A Little Bit More on Georgetown Domains

Georgetown Domains Pedagogical Strategies

Georgetown Domains Pedagogical Strategies image, a circle with community engagement, digital assignments, collaborative projects, interactive assignments.

On Thursday September 27th, 2018, Learning Design Specialist Lee Skallerup Bessette and Instructional Technologist Randal Ellsworth co-hosted a webinar on using Georgetown Domains in the classroom. The webinar will be available for viewing soon, but until then, you can access the resource document we created at bit.ly/GUdomains. You’ll find links and resources in that document, which we will keep updating as time goes on, so you don’t even have to worry about a link being broken.

In this follow-up blog post, we wanted to address some of the questions we received in a little more concrete detail.

Who can use Georgetown Domains? Does my domain name have to have Georgetown in the web address?

Georgetown Domains is a service available for all students, faculty, and staff to use; all you need is your Georgetown NetID to set up your own domain on Georgetown Domains. This will get you a web address that looks like this: examplename.georgetown.domains. With that comes server space where you can host the content for your website. All of this is free.

If you want your own domain, without the georgetown.domains suffix, you can, but you would have to register and pay for the domain name and then have it mapped to your server space through Georgetown Domains. Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. Our service provider, Reclaim Hosting, can help you with all of this.

Speaking of Reclaim Hosting, where is my data being stored? Is it secure?

Your data is stored on secure servers provided by Reclaim Hosting. They have a very readable, clear, and strict privacy policy. They are currently providing these services to over 100 other institutions of higher education, and we feel good about the security and privacy of your data.

However, you still need to follow best practices when it comes to password security and other ways to protect your data online. Georgetown University’s Information Security Office has some really useful resources to ensure you are doing everything you can to remain secure. There are also a number of security plugins you can install if you are using WordPress (more on plugins below).

So can I really do anything on my Georgetown Domain?

Not anything. You still need to follow the Georgetown Computer Systems Acceptable Use Policy. This includes not being able to post racist, homophobic, sexist, or other forms of hate speech. It also means that you can’t violate other people’s copyright by posting it on your site. We hope that Georgetown Domains can help facilitate these important conversations in your classrooms with students on what is and is not appropriate or acceptable to publish online.

But, besides those understandable and reasonable restrictions, you are in fact free to put what you want on your site. You can upload and share PDF documents you would like students to access (as long as you have copyright permission, of course!). You can post images, videos, sound files, datasets, animated gifs…if it can live online, it can live and be accessed on your domain.

There are currently no personal limits set up as to how much space you have on your domain. However, we strongly recommend that if you have very large files (like 4K full-length movies or hundreds of high-resolution images) that you wish to host on your domain to email us at commons@georgetown.edu.

Can we talk about access? How can I limit access, so that only students can see certain pages? How can I make pages publicly available so the community can contribute?

It’s your domain, so you have complete control over who has access to it. Now, what kind of access depends on what you have installed on your domain. Applications like WordPress and Omeka allow for certain pages, or even the entire site, to be password protected, meaning only individuals with the password can see the pages or site.

You can also invite students to collaborate on content for the website by making them users. This means that they can change the site and add to it. This is particularly useful to create collaborative resources and websites. You can learn about the various roles and capabilities in WordPress here. Omeka also has a similar structure for users.

The wonderful thing about WordPress is that the sites are highly customizable using things called Plugins. Using plugins, you can set up your website to do just about anything! Many of the plugins are free, but some of the more powerful ones are called premium plugins and you have to pay for them. There was a question during the webinar about creating a website where people could visit and enter in information that then transfers into a database. You could use something like the Participants Database plugin in order to achieve that aim with your website.

That’s just one plugin of the thousands that are available. It can be overwhelming, so we really encourage you to get in touch with us at commons@georgetown.edu, set up an appointment to speak with us, and we can help figure out the best way to make your vision for your website a reality!

Community-Based Learning in DC and Beyond: Workshop Your Idea

While Georgetown students engage in a variety of courses with their own set of learning objectives, there is an overarching lesson that aims to teach students how to become responsible and active participants in civic life, and live generously in service to others. This is an integral piece of Georgetown’s mission statement, but it begs the question, how do we teach students to fulfill this responsibility? Many Georgetown courses delve into the issues of race, class and wealth disparities, their effects on the community, and steps that can be taken to help mitigate these challenges and their impacts on society. Not all of these courses, however, offer a space for students to apply what they have learned within the classroom setting to real-world communities confronting these issues.

