Thinking About Undergrads and Technology

A quick walk around campus confirms what has become a common story in today's culture: this generation of college students appears to be nearly always connected to technology. Whether they're "walking and texting" or just displaying the tell-tale white Apple earbuds, these students, at a glance, seem to corroborate the assumptions that are so often made about them. A recent project I've been involved in during the past year or so has involved working to redefine the perceptions surrounding these college students and their relationships to technology. The project itself stemmed from the work of David M. Levy, a professor in the University of Washington's Information School. Interested in multitasking and its effects on people's well-being, he visited several universities across the country and spoke with various groups of students about how they use their time. Professor Levy has since joined forces with Professor Jeanine Turner in the Communication, Culture and Technology Program, as well as Daryl Nardick and myself here at CNDLS. Instead of asking professors to tell us about their perceptions of students' interactions with technology, we really wanted to talk to the students themselves. We've been conducting focus groups here at Georgetown and at the University of Washington, asking undergraduates how they feel about their technology use, both inside and outside the classroom.  And they've been more than willing to share. From our (very preliminary) research, we've  found that besides being overwhelmingly thoughtful and articulate about their technology use, undergraduates are aware of and concerned about how much time they spend being connected. Many students, for example, say they feel pressure from friends, parents, employers, and professors to be more responsive and attentive to digital communication than they would ideally like to be.  Before even getting out of bed in the morning, they're met with emails (both personal and school accounts), text messages, news feeds, class blogs, and other digital information they're expected to be aware of--and often respond to quickly. When forced to disconnect for extended periods, whether because they're traveling abroad or simply out of reach of cell phone service, students tell us they were surprised at how calm and relaxed they felt. The undergraduates we talked to also routinely distinguished between "face-to-face" and digital  interactions, noting that the former is much more "real" and much more preferable, even though they often find themselves, almost against their will, caught up in the culture of online communication. For students transitioning from a high school environment where there usually constraints on their use of personal devices, having unrestricted access to them when they arrive on campus can be jarring.  One student in a focus group wondered whether the university could "turn off" technology for several hours each day, since it was so overwhelming. For instructors and administrators, this type of response could be a significant contribution to discussions about the place of technology and new media in higher education. Far from drawing any definitive conclusions at this point, we're looking to instead engage instructors and administrators in dialogue with undergraduates--who, as smart, thoughtful digital natives, can tell us a lot about their experiences with technology and how it affects their learning and general well-being. For more  information on these early stages of our project, please take a look at our recent article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A quick walk around campus confirms what has become a common story in today's culture: this generation of college students appears to be nearly always connected to technology. Whether they're "walking and texting" or just displaying the tell-tale white Apple earbuds, these students, at a glance, seem to corroborate the assumptions that are so often made about them.

A quick walk around campus confirms what has become a common story in today’s culture: this generation of college students appears to be nearly always connected to technology. Whether they’re “walking and texting” or just displaying the tell-tale white Apple earbuds, these students, at a glance, seem to corroborate the assumptions that are so often made about them.

A recent project I’ve been involved in during the past year or so has involved working to redefine the perceptions surrounding these college students and their relationships to technology. The project itself stemmed from the work of David M. Levy, a professor in the University of Washington’s Information School. Interested in multitasking and its effects on people’s well-being, he visited several universities across the country and spoke with various groups of students about how they use their time. Professor Levy has since joined forces with Professor Jeanine Turner in the Communication, Culture and Technology Program, as well as Daryl Nardick and myself here at CNDLS.

Instead of asking professors to tell us about their perceptions of students’ interactions with technology, we really wanted to talk to the students themselves. We’ve been conducting focus groups here at Georgetown and at the University of Washington, asking undergraduates how they feel about their technology use, both inside and outside the classroom.  And they’ve been more than willing to share. From our (very preliminary) research, we’ve  found that besides being overwhelmingly thoughtful and articulate about their technology use, undergraduates are aware of and concerned about how much time they spend being connected.

Many students, for example, say they feel pressure from friends, parents, employers, and professors to be more responsive and attentive to digital communication than they would ideally like to be.  Before even getting out of bed in the morning, they’re met with emails (both personal and school accounts), text messages, news feeds, class blogs, and other digital information they’re expected to be aware of–and often respond to quickly.

