At Centre College, we often ask our students to engage in risk-taking by engaging in unfamiliar academic practices, challenging them to expand beyond familiar boundaries and discover new and exciting ways of learning. Jay Bloom, Associate Professor of Art History and Humanities, engaged in risk-taking of his own when he created and taught ARH 305, Visualizing Centre’s History. The course had its introduction at Centre College during the spring 2017 semester, and he hopes to teach this course again in fall 2018. Bloom says his main interest in developing this course was to try to build a class that demonstrated the relevance of studying visuality, while encouraging students to understand the discipline as something useful to them in 2017.
The course was designed so that through project-based experiences, students would be able to “forge a correspondence between their classroom experience and their professional experience,” Bloom explained. Students ultimately got public exposure as they navigated the professional world, learning the importance of coordinating and adjusting their own schedules to meet the needs of working professionals while collecting information and data for their projects. As they interacted with individuals such as the college archivist and librarians at the Boyle county library, students learned how to conduct themselves professionally outside the realm of the classroom. Bloom stated that “they engaged outside the classroom in ways that were categorically different from the norms of experience, particularly in humanities.”
One aspect of this course that was particularly challenging for Bloom, but also quite rewarding for both him and his students, is that he removed himself as the main authority in the classroom. Instead of lecturing, the class was entirely project driven. He indicated that students determined their own working agendas, went to the archives to work on primary research, developed the digital tools necessary to do the project, and conducted interviews. His students learned how to acquire the skills necessary to use digital editing tools such as iMovie, Scalar, JuxtaposeJS, and SketchUp in order to complete their projects. Acting as a student alongside them and serving only as a guide and collaborator, Bloom noted that “most students liked learning with me, instead of simply from me.”
Bloom discovered that he loves teaching this way and indicated that both he and the students learned so much throughout the semester. Both he and the students loved the flexibility of the course structure and the potential it created for students to identify areas that they were particularly adept at and areas where they needed to improve. He is quick to say that when he teaches this particular class again, he will emphasize the importance of teamwork and how it is evaluated. He ultimately wanted students to learn that they were responsible to themselves and to each other more than they were to him as the instructor.
By the end of the term, each team of students not only successfully collaborated to complete their projects, but they each had a tangible product – a website – to represent different aspects of Centre’s history. Students in Bloom’s ARH 305 course learned necessary organizational and digital skills, interacted with the professional world, and created fantastic projects that Bloom hopes will contribute to Centre’s Bicentennial celebrations in 2019.
Below are links to two of the completed student projects from Bloom's class. The first is a clip of one of the virtual campus reconstructions, the second a link to the Kentucky College for Women Scalar project page.
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