Digital pedagogy brings technology to the classroom

As technology continues to improve and spread, it is only natural for it to arrive in the classroom. As computers, tablets and smartphones become more readily available, it is becoming easier and easier for students to use the Internet and to communicate with the world, especially through social media sites such as Facebook, Vine and Twitter. Dr. Brian Croxall, a professor at Emory University, has used the Internet in several ways to challenge his students both inside and out of the classroom.

On Thursday, Feb. 19, Dr. Brian Croxall presented “Assignments & Architecture: Pedagogy in the Digital Age.” Dr. Croxall started out his lecture stating that he had four lessons.

Lesson one: go public with the work. Dr. Croxall explained that in order to make his students work harder he makes them keep a blog that the entire class can see and read, as well as the rest of the world. His reason for this extreme approach is that he knows that students will work harder when their peers can view their work. Students can wait until the last minute to write a paper and do decently, because they know their audience is just one professor. But when the student’s peers have to judge their work the student is more inclined to work hard because they care more about what their friends think that what their teacher thinks.

One of the ways Dr. Croxall uses the Web in his classroom is he makes his students acquire a domain and blog. An alternative to a blog could be the Moodle forum, but the problem with this method is the rest of the world cannot interact. With a blog, both students in the classroom and students in classes at other schools across the country can contribute as well as people who simply share an interest. Another example of technology in the classroom is building an iPad app. The app does not have to be functional; rather, the students can storyboard one of the books they read in class.

In response to a question of what he would like to see in the classroom, Dr. Croxall said, “Show me something totally new.” Nothing is worse than for a class to do the same repetitive projects and to write papers on topics frequently done before. Instead professors and teachers should work on developing new innovative projects that incorporate multimedia, because not only do they build experience with working with different forms of technology, but they also open up the world. College tends to be a place separated from the rest of the world. It is easy to forget in the midst of everything that there is a whole world beyond the campus life.

Lesson two is build with a team. A lot of the work in Dr. Croxall’s class is group-based. The problem with group-based work is sometimes there are a few students who do all the work and a student who does little to no work. In an attempt to compensate for this, Dr. Croxall requires student evaluations.

For groupwork, Dr. Croxall makes the projects too difficult for an individual student to handle on his or her own. This way he can reward the students who do their work and penalize the students who do not. Group work is a useful practice in college, because after students graduate, they will most likely acquire a job that requires them to work with other people. Group work allows students to build the experience they need to be better prepared for the world.

Lesson three is “form follows function.” Considering Dr. Croxall is professor of digital humanities and English, some of the projects he has outlined for his class may not be applicable to classes from the biology or political science department. Dr. Croxall is excited for other professors to start developing their own projects within their own fields in the hopes of using them in his own classroom. It would be interesting to see professors across the country build projects off each other, resulting in new and interesting ideas.

This leads to lesson four: build something that hasn’t been built before. School is redundant as it is. New and innovative assignments could lead to inspiration that would lead others to challenge themselves in new and creative ways.

Our world is changing and it is changing fast. Technology is spreading and students need to know how to use it. Dr. Croxall’s talk on incorporating multimedia into the classroom was exciting, interesting and hopefully inspirational to others.