Several workshops at this year’s TLISI offered participants an inspiring view of innovative student work.
At the plenary session, Michael Wesch showed excerpts from videos created by students in his Digital Ethnography class and from a video of his introductory-level students acting out their “World Simulation.” You can see more of Wesch’s students work via his Netvibes portal, where you can see not only the final versions of the videos but also some record of the creative process, via earlier drafts, student blog posts, peer comments, etc.
In a workshop entitled “Student-Generated Digital Products: Unnatural Texts in the Natural Sciences,” science faculty presented multimedia projects created by their students for assignments which branch out from the traditional paper format. For example, Heidi Elmendorf challenged her Biology of Global Health students to design and produce 60-second video public service announcements about vaccination. She shared some comments in which students reflected on the difficulties not just of working with new technological tools but of creating projects for an audience (both the hypothetical audience of DC parents and the very real audience of their peers who would view the videos in class). In that session, participants also viewed videos created by Sarah Vittone’s students in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. For example, one group of students produced a video designed to orient patients’ families to the Intensive Care Unit. As the workshop facilitator Janet Russell pointed out, these assignments all challenge students to develop solutions to “real” problems and to translate their work to a broader audience than the professor or the other students in the class.
For more on this session, see Janet Russell’s blog post.
Representatives from Georgetown’s American Studies Program presented an intriguing group of student projects, and discussed how their program encourages work in nontraditional formats. For example, Michael Coventry shared student-created “digital stories” (short multimedia narratives, which can be viewed here along with other examples); Bernie Cook’s student Katie Jones presented her group’s documentary about Union Station (available here along with other documentaries from the American Civilization III class); and recent graduate Lauren Zelt described her senior thesis on the publisher Condé Nast which takes the form of a magazine.
In a panel on student-driven research, four enterprising students who have been involved with some incredible projects shared their perspectives on how this experience affects their learning both inside and outside the classroom. Brian Cook and Brian Kesten of the Student Commission for Unity , who devoted considerable time and effort to designing, distributing, and analyzing a large-scale campus survey, described their inspiration to work toward greater understanding of diversity issues on campus. As Cook explained, “we suffer for not having a dialogue in an intelligent space about these issues.” Zack Bluestone and Matthew Smallcomb of the Telepresence Forum, a group that has used the resources of GU’s telepresence classroom to sustain conversations with students from SFS-Qatar, explained how valuable their exposure to a different perspective has been. All four students took pride in being part of these projects and agreed that these activities outside of the classroom have made their overall Georgetown learning experience more real and more meaningful. They felt that professors could do more to encourage this kind of work and to build connections between these projects and the classroom. (Check back soon for video highlights from this session.)
In all of these sessions, the level of the student projects that were showcased was striking, not just in terms of originality, but also in terms of academic engagement with the subjects. These very different projects offer inspiration for faculty looking for new ways to spark creative and meaningful student work.