Are your students reading course materials on laptops or other devices?
Online annotation tools can support students’ close reading of texts in an online environment. These same tools can be used to support collaborative reading where students add annotations, questions, and discussion directly on the texts themselves! Intentional use of social annotation tools make texts come alive for students, create community, increase participation and comprehension, and, as a result, improve learning.
Join us Monday at our workshop, Close Reading Online: Social Annotation and Reading Tools. We’ll look at tools such as Hypothes.is, CommentPress, and RefWorks. We will also discuss criteria for selecting tools and consider issues such as privacy and accessibility. Register here, or feel free to drop in!
In this blog post, I want to offer up a few key reasons to consider using Wikipedia in your class:
As of As of Friday, November 10, English Wikipedia had 5,491,385 articles and is estimated to be the seventh most popular site in the United States, and the fifth most popular in the world. I have yet to teach a student who has not visited Wikipedia. While there is a longstanding skepticism of the reliability of Wikipedia, students are often unclear about how the encyclopedia works and yet often use it for information. Through a Wikipedia-engaged assignment, faculty can assist students in learning when Wikipedia could be useful and when it is not an appropriate source.
You can do it!
Thanks to the Wiki Education Foundation’s development of an online dashboard, there is an increasingly easy to use and nicely scaffolded way to plan out an assignment. My dashboardallows me to draw on the trainings provided by Wiki Education to help students learn the basics to Wikipedia as a community, as well as how to edit, conduct research, write an article, and provide substantive feedback to their peers. It also harnesses the transparency of Wikipedia to make it easy to track students work throughout a project. Plus, each class gets connected to a Wikipedia content expert who can provide additional support to students. I have asked my content editors to video chat with students the past two years and that has been helpful for establishing rapport. All in all, while I don’t ever feel like I’m an uber-Wikipedian, I know that I have the basic knowledge needed and when I hit a roadblock, I have the support I need.
Students respond well to the challenge of a Wikipedia assignment because it engages with a public-facing platform. In this case, it’s a site that possibly everyone they know has visited at some point. As a result, they care more about doing high quality work because they have a sense of responsibility towards a public audience. They also look forward to sharing their work with friends and family. Finally, I already have had a student be asked to do Wikipedia work during a junior year internship, and she surprised her placement supervisor by already having this experience.
Student Feedback & Assessment
This fall in their reflection essays, students noted that this assignment allows them to engage with a mainstream audience.
As a student argued:
In 2017, in a climate of extreme political polarization and turmoil, as well as an increasing sense of distrust in news and credible sources, assignments such as the Wikipedia Project are exceptionally valuable, in terms of the content they produce, as well as the online communities they form and support.
Student created content creates a sense of accountability and agency within learning. Producing knowledge is empowering. It gives students a sense of greater purpose within the classroom, creating a conversation in which students can be critical of information and its production. Instead of simply reading about theories about voices being left out and that there is not enough content written by women, I was able to learn transferable skills and add to the voices on Wikipedia that are written about and by women.
Overall, while they noted some limitations of both Wikipedia (an important element to the assignment to develop their understanding of concepts like positivism, objectivity, situated knowledges, and standpoint epistemology) and working with materials from the archives, students reported that this was a particularly compelling assignment unlike a standard research paper.
We are very excited for our next Teaching with Technology workshops and hope you can join us! We promise you will leave these workshops inspired and excited to try new tools in the classroom and in your own research. Also, don’t forget we are hosting the Data Fair this week in Shain Library!
