Karen Kingsbury, Ph.D. International Studies

Overview

Over the course of the year, I investigated and experimented with several technologies, with the following results:

  • iPad as digital reader
    • useful for this purpose: will continue to use it
    • reduces financial and resource (paper) costs
    • access to other readers’ highlighting of a given text is an interesting feature
    • it’s best to stick with reputable publishers because the quality of digital text-publishing varies widely; many products are sub-standard due to poor editing and page enumeration.
    • iPad as mobile computing device
      • useful for note-taking during oral sessions and for short travel (2-3 days)
      • does not, so far as I can tell, offer enough features to replace MacBook for office use and longer trips
      • VoiceThread as asynchronous audio-visual discussion forum
        • useful, well-received addition to my online teaching strategies: will definitely use it again
        • breakthrough learning technology, offering something that often cannot be achieved in traditional classroom teaching: opportunity for each participant to speak and be heard by every other member of the group.
          • two-round VoiceThread discussion (thank you, Katie Cruger, for this great idea!):
            • each student makes initial post of a defined length
            • all students required to listen to all initial posts, then
            • refer to them, in a second post.
        • Setting up assignment parameters and deadline schedule requires careful thought, but the result is satisfying to all concerned.
        • Skype and Google Hangout as platform for international videoconferencing
          • Skype  performed much better than Google Hangout
            • ease of use
            • clarity of readily available trouble-shooting instructions
            • international conversation partners’ existing level of familiarity with the technology (our partners were in India and Taiwan)
  • Skype would also be first choice when talking to people in China, due to the Chinese firewall that complicates use of Google products.
  • Prezi as a presentation tool

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    • This tool, for me, is closer to a new medium (e.g., hypertext, animation) rather than a formatting or packaging tool (e.g., Word, PowerPoint), because it fosters visual thinking about rhetorical issues that, in my thinking and training, have previously been centered in and by verbal text.  Its panoramic, zoom, and pathway features offer concrete correlatives for abstract rhetorical concepts like introduction, paragraph development, topic ordering and transitioning, conclusion, etc.  Thus, it feels to me as though Prezi has prompted a quantum shift in my own understanding and practice of written and oral argument.  It opens up new areas, channels, and even modes of thought, much the way a new language does.
    • It was a student who first introduced Prezi  to me, and many students share my excitement about this product, even though one might think it would not be so startlingly new and inspiring for people who have grown up in an environment filled with digital, visual-media communication tools and (flip side of the coin) do not have decades of training in verbal-text thought pathways that now can be so productively disrupted and reconfigured by this new medium/tool.
    • In fact, the first big negative result came when a student grew so excited by the opportunities afforded through this tool (and by the topic she was pursuing) that she lost sight of the necessary limits: her Prezi  project ballooned into a behemoth that exceeded the assignment limits by a full magnitude (yes: 10x).
    • Thus, the first big lesson (not a new one, to be sure) is that caution and heedfulness, as well as energy and imagination, are needed when using a new tool (or medium) like this one.
    • This is a proprietary tool and Chatham does not currently have a site license, but the business model, cost, and subscription policies seem reasonable to me.
    • Downloading is possible but remember that the files may become very large, which may impact both the time needed to download and the storage space needed on a drive.

Planning Process

  • Desired Outcomes:  Effective, engaging presentation of ideas and materials, for scholarly and classroom presentations
  • Review of Current Technology Practices and Trends: Prezi  seems to be an increasingly popular, and well-received tool.
  • Clarify a Technology’s Teaching and Learning Value: Prezi  seems to be a flexible, convenient, inspiring tool

Implementation

  • Offered Prezi  to students as an option for presenting project results in Fall 2013 online course
  • Used Prezi  to prepare for a Faculty Seminar presentation in February 2014
  • Plan to develop several Prezi  presentations for use in Fall 2014 courses

Successes/Challenges, Assessment, Perceived/Determined Value and Next Steps

I am still using and experimenting; may have fuller comments to report here at the end of the summer.

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