Enter Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ), which identifies and facilitates connections between student learning and community work through community-based learning (CBL) courses. In these courses, students work with and for disadvantaged and underserved individuals and groups in structured ways that meet community-defined needs. Several faculty members across campus departments offer these courses, many of who participated in TLISI’s Community-Based Learning Workshop to discuss the challenges and opportunities of CBL.

Amanda Munroe, Assistant Director for Social Justice Curriculum and Pedagogy at CSJ, facilitated the workshop, which welcomed participants who have either offered or are thinking of offering a CBL course. Munroe kicked off the workshop by asking attendees to think about and share some of the challenges they have encountered with their CBL course. The challenges that were posed could fuel several different dialogues that would need more than the allotted hour to parse through, so highlighted throughout this piece are the common questions and concerns that were raised by both participants and the facilitator. Of particular interest were issues around 1) building relationships with community-based organizations; and, 2) integrating course content with community need.

The general questions guiding the workshop were What? So what? Now what? For this particular presentation, the what explained the purpose of CBL and its outcomes for individual students, which may include, but are not limited to: civic engagement; understanding of social justice; intercultural sensitivity; openness to difference; and reflective skills. Participants posed questions on how the Community Based Organization (CBO) is impacted by CBL and Munroe noted that sometimes CBL courses have immediate, measurable, positive impacts for the community partner; however, more often, CBL creates a resource strain for the partner without an immediate positive outcome.

An example of immediate impact referenced a CBL course in which students in a Spanish sociolinguistics class interpreted documents for pro bono lawyers representing Spanish clients suffering from wage theft. Unfortunately, this is a rare instance, as Munroe cited that most positive impacts are long-term and non-specific, and emerge in the form of social networks, empathy, and civic engagement. The biggest positive is the community’s relationship with a resourceful and powerful institution such as Georgetown.

So What? Focusing on this topic of CBO and community impacts, Munroe explains that CBL should be structured to recognize, compensate, and honor the dignity, work, and aspirations of partner communities and community organizations. To positively impact both groups, the educator needs to be engaged and share the products of the work with the community they are serving. Sustained relationships must also be cultivated and maintained to allow for long-lasting impacts.

Building these relationships will also help to resolve other challenges that were brought up at the beginning. For instance, open lines of communication can better enable the instructor to work with the CBO to ensure integration between the goals of the course and the goals of the CBO. The benefits of these relationships are far-reaching, but how do we accomplish this?

Now What? As the workshop concluded, groups shared thoughts on how to cultivate sustainable relationships with CBOs as a way to comboat their aforementioned challenges. The group interested in better integrating the course curriculum with the work being done with the CBO suggested increased engagement between the CBO. They thought it would be beneficial to have collaborative meetings and working groups to set expectations and identify goals. Another group also noted that rather than switch to another CBO partner, they would prefer to stick with the same partner each semester to create a longer-term relationship that better facilitates successful learning and community benefits.

CSJ can help Georgetown faculty work through the challenges that were shared during this workshop, and can also help facilitate relationships between educators and CBO partners. It is important that our faculty and staff are aware of CBL and how CSJ can help, as these courses can create learning opportunities in which students better understand social justice and civic responsibility. Furthermore, the connection students make with partnering communities and the work that they do with and for these communities can better instill in them a sense of civic duty, engagement, and service that lasts well beyond their years at Georgetown. To learn more, visit the CBL section of the CSJ website. Special thanks to CSJ for presenting at this year’s TLISI!

Register for “Teaching and Learning with Domains” – Part of CNDLS Webinar Series

We see a close-up of the screen of a woman's laptop and the woman's hands as she types an email.

What would you do with a space on the web of your own? More importantly, what could you do with your students in your classes?

Since 2015, Georgetown Domains has been providing an opportunity for all faculty, students, and staff to have their own websites. Georgetown Domains is more than a platform for creating online portfolios: it is an opportunity to engage your students with meaningful, impactful, collaborative learning and research activities.

On Thursday, September 27th from 12:00 – 1:00pm, online via Zoom, CNDLS will be offering a webinar introducing you to how Domains can enrich teaching and learning, using examples from Georgetown faculty. Register for Teaching and Learning with Domains – CNDLS Webinar Series.  

