New Conversations

New Conversations

I am in Madison, WI where I am presenting at the 24th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. I am part of panel discussion looking at institutional transformation to support both resident and online learning given the shifting demographics of our students. I am going to talk specifically about Digital Expression and what it means to me and how how PSU has been working towards providing platforms to support it. I used to get asked to describe what I mean by Digital Expression, but not so much anymore — I think people are arriving at their own conclusions. From my perspective, in the most simple terms, it is providing opportunities for faculty and students to feel supported to engage in the art of sharing evidence in a digital sense. I have spent time in a lot of classrooms where I have asked students to stretch themselves to produce digital media to articulate learning and the things they come up with are amazing.

Opportunities to Engage
Opportunities to Engage

When I dig into this deeper I am left echoing the thoughts of Lessig from the TLT Symposium, these students are engaged in a new social dynamic — a digital conversation. I have been struck by the way YouTube can draw people out and how it provides affordances for them to respond in different ways. I am thinking specifically about how people will take quite a bit of time and effort to respond to a posted video, not with a text comment, but with a forked version of the original, or a video response, or a story changing event, or other creative ways to extend and engage the original producer and others. This is moving the discussion forward, it is a digital conversation at a whole new level. I doubt we’ve ever fully realized the power of the digital discussion in the traditional message board — I know the best online conversations I have had existed in the open and in very accessible locations.

When you look at PSU students and the fact that 17% reported creating video for a class while 15% reported creating a video for personal reasons last year, you know something is changing. I don’t have the data to support it, but this feels like a very big jump in only a year or two time. To me, it is early evidence that we are well positioned with the Digital Commons, but pushes me to continue to think about how to make the service more obvious. Only 2% report using the DC resources last year and I can tell you from the usage data I received yesterday, that number will be much higher next year.

I’ve written before about how we are working to position ourselves with a platform to support digital expression and I intend to share a bit of that story during my presentation. I’ll highlight the Digital Commons as a place where faculty and students can be supported in the art of being digital. Additionally, I’ll share insight into our vision for our blogging platform as a personal digital publishing environment. I won’t have time to go into podcasting, game design, community hubs, or the other things we’ve been doing to promote a more open and community driven environment. I hope it is the start of a real conversation that we can continue to push forward on all of our campuses.

Digital Expression Alignment Stack
Digital Expression Alignment Stack

We are getting to these opportunities in a systematic way by aligning emerging services with existing infrastructure. We don’t get it right every time, but getting new tools and opportunities out to our audiences seems to be the winning proposition. Going forward, where do we need to be focusing additional energy? One area for me is in the appropriate use of these environments. Are there other thoughts?

One thought on “New Conversations

  1. Cole, this is a fascinating idea for organizing campus educational technology (and more).

    One topic: how to handle the shadow IT department, the deep presence of offsite tools.

    Good luck with the talk.

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