TECH2002 Studies in Digital Technology 2007-2008
‘Studies in Digital Technology’ is a contextual studies module for media students in the Division of Technology in the Faculty of Computing Sciences and Engineering. The module aims to apply critical concepts to the study of digital media texts, services and products. In recent years, this has meant an increasing focus on the technologies associated with the concept of ‘Web 2.0’.
Students took part in a group project that was assessed through an individual coursework portfolio. The project involved making and/or using media technologies combined with the insight of critical reflection. The groups had to choose one of six technological areas (identified by the 2007 Horizon Report) associated with network media such as the web and mobile phones identified as a focus:
- user-generated content
- social networking
- mobile phones
- virtual worlds
- new modes of electronic publishing
- massively multiplayer online gaming.
The most popular topics were social networking, mobile phones and virtual worlds.
Students used a number of Web 2.0 tools. A group blog and wiki in Blackboard was used to plan and prepare group assessments, and to analyse current developments in digital technology. Individual notebooks were also kept using Tiddlywiki to log and reflect upon their personal progress through the project. I used my own blog and wiki in Blackboard to feed ideas and good practice to the students.
It was suggested that the student blogs could be used as communication tools to think aloud and write about their research, sharing it with others, but the blogs tended to be used more like email than reflective journals. The wikis were set up to be information storehouses for publishing the group’s research. The wikis were very slow in developing and the students had to be prompted to work on the presentation, content and navigation of the wikis to make them more effective in time for assessment, and this got a good response.
Students were encouraged to think about two critical frameworks – Critical Technical Practice (CTP), the hands-on analysis of the values that are designed into technologies and how they might be altered, and Experience Centred Design (XcD), or a concern for user experience in technology with an emphasis on felt experience. However, most groups found it difficult to apply these methodologies with any confidence. But there was some good reflection on experience and primary research. One group compared living with and without mobile phones and social networks, another group held a party in Second Life. Overall, traditional weaknesses were exposed. Poor organizational, critical and writing skills were in evidence. Some were empowered by the use of social technologies, but others were as challenged as they would have been by more traditional forms of learning and assessment. Just as with traditional reading and writing, we cannot assume that students will be comfortable with the literacy of read/write web tools, especially where use is prescribed. It will be interesting to see how students will respond to a greater freedom to choose appropriate tools as a framework of assessment as the module develops next year. Is it going to be possible to foster critical literacies and informed decision making about the use of appropriate social tools in response to providing evidence for assessment purposes?