Making Meaning with Digital Tools

Decorative: A Thumbnail-sized version of the Pedagogy Wheel


Click the image above to go to a full-sized version of The Pedagogy Wheel which integrates the thinking levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with action verbs, learning activities, and iPad apps that can promote those activities.

"Making Meaning with Digital Tools -- Practical and Inclusive Strategies" (video post) is a 45-minute, video webinar (embedded below) that explores assignment options beyond the written paper, "mov[ing] beyond traditional ways of knowing and assessment," in interests of "facilitat[ing meaning-making."

  • "[A]cademic papers do not always assess what we want to assess, which typically includes a student's content knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills."
  • "Instead, academic papers might display evidence of poor time management, or learning disabilities that make writing difficult, or a student’s ability to conform to white middle-class conventions."

1. How to Begin

  • "[W]ays we can be more inclusive and welcoming of all students ... begi[n] with our own approach to teaching—from planning to syllabus creation to defining terms to re-framing the way we speak about resources to building in-class time to go over processes that more privileged students would be familiar with."
  • "There are many ways to approach teaching intersectionally, and the ideas [the webinar] offer[s] are a sampling of a much fuller, broader menu."

2. Some Tools to Use

"[D]igital tools and assignments that can facilitate meaning-making ... can allow us to model welcoming and inclusive pedagogy and destabilize the privileged position of papers in the academy."

  • "These include using social media, Wikipedia, timeline tools, mapping, web publishing, textual analysis tools, photo essays, video and board games, object creation (via tools like Sketchup or Tinkercad), podcasting, and more!" 
  • "We suggest that these tools, used on their own or combined with each other."

3. Final Takeaways

a. "Think beyond 'just' papers."

  • "Papers can be an excellent evaluation technique."
  • "[B]ut 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." 

b. "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." 

c. "When in doubt, involve students in decision making.' 

  • "[A]cknowledg[e] student agency and recogniz[e] that choices students make usually play to their strengths." 
  • "[A]llow students to work alone or in groups."
  • "Offer them two different deadline choices."
  • "Give them a selection of assignments to choose from." 

d. "Imperfection is better than inaction." 

  • "We learn from every change we make to courses and assignments."
  • "[E]ven though we risk making mistakes, the work of a more inclusive, practical learning environment is important enough to warrant the risk." 

4. "HASTAC Digital Fridays: 'Making Meaning with Digital Tools" (46.26 m)

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