My involvement in the 2011-2012 Community 2.0 seminar helped facilitate a distinct shift in the way that I run my hybrid-online Introduction to Art course. I have begun incorporating more web 2.0 tools into my curriculum, and I find that this has resulted in increased class participation, better quality writings, and lower rates of student attrition, compared to previous semesters. Below I will discuss some of the most helpful elements of this seminar and what may be in store for the future.
Blogger is one of the most influential tools that I have recently incorporated into my curriculum. Contributing weekly posts to the Community 2.0 blog has familiarized me with this software, and has shown me how helpful blogs can be for connecting ideas and information among peers. I did not have much prior blogging experience, and now I feel more comfortable with updating and managing blogs. Starting last semester, I have required my Intro to Art students to create Blogger accounts and maintain their own class blogs. Here, they post everything from field trip reaction essays, to short-form written reflections, to digital art projects. Before this, I had students upload their writings to Blackboard and post their digital projects to Blackboard Expo. My primary issue with students uploading their writings directly to me was their inability to see and respond to each other’s work. Also, the interface for Expo is not as user-friendly as it is for Blogger. Navigating from one student blog to another in Expo can be quite cumbersome and time-consuming. Due to Blackboard’s monolithic firewall, students were not able to share their work outside of the class. In contrast, Blogger allows students to easily view each other’s posts, and their sites can be shared with anyone who has the link. I am even able to link student blogs directly to the class blog for ease of access. Rebekah Johnson shared a very helpful document with me that walks students through the process of creating a Blogger account. I found this to be helpful for students who need that extra bit of guidance getting started. You can view the post at her Language of Art class site: http://language-of-art.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-make-blogger-account.html
Here is a good “How-To” video for creating a Blogger account that is posted in the “2011-2012 Info” tab on the seminar blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA4s3wN_vK8
Although I am obviously a fan of the connectivity that Blogger allows, I am also wary of the privacy issues that this online visibility presents. I try to stress to my students that they should only post information about themselves or their viewpoints that they are comfortable displaying to the entire searchable world. This is especially pertinent regarding the dialog of art. This conversation can involve topics that some students may consider uncomfortable or even taboo. The solution that I have found is that students can be selective about what personal information they share (ex: First name only, or alias in user profile), and they can choose to make their blogs visible only to myself and to the other students in the class. Still though, there may always be a greater degree of self-censorship when students share their work beyond the instructor. On the brighter side, I have noticed that this peer visibility has improved the quality of spelling and grammar in writings, and the instances of plagiarism have decreased substantially. Ximena posted some very helpful handouts for instructors and students regarding online privacy. I will likely post the “Internet Privacy and Etiquette” document for future classes. You can access Ximena’s post here: http://lagccnetworks.blogspot.com/2011/11/this-apparently-is-week-of.html
My future goals relate to student connectivity. I got a taste for the cluster teaching model last semester as a consulting member of Rebekah Johnson and Hugo Fernandez’s Language of Art. It was a learning experience to see how they were able to link the content of ESL and Art. Next semester, I will be participating in clusters of my own. I am excited to find ways to link art to other subjects, and I am sure that web 2.0 tools like Blogger will be a perfect platform to start this collaboration. One of my short-term goals is to incorporate other social media platforms into my pedagogy. I feel that Twitter could be a good way for my students to communicate, especially on field trips, from web-enabled devices. However, the one major downside that I see with Twitter is how much space it takes up on a smartphone. I had to delete the app almost immediately after we did Justin Rogers-Cooper’s Twitter activity earlier in the seminar. I would also need some more sustained practice with Twitter before I would feel comfortable making it part of my course. Additional Twitter exercises could be beneficial for future sessions of the seminar. For reference, here is the agenda for the meeting that included Justin’s Twitter activity: http://lagccnetworks.blogspot.com/2011/12/agenda-9-december-2011-1000-0100-b123.html
My long-term goals are to begin connecting my students to other classrooms, locally, nationally and even worldwide. This is when tools like Blogger, Twitter and Skype can really come in handy for both synchronous and asynchronous communications. The dialog of the fine arts is one that is both international and culturally inclusive. There is something that I find very fitting about using new media and web tools to facilitate this dialog across borders, cultures, space and time. My greatest take-away from the seminar was the hands-on experience with web tools that I may not have previously explored. My vision for the future of the Community 2.0 seminar is one that keeps adapting and responding to the most current trends and tools that are available to instructors in the online environment.