Wikipedia Assignments for Developing Literacies Wednesday, September 28, 1:00 – 2:00 PM
Haines Room, Shain Library lower level
In addition to adding much needed diversity and authority to Wikipedia, Wikipedia editing assignments teach students many important skills and requires them to think critically about information. Join us to discuss the value of Wikipedia editing and how to incorporate these assignments into your classes. Please bring your own computer for the hands-on portion. Register
Digital Publishing and Visualization Platforms: Scalar and Tableau Thursday, October 20, 3:00-4:00 PM
PC Classroom, Shain Library lower level
WordPress is not the only free publishing platform on the block for digital projects. Come learn about Scalar, a free online platform built by the University of Southern California. Great for incorporating multimedia formats into your text, Scalar is easy to use and looks beautiful. Tableau is a free platform for building interactive visualizations with your data. You can then embed your creations into WordPress and Scalar sites, or anywhere else you publish to the web. Register
In my previous blog post, I talked about videoconferences as a way to integrate global perspectives into my refugees course. Another tool to encourage students to apply their knowledge by engaging in a global dialogue was the use of Twitter. Students were asked to tweet five times a week, using the hash tag #GER262. During the first half of the semester, I made sure that each student was comfortable using Twitter and that they had acquired the necessary background knowledge to engage with the global community in an informed and meaningful way. Hence the Twitter posts were not only a way to interact with the world outside of the classroom, but also helped the students to deepen their social media literacy and to critically analyze rhetorical strategies being used in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Students posted and discussed links to articles, videos, and cartoons they had found online and – as part of the assignment – responded to other people’s tweets around the world. In order to value the students’ contributions and to contextualize their findings, I reserved 10-15 minutes each week for a group discussion of their tweets.
Even though Twitter is not a medium commonly used among students, they responded enthusiastically to the assignment. As one of the students highlighted in their course evaluations: “I have been able to sharpen my ability to identify specific rhetoric that either supports or criticizes the situation on media outlets such as Twitter. To converse on Twitter gave us a hands-on opportunity to engage in the global conversation of this ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.”
I will definitely continue to use Twitter in my classes and plan to incorporate it also into my beginning language classes, as a meaningful way to apply newly acquired vocabulary and grammatical structures in a real-life setting. I would like to thank Ari Rotramel for sharing her extensive Twitter assignment guide and Laura Little, as always, for her invaluable technical support.
Last week several librarians, instructional technologists, and faculty met virtually with a representative, Samantha Erickson, from the Wiki Education Foundation. This is the same organization that Ariella Rotramel and Andrea Lanoux worked with on their recent Wikipedia assignments. The meeting was inspirational!
Wikipedia is the 7th most visited site in the world with content from over 80,000 volunteer contributors. Of this number, Samantha told us, 85% of the contributors are white, male, and Western. When most content is created by a homogeneous group, you can see their interests and viewpoints reflected in the existing content and the many content gaps in the online encyclopedia. One goal of having students add content to is to help diversify the contributions.
One interesting example is the entry for Susan Band Horwitz (see below). You can see an early entry is cursory and lacking specifics. We learned this short entry is called a “stub” – there are currently over 1.9 million stubs in Wikipedia (view the current list of stubs – this is fascinating!).
If you saw this entry you might assume that this scientist did not contribute significantly to her field. Through the work of students in a course using Wiki Ed’s training and tools, and as part of their Year of Science, they expanded the entry significantly this past spring.
Contributing to Wikipedia can meet many learning goals, including conducting research, writing, and improving media and meta- literacies, communication, and technical skills. Students learn about authority (who has authority to create information, where does that authority come from), audience (who uses this information and for what purpose), debates in your field of study (highly controversial topics are often “locked,” editing wars break out), and the importance of citation practices.
Wikipedia assignments can take 5-15 weeks, depending on your goals and objectives. Wiki Ed Foundation, in addition to Connecticut College librarians and instructional technologists, are available to help you through every step. Wiki Ed creates a dashboard for you and your students to access training modules and track progress, librarians are here to help students find the best sources for their research, and instructional technologists can help with technical questions.
I am always learning from my students. One day in my “Food and the Senses” class, students showed me a “Tasty” video (time-lapse videos of tasty dishes being cooked). I was immediately intrigued and hungry. Once the rumbling in my stomach subsided, I started to imagine the ways in which I could use a similar video technique to engage students in my other courses in thinking about food production. Maybe these videos could even improve food literacy, something that is a common issue on a residential campus. This was clearly a technology students were already engaging with and found appealing. However, the kicker is how to move from the passive gaze, what has contentiously been called ‘food porn’, to an active engagement with growing, cooking and eating food?
