitting those different areas of just being kind to students. So to start with, I said, that just welcoming, and how do you welcome students? So remember that first impression is lasting impressions, and so I've got this "Welcome to Math 113. " And so, in here I tell them, it's okay if they make mistakes.

I explain here are how I designed the course just to help you and to make the course the best it can be for you as a learner. I also go through and I've got a quick audio if they're like, well, maybe they can read -- obviously -- but maybe they'd rather hear it, they can click this and they can hear me talk through it. Something else, and this is kind of -- maybe not designing -- but just the kind is I tell the students they can text me, now I didn't include my number here because I don't want all of you texting me, as much as I love all of you, I don't want you all texting me, but allowing my students to text me has been really beneficial, so far I haven't had any students take advantage of this and they've just been really appreciative that they can reach out to me in a manner, in a format that feels comfortable to them, and so that's just been very beneficial. I've got a course walkthrough, and this is another place, many of our students are new potentially to Canvas, to online, and walking them through your course, and walking them through here's what to expect is really important, and just kind of them feeling that anxiety, they're less anxious because they know this is what to expect, this is how the course is structured, here's where to find important things, and so that's just our course walkthrough, it's just a quick video of me just kind of talking through the course just kind of like what I'm doing with all of you, right now. I've got a Getting Started Checklist.

The Getting Started Checklist is just kind of that checklist of all the important things that students should be doing, so download the textbook, read and download the syllabus, add a profile picture, update your notification settings. For Read and Download the Syllabus, something else that I find really valuable, is I do a talk through of the syllabus. So, I don't read word for word the entire syllabus, but I go through and I really hit the highlights of the syllabus. So that way I really make sure, that if the students have any questions that they get that bigger picture, right? So if they're like, well, I read through the syllabus but I wasn't sure what was important, because for some of our students they don't even know what a syllabus is. So getting to hear me and see this video can really explain to them what's important.

Something else to note, and I think this is an important one in Designing for Kindness, is this download. I make sure for all of my videos that students are able to download the videos, and why is that? Because not all of our students have a good internet connection and so this ability to download is just extremely vital in terms of making sure that if students have to, maybe they only have a brief window of when they have good internet, or maybe they have to go somewhere to get good internet, they can download your videos and then watch them at their own convenience without having to worry about their internet signal, and maybe not having to worry about fighting with someone else over 'You're using all the bandwidth' and things like that. I have Understanding the Canvas To Do List. A lot of students, I find, have problems realizing that they can't do everything just on the to do list without coming into the course because they're going to miss a lot of things. So I just kind of do a quick video showing them the to do list and then showing them all of the other content in the course that they would be missing if they just kind of lived and then died by potentially the to do list.

In my Getting Started Activities: this is where -- So you might be like, how are a survey and a quiz, how is that kind? Well, the Student Survey is kind of my way for kindness because what that does is actually provide me information that I can then use to better help the students. So it's my way of finding out information to help me be kind or to help me better help our students. Here's a quick preview of just kind of the type of information I ask. I've got: what are your preferred names and pronouns, what's your preferred name and preferred pronoun? If possible, use the Record-Upload Media option to record yourself saying your name. I think that's so important because if you provide audio feedback, if you're in a Zoom session with a student you want to make sure that you're saying their name correctly and this is your chance to kind of get that information from the get-go.

Even when we're back to face-to-face, this would be really great information to have just so if you're trying to remember, how is it -- you could just come back here and double-check. I ask what type of computer technology will they be working with as they're doing our course. How reliable is their internet access? Do they have access to a working printer? I just ran into this issue over the summer. A student didn't have access, and we use a lot of handouts that you don't have to have, but it does make it easier because they're guided handouts when they watch the videos. So just knowing this I can then work with the student to get the printing that they need.

