Project-Based Learning

The rapid evolution of technologies in our time means that bodies of knowledge are constantly shifting and expanding.  Consequently people will increasingly follow career paths that no one could have envisioned during their formative years.  For this reason, I use experiential learning projects as a means of helping students identify their core interests and skills.  From desktop publication of anthologies of students’ coming of age stories, to electronic publications, to video projects, my main objectives are a) to give students critical tools for analyzing their own situation in the world and b) to teach the new media literacies that will empower them to express their unique perspectives.

2009: Video Web Conferencing Interviews

January 03, 2023

Video Conferencing interviews present the job seeker with a host of technological problems.  The image and sound quality captured with low end equipment such as a web cam may not show candidates to advantage.  Worse, candidates may not be able to do anything to enhance the lighting in the location.   This website was therefore intended to help job seekers present themselves “in the best possible light” during video web conferencing interviews.  Students from three sections of my spring 2009 “Technical Communication Practices” course collaborated on this project.  One team wrote, shot, and edited that sample video while the other team designed the website, researched web conferencing etiquette, and drafted the content. Students were graded on performance of the tasks outlined in their job descriptions and on the quality of performance review letters they submitted at the end of the semester.  

2008: Shooting for the Job

February 23, 2023

The “Shooting for the Job” website, developed as a collaborative project involving students from all three sections of my fall 2008 LCC 3401 “Technical Communication Practices” course sought to bridge the digital divide with advice on producing video resumes with low tech equipment.  One team wrote, shot, and edited that sample videos while the other team designed the website and drafted the content.  Students were graded on performance of the tasks outlined in their job descriptions and on the quality of performance review letters they submitted at the end of the semester. 

1999: Interactive Narrative

January 01, 2020

In the fall of 1999 I taught a creative writing course in Interactive Narrative that addressed the question of what happens to the process of storytelling and the structure of narrative when “readers” become active co-creators in developing the story.  Over the course of the semester we concluded that since interactive narrative cannot develop a traditional plot which builds to a central crisis and then resolves the conflict, interactive narratives are most effective when they offer “readers” the opportunity to interact with intriguing characters or rich settings. As the final project for the course, the students worked in groups of three to develop their own interactive narratives.  Each team developed one character in the Witherington family.  The narrative opens shortly before midnight on December 31, 1999 with the family gathered in their bunker anxiously awaiting the advent of the New Millenium.  Due to the limited hardware and software available, I had the students work in PowerPoint to develop simple branching narratives that moved the characters through the spaces they inhabited in their day-to-day lives. 

1997: Harlem Renaissance Website

January 01, 2020

The Harlem Renaissance website was my first attempt at combining my scholarship in African American Cultural Studies with my knowledge of new media design and production techniques.  In the process we engaged in some very profound discussions of African American aesthetics as we selected color schemes and type fonts which we hoped would express the values that Harlem Renaissance writers and artists had espoused.  Engaging in this digital humanities project enhanced our reading of The New Negro as a multimodal text.

1995: Jo vs. Huck video

January 01, 2020

I sought to extend students’ visual literacy and give them a practical application for the semiotic theory we studied in the course (Roland Barthes’ Mythologies was one of the assigned texts) by empowering them to create visual images.  The video was intended to serve as a response to the four versions each of Little Women and Huck Finn that we studied over the course of the semester.  The students chose to use the “Jo meets Huck” encounter to comment on the O.J. Simpson trial which reached a verdict that semester.  All of the students enrolled in three sections of the course were involved in the project in some capacity.  As a result, a diverse student population learned practical lessons about the importance of communication and developed a strong sense of unity from the experience.  

1993-95: Anthologies

January 01, 2020

In 1993, '94, and '95 I organized my composition courses around the theme of coming of age in America in order to give the multi-ethnic student population a wide range of voices they could identify with.  My rationale for creating the anthology project was that using these stories as the final textbook for the class would validate the authority of my students’ voices.  The project also created a strong sense of cohesion across two sections of the course by impressing a diverse student population with the commonality of their own coming of age experiences.  Having organized three of these anthologies while teaching seven sections of this course, I have given 150-200 people a model for desktop publishing.  In addition, the third edition of the anthology became a more immediate vehicle for social change when the students decided to use the project as a fundraiser.  They cleared over $100 on thirty-seven copies of the anthology which they donated to an elementary school library.  Thus this project unified a diverse student population in a creative project which empowered them to re-invest in the community.

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