When forced to disconnect for extended periods, whether because they’re traveling abroad or simply out of reach of cell phone service, students tell us they were surprised at how calm and relaxed they felt. The undergraduates we talked to also routinely distinguished between “face-to-face” and digital  interactions, noting that the former is much more “real” and much more preferable, even though they often find themselves, almost against their will, caught up in the culture of online communication.

For students transitioning from a high school environment where there usually constraints on their use of personal devices, having unrestricted access to them when they arrive on campus can be jarring.  One student in a focus group wondered whether the university could “turn off” technology for several hours each day, since it was so overwhelming. For instructors and administrators, this type of response could be a significant contribution to discussions about the place of technology and new media in higher education.

Far from drawing any definitive conclusions at this point, we’re looking to instead engage instructors and administrators in dialogue with undergraduates–who, as smart, thoughtful digital natives, can tell us a lot about their experiences with technology and how it affects their learning and general well-being. For more  information on these early stages of our project, please take a look at our recent article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Report on “Project Makeover”

This morning, Beth Marhanka (Gelardin New Media Center) and Susan Pennestri (CNDLS) co-hosted a lively session called "Project Makeover: Redesigning Student Assignments." This was the second time we had held a "Project Makeover" session, where faculty members bring assignments that they feel need reworking and staff members (from Gelardin and CNDLS) as well as other faculty members brainstorm ideas for improving the assignments. In today's session, Josiah Osgood (Classics) and Tommaso Astarita (History) asked for suggestions on the final project they will assign to students at the end of an intensive study-abroad program in Rome this summer. They want to make the most of the students' time and energy not only during the program, but also before and after the two weeks the students will spend in Rome.  This course presents some particular challenges, such as the short time frame, the off-campus setting, and the range of student backgrounds. The group brainstormed about ways to incorporate visual data, such as photographs and video clips, into the students' final projects. For example, Omeka, a tool for creating online exhibits, could help students to organize and present their research. Students might also use Omeka or another online collection to share some of their artifacts with one another during the process of creating their final projects. Although the final project was conceived as a written paper, the possibility of also accepting a digital story or documentary video was explored. A suggestion was made to give students specific guidelines about how to incorporate images into their written papers. Josiah and Tommaso were excited about the group's many suggestions but were understandably wary of making too many changes at once. A team from CNDLS and Gelardin will follow up with Josiah to decide what kind of incremental changes can be realistically implemented by this summer's course. Stay tuned for updates on this project! The second "guinea pig" for today's workshop was Charles Yonkers, who wanted feedback on a new graduate course he will be teaching in the Liberal Studies program this fall called A Sense of Place: Values and Identity. The course will explore different ways to perceive places - for example, through cultural, historical, or geographical lenses. Due to the wide-ranging, elastic, and personal nature of the course topic, he plans to offer an option to students to submit a creative writing piece, photo montage, or other type of final project instead of a traditional scholarly paper. The group offered some suggestions on how to focus the course structure - for example, by assigning students to particular blogging roles or by integrating student presentations into the second half of the class. Some of the librarians in attendance advised giving students guidance on research methods and specific databases early in the semester.  The suggestion was also made to consider using a wiki to capture the students' process of refining their conceptions of the particular places they have chosen to focus on for their final projects. While this course is still a work-in-progress, Charles plans to explore some of these suggestions further (once he wraps up his current course on the Federalist Papers!) as he continues to refine his course syllabus. Thanks to everyone who attended today's session. We plan to make "Project Makeover" a regular offering in our CNDLS/Gelardin workshop series. If you're interested in participating in a future session, please let us know!

This morning, Beth Marhanka (Gelardin New Media Center) and Susan Pennestri (CNDLS) co-hosted a lively session called "Project Makeover: Redesigning Student Assignments."

This morning, Beth Marhanka (Gelardin New Media Center) and Susan Pennestri (CNDLS) co-hosted a lively session called “Project Makeover: Redesigning Student Assignments.” This was the second time we had held a “Project Makeover” session, where faculty members bring assignments that they feel need reworking and staff members (from Gelardin and CNDLS) as well as other faculty members brainstorm ideas for improving the assignments.