This will be the first in a series of Digital Learning webinars exploring the use of different technologies that enhance teaching and learning. With examples from Georgetown faculty, this series is a chance to find inspiration from your colleagues and to help you think differently about your assignments and the teaching you already do.

Upcoming webinars include:

  • October 25: Accessibility for the Technology Enhanced Classroom
  • November 29: Engaging Students with Panopto
  • Feb 28: Tips and Tricks for Managing Canvas and Enhancing Your Course
  • March 28: Audio and Podcasting Projects: Getting Started with Tech and Assignment Design
  • April 25: Canvas and Learning Analytics

We hope that you will join us. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.

Georgetown Faculty in the TEL Colloquium Develop Blended Learning Projects For Their Classes

In Spring 2018, CNDLS introduced a new cohort experience open to Georgetown faculty—the Technology-Enhanced Learning Colloquium. The TEL Colloquium offers a venue for faculty to explore educational technologies and discuss the nuances of using technology in teaching and learning. With the annual theme of Approaches in Blended Learning, the 2018 TEL Colloquium aims to support faculty in integrating digital technologies with traditional, in-person instruction. Over the course of monthly sessions spread throughout the calendar year, the program gives faculty the opportunity to explore topics in technology-enhanced learning and approaches to blended teaching with the support of CNDLS staff and an interdisciplinary group of their peers. In addition to collaborative exploration of tools, technologies, and pedagogical approaches, faculty in the cohort also develop their own individual blended learning projects to implement in their classes. This past June, a second TEL Colloquium in Blended Learning cohort launched.

The Spring 2018 cohort of 14 faculty members—representing four schools and 11 disciplines—met for a day-long session at the 2018 Teaching, Learning, and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) in May to present on the status of their projects. Below we’ve shared a sampling of a few of the faculty’s projects, representing both the disciplinary diversity and the variety of approaches Colloquium participants are taking in their courses.

Becca Tarsa (English) teaches sections of the introductory Writing and Culture course on the theme of discourse in digital and social media. In a previous iteration of the class, she asked students to critically examine their own self-presentation on various social media platforms to share with the class, but found that students heavily self-censored their feeds and ultimately did not experience the depth of learning she had hoped for. She intends to replace this project with one in which students will instead analyze how discourse functions within a community on the web, such as a wiki collecting information about a specific video game or a message board for people with a shared hobby. She’ll then have her students create a multimedia “tour” of that community using VoiceThread, a tool that will allow students to take video of themselves narrating the tour, which other students in the class can view and comment upon outside of class. Her goal is to teach students about peer review and the revision process, considering audience in their writing, and the principles of multimedia composition.

Yumi Jarris (Family Medicine) oversees a population health curriculum in the School of Medicine. Unlike a traditional undergraduate curriculum, the content she and her fellow faculty teach is spread throughout the four years of medical school. Jarris hopes to create an online version of a one-hour lecture she gives early in the program on the social determinants of health, using Panopto to record the lecture, having students fill out pre- and post-lecture surveys linked in Canvas, and incorporating exercises like quizzes, polls, and interactive infographics. She also hopes to create an online version of an in-class exercise in which she has students brainstorm explanations for why two different individuals might have vastly different life expectancies. Lastly, she intends to script and record an example of a doctor-patient interaction in which the doctor screens for food insecurity. These resources will help Jarris maximize the time she has with the students and allow them to return to the materials for a refresher during the long stretches in which they do not meet.

Greg Afinogenov (History) has found in his Introduction to Russian History courses that many students struggle to relate what they’re learning to their own life experiences. Students enter the course with a wide range of comfort levels with writing lengthy research papers, and Afinogenov finds that helping students who are unfamiliar with that process is very time consuming, while those who have more experience writing research papers don’t learn as much from the assignment as they otherwise could from an assignment that was more creative. As a result, Afingenov is hoping to incorporate Omeka—a free, open-source web-publishing platform that allows students to create digital displays of art, artifacts, and other objects—into his classes. After creating a low-stakes test exhibit, students will select an object from Russian history of interest to them and write a description and compose metadata for it; all of the students objects will be exhibited virtually at the end of the semester. He hopes this assignment will generate more interest in and help students connect with the material culture of the period they’re studying.

Members of this cohort will continue to meet throughout the Fall to work on the implementation of their projects in conjunction with CNDLS staff. Click here to see a list of all of the current TEL Colloquium cohort members, and contact us if you have any questions about the TEL Colloquium.

