Monday, May 7, 2012

Freeing The Course Part 4: Assignments

In this final entry on freeing the course (check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), we are looking at free tools and resources relating to assignments.  These might be ways of changing up assignments, making them more interactive, or even in some cases, easier to evaluate and access.  Many of these resources we’ve mentioned before in different capacities, but they are definitely great for thinking about assignments as well.

Yes, GoogleDocs, again.  Whether you want them to develop a document, spreadsheet, or presentation, you can use GoogleDocs for the space to be used.  You can also create surveys and possibly quizzes if you want to engage your students further.  What’s great about GoogleDocs is its collaborative nature and the ways you (or your students) can share files coupled with the document history where you can directly compare differences between older and newer versions.

Diigo is a familiar tool on this blog and rightly so.  It’s a social bookmarking site where an instructor could create a group for the class.  Herein, they could add substantive links related to course topics along with descriptions and explanations of what the sites were.  Another idea would be for the instructor to incorporate a large range of links and assign the students different links to go to within Diigo and annotate.  Diigo allows for individuals or groups to annotate their bookmarks, thus allowing for an engaging dialogue among the students about a site’s content.

Yet another great tool we enjoy on this blog, Wikis can be used in a variety of ways.  Whether you’re sending students to create an entry on Wikipedia itself, or encouraging them to make a course notebook in wiki format, there’s some great ways instructors can make students creators and owners of the course content.

Glogster is a free digital posterboard that allows the user to put up images, text, sound files, and videos all integrated into a collage.  It’s a useful tool as a compliment to inclass presentations or as a means of online presentations.

Blogs are great for assignments.  There are many different ways of using a blog, but there are several that seem to do well.

  1. The instructor writes the blog entries (as kind of mini-lessons or making connections from content to the world at large) and the students must comment.
  2. Students create their own blogs and then comment on one another’s blog.
  3. One blog is created for the class and different students must post about related material over the course of the semester.
Regardless of how you go about approaching it, blogs can be a great assignment that help students think and communicate more critically.

We’ve talked about this tool before as a teaching tool, but it could also be used as an assignment for students to create a narrated presentation utilizing course materials or research.  It’s a quick tool to learn and faculty could assign students to develop different videos around course concepts.  Faculty could also assign students to create a virtual tour of the internet to present their research.  Audacity is a similar tool, though it’s only for audio recording, but faculty might assign similar projects.

So what other tools out there help you to free up the course?  We’re always looking for new ideas and tools, so please let us know.