My Technology Fellow challenge this summer is going to be figuring out a way to bring technology and experiential learning together. How can I leverage technology to deepen my students’ engagement in experiential learning and in understanding the culture of food? In addition, I hope to find ways to use technology to engage students in thinking about questions of skill and the enculturation of skilled work in cases where class size does not permit hands-on activities. This is where time-lapse films come in.
For my “Worlds of Food” course this fall, I will film cooks from different cultural backgrounds making dishes to show how embodied cultural knowledge plays out in the kitchen. Anthropologist David Sutton use of visual media to understand socially and culturally embodied knowledge and the use of kitchen tools influenced this idea. Beyond the kitchen, videos could show the use of tools and practices in food production around the globe. These films will be screened in class and posted on the course Moodle site to prompt further discussion of the course materials. After reading Michelle D. Miller’s Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology as part of the Technology Fellows program, I am eager to introduce videos in to my courses in order to offer students a new medium for understanding cultural practices. Videos posted on Moodle will allow students to revisit techniques at their own speed and facilitate different learning styles. Through these visual examples, students will have time to offer a deep analysis of concepts introduced in class. Although ethnographic films are a stalwart of anthropology classes, these videos will offer focused examples related specifically to food practices. Once I get the hang of this new tool, I would like to explore the possibility of having students produce video clips as part of their class assignments.
Last Friday and Saturday Southern Connecticut State University held its 22nd Women’s Studies Conference, and a delegation from Connecticut College was there to represent! The conference theme – #FeministIn(ter)ventions: Women, Community, Technology – provided a perfect opportunity to share some of the technology-rich courses and projects that have been undertaken at the College, and to hear from colleagues about the successes and challenges of such ventures. At our roundtable workshop/discussion, we described the practices we collectively endorse and the activities we’ve been a part of, highlighting the collaborative spirit that developed among this mixed group of faculty, librarians, and instructional technologists as we prepared for the conference itself. Some of the projects we talked about have been the subject of Engage blog posts, including Hisae Kobayashi’s Twitter project, Ariella Rotramel’s Wikipedia project, and the various tele- and web conferencing activities we support, including Joyce Benett’s organization of a personalized Yucatec Maya course for a student. Caroline Park spoke about feminist music technology, bringing up gendered and racialized technical jargon in the context of creative art and sound projects, and the ongoing process of critically navigating that dynamic in the classroom and outside of it. Guided by Ashley Hanson, participants and presenters alike had a chance to role up their sleeves to do some mind mapping, which provided rich material for our discussion, and exciting ideas for the future. Feel free to check out our slides if you have time.
Endorsing as we do collaborative projects and approaches, we were somewhat disheartened to learn from one of our workshop participants that they are not so easily implemented in the K-12 environment as they are in higher education. Library Media Specialist Jill Woychowski enlightened us about filtering practices in federally funded schools that limit not just access to potentially harmful web sites, but also to ones that enable collaborative projects or contain content related to many common Gender and Women’s Studies topics. This conversation led us to wonder, as a group, about the impact on students as they transition to college and their development of critical metaliteracy skills. What do you think? Should students be sheltered from the “real world” of the Internet? How does a lack of access to collaborative platforms and to the contested territories of the public sphere affect our students’ ability to do research and to co-construct knowledge at the college level?
I developed my Fall 2015 Feminist Theory course with metaliteracy as a learning objective to assist students in studying theory in context. Metaliteracy is a framework that promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a digital age (Mackey & Jacobson). The focus on metaliteracy helped challenge students’ common understandings of theory as distanced from empirical research and everyday life, and reinforced an understanding of research and academic writing as an iterative process.
The Wikipedia assignment that I used for the first two months of class provided a means of working with students to translate theoretical insights into accessible knowledge. Each student created a new entry for Wikipedia on a topic related to gender and women’s studies. Students’ firsthand experience with creating knowledge for a general audience provided an opportunity to struggle with questions of representation that otherwise they would have engaged largely as spectators rather than participants. The project developed out of my interest in connecting with ongoing projects that seek to address the problem of gender and racial inequality in Wikipedia as there continues to be a significant imbalance in participation and content (see Gender bias on Wikipedia). Moreover, the 2015 National Women’s Studies Association Wikipedia Initiative that connects Gender and Women’s Studies classes with Wiki Education Foundation staff provided further materials and support to carry out this assignment.
