Guiding student social media use

This article is based on a presentation given by Amod Lele, Senior Educational Technologist at EdTech, titled “Student Work on the Web: Comparing tools.”

Pedagogy leads, technology follows.

Man teaching a classA common misconception about technology in the workplace or technology in the classroom is that more tech, and higher tech, is always better. Good teaching practices are the primary goal, and a technology should only be adopted if it  improves teaching or learning.

Identifying the best tools

In the case of online educational tools, instructors can identify the most appropriate platforms for their uses by what each platform offers. Instructors can identify: what kind of work they want their students to upload, who should have access to that work, who would contribute to the students’ work, how will the instructor grade and/or comment on the work, and how steep a learning curve is acceptable for the instructor and students. Each of these criteria helps direct instructors to the best platform for their classes.

Platforms

Blackboard

Blackboard logoBlackboard is a wonderful tool for BU instructors to use because it is already integrated into students’ educational technology use. Students can upload long-form essays to Blackboard, where instructors can comment on and grade them. Students can also use Blackboard to access their entire bank of course resources and communicate with peers and instructors.

Blackboard has a discussion section, which can be particularly effective in large, sectioned classes. Blackboard is also protected by BU’s login, so only students and instructors within the course can view discussion threads. Additionally, instructors can divide the discussions and assignment uploads by course and by section, an organizational tool not available on many other platforms. Blackboard cannot share student work (like essays, videos, and other projects) with the general public, in the way that Digication or Google Sites can.

WordPress

WordPress logoWordPress blogs can be an effective tool for discussion. Students can take part in discussion threads, link to posts on their own WordPress sites, and comment on their peers’ posts,  This format can be particularly helpful for smaller classes.

In 2015 a professor at the University of British Columbia led an open online course through WordPress about how teachers can use WordPress as a teaching tool. The course website can serve as a source of inspiration for formatting class discussions, posting class materials, and giving students opportunities to create unique projects.

Examples:

University of British Columbia course: “Teaching with WordPress

A professor at William and Mary discusses three mistakes to avoid when implementing WordPress in a course

Digication ePortfolio

Digication logoePortfolios created on Digication are websites that can be effective for course discussions and peer and instructor feedback. Students can upload all forms of media – essays, videos, audio, etc. – for their peers and instructors to view through a simple, extractable URL. The sites can be created instantly with no turnover time for permissions, and students can continue to access and edit their ePortfolios even after they graduate. Digication is wonderful for multimedia uploads, as it supports video, audio, photo, and text formats. Instructors can assign diverse tasks, such as: uploading an informative audio report; uploading audio of students practicing a foreign language; creating a photo library of a laboratory experience; or posting essays and reports. Students can manipulate the appearances of their websites, making their interface more personalized and fun than other, more fixed websites.

Examples:

A portfolio about portfolios.

A Sargent student’s professional portfolio.

A student’s reflections on WR 150.

View CGS alumna Salma Yehia’s ePortfolio of her time at BU.

Google Docs and Sites

Google Drive logoGoogle Docs can be a highly effective tool for collaborative essay writing. On a Google Docs, multiple users can contribute to and edit a document simultaneously, with their changes saved and available to all collaborators in real time. Collaborators can even chat with each other while working on the document. Collaborators and instructors can leave comments or highlight sections of the document.

Creating a website project on Google Sites is a relatively simple process. Sites supports different types of pages, including a web page (where multimedia content can be posted), file cabinet (a bank of files that can be organized into folders), announcements, and lists. A website can be created instantaneously, without any delay for turnover. Unlike other Google apps, Google Sites does not allow simultaneous collaboration.