This past semester, I’ve been part of an interdisciplinary fellowship through the JMU Libraries, designing courses that will be using the amazing JMU 3Space, a combination 3D-printing lab classroom in historic Carrier Library.
I’ve learned so much this semester from my colleagues in other disciplines, as we’ve practiced ways that we can use 3D modeling and design in our pedagogy. With this new experience, I’m excited to teach a course on literary and cultural studies that involves 3D modeling as part of our students’ critical toolset. Many thanks go to my JMU colleague Jamie Calcagno-Roach for her help facilitating this great learning experience, and to my ODU graduate professor Dr. Margaret Konkol for continually inspiring me to explore 3D modeling as a critical tool in literary studies.
This past May, as part of our work as HASTAC Scholars, my colleague Rachel Willis and I presented for HASTAC in their Digital Fridays series, on the topic of using digital tools as meaningful course assignments, in addition to or in place of traditional papers.
Some of the assignments and tools we discuss in this presentation include:
textual analysis tools
video and board games
object creation (via tools like Sketchup or Tinkercad)
We enjoyed thinking through what can be beneficial for student learning about these alternative assignment types. Here are a few of our main takeaways:
Think beyond “just” papers: Papers can be an excellent evaluation technique, but their use is rooted in many assumptions about thinking, knowing, and literacy. They are not always the best vehicle students have for demonstrating their learning.
With digital tools, walk students through exploring the interface early on. Model discovery. Don’t assume students know very much and build in class-time to take them through as much as possible technology-wise.
When in doubt, involve students in decision making. For example, allow students to work alone or in groups. Offer them two different deadline choices. Give them a selection of assignments to choose from. This is another way of acknowledging student agency and recognizing that choices students make usually play to their strengths.
Imperfection is better than inaction. We learn from every change we make to courses and assignments, so even though we risk making mistakes, the work of a more inclusive, practical learning environment is important enough to warrant the risk.
Thank you to Rachel for researching and presenting this with me, and to HASTAC and our facilitator Adashima Oyo as well.