During the Spring 2022 semester, I modified my Spanish 300: Conversation, Composition, and Culture course to include a new digital component, a Domain that hosted a WordPress class blog, to enhance and elevate student learning. During the Spring 2021 semester, with Taylor Jadin’s expertise and assistance, I implemented a Domain that hosted a WordPress blog in my Spanish 389: Spanish in the U.S. with service-learning class. Students posted their critical reflections on their service-learning experiences on our WordPress blog, engaging in dialogue with each other and making connections between their service-learning experiences and the course content. The change that I proposed and implemented as a Spring 2022 Practicing Digital Fellow built on the success of using a Domain and WordPress blog in my Spanish 389 class during the Spring 2021 semester. During the Spring 2022 semester, I used a WordPress blog, hosted on our course Domain, in my Spanish 300 class for students’ written reflections on and reactions to cultural readings, films, and podcasts that we discussed in class rather than using a Moodle forum, as I did when I previously taught the class in the Spring 2020 semester. I also utilized the WordPress blog in my Spanish 300 course in a new way by having students create a video for their final oral presentation that they shared with the class through our WordPress blog.
Incorporating this new technology into my Spanish 300 course served two purposes: 1) Help to (re)build community in the classroom to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2) Provide students the opportunity to further develop their writing and speaking skills in Spanish. These two objectives were intertwined, as students built community through their written reflections and final oral presentation videos posted on our WordPress course blog and their comments on classmates’ blog posts.
The plan was implemented during the entire Spring 2022 semester, with some initial preparation and work occurring in January before spring classes began. Cassie Nooyen and Nick Plank in ITS helped me create the Domain and set up our WordPress course blog in January, so students were able to access and begin using the site shortly after spring classes began. Annicka Rabida in ITS visited my class to show students how to use our WordPress course blog before their first written reflection was due. Annicka also helped us with the logistics of creating the video (i.e., which platform to use – YouTube, Loom, Zoom, etc.) for the final oral presentation assignment and how to upload it to our WordPress course blog. I am grateful for the excellent support that Annicka, Cassie, and Nick provided, as their assistance greatly contributed to the success of my Digital Fellows project.
Inclusive design was part of my plan, and it was implemented by allowing students to choose one of the three to four cultural readings, films, or podcasts per unit discussed in class to focus on rather than writing about each work discussed in class for each of the four written reflection assignments on our blog. This allowed students to reflect on the reading, film, or podcast that most resonated with them within a given unit and ultimately led to richer exchanges on our blog since each student did not write about the same reading, film, or podcast from a given unit. In addition, I provided students a list of questions about each reading, film, and podcast discussed in class to guide them in the writing process.
Incorporating a WordPress blog into my Spanish 300 course elevated student learning in several ways because it built digital literacies, skills, and citizenship while deepening students’ understanding of course content. Of the five digital competencies within Bryn Mawr’s Digital Competencies Framework, Digital Communication is the one that aligned with my project. The Digital Communication competency necessarily involves developing competency in collaborative communication, digital writing and publishing, and audiovisual analysis and production. Students in my Spanish 300 course developed competency in collaborative communication and in digital writing and publishing through their written reflections and comments on classmates’ reflections on our WordPress course blog. In addition, students in my Spanish 300 course developed competency in audiovisual analysis and production through their final oral presentation video assignment. Through our WordPress course blog, students continued developing both their written and oral communication skills in Spanish in an engaging, meaningful way, as they deepened their connections with each other and with the course content. In addition, this change in my Spanish 300 course facilitated community building as we emerge from the pandemic via a medium, blogging, that is familiar to many students. This change in my Spanish 300 course facilitated community building because students were constantly in dialogue with each other as they reflected on cultural readings, films, and podcasts discussed in class on our WordPress course blog and as they commented on each other’s final oral presentation video. Importantly, the digital literacies and skills that students developed in my Spanish 300 course this semester will also serve them in future courses and in their future careers.
Assessment is an important part of measuring the effectiveness of changes we make to our teaching. I used a rubric, which was shared with students via Moodle before the first due date (February 14, 2022), to assess if students reached the learning objectives of the WordPress blog reflections. Students reached the learning objectives of the WordPress blog reflections if their reflections were their interpretation and analysis, rather than a summary, of the cultural reading, podcast, or film discussed in class and if their comments on classmates’ posts were substantive and critical. The objective of commenting on peers’ work was to engage in further dialogue about the cultural readings, podcasts, and films first discussed in class. The fact that students regularly commented on more than one classmate’s reflection, which was the minimum requirement, indicates that students valued and enjoyed this assignment and their interaction with each other. I also used a rubric, which was shared with students via Moodle before the due date (May 6, 2022), to assess if students reached the learning objectives of the final oral presentation video assignment. Students reached the learning objectives of the final oral presentation video assignment if they created an original video in which they spoke spontaneously (i.e., they did not read or use notes) and entirely in Spanish in response to the prompt provided.
In conclusion, students’ written reflections on our WordPress course blog and their comments on classmates’ posts led to more dynamic, richer in-class discussions of assigned cultural readings, films, and podcasts. In addition, the final presentation video assignment supported the continued development of students’ presentation, listening, and critical thinking skills in Spanish while they created lasting connections with the course content. I look forward to continuing to use WordPress for students’ written reflections and final oral presentations when I teach Spanish 300 again in the future, as it is an effective and meaningful way to develop students’ communication skills while building community.