Since beginning his teaching career at Stonehill, Associate Professor of English Scott Cohen has looked for ways to utilize technology in the classroom to enhance the learning environment for his students. The first Stonehill faculty member to use iPads in the classroom, Cohen's latest technological venture has landed the College on the iTunes U map.
In 2010, following the release of the first generation Apple iPad, Cohen received a grant from the College's Center for Teaching and Learning to use three tablets in his course "Storytelling in the Age of Information." The course proved successful with students, who loved using the iPad and Apple took notice of their interest. The company invited Cohen to design a course for one of its newest platforms, iTunes U.
Cohen chose a first-year literature course, "Island Living/Island Leaving," a semester-long inquiry into how the unique conditions of island living shape literature and culture. Students study texts about castaways, pirates, tourists, islanders, and adventurers in order to discern what makes stories about islands so compelling and enduring.
"The course is perfect for the iPad environment. It is a literature course that draws on an array of cultural materials, from travel narratives to advertising campaigns, from novels to television shows, from films to studies of the problems that confront islands today," said Cohen.
This marks the first time that a Stonehill professor has launched a course on iTunes U and the work is being noticed globally. After its public release in mid-January, over 5,000 people worldwide have downloaded the public version of the course.
"The public iTunes U version of the course is a really great venue to showcase some of the intellectual engagement we are all doing here at Stonehill. It's also a chance to curate texts that I teach as part of our Cornerstone Program for a broader audience," Cohen added.
This semester at Stonehill, students have their own version of the course on iTunes U. With a grant from Stonehill's Faculty Initiatives in Technology (FIT) program, Cohen ensured that all of his students have a loaner iPad for the spring semester course. With the course material seamlessly integrated on their iPads, the students have books, film clips, notes, emails, blogs and many other documents available at their fingertips.
"Students can really engage with their course material on the iPads. Even after class, they can continue the experience of thinking about the material and the issues together. We are creating a community of people thinking through these ideas together," Cohen said.
Outside of the normal course readings associated with a college literature course, "Island Living/Island Leaving" features movies and television shows that focus on the images of islands in popular culture. Two examples that Cohen discusses are Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, and the popular ABC show LOST.
"Islands are weird. I think authors chose to situate characters on islands because of their size and limitations. Authors can create a community or they can show a character struggling to survive; either way, islands help writers create unique experiences that are also deeply rooted in a long history of other island stories," Cohen said.
Students in the class take notes on their readings directly on the iPad in the iTunes U app, and then can access them without having to search through their notebooks for key terms or important passages.
Also being implemented into this course at Stonehill is the use of social media. Cohen's students all created Twitter and Tumblr accounts to further interact with their classmates about the material, outside of normal classroom hours.
"We begin every class with "Island Sights" to allow students to share any island related material they have come across in their other courses or everyday lives," Cohen said. During these first few minutes of class, students can bring any island news or events to the attention of the class. This encourages students to see the relevance of critical analysis beyond the assigned course material.
One such sight that has become a staple example for the course is a huge real-estate development project off the coast of Dubai. Called the "The World," the ambitious project, which is now stalled, is an artificial archipelago of small islands constructed in the shape of a world map.
Other faculty members at Stonehill have begun to experiment with the iPad in their classes as well. Journalism Program Director Maureen Boyle piloted the use of iPads in a journalism practicum last spring and is continuing to experiment with the iPads as a useful tool in the increasingly technology dependent field of journalism.
"The project is a metaphor for globalization and excess, all in context of the common fantasy of owning a private island. Here the value of the iPads is particularly evident, because students can use their tablets to travel there virtually. They can read promotional materials from the development, watch video clips, and use Google Maps to explore the surrounding region. Using the iPads allows for total immersion in the material," Cohen said.
When the course went public, the material impressed Apple who featured it on its iTunes U homepage, helping attract members to the public course and giving a global audience a glimpse into a course at Stonehill.
You can subscribe to the public version of Professor Cohen's course by pointing your iPad to https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/island-living-island-leaving/id593572335
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.