In today’s session, Josiah Osgood (Classics) and Tommaso Astarita (History) asked for suggestions on the final project they will assign to students at the end of an intensive study-abroad program in Rome this summer. They want to make the most of the students’ time and energy not only during the program, but also before and after the two weeks the students will spend in Rome.  This course presents some particular challenges, such as the short time frame, the off-campus setting, and the range of student backgrounds.

The group brainstormed about ways to incorporate visual data, such as photographs and video clips, into the students’ final projects. For example, Omeka, a tool for creating online exhibits, could help students to organize and present their research. Students might also use Omeka or another online collection to share some of their artifacts with one another during the process of creating their final projects. Although the final project was conceived as a written paper, the possibility of also accepting a digital story or documentary video was explored. A suggestion was made to give students specific guidelines about how to incorporate images into their written papers.

Josiah and Tommaso were excited about the group’s many suggestions but were understandably wary of making too many changes at once. A team from CNDLS and Gelardin will follow up with Josiah to decide what kind of incremental changes can be realistically implemented by this summer’s course. Stay tuned for updates on this project!

The second “guinea pig” for today’s workshop was Charles Yonkers, who wanted feedback on a new graduate course he will be teaching in the Liberal Studies program this fall called A Sense of Place: Values and Identity. The course will explore different ways to perceive places – for example, through cultural, historical, or geographical lenses. Due to the wide-ranging, elastic, and personal nature of the course topic, he plans to offer an option to students to submit a creative writing piece, photo montage, or other type of final project instead of a traditional scholarly paper.

The group offered some suggestions on how to focus the course structure – for example, by assigning students to particular blogging roles or by integrating student presentations into the second half of the class. Some of the librarians in attendance advised giving students guidance on research methods and specific databases early in the semester.  The suggestion was also made to consider using a wiki to capture the students’ process of refining their conceptions of the particular places they have chosen to focus on for their final projects.

While this course is still a work-in-progress, Charles plans to explore some of these suggestions further (once he wraps up his current course on the Federalist Papers!) as he continues to refine his course syllabus.

Thanks to everyone who attended today’s session. We plan to make “Project Makeover” a regular offering in our CNDLS/Gelardin workshop series. If you’re interested in participating in a future session, please let us know!

Marginalia, Reading, and Technology

“…books are curious objects: their strength is to be both intensely private and intensely social — and marginalia is a natural bridge between these two states. It might end up serving equally well as a bridge between online and literary culture, between focus and distraction: a point of contact that could improve both without hurting either. Digital technology, rather than destroying the tradition of marginalia, could actually help us return it to its gloriously social 18th-century roots.”   -Sam Anderson In a recent New York Times piece, critic Sam Anderson reflects on marginalia, reading, and technology. He delights in the idea of what he calls an “endless virtual book club” where readers could integrate annotations from friends and historical figures into their own reading experiences. He hopes that digital technology might prove to be the medium that makes possible this “readerly utopia” of shared interactions focused on texts. Anderson compares the process of creating marginalia to the act of meditation, describing it as “a way to not just passively read but to fully enter a text, to collaborate with it, to mingle with an author on some kind of primary textual plane.” Anderson’s thoughts on marginalia resonate deeply with our aims for the MyDante Project. MyDante, an interactive digital environment for the study of Dante’s Divine Comedy, allows readers to annotate the text of Dante’s poem and to share and discuss these annotations with other readers, in addition to writing reflective journal entries, adding images to the text, and reading guide commentary interleaved throughout the poem. Annotating the text is part of the process of what philosophy professor Frank Ambrosio calls “contemplative reading,” a specific reading method in which readers learn to recognize and move among three levels of meaning in the text: the literal, metaphorical, and reflective levels. In this reading approach, the goal of the third level is to enter into dialogue with the poet by reflecting on the poem in the context of one’s own identity. The dialogue between reader and author that Anderson describes as “mingl[ing]…on some kind of primary textual plane” is precisely the aim of the third level of contemplative reading as facilitated by the MyDante site. We are currently developing a flexible version of the MyDante platform – called Ellipsis – that could be customized for a wide variety of text- and media-based projects in any discipline. We envision Ellipsis sites not just for the study of literary works by authors such as Dante or Proust but also for the study of political speeches, scientific papers, films, and more. We hope that MyDante and Ellipsis will help readers discover and share what Anderson calls the “excitement of actual reading, a process of discovery that happens in time, moment by moment, line by line.” To learn more about MyDante, please visit dante.georgetown.edu, where you can create an account to use the public version of the site. Learn more about Ellipsis here. We welcome new collaborative partners as the development of Ellipsis progresses. Please contact Bill Garr, Assistant Director of Research & Development at CNDLS, if you’re interested in discussing possible collaborations.

