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Jack Mino: Making Interdisciplinary Connections
Jack Mino, Professor of Psychology and Learning Communities leader at Holyoke Community College used the toolkit to capture and make interdisciplinary student learning visible to himself and his colleagues. He wanted to more clearly understand the kinds of links that students in the Learning Communities Program made between courses, disciplines, and/or subject matter. In the process, he helped students see their own means of making connections among disciplines, and this revelation helped his colleagues understand the value of documenting their teaching and students' learning.


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Learning about Student Learning

Mino initially used the Toolkit to document his research as a Carnegie Scholar. He was charged with the task of making his Carnegie project available for peer review and to include evidence of student learning. His project, which was completed under the auspices of the Learning Communities Program - an interdisciplinary general education program at the college serving 1st and 2nd year students from developmental to honors, focused on understanding how students make interdisciplinary connections.

He admits that his first KEEP Toolkit snapshot was "'minimalist' at best" with text only. After 5 snapshot revisions, he emerged with a multi-layered portrait of his research on his teaching, complete with student work. Mino's 5th and final 2005-06 Carnegie Scholars project snapshot was constructed using digital images, the "links" function (particularly audio-links), and the gallery. "I found both the audio-link function and the gallery tool essential to attaining my research goal - to make interdisciplinary learning 'visible' with the added benefit of making it audible as well."


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The Link Aloud

The heart of Mino's work lies in the Link Aloud, his innovative method for capturing, documenting, reflecting upon, and representing interdisciplinary learning. Mino's Link Aloud involves interviewing a student to understand how the student integrated different disciplines within an assignment. Mino records the interview and creates a concept map of the student's essay, complete with audio links of the student's thinking. The process results in a map of connections made between subject matters and a number of highlighted words and phrases that activate relevant audio links, which provide more detailed explanation in the student's own voice.

He explained, "Not only was student learning made visible via concept mapping of student essays but just as importantly, their learning was made audible - linked to key words and phrases highlighted in their concept maps. In addition, I attempted to make the Link Aloud research process itself a learning experience for student participants."

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Mino has found that the Link Aloud helps participating students "see" the kinds and means of connecting in their own writing. One student explained, "I think the best term for the [link aloud] experience was revelatory. I came to see my entire project in a new light and obtained a clearer understanding of what worked and did not work in my writing. Some of this came not from your responses, but just from the active rereading of the work."

Mino also uses the Link Aloud method to record group-thinking in student seminars. He uses his method to document how students in his Frontier Learning Community collectively construct interdisciplinary knowledge. His goal has been to map and analyze the conversational moves students make as they integrate their learning together.

"What I find most compelling about the [KEEP Toolkit] is its multi-media capacities - enabling users to combine images, audio, and video with text and hyper-links to build multi-dimensional digital documents of teaching and learning. In this way, "The documentation itself becomes the "stuff" of understanding - ideas, theories, hypotheses, feelings, deductions, intuitions, etc. - the processes involved in coming to know; and the "object" being documented becomes a product and process of research."(Rinaldi, 2001, p. 87) I'm also struck by both the immediacy and primacy that the KT offers. Immediate and primary in the sense that I could take a picture, record a conversation, and/or shoot a video of students in the act of learning, and within minutes upload the material to my snapshot and send it out for feedback and review by colleagues and students alike. Talk about primary sources and learning through reflection!"


Sharing his Work

In order to see and reflect on the body of his work and to share it with colleagues, Mino created a KEEP Toolkit gallery of his Link Aloud documents. Mino explained, "It was the multi-media "mixing" capability of the KT that provided me the opportunity to create the audio-mage structure of the Link Aloud. With that "template" in place, I had a process and product that could be uploaded into a gallery of individual student Link Aloud snapshots that represented the heart of my research project."

Mino initially used the CASTL project template as a guide for his project work. His subsequent snapshots followed he American Psychological Association standard research report template of sorts: abstract, introduction and literature review, methodology, results or findings, discussion or reflection, followed by acknowledgments. Mino adds to the conversation about what students learn in interdisciplinary settings by sharing his final project snapshot at conferences and for publications. He has presented at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference and published his findings in Change Magazine and NFDC Exchange Newsletter.


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Student Work and Shaping Learning Communities

In addition to using the Toolkit to document and share his research, Mino also built a multimedia syllabus for his students and requires them to present a multimedia argument using the KEEP Toolkit. In the learning community, "A Fiction Made of Blood: De-Mythologizing the American Frontier," Mino's students created snapshots to make and present an argument about the American Frontier.

And this syllabus, complete with samples of student work, are a part of a model for creating a Learning Community syllabus.
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