How can we use technology in the classroom to enhance students’ understanding of composition and communication?
Technology is constantly changing how we communicate and how we do our scholarly work. In the context of what are sometimes radical changes, it is important for us to help our students think critically about the ways they use technology and the ways technology affects how we produce, disseminate, and value knowledge. This doesn’t mean, however, that we need to jump in and grab the latest gadget or adopt the most recent application to generate buzz. If we carefully consider how technology affects our teaching and our students’ learning, we can find ways to help students not only enhance their written work through technology, but also provide them with the capacity to adapt and innovate in a rapidly changing environment. Here are some examples from some of your colleagues at Ohio State who are using technology to both enhance student learning and help students hone their writing skills.
OSU Community Examples:
Dr. Ellen Furlong, an instructor in the Department of Psychology, uses a wiki to organize her students’ writing for a large research methods course of a hundred students. She has students imagine that they are submitting literature review and methodological proposal articles to a journal called Future Directions in Psychological Science, housed on the wiki. In groups, students build their articles step-by-step, from their introduction, to their methods section, until they complete a full paper. At each stage, students establish a rubric to evaluate their own and their colleagues’ work, structuring peer review in a way that mirrors the practice of professional academic journals. “Having students participate in the assessment process is key for this project, because it really saves the time I might have had to spend bringing their papers up to my expectations alone,” Dr. Furlong explains. “They set a very high standard for themselves, even higher than I might have set for them. As a result, they are more engaged with their work than in previous quarters, they offer more substantive feedback on their peers’ work, and the quality of their work has improved overall.”
Professor Ben McCorkle from the Department of English at the Marion regional campus has his students in his digital media composing course explore internet “memes,” trends or recurring ideas that internet users adapt and put their own mark on (for an archive and explanation of popular internet memes, see http://knowyourmeme.com/). As an informal introductory exercise, Dr. McCorkle has his students “build their own meme,” taking a popular internet trend, composing a visual project that gives their own take on that trend, and reflecting on the significance of their project. While such a project might seem silly or trivial, Dr. McCorkle uses memes as a way of helping students to understand, as he puts it, “the practical, rhetorical and ethical dimensions of composing in a digital world.” The project prepares students for larger, more involved projects later in the quarter by familiarizing them with composing software they will be using later in the course and by giving them a critical apparatus to think about how digital media are circulated and evaluated on the web. “Students really respond to this assignment, in part because of its ‘low-stakes’ nature, which alleviates some of their anxieties about using unfamiliar software,” Dr. McCorkle explains. “They also like taking part in producing the kind of text that exists out there in the world. When they move on to a larger assignment that calls for more explicit attention to design, I think they will feel comfortable making that transition.”
Tanisha Jackson, a graduate teaching associate in the Department of Art Education and WAC consultant, introduces her students to the online virtual space “Second Life” in a 367 second level writing course as a means to exploring identity and community. She asks students to think about various roles that influence their identity (i.e. relationships, personal experiences, involvement in groups and communities, and physical appearance). From there, students individually create Second Life accounts and go through the creative process of building an avatar (the virtual representation of themselves in Second Life) without limitations. They are asked to reflect on the development of their avatar through written responses to specific questions. Next, students explore and write about a space on the site that they visit and conduct real world interviews with people in Second Life about the process of constructing their appearance. “This assignment gives students an opportunity to really engage with the concept of identity and how it is connected to a person’s physical appearance and their relationship to particular communities,” Tanisha says. “This assignment also provides the possibility to create new identities in a technological space. Students are enthusiastic about altering their appearance in fantastical ways in Second Life and in conceptualizing the implications of their creative decision making process with how they truly see themselves in real life.”
WAC Resources: Check out the latest additions to our Writing Across the Curriculum Resource Wiki: https://carmenwiki.osu.edu/display/osuwacresources/Home
OSU Campus Resources: Our campus provides many opportunities for instructors to explore ways to engage students across multiple dimensions using technology. Resources on campus like the Digital Union (http://digitalunion.osu.edu/) provide workshops on how to create electronic student portfolios and online learning communities. Instructors in the Colleges of the Arts and Humanities can also work with the Student Technology Consultant Program at the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing (http://cstw.osu.edu/stc). In addition to sponsoring regular workshops on technology that ban be used in research and in the classroom, highly trained undergraduate students can come to your office and help you work through using instructional technology.
More Ways the WAC Team Can Help You: See an archive of our past tip e-mails at: http://cstw.org/WAC/?cat=50. For more ideas about how you might implement writing to learn activities please contact us to schedule an individual consultation. To further our aim of facilitating dialogue about teaching writing, we offer workshops with faculty and graduate teaching associates that tackle issues involving the teaching of writing in various academic genres. We also can co-facilitate in-class presentations for your students, demonstrating innovative approaches to writing instruction and lending students strategies for overcoming challenges with assignments.
We’ll be leading two upcoming workshops Spring quarter through the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching (UCAT):
•Making Research Meaningful. May 5, 2010. Time: 11:30am-1:00pm. Location: Thomson Library, room 165
•Writing Across Borders. May 12, 2010. Time: 11:30am-1:00pm. Location: 150 Younkin Success Center
For further information, visit the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s website (http://ucat.osu.edu/participate/ftad_events/ftad_events.html). We hope you’ll join us.
Let us know how we can help. Contact us by phone (292-9650), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or through our website (http://cstw.osu.edu/wac).
Have a great quarter,
The WAC Team,
Dr. Chris Manion, WAC Coordinator
Victoria Genetin, Women’s Studies
Tanisha Jackson, Art Education
Katie Linder, Women’s Studies
Kate White, English