Go here to see part one of this series.
Jesse Fillerup’s Fredericskburg’s Musician Marketplace
This course blog for the History of American Music experiments on several levels, and I think it hearkens back to an off-handed comment Brian Lamb made a few years ago: “What we need is a Craig’s List for education.” This isn’t that, but Jesse Fillerup’s vision for designing a space where each student creates a historical persona and then uses the course site as a means to exchange wares and services, as well as seek them out, provided an opportunity to explore the idea. Each of the classified ads comes from a specific historical period, and each student was tasked with posting to the central site either a job they have available, or a job they’re looking for. These requests were to include a link back to a profile of the historical persona they created on anything from MySpace to Twitter to Facebook to a blog. It was a brilliant idea, and from the student reflections I think it was received with some enthusiasm.
The key, two-fold premise of this seminar: that new media technologies offer new literacies and that these literacies depend to some extent on using media technology to communicate effectively. In this advanced writing course, the successful student will balance theory with practice, and the successful student will leave with technical, working knowledge of some New Media technology and a deeper fluency in media culture. She will also be familiar with what it means to think critically with and through these technologies. The final output of the seminar will be a portfolio-style website – built on the UMWBlogs platform – around which students will build their digital identities.
And this is exactly what this course does, frames writing through media as a space in which students imagine, build, and design their own online presence. At the heart of this course is the building of one’s digital identity, and the results have been pretty amazing. Take a look at Kay Bechtold’s and Rachael Wonderlin’s portfolio sites for two excellent examples of what students are building through this course—a quick look illustrates they are mapping their domains on UMW Blogs and redesigning their space through CSS and more custom code—a domain of one’s own come to fruition at UMW 🙂 What’s more, students are not only cultivating their own spaces, but also blogging about this experience on the course blog, and also maintaining a twitter stream. The way Zach designed the course blog in Drupal to catch all three of these different streams of writing on the frontpage is an absolutely brilliant design, and one I will be stealing for my course next semester.
Sue Fernsebner’s Gender in Chinese History
Not only does Sue Fernsebner use a blog as a quick and easy way to disseminate announcements, post the syllabus, provide access to readings, and point to useful resources, she also created a second online discussion space for experimenting with using a re-themed blog as a discussion space premised more on the design and logic of Twitter. I love this kind of experimentation (which I believe is germane to the space given its relative ease and flexibility), and her use of the P2 theme for WordPress illustrates how this kind of thing can be quite simple to implement. Not only does this format make posting rather simple for students, it also provides feeds for each discussion topic (via tags), and organizes conversations along the lines of the chronology of the course—which allows you to always foreground the most recent discussions.
I’d love to hear more about how this approach worked for discussion in this course—because it appears from the site it was rather lively. Fact is, I always want to hear the details from those constantly experimenting, because such an example of deeply thoughtful approach to the intersection of teaching practice and digital space is exactly what we should be promoting. What works and what doesn’t? More than that–why?
Allyson Poska’s History of Latin America II
In this upper-level course on Latin American History, the course blog became the center of student research for their research papers. Over the course of the semester, the blog was used to develop a particular topic in the field, fill out their bibliography, and make connections among different ideas and types of materials. To get the process started at the beginning of the semester, each student read at least one article about Latin America or Latino culture in the US in a major US newspaper, either in print or on-line. Once blogging US news about various countries in latin America was underway, they then switched the focus to specific stories/journal articles dealing with their particular research topic. You can see the guidelines laid out for the students here, which are quite thorough.
It is also interesting, and quite useful, how the posts where broken down into categories on a country-by-country basis, filtering posts by nation might prove both helpful and useful. Not surprisingly, Venezuela (the Chavez factor?) and Haitii (the disastrous earthquake) were the most popular topics, and the posts cover a wide range of issues from over 16 Latin American countries. What is useful about this example is that the blog assignment is so clearly structured that it may prove useful when working with faculty who favor a more structured approach to introducing blogging into the classroom.
ARTS 492 Individual Study is an advanced course for studio art majors who are prepared both with technical experience and conceptual basis to pursue focused work that is based upon a proposal that the artist generates and develops during the semester. Although the emphasis is on individual problem solving, the group as a whole will hold critiques (online and in person) that will review the progress of their work and discuss reading assignments.
And given the limitations of transporting the works-in-progress back and forth for critique, the class depended heavily on this online course discussion space for posting images of their works-in-progress and sharing the conceptualization and presentation of their art. There are some excellent examples of this here, here, here, and here.