While students come to the University of Arizona to learn, there is also a lot that can be learned from them. Diana Daly, assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Information, created iVoices, a student media lab that captures those voices.
iVoices has transformed the large General Education course ‘Social Media and Ourselves’ into a student-centered think tank and digital media lab. iVoices takes student experiences and histories with social media and integrates them into the learning experience by allowing students to share their stories.
“It helps the students connect more to the class,” Daly said. “And to connect their own knowledge to what they're learning and possibly even teach us new things that we don't already know about these technologies.”
Since Daly began working at the University in 2016, she has taught students on the topic of social media. She soon realized that social media proliferated quickly. Not only was social media ever changing, but students were heavily involved with it outside of an academic setting. Students would come to her class with a lot of knowledge about social media technologies only to find their experiences not reflected in the curriculum because academic research was too slow.
To combat this problem, Daly decided to create her own textbook that she regularly updates based on the feedback she receives from students in her class. Humans Are Social Media is an open source textbook that aims to help readers understand how we as humans shape social media, and how social media shapes our world in turn. This textbook allows Daly to incorporate her students’ experiences into her teaching.
“I really wanted to understand more of what the students wanted to learn about,” Daly said. “I thought that if I could figure out a way to have students tell their stories, that it would be a lot more helpful and connecting than say, assigning them essays.”
While Daly is the director of iVoices, she works alongside a team of faculty members, graduate students, and student interns. She created the iVoices Community of Scholars, which includes new media and technology scholars guiding iVoices student participants toward relevant topics and gaps in research. These scholars are UArizona faculty from various departments who act as guest lecturers. iVoices relies on Student Media Lab workers to help teach the students about the technologies focused on in class. iVoices also currently has 10 student interns whose work is focused on compiling and categorizing student stories for the textbook.
“This experience has, without a doubt, taught me more about my own experiences with technology while also giving me an insight on the process of creating a project for students to create and express themselves,” said Lizette Arias, Student Media lab worker during the fall 2020 semester.
Daly has also integrated student stories and faculty contributions into the podcast Social Media and Ourselves. In this podcast Daly uses storytelling, student voices, and sound design to examine how social media is at the center of our lives. This podcast served as the initial framework for iVoices and student storytelling. The newest episode of the podcast will be released later this semester.
Daly is still collecting student stories for the textbook and podcast. Any students interested in participating should enroll in ESOC 150B1, offered in the fall 2021 semester. For students interested in this course, Daly says “I think that they should expect that they're going to have to work hard, but the reward is going to be that their voices really get heard.”