I took a scaffolded approach to the assignment. Students started reading about Wikipedia through a critical perspective, including issues such as trolling and bias. We took a paced approach in completing the wiki training and beginning to add content (the class Wiki Dashboard shows how the training was scaffolded and organized). Next time, I plan to integrate the discussion of bias with an in-class editing session to break the ice more efficiently. We also connected with our Wiki Education Foundation content expert, Adam Hyland, via Google Hangouts midway through the assignment, and next time we will introduce collaborators earlier to help students put a face to the person and become more comfortable reaching out about specific questions they have around their Wikipedia work. Students appreciated having the scaffolded approach to the assignment that allowed them to pace themselves and revise their work. Finally, they gained much from presenting their work in a poster session supported by the Academic Resource Center as they received direct feedback from visitors and saw firsthand interest in their work, adding an face-to-face interaction that is missing from online work itself.
“it is one thing to be looking at all this information for one’s own personal benefit and use… it is a completely different thing to be able to not only use this information for one’s own personal sake, but also share it with other individuals that are seeking information.” – student reflection
Students’ reflection essays included many claims that the project did indeed help them understand theory as part of feminist knowledge production. One student reported that the project was “a direct way to overcome the lack of connection between theory and praxis” as they created information for a general audience. In addition, students appreciated and found a sense of empowerment by creating content that will be widely shared and used. Students sharpened their research skills, and in some cases contacted individuals involved in the topics they wrote about such as The Kilroys, a theater gender parity group and the activists behind the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. This shift from consumption to synthesis and distribution of information helped demystify one key source of information online for students.
Some entries have received quite a bit of traffic. The entry for Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde’s well-cited essay collection, has received 2,293 visits (25/day) over the past 90 days (see graph to left). Previously, there had not been an entry for the national Green Dot Bystander Intervention program that is a core component of Connecticut College’s violence prevention work. A student created an entry and the site has received 285 visits (3/day) over the past 90 days, and basic information about the program is now accessible to Wikipedia users. In conclusion, while there are always some glitches and complications in carrying out an assignment like this one, it is evident from the semester and teaching evaluations that it was worth the effort. Across the board, students gained a deeper understanding of knowledge creation and representation through this hands on experience.
The relative quiet of summer gives faculty time to think deeply and ambitiously about course structure and assignments. Whether you’re developing a new course or tweaking a familiar one, the syllabus likely includes technology-dependent activities – maybe the familiar Moodle discussion board or a novel hashtag project. As you put on the finishing touches and plan your “Welcome to this course” talk, it may be worth pausing to consider what assumptions you’ve made about your students’ experience with and access to technology. What digital tools will they need to be successful in your course?
We often assume that our students are “digital natives” – that they intuitively navigate websites and apps, readily adopt and easily adapt to new platforms, and possess an enviable, seemingly inborn ability to solve nonchalantly the kinds of technology challenges that inspire fear and loathing in their pre-millennial “digital immigrant” forbears.
For technology-rich courses and assignments, this would be a most convenient state of affairs. Students would dive into Google Drive, iMovie, WordPress, Skritter, and all the other resources we offer at Conn with little need of guidance or the waste of precious class time. Unfortunately, our experience working with students on technology assignments does not support this version of reality. Fortunately, we have some research to support our anecdotal data.
The notion that technology competence is a function of one’s year of birth was the subject of an excellent study in the British Educational Research Journal in 2009. Authors E. Helsper and R. Enyon ask, simply, in their title: “Digital Natives: where is the evidence?” By distinguishing the “being” from the “doing,” as they put it, they are able to conclude that while young people do use the internet more, differences in experience, education, and self-efficacy make for a wide range of digital literacy among them. Their call for a research-based approach to the matter is echoed and amplified in Deconstructing Digital Natives (2011), the authors of which analyze the products, processes, and perceptions of young people in various digital contexts around the world. They urge us to adopt a more pluralistic view of the term itself and demonstrate how discipline-specific investigations can enhance our understanding of what and how students are learning online.
