I was joined today in my VoiceThread office hour by Heidi Upton who teaches at St. John’s University in New York.  She teaches a course called Discover New York which is a mandatory course for first year students at her institution.  It’s really pretty wonderful and I wanted to share it with you all!
The course “is an introduction to New York City through the lens of a particular subject discipline.” Various faculty members teach the class and apply their own expertise to the curriculum, allowing students to explore various cultural aspects of New York including “immigration, race/ethnicity, religion, wealth and poverty, and the environment.”  Taking a non-traditional college approach, the city is engaged as text and students actively and critical interpret its landscape as a learning community.
I keep thinking about what an extraordinary model this is for colleges in or near any city.  And what an enriching learning experience this would be.  Are there other colleges you know about who integrate a course like this into their required curriculum?  If so, let me know!
In Heidi’s inaugural semester teaching the class, she took her students on trips through the city streets to experience the visual arts of New York.  As they walked, Heidi and her students used photography to document things that intrigued or inspired them.  Then they shared their visual recordings in a VoiceThread.  Here is the VoiceThread Heidi created and shared with her students.  Here, in her voice comments, she models the practice of and interpreting her visual experiences and is then joined by her students in a collaborative online learning environment.

Following this modeling exercise, each of Heidi’s students created his/her own VoiceThread in which they shared their photographs and interpreting their discoveries in their own comments.  A great project to support a great class!  Thanks for sharing, Heidi!

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