In a recent New York Times piece, critic Sam Anderson reflects on marginalia, reading, and technology. His ideas resonate deeply with the aims of our MyDante project.

“…books are curious objects: their strength is to be both intensely private and intensely social — and marginalia is a natural bridge between these two states. It might end up serving equally well as a bridge between online and literary culture, between focus and distraction: a point of contact that could improve both without hurting either. Digital technology, rather than destroying the tradition of marginalia, could actually help us return it to its gloriously social 18th-century roots.”   -Sam Anderson

In a recent New York Times piece, critic Sam Anderson reflects on marginalia, reading, and technology. He delights in the idea of what he calls an “endless virtual book club” where readers could integrate annotations from friends and historical figures into their own reading experiences. He hopes that digital technology might prove to be the medium that makes possible this “readerly utopia” of shared interactions focused on texts.

Anderson compares the process of creating marginalia to the act of meditation, describing it as “a way to not just passively read but to fully enter a text, to collaborate with it, to mingle with an author on some kind of primary textual plane.”

Anderson’s thoughts on marginalia resonate deeply with our aims for the MyDante Project. MyDante, an interactive digital environment for the study of Dante’s Divine Comedy, allows readers to annotate the text of Dante’s poem and to share and discuss these annotations with other readers, in addition to writing reflective journal entries, adding images to the text, and reading guide commentary interleaved throughout the poem.

Annotating the text is part of the process of what philosophy professor Frank Ambrosio calls “contemplative reading,” a specific reading method in which readers learn to recognize and move among three levels of meaning in the text: the literal, metaphorical, and reflective levels. In this reading approach, the goal of the third level is to enter into dialogue with the poet by reflecting on the poem in the context of one’s own identity. The dialogue between reader and author that Anderson describes as “mingl[ing]…on some kind of primary textual plane” is precisely the aim of the third level of contemplative reading as facilitated by the MyDante site.

We are currently developing a flexible version of the MyDante platform – called Ellipsis – that could be customized for a wide variety of text- and media-based projects in any discipline. We envision Ellipsis sites not just for the study of literary works by authors such as Dante or Proust but also for the study of political speeches, scientific papers, films, and more.

We hope that MyDante and Ellipsis will help readers discover and share what Anderson calls the “excitement of actual reading, a process of discovery that happens in time, moment by moment, line by line.”

To learn more about MyDante, please visit dante.georgetown.edu, where you can create an account to use the public version of the site. Learn more about Ellipsis here. We welcome new collaborative partners as the development of Ellipsis progresses. Please contact Bill Garr, Assistant Director of Research & Development at CNDLS, if you’re interested in discussing possible collaborations.

Maps Blog Creates a Collective Experience

While blogs have become a mainstream approach to document and share student comprehension and reflection, the undergraduate course The Contemporary African City, taught by Professor Rodney Collins, used WordPress (with a Google maps plugin) to curate and display information in a compellingly different way. The course -- designed as an interdisciplinary exploration of the post-colonial African city -- had students research assigned cities and lead discussions around those locations through the theoretical lens of urbanism and urban planning. Collins knew that he wanted to explore interactive mapping features not only because he found his students had limited geographic knowledge of the continent but also because geography is a fundamental influence on the socio-political climate of the region. “I’ll admit capital cities of the African continent is challenging, but the country names themselves were challenging...not knowing where Egypt was in relation to Sudan for example. And these are countries that are in the news all the time. So it seemed critical to be able to move through the basics of geography -- something as fundamental as geographic specifics of the African continent -- while also exploring these deeper, richer theoretical or conceptual domains.” The idea for the blog initially arose when Professor Collins, who used a timeline visual for a course he taught at NYU, pondered how he could merge the need to connect the high-quality research produced by his students with a geographic representation. He arrived at the solution working alongside CNDLS Assistant Director Bill Garr. They went over possible solutions, including Google Earth, before settling on a “wikimapeia” hybrid that combined the interconnectedness of Wikipedia articles with the flexibility of Google Maps. Collins liked the way users could click on a picture (such as a painting) in one article and be taken to the article describing that picture. The solution they arrived at delivers both content connection and visual discernment. On the blog’s front page, a Google Maps-powered interface allows users to delve deeper into the complexities of each city: By clicking on any of the posted flags, a dialog appears showing the city’s name and a link to information relating to that city. From there, users are taken to a blog containing the students’ impressive research accumulation enhanced by rich content including video, maps, and images.

