COM 1010 Web-enhanced Assignments Update

Debra, Carol, and I are in the process of developing our respective web-enhanced activities designed to target a (broad) challenge that we’re all facing in teaching COM 1010: how to guide students through thorough and effective processes of researching and developing appropriate organizing patterns for their speech assignments.  We all agreed that critical thinking skills were integral to meaningful engagement with these processes as well.

Here’s an update from each of us, describing where we are in the process of developing our activity:

From Carol:

This blog will focus on how to engage speech students in understanding and using presentation aids, one course goal for Communication Studies 1010, for undergraduate students at Baruch.

Many of our NYC students work full or part-time, and approach their studies from various multicultural and multiethnic world views. This means more than ever that higher ed must incorporate ways to enhance scholarship and build collegiality in and beyond the classroom.

Higher Education can accommodate those differing world views and new realities by utilizing the surge of new technologies to aid creative and engaged sharing of ideas and expanding the traditional f2f classroom to web based or hybrid.

Researching for support materials for speeches, in particular, selecting an aid that emphasizes an idea or point is a struggle for many students because it includes acquisition of and applying critical and ethical thinking skills and new ways to study.

I’ll provide a rational, describe some of the literature, types of aids and technology, necessary ethical and critical thinking skills; a web based activity that can migrate to hybridization; discuss considerations /implications/risks including issues for inexperienced students, and concerned teachers, and offer solutions in technology, checklists, and grading and scheduling; and summaries of links of helpful current news.


From Debra:

Like Zohra with the 3-D printer, I’ve absorbed a lot from recent exposure to Makey Makey technology ( and have been wanting to incorporate it into the COM 1010 classroom. This assignment is very much a work-in-progress right now and I have a number of questions scattered throughout.

For my assignment, students will utilize Makey Makey and VOCAT to develop and organize a process speech with the goal that audience members will be able to perform the process themselves. The assignment will focus specifically on organizing a message, outlining a speech, and supporting main points with visual aids.

Prior to the assignment: students do reading on “Speaking to Inform” and get an introduction to Makey Makey.

Workshop: Groups (of 2-4?) will devise a unique way to use Makey Makey to operate a program (game, sounds, keyboard, typing etc.) on a computer. They will be given flip cameras to document their process with video and pictures (can this happen?). I envision this as one class period, possibly two (at BLSCI or computer lab?).

Outside of class: The groups will post a video of their process to VOCAT and will annotate the video, using it to identify the main points and sub-points of the process that they would incorporate into a speech outline. From that video and its annotations, groups will create a preparation outline for their speech, attempting to describe the process in 3-4 main points, with appropriate sub-points and details supporting each main point. Groups will also be tasked to provide at least two pieces of visual support, such as clips from the video (questions: can this actually work? How difficult is the process of pulling out sections of the video? Could they use VOCAT to quickly find the places they want to play?), pictures of their experiments, screenshots, etc. for each main point in their speech. Groups will post their outlines (where? to class blog, on later version of VOCAT?) and get feedback from the instructor.

In-class: As a team, students will present a 3-4 minute speech with the goal of giving the audience the ability to perform their action with the Makey Makey by the end of the speech.

Groups will write a short reflection after their speech and post it to the blog/their VOCAT page.

I envision this as a warm-up to a longer, individual Informative Speech that would incorporate research. This assignment practices organizing information and finding support for main points in a contained way, so I’m interested in how it could prepare students for organizing information in a longer speech where they have to gather research.


From Julia:

The need:
In thinking about the research and organization components of COM 1010, I am particularly concerned these days with finding ways of reconciling COM 1010’s “contentless” nature with my conviction that it is impossible to develop meaningful oral communication skills without engaging in a meaningful thought process. In other words, you can’t speak well if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, and clear speech is integrally connected to clear thinking.

I’ve continued to struggle with the course’s informative speaking assignment. Whereas in the personal speech at the beginning of the semester, and the persuasive speech at the end, in which I find that students are motivated to thoroughly explore their topics, in preparing for the informative speech, I find that students frequently get stuck at a superficial level of developing knowledge and ideas. Partially this is because it’s hard to know what to say when the assignment isn’t about making an argument.

I want to develop an assignment that uses web-enhanced techniques to scaffold student processes of engaging with their informative speech topics, developing meaningful knowledge, and thinking critically about the optimal way to organize this content into an informative speech.

