Back to the Future … er, … Past DeLorean Time
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For Leadership Studies 363 I hoped to infuse a fairly traditional pedagogy with some technological tools/enhancements in part to make the content feel more contemporary, and in part to build a new set of writing skills for students enrolled in the class. I made some progress, but I imagine if I were to continue teaching I likely would still focus on more traditional formats. I liked this work, and I think the students liked it, too, but I probably did not embrace it as fully as I could have, and in the future, am not 100% sure how I would approach it.

In the past I had a “blog” requirement, and a hope and expectation that the writing students would do for a blog assignment would be substantively different from more traditional writing they had done for me in other classes, and I supplemented those assignments with “Top 10” lists of hints from a variety of sources. To some degree that worked, but it always felt like an “add-on,” of sorts. With this DigPins opportunity I hoped to remedy that notion, and to improve the course.

To start off on the right foot I actually engaged the services and professionalism of Susan and Taylor to help me think through a blogging opportunity as I developed my course, in ways I simply had not done before. So even though I had taught the course before and had utilized a blogging assignment, I had never consulted with anyone in ITS. That was incredibly helpful, partly from a technical standpoint, but more importantly from a pedagogical perspective.

Along those lines, i hoped to build student’s digital competencies in the area of writing in an online medium. From Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework, I focused on the following competencies:

  • Learning to critically analyze and effectively communicate using digital-age textual formats, such as hyperlinking and non-linear narrative.
  • Becoming familiar with and comfortable using a range of digital publishing or social media tools, such as blogs, wikis, WordPress, Twitter, etc.
  • Learning how to identify the digital publishing or social media tool that is most appropriate to given audiences, topics, and content.
  • Learning how to give credit to other’s creative work and original ideas, through attribution conventions appropriate for digital media

To help students do this, I asked Susan and Taylor to visit with the class in order to explain how the technology worked, and most importantly, how to approach writing in this relatively new medium. The idea of writing online was not new to them, of course, but the idea of writing to an online audience, with a concrete prompt and expectation, was new for most of them.

In addition, I received guidance about simplifying and clarifying a rubric I have used in the past. This helped me with grading, to be sure, but again, most critically helped the students better understand how to approach this work.

My goals for this work were primarily rooted in developing sound fundamental writing skills for this particular medium, and for the most part — based on grades students earned — I believe this happened. More quixotically, perhaps, one of the criteria I used in my grading related to students finding and expressing their “voice,” and that remained an ongoing challenge throughout our work together. My direction, again and again, was that I hoped to be able to pick up any piece of writing, submitted anonymously, and know for certain who had written it, based primarily on the tone, style, and content of the piece. That got closer and closer to happening, but very few of the students really embraced the opportunity to let themselves shine through, in ways that would perhaps be less appropriate in a more formal writing assignment. Were I do to this again, I would continue working hard to try to help make that happen.

I asked students to submit blogs for six consecutive weeks, in part hoping to keep them continually improving, and to some degree that happened. As a late addition to the class, in the wake of changes to class due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have asked for one final blog. I will be eager to see what they have retained and what might be new, under these new life circumstances.

I am grateful for the opportunity to build my own and my students’ digital literacy skills in this area, and were I asked to teach again I would be eager to take another step, or two, in the direction of continuing to explore ways to build these skills and to improve the course, overall, by continuing to incorporate digital media in meaningful ways.

(2) Comments

  1. Susan Ashley

    Thank you for taking a step out on a limb to create such an engaging and reflective activity for your students while growing their digital literacy skills. When students write reflective blogs, higher level thinking is involved and writing in the open can be a new experience for them. I’m glad the blog rubric supported your objectives and helped students understand their focus. I’m looking forward to reading their final blog posts as well.

  2. Corday Thomas Goddard

    Just by way of providing a bit of follow up: The students, for the most part, were fairly effusive in their final blog, most commenting very positively on the opportunity to write blogs, and many commenting on how meaningful the blogs — and the course — had been for them. Were I to teach this again, I would definitely continue with this assignment and would seek additional ways to enhance it.

    Part of my grading rubric called for them to respond to at least three others’ posts, and that was very positive, as well. Students complimented and complemented their peers’ posts, raised interesting questions related to the post and course content, and very positively encouraged one another all along the way.

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