 

Preparing for Academic Disruptions in the Wake of Hurricane Florence

Georgetown'd Healey Hall darkened in a silhouette against a blue-gray sky dotted with blue-gray clouds.

With forecasters predicting potential impacts from Hurricane Florence later this week and early into next week, are you prepared to enact your academic continuity plan in your course? Below, we’re sharing some tips, strategies, and resources to help minimize the disruptive effects of Florence’s wet and windy impact. Be sure to visit the instructional continuity website for more information to help you prepare, communicate, plan assignments, access tools and training, and view examples of how other faculty continued coursework despite disruptions.

  • One straightforward alternative to holding class in person—assuming there aren’t widespread power outages—is to hold a virtual class via Zoom web conferencing. If not all students can join, you can record the session so it can be viewed later.
  • When disaster strikes, you may not need to recreate exactly what you would have done in your face-to-face class. For example, perhaps a 10-minute lecture capture could cover key points or challenging material, and other content can be addressed in a future class or in another way (perhaps through a Canvas discussion board, etc.). Check out Panopto, a new Canvas-integrated tool that allows you to record lectures—short or long— inside or outside of the classroom, and let’s your students create discussions around video content.
  • Remember that students might not have power and/or internet access and not everyone may be able to participate in a synchronous session. Think about how you can include everyone (at the time or after the fact), perhaps by using an asynchronous tool like Voicethread.
  • Whatever your approach, try to let students know your academic continuity plan ahead of time, including how they can expect you’ll communicate with them.
  • If you’re looking for inspiration from other faculty on what they did when weather kept them from meeting with their students face-to-face, you can find some faculty stories on the Instructional Continuity site. Here’s one professor’s approach to instructional continuity through the use of a course blog when Hurricane Sandy hit a few years ago.
  • The CNDLS tools and services page is an excellent resource if you are looking for additional technology tools to help you keep the learning going in the event of a class disruption.

As usual, please reach out to us with any questions. Stay safe and dry!

 

Well-Being: Blossoming in the Classroom

“The collegiate well-being movement has started to blossom.” -David Bryngil

“Students—and faculty—are hungry for the opportunity to belong, to create community, to relate. With a little focused intention, we can satisfy this hunger.”  -CNDLS’ Laura D. Valtin, Mindy McWilliams, David Ebenbach

In CNDLS’ work on the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning we aspire to promote not only student well-being on our campus but also a vibrant conversation on well-being that extends beyond our walls. And so we’re thrilled to be among the contributors to the current issue of the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education: “Mental Well-Being and Illness: Our campuses show they care”  (Fall 2018).

As its title suggests, Conversations acts as a kind of forum in publication form where educators at Jesuit colleges and universities can come together to share their ideas and questions. In the current issue, we described our experiences with the Engelhard Project in a piece entitled “Well-being in the Curriculum,” written by Laura D. Valtin (former CNDLS Project Coordinator), Mindy McWilliams (Senior Associate Director for Assessment and Programs), and David Ebenbach (Project Manager and Professor of the Practice). We were joined in the magazine-long conversation by colleagues from Fairfield University, Gonzaga University, Regis University, Seattle University, Loyola Universities of Chicago, Maryland, and New Orleans, and more. In these pages these authors consider, among other things, the crises that many of our students experience while on campus; the ways in which well-being is refracted through dimensions of class, documented status, and sexuality; and the role that Jesuit institutions of higher education can play in creating atmospheres where students can thrive.

The issue culminates in a list of ten questions “for continuing the conversation.” As we begin another semester—where we’re always likely to encounter students who exhibit a wide range of well-being (or lack thereof)—we include a few of those questions here, and some answers as well:

Q: Where are the places/spaces on our campus that provide support for students on our campus? (counseling centers and beyond?)

A: A good place to start at Georgetown is Student Health Services, or the Campus Resources list provided by Student Outreach Services (SOS). These are the folks that make up the campus safety net. And note that CNDLS and SOS are co-sponsoring a Safety Net Training session for faculty on September 13th from 12 – 2 p.m. You can register here.

 Q: What are ways that I let students know that I am supportive of mental health needs? (syllabus language, readings in class, etc.) Are my course policies (on attendance, late assignments) able to accommodate students struggling with mental illness?

A: You might find our Teaching Commons page on Teaching Well-Being useful.

