USD Psychology Professor Dr. Patty Kowalski wanted her fall 2016 Psychology 101 students to do more than write papers only she would read. So she assigned them the task of creating a magazine based on course concepts.
Kowalski wanted to get her students excited about science writing, foster a sense of community within her class, and give her students the experience of publishing their work. Why is the latter important? Anne Davis at Edublog Insights sums it up: “The worldwide audience provides recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. It gives them motivation to excel…”
In pairs, students wrote a 2-3 page article about an introductory psychology topic. As Kowalski’s instructional design and technology liaison, I:
- Compiled resources for finding images acceptable for non-commercial use (e.g. Creative Commons licensed works, and the differences between the licenses)
- Taught the class:
- Why proper citation of images is important
- How to use Creative Commons and other image search engines
- How to submit papers via Turnitin in Blackboard, so that they knew whether they’d properly attributed citations in their work
- Learned the Madmagz software and partnered with Kowalski to set up the workflow and publish the magazine
Here is the handout I distributed in class. The students spent three weeks writing and editing, and Kowalski published the final version of the magazine on the last day of class.
The overwhelming majority of students liked the idea of the project and said it was “fun,” “great,” and “fantastic!” Most liked working together and liked the idea of sharing and seeing one another’s articles. Their feedback included:
- “It was more exciting than just turning in an article.”
- “I enjoyed learning about others’ discoveries.”
- “I liked the assignment and being able to share it. It gave the class the ability to learn new, random things.”
- “I liked the magazine article. It incorporates an element of interactive learning that I did not experience in other classes…the project was fun.”
- “I think it is a cool way to see everyone, our class as a whole, come together to share what we thought was interesting.”
- One student mentioned writing a “scientific” article for a “general” audience: “I enjoyed thinking about how to grab the general population’s attention while staying scientifically accurate with citations.”
- And one said…“I liked the Madmagz assignment quite a bit. As someone who wants to write for a living and has some interest in psych it was a good way to develop my understanding of both subjects.”
- The templates and layouts were spiffy and clean, but formatting within was very limited. Students could not add an extra text box, for example, or use multiple fonts or font sizes in one editable region.
- Once students submitted their articles, they could not edit them.
- Students’ could not see (and critique) others’ work–only their own, hindering the collaborative process.
- Some students submitted their pages twice if they needed to make changes, making a little more work for the professor.
- A student accidentally made her own magazine. There was no way to merge it with the class magazine, so she had to start over.
- Once the final version of the magazine was published, no edits could be made.
Professor Kowalski’s Reflections
Kowalski was quite pleased with how the project turned out, and shares some lessons learned for next time:
Start earlier, and partner with the Writing Center! We started the process just before Thanksgiving, when there were only a few weeks remaining in the semester. Students would have learned more critical writing skills with more time and attention to their writing.
Standardize! Next time, instructions, topics, format, how to attribute sources, etc. will be standardized. Because we started so late, we were flying by the seats of our pants at times. There were several things we didn’t think about until after the project was underway, such as where to put image citations, which led to some students just not doing it.
Provide a sample finished product.
Use a program with Google Docs-esque collaborative functionality so students can give and get peer feedback. One of the things the students said they liked best about the project was “sharing,” so the limited collaboration was a problem.
Set aside more time for instruction on how to use the software. We had 30 minutes during one class period Thanksgiving week…when students tend to skip class.
Give students feedback on their articles before they start creating their magazine entries. Editing in Madmagz was somewhat difficult, so compiling finished papers into Madmagz would have made the process much smoother.
Click the image below to read Dr. Kowalski’s class magazine!