June 17, 2016 mgoudz

A Look Back, A Look Forward

looking backWriting by Mike Goudzwaard | Image by Graham Holiday (Flickr) CC-BY-NC 2.0

This was originally published in Teaching Out Loud, a collaborative blog produced with Michael Evans, on June 17, 2016. 

It’s Wednesday at 11:10 AM and I’m walking down from my office to join the second to last class meeting of Film 7 for a student-led discussion. These student-led sessions usually happen weekly on Fridays, but in this last week of the term, Friday has been reserved for looking back at the course and looking back at Dartmouth history through the Rauner Library’s special collection.

I park myself at the Orange group station and listen in as the discussion leaders challenge teams to design their own digital protest as they are unpacking Zapatismo in Cyberspace: an interview with Ricardo Dominguez. I roll my chair over to the Green team and join their design jam. I won’t get into specifics of what we discussed since the content of class discussion should stay in class discussion.

I will tell you that in this conversation, as in other times I’ve joined discussion groups in this course, I play the historian, someone who has been alive since the ‘70s, but usually brings up events from the 2000s (when the students were 6 or so), or even a year ago. I mention the Yale students who built a better course catalog, complete with course evaluation information, much to the disapproval of the institution. The protest, if you will, was to reformat data created by students (course evaluations) for students data-driven decisions (course registration). This “protest” happened in 2014, beyond the horizon of historical knowledge for first-year college students. We take a moment to get up to speed on the facts of this example.

Two days later, the final day of the class and Film 7, we meet in a classroom in the Rauner Special Collections Library. Digital Collections & Oral History Archivist Caitlin Birch asks if anyone has ever been to Rauner before. One student says she has been there with her father who was looking for an article he wrote 40 years ago while a he was a student at Dartmouth. They found the article.

Rauner regularly host classes for sessions where librarians and archivists teach through the collection. One question that has been present in Film 7 is, “How do we preserve and archive our own writing and work in a digital age?” Software changes, hard drives fail, and laptops are upgraded. Chances are you won’t graduate with the same laptop you used your first year in college. Where does all your stuff live? This was exemplified earlier in the term when students were asked to bring in their best work from their previous writing courses, just a term or two earlier.

Beyond one’s own personal writing, how do we preserve the work of social movements, maybe those things that didn’t make it into the official media? The special collection is an archive of Dartmouth’s history, including social protests and activism from previous decades.

“Who has heard about the Divest Dartmouth movement?”

A few hands go up.

“This wasn’t the first divestment movement at Dartmouth, in the 60’s students wanted Dartmouth to divest from Kodak.”

Materials are distributed on the tables.

I join a group and we read the minutes from a meeting of students and faculty in 1967. The issue at hand in that meeting was whether Dartmouth should divest from Kodak due to its practice of not hiring African American workers. The group I’m sitting with passes the pages around, taking mental notes of who was present at the meeting, what the issues were, what students requested, and how the college representatives responded. If you would like to know more, I suggest you visit Rauner and request the Kodak papers from 1967.

In the feedback on the course, one student said this session at Rauner was the highlight of the course.

After the discussion, there is final work to turn in, including political broadside political posters and final paper revisions. If you’re on campus look for these broadside posters, particularly around Novak Cafe.

Stop Fox & CNN Refugees Are People Too!

Stop Fox & CNN Refugees Are People Too!

Photo by Mike Goudzwaard

In the final minutes of the class, Michael handed back the 3×5 cards that each student had filled out with their learning goals on the first day of class. Then, in Canvas, students were asked to:

1) Write 1 paragraph on how your writing has developed in FILM7. Did you improve what you wanted to improve? Why or why not? What would you like to improve about your writing in future classes?

2) Write 1 paragraph on how your learning has developed in FILM7. Do you know more about your own learning process than when we started? Why or why not? What would you like to improve about your own learning in future classes?

With that final look back, the class is over.

We ask students to reflect on their learning, to reach beyond what happened to how and why it happened. This metacognitive practice is important for us educators too. Looking back on a class, how goals were met or not, how plans evolved, and where would we start next time.