Digital Tools in the Classroom

As an instructor, I have twice attempted to incorporate digital tools into coursework to varying degrees of success. The first time was a few years ago in an American literature survey course. I created a Twitter account for the course and asked the students to follow me. While there were a few students who did not yet have Twitter, there were other students who simply did not want to follow the class because they didn’t want me to see their accounts. For those who did follow, I would link to relevant articles, remind them about homework assignments, and even tweet a quiz answer right before class. Those who used it seemed to enjoy it, but it certainly did not go as well as I had hoped.

In my Writing about Film class, currently, students are required to begin a WordPress and blog their assignments. As I mentioned in class, my students are adult learners, and there are often problems with setting up a WordPress account, which takes a week or so to deal with. And then there is the plagiarism… Because this project has been a requirement of the course for years, and because their WordPresses are all public, it’s very easy to find and copy and paste someone else’s words. And since WordPress isn’t run through our school’s Turnitin account, it can be difficult to spot that plagiarism.

On the other hand, as a student, I was able to use Juxta in Introduction to the Profession last week. Our assignment was about textual editing, and Dr. Ganter posted some unclean copies of documents, poems, etc. We were asked to choose one and to produce a clean copy, taking some editorial liberties and explaining our rationale and purpose. I chose TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and was able to compare the first, original text from Eliot to the text that Ezra Pound edited, after he removed many words and entire stanzas (http://juxtacommons.org/shares/NeshaU). Juxta allowed me to visualize and conceptualize these edits, and I can see how it can really help scholars who are interested in the evolution of a text.

I have to admit that I am still not entirely comfortable using digital tools in my courses, primarily because I’m not sure how they can fit into our pedagogy, especially first-year writing courses with prescribed texts. But this class has given me many ideas, and I’m excited to try them out as I continue teaching.

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6 thoughts on “Digital Tools in the Classroom

  1. Hey Cristen,
    Great post! I love how you showed an example of you teaching a class with a digital tool as well as one example of you using one as a student. Its definitely interesting that you had more success as a student than as a professor. I wonder why that was. What do you think you’ll do differently in the future, if you try it again?
    -Sami

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  2. I’m really glad that you shared this post because I was concerned about being the only one who didn’t really have a teaching success story to share. I’ve been hesitant to implement any that I don’t feel 100% comfortable using, because that doesn’t seem fair to me, and I resist spending more time setting up technology than I do on course content. I’m certainly open to trying new things, but I think for me that change is going to come slower rather than quicker.

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  3. It’s so tough to incorporate digital tools in any classroom, but I give you a lot of credit for continuing to try new things and figure out how / if they can work! I think much of it is unfortunately just trial and error – there’s no ‘one-platform-fits-all.’

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  4. I have been in classroom and felt the same way about sharing my social media presence with Professors. At first I thought it was unprofessional but I think the best way to connect to students is to let them know that anything on their personal accounts is there business alone. Students who weren’t ready to share via Twitter were probably afraid of being called out for inappropriate content, or opinions that may not look professional. What I did for a class was make an entirely new Tumblr in order to connect with the students in my class and for-fill assignment requirements. Students are hesitant when teacher try and meet them in there own turf so creating new accounts may help smooth out the distance.

    – Sara C.

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    • I think you’re right, Sara, that students don’t want me to “meet them in their own turf.” I like how you put that. I agree that new accounts may be the best way to go, but they seemed to not want to do that, either. Laziness??

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  5. I like your story about using Twitter in the classroom! As I think about incorporating new technologies in my classroom next semester, I’m thinking about them mainly in order to increase class discussion. The Twitter idea seems super interesting, especially with the added incentive of posting things like quiz answers. If I can use these out of classroom experiences to increase their attention inside the classroom, I’ll try anything! Also, I’m super jealous of your tech within the Intro classroom, wish I knew about all of these possibilities when doing G’s assignments.

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