And a few questions for you to ponder yourself:

Am I comfortable discussing mental health? How do issues of mental health impact my work on campus? What are some personal experiences with students/faculty/staff that have impacted this viewpoint? How do we define cura personalis in the context of mental health on our campus? How do I care for my own mental health? Prayer? Conversations with family and friends? Exercise? Therapy or counseling? Community? How do I know when I am NOT taking care of my mental health? What are those impacts on me?

Check out the full issue of Conversations to read more and to consider more questions. And don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going. We’re hosting two faculty conversation series this semester, one on Teaching to Mission and one on Inclusivity and Well-Being, and the invitation to new participants is open. You can find out more here, and you can sign up here. Or, as always, feel free to reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu. We’d be glad to hear your reactions to the issue, as well as insight into the issues of student well-being you’re seeing in the classroom, and will be happy to help you think through how to shape your teaching to address them.

 

Getting Past Overpreparation

Here’s a question you probably don’t hear very often as you begin a semester: Are you too prepared for your classes? But that’s the question professor James Lang of Assumption College asks in his essay “How to Prepare for Class Without Overpreparing,” now up on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. As Lang argues, “the college classroom is a messy place that doesn’t lend itself to inflexible plans,” and so it’s time to “let go of the fantasy that you must use every minute of a strictly planned class schedule to introduce, explain, clarify, and cover.” In the place of this frenetic overpreparation, Lang suggests leaving the coverage for out-of-class work and, in its place, turning to a collection of reliable active learning activities for your classroom. The possibilities he describes range from session-beginning writing exercises to session-ending connection questions. Some educators refer to this approach as “flipping the classroom”—a topic we cover on our Teaching with Technologies Teaching Commons page. The idea is to have students encounter the content of the class material as homework (in readings, video lectures, etc.), leaving class time for active learning. For its part, active learning is an approach where students don’t just absorb content but wrestle with, question, and apply that content—and it’s another topic we discuss on the Teaching Commons. Actually, you’ll find a lot of relevant resources on our Teaching Commons, including our pages on Planning and Leading Class and Lecturing Effectively. Or check out some of the pages on pedagogical values, like Inclusive Pedagogy, Ignatian Pedagogy, or Teaching Well-Being, because preparation in those approaches leave you ready to handle a dynamic, unpredictable class better than any endlessly-worried lesson plan could. However prepared you are, remember that we’re always here to help. Feel free to reach out (cndls@georgetown.edu) with any questions or thoughts!  

Here’s a question you probably don’t hear very often as you begin a semester: Are you too prepared for your classes?

But that’s the question professor James Lang of Assumption College asks in his essay “How to Prepare for Class Without Overpreparing,” now up on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. As Lang argues, “the college classroom is a messy place that doesn’t lend itself to inflexible plans,” and so it’s time to “let go of the fantasy that you must use every minute of a strictly planned class schedule to introduce, explain, clarify, and cover.” In the place of this frenetic overpreparation, Lang suggests leaving the coverage for out-of-class work and, in its place, turning to a collection of reliable active learning activities for your classroom. The possibilities he describes range from session-beginning writing exercises to session-ending connection questions.

Some educators refer to this approach as “flipping the classroom”—a topic we cover on our Teaching with Technologies Teaching Commons page. The idea is to have students encounter the content of the class material as homework (in readings, video lectures, etc.), leaving class time for active learning. For its part, active learning is an approach where students don’t just absorb content but wrestle with, question, and apply that content—and it’s another topic we discuss on the Teaching Commons. Actually, you’ll find a lot of relevant resources on our Teaching Commons, including our pages on Planning and Leading Class and Lecturing Effectively. Or check out some of the pages on pedagogical values, like Inclusive Pedagogy, Ignatian Pedagogy, or Teaching Well-Being, because preparation in those approaches leave you ready to handle a dynamic, unpredictable class better than any endlessly-worried lesson plan could.

However prepared you are, remember that we’re always here to help. Feel free to reach out (cndls@georgetown.edu) with any questions or thoughts!

 

WAMU Features Curriculum Enrichment Grant-Funded Collaboration with “Music in U.S. Prisons” Course and D.C. Jail

Photo Credit: Mikaela Lefrak

 

Photo Credit: Mikaela Lefrak

Benjamin Harbert’s (Performing Arts) “Music in U.S. Prisons” course recently received coverage in a WAMU—American University Radio story that aired on August 6th.

