The decisions I made in the implementation and delivery of my first three #Connected Classes to Level Four students were based upon a series of factors that had shaped the students learning experience since joining the Editorial and Advertising Photography BA (Hons) Degree at the University of Gloucestershire and my personal experience of creating and sustaining online communities through various social media platforms. These factors led me to re-configure aspects of the #Connected Classes implementation structure and therefore my conclusions from these initial workshops are based upon a bespoke structure developed from the basic toolkit.
The workshops were held within a large rectangular white photographic studio with no visual stimulation on any of the four walls, an environment both appropriate to the students chosen subject of study and one in which lectures are regularly held. The students are comfortable in this environment and it is very much part of their extended learning experience. The chosen film and audio content was projected onto one of the walls at a size large enough for all thirty-y five students to see and hear clearly. The content was therefore delivered as a shared experience with the opportunity being given to each student to raise their hands if they wished the content to be stopped or repeated at any point. This was an opportunity that was taken by a small number of students over the three workshops.
The workshops were delivered within the allotted time for a module they were taking titled ‘The Personal Portfolio’. This module encourages the students to explore areas of photographic specialization based upon their personal passions outside of photography. The module requires weekly review of work and the submission of a finished portfolio of work placed into a specific professional context. To supplement this learning I set the question ‘What is Professional Photography Now’ as the umbrella for the three #Connected Classes workshops but removed the workshops from any form of marking criteria.
I was able to utilize my existing twitter following @unofphoto of over 8,000 within the photographic community to both promote the content and start times of the classes to that community and make the classes truly open and connected.
The students response to the workshops was both enthusiastic and revelatory as the found themselves identifying themes independently of each other despite the joint experience of learning that reflected a majority of their fellow students. These themes centered on confidence, the need for collaboration, the need for creative risk taking, the importance of community and the power of social media to make connections. These were all themes that myself and colleagues had identified as particular issues with this group of students but the note taking tweeting process had put the power of identification of these themes into their own hands. This in turn produced an environment of openness and discussion within the group that developed as the workshops progressed.
Despite being asked not to respond to the workshops within their module workbooks most students did and responded positively on the experience. A number of students took the enriched Storify aspect of the process and re-imagined it as an effective form of visual research for other modules they were studying at the same time.
An interesting outcome of the workshops was the level of increased engagement by the students with the module the workshops were placed into. The quality of work submitted was of a much higher quality and informed nature with a level of research with their traditional workbooks of a much greater depth than in previous years. This level of submission resulted in an overall average increase of grade from a 3rd/D to a 2:2/C.
I will be continuing to work with #Connected Classes and the same group of students within a Professional Practice module in the 2016/17 academic year.
Grant Scott, Senior Lecturer, University of Gloucestershire