Thursday, June 26, 2008

digital shyness & teaching online

Yes, I'm still spending most of my time reading books and wandering through the woods by the James River - what can I say?

My body is drawn to the scents of blossoming milkweed, honeysuckle and wild rose...

What bugs me most about Second Life is that I feel *guilty* for not spending more time "in world" than I do...I guess that's not really SL's problem though is it? Though I'm generally gregarious, in SL I seem to develop some kind of shyness that has kept me from meeting new avatars. And what's up with that??? Can we be proximally gregarious, yet digitally shy?

I've got a little campsite 'classroom' on our island at UR, just behind Boatwright Tower. It's not much, just a tee-pee, a campfire and a few stumps...and most recently I've added some artwork.

I plan to use this space as a classroom for student-avatars next time I use SL in my teaching. The artwork can serve as a research prompt for students (artist, work, era, subject, technique, material) or it could serve as an exercise in visual literacy and considering the meaning inherent in the composition of individual paintings as well as the arrangement of multiple images in a single space.

I taught my first online course this summer, "Literature, Technology & Society" and it was challenging to get students engaged in the course & discussion without ever being in proximity. The original version of the course was going to involve a project in Second Life, but when I discovered the relative technical inexperience of my few students, I decided to save SL for another class.

Though I used Blackboard for most of the course interaction, I had to develop a 'companion website' to contain some of the digital materials for the class including brief audio podcasts about our readings of several novels. To give my students experience in using Web 2.0 tools for developing an 'e-portfolio', final student projects involved creating a blog with several significant entries discussing and connecting our various texts from the course, both typographic and visual.

Ironically, the best blog of the class was created by a student who called herself "the Luddite".