Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part I

As covered previously on Engage, can be a treasure trove for faculty looking to brush up skills in various applications (i.e. Photoshop) and even strengthen habits in life skills such as time management.

Lynda logo

For me, Lynda is like one of those old friends you don’t get to see very often but when you do, it’s like no time has passed. There’s that instant connection. You love catching up but you’re never quite able to make the time for the kinds of meaningful interactions that make the friendship so great. I tend to go to only when I feel like I have time to explore (which isn’t very often).

When using technology in the classroom, I want to be an expert on whatever tool I’m using. This semester, I tried something new.

Through the Technology Fellows Program, I used to incorporate InDesign into a long-established project in a theater history course. I had no experience with the program and only one of my students had used it before, and in a limited capacity.

“Congratulations!” the assignment begins, “Gordon Edelstein, the Artistic Director of the Tony Award-winning Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, has hired you and a partner to serve as interim dramaturgs for a production in their upcoming season. [The play is not one assigned to the class as a whole; each team of dramaturgs will draw the title of their designated play at random from a selection of important works emerging from each of the historical periods covered in the course.]

For this project, sometimes spanning an entire semester or, in this experimental semester, concentrated in three weeks, students synthesize historical research in order to provide insight into a play; they illuminate the text by considering the playwright’s biography as well as the social, political, and economic contexts that would have resonated with the play’s first audiences.

Their chief responsibility was the creation of 4-5 pages of content for the production’s in-depth performance guide to enrich the audience experience. The assignment overview concludes, “the guide is intended to be entertaining as well as informative – exercise your creative freedom as you consider the most effective way to communicate your research and reflection on the play. If done well, your work will entice readers to make the trip to New Haven to see the production at the Long Wharf and your career in professional theatre will be launched!”

This kind of creative communication, modeled on examples from professional theaters, is essential to the assignment. In the past, it was often achieved with Microsoft Word or by literally cutting & pasting images before scanning a final product. During my first year at Conn, a team of students produced something so professional looking I had to ask them about their methods; they had taught themselves InDesign.

With some basic research, I found that InDesign and similar Adobe software skills are increasingly in demand, no matter the long-term career goals (and no matter the major of our students). I had a mission for the next time I taught the course.

To find out how InDesign was incorporated into the course, stay tuned to Engage!

Image credit:flickr photo shared by liberalmind1012 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license



One thought on “Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part I

  1. Jefferson Singer January 27, 2016 / 9:15 am

    Ginny, Thank you for this informative and accessible posting. It really makes these technological innovations seem much more user friendly and less intimidating, not too much creative and fun!

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