The context:
This activity will guide student preparations for drafting their informative speech outline. My informative speech assignment, a group speech, requires students to visit a museum exhibit of their choice and to combine the content of the exhibit with several additional sources to prepare an informative speech that teaches their audience about the content, themes, examples, etc. of the exhibit. While some groups are very successful, others choose simplistic exhibits and/or gather perfunctory information and fail to develop the level of knowledge (and interest) necessary for a successful informative presentation.

The activity:
Students within each group will use an online tool to visually represent the information they have gathered about their topic (from the exhibit and elsewhere), and to share and collectively develop understanding of the topic. They will use this web tool for posting images, sharing observations, asking questions, making connections, identifying themes, and ultimately exploring organizing patterns for turning their shared knowledge into an effective group presentation.

The tool:
My first thought was to use Instagram, but since I have never used Instagram myself, I’m not completely clear on how flexible it is and whether or not it can really do what I want it to do. If not, I’ll need to find an alternative. I started exploring Instagram last night, but it doesn’t seem all that intuitive. This is where I need help. What web tools would allow a group of three people to essentially create an online storyboard for posting images, making notes and comments associated with the images, as well as posting memos not directly connected to a particular image?

The logistics:
I still need to work out detailed requirements. I’d like to avoid micromanaging the assignment, but without guidelines, students won’t have a sense of how thorough I expect their work to be. I’m thinking of requiring something like this:

Each student is responsible for:
• Posting 5 images, with labels contextualizing the image and providing some explanation
• Posting at least three observations about images posted by other members
• Posting at least three questions (factual or more analytical) about images and content associated with them
• Responding to at least three questions or comments from other group members
• Identifying and posting two major themes of the exhibit, writing a few sentences explaining the theme
• Suggesting one possible organizing pattern for structuring the speech (in terms of what each body paragraph will be about, and the order)

Of course I need to fine-tune these directions, figure out a time frame, and decide whether or not this activity will take the place of a f2f class session. To be continued…


Over the next day, the three of us will be responding to each others’ projects and discussing the implications of each.  Tomorrow we will post more developed descriptions of the activities we are designing, accompanied by analyses of their implications for students and instructors.  We welcome your thoughts!




One thought on “COM 1010 Web-enhanced Assignments Update”

  1. This looks really interesting!
    Carol: the idea of a blog as a place to hold the information you produce is excellent and the process of deciding what to focus on is exemplary (learning goal/definition of student needs and how technology could help/articulation of specific challenge students face/explanation of deliverables and site content). I wonder who you intend your audience to be: instructors, students, or both? This will likely affect how you structure the site. Also, how do you envision keeping the “current news” current? I’m sure you have some ideas, but we can offer some suggestions too, if this remains something you want to keep on your blog.

    Debra: First, I’ll tackle your specific questions. Flipcams? Yes. With advance planning. The library has 30 Flipcams to loan to students, as well as other camcording devices:
    I’m not operating from the vantage point of a faculty member here, though, and from my experience as a contingent faculty member at other CUNY campuses for the past decade, I know that what should be available isn’t always what is actually available, so this information should be taken with a grain of salt. This transitions nicely to how I will deflect your Vocat questions about the upgrade’s enhanced functionality, which Luke can answer in more detail. Now onto more general pedagogical responses!
    You start from the vantage point of experimentation, specifically with an intriguing technology. You’ve read about Erica Kauffman’s forays into using Makey-Makey in composition classes, I’m sure–I’d imagine these would give you some fodder. I’m particularly impressed with how you meaningfully connect the tech with the process and the intended result. Not only will the students learn two new technologies, they will learn a necessary skill for the class. A few things to consider: how much time do you envision for f2f tutorials getting the students up to speed on the Makey-Makeys? And is there any way to upload some tech training online (for example, a faculty member using 3-D printing from our seminar this spring decided to provide some tutorials from online to reduce the in-class tech instruction)? Finally, as a low stakes assignment, a warm-up, this sequence may be quite time consuming and I can (happily) see students becoming very absorbed. Something to consider: whether it would make sense to scaffold elements of this assignment into the more substantive research-based one you describe.

    Julia: There was an article in the Times today about how the Met is trying to establish a presence on Instagram:
    In terms of web tools, I wonder which ones you have tried already…Storify, Zoho docs, even Prezi could be interesting, or aggregate tools like Flipboard, Scoopit (although they might not offer the annotation possibilities you seek). You might check out Diigo, which is good for annotating. Glogster would be neat, but it costs a little bit of money. If you let me know a few more details about what you want from a tool then I am happy to do some legwork for you and apply your criteria to some of the above tools and others and give you clearer options.

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