Harbert’s course, which covers the intersection of musical traditions with the U.S. criminal justice system, brings Georgetown students and inmates from the D.C. Jail together weekly to produce, study, and discuss music. With the help of a CNDLS Curriculum Enrichment Grant, Harbert provided his Georgetown students with transportation to the D.C. Jail, allowing both groups of learners—Georgetown students and inmates—the opportunity to learn together in a shared space.

Harbert’s course is the only “inside-outside” course included in the recently-launched Prison Scholars Program at Georgetown. This prison education program is a part of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, and aims to bring educational experiences—college courses across Government, Philosophy, English, Music, Journalism, and other disciplines—to incarcerated D.C. citizens. In the past, CNDLS has supported other Prisons and Justice Initiative work, including Marc Howard’s (Government, GU Law) GOVX course.

Georgetown faculty who are interested in adding an out-of-class learning experience to their courses are invited to apply for a Curriculum Enrichment Grant this academic year.  Applications are now open! To learn more about additional grant opportunities available to faculty, please visit the grants page on the CNDLS website.

Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) Learning Community Explores Digital Writing Assignments

Our guest-blogger Rebecca Tarsa (Writing Program) was a coordinator for a Technology-Enhanced Learning Community on Digital Assignments in Spring 2018. TEL Learning Communities are self-directed, structured, interdisciplinary groups–predominantly made up of 8-10 faculty, though communities may also include staff and students—which gather to learn together about a specific topic related to technology, teaching and learning. If you are interested in finding out more about TEL Learning Communities, please contact Jennifer Lubkin Chavez.

During this past spring semester, I served as coordinator for a faculty Learning Community devoted to designing and implementing digital writing assignments in our classes. We, a group of six faculty from across the university, met five times over the course of the semester to discuss approaches to using digital writing in the classroom and negotiating the specific challenges that come with such assignments. Unlike traditional writing assignments, which feature only text, digital writing assignments ask students to compose across a range of media. Students might, for example, be asked to combine text with data visualization and images to create an infographic, or to script and produce a podcast or video. Digital assignments are becoming increasingly common at both the high school and college levels, driven by the dramatic expansion of such work in professional and extra-academic settings, as well as the expanding array of tools available to facilitate their production. Over the course of the semester, all six members of the group designed or re-designed a digital writing assignment for use in an upcoming course. These assignments span a range of disciplines and styles, offering a varied look into the role such work can play in meeting course goals and enhancing student outcomes. Below, I've summarized what each assignment looks like, and how it might serve as a useful model for other Georgetown faculty considering experimenting with digital writing in their own courses; I've also included a link to a copy of the assignment itself. If you'd like more information on designing or evaluating digital writing assignments, you can also check out this recent two-part blog post from the Georgetown Writing Program: Part I and Part II Matthew Pavesich redesigned an assignment from a freshman writing course, moving from a very open prompt to one asking students to use a specific tool—StoryMap—to trace the emergence of a specific issue in a community of their choosing. Though designed for a writing-intensive course, this assignment is useful for anyone considering how to engage students in nonlinear forms of writing towards specific goals. Matt's instructions are concise but specific, and have a lot in common with a traditional writing assignment, offering students (and instructors!) familiar ground to orient them in StoryMap's geographically-based timeline structure. Seth Perlow chose to base his assignment in Twitter, asking students to analyze the rhetorical strategies of specific "tweeters," then create their own original tweets in that same style. His assignment allows students to tap into their existing social media literacy skills, then requires them to analyze and articulate what rhetorical skill looks like in this modern venue. Seth's version of this assignment gives students broad choice in what kind of account they want to analyze—but the broad strokes could be adapted for a wide range of course content by asking students to seek out accounts with goals or content similar to that of the course itself. For example, students in public policy courses could analyze accounts devoted to communicating policy issues to a general audience. Erin Twohig's assignment asks students to create a website presenting a Francophone team from the 2018 World Cup, showcasing their language skills from the semester by building content in a variety of formats: articles, basic information, and several more creative formats of the students' choosing (such as quizzes or artwork). Her assignment, designed as a group project, shows how digital writing can open up opportunities for students to work together and delegate based on different interest areas and proficiencies. Anne Rosenwald asked students in her intro-level Biology of Global Health course to create an e-portfolio examining gun violence as a public health issue. Her assignment prompt is a great example of how mini-deadlines can help structure more complex and high-stakes digital writing assignments, such as this multi-part final project. Her assignment sheet spends a lot of time asking students to consider audience and how to match the form and content of their work to that audience, showing how digital writing can challenge students to think more deeply about how to communicate ideas and information accessibly and compellingly. Anne's assignment stands in contrast to Matt's; where his shows the benefit of asking students to work in a specific platform, Anne puts the rhetorical responsibility on students to choose the best platform, building in those mini-deadlines to help them keep that process on track. Benjamin Harbert's assignment engages students with both written and audio elements, asking them first to reflect on relationships between sounds in a given environment, then design and record an experiment dealing with an existing local sound ecology. Like Anne's, Benjamin's assignment gives a lot of space to students to shape their work towards their own ideas and interests—while also blending in a healthy portion of traditional written work to ground the less traditional element of sound experimentation. Bernie Cook re-designed his documentary treatment assignment, in which he asks students to write a treatment of the documentary they'll be working on as teams for the rest of the semester. His prompt presents both versions, to better show the changes he introduced to add a less traditional element to the writing he's asking students to do. While his assignment isn't explicitly digital, it's a great example of how introducing low-stakes, less traditional writing into the assignment process can engage students in new ways, shifting their final work closer to achieving the desired goals. In asking students to carry out the steps of the project first in-class, without any grade attached, then exchange that work with a classmate for feedback, students go into the final, higher-stakes stage with a wider sense of how to achieve the assignment’s goals, and of what’s possible within its parameters.

