Leveling the Playing Field with DELI

Three years ago in my Costume History class, I noticed that students with access to color printouts and Photoshop were producing higher quality work on their assignments. Committed to creating a more equitable learning environment, I made an appointment with Digital Scholarship and Visual Resources Librarian, Lyndsay Bratton, to discuss ways that the College’s DELI program might help level the playing field in my class. After some collective brainstorming, Lyndsay suggested that I integrate DELI iPad loaners into the course and recommended the Skitch, Paper, and Morpholio applications as potential digital tools. After some testing, I decided to go with Skitch, because its intuitive interface allows users to label, caption, and markup imported images on both the iPad and Mac.

Fast forward to fall 2015 and the introduction of iPads into my Costume History course. After giving students guidelines on how to successfully complete their weekly “costume research dossiers,” an assignment in which they must accurately locate, cite and label images of historical western dress, Lyndsay stopped by to distribute iPads, chargers, and styluses. She took time to walk students through the iPad’s various functions and together we familiarized them with Skitch, Google Drive, Pinterest, Vogue Runway, and the many other applications she generously installed onto everyone’s tablets. After solving some minor tech issues, the class quickly acclimated to the new technology. The ultimate test finally revealed itself when the first round of annotated images were due. Not surprisingly, the clarity/quality of work executed with the aid of Skitch showed a vast, across-the-board improvement compared to assignments submitted the previous year.

To conclude, I recently completed my third round of teaching with iPads and I find that the majority of students appreciate the opportunity to borrow the devices. Some said they thought the Skitch app worked better on their personal laptops and a small minority found borrowing an iPad burdensome. Since my goal is to create equal access and not to add more stress, I make borrowing completely optional. This policy has the added benefit of freeing up limited resources for the DELI program to accommodate more classes.


Note: To participate in the DELI program, proposals for Spring 2018 are due Wednesday, November 15!

Advertisements

Getting It Together! Teaching with Digital Portfolios: Part 1

An excerpt from Misao McGregor’s ’18 journal

In this 2-part blog series, professors Ari Rotramel (GWS) and Sabrina Notarfrancisco (Theater) team up to share their experiences teaching with digital portfolios. Together, they hope to offer readers insights into the possibilities for portfolios in their work with students.

Digital Portfolios in the Design Classroom

In a blog post last March, I shared my goal of incorporating digital portfolios in my Costume Design and Construction course as a way for students to document and reflect on their process in conjunction with showcasing their completed work. I tested a variety of applications before discovering Morpholio Journal, an innovative app for the iPad and iPhone that allows students to combine sketches, thoughts, and images in a virtual Moleskine® Notebook.

I was instantly drawn to Morpholio Journal –  it has a clean and customizable format that is easy to use and my students quickly figured out how to draw, write, and create dynamic layouts with the aid of their DELI iPad loaners. They particularly liked the virtual page-turning feature, a small but splashy detail that made their portfolio-journals appear almost analog. Currently, the app only allows screenshots of individual page layouts to be shared digitally, an unfortunate drawback that diminishes the curated journal experience, but I enthusiastically recommended the app as an option to my class nonetheless. Several students took the plunge and thoughtfully chronicled their design process using Morpholio Journal while others opted to use traditional platforms such as Google Slides and Docs with similar success.

Before realizing how important a journaling feature was to meeting my pedagogical goals, I tested several “photo album” style portfolio applications including:

Foliobook – a highly customizable iPad portfolio app with a minimalist interface. This app looks great and it made my presentations look really polished. It didn’t take long to figure out how to import backgrounds, add labels, control the transitions between slides, add music, etc. I highly recommend Foliobook to both student and established artists wishing to create professional looking and shareable portfolios.

Minimal Folio – an inexpensive application that allows users to create galleries that can be viewed by not only swiping images from right to left but also by swiping up and down, similar to a tile board game. It is a minimalist and elegant platform without a lot of bells of whistles, but still solid and visually compelling.

Morpholio – developed by the Morpholio Journal team, this is another stylish portfolio app with a minimalist interface. It is shareable and allows collaborators to write and sketch suggestions directly onto images. I found this intriguing app to be less intuitive and there are a few features that I still can’t figure out, so if you go with this one be prepared for a learning curve.  

As a result of these explorations, I learned that digital portfolio apps are an effective way for students to document, showcase, and reflect on design projects and can be particularly beneficial to those wishing to impress graduate schools, potential employers, and clients with their visual artwork. However, for pedagogical applications, familiar (and free) platforms such as Google Slides and Google Docs can be equally effective. Nonetheless, I highly recommend exposing students to a variety of portfolio options, especially as they near graduation.

Digital Portfolios: Showcasing Both Process and Product

On the last day of class during the final exam period, students enrolled in my Costume Design and Construction course are allotted thirty minutes to get into costume, hair and makeup before formally presenting their looks to the class and posing for a photoshoot. Each student’s best photo is posted, with permission, in an album on the CC Theater Department’s Facebook page, which typically garners between 800 to 1300 views, making it one of the department’s most popular annual postings. These photos, however, only convey a fraction of each students’ journey through the design and construction process, and fail to adequately shed light on the weeks each student spends researching, designing, and constructing their fabulous, conceptually-driven looks.

Enter digital portfolio applications.

My goal this semester is to find an affordable and user-friendly digital portfolio application that will allow students to showcase their visual research, sketches, process shots, and final photos in a visually sleek way. After investigating several options, I plan on sharing my top three choices with students so they can weigh in on which portfolio application(s) they think will work best for them. To keep the class on track, it will be crucial for me to regularly set aside class time for students to photograph and upload images onto their DELI iPads, walk them through the portfolio curating process, and help them with general troubleshooting issues as needed. I’m looking forward to this challenge and am currently investigating the following applications:

Before the break, I revealed to my students that I wanted to add a portfolio component to the final project and they responded very favorably. Many even expressed an interest in including their previously completed costume renderings for Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice in their portfolios as well. I am very open to this idea, but will not include it as a requirement. Instead, I will heed the advice given to me by the leaders of the Technology Fellows program and take it slow, especially during the introductory phase of this experiment – wish me luck!