I just attended a terrific panel on “Teaching with the Internet and Technology” at the PAMLA Conference in Riverside, CA. One of the presenters, Dr. David Sandner from CSU Fullerton, described a class project he incorporated into a more traditional literary analysis class: he had his students research and create a website, called Phillip K. Dick in the OC. This is an excellent example of digital literacy practices in the classroom, and demonstrates the participatory learning ethos of the digital humanities. It is created in Google Sites, utilizing freely available free tools: choices made in order to demonstrate to other faculty, students, and administrators what can be done without a knowledge of coding. The site incorporates some original research as well as collecting materials and resources scattered across the web.
Some of the discussion at the panel revolved around the problem of student motivation. While students in Dr. Sandner’s class were graded upon their contributions to this website, they worked in groups according to interests and abilities. Some of the students have continued to work on the site since the class ended. One of the points the panel participants made was that students are willing to work, if the assignments have real world impact. Students often perceive papers and assignments read only by their professors as “busywork.” In my next post, I will write about an initiative at Northern Arizona University that also demonstrates the extent to which students can be motivated to work hard–in this case, to produce a professional academic symposium about video gaming without any extra credit.