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In the Producer's Chair: Technology in the Classroom at Santa Clara University

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011

From YouTube to Wikipedia to iTunes and Second Life, professors at Santa Clara University are using technology to empower students to be more than simply passive, speedy consumers of Internet content.

Numerous professors are urging or requiring students to create content for websites like Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, and iTunes. In the process they say they are teaching students to be more skeptical about the accuracy or integrity of the material that has become a ubiquitous and integral part of their daily lives.

“When my students begin producing media, they get a much richer sense of what’s happening in the world,” said business school professor David Armstrong. “Being a more knowledgeable consumer now means they know that anyone can produce content, so they become more skeptical of the value of web material.”

Here is a sampling of the ways technology is being incorporated into the classroom at SCU.

* Law professor Eric Goldman, who teaches internet law and advertising law, offers his students the chance to fulfill part of their final requirements by creating a Wikipedia page on a chosen subject of legal research. About a quarter of his students take him up on it.

Millions of people potentially will read research that otherwise would only edify their professor or peers.

* Marketing professor Kirthi Kalyanam urges his students to use Twitter to issue short, 140-character observations about retail marketing techniques learned in class, while out in the world shopping.

One student Tweeted that Trader Joe’s, being a small store, had its “decompression zone” (an area designed to slow shoppers down and relax before shopping) outside, with flowers. Another Tweeted that Longs drug store was starting to sell ice cream as an impulse item. Another Tweeted about Costco’s samples and what a draw they are (something mainstream media has recently been covering.)

“Twitter is the ideal tool for this type of learning,” said Kalyanam. “It is a very impromptu, immediate, emotional tool. It’s meant to capture those things you aren’t going to have the patience to go back to later and capture, type a blog post, or e-mail.”

* Marc Bousquet, who teaches Internet Culture and Writing with New Media, assigned his students to produce “machinima” animated movies set in the virtual reality world of Second Life, which are then posted to YouTube.

This assignment required them to create actor “avatars,” “scout” a good location in the virtual world, and find new “skins” for the virtual set as needed. They then record the action in a 3-D environment, complete with voice-overs, sound, music and filmed avatar movements.

“Contemporary cultural literacy is informed by a do-it-yourself ethos,” said Bousquet. “Employers understand that it’s not just about being an informed culture consumer, but a savvy culture producer.” Studetns have gone on to jobs at Google, and graduate study at Yale and Oxford.

*David Armstrong – an OMIS professor whose field of study includes technology in the classroom — asks his students to post interviews to iTunesU; podcast an analysis of a series of iTunesU videos, including audio snippets from the videos; create blogs with at least five posts; and comment on other blogs.

“I teach them how to produce, and being on the producing side gives them a whole new perspective,” added Armstrong.   “They learn the myriad ways lies can be presented to passive surfers, and hopefully they become sharper consumers.”


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