As Collins states:

“They were really challenged to become sort of desk officers for a particular city and be able to aggregate as much information as possible in order to contribute positively and productively to the conversation around the general topic.” While the introduction of the blog was a mid-semester proposition, it ultimately supplemented the students' engagement with their research by providing a technological means of organizing and showcasing their research as a final polished and interactive product.

The experimental nature of the course, melding not only disciplines but also technologies, revealed intriguing insights into the relationship between research and technology. Collins is debating introducing the blogging element earlier on in future courses because he likes the flexibility of the platform, but he feels that having students produce writing in Blackboard discussion forums prompted more long-form essays not typically encouraged by blogging.

While the structure of Blackboard discussion forum encouraged a type of writing that was fruitful to content creation, Collins also tells the story of how technical difficulties actually helped reset the tone of the class after students started relying on PowerPoint presentations too much to share knowledge in the class. “They were doing bullet-pointed summaries of the readings. I think the PowerPoint sort of leads to that type of approach, that sort of analysis of the material, reiterated in terms of bullets rather than thinking. ...and then, we had technical difficulties one week. We couldn’t get the computer to work so there were no PowerPoints possible even though the student had prepared a PowerPoint presentation. And at the end of the class, the students said to me: “Class went really well today! The discussion was really great!” And it wasn’t because the student was better as a  facilitator, it really was because, I think, that PowerPoint bearing down upon us and guiding all of our conversation was too demanding.” Ultimately, Collins believes the strength of the class was the level of collaboration and discussion facilitated by the students’ research. While the continual development of the site restricted the amount of time students had to post their entries, the quality of their research is evident in the richness of their posts.

Despite its late introduction and learning curve, the blog has the potential to add value beyond this class.

“There is possibility of thinking of this as an additive project. Next time this class is offered, there will be ten students and ten additional cities added to the map so you can build outward from this and potentially update what has already been entered into other cities. So I see this as a larger conversation.” One potential home for this blog could be the African studies program at Georgetown. “It’s student based work, it would be contributing to their department, other students can see it. It could have a really dynamic life.”

While blogs have become a mainstream approach to document and share student comprehension and reflection, the undergraduate course The Contemporary African City, taught by Professor Rodney Collins, used WordPress (with a Google maps plugin) to curate and display information in a compellingly different way.

While blogs have become a mainstream approach to document and share student comprehension and reflection, the undergraduate course The Contemporary African City, taught by Professor Rodney Collins, used WordPress (with a Google maps plugin) to curate and display information in a compellingly different way.

The course — designed as an interdisciplinary exploration of the post-colonial African city — had students research assigned cities and lead discussions around those locations through the theoretical lens of urbanism and urban planning. Collins knew that he wanted to explore interactive mapping features not only because he found his students had limited geographic knowledge of the continent but also because geography is a fundamental influence on the socio-political climate of the region.

“I’ll admit capital cities of the African continent is challenging, but the country names themselves were challenging…not knowing where Egypt was in relation to Sudan for example. And these are countries that are in the news all the time. So it seemed critical to be able to move through the basics of geography — something as fundamental as geographic specifics of the African continent — while also exploring these deeper, richer theoretical or conceptual domains.”

The idea for the blog initially arose when Professor Collins, who used a timeline visual for a course he taught at NYU, pondered how he could merge the need to connect the high-quality research produced by his students with a geographic representation.

He arrived at the solution working alongside CNDLS Assistant Director Bill Garr. They went over possible solutions, including Google Earth, before settling on a “wikimapeia” hybrid that combined the interconnectedness of Wikipedia articles with the flexibility of Google Maps. Collins liked the way users could click on a picture (such as a painting) in one article and be taken to the article describing that picture. The solution they arrived at delivers both content connection and visual discernment.

