Teaching With Technology
English professor Kim Jaxon incorporates technology into nearly every course she teaches.
Jaxon Co-Creates Online Technology Course for Faculty
For English professor Kim Jaxon, using technology in teaching is like breathing: it’s second nature. It’s rare for her to teach a class that doesn’t require her students to connect with others around the world through blogs, vlogs, social media, shared projects, and other web-based applications.
But Jaxon is aware not all of her colleagues share her affinity for all things digital. That’s why she accepted an offer this summer to help develop a curriculum to educate higher education faculty how to leverage the Internet to improve their teaching.
Jaxon helped create Connected Courses, a web-based curriculum designed by a network of other educators from around the world. The 14-week course launched Sept. 2 with the first in a series of seven sessions based on a variety of e-learning topics. Themes include web-based learning, e-tools, blogging, and diversity and privacy issues.
The project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation through the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which explores how the Internet and digital media are impacting education, civic engagement, and youth.
Jaxon helped develop the course at a weeklong conference in Irvine this summer with colleagues from Stanford, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, UC Irvine, and the University of Mary Washington.
“When I got the letter inviting me to participate, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and scream,” Jaxon said. “These are world-renowned educators and experts in their fields, people whose work I had read or was already reading.”
The course is centered on the concept of open learning—using the Web to collaborate, connect, and stimulate learning, bypassing the limitations of geography or proximity.
“One of our missions is to support faculty in higher education using freely available Web tools,” Jaxon said. “We happen to be in pretty good shape [at Chico State]—we’re digitally literate.
“The bigger mission is the idea of connected learning, which means we are helping our students connect with others across the country and go beyond the four walls of our classrooms. We’re connecting people doing similar kinds of work all around the world.”
At CSU, Chico, Jaxon regularly incorporates technology and the Web into the courses she teaches on composition theory, first-year writing, and English education.
In one class, she said, her students read books and then blog with eighth graders from Chico Country Day School, gaining real-world teaching experience. In another, her students tweet their ideas and get followed by major children’s book authors.
“They’re communicating with big-time authors, and they realize: This is real!” she said. “It changes their work, and it changes their attitudes toward their work.”
The advantage to Connected Courses, she said, comes in figuring out Web-specific issues like privacy.
“We’re blogging with eighth graders,” she said. “How do you make sure their stuff is not widely public? Or, some stuff you do want public. [Knowing the difference] is Web literacy.”
In addition to teaching, Jaxon serves as a digital curator for the National Writing Project’s website, Digital Is…, which provides examples and support to educators wanting to incorporate technology into their classrooms.
She is also the recipient of the 2014 Teacher of Excellence—College award from the California Association of Teachers of English.
Jaxon will facilitate the Oct. 13—26 Connected Courses session titled “The Web: Concept, Platform, Culture(s).” Admission is free to anyone, and the course can be accessed at http://connectedcourses.net.
—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications