This webinar was previously run on November 19, 2016 , 10 a.m. CDT
About this session:
The presentation reports on the design, delivery and evaluation of an experimental course ‘Digital English’, which aims to assist international students in reflecting on their identity at the sensitive time of transition into university and to another country and culture.
The course extensively uses digital social spaces, such as blogs, collaborative documents, and visual tools, which seem suited to reflecting on one’s subjectivity, fears, and concerns. Following Gauntlett, 2007, the students were asked to create visual identity boxes to develop greater self-awareness and consider what influences them as humans, academics or professionals. The next stage entailed analysing the visual metaphors through a collaborative and more structured academic report, whereby the students had to adopt an identity of a more objective researcher/writer. The exercise of a self-exploration as an object of a more academic discussion of students’ ways of self-portrayal seemed to provide a useful introduction to collaboration, reflection, and analytical thinking skills.
About the presenter:
Ania Rolinska is a University Teacher (English for Academic Study) at the University of Glasgow and Lecturer in the English Language at Glasgow School of Art. She is also an online teacher trainer at the International House Online Teacher Training Institute. She’s recently completed a Master’s in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. She is a keen advocate of innovation in ELT and professional development. Special areas of interest include learner’s autonomy, online course/activity design, multimodal approaches to writing and opportunities learning technologies offer for stimulating creativity and ‘will to learn’.
The Digital English course is an experimental course in self-exploration intending to facilitate the development of academic graduate attributes such as critical thinking skills, creativity, and reflection. It was delivered in a blended mode at the University of Glasgow Language Centre to a group of international students preparing for a post-graduate study.
Inspired by Ulmer’s mystory project (2003) and Gauntlett’s Lego research (2007), the course primary theme was the students’ portrayal and interpretation of their own and peers’ identity at the sensitive time of transition across numerous borders: geographical, cultural, linguistic and academic. This journey involved traveling in a volatile learning landscape which blended learning spaces (online/offline), literacies (home-based/academic) and modes (verbal/visual).
Over a ten-week period, the participants completed a series of tasks focusing on the notion of self and which involved working with Google Docs, reflective blogs, Creative Commons as well as participating in online discussions and doing online research. As part of their engagement with the themes, they produced a number of digital artifacts, the most important one being their Identity Box. The Box is an image collage or presentation which through visual metaphors narrates the student’s subjective self-story.
The Box provided a stimulus for a more objective and academic investigation whereby students in groups analysed and interpreted their peers’ visuals with references to existing research such as Gauntlett’s Lego study mentioned earlier and in compliance with accepted academic conventions. Thus the end result was a multimodal display blending the private and the academic in terms of content, genres, styles and modes.
The preliminary analysis of thus created Identity Boxes displays shows that the concept of identity construction is universally understood and can be engaged with regardless of cultural or educational background. It also demonstrates that visual metaphors can help articulate notions of self that otherwise could remain unverbalised and so not fully understood. The post-task interviews with students provided evidence of the students’ appreciation of the project. In their words, they were able to gain from it on different levels, including personal growth and academic development, particularly of critical thinking, reflection skills, and digital literacies.