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.