Student-Created Digital Public Education Tools – Part 1

During the Spring 2017 semester, the final project in my Urban Studies 101 class was to create a digital tool that could be used as a public education tool about an issue of interest to the student or group of students and related to course material. Below is an overview of the assignment.

Assignment Description:

The point of assignment 6 is to create a space for you to dig more deeply into a topic of interest to you that is relevant to course material. Maybe you live in a gentrifying neighborhood or a neighborhood that has been targeted by the rezoning and you want to examine what’s going on more closely, or maybe there’s a new or recent policy that relates to another topic we (will) touch(ed) on in class (CJ, Immigration Policy, Housing, Public Space, Privatization of Risk and Well-being, etc.). This is broadly conceived intentionally, to allow for flexibility in the topics you choose. Make this interesting for yourself and choose something that you want to know more about.

More than digging into an issue, this assignment also asks you to teach what you learn back to a public audience. The final product for this project is a digital educational tool that can be used to educate a member of the general public about the issue at hand. You will give both an overview of the issue and a critical analysis wherein the issue is sifted through perspectives grounded in course material.

Students will work individually or in groups based on responses to a survey (via Google Form) asking about preferences.

Examples (w/ Suggested Technologies)

  • Critical historical tour of a gentrifying neighborhood that offers an insiders look at the changes taking place or assumed to be coming. You could take pictures, talk to people, research the neighborhood online, etc and use StoryMaps to tell a current narrative of the neighborhood.
  • Create a Scavenger Hunt around NYC using Google Maps or StoryMaps that gives people an alternative history of the city – e.g. remaining public housing or cooperatives..
  • Use Timeline JS to tell a critical history of a particularly neighborhood such as the South Bronx or Jamaica. You can reflect on the practices of redlining, racial steering, etc and the consequences for the community. But also maybe how they are responding today to any contemporary threats.
  • Discuss an issue critically and curate as a podcast or video using YouTube or Soundcloud.
  • Create a WordPress site on Qwriting around a particular issue.
  • Use Storify to curate a twitter conversation you feel adds insight to an ongoing public debate or help tells us a story about public debate. For example, the “Criming while white” / “Criming while black” twitter conversation a few years ago.

Other topics

  • Examine an issue through the history of a particular statue or body of water or building or street, or neighborhood or mode of transportation etc of significance to you.
    • Tell a story of transportation inequality through the ‘eyes’ of Citi Bike, for example.

Project Timeline:

WEEK 1: Introduction to project and group assignments

WEEK 3: Proposals due (See template below).

WEEK 5/6/7: In-Class Peer Workshopping of final projects (More on structure below)

WEEK 7/8: Final Project due.

Proposal Template

(Students were asked to use the following template to complete their project proposals.)

Project Title: This should have a main title and a more descriptive sub-title, both should be specific to your project (e.g. The ‘Walking in My Shoes’ Project: A Radical Oral History Project).

Group Names (In alphabetical order)
Course, Semester, Year

General Description of the project. In one paragraph, give a description of the overall project. Be sure to highlight the key parts of the project succinctly and directly.

Topic Description. In 1-2 paragraphs, give more information specific to your issue/topic including a brief summary of the topic, and an outline of the key issues, arguments or perspectives on that topic.

Technology. In 1 paragraph, discuss the digital tool are you planning to use to tell your story, and give a rationale for choosing this one in particular.

Timeline to Completion. Fill in a list of deadlines for steps you need to take to complete this project. Consider when you want to have background research on the issue done. When do you want any written parts written by? Do you want to have a draft of the assignment done by a certain point? What do you need to have prepared before the peer workshop session on May 8th? This may require you first making a list of the tasks that need to be completed.

Week Countdown x Day / Date Corresponding Task Deadlines
Week 6 (W Apr 19) Proposal Submitted Friday 4/21
Week 5 (W Apr 26)
Week 4 (W May 3)
Week 3 (W May 10)  Peer Review on M 5/15. Prepare something to share.
Week 2 (W May 17)
Week 1 (W May 23)
   0       (F May 26) Turn assignment in.

Peer Workshopping

Below is the Peer Workshopping Worksheet that was shared and discussed with students in the lead up to our in-class workshopping session. The aim was to convey to students how they might prepare for a ‘successful’ workshopping experience – one in which they could give and receive constructive feedback that would improve their projects.

In creating this worksheet, I reviewed the suggestions of other educators who use the practice of peer workshopping in their classrooms. What I found was that while there are a myriad of tips and suggestions for conducting peer review available online, they largely focus on written text as the medium for workshopping.

The worksheet here attempts to rethink, reapply and expand on some of these principles with the aim of facilitating the peer workshopping of digital projects, which incorporate a myriad of ‘texts’ (images, video, audio, maps, etc) in conveying a point.

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