Enhancing and Enriching Learning: Blogs, Drupal and the Great Monster Mash-Up in First-Year Seminar

The goals of the First-Year Seminar (FSEM) program at the University of Mary Washington are to promote life-long learning skills, enhance the idea of community within and among students and faculty, and provide opportunities for students to explore and express their ideas and arguments. In this FSEM course on Mad Scientists, Bad Scientists and Evil Geniuses, I have used blogs and a Drupal resource site as a means to make student learning participatory, exploratory and community building. In addition, I allowed (for the first time) students to use video vs. written word for some assignments. In this talk, the use of these technology driven formats will be examined as tools to enhance and enrich student learning.

Designing and implementing a drupal: can a biology geek and a computer geek begin to think alike?

We designed a website “Thinking Like a Biologist: Using Diagnostic Questions to Help Students Reason With Biological Principles.” This website is a Drupal installation that is designed to deliver information about an NSF funded project called “Diagnostic Question Clusters to Improve Student Reasoning and Understanding in General Biology Courses.” The original purpose of this site was to deliver information to faculty across the US that supports their use of new, student learning assessments for Introductory Biology and Ecology. We discovered several challenges in the design and implementation of our drupal. The biologists brought naïve ideas to the design table about the function and organization of an information delivery website. The computer scientist brought naïve ideas about biology concepts and education to the design table. We also knew that the purpose of this site may evolve and so design must be flexible enough to support changing needs. As a team, we taught each other enough of the ideas behind our work to work together. Trial and error in our work relationship, lead to a work model in which periodic, face-to-face work sessions were the most productive way to exchange ideas and implement the site. The project behind the site and the needs for the site continue to progress. We look forward to designing and implementing new functionality in our site this coming summer.

Teaching “Introduction to Logic” on line

In June-July 2008 I taught “Intro to Logic” entirely on-line, and used the on-line Drupal-based book I developed in 2006-07. I’ll show the site and give an overview of how I conceived the course: the chat rooms, mp3 postings, powerpoints, blogs, papers and commentaries, homework, and exams. I’ll talk about what I thought were the strengths and weaknesses of the format, and how I’ll modify my planning for June-July 2009.

“How I use Drupal to roll my own LMS,” or “Eight Reasons why Drupal is better than WordPress”

In this presentation, I will give an overview of how and why I use Drupal as my platform of choice for creating online learning spaces. Since my assigned teaching area is New Media, my pedagogy is often as much *about* technology as it is *through* technology. Therefore, the choices I make regarding our course websites give shape to the opportunities my students have for creating content and learning to express themselves digitally within a participatory learning experience. These choices must closely reflect and demonstrate my teaching philosophy and pedagogical agenda. For this brief talk, I will structure my remarks around a list of ways in which Drupal is better than WordPress. This somewhat facetious framework invokes the long-running generic debate between proponents of the two platforms, but it is not necessarily my aim to convince WordPress adherents to switch sides. Rather, I will focus on why Drupal has been a good choice for me and ultimately argue that a working knowledge of how any works with or against pedagogical goals is an important component of course design.