Technology in the Classroom
Technology plays a large part in both my online and traditional classes. Certain techniques have proven more useful than others, but I strongly believe that technology, when used correctly, can improve students' learning experiences. In particular, I think they can engage students who have difficulty staying focused and organized on their own. Technology can offer structure and clarity for students.
Online classes necessarily require technology as the core means of interaction. The online course I taught — COMM 160 Basic News Writing Skills — posed an additional constraint in the form of size; one semester it included 825 students. With such an enrollment, organization became key, and technology was a big part of making that happen. The main form of communication was through a course web space on ANGEL. The ANGEL page and related PowerPoints were created by the course designer, so my main contribution was in the form of creating teacher presence through emails. I sent weekly emails with notes about the current week and reflections upon the previous week. This allowed me to maintain presence while also establishing organization and structure, which are key elements of my teaching philosophy. To achieve these dual goals, I inject as much personality as possible into my emails, while also repeating useful information through prose and summary to-do lists. I also used these emails to touch base about individual student emails, which, as you might imagine, get a bit overwhelming with such a large class.
Traditional classes also allow the opportunity for utilizing technology, and the methods can be a bit more creative. I use technology in all of my traditional classes, but, for the sake of example, I will focus here on introductory news writing and reporting. For this course, I create a course web space through ANGEL and mostly use it for content organization. As mentioned in my teaching philosophy, I believe that students perform better when they have clear, well-structured instructions. I organize my lectures in subfolders; my goal is clarity through organization, outlines and roadmaps.
One of my favorite uses of technology in this course is for an activity on journalism principles and values. Near the beginning of the semester, I introduce students to the decision-making processes of journalists, in terms of big-picture decisions about what to cover. To demonstrate the effects of this, I have students divide into groups and choose one of the day's newspaper fronts from Newseum and talk about how journalistic principles and values affected the news editors' decisions, in terms of, for example, coverage, placement, and photos. Each group then shares their findings with the class, and we discuss how newspapers across the country prioritized the news of the day. The technological affordances of the Internet allow us to do this, and I find it to be a very effective learning experience for them. During that lecture, I also share several websites with my students to help them make connections between class discussions and the realities of the industry. These websites include the following:
Poynter | www.poynter.org
Society of Professional Journalists | http://www.spj.org
American Copy Editors Society | http://www.copydesk.org
American Journalism Review | http://www.ajr.org
Columbia Journalism Review | http://www.cjr.org