Putting Students at the Center

Professor Jillana Enteen was selected to be an Educational Technology Teaching Fellow (ETTF) for 2016-2017. Enteen teaches in the Gender & Sexuality Studies and Asian American Studies programs and she revised her course: Imagining the Internet: Gender, Sex, Sexuality, Race, Ethnicity Online (GSS 374) as her ETTF project. She moved away from a traditional pedagogical approach and expected her students to master the course's content before coming to class. More class time was then spent on highly interactive assignments that were more student-centered.  In these assignments, students focused their time on applying the theories and analysis they'd been reading.

The result was deeply engaging class experiences. Student evaluations of the course reflected the course's success. "In the past," Enteen acknowledged, "students were often uninterested in the course material...everyone felt like an expert and discussions were lackluster, often mostly simplifications and generalizations. This new experiential model meant every student entered class as a novice."

What types of assignments did she use in this innovative approach? Very early in the quarter, students gave presentations about a technological object that they were passionate about. These presentations involved the students making a short video about their object in the One Button Studio. Then they presented their video in class, providing a bit more context and answering questions. Rich discussions followed about podcasting, software, DSLR cameras, custom emoji languages, and more. Several students observed that this assignment helped to build the trust that was so crucial to deeper critical assessment.

The new Arc video tool, which is built right into Canvas, provided another strategy for the class. The course was taught in a multimedia lab in Kresge, so sometimes Enteen would have students watch a film clip while in class and the students would make comments in the timeline of the video as they watched. Enteen could then guide the discussion based on the annotations that the students had made. Students were asked to comment in a significant manner, making connections to the readings or previous discussions. In other instances, films were watched before the class met and then discussion could be held right at the start of class.

Enteen also designed a group assignment that took place during one class session. Students read the readings and knew that a group assignment would occur, but they didn't discover the details until they showed up in class. Student teams were tasked with sketching out the plan for a video game using the lenses and intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class that they'd explored throughout the course. The goal of each game would be to make the player more aware of these perspectives. Students used whiteboards and plain old paper to draw and talk through the premises and structures of their games. They had to come to a consensus about the objective of the game, the game levels, how behaviors would be rewarded/punished, etc. Students then presented their game concept to the rest of the class, followed by a vote picking the "most effective game."

Enteen found that with this new approach, she guided the class, but that the interactive assignments allowed students to lead discussions and to speak more frequently, resulting in a more robust classroom. Students acknowledged that the newly redesigned course allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of the lenses used by Gender & Sexuality Studies scholars.

Instructors, graduate students and staff members are encouraged to apply to join the ETTF fellows program for 2017-18!


Photo credit:  If the Center Holds by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY 2.0.