A few weeks back a group of #SAChat tweeps were tweeting back and forth about how to start a dissertation and they had some interesting and creative ways to start (albeit suggesting them jokingly). See for yourself:
Now this got me thinking, when it comes time for my dissertation what am I going to do? What is it going to look like? Will it be bound? Or will it be an e-publication? What does the future hold for dissertations and the way in which they are defended? Could a dissertation presentation be engaging…without the presenter present?
Sounds like a question for the Curious Commuter to ponder, and I did, and here is my idea of the day worked out in an equation:
Dissertation + iPad + FlipVideo + Prezi = the Digital Dissertation.
Imagine this if you will, you walk into the room to defend your dissertation and you hand out iPads that you loaned out from your IT department. The iPads are preloaded with your digital dissertation. This dissertation isn’t an e-book, it isn’t a slide deck, it IS your presentation. You are just there to answer questions.
So how would this work? Well let me explain the equation above with some of the ideas that have come into mind (while you read, think about how this could be used during advising sessions, orientation sessions, staff meetings, leadership seminars, etc):
- Your dissertation – full of data, interview quotes, and all of your hard work. This is the foundation of this entire project.
- iPad – only this device (at the time of posting) is as capable and trustworthy for this type of presentation that involves many moving parts.
- FlipVideo – a portion of your dissertation is going to be quoting interviews that you’ve had with people. If they are in person, imagine being able to do more than type out the respondents answers but instead show the board the body language, tone, appearance, and life that the words have behind them. No more, Student A is quoted saying…but instead, watch Student A as they answer this question about their development. Better yet, imagine your board swiping their finger across the board and video of you welcoming them to your dissertation. You have a video that introduces your theory and perhaps show a video of it in action. Each chapter, the author explains the purpose and what the user should understand by that point. How much more engaging can you get?
- Prezi – that’s how much more engaging you can get. Not only do you have the touch screen of the iPad controlling the videos (accessed via hyperlink through the text you wish to see the video of ) but now your board can move about the data and presentation with their finger tips using Prezi. No more flipping through to find an addendum. Set up the Prezi in a way that would be intuitive allowing the data to find the users rather than vice-versa.
And there you have it, the digital dissertation. This is no longer dropping a binded stack of paper on the desks of your reviewers while you answer questions and defend your research. The digital dissertation is a living document that requires its “users” (not a reader, you don’t just read a digital dissertation, you navigate it and utilize it to answer your questions) to be engaged with the materials it is presenting to them.
Once they are through with your digital dissertation, let the defense begin (which should be streamed live on UStream for friends and family to witness without having to travel).
As I said, imagine the application of this idea to a first-year experience course, or a capstone course where students have to design a similar presentation utilizing all aspects of technology at their finger tips.
The purpose here is to reinvent the way in which students (ourselves included) are demonstrating their application and understanding of the knowledge they are accumulating in our classrooms, at our institutions, in our residence halls, etc. A student could write a really well written and complex paper but can they actually demonstrate their understanding aside from spending tedious hours typing and editing?
Student papers, regardless of topic, serve as nothing more than cover letters to their educational knowledge. A candidate can look great in a cover letter, only to find out in real life, they have no such experience, aptitude, or promise. We need to bring our students’ knowledge to the next level and “interview” them. “That’s great you can write 10 pages on Chickering’s 7 Vectors of Development, but I want you to show me that you understand them. Interview people that you perceive to be at each stage, or provide friends the characteristics of each stage and have them act out each vector on this Flip video.”
The digital dissertation is neither the beginning or end, it is hopefully the kindling that starts a blaze of creativity in what is an archaic, aging, “tradition” of achieving educational prestige in the world. We have the tools. We have the creativity. Let us show you what could be and not be chastised for it.
That’s my idea of the day – who says it couldn’t happen,