I’m hoping to use three new-to-me online tools next year in my teaching.
1. Pinterest. Yes, I’m as tired of the hype around Pinterest as anyone (and I might have contributed to that hype a bit), but I do think it has some interesting possibilities for media studies classes in which visual components are important. I’m teaching Media, Politics, and Public Opinion this fall, and I’m thinking of having students create Pinterest boards of political videos, images and materials they find online or in the physical world.
This activity was inspired by this post about a theater design instructor’s experience using Pinterest at Keene State College. She said:
I could actually push them immediately to the next level to understand why these images are exciting and which ones are for another project for another day…I took pictures of their design models and you can clearly see the connection between what they chose to do in the model with the research they did. Connections happened so I was super excited! The results are night and day between this class that used Pinterest for visual research because of the comments and feedback before they started to use the images. So I think for me Pinterest is the way to go for visual research.
I like the ease of use, the commenting and sharing features, and the public nature of the work students would collect on a board. For class topics focused on visual materials, Pinterest seems like a terrific option.
(…as long as we don’t get distracted by boards like the one below.)
2. Open-access textbooks. I like assigning online articles, but sometimes I wish students could get a basic explanation of important concepts in a simple textbook style, without the issues presented by Wikipedia entries, or the challenges and cost of clearing textbook material for library course reserves.
I’m really excited about the possibility of assigning a chapter or two from open-access textbooks like those available through this University of Minnesota online catalog — which even includes peer reviews of the textbooks’ content.
For example, in the Media, Politics, and Public Opinion class, I might assign the chapter on attitudes, behavior, and persuasion from a freely available social psychology textbook so that students have a solid, basic explanation of these key concepts.
I also like that this approach demonstrates for students both a) the interdisciplinary nature of our inquiry into this topic and b) the free resources available to them online as learners.
3. It looks like I’ll be teaching a class on media, war, and terrorism soon, building on my master’s thesis research on embedded reporters in Iraq and my recent project on Al Qaeda’s digital magazine. I find that students don’t usually have the historical background to jump right into complex topics like that. I think we’ll spend some time constructing an online timeline together to help them both to contextualize key world events and to grasp changes in government regulation of wartime journalism and other key issues. My colleague Michael Huntsberger inspired this project through his use of timelines in his History of Mass Media class.
There are a lot of different timeline tools out there, and the choice depends partly on whether you can embed the finished product on a site you control or need for it to be hosted elsewhere. I’m considering Timeline by VéritéCo, which plays nicely with Google Spreadsheets (perfect for student collaboration), and which can be embedded on my self-hosted WordPress sites. There are also Timetoast and Tiki-Toki to consider.
More generally, I am also thinking about ways I can offer students more options for assignments that use online tools, in addition to traditional writing components. I want them to gain media literacy by understanding how the online content with which they interact every day is created…and I want them to gain experience in selecting appropriate communication tools for various types of information and audiences. Asking students to choose topics that interest them and to select the most relevant methods for communication about those topics seems an absolutely appropriate task for me to assign. There are so many exciting possibilities.
What are your hopes and plans for using technology in teaching during 2012-13?