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Occidental faculty gathered on March 5 in the Dumke Commons to listen to a panel of six professors speak about their experiences with teaching with technology. The use of technology in the classroom has become more and more frequent on our campus, and its application more diverse. Each professor shared their respective project and offered a syllabus or assignment description as well as its results.

In her class, Advanced Spanish for Native Speakers, Felisa Guillen strived to help students improve their writing skills. She forged a relationship with different community partners, asking her students to help them translate documents from English to Spanish. Students used online translation resources and Google Docs to collaborate with each other and improve their writing and revising skills. Overall, Guillen reported that all students profited from the projects, strengthening their Spanish in the process.

Michael Gasper and Movindri Reddy, who co-taught a CSP entitled Revolutions Africa and Beyond, made blogging part of their students’ weekly homework. Although the professors required them to write five sentences about a reading each week, many students ended up posting more or more frequently. The results were pleasantly surprising, and showed that formal papers may not reveal the extent of students’ abilities. “The students’ writing was so much better on the blog than in their papers,” Gasper said. “They’re seemingly more articulate.” Check out the course blog HERE.

Picture 1For his two classes, Urban Sociology and Los Angeles Field Research, Jan Lin allowed his students to act as real-life journalists. They conducted field interviews for KCET-Departures, an online series of discussions with local figures about their vocation and opinion about changes in Northeast Los Angeles. The learning objective of the class was to edit interview transcripts into journalistic stories for a public audience. Students would upload their transcripts to Google Docs to share with and receive feedback from their peers. They were also required to take a visually interesting photograph, a crucial part of KCET stories. Lin reported great work from his students, proven by the number of their transcripts in the public domain. You can browse Young Voices stories HERE.

Clair Morrissey, professor of Philosophy, gave her CSP students a couple of alternative, unique ways to learn the material. She assigned a tracing project where students had to trace a substantial painting and annotate it, which helped them learn about significant form. She also had them map an argument by visualizing their research paper outlines. Both activities catered especially to visual learners, helping them learn through more unorthodox assignments.

In a class about soundscape at the University of Virginia, Carey Sargent, head of Instruction and Research at Occidental, helped her students develop their listening skills and break out of assumptions they had about music. She asked them to observe the sounds around them and listen to sample soundscapes to better understand them. They then recorded sounds in different places and shared them in class, using the program Audacity to edit and Freesound.org to upload online.

Each professor has transformed traditional learning in their own way, taking advantage of technology’s many benefits in an academic environment. In different cases, the use of media helped bridge the gap between different types of learners, and made for an interactive, productive experience.