I just found out at the last minute that I will be teaching English 518, “Technology in the Language Arts Classroom,” a required graduate-level course for students seeking a Masters in education here at Fayetteville State. I taught the course a couple of years ago (here’s the long-abandoned course blog) and had some success with it, but I’d like to rework the course in a number of ways, so considering this post to be a mix of brainstorming and a request for suggestions.
First, unlike last semester, I’d like to make the course operate much more like a workshop where I am more involved in directing student work in class, whether that is designing wiki pages, writing blog entries, producing podcasts, or whatever. Quite often, I found that my original plans–introducing key media studies texts separately from the technologies themselves–led to a kind of disconnect. While my students were willing to engage, I struggled to match theory and practice. I’m still working on that, but I’m drawing from a number of syllabi, including David Parry’s Networked Knowledge and Digital Rhetoric and Contemporary Politics. Given the goals of my students, some discussions worked really well. I found the conversations about Wikipedia (and related discussions about teaching internet research) to be incredibly productive, but again, I’d like to revise things a little.
Second, while many of the students seemed relatively comfortable with blogging, I had a lot of difficulty in getting them to contribute to the course wiki. At the time, I attributed this to the students’ reluctance to have their work edited by others, but in retrospect, I think that my expectations–asking students to create a course wiki about course readings–were both too vague and too ambitious. Given that these pages also would have covered material already on Wikipedia, they were also somewhat redundant. With that in mind, I’m considering having my students produce something along the lines of “Depicting Dinkytown,” instead, but asking students to focus on Fayetteville. As you can see from entries such as this one focuisng on a Burrito Loco, the wiki format can be used to include written, photographic, and even video texts, and instead of Wikipedia’s objective overview, a localized wiki could allow students to engage in more interpretive work. Because I found out that I will be teaching this course in just the last day or so, this project is very much in its formative stages, so I’d appreciate any suggestions you might have about how to make it work.
Third, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t used blogging in a couple of years in any of my classes (despite my earlier enthusiasm for them), so I would be curious to hear how my readers are currently using them. In the past, I have used individual blogs, a single course blog (to which all students contributed), and small-group blogs involving 4-5 students. The class itself will be relatively small (5-6 students, I’d imagine), so I’m wondering whether having students create personal blogs is warranted.
I’m approaching this course without a lot of experience with secondary education students, so I’m still sifting through ideas about how to translate my interests in digital media into something that current and future teachers might find rewarding. I’m also operating under the recognition that the teachers themselves may face certain limits–including access to technology and constraints imposed by curricular requirements–in implementing these activities in their own classrooms. I’ll try to post a tentative syllabus soon, but any suggestions you have would be more than welcome.
Update: When I went to post this entry to Twitter, I remembered that I will likely require my students to use Twitter, something I’ve never done before, so I’d like to hear from my fellow Twitterers: how have you used Twitter with your students in your courses and are there any readings on Twitter that I should teach?
Update 2: I’ll write a longer, separate post later, but I attended some great panels at MLA, including one on Twitter and several others on the digital humanities, so I’m starting to get some ideas. George’s planned revival of the Teaching Carnival series also seems like a great opportunity, not only to get some ideas but also to get some of my MA students, many of whom are high school teachers, involved.