‘Tis the season for thanksgiving and gratitude. This year I’m feeling especially grateful for the educational technologies that are changing the way I work and learn. And so, without further ado, I present my EdTech Top Five. Cheers to you, bright shiny new things!
I love the affordability of these trusty little machines and the ease of administration and connection they provide. But, my favorite thing about the Chromebook is really Google Docs. This tool allows for collaboration between my writing students that I think highlights the role community plays in writing and discourse. Plus, it allows me to edit and share documents with my own colleagues on campuses around the globe and is making this upcoming conference season and its associated panels and roundtables just a bit more bearable. How did we ever survive a world where we circulated our revisions via email?
This platform has changed my life, and I’m not kidding. Through Blackboard, I teach students across the world and interact with them in a way that does not simply mimic a brick and mortar classroom, but that reimagines it and creates a learning environment that I have to believe even Socrates would envy. I could go on about the features I’m craziest about like embedded rubrics, learning insights, and mobile access, but I’d rather talk about Chris (name changed). Chris is in his early twenties and incarcerated in a federal prison. Although he has limited computer access, Chris is able to continue his education in spite of his circumstances. To my mind, education is our greatest weapon against recidivism, violence, and poverty and I’m honored to be a part of it. Chris wrote me a letter earlier this year thanking me for the work I do that allows students like him to gain a college education and to use “the time that I have to further my education to position myself to be more successful.” Now, there is a chance that our studying the Aeneid, Sir Gawain, or Henry IV is all part of his plan to become a more successful criminal, but I doubt it, and the truth is that we wouldn’t be able to study any of these texts together without Blackboard and for that I am supremely grateful.
I’ve been a fan of Early English Books Online (EEBO) for many years, but my relationship with it as a teaching tool is still evolving in ways that make me love it more every day. This incredible database allows users to access every work published in English from 1473 to 1700. I use this resource to help my students expand their contextual understanding of the historical texts we study in courses on Renaissance and Restoration literature. While our literature anthologies have limited examples of non-literary texts, EEBO provides a rich archive of pamphlets, tracts, sermons, and other important cultural artifacts, including their title pages, illustrations, and the occasional hand-written marginalia. And coming soon, EEBO will have searchable text. I can hardly contain myself.
This intuitive online platform for reading and responding to student writing has some incredible features. I love the variety of ways that GradeMark allows me to respond to students, including in-line and general comments, voice comments, and rubrics. However, I think my favorite feature is QuickMark sets. These save me time and help me provide consistent feedback by creating standard or custom marks and comments that I can insert directly into the student’s work. This is an especially handy feature for composition teachers who find themselves writing the same notes about commonly confused words like their/they’re/there, your/you’re, or its/it’s until our hands cramp up. Not only can I insert the same comment with a simple click of the mouse, I can include within the comment a link to the resources a student needs to revise their work and really take advantage of these important learning opportunities.
It’s probably bit redundant to write about WordPress on WordPress, but I’m too excited about the web writing pedagogy I’m implementing in a new, online composition course to care. Based on the postpedagogy asserted by Marc Santos and Mark Leahy, I’ll be teaching a composition course next semester that will engage students with real and relevant discourse communities, making their writing part of the actual, larger conversations we’ve been trying to get them to “pretend” to participate in for generations. I’m excited about this experimental course and know it wouldn’t be possible without an accessible blogging platform like this one.
*Picking favorites has never been an easy task for me, and I hate to think of all the great, educational technologies that didn’t get mentioned here. I love you guys too. Happy Thanksgiving.