Major Digital Project 1: Options, Oh, My!

I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about my major project. Like a lot, a lot. Probably more than I’d like to admit. When my students were working on a writing assignment in class this week, several remarked that coming up with an idea was the hardest part. As I’ve worked through several ideas over the past few weeks myself, I think I agree wholeheartedly!

I think I’ll discuss my thought process chronologically, recounting where I was and where I am now at! I’ll note that I didn’t really favour Option A or Option B, having considered both as long as they would be valuable to me and/or my students.

Idea 1 – My Political Journey: My first idea felt like a great fit at first because I am effectively being forced to experience Option B on my own right now as a first-time campaign manager for my friend and fellow teacher’s federal election bid. I’ll keep the actual political side of things out of this because it’s not really relevant to the assignment, but I have already been learning how to use Mailchimp, scheduling and boosting posts on Facebook, and setting up digital events with Eventbrite. I was excited about this prospect and even emailed Professor Couros about it right when the course began.

Verdict: As much as I am indeed learning about social media in a hands-on, baptism-by-fire way, this wasn’t an ideal fit. The campaign will (thankfully!) be over soon so it’s perhaps not timely enough, and the proper documenting of my progress is very tricky. Confidentiality is important, both for voters and for the methods political parties utilize in running elections. Ultimately, I’ll have to settle for keeping my learning to myself with this one.

Idea 2 – Student Vlogging, Podcasting and Screencasting: This felt like another natural option, as I am teaching an online class for the very first time this semester. As such, utilizing these type of assignments seems like a no-brainer, and is realistically more of a necessity when I don’t ever get to have these students all in class with me. I’m indebted to a colleague and master teacher colleague who helped set me up for my first time teaching online, so I am already am in a framework that seems to be working so far.

Verdict: I love these ideas, but the course I am teaching is so heavily derived/stolen (this is the first time I think I’ve ever really used someone else’s work this much) from my colleague’s course that it would be dishonest to use it for my assignment in any way. I will note that the first module students are currently working through has a screen-casted small assignment and a video essay for the culminating task, while the next module has them pitch a TED talk and ends with a group podcast. Needless to say, I’m very excited to see what students create!

Idea 3 – Personal Learning Project: This week, I’ve taken Option B back to its roots by asking myself what I really would like to learn to do. Through brainstorming (with help from my girlfriend and others), I have narrowed it down to a manageable short list: learning basic Spanish, learning to run (couch to 5k, etc), or learning some form of basic coding.

Verdict: These are all ideas that appeal to me in that I want to learn the skills but probably otherwise wouldn’t make the time or have the discipline to do so.

I need to take an additional language course down the line to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree, so taking Spanish would help me prepare for that. It’s also a language that’s widespread and would help with future travel (30 countries and counting!), and might pair well with my better-than-average-but-by-no-means fluent French.

Running is something I used to do on occasion, but I have really found my fitness has declined since becoming a teacher (correlation = causation?), so that’s appealing, and I believe I would like seeing the visible progress day-by-day. Of course, winter means I’d probably be stuck on a treadmill, but that would make quantifying things super easy.

Coding seems to be all the rage these days, and, despite a background pretty heavy in both math and science and technology, it is something I know nothing about. I was once asked if I would teach Computer Science but wasn’t confident enough in my abilities to take it on. It was then predictably shuffled off to an unsuspecting new teacher (that tendency to happen in education is a whole other discussion), who seemed to get the hang of it quickly. I also could create an app and make millions of dollars–haha, I was joking about this part, but one can dream.

At this point, I’m happy I managed to narrow it down this far, but I’m not sure how to make a final decision between the three. I think considering applicability to the assignment, value to me personally, and value to me professionally are all criteria in my head so far. I’d be very interested to hear what others think and how they made these decisions themselves!

Idea 4 – Student Blogging: This one’s got a bit of history. I have used blogs with my students in the past, and the results have ranged from acceptable to poor–and for some individual students, very, very poor. Certainly never what I hoped for. So this choice would be for me to tackle Option A with the intent of using blogs with students so they don’t suck this time.

Verdict: This one’s really only been given recent consideration, and I have mixed feelings about it. Much like how those who have gotten sick off of certain alcohols can never drink them again, my aversion to blogging is fairly significant and perhaps just as irrational. I’d really need to find a purposeful way to incorporate them into my class (probably ELA 20 because it has strong curricular justification), and to carry it out so it goes well for students. I used to be a huge reader of blogs, especially in the hockey world in the proto-Twitter era (circa 2005), but I am not sure where they fit in our world now. My apologies if you’re reading this Professor Couros, but I sometimes even wonder if blogs are a bit of an outdated medium. For anyone reading this, I guess I’d need you to sell me on this option a bit too, because I’m obviously still reluctant!

So that’s where I’m at. I think I’m gonna keep this post old school without the barrage of links like my first one. I know that reading lengthy walls of text is not really common these days, but this blog post was as much for me as it was for you, trusty reader. So please excuse my barbarity; I’ll be sure to load my next blog post up on memes.

6 thoughts on “Major Digital Project 1: Options, Oh, My!

  1. Hey Riley, saw your tweet about your post being text-heavy but I read on anyway! You’ve portrayed an interesting roadmap of your project contemplations in this week’s blog post. You’ve got quite an array of ideas to choose from, seemingly 2 personal learning choices and 2 professional. All sound interesting and useful! Best of luck in your decision-making!

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  2. Great post. I was mulling over a few of the same options that you were. I think I’m going to go with the coding option especially since I use Minecraft a lot and would like to get better at using both together which is possible. I’m selfishly hoping you pick #2 as well. I’m teaching online for the first time too and have dabbled in podcasts a bit (even thinking of adding one to my summary of learning). Decisions Decisions … I’m sure whatever you choose will be great. If you have a couple moments please check out the hashtag #oneillss9 I have my grade 9s looking at the election using Twitter maybe you can leave a comment or two. Good Luck

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  3. Outdated? Maybe? Depending on one’s vantage point, I suppose the same could be said about other digital (and analog) forms of communication (e.g., vlogging, podcasting, etc.).

    For me, blogging is less about WordPress, Blogger, etc. but about the ability to utilize multimodalities and to write in digital, connected forms. There are incredible, relevant bloggers in the Medium community, for instance, that really push the boundaries of blogging. As well, blogging really was the beginning of other formats that emerged – podcasting and vlogging in particular – that have allowed more democratic forms of writing to emerge.

    So, you could celebrate these forms, and take them up in various ways. Or, you could consider them noise and take up other forms of digital or analog “writing.” Or, we can remain silent.

    Thanks for the push – I appreciate the post!

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