A natural-born analogue woman, after some inspiring workshops, I recently decided to embrace the digital world. (I'm looking at you, HASTAC, DHSI, and UMN's DASH program.) And so, I decided to teach a hybrid (that is, partially digital) First-Year Writing Course here at The University of Minnesota. The results have been fantastic. Unscientifically speaking, students seem to engage more rigorously with 'in-class' assignments (those conducted digitally, I mean) than in my past classroom-only sections. But let me be clear: the students in every section of First-Year Writing I've taught have truly impressed me. Still, I am excited by the way integrating digital technologies into my classroom has enhanced student participation.
To start things off this semester, I used a simple online tool, Flipgrid.
It looks something like this:
Developed at the University of Minnesota, this tool allows students (or employees, commmittee members, etc.) to record a 90-second video of themselves in response to a question that the moderator poses in writing. Each session is locked, so participants needn't worry about their videos going viral. Sounds simple. And as I used it in my class, it was: I asked students to introduce themselves, using as many of those 90 seconds as possible. And as a result, the students spent exponentially more time talking about their interests, their backgrounds, and their expectations for the course than they did when asked to do the same exercise in person (with a few exceptions, of course). All the old wisdom about online teaching applies: since students were alone at home or in dorms, they felt more comfortable and they had time to think about their responses and jot down notes. This was an effective way to begin the process of speaking in the university: making comments in class discussion, making presentations, talking with professors and peers, and all the rest. I think this simple tool could prove effective in a number of situations.
Until next time!