Each year, ASSETT awards the Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award to a faculty member who has been nominated by their peers and students for their commitment to teaching with technology. This year, Dr. Nicole Jobin is recognized for her use of technology as not only a tool, but also as a great equalizer in her classroom, placing students as co-creators, rather than passive learners, of their knowledge.
Dr. Jobin is a Teaching Associate Professor in the Stories and Societies Residential Academic Program here at CU Boulder and primarily teaches first year students. Dr. Jobin is an early adopter of technology as a learning tool, being one of the first faculty to implement Canvas and other online pedagogical tools, while also pioneering remote teaching techniques during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nominators note that Dr. Jobin was “invaluable to the RAPs when the pandemic necessitated a sudden pivot to remote teaching”, quickly preparing resources on Zoom and Canvas for other faculty members, and that she continues to provide tech support for RAP faculty that request help for technology related issues.
Within the classroom, Dr. Jobin “sees technology as a means of empowering students to be creators, and not just consumers, of information.” After forefronting base knowledge and curriculum at the beginning of the semester, Dr. Jobin then allows students to take the reins and use that basis in ways that are meaningful to them. In her “Europe to 1600” class, this means students choose a focus and write blog posts or create timelines, some of which have been included in an Open Educational Resource that has formed the class textbook. In her “War and Society” and “History of Christianity” classes, this practice manifests in digital atlas pages, using ArcGIS Story Maps and/or a Wordpress site that students built together as a class. In addition, throughout these courses students started the “Compendium of the Crusades” project, which houses short form writings about individuals, locations, battles and other events of the Crusades. In either experience, Dr. Jobin says, “Students have a certain amount of agency… I can give a framework and say, this is the type of stuff we're going to look at for this project. But I want you to choose the specifics, the angle or subject that's most interesting to you. And what you create is not something that's just going to cross my eyeballs and never be seen again if you don't want it to”. Students have the option to share their work with the whole class, future classes, and even the greater CU community and beyond.
This approach ultimately ties into Dr. Jobin’s focus on non-disposable assignments, the counterpoint to disposable assignments — those that are completed by individual students, only seen and graded by their professor, and, once returned to the student, are then thrown away. Instead, non-disposable assignments are those that may be shared with the greater community to contribute to a larger pool of knowledge. Students, then, become co-creators of knowledge in the classroom, especially when aided with the sharing features now available to us through technology. In essence, nominators write, “Nikki [brings] these students into the endeavor of writing, and not just consuming, history.”
This teaching practice certainly hasn’t always been easy, Dr. Jobin notes. After experimenting on her own and running into issues with students working from home or running into technological issues that sometimes only OIT can solve, Dr. Jobin has curated a list of best practices for other educators looking to incorporate technology into their own classrooms. To begin she suggests to “try and start small”. Though she acknowledges that sometimes she’s guilty of not doing this, she has found that sometimes smaller is better. She tells us, “Let's do just one little thing and see if it works well and then we can expand to a bigger project”. To help build even more scaffolding, she also suggests creating an example assignment before work starts so that students can have a constant reference point during their own work. Dr. Jobin also urges educators to “make sure [they’re] not latching onto a piece of technology or a way of using technology just because it's shiny and beautiful and new. In other words, before adopting new technology into your teaching — make sure it serves a clear pedagogical purpose. And, be sure to communicate that purpose to your students as well to create understanding of and buy-in for use of a new technology.
In closure, Dr. Jobin leaves fellow educators with this: “I think sometimes people think everything has to be polished and finished… [But] sometimes the process is almost as important as the product”. While Dr. Jobin speaks of some of her successes and some of the snags she’s encountered in using technology, she maintains that the process itself is still worth doing. Almost always, students will still learn something — even if the technological execution is not exactly perfect.
We are so excited to congratulate Dr. Jobin on all her accomplishments, and look forward to following her journey in creating, and helping students create, open educational resources in the future!