Digital Storytelling: Adventures in the First-Year Experience

Like many institutions, my university participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to measure programs and activities that enhance student learning and personal development. The purpose of NSSE is to help identify areas to improve the undergraduate experience in and out of the classroom.

The scholarship program that I coordinate hosts a first-year seminar course each fall for the 100 recipients of the award. The course is loosely based on the University 101 model framed by John Gardner when he was at the University of South Carolina. It follows an orientation and transition format and includes community-building activities for our program. We have a large group lecture for one hour each week and students meet in recitation groups of a dozen students for a second hour weekly.

In the NSSE spirit of enhancing the course experience and engaging our students, we try to integrate fun and a bit of technology for student projects. Our latest adventure was digital storytelling. Staff and peer mentors selected random movie genres, and a student from each recitation section drew from the genre options. We shared examples of digital storytelling and creating storyboards. We suggested task assignments such as videographer, actor, writer, and film editing to help the project go more smoothly. We made certain to review campus computer labs for the appropriate editing software in advance and provided this information to students. Finally, we stocked up on sale priced Flip Camcorders and gave this assignment to students:

  • Create a media project that embodies the transition to college and your first semester experience.
  • Final Project: No longer than 5 minutes and must include a flash mob.

The final productions were screened during our class “Film Festival” complete with popcorn and soda. Students were encouraged to vote for “Best Picture” and create award categories to fit the projects. Winning productions were featured on our student-run cable news channel.


There were a few bumpy roads throughout the ten-week project, but overall the response and student evaluations of the project assured us that students were engaged and most importantly, community was achieved. On an unexpected side note, our first semester grade point average rose to the highest level in five years, with no change in entering student academic profile. Of course we already look forward to repeating the project with our next student cohort.


Check out the final productions and let me know what you think.

Mystery/Thriller

Blair Witch

Western

Romantic Comedy

Action/Adventure

Musical

Crime/Gangster Part I and Part II

Zombie

Advertisements

Twitter me this…tools for campus


Found a great list of tools for utilizing Twitter in the classroom this week. Many of these applications would be fun for first-year seminar activities, but I think I may do some investigating for adding a dimension to our peer leadership course.


What is your experience with Twitter in the classroom? Any favorites on this list?

Facebook for Orientation Webinar Recap

This post originally appeared at The Student Affairs Blog.

I had the pleasure of joining a “Facebook for Orientation” Webinar with Jennifer Sherry of Virginia Commonwealth and Beth Oakley with University of Windsor. While my colleagues shared how Facebook can be utilized at the university and department level to communicate and engage students, I shared the use of Facebook in a first-year seminar for community building and networking within a specific program.  

Much of my campus time is spent coordinating a
 scholarship program that enrolls 100 new students each year (I should be reading applications right now). These students have long been Facebook users, as I shared here. Inspired by ideas from Tania Dudina over at the Student Leader Blog, I took advantage of that Facebook comfort and created a social networking assignment for the course last fall.


To introduce the topic, I shared my own social networks and links for our program Facebook accounts, a
 group and a profile. This video explanation of social networks was helpful and moved the emphasis beyond Facebook privacy settings to the actual functions of a social network. 


Social Networking Assignment

1. Identify and join a new social network. Try Facebook, if not already a member (98% were Facebook users).

  • A list of networks is available here.
  • Upon creating your new social network profile, identify 5 new friends or links. Make a screenshot of your new network homepage, save as a jpg, attach, and submit via email.

2. Now that you are on Facebook, locate an alumni/ae of the program with whom to link.

  • Interview your new alumni link regarding their advice for first-year students, favorite memories, motivational quotes or career choices.
  • Create a PowerPoint slide of your alumni interview highlights. Submit it as an email attachment.

Response to this assignment was favorable and students researched a variety of creative networks. Many of our alumni are new Facebook users and enjoyed the opportunity to link back with the program. Next fall we will include the alumni assignment and may introduce blogging and wikis. We’ll see where it takes us.

Many thanks to the folks at Swift Kick for coordinating the webinar!

What’s Your Fortune?


At the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, I picked up some great classroom activities from Loriann Irving, of Kutztown University. Loriann has built a creative portfolio of interactive exercises for use in her first-year seminar course.


She shared this activity for test or assignment review titled Fortunate Questions. Supplies needed include strips of paper (large enough for writing) and individual fortune cookies from the Asian foods aisle at your grocery or a specialty foods store.

Provide each student with a fortune cookie and strip of paper. Highlighting a textbook chapter, article, or other project, ask students to review pages or portions of recent assignments that will be on the next exam or are important in the course. Request that they write questions on the strips of paper. Collect the fortune papers in a basket, mix them up, then have students draw one from the basket. In a go-round, ask students to read the question they have selected and respond for the class.

Getting to know you? Create a cover story!


Here is a great idea for getting to know a new class of students at the beginning of the semester: ask students to create a magazine cover! It comes from Barbara Nixon, an assistant professor at Georgia Southern. I follow Barbara’s blog and on Twitter because she is always sharing great gems such as this assignment for her Public Relations course. I may utilize the concept to introduce our peer leaders to new first-year students, still letting the idea percolate. 


Of course, I am partial to magazine covers. The image above is the birth announcement for my son (created without the handy-dandy website!)