One of the outcomes of my summer with my dream team has just finished. I taught a new half-semester course for the first time, EARTH 400 - Earth Science Seminar, with the focus on public lands and fire. With valuable assistance from Chris, Chris, and TK, I used a blog to share course materials and had the students upload all their audio recordings and Google Earth files in the blog. Be sure to check it out! http://tinyurl.com/earth400fire
I presented this course to the students as a "green" course - the students turned in all their assignments on the blog as audio and video files embedded in Google Earth. The only paper students received on me was a copy of the syllabus. On Day 1, students were handed digital voice recorders (SONY ICD-UX200) and handheld video cameras (Kodak Zi8) and started recording right away. I was pleased at how excited the students were to having a course with a "different" format for assignments and the opportunity to spend time in the field. It was also nice for me to see the quality of multimedia products improve for each student as the weeks went on. The creativity in these files was also impressive - for example, several students would speak in different voice styles to portray different characters in their recordings. Ben Bean's campfire conversation and Centralia video were some of the highlights for me as an instructor.
Even the final exam was a series of audio recordings, completed at Ridley Creek State Park. How many opportunities do students get a chance to complete a final exam outdoors? And I will admit, this was the only other time I gave students something on paper - the questions for the final exam.
Will I do this course again? You bet. This class was the best teaching experience I've had in the 9+years I've been at Penn State. The students even told me I need to teach this course again, but they are suggesting the theme of "water" instead of "fire."
What will I do now that my half-semester course is over? I need to start planning for next semester, of course! But I need to be thoughtful about what the course goals will be and how the technology will help me get there. More audio recordings? Google Earth and/or spreadsheet mapper for a Choose Your Own Adventure? Things that make you go hmmmm.......
In the meantime, I'm still working with one of my undergraduate researchers on the wonderful project we're calling Teaching World Music with Geospatial Technology (http://tinyurl.com/googleearthmusic/
). This project involves fellow TLT Fellow Ann Clements and her graduate student Teri Yerger. We've recently found out that we'll be presenting this project at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Conference in Hershey in April, and then who knows where else this may lead??? Fingers crossed, there will be an article in the next issue of Penn State Outreach about this cross-campus collaboration.
I plan on stopping by the TLT Fellows Office on my next visit to University Park. That office served as a "dream space" for me (I tell my students that each of them need to find their own "dream space," a space that serves as a source of inspiration, innovation, and high levels of work production). Hopefully, spending a little more time in the TLT Fellows Office will kick start the technology innovations going into the planning for my spring semester courses, too.