While I was preparing for a Multimedia and Blogging workshop, I came up with a list of strategies that professors can use to incorporate multimedia and blogging in the classroom:
1. Scaffolding: Professors can use blog assignments to build up students’ skills in preparation for more formal assignments. As a form of low-stakes writing, blog entries can make students’ thought processes and inner debates more apparent.
2. Modeling: When professors give students a blog or multimedia assignment, it is very helpful to model a successful example of the assignment, perhaps from a past semester.
3. Give Students Roles: Rather than treating blog comments as a free-for-all, why not give students specific roles? For instance, students could be asked to be Peer Reviewers of other students’ posts, or one student could be asked to post a Summary of topics that most often came up over a week’s worth of posts.
4. Set Expectations: When professors give students an untraditional assignment, the expectations for fulfilling that assignment should be even clearer than those for a traditional assignment. Be clear concerning the style, tone, and format that you expect. Also, including a grading rubric can be helpful.
5. Awareness of Student Population: Professors should plan for the learning curve that they can expect from their students regarding the technologies involved in course assignments. Some students may need some individual assistance, and it would be wise not to overburden students with too many platforms in one semester. That being said, Baruch’s student population is quite tech savvy overall.
6. Learning Goals, Learning Goals, Learning Goals: Learning goals come first, and the technology follows. Blogging and multimedia assignments must be driven by and fully integrated into the course’s purpose.
7. Use Media Repositories: The U.S. Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and other institutions offer free and well-documented repositories of media. Working collaboratively as a class with a set group of primary sources can give students invaluable experience.
8. Ask Students to Critique and Curate Sources: An annotated bibliography can turn into a media-rich online annotated bibliography. Before students write their research papers, have them post an annotated bibliography online. If the annotated bibliography can contain popular as well as scholarly sources, then it might present a good opportunity for students to enunciate the differences between a wide variety of sources.
9. Work in a Lab Setting: Setting one or two classes aside for lab work can help you to work with students and give them feedback in real time.
10. Build a Critical Vocabulary: In-class discussions, modeling, and the online sharing of student work and the professor’s comments can all work toward building a critical vocabulary, both in terms of disciplinary knowledge and the competent critique of various types of sources.
11. Scale Your Expectations: Dramatically switching topics (from gender issues to environmental issues, for example), assigning many untraditional assignments on top of traditional assignments, and using many different types of technology are all sure ways to frustrate and overburden students. Sometimes less is more.
As I think about the literature and composition courses that I’ve taught, these are the major mistakes that I’ve made:
1. Expecting non English majors to understand and effectively incorporate academic articles, especially without any in-depth class discussion.
2. Assigning too many small assignments.
3. Pacing the course too quickly and/or expecting to cover an unrealistic amount of content.
4. Not including enough specific guidelines on untraditional assignments.
5. Not thoroughly pretesting technology.