Welcome to week 4! This is the last week of #DigPINS, though we hope, not our last week learning together. Everything you read below are just my thoughts on the topics / questions that were brought up, so I wrote this as a blog post because it felt a little more personal and conversational.
Digital Literacy for Accessibility / Inclusion / Mental Health
The first topic suggestion was digital literacy for accessibility, inclusion, and mental health. This is a big and broad topic. I’ve led an intro-level workshop on thinking about accessibility when making online resources in the past. It may be worth checking out if you are interested in universal design for learning and accessibility:
Discussion and how it relates to inclusion, accessibility, and mental health
I think for teachers concerned about creating a learning environment that feels inclusive, it makes sense to start by examining how discussion happens in your learning environment.
Creating an inviting and engaging environment for discussion is a challenge that comes up often when teaching online, but I think the fundamental challenges are very similar when teaching in-person. Some types of students need prodding to keep engaged in conversation, but teachers make an effort to reach out to those students anyway, because to not do so means losing those voices. The tools that teachers use to keep multiple different types of students engaged in-person obviously vary, but the basics look familiar to anyone who’s spent time in a classroom: calling on students who seem distant, moving throughout the space, not lingering on any single activity for too much time, offering students multiple different ways to connect with material (lecture, readings, encouraging discussion in smaller groups etc.
These engagement strategies create a more inclusive environment and are all applicable to online settings as well. Some strategies to think about in online environments:
- What activities need to happen synchronously? Are there some learning objectives that could be met using a different modality?
- We all know about Zoom fatigue, mixing things up is a healthy thing to do! Video calls are also difficult for students who do not have great internet access and anyone that has to share a space with another person.
- Providing students multiple ways to engage with content makes your course more accessible. Flexibility in course design allows student’s agency in how they learn.
- When on zoom calls, how can discussion be broken up into smaller groups? How can we create inclusive spaces for discussion? Consider using breakout rooms and Liberating Structures!
Helping students generate a professional online presence
The second topic that was suggested was how to help students generate a strong (effective) Professional online presence. When helping students build an online presence, its worth keeping in mind that not everyone has the same comfort level with having a public persona. This is evident in DigPINS as well, where each participant chooses engage with the online tools we use differently, because every individual has a different idea of how to represent themselves. The Visitor Resident Mapping activity we did in Week 1 is a framework to facilitate this conversation and to get students thinking about how they represent themselves. I would highly encouraging integrating that activity in to your classroom when it could be useful, and if you need help with this or would like me to come in to your classroom to help with this I’d be more than happy to!
Once you get students thinking about their professional online persona, we have a lot of resources at SNC available for them to shape their persona. Students can create websites using Knight Domains that highlight their work or research. Crucially, they get to do this in their own way, and they can highlight the things that have the most meaning to them. The Tech Bar is the resource to point students to for help with Knight Domains; we can help them get started, offer feedback, and take their websites to the next level. I’ve also helped teachers integrate a Knight Domains project as part of their courses, so reach out to me if that is of interest to you!
In addition to the Tech Bar and Knight Domains, don’t forget that the Office of Career and Professional Development will also meet with students and help them with fundamental things like resumes, CVs, and preparing for interviews, but also can help students learn how to use social media to their professional advantage on sites like LinkedIn.
It is also worth keeping in mind that most students will need help and encouragement with identifying what types of work they should highlight. Imposter syndrome is a hell of a thing, and in my experience undergrad students typically have it bad. Talk with them to help them identify what work may be interesting for them to highlight, and consider evaluating your course’s assignments and projects through that lens as well: How can I make this assignment valuable as part of a portfolio? How can I make this project demonstrate students’ skills to people that aren’t taking this particular class?