On the blog’s front page, a Google Maps-powered interface allows users to delve deeper into the complexities of each city:

By clicking on any of the posted flags, a dialog appears showing the city’s name and a link to information relating to that city.

From there, users are taken to a blog containing the students’ impressive research accumulation enhanced by rich content including video, maps, and images.

As Collins states:

“They were really challenged to become sort of desk officers for a particular city and be able to aggregate as much information as possible in order to contribute positively and productively to the conversation around the general topic.”

While the introduction of the blog was a mid-semester proposition, it ultimately supplemented the students’ engagement with their research by providing a technological means of organizing and showcasing their research as a final polished and interactive product.

The experimental nature of the course, melding not only disciplines but also technologies, revealed intriguing insights into the relationship between research and technology. Collins is debating introducing the blogging element earlier on in future courses because he likes the flexibility of the platform, but he feels that having students produce writing in Blackboard discussion forums prompted more long-form essays not typically encouraged by blogging.

While the structure of Blackboard discussion forum encouraged a type of writing that was fruitful to content creation, Collins also tells the story of how technical difficulties actually helped reset the tone of the class after students started relying on PowerPoint presentations too much to share knowledge in the class.

“They were doing bullet-pointed summaries of the readings. I think the PowerPoint sort of leads to that type of approach, that sort of analysis of the material, reiterated in terms of bullets rather than thinking.

…and then, we had technical difficulties one week. We couldn’t get the computer to work so there were no PowerPoints possible even though the student had prepared a PowerPoint presentation. And at the end of the class, the students said to me: “Class went really well today! The discussion was really great!”

And it wasn’t because the student was better as a  facilitator, it really was because, I think, that PowerPoint bearing down upon us and guiding all of our conversation was too demanding.”

Ultimately, Collins believes the strength of the class was the level of collaboration and discussion facilitated by the students’ research. While the continual development of the site restricted the amount of time students had to post their entries, the quality of their research is evident in the richness of their posts.

Despite its late introduction and learning curve, the blog has the potential to add value beyond this class.

“There is possibility of thinking of this as an additive project. Next time this class is offered, there will be ten students and ten additional cities added to the map so you can build outward from this and potentially update what has already been entered into other cities. So I see this as a larger conversation.”

One potential home for this blog could be the African studies program at Georgetown.

“It’s student based work, it would be contributing to their department, other students can see it. It could have a really dynamic life.”

The Hoya Explores Course Blogs at Georgetown

The Hoya recently published an article exploring how blogs are integrated into Georgetown courses. Author Jonathan Gills interviewed several students and faculty members, including CNDLS' Eddie Maloney, about their perceptions of course blogs. For example, he quotes Mariana Santos (COL'12), a student in Mark Rom's Government course, as saying: "I do believe that [blogging] makes us analyze information more critically and apply our class learning to real current events." You can read the article here.

The Hoya recently published an article about the use of course blogs at Georgetown. Author Jonathan Gills interviewed several students and faculty members, including CNDLS' Eddie Maloney, about their perceptions of blogs.

The Hoya recently published an article exploring how blogs are integrated into Georgetown courses. Author Jonathan Gills interviewed several students and faculty members, including CNDLS’ Eddie Maloney, about their perceptions of course blogs. For example, he quotes Mariana Santos (COL’12), a student in Mark Rom’s Government course, as saying: “I do believe that [blogging] makes us analyze information more critically and apply our class learning to real current events.”

You can read the article here.

Teaching with Social Media: Roundup of Recent Blogs and Articles

In an article titled "The Web of Babel," Inside Higher Ed recently presented several examples of how new media can enhance foreign language teaching. For example, a professor at the University of South Carolina asks her students to tweet in French in order to practice casual conversation. The article also explores the possibilities of online language instruction to supplement in-class discussion. In an intriguing blog post called "The Value of Place," NITLE explores the idea of using Google Earth to spark discussions about place and identity that can lead to critical thinking and reflective learning. Check out our Experiments page for some examples of how Georgetown professors have used Google Earth, including a Spanish class project to map Che Guevara's journey through South America. The Chronicle of Higher Education's ProfHacker blog offers a weekly Twitter chat about teaching first-year composition as an example of how social media tools can help faculty share ideas about teaching.  Another ProfHacker post shares some ideas about using technology to adapt to larger class sizes.

