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Posted by Stokes Schwartz about 1 year ago


My background in Scandinavian languages and literature keeps rearing its head in various ways after many years. Specifically,when it comes to folklore, magical tales, and perilous journeys toward maturation. In a way, I have become a pedagogical Ashland, of sorts, since coming to MSU in 2015. My journey, an ongoing quest if you will, has been in trying to find that one magical key, which will unlock the enchanted door to greater student interest and involvement in their general education course requirements.

Those of us who teach these courses know that, too often, many students view gen. ed. requirements as hoops to jump through. Something they must satisfy to graduate. Subjects that, they feel, have little to do with the real world, their intended majors, or envisioned careers. Scheduling and convenience more than genuine interest seem to be the determining factor for many students when they choose to enroll in such courses. Put the head down, muddle through, and get it done with as little effort as possible.

But there might be another way.

In my own ongoing quest to motivate and engage the students in my various IAH courses more effectively, I have come back to Bloom's Taxonomy again and again since first learning about it in the 2016-2017 Walter and Pauline Adams Academy cohort. More specifically, it is Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, revised by various scholars for use with 21st century students who exist in an increasingly digital world, that has been especially useful when it comes to designing assessments for my students.

For those who are interested, there are all kinds of sources online -- journal article pdfs, infographics, Youtube explainer videos, etc. -- that will be informative and helpful for anyone who might be interested in learning more. Just search for 'Bloom's Digital Taxonomy' on Google. It's that easy.

For my specific IAH courses, I organize my students into permanent student learning teams early each semester and ask them to create three collaborative projects (including a team reflection). These are due at the end of Week Five, Week 10, and Week 14. Right now, the projects include:

1) A TV Newscast/Talkshow Article Review Video in which teams are ask to locate, report on, review, and evaluate two recent journal articles pertinent to material read or viewed during the first few weeks of the course.

2) A Readers' Guide Digital Flipbook (using Flipsnack) that reviews and evaluates the usefulness of two books, two more recent journal articles, and two blogs or websites on gender and sexuality OR race and ethnicity within the context of specific course materials read or viewed during roughly the middle third of the course.

3) An Academic Poster (due at the end of Week 14) in which student teams revisit course materials and themes related to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and identity. In addition, students are asked to examine issues of power, marginalization, disparity, equity, etc. in those same sources and look at how these same issues affect our own societies/cultures of origin in the real world. Finally, student teams (in course as diverse as Film Noir of the 1940s and 50s, Horror Cinema, and the upcoming Contemporary Scandinavian and Nordic Authors) are asked to propose realistic, concrete solutions to the social problems facing us.

Anecdotally, student feedback has been largely very favorable so far. Based on remarks in their team reflections this semester (Fall 2021), students report that they enjoy these collaborative, creative projects and feel like they have considerable leeway to shape what their teams develop. Moreover, they also feel that they are learning quite a bit about the material presented as well as valuable 21st century employability skills in the process. Where their all important assignment grades are concerned, student learning teams in my courses are meeting or exceeding expectations with the work they have produced for the first two of three team projects this semester according to the grading rubrics currently in use.

Beginning in Spring 2022, I plan to give my student teams even more agency in choosing how they are assessed and will provide two possible options for each of the three collaborative projects. Right not, these will probably include:

Project #1 (Recent Journal Article Review and Evaluation)-- Powtoon Animated TV Newscast OR Infographic

Project #2 -- (Review and Evaluation of Digital Sources on Gender and Sexuality OR Race and Ethnicty in our specific course materials) a Digital Flipbook OR Podcast

Project #3 -- (Power, Marginality, Disparity, Equity in Course Materials and Real World of 21st Century Problem-Solving) an Interactive E-Poster OR Digital Scrapbook.

Through collaborative projects like these, I am attempting to motivate and engage the students in my IAH courses more effectively, help them to think more actively and critically about the material presented as well as the various social issues that continue to plague our world, and provide them with ample opportunity to cultivate essential skills that will enable their full participation in the globalized world and economy of the 21st century. Bloom's (Revised) Digital Taxonomy, among other resources, continues to facilitate my evolving thought about how best to reach late Gen Y and Gen Z students within a general education context.

If anyone would like to talk more about all of this, offer constructive feedback, or anything else, just drop me a line. I am always looking for those magic beans that will increase student motivation and engagement, and eager to learn more along the way. Bloom's Digital Taxonomy has certainly been one of my three magical helpers in the quest to to do that.

Takk skal dere ha!