Media, Technology, and Education
Integrated ClustersTackling a Wicked ProblemTech Tools

Tool for Fall 2020 TWP Selection

One of the problems we have encountered at Plymouth State University in implementing our Integrated Cluster Initiative involves effective communication with students about the opportunities offered in different classes and/or sections of classes. For example, if a particular section of a course involves working with an external partner on a real world project, how do we let students know about that so that they know what they’re signing up for? We could tell students about these opportunities if they were available in every section of a particular course but our current technology tools don’t have the ability to easily tag individual sections of courses as containing a particular kind of experience. The ability to tag sections of courses would also allow us to keep track of data that would help us better understand the effects of different kinds of experiences.

This is a significant problem with our Tackling a Wicked Problem (TWP) course which is required of all first year students. Each section of the course focuses on a different wicked problem and ideally, students sign up for a section focused on a problem that they are interested in. But often when students are signing up for the course, they don’t realize that each section is focused on a different problem. And we realize that the wicked problem of the course isn’t always of primary importance to the student even though we would like it to be. Instead, they sometimes are more focused on things like the days and time that the course is offered. Even when students choose their section based on something other than the actual wicked problem that is the topic of the course, we would like them to be aware of what they are choosing so they aren’t surprised on the first day of class.

To help with this issue for TWP, I decided to try to build what the TWP Steering Committee called a “Choose Your Own Adventure” tool to help students pick their section of the course. I used Twine, which is an awesome free app for building interactive, non-linear stories. One of the things that I really like about Twine is that its output is an .html file which makes it really easy to share with anyone as long as they have access to a browser to view the resulting web pages. You can see the web pages for the tool I built at the link here: Fall 2020 TWP Selection

Building this “Choose Your Own Adventure” tool required me to first think about how to group sections of the course into various categories. Working with the TWP Steering Committee, we decided we could group the wicked problems into large umbrella categories. But we decided that we would also present the sections to the students based on days of the week that the section is offered as well as by time of day that the section is offered. These can be thought of almost like tags so that every section of the course has at least 3 tags associated with it–one for broad topic, one for days of the week, and one for time of day. Some sections fall into multiple broad topics and so they would have one tag for each of those broad topics. Unlike systems that are set up to automatically sort and display information based on these kinds of tags, I had to set up the sorts and displays manually. This was a pretty tedious process. Despite that, I’m pretty happy with the tool and look forward to hearing whether incoming students think it was helpful. I can also think of several other tasks related to the cluster initiative that might be able to be accomplished using this idea with Twine.

The featured image is a screen shot of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” tool as it looks in Twine.

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I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.

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