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Case Study: Exploring Contemporary France

FRNCH 250. Professor Martine Guyot-Bender, Hamilton College

Please provide the course description as it appears in the catalog and the typical enrollment for the course.

Typical enrolment is 12-15 -- last year I had 22 students.

What are the learning goals of the media assignment(s) in the course. If your course assignments contain both analysis and creative production components, describe the learning goals of each.

The goals of the course is to familiarize students with contemporary France recent history, politics and various aspects of French culture (including popular culture, environment etc..) using a variety of sources, including traditional --textbooks-- and web base resources (over 50%). I want students to gain independence and analytical skills when considering French sources they find on the internet, especially sources they have not familiarity with (and in a different language.)

What are the relationships of the media assignment(s) to the other aspects of the course?

The entire project counted for 30% of the grade: 5% for the research (relevance and depth of the subject) and 10% presentation (those were group grades) and 10% for the individual written paper.

The assignment requested that students project some of the course content onto interests of the own: originality and organization of information were key in my evaluating the project.

Describe your assignment design/structure.

The main creative part was small (but I had other smaller media assignments): students had to present the result of a three week research using web sources on subject that was close to the content of the class, but not on the syllabus per se. They met me to discuss their subject; I gave them some ideas of where to look for information (in some cases we actually search the web together in my office); saw them a second time to "approve" the sites they were using. They presented the results in class (they could not make their entire presentation using blackboard), got feedback from me, and each wrote a 4 page paper on one aspect of the research, using their resources and my feedback. Other students had to take notes during the presentation.

Here are some examples (good ones): One group did their research on the popular events around the Ramadan in Paris; another one researched compared wind mill and nuclear base production of electricity in France; another one looked at the history and development of the French legion. Each group had to present a contrastive point of view (that is to say find websites that presented different position on their topic.)

Less satisfying researches were not analytical enough, or had a "tourist" flare which did not fit an academic course.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of visual/aural literacy?

Usage of images that could support students' analysis (since they are dealing with a culture they are not familiar with, choosing images is not as obvious as it seems), but also (which is crucial in this type of class that is taught in a non native language) listening to documents in French with no subtitles (next year, I will ask that at least one sites used for the research have an aural component --interview?)

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of information literacy?

Students must decide (and, in some respect, justify to me, the instructor ) why a site was acceptable and why it may not be. Because they find their own material (which I did not control at first), the assignment forced them to be more creative, but more analytical, not only on the content, but on the origin of the content: we assume that everything that is in the library is acceptable...

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of technology skills?

Very little: most students are much more skilled at using the web. I could ask for more, but am not really interested at this point, for this class.

What are the resources necessary for your assignment (content/materials, institutional support, equipment)?

A smart classroom, blackboard... hardly any IT support -- some students went to the MPC to get their power point better, but I think that is all).

Describe how you evaluated the project outcomes? Did you evaluate process? Outcomes? Both?

I evaluated some of the process, but could have done that more. I evaluated the topic and the depth to which students explored that topic, but not really how they got to their topic and how they chose their sites.

Estimate the time invested in the project by you, your students, and academic support staff.

Not much for me: 2 individual meetings with 6 groups: about 12 hours maybe, and let's say 5-6 hours responding to emails with specific questions. Then: write in depth report on the presentation, and grade the paper (which I would have done for any other assignment).

Students said they spent a lot of time researching --too much information!! It is hard to say: 15-20 hours altogether? But, they all reported they really liked the research.

How many times have you taught this course/assignment? What would you do differently next time?

This is the second time I teach this course with most of course material from the web. Next time:

  1. I will ask students to find sites on one subject, bring their material in class and analyze it in class (origin of the site, use of supporting images, general presentation, quality of aural material)
  2. For the project: request that some of the sites have an important aural component, and use some of that component during class presentation.
  3. Final: recap of the entire syllabus and class presentation in one document (like an electronic poster).

What is your level of expertise with respect to media technologies and scholarship?

I am really good with searching the web, especially in France -- I have little expertise when it comes to plugging in anything in a machine or using new application (if I do not use something on a daily basis, I forget.)

I have attended several media narrative workshops on and off campus (including a full time two-week one).

I am involved in Cinema and New Media studies at Hamilton (but I am not good with machines)

Previous iterations of this course including an instructor created model, instructor comments and students projects can be found here.