Teaching students how to accomplish things with their computers shouldn’t be as overwhelming as it sometimes feels. Here are three ways that I have alleviated the burden of teaching students how to do things with technology that helped me focus my energy on students learning the course materials rather than on troubleshooting unexpected technology problems.
This post will be a departure from my usual spotlight on tech tools. I seem to be having a lot of conversations lately about academic freedom, intellectual property, and access to academic resources. In a way, this does tie into our discussion about technology because technology — especially Internet databases — is supposed to make more things accessible to more people. The Internet is supposed to be the great equalizer.
Since I have been at W&M, we have gone from the relative freedom of the Web left over from the 1990s to the more managed reality of the content management system. Content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress, provide easy ways to build websites and have your students present their work on the Web, but the CMS does have its drawbacks. In order for it to allow for the easy creation of polished-looking sites and let your students focus on writing, the CMS makes many of the other decisions about the website for them. Thinking through what a CMS-based student project often accomplishes may help you better refine your web-based student projects.
As an undergrad at W&M in 2002, I completed my first website for an assignment in an American Studies class. Ten years later, the Web has changed, but I am not so sure if I can say the same for many classroom Web projects. Publishing content on the Web is far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a category of Web applications called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows people to publish content to the Web without much technical skill. This is great because it allows class projects to focus more on writing and Web publishing. However, I wonder if we have lost something in Web projects as CMSs like WordPress have become more prevalent. I think it is time to reevaluate what a semester-long Web project should look like.
Thinking about using a Web-based assignment in a class this semester? If so, this post covers the basics of assigning these kinds of projects to students. Evan also lists many resources for writing Web-based assignments using WordPress, as well as tutorials to help you get started.
When requiring students to complete non-traditional assignments like blogging and podcasting, it can be difficult to predict how students might respond to these kinds of learning activities. In this post, Evan shares some of the input he received from students who did blogging and podcasting in his classes. He also shares the questions he uses for his Technology Evaluation that he asks students to fill out at the end of the semester.