Objective for technology intervention in a course

Last Updated: 05/30/2013

Producing original creative work is a central portion of virtually all of the courses that I teach. In some instances students work individually on projects, submitting them over the course of the semester (and completely a large final project). In other cases, students work collaboratively the entire time. In still other cases, I collaborate with students doing an independent study, and together we complete a project.

There are two "problems" regarding these scenarios that I'd like to address with technology.

The first: how to organize and focus creative work? For many people, producing original work can be daunting, in part because the process itself can be so amorphous. When are you actually working? When are you idly daydreaming? Gathering references and inspiration for an artistic project is critically important, but it is easy for some people to confuse this process with looking at blogs of wedding cakes gone wrong.

The second: in individual, and, especially, collaborative contexts, how do students show their process (and as a useful byproduct for the person who has to assess them, demonstrate that they are in fact actually working)?

It took time to focus these questions, as my first impulses turned out to have some fuzzy thinking. I wanted something to serve as the "glue" for a collection of text, images, sounds, video, etc., and that would also easily connect various tools, such as the github software development platform. Thinking about it a little more clearly, it turns out that the glue already exists, and it is called HTML!

In other words, there are various ways to link to whatever kinds of media the web supports. So the question is not so much "if," as "how." Go with some kind of visual approach but “lighter-weight” and more nimble approach, such as Pinterest or Mindomo? Or a more task-oriented framework?

In looking a little further, I learned that--duh!--the business world kind of needs "project management software," and that there are plenty of options to try! Therefore, I'm simply going to start trying them.

Initially, these tests will take place during an independent study course I'm doing currently with a doctoral student. We are working together to develop physical computing software and hardware for a large art installation. There are many creative issues to resolve, and a good deal of coding to keep track of.

In an ideal scenario, the right environment will help both me and my students create richer work, by helping us keep track of where we are coming from, and by helping us see the road ahead. And, critically, at the end of the day, a student will be able to send me a link to a site where all of their individual contributions are logged, making the task of assessing creative work at least a little easier.