What's your backup plan for completing assignments if you experience internet or computer issues? And is there anything that you want to share? And I will say that I sometimes get everything's fine, nothing. I get all types of other information, though, like my dad has cancer and I'm going to be doing my course from the Cancer Care Center. I have three kids and I'm pregnant, and I work full-time. I've been getting all different types of responses from students on this. And I will tell you, and this is -- So, first of all, it helps me to understand where the student is coming from, and then to make sure I can use this information throughout the semester, what I do is come over here to Grades, and once it loads, I've got this Notes column.

And if you don't have that, if you're like, wait, where's that Notes column for me? If you go up to View, make sure that Notes is checked, so like if I uncheck it, it's gone, but if I recheck it, there it is. I then come into this Notes column and I add all of the information from the Student Survey or anything extra, like maybe the student needs special accommodations like time and a half, and I add that information here. And then anytime I want to like, oh wait, what was it? Before I message the student about something, I can go back and check here. So that's kind of my way to make sure that I'm helping my students, and that I'm keeping in mind that it's Sam and not Samantha, right? And maybe it's Sam, he/him, instead of Samantha, she/her. And knowing that will help you because, then when you're reaching out to the student you're using the correct names, right, you're showing that kindness of I'm using the name that you want to be called, not whatever name happens to be in Canvas.

The Syllabus Quiz: The Syllabus Quiz is mostly just my way of helping the students to make sure that they know everything they need to know like, the big things, like, when are discussion due dates? How quickly do I grade? How quickly do I respond to email? Do we have any high stakes exams? Which the answer is: no, we don't. But just kind of things like that to help make sure the students really understand what they're getting into before they get into the course. As part of that, too, I've got the Views, I've got the Submit, so I use the requirements as well as those prerequisites so that way the students need to complete all of this before they can get into the rest of the course. Then for Course Resources, you can kind of see, I've got the course textbook, instructional resources. Something else, maybe you noticed and you're like wait a second, where are those cool icons? Where are these emoji things coming from? So, if there's something else, if you'd like to add those, and that's just kind of a fun, welcome to your course, is if you click Edit and then Emoji, and you can add those.

Now I will say, I think you have to be in Chrome to do this, but otherwise it's just kind of that quick and simple. But then I also have this module of the breakdown, the course textbook, Instructional Resources, Mini-Tab Resources, Zoom Recordings. This was a really important one for me. So this wasn't mandatory, that's something else I do to be kind to my students, I don't require them to be at our Zoom sessions, it was completely optional, if the students wanted to be there, they could, if they couldn't make it, it was fine. I recorded the sessions, I made them all available here for the students.

And what I noticed, and you can see my evolution here, is that what I started doing around week four is adding this extra information, this context so that way students knew what they were getting into before they watched the video, and I found that it really helped the students be more likely to actually watch the video. And then also note, see all the download links, they can download those and watch them at their convenience. So you can see I've got all the project resources, all of that good information. So then going into my actual week, what does the actual week look like? So, for the actual week, if you go into those Week One Resources you can see I've got my overview, like this is just welcome to the week, I've got my Study Resources so the students can clearly see here's what they need to know for Quiz 1, Quiz 2, this is Handouts and Videos, and all of the resources they need. Something else to consider: so you're designing with kindness, you want to make sure that all of your students are able to access your information, and to do that, any of your pages, anything that you're doing where you're typing and adding content use this Check Accessibility, and make sure, up here, and it's probably kind of covered because of my head, so you probably can't see it, but if you see the confetti and things it just means that everything was good, and that you don't have any problems.

If you do have problems, that accessibility checker will talk you through -- not talk you -- work you through fixing all of your problems on your page. So it's really great and it's just another way to show kindness in terms of making sure your course is accessible for your students. As well as closed captioning. I do also close caption, or add captions to all of my videos, and that's just to make sure every student has that kind of extra resource. I know some students don't have headphones, some students don't have microphones, right, and adding those captions allows my students, regardless of what's going on, to be able to still get that learning content.