Our guest-blogger Rebecca Tarsa (Writing Program) was a coordinator for a Technology-Enhanced Learning Community on Digital Assignments in Spring 2018. TEL Learning Communities are self-directed, structured, interdisciplinary groups–predominantly made up of 8-10 faculty, though communities may also include staff and students—which gather to learn together about a specific topic related to technology, teaching and learning. If you are interested in finding out more about TEL Learning Communities, please contact Jennifer Lubkin Chavez.

During this past spring semester, I served as coordinator for a faculty Learning Community devoted to designing and implementing digital writing assignments in our classes. We, a group of six faculty from across the university, met five times over the course of the semester to discuss approaches to using digital writing in the classroom and negotiating the specific challenges that come with such assignments.

Unlike traditional writing assignments, which feature only text, digital writing assignments ask students to compose across a range of media. Students might, for example, be asked to combine text with data visualization and images to create an infographic, or to script and produce a podcast or video. Digital assignments are becoming increasingly common at both the high school and college levels, driven by the dramatic expansion of such work in professional and extra-academic settings, as well as the expanding array of tools available to facilitate their production.

Over the course of the semester, all six members of the group designed or re-designed a digital writing assignment for use in an upcoming course. These assignments span a range of disciplines and styles, offering a varied look into the role such work can play in meeting course goals and enhancing student outcomes. Below, I’ve summarized what each assignment looks like, and how it might serve as a useful model for other Georgetown faculty considering experimenting with digital writing in their own courses; I’ve also included a link to a copy of the assignment itself. If you’d like more information on designing or evaluating digital writing assignments, you can also check out this recent two-part blog post from the Georgetown Writing Program: Part I and Part II

Matthew Pavesich redesigned an assignment from a freshman writing course, moving from a very open prompt to one asking students to use a specific tool—StoryMap—to trace the emergence of a specific issue in a community of their choosing. Though designed for a writing-intensive course, this assignment is useful for anyone considering how to engage students in nonlinear forms of writing towards specific goals. Matt’s instructions are concise but specific, and have a lot in common with a traditional writing assignment, offering students (and instructors!) familiar ground to orient them in StoryMap’s geographically-based timeline structure.

Seth Perlow chose to base his assignment in Twitter, asking students to analyze the rhetorical strategies of specific “tweeters,” then create their own original tweets in that same style. His assignment allows students to tap into their existing social media literacy skills, then requires them to analyze and articulate what rhetorical skill looks like in this modern venue. Seth’s version of this assignment gives students broad choice in what kind of account they want to analyze—but the broad strokes could be adapted for a wide range of course content by asking students to seek out accounts with goals or content similar to that of the course itself. For example, students in public policy courses could analyze accounts devoted to communicating policy issues to a general audience.

Erin Twohig’s assignment asks students to create a website presenting a Francophone team from the 2018 World Cup, showcasing their language skills from the semester by building content in a variety of formats: articles, basic information, and several more creative formats of the students’ choosing (such as quizzes or artwork). Her assignment, designed as a group project, shows how digital writing can open up opportunities for students to work together and delegate based on different interest areas and proficiencies.

