by Parisa Meymand
What will follow is a summary of the weeks I spent in #DigPINS, but if you’d like to jump right to how I implemented this in my own class – jump right down to “Now what?”
This past summer I embarked on a digital journey with other faculty and staff from St. Norbert and Kenyon College, facilitated by @autumm (SNC) and @joefromkenyon (Kenyon). This journey focused on digital pedagogy, identity, networks, and scholarship. Each week, we explored a topic as a community and discussed in #slack, twitter, and in our weekly blogs. The framework for #digPINS comes from University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own. My original interest in #digPINS stemmed from an opportunity for professional development focused on digital literacy and the opportunity to get to know more colleagues in a shared community type of setting.
Week 1 focused on the idea of digital #identity, and one of my favorite activities involved creating our own visitor-resident map (save your artistic judgement, please), where we identified sites where we noted what social traces we left behind on these sites. For me, this ranged from sites like Google and Amazon to YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. It also revealed the way in which I use the internet varies – with Twitter being the place for more professional relationships, and Instagram as more of a place to post family photos and other fun things like vacation(s)! This also helped me get more comfortable with using Twitter as a medium for #digPINS, as there is a personal desire to keep professionally growing in the areas of geography and education. This idea was also verified in our weekly readings, including this piece by Laura Pasquini. Sometimes my identity manifests as geography education, and other times just as an educator interested in cultivating best practices and listening to other educators. Also, noting my dual identity of educator and geographer was important moving forward in terms of thinking ahead to the idea of networks in week 2 . I started browsing Twitter for ideas on digital identity, and came across a video from the Economist that discussed the notion of identity and gender differences. For example, women are often described as bossy and men as assertive – although today this is a bit fuzzier (thankfully). I thought of the notion of digital identities and how people who may not be familiar with someone may perceive them online. Intellectual and kind…words I think of for my own identity. How do they translate in the digital world? Week 1 was winding down and I knew that it was time for our first blog. We set up accounts for blogging with #WordPress and dear God, did I struggle with logging in and remembering my password. Note to self – help students here with this same struggle.
After the uneasiness of getting through the login, it was now time to blog. Did I mention that I’ve NEVER blogged before? Looking back, my first blog was really rather specific and not all encompassing of Week 1 on identity. But, I found a topic that was of some interest, and I went down the rabbit hole. I’m thankful that while we had to post our blogs, the first week we were not required to tweet them out. Note to self – remember this thankful feeling on week 1!
Week 2 focused on networks – one, if not my favorite week in #digPINS! The focus of networks focused on how we interact online, and how we find and build our networks. Since my identity consists of education and geography, I looked to build both of these realms. My list of followers grew to include orgs such as @eduationweek, #digPINS members from SNC, @fastcrayon, @aag, @Americangeo, @WisDPIsocstu. Of course, @autumm put together a list of people to follow as suggestions. My classic Twitter-verse consists of logging in, browsing what the people I follow are saying, looking for interesting articles, and retweeting them with a comment. I’m still a work-in-progress as far as simply interacting with someone on Twitter if it doesn’t involve a retweet. This week we now had to take the next step and not just blog, but then tweet the blog. Here we go! Looking back at week 2’s blog again really did not relate well (or as well as it should have) to networks, but more in my attempt at getting comfortable with writing out in the open on any topic. During our networking week, I probably did read various posts about testing, and group tests versus individualized, and I felt like I had a strong enough opinion to express it. This should have been connected more clearly in my post.
Week 3 centered on pedagogy. I thought of ways that I use digital space in my courses – and the answer is quite often – as I teach hybrid courses! The first word that I saw was “space” and part of my own identity wanted me to delve deeper into the concept of digital space, and just space in general for students. It brought me to thinking about my own classroom space when I taught at the high school level, and how much I valued (and still value) space. My feelings were so strong about this idea of classroom space, that I tied it to geography and my blog for Week 3. I realized that my blogs were my missing visuals, and so here’s a visual of my classroom to tie into week 3’s blog. This particular photo (taken with their permission) doesn’t show off the seating arrangement in great detail, but you can still see traditional desks, “rolly” desks, circular tables, and rectangular tables during our “poetry slam” of agricultural geography. Yeah, think about that! Beyond the blog, I started re-examining what digital skills I wanted my students to come away with from my course. I certainly have a better idea of this concept with #digPINS as a framework. One article that I found particularly helpful was 10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do – I laughed at #6 probably haven’t listened to #9 enough, and love the added #11.
Week 4 – our last week! We focused on the notion of scholarship and accessibility in our field. I focused primarily on geography this week, and looked at identifying some “open” resources that are available. This video on open access by DC Comics was a good starting point for me to start reflecting. One of my favorite open access geography sites is from @ProfessorDixon, where he curates geography using a thematic approach. In terms of open access texts, there wasn’t really much out there in the geography world. Read more about open access in blog 4, including a great content analysis tool I’m using called Voyant (@VoyantTools).
After a great 4 weeks, I started processing what aspects from #digPINS to implement in my Fall 2018 course. I decided to focus on WordPress, and having students blog and tweet their blogs, something that I grew to enjoy in #digPINS. Since the course is set up in two-week modules, I decided to have students write and post a blog for each module. I wrote up my proposal, and away I went. Looking back, there were some mistakes that I made myself that I should have learned from in implementing the blog in my course. For example, my first note on the login/password issues! I never talked to students about the fact that they would need to really write this down and remember, I just assumed they should figure it out! After the semester, this is something that I brought up with Learning Technology Specialist, Taylor Jadin (@TaylorJadin). He recommended making this more intentional, and making a blogging FAQ sheet for questions about logging in, and remembering passwords (with explicit tips like, write it down, sign up for lastpass).
This semester, I’m continuing the blogging aspect, and so this time around my words, I think, were much more direct and overt with my students, and I think they found the discussion helpful. Another 1st-time-around mistake: I had students blog and tweet their blogs on week 1. This semester, I’m resolving this issue by following our #digPINS example of just blogging the first week, and then week 2 (or in my case, module 2) worrying about tweeting the blog. Yet another first-time mistake: thinking that I had talked enough about the importance of having a digital identity and creating a professional network. My students are NOT geography majors (we have no majors), and so I was not overt enough in stressing that any field values skills (including digital and geographic skills), and are worthy of display. I talked more this semester about students building their portfolio of skills for future employers, and how geography is a portion of that portfolio. Of course, this happened with discussion from colleague and friend, Reid Riggle (@ReidRiggle). This discussion on the importance of skills, and building their own portfolio should set and better frame our semester of blogging, and highlight more of the purpose of their blogs. We also read two articles that discussed how important digital literacy is in today’s workforce, and in ways in which students may have not considered. #digPINS has been an eye-opening journey for me in promoting digital skills for my students to produce better candidates for the future job market, and also for me reflecting on my own digital practices. The journey continues!