In an article titled "The Web of Babel," Inside Higher Ed recently presented several examples of how new media can enhance foreign language teaching, and explored the possibilities of online language instruction to supplement in-class discussion.

In an article titled “The Web of Babel,” Inside Higher Ed recently presented several examples of how new media can enhance foreign language teaching. For example, a professor at the University of South Carolina asks her students to tweet in French in order to practice casual conversation. The article also explores the possibilities of online language instruction to supplement in-class discussion.

In an intriguing blog post called “The Value of Place,” NITLE explores the idea of using Google Earth to spark discussions about place and identity that can lead to critical thinking and reflective learning. Check out our Experiments page for some examples of how Georgetown professors have used Google Earth, including a Spanish class project to map Che Guevara’s journey through South America.

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s ProfHacker blog offers a weekly Twitter chat about teaching first-year composition as an example of how social media tools can help faculty share ideas about teaching.  Another ProfHacker post shares some ideas about using technology to adapt to larger class sizes.

New year, new email address

Happy New Year from the Georgetown Digital Commons team!  Now that we've all rung in 2011 with good friends, cheer and confetti, the Commons team is here to assist you with any of your digital course needs.  If you are planning to use a course blog or wiki this semester, please email commons@georgetown.edu ASAP or submit a request via the Tools page. This year, the Commons team has streamlined the blog/wiki setup process and will be working out of a single email address shared by the team: commons@georgetown.edu.  While you can still contact the team to receive one-on-one assistance for all your set up and troubleshooting issues, this shared address will better allow team members to stay up-to-date on all Commons inquiries and projects and therefore provide better coverage.  We look forward to hearing and working with you!

This year, the Commons team has streamlined the blog/wiki setup process and will be working out of a single email address shared by the team: commons@georgetown.edu.

Happy New Year from the Georgetown Digital Commons team!  Now that we’ve all rung in 2011 with good friends, cheer and confetti, the Commons team is here to assist you with any of your digital course needs.  If you are planning to use a course blog or wiki this semester, please email commons@georgetown.edu ASAP or submit a request via the Tools page.

This year, the Commons team has streamlined the blog/wiki setup process and will be working out of a single email address shared by the team: commons@georgetown.edu.  While you can still contact the team to receive one-on-one assistance for all your set up and troubleshooting issues, this shared address will better allow team members to stay up-to-date on all Commons inquiries and projects and therefore provide better coverage.  We look forward to hearing and working with you!

Open house tomorrow (Nov. 10), 3-5 PM

You're invited to join the Georgetown Commons team for an open house this Wednesday, November 10 (tomorrow!) from 3-5 PM in the main CNDLS suite (Car Barn 314).  Drop in anytime to chat with CNDLS folks about using Web-based tools for your research project or course.  Snacks and coffee will be provided.

You’re invited to join the Georgetown Commons team for an open house this Wednesday, November 10 (tomorrow!) from 3-5 PM in the main CNDLS suite (Car Barn 314).  Drop in anytime to chat with CNDLS folks about using Web-based tools for your research project or course.  Snacks and coffee will be provided.

Omeka.net launches

Recently, George Mason’s Center for History and New Media launched Omeka.net, a hosted web service which allows users to upload media and organize them into collections to create online exhibitions.   Omeka is similar to other cloud-based content management services offered by Wordpress.com, Blogger, and PBWorks, though it is  geared more towards scholarship. Omeka allows users to upload 12 types of items ranging from photographs to profiles on people to links.  Once uploaded, Omeka provides a wide-ranging set of metadata elements which users can use to describe and catalog their resources.  For instance, if you were to upload a video, you could also attach a transcript, additional photos, and information regarding duration of video, type and rate of compression, and producers and directors involved in the making of the video.  Users can also title and provide brief write ups about each media item uploaded.  Finally, users can organize items into collections. On the front-end, Omeka provides 4 themes with basic customization features.  You can upload header images, set homepage text, feature items and select which metadata will populate on the front-end. Omeka.net does not require server or programming experience to launch and maintain.  There are several levels of service available but they also offer a free account which allows you to host one site with up to 500 MB of storage.   If you are interested in discussing how you might use Omeka for a class or research project, please contact us.

Recently, George Mason’s Center for History and New Media launched Omeka.net, a hosted web service which allows users to upload media and organize them into collections to create online exhibitions.   Omeka is similar to other cloud-based content management services offered by WordPress.com, Blogger, and PBWorks, though it is  geared more towards scholarship.

