My students’ final exam is due tomorrow. I’m actually quite proud of the design of this exam because it plays on every aspect of new media, even in the design. First, it’s combinatorial. Students write an essay for each artifact that they studied, choose two readings, two frameworks and one insight, write a question and answer it. It’s not like most essay exams because it requires so much creativity and piecing together all that they learned. Yet, it will show what they’re passionate about and help us see which readings mattered to them and which frameworks worked. Not only will it help us evaluate the students, it will let us evaluate the course itself. Conveniently, it’s also something that can be done in takehome fashion without too much worry about cheating (because goddess knows i never want to prosecute another cheating case ever again).
The biggest problem i’m learning as students ask me questions is that they do not really know how to engage theoretical frameworks in an essay. In trying to explain this to them, i discovered a good method (which was recently confirmed by a friend who uses the same method). Tell students to imagine having a conversation with an author or authors about a subject. Ask them to imagine how that conversation would go, how they would offer different insights in the dialogue. Students have a tendency to treat texts from an external perspective, as though they just have to quote things verbatim. It’s much more productive when they can think about how a theorist would deal with an issue and this results in much more interesting responses.
Students’ exams are starting to pour in which is a bit terrifying. There are 60 students, 4 essays each and each essay is 500-1000 words. Plus, there are 12 final projects to grade. By the end of tomorrow, i need to have semester-long grades for all students. Teaching has given me a new respect for professors. I used to bitch about exams and essays but i didn’t even consider how much work grading is. Luckily, the combinatorial final will mean that each essay will be new and interesting and i suspect that i’ll learn a lot about new media from my students tomorrow.