Using social media for cultural case studies


Church at Tonantzintla, Puebla, Mexico


After conversations with Adam Morgan of IML, we agreed to design a group work project with low stakes in case it backfired. In addition to their individual case study assignments, groups were required to submit a group statement of approx. 500 words or a poster design on the overall theme that unites each of the 3 individual group assignments (12 groups in total). Students were encouraged to submit the content of their assignments through email or Dropbox in the format they felt most comfortable with.

I was surprised and impressed to see assignments submitted through WordPress, Blogspot, Prezi, web pages, Tumblr, and also standard formats (Power Point, PDF and Word docs with embedded images). The enthusiasm shines through in “all” assignments. Only one group chose to do a group poster (clever, highly successful – the negatives and positives of Brazil hosting the Olympics). Yet another group requested permission to submit an audio file based on a 20-minute faux US radio interview with invented experts on the topic of illegal immigration – a brilliant student initiative given the small group mark on offer (10%)! This seems to confirm my assumption that given the appropriate support, encouragement and freedom to self-direct and create, students will invest a lot of energy in projects, even ones that don’t have a lot of marks at stake, signalling that they have bought into the subject and are not just looking longingly for the end of semester.


Using Pinterest as a group exercise


Tabio, Cundinamarca, Colombia

As part of their cultural case studies students agreed to develop group Pinterest sites. Pinterest sites gives students another chance to self-direct their learning and curate their sites in collaboration with other group members.They were asked not to put just anything and everything in there but sites relevant to their topics and the subject. Some of the boards and pins are wrongly located, but they are a work in progress:

This was a low-stakes group exercise to complement other group work (the group submissions for cultural case studies worth 10% of final mark).

Surveying students mid-semester


Latino craftwork, Gila Bend gas station, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Paul Allatson

Students were surveyed again to test their reaction to flipped learning and group work after submission of their first major assignment – Cultural Case Study. The quality of the case studies, from my perspective as lecturer and tutor, are great. We are now negotiating how we will use the second half of the remaining tutorials.

Here is a copy of the questions: Survey 2 questions