Anne Rosenwald asked students in her intro-level Biology of Global Health course to create an e-portfolio examining gun violence as a public health issue. Her assignment prompt is a great example of how mini-deadlines can help structure more complex and high-stakes digital writing assignments, such as this multi-part final project. Her assignment sheet spends a lot of time asking students to consider audience and how to match the form and content of their work to that audience, showing how digital writing can challenge students to think more deeply about how to communicate ideas and information accessibly and compellingly. Anne’s assignment stands in contrast to Matt’s; where his shows the benefit of asking students to work in a specific platform, Anne puts the rhetorical responsibility on students to choose the best platform, building in those mini-deadlines to help them keep that process on track.

Benjamin Harbert’s assignment engages students with both written and audio elements, asking them first to reflect on relationships between sounds in a given environment, then design and record an experiment dealing with an existing local sound ecology. Like Anne’s, Benjamin’s assignment gives a lot of space to students to shape their work towards their own ideas and interests—while also blending in a healthy portion of traditional written work to ground the less traditional element of sound experimentation.

Bernie Cook re-designed his documentary treatment assignment, in which he asks students to write a treatment of the documentary they’ll be working on as teams for the rest of the semester. His prompt presents both versions, to better show the changes he introduced to add a less traditional element to the writing he’s asking students to do. While his assignment isn’t explicitly digital, it’s a great example of how introducing low-stakes, less traditional writing into the assignment process can engage students in new ways, shifting their final work closer to achieving the desired goals. In asking students to carry out the steps of the project first in-class, without any grade attached, then exchange that work with a classmate for feedback, students go into the final, higher-stakes stage with a wider sense of how to achieve the assignment’s goals, and of what’s possible within its parameters.

Exploring New Educational Technologies at CNDLS

This summer, CNDLS has been experimenting with the latest innovations in educational technology to better understand how to incorporate them into classrooms across Georgetown. Recently, our staff has had the chance to explore three tools in particular including  Zoom, Google’s Jamboard, and Cisco’s Webex Board. Zoom is a synchronous collaboration tool that allows users to host a virtual class, hold office hours, and share real-time screen content with participants. Zoom’s platform creates unique opportunities for remote collaboration. To learn more about its share screen and breakout groups features which creates new opportunities for student projects and presentations, read the full blog post. Google’s Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard that allows users to visualize their ideas in a new and collaborative way. Jamboard is connected to a user’s Google account, letting users import documents from their Google Drive and host Google Hangouts. Read the full blog post about how Jamboard’s novel approach to whiteboard style collaboration can make visual classroom activities accessible for remote students. Similar to Google’s Jamboard, Cisco’s Webex is an all-in-one interactive whiteboard device optimal for collaboration. With its own suite of applications, the Webex Board integrates the most common tools needed for collaboration into a single device. To learn more about its document annotation and wireless screen mirroring for classroom use, read the full blog post. For information about all of these new tools and more, visit our website, cndls.georgetown.edu, or contact us to set up a time to meet with a CNDLS staff member.

This summer, CNDLS has been experimenting with the latest innovations in educational technology to better understand how to incorporate them into classrooms across Georgetown. Recently, our staff has had the chance to explore three tools in particular including  Zoom, Google’s Jamboard, and Cisco’s Webex Board.

Zoom is a synchronous collaboration tool that allows users to host a virtual class, hold office hours, and share real-time screen content with participants. Zoom’s platform creates unique opportunities for remote collaboration. To learn more about its share screen and breakout groups features which creates new opportunities for student projects and presentations, read the full blog post.

Google’s Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard that allows users to visualize their ideas in a new and collaborative way. Jamboard is connected to a user’s Google account, letting users import documents from their Google Drive and host Google Hangouts. Read the full blog post about how Jamboard’s novel approach to whiteboard style collaboration can make visual classroom activities accessible for remote students.

Similar to Google’s Jamboard, Cisco’s Webex is an all-in-one interactive whiteboard device optimal for collaboration. With its own suite of applications, the Webex Board integrates the most common tools needed for collaboration into a single device. To learn more about its document annotation and wireless screen mirroring for classroom use, read the full blog post.

For information about all of these new tools and more, visit our website, cndls.georgetown.edu, or contact us to set up a time to meet with a CNDLS staff member.