Blogging for Class: My Wrap Up Thoughts

Well, the semester is over and the whole thing left a very good taste in my mouth. I know the reason why I enjoyed it so much this semester — I changed everything! I have taught IST 110 several times over the last several years … as a matter of fact every fall since the IST program really got rolling … with several CE and World Campus sections thrown in. I usually stay very true to the Online IST design model we built and have evolved over the last 5 years. There are some really great things going in that design and it has served me well every time I use it.

This semester I wanted to challenge myself, and my students, with a different type of experience. I am the project director for IST and PSU’s part of the Apple Digital Campus program and really wanted to take advantage of the connection and bring the research we are doing with them to life in the classroom. I decided that I would only teach 110 this fall if I could do it in the new Apple Teaching and Learning Studio Classroom in the IST Building … that room is filled with 25 G5’s with a whole host of great apps … iLife, Final Cut, Macromedia MX, and others. The room made a huge difference.

I also decided the machines should be an active part of the lectures. In the past I have done the whole, “computers off” thing before I start talking and only let them in when I am done. Not this semester! Machines on, roaring and running – I frankly just didn’t care if they were using IM, bidding at eBay, or updating their profile in the facebook … I just wanted it to be an open and fluid experience. I really think it was.

The inclusion of digital expression assignments was of huge benefit as well. The students learned how to use rich media to express their ideas and how to use it appropriately to communicate very serious technology solutions. The typical semester would see students doing a couple large proposal documents and presentations … this semester I reduced that to one large scale assignment dealing with illegal file sharing and added a digital media project to it. Students not only had to create a 20 page solution, a 10 minute presentation, but also produce a persuasive, educational public service announcement built using digital media tools. They did this and a couple other small media assignments with very little real instruction with the tools – “here’s a camera, here are a couple of overviews on how to plan and produce a digital media piece, and this is when its due …” Basically I just threw them into it. Results were nothing short of outstanding!

The biggest change though stemmed from the combination of two new pieces of technology. The first is the software we’ve built here at the Institute – Edison Services Syllabus Toolset. The big thing was that it gave me a very quick and easy way to communicate with my students outside of class with the announcements feature. It kept me from having to log into ANGEL, navigate the interface, use their email tool, and then send it … saved me a ton of time. It also seemed to make me communicate with them on a more regular basis. The second, and perhaps more powerful, change was the Class Blog. I decided from the get go that I was going to create a space that I could very easily post to and solicit responses from my students (and people outside the class). I loved it and the students used it (measured by quantity of posts) more than I have ever seen in comparison to the typical discussion board stuff I have always done. I can honestly say this one thing enriched my experience beyond imagination! I could quickly bang out a post with pointers to all sorts of interesting articles and just watch the remarks roll in. I even did my graded Discussion Activities there and got nearly 100% responses from the class – I think only three people didn’t do all the DAs! That is unreal. Typically, more than 2/3 of the class misses at least one DA during the semester.

We did do a little data gathering related to the blog in the class and are in the process of going over the results. I’ll be sure to post stuff here as it becomes clear. As an aside, I stumbled across this today and it has me thinking of how to make the students even more actively engaged in what’s going on. It’s a very interesting concept and worth a look.

All in all, the best time I’ve had teaching and a major step forward in my thinking about using technology in he classroom and in how to effectively use emerging technologies to motivate and challenge students. I actually had fun doing my job! Good stuff. Leave comments if you have any–>

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