I've got my discussion wands, goals for this course which I use to help students set their goals. I've got the Quiz One: Classifying Data. And this is something important, so, when we're talking about organization and directions, I make sure directly in my directions to add a link to the information the students need. So even though I don't want my students to live on the to do list, I fully acknowledge that a lot of times students do live on the to do list. And because of that, they might come to this quiz and be like, well, I don't know what I'm supposed to know, right? So, how am I supposed to understand what to do? So that way I make sure I link to the Quiz One information right here.

So, even though it's on the Resource page, it's still here, as well. Something else, and this is kind of my own thing that I think is so important, is I have limited time, five attempts, and I get to see the correct answers. And that's just my way of making sure that students are really focused on understanding the content, and not just cramming for it, and being that extra stressed out about whether or not they got it the first time. Because, for me, the first time doesn't matter nearly as much as if by the end they do understand it. So that's why I say, sure, take your five attempts, take unlimited time.

Luckily, and I will say, I am lucky, I do teach math. So it's a little bit easier to offer multiple attempts than maybe some courses. But this approach really helps, and I get a lot of great feedback from students on this. A low-tech assignment here. So this one is if you use a third party technology in your course, I would recommend making sure to provide just a really initial assignment on do you have it up and is it working? For this, my students have to install Mini-Tab, which is like an Excel type program, and then open a Mini-Tab file, and tell me what number is on that file, and that's just to make sure that the program is downloaded, installed, and working correctly.

And what that does is just make sure the student isn't stressed, and it isn't anxious about the next week when they actually have to use that program for real. And then we have our Feedback Exchange. For me, this is another one that's super crucial in terms of making sure I'm really connecting with my students and for this one, and this is kind of that kindness in that if I don't know what's going on with the students, if I don't know what questions I have, if I don't know what their concerns are, I can't help, right? If I don't know, I can't help. If you just say, oh, well, my students will ask if they have questions. A lot of students don't feel comfortable asking questions, they don't even know where to start, they're just not sure, and so I always make sure to say, what's going on? How are things going? Sometimes I'll ask about specific assignments, or if it's a midterm, and then I always add just a little fun, who's the most awesome person today? You are.

Just to get a smile from my students, right, and so that's kind of that designing with kindness there. So that's just a little bit of my course and some of the ways that I kind of design. I add assignment directions, another example, let's see, like here, my project to proportion, this one you can see that within my assignment directions I always make sure and add links to the useful information. I even include a video of me talking through the directions because what I found is, even though I might think my text directions are amazing, students really appreciate hearing you talk through things, and so this is my attempt to make sure students can really hear me talking through it, and get that multiple perspective. Otherwise, something that I'm also doing to help you is I've got this Designing for Kindness course.

This is a template course that I've put together and I'm going to be sharing on Commons. So, by the time this actually rolls out, so by the time you're watching this, if you go over to Commons and do a search for Designing for Kindness, you'll find this template with all of these different resources, information, as well as Teacher Resources, as well. So, here's just a little bit for you as I'm trying to show you some kindness. Now, back to our presentation, hold on. Alright, so once again, just a little brief student perspective, thank you for asking, and always being willing to help me, even if I didn't complete an assignment on time.

It helps us, who aren't as passionate about math -- [gasps] Some people aren't passionate about math? -- care to do our best, since you care about our success as individuals. And for me, I love that because it's really the student gets that I care about them and that's that designing with kindness. It's reaching out, it's communicating with students, it's providing feedback to students, it's just designing everything with that kindness in mind. That life is rough, let's not make it any worse. And then to kind of end, be kind to yourself.

I like this, you can't pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first. As teachers, take care of yourself. Your course doesn't have to have the most bells and whistles, or the most technology, it just has to have you. And as long as it's got you and your heart in your course, it can be very simple, very straightforward. You noticed my course, it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles.

It doesn't have a fancy homepage, it's just very straightforward, but what really counts is that I put me in my course, and that's what helps students have that positive experience, that's what gets students successfully through the course. So, thank you, go spread kindness like confetti, and have a wonderful day. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, and otherwise, thank you so much for attending, I really appreciated this.