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As you know, technology is the new wave for this 21st century generation of millennials. The fact of the matter is, “old fashion” teaching does not cut it anymore when it comes to trying to educate this new age of students. Furthermore, as instructors of this new age you must be open to new ideas when trying find ways to engage your class in this digital age. Let’s face it, reading books is not everyone’s cup of tea, also no one enjoys carrying around three pound books. What is everyone’s cup of tea are short passages and carrying around three to four pound Macbooks and PCs. So the first suggestion I have for First-Year Writing Instructors when considering your new digital age classrooms is to assign more readings from short, online pdfs. Students will read multiple short documents as long as it is relevant to an interesting topic.
Short readings have a good chance of making the students’ lives and instructors’ lives easier and less stressful. Also since the readings will be relevant to interesting topics that students like, they will be more likely to actively participate and be more engaged in class. As a personal experience for support, my First-Year Writing class was very similar to this set-up. My instructor, Dr. Rudewalker, mostly assigned small readings that were very relatable and engaged us as readers and writers. The short readings she assigned were always very interesting, funny, informative, and allowed us to better understand the course objectives. When we came into the classroom we discussed the readings we sometimes went over the class time because the readings were so engaging. Within the class discussions, we would learn the objectives for the day and end up learning more from ourselves as people or writers than one would usually learn from a lecture teacher that just talks about a book reading for the entire class. Furthermore, she engaged us in topics relevant to our lives and today. This class is probably the best class I had at Spelman thus far because of these reasons. I think more instructors should take up this type of class set-up.
As the professor or course instructor, it is up to you how you want to assess the students about the readings or learning objectives from class. The “old style” test and quizzes are proven to not show the full extent of students’ understanding about reading topics or lessons covered in class. I think including the way students participate in the class when discussing the topics. This could be harder for larger classes but even then, the quizzes could be more engaging to the context of the reading or topics. For instance, they could be one question quizzes that will allow students to think and even reflect on the readings that were just discussed during the class period. The quizzes could even ask students to relate to the readings or lessons in a personal way. I believe becoming more engaged and involved in our readings and comprehension of the readings makes even a Biology major love an English class!
In my First-Year Writing class, the assessment process went very smoothly as we were assessed on the readings that we had just discussed in class. The questions were never “hard” but they allowed us to think as people, readers, and even as writers. Through these assessments we learned how to apply what we’ve learned to our lives and even our future course that involve readings or writings. Since my First-Year Writing class, I have been able to use almost half of our assigned readings for other class presentations or papers. Also, these assessments lead to more comprehension for the students. When students are able to understand the reading then they are more likely to believe that the reading is important to their education and relevant to their academic future. I think that this should ultimately be the goal for all instructors or professors, to ensure that students have the knowledge and understanding they need in order to succeed in life.
Subsequently, instructors and professors should also strive to engage their students to improve their writing skills. One way to do this in a new age of students is letting students know that what they are saying matters. The students will see their writing as more important and therefore do better. Seeing students at an equal level, meaning willing to learn from your students as well as passing knowledge, will encourage students to enjoy being in class and learning. Engaging students through technology is one way students will see that an instructor is attempting to make class topics more relatable. For example, my First-Year Writing class instructor engaged us more as writers as she allowed us to pick topics of our own to write our papers on. Of course our topics were still applicable to the strategies and skills we were currently learning in class, like topics that are argumentative.
All in all, the new digital age is not a bad things when it comes to the future of academics. Instructors should try to assign short readings that can be accessed online in order to make the lives of students less stressful and allow them to relate more the topics. Not only this, but allowing for engaged class discussions as a part of assessments and helping students comprehend the readings on a larger level understanding. Referring to the learning of writing skills, instructors should make their classroom a space for learning and teaching, not just teaching. With strategies like these, professors and students will see the impact that my First-Year Writing class left on me for the rest of my college experience.
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