While it’s indisputable that students are surrounded by technology, they may be adept at using it in ways that have little to do with the kind of work they need to do for your class. Or they may not be adept, having had limited access to mobile devices, scholarly databases, and other resources. We know from the 2014 MISO survey that not all Conn students own smartphones, for example, so if you were to require an app for your course, you’d want to think about options for those without.
In any case, Information Services offers resources that can help! You can invite an instructional technologist to your class to show students how Moodle or Google Drive works, or propose a DELI course that will provide all students in a course with the particular technology they need. Finally, if you would like to run your technology-infused assignments by a colleague, plan to join us on September 10 at the “Workshop your Technology Assignments” event or contact your Instructional Technology liaison.
Following up on yesterday’s post, here are three more exciting topics of discussion raised at the Talking Teaching event this Tuesday, April 7, co-sponsored by the Technology Fellows Program and Information Services.
Digital Technology and Collaboration/Communication Skills: How are we using technology to replace certain interpersonal interactions, and at what cost? A common assumption is that working with digital technology means working alone. Some professors observe that students interact with each other less when they can complete a group assignment online, which may decrease accountability for some group members.
Require group work and face-to-face interaction when using digital technologies—Joe Schroeder’s students worked extremely well together on a collaborative Google Doc while sitting together in person, which begs the question: would they have communicated as well together if they had not been sitting in the same physical space?
Require students to meet with relevant people on campus (Information Services, Writing Center, etc.) to ensure that students are aware of the resources available to them.
Have students grade each others’ contributions to group work—Joyce Bennett requires students to keep an individual work log throughout a group project, in addition to grading their classmates at the end.
The new collaboration rooms on the first three floors of Shain Library and the white boards available in the lower level are very popular among students working in groups.
Digital Accessibility and Inequality: Not only does immediate access to digital technologies shape a student’s ability to complete assignments and learn new technological skills in college, but inequalities in access to technology before arriving at Connecticut College contribute to variations in digital fluency among the student body. Sometimes students are simply unaware of what is available to them through various campus resources, including the library. Kathy Gehring pointed out that even the use of electronic resources dropped significantly during the Shain renovation when the library was not physically accessible.
If you are planning to use an app that relies on smartphone or tablet technology, consider that not all students have access to these mobile devices. Web-based avenues of communication (i.e. Moodle forums, email, social media, Google Drive) may be necessary to ensure that all students are able to participate in the conversation. Luis Gonzalez’s recent post about the Digital Divide sheds light on this issue.
Many courses since 2006 have been supported by the Instructional Technology team’s Digitally-Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI). Participation in the program ensures that all students in a proposed course will have access to the same digital device.
Again, requiring that students meet with librarians and instructional technologists, whether in a class session or outside of class, will broaden awareness of the library’s technological resources and assistance, including many workstations with a wide range of software, the Advanced Technology Lab’s digitization equipment, electronic scholarly resources, iPad Minis that can be checked out at the circulation desk, one-on-one training, and more.
Digital Editing Tools and Methods: How can we leverage digital technologies in the editing process for written student assignments? Some professors noted that students have ignored marginal notes in Word documents in the past and resubmitted their work without accepting all the editing suggestions. Is this a case of students not knowing how to use the review features in Word? Many students have expressed that they prefer handwritten comments, and faculty often prefer this tried-and-true method, as well. But do some digital editing tools serve to enhance the learning process for students?
Karen Gonzalez Rice has garnered universally positive feedback from students regarding her recorded audio responses to assignments. Using screencapture video recordings might be a great option for evaluations of students’ visual or written works, if digital files were submitted for the assignment. Jing is a free, easy-to-use tool for creating screencapture videos of up to five minutes (encouraging concise feedback!).
Joyce Bennett loved using Blackboard at another institution to receive, edit, and return her students’ assignments without any exchange of paper, all within the course website. Moodle offers this option too! Contact your Instructional Technology liaison for assistance, if you would like to experiment with this capability.
If you make marginal edits and comments in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, use the suggested edit function, which does not replace the students’ original content. You might also require students to reply to your comments to ensure that they address each one.
Thank you to all who attended Talking Teaching this past Tuesday!