This term I am teaching a newish course called Liberal Arts 101H: Rhetoric and Civic Life. It combines oral, written, and visual communication. How does it do that, you ask? By means of the digital. I will not touch paper this term, and yet my students will probably write double or triple what they write in a typical FYC course.
The course has two platforms: our classooms (in the plural because we have two different locations we meet--a regular classroom on Tuesday and Thursday, and a computer lab on Friday for our short lab session), and our blogs. Penn State has a typepad-based blog system. It isn't perfect--in fact I still have a damn rooster as the lead image--but we are all starting to get the hang of it.
I would position my technology skills directly at the midline of some imaginary spectrum, where the one side is very, very, very advanced (this side includes my buddy Spencer), and the other is "what's a URL"? So I'm not particularly good at this, and it took a lot of time to re-train myself on the blog system after my parental leave. But the thing is, students are both forgiving and helpful. Today in class, for example, we did some collective troubleshooting on the blog comment features. Two students, J and S, showed us how to allow people to comment. (But, "Air Jordan Shoes" or "Gucci bags," if you spam me and my students, I will lose it.)
I imagine the chaos of such collective finding-our-way would be offputting to a lot of teachers. But if you like to think of teaching as learning, then this might be a cool direction for you. Yesterday's class, for example, met at one of the campus's multimedia commons labs. We had a tour and an introduction to garage band (during which S and R laid down some goofy tracks), and to the video recording studio with a green screen (how cool is that?), the collaborative spaces, little cubicle-like rooms equipped with overstuffed chairs and/or conference tables, and more recording and editing equipment, and the whispering booths, little soundproof booths which are for recording podcasts, not for making out. And I learned about all of this right along with my students.
The chaos of getting settled in to the course is already giving way to focused collaboration. The students had a draft workshop today, conducted in our computer lab, using the blog comment features to respond to peer writing.
This class, in essence, is one semester-long experiment. I am looking forward to seeing where it ends up.