Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Flowering of Multi-Modal Learning

At Montevallo, it's the last week of classes, otherwise known as the Week of Reckoning, or a frenzied time when students turn in final projects and are held to account by end-of-semester exams.  Is this a good time for learning?  As David Jaffee of the Chronicle of Higher Education says, traditional academic exercises like final exams often do not encourage or capture meaningful knowledge development.  When we stress familiar models like exams, Jaffee writes, we inadvertently suggest that "the process of intellectual inquiry, academic exploration, and acquiring knowledge is purely an instrumentalist activity--designed to assure success on the next assessment."  In reality, these exercises facilitate temporary acquisition of knowledge.

At the Carmichael Library, the Digital Media Lab is doing its part to foster new kinds of learning that correspond to the new literacies required of learners in the digital age.  Students from English composition, social work, communication and science disorders, sociology, and other disciplines are engaged in collaborative video and audio projects of many kinds.  Each of these project require students to represent arguments and evidence in multiple media formats, something they will increasingly be asked to do as professionals and citizens.

Students in Laurel Hitchcocks' SWK/SOC 373 Social Policy students have been engaged in a semester-long project of editing and producing a video that informs potential clients on the impact of important social policies in the United States.  You can visit the University of Montevallo Social Work program YouTube channel to see all of the videos, but we wanted to share some of the highlights here.

Laura Tracy, Becky Stoltz, Mary Ashley Jayne and Staci Sample came up with this video, which highlights the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

Each of the videos educate an audience on why social policies matter.  They are the culmination of many conversations, readings, and questions, and they distill knowledge about American society into a meaningful and compelling form.

In English 104 with Lee Rozelle, students were asked to create a video that reviews or critiques a local establishment, recent film, or general cultural artifact.  One of my favorite videos is this review of Joe's Italian in Alabaster, AL.


The students logged their production efforts on a blog, which they titled Italy in Alabaster.  At its best moments, the video critiques not only the quality of Joe's food, but also the degree to which it tries to fabricate an "authentic" Italian cultural experience in rural Alabama.

These students should be commended for the work they have done.  They've synthesized personal experience, cultural analysis, and public advocacy of some kind.  Furthermore, they've taken advantage of the space, resources, and people at the Carmichael Library's Digital Media Lab.  We're always here as a resource for anyone who is working with audio, visual, or digital projects of any kind.

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