You know, back when I was in college (go ahead, roll your eyes, it’s ok, my kids do it all the time), I had to go to every class, find articles by going to the library and waking through the stacks and then photocopying what I needed; print all of my assignments on paper, and contact my professors (if I got up the nerve to actually speak to them) by phone. Isn’t that charming? And, now it all just seems so antiquated. It’s a brand new day in communication, and the changes have reached higher education, as well as our personal relationships.
Obviously, we all know that the Internet and email are major parts of a collegiate education in the year 2009. Libraries carry far more of their journal subscriptions in electronic form than on paper, and it’s easy to access most of what you need for a class from the comfort of your home/dorm/office. Emails are a regular part of the communication between students and their peers, as well as between students and faculty – and have greatly increased the ease of getting messages to the desired audience.
But, utilization of participatory media forms has gone far beyond email and online libraries. Faculty in the College of Communication are using a wide variety of “new media” forms to enhance the educational experience. In this post, I present some of the innovative uses of participatory media in fall communication courses at Rowan. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but should give you an idea of some of what is happening.
Professor Kathryn Quigley (Journalism) utilizes a Facebook page for the 42 students in her Media Ethics class. She notes that Facebook is useful because, while some students do not regularly check their emails, they all seem to use Facebook regularly. On her page, Professor Quigley posts links and discussion topics to generate student interest and interaction. She has received positive feedback about this form of communication.
Dr. Deb Martin (Writing Arts) utilizes the website VoiceThread as a presenting and revising space in the class Writer’s Mind. She believes that the multimedia aspect of the site allows writers experiencing block in one medium to “find the meaning they are after in other media.” Each student is able to build the space he/she utilizes and thus takes ownership of the writing and the way reader feedback is solicited. In her Tutoring Writing course, Dr. Martin asks students to anonymously blog about their tutoring experience, in order to encourage an open exchange between them.
Professor Mark Berkey-Gerard (Journalism) is another faculty member who uses blogging as a classroom tool. In his Online Journalism course, students pick a topic (“beat”) for the semester and create an online publication including multimedia content. Professor Berkey-Gerard notes that the public nature of the blog pushes students to cultivate and audience, interact with readers, and think about the ethical/legal guidelines of journalism. It also allows students to network and be noticed by professionals in journalism.
Dr. Maria Simone (Communication Studies) is using Twitter for the first time this semester in her Participatory Media course. She has asked students to tweet about the readings and finds that this tool is providing not only insight into the article, but into how students think about the works as they experience them. To integrate the tweeting with classroom work, Dr. Simone reviews student postings for common themes or questions and then utilizes them to help steer class discussion. In addition to Twitter, Dr. Simone has students in her courses utilizing Wiki and blogging. On the course wiki, students are able to post notes, links, definitions, etc. and also upload their own work for peer feedback. Dr. Simone describes the wiki as a“class project in collective intelligence.” Blogs are being used in Political Communication to connect course concepts with current political events, encouraging interactivity between students out of the classroom.
Bob Tulini (Journalism) is also asking his students to collectively create an onlinne artifact. In his Enterprise Journalism class, the students write a story/sidebar and gather multimedia elements about major news topics. This material is developed into a class website, utilizing blog format, with approximately 20 full stories, that is then available to the public for reading and response.
Professor Larry Litwin (Public Relations/Advertising) has created his own blog that covers public relations news, trends, and tips, as well as posting material and readings to his website. Similarly, Lisa Samalonis (Journalism) maintains a blog site regarding magazine article writing that expands on class discussion and includes information about professional writing.
Deb Woodell (Journalism) also maintains her own blog site, on which she offers links and ideas about journalism. Additionally, she asks her students to blog about copy-editing topics. She provides the starting question or issue and students then prepare a response in the ensuing week. This method of participating allows students who are reticent about speaking in class to have more of a voice. She has also been working with Blackboard and Facebook, to give students even more opportunity for chat and discussion.
Dr. Ed Moore (Public Relations/Advertising) is another fan of the Blackboard/WebCT portal. He utilizes the discussion boards there to “allow students to extend and expand classroom discussions and to react to the comments of others in a thoughtful and reflective venue.” Dr. Moore believes that such boards provide a less time-constrained or interpersonally threatening venue of communication for students who prefer not to speak in class. Additionally, Dr. Moore utilizes the trends he sees on the discussion board as a way to direct classroom discussion.
Jerrold Haught (Journalism) is also using the web as a way to encourage discussion between students. On his Enterprise Journalism Facebook Fan Page, he and his students discuss stories in the media and how they were developed and researched. He believes that this venue will encourage students to extend the once-weekly class discussion across time and give them ideas/thoughts to bring into the face-to-face class each Monday.
Dr. Bill Wolff (Writing Arts) is using flip cam videos as a means of teaching students about the power (and process) of oral histories in his Writing, Research, and Technology course. Students complete various assignments using this technology, culminating in a final oral history project. You can read more about this in the article “How Tiny Camcorders are Changing Education,” including a link to Professor Wolff’s blog about tips for using flip cams in a sound pedagogical way. Dr. Wolff also utilizes blogs, wikis, rss feed readers, social bookmarking sites, Twitter, and YouTube in his courses on a regular basis.
In my own Senior Seminar: Communication and Identity course, I’m using both WebCT/Blackboard and blogging this semester as a way to encourage student discussion and interaction, as well as individual development of critical thinking. On the class WebCT/Blackboard space, students can find their grades, course readings, the syllabus, information about writing and reading scholarly work, etc. In terms of blogging, I have asked each student to select a subtopic related to communication and identity and to blog about that topic, in relation to the class readings, each week. A blogroll of the student work, and my own reflections on the readings, are maintained on the class blog. Most students have elected to combine their blog topic with their major research paper in the course. This allows them to gather valuable feedback from their peers, and develop their thinking about the topic throughout the semester.
As you can see, the College of Communication has been very active in bringing participatory media forms into the class experience, and this list is but a portion of what is being utilized. It’s exciting to consider how these new methods of communication will provide additional means to enhance our community of learning!