Omeka allows users to upload 12 types of items ranging from photographs to profiles on people to links.  Once uploaded, Omeka provides a wide-ranging set of metadata elements which users can use to describe and catalog their resources.  For instance, if you were to upload a video, you could also attach a transcript, additional photos, and information regarding duration of video, type and rate of compression, and producers and directors involved in the making of the video.  Users can also title and provide brief write ups about each media item uploaded.  Finally, users can organize items into collections.

On the front-end, Omeka provides 4 themes with basic customization features.  You can upload header images, set homepage text, feature items and select which metadata will populate on the front-end.

Omeka.net does not require server or programming experience to launch and maintain.  There are several levels of service available but they also offer a free account which allows you to host one site with up to 500 MB of storage.   If you are interested in discussing how you might use Omeka for a class or research project, please contact us.

Evaluating Student Blogs

A few days ago, Yong published a round-up of the latest numbers of blogs and wikis hosted by the Digital Commons.  It's fantastic to see such faculty and student participation in scholarly blogging.  But the question of evaluating blogs as a course component is still a relatively new one-- how do we assess this digital work that students do? As we know, communicating clear expectations to students is a vital component of any course assignment.  Assigned blog posts are no exception.  Creating a rubric is one way of ensuring that your students are aware of the criteria by which you are assessing their work.  Mark Sample, a professor of literature and new media at George Mason University, has been grading student blogs using a simple rubric that has served him and his students well.  He described this rubric and his overall blog assessment strategy on the Chronicle of Higher Education last week, and comments that followed provided links to a number of other rubrics professors across the nation are using to assess their students' blog work.  Recognizing that a blog is an inherently social medium and requires new evaluation strategies, Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University, for example, has included both an "interactivity" and a "community" element in his criteria for evaluating research blogs, indicating to his students that being part of a wider scholarly community is an important quality of blogging.  Karen Franker at the University of Wisconsin shares a rubric that values voice, multimedia, and mechanics, among others. This latest round of sharing blog rubric ideas, initiated by Mark Sample's recent blog post, joins a conversation that has been going on for some time.  Earlier this year, Jeff McClurken (University of Mary Washington) and Julie Meloni (University of Victoria) shared best practices for evaluating student blog participation, which included suggestions to provide feedback early on, highlight good posts, and talk with students about the components of a good blog post. These reflections and rubrics are excellent resources for thinking about how to grade blog posts with transparency and intention.  If you would like to meet with any of the Digital Commons team to discuss blog evaluation, please email us.

A few days ago, Yong published a round-up of the latest numbers of blogs and wikis hosted by the Digital Commons.  It’s fantastic to see such faculty and student participation in scholarly blogging.  But the question of evaluating blogs as a course component is still a relatively new one– how do we assess this digital work that students do?

As we know, communicating clear expectations to students is a vital component of any course assignment.  Assigned blog posts are no exception.  Creating a rubric is one way of ensuring that your students are aware of the criteria by which you are assessing their work.  Mark Sample, a professor of literature and new media at George Mason University, has been grading student blogs using a simple rubric that has served him and his students well.  He described this rubric and his overall blog assessment strategy on the Chronicle of Higher Education last week, and comments that followed provided links to a number of other rubrics professors across the nation are using to assess their students’ blog work.  Recognizing that a blog is an inherently social medium and requires new evaluation strategies, Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University, for example, has included both an “interactivity” and a “community” element in his criteria for evaluating research blogs, indicating to his students that being part of a wider scholarly community is an important quality of blogging.  Karen Franker at the University of Wisconsin shares a rubric that values voice, multimedia, and mechanics, among others.

This latest round of sharing blog rubric ideas, initiated by Mark Sample’s recent blog post, joins a conversation that has been going on for some time.  Earlier this year, Jeff McClurken (University of Mary Washington) and Julie Meloni (University of Victoria) shared best practices for evaluating student blog participation, which included suggestions to provide feedback early on, highlight good posts, and talk with students about the components of a good blog post.

These reflections and rubrics are excellent resources for thinking about how to grade blog posts with transparency and intention.  If you would like to meet with any of the Digital Commons team to discuss blog evaluation, please email us.