While I have found #DigPINS weeks 1 and 2 to be interesting and helpful, this is the week I have been looking forward to. I was hoping for a little pedagogical inspiration, though I didn’t have a particular need in mind. I think I have found it, and not where I would have expected it. Of all of my classes, the one for which I didn’t think a digital tool would be particularly helpful is my service learning course. Mainly this is because the class works under the assumption that we do our best learning in the field, in the moment, with real life commitment. However, those real life learning moments have to be consolidated. This is where the digital can play a role.
One of the central components in a service learning course is reflection (here and also here). In the last few years, I have worked on a variety of techniques for making reflection a meaningful and informative piece of my courses that include an element of community engagement. This ranges from the small scale engagement of my Child Development students who volunteer as lunch buddies at a local elementary school to the larger scale engagement in my service learning course.
In my vaguely titled service learning course, Psychology in Context, students learn about early childhood education and the effects of poverty on families through readings, class discussion, service work, and reflection. Students volunteer each week in a local Head Start classroom and keep a journal of their reflections. Some of the reflections are free form, while others are responses to specific prompts. We spend a portion of class time allowing students to share some of their reflections and discuss common threads, as well as connections to the class materials. I, however, am the only one that gets to see the full complete journal. There is so much good content in these journals, but I have never figured out an effective way to allow the students to access each other’s journals or journals from previous years. I’ve tried to encourage Moodle discussions, but students were not nearly as chatty in these discussions as in their journals!
I have had several colleagues talk with me about how the good work that is happening in this class could be shared. I am newly inspired by Robin DeRosa to use these student reflections to build a book. I think this idea would be much more appealing than a Moodle chat. Not only would it provide a useful teaching tool for future iterations of the course, but it will also be more generally appealing as an illustration of the value of service learning, particularly in a liberal arts setting.
Oh, and also, Sean Michael Morris’s point #4 is one of the more reassuring things I have read all summer!