Sunday, February 01, 2009

teaching with technology 2.0

the first time i taught college students was in 1995, when i was a teaching assistant for professor mary corbin sies' class material aspects of american life at the university of maryland. a year earlier, mary and professor jo paoletti received a grant from the university to add technology to their classes. so along with fellow teaching assistant pysche williams, i was tasked to brainstorm ways we could integrate this new tool called the world wide web into the course curriculum.

in place of traditional papers turned over privately to the professor, students in material aspects of american life designed "homepages," or personal web sites, and shared their research them publicly onto the internet. it was an incredibly powerful learning experience - for me, for the students, and for the professor. it was also, in retrospect, an incredibly time-consuming experience.

in addition to teaching about material culture, we had to teach the students (and often ourselves) five new things. we taught them html, which took us about an hour or so. we taught them pico text editor and basic file management, which took us about an hour or two. and we taught them ftp, which took us about an hour, plenty of headaches, and an occasional extra office hour.

in addition to, and perhaps even more than, these more technical skills, we taught them more behavioral skills. we taught them how to write for the web - to think before you publish, to consider what was appropriate within an academic setting, to understand what they were creating could and most likely would remain online beyond the duration of the class, and to take responsibility for the work you make public. and, finally, we taught them how to read for the web - to read other students' work, to take some time to think about how their peers could improve their work, and to relay those comments back to their peers.

this thursday, students in digital media production will demo their first projects. the projects are being built with and presented via facebook. this semester, all of my students are on facebook. this means that all of my students know how to design profiles, create content, upload and share photographs, comment, tag, blog, and micro-blog for a public/semi-public audience. and this means that here in 2009 i'll spend zero minutes of class time teaching students how to use the tools necessary for project one.


....J.Michael Robertson said...

Yeah. It's like building on Head Start. We don't have to walk them through kindergarten. Of course, I speak as one who is still walking himself through kindergarten and just failed the quiz on sandpile.

Long and indirect way of saying: great class from the sound of it.

Tommy Morahan said...

How important is technology in the classroom? Beyond the fact that technology is ubiquitous, and it is necessary to be technology literate, I wonder if there is really any other value in using technology in classes other than technology type calsses? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Tommy - i think it depends on the class. for some classes, technology plays a minor role. for some classes, it plays little if any role besides, say, a listserv for the class.

conversely, for a class like this, with its topic being digital media production, technology plays a major role. we are reading articles and watching videos about digital media to better understand digital media. we are also using and building with digital media to better understand digital media. and finally, we're using digital media to facilitate collaboration among the students.

all that said, i think there is always a danger of valuing technology for technology's sake, rather than to serve a specific purpose. absolutely!

thanks for your comment - i'd like to hear more.

Bryan Alexander said...

Wow, David. What a snapshot of history racing along.

Viola Lasmana said...

I know what you mean by time-consuming! It definitely takes a lot of time developing projects using technology, and also reviewing and commenting on them! This semester, I'm a TA for an undergrad American Lit. class and we're using blogs, wetpaint, and facebook for student writing (we may use google maps for our next project), assignments, and collaborative work... and always the question we keep asking ourselves is, "What is the goal of this assignment?". What do we want the students to gain from creating a wiki-page for Whitman's "Song of Myself?" What is the value of using social media for reading Dreiser's Sister Carrie?
It definitely has been a fun, exciting, and creative experience. Technology doesn't have to just be for tech-related classes; in fact, I believe that tech can be very useful for literary studies (even though I may still be in the minority for saying that).