It’s been a wile since I blogged about the Digital Literacy paper that I developed for the School of Art, Otago polytechnic. It has now gone through two iterations and I’m pretty pleased with where we are.
This year we made some fundamental changes to the way we delivered the content, and the way the course was manged which I believe really enabled a better learning experience for the students.
- We developed a ‘paper’ workbook alongside the weekly tasks, rather than just have all the tasks online via the wiki. The workbook was downloadable weekly and really helped to engage learners that were struggling with using computers/digital technology. These learners found it easier to work on paper, and then stransfer their knowledged to the computer — without this step, we found they couldn’t process the information, as there was no transformative step, in this case across media from one they know how to work with, to one that they don’t. We found that students who were much more familiar with the technology in general did not need this step.
- Students selected their own level of learning for workshop delivered skills. For the course, students are required to weekly lectures that contextualise that week’s topic, and complete the weekly tasks. (Available via the wiki and downloadable workbook.) In addition to this we run weekly workshops that teach the necessary skills to complete the tasks. Not everyone needs all of these, depending on the level of knowledge they enter with so these workshops are optional to cover the range of students we have in the course. We asked students to self-select into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, so that the teaching of the students would be streamlined as would their learning environment. In practice this worked pretty well, however there were more beginner students than one class’ worth and few ‘advanced’ learners who wanted to extend further than they had to (For example, the advanced class was always empty…). To remedy this throughout the semester we used the ‘advanced’ workshop times to help the beginners as a catch up space. Overall though, allowing the learners to be responsible for their own understanding of what and how far they were learning seemed to work much better than the year before (when classes were a mixed level of learners).
- The course was managed by one person, who was responsible for the structure and weekly lectures, and the workshops were taken by one (other) person for the duration of the course. In the previous year there was a case of ‘too many cooks’; the course was taught in blocks by leacturers who taught the weekly lecture and then the workshop for that week, and this changed every few weeks (which was a timetabling decision at the time). This was confusing to the students, who got different messages from each lecturer, and they really needed more consistency across the programme. This has been achieved this year. I teach the weekly lectures, and where there is a guest lecturer asked to speak in a week, I reamin there to contectualise this, and ensure there are no other weekly isssues. I also worked with Max Bellamy, who took all of the workshops. In doing so we were able to discuss the weekly schedule, ensuring the students were on track, able to modify something if there were problems, or new issues that aros across the board. Max was also able to work much more closely with the students as he first hand worked beside them as they developed their skills relevant to the programme.
Overall I feel much more satisfied with the way the teaching went across the semester – I’m waiting now to hear what the students thought…(watch this space), but I can say that there was a very high level of development from those who engaged in the class. You can see some of this through their class blogs here.