After more investigation–there’s no way to get the school to get me set up on a server for this semester. It’s too late.
And I can’t serve it from my home machine–technically (or not even technically), running a server from home would violate my ISP’s Terms of Service. I don’t feel like risking my home DSL account for this.
And my kind webhost folks politely and kindly told me that it would be impossible–their firewall would block the built-in webserver which CourseForum needs to run.
So I think I’m going to be paying CourseForum, at least for this semester, to have them host it and let me give it a real-world try. It’s only $15/month, so the semester will cost $60, and I think I will collect $2 from each student. That will pay the bill, and I always find that students (not just students) tend to value things more if they’ve had to pay for it (I’ll even give them a printed receipt), then if they get it for free. They know the corollaries of TANSTAAFL very well.
But for me, what this really exemplifies, is a long-standing tendency in my teaching. Just about every year, in the last week or two before classes begin, I get an innovative idea, some new thing that I just have to implement. The logical thing would be to get these ideas several months in advance, or to wait a semester and think them through and test them out before implementing them immediately.
But that’s not what I do!
I have to plunge in right away, and try it before I’ve even figured it out completely myself.
It gets a bit chaotic, and it keeps me very nervous and only half-a-step ahead all semester, and I never implement it quite as well as I should the first time around, but it actually seems to work out OK. I’ve done it with the Digital Poetry Project, the Internet Lore unit, the NY Newsday activity (over a decade ago!), the writing/walking tour, MaGiCS, the Dub Poetry lesson, the custom textbook, and many more. Some of my best tricks and techniques are the things I’ve come up with suddenly, planned insufficiently, and implemented prematurely. The really good ones get improved and developed further each time I try them–but I don’t think any of them would have benefitted a whole lot from waiting until the initial excitement subsides.
This semester, because I’m teaching four completely different classes all at the same time, I’m actually trying two different completely new things (the e-portfolios and the blogs, or more if I think of them) at the same time. And that’s been making me a little nervous and resistant to really plunging in. But it’s not worth it. I know I’m going to go for it. I might as well give in to the inevitable!