I’m in the process of rethinking my “Technology in the Language Arts Classroom” graduate course that I last taught (as far as I can tell) in spring 2010. The course is a required class for the M.A. in teaching here at Fayetteville State and is designed primarily for high school teachers (although I have taught some middle school teachers, too). Tweaking this course demand quite a bit of reflection, not only about the pedagogical demands of the high school classroom but also about my own considerations of how “technology” factors into education. In the next few days, I will post a revision of my syllabus, but for now, I’m interested in raising a couple of questions about what has changed for me since I last taught the course.
Many of these changes are based on observing my wife and children as they engage in different kinds of classroom experiences. I’ve always included blogging requirements in my classes, but thanks to one of my wife’s children, I’ve learned more about Glogster, a tool that seems targeted towards high school students. In teaching Glogster, I won’t necessarily be endorsing it, but I’d like my students to get a better understanding of how different blogging platforms might encourage different kinds of expression.
Further, as I have become more comfortable with PowerPoint, I’d like to spend a little more time discussing various uses of presentation software. My wife was required to produce a narrated PowerPoint as an assignment for a course she was taking, and I think it could be a useful tool, but one that ended up being way more complicated than either of us expected, so while I am thinking about requiring that students produce a narrated PowerPoint, I am dong so with the expectation that they might struggle with making one (and if they struggle, I hope to turn that into a learning experience, not something that will be a source of frustration).
I’m also trying to rethink how I will tweak the wiki requirements. In some versions of the course, I had ambitions that students taking the class would create a wiki, usually about topics related to the course, but the assignment always seemed too ambitious and, in some ways, redundant, especially given that most of the terms they could have defined were already on Wikipedia. But several of my students recognized that the storage space on wikis could be useful for their course materials, so I would like to find some way of encouraging them to play with a wiki, probably Wikispaces.
Both of my wife’s children have had assignments that invited them to create movies using iMovie (other options were available, so this wasn’t required), so I am considering a more detailed discussion of that as well. But one problem I have encountered–and it’s related to the iMovie assignment, which asks students to interpret a popular staple of modern American literature–is that the web allows assignments to circulate a little more visibly. This kind of sharing can help teachers looking for a creative way to get students to produce interesting work, but it also (quite obviously) makes it easy for students to find those assignments, whether they copy them directly or simply consult them.
Probably the main shift that has taken place, though, has to do with my own attitudes toward social media. I’m still somewhat active on some social media sites, although I’m often torn between more personal interactions on Facebook (and fun distractions like Scrabble) and the professional connections that I usually find on Twitter. I’m blogging less frequently due to time constraints, but all of these social media tools now feel like a part of our social fabric rather than an innovative curricular change. Even if students or teachers don’t blog, they are likely aware that blogs exist. I’ve heard about assignments that require students to create Facebook or MySpace pages for characters in novels or plays. There’s nothing wrong with such an assignment, but I wonder what kind of pedagogical purpose it actually serves.
I’d welcome any suggestions, observations, or experiences regarding these issues, but I will likely post a revised syllabus later this week. Here is a draft version of my Spring 2010 syllabus, if you’re interested.