student work in digital environments

Blackboard menu options11-15-13 links in article updated.

Yesterday I spoke to a group of faculty about options in our Blackboard 9.1 LMS that affect the visual appearance of the course site–menu options, color customizing, showing/hiding icons–and then we looked at the built-in wikis, blogs, and journals as tools for student work and communication. And that’s mostly what I do every day, think about how faculty can use technology to enhance teaching and learning.

In my other job, as an adjunct English instructor, and even long ago when I was an assistant professor of English, I worked to design projects that put my students to work in digital environments. I’ve directed the creation of two research web sites on American Labor Crises and Approaches to Reading Literature (not currently available), had students perform peer reviews of essays in a wiki, required a research paper to be presented digitally in a wiki or WordPress site, assigned digital storytelling projects as revisions of original print essays, and directed the building of course portfolios in WordPress sites. I also have a long history of interest in collaborative learning projects, which influences my confidence in students to be able to work out of their comfort zones in new digital environments.

So, today’s ProfHacker post on student digital projects, just as the fall return to classes is upon us, is a timely article to get us thinking about what such projects can add to traditional course work.

This fall, I’m using two new textbooks, which puts a little more pressure on me to use the new content wisely, and I’m asking for more electronic submissions of paragraphs than I used to do. So, my one digital project will be one I’m familiar with that still fulfills several course objectives, the digital course portfolio. I provide a SoftChalk lesson that includes instructions, a screen-capture video on how to use the WordPress.com dashboard, portfolio resources (both web and print), and a rubric that serves as a checklist for students. I like the course portfolio in a writing course, because it includes a lot of reflective writing about student writing progress–I find such writing is often the best writing students do, maybe because they are sincere, they know the audience (me), and they are interested in the subject (themselves). It is a nice way to end a course that is stressful for so many students, and a nice read for me. Could students just send me a folder of documents? Yes, I have allowed students to create such a folder in Google Docs before, but I think the process of plotting out the design of a web site for their documents and their reflections gives them a new perspective on writing and composing; it is yet another way to practice document design, and we need to admit today that the visual component is important.

Wow. This post turned out to be more personal than I at first imagined. What digital projects do you or would you integrate into your courses?

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Categories: blogging, collaboration, course design, digital literacy, peer review, student-centered learning

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