LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 18, 2022) — Renee Kaufmann’s Spring 2022 information communication technology (ICT) 305 data detectives class encourages students to combine their communication skills with hands-on technology work in this semester’s new take on the class.
This semester, Kaufmann, an associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information’s School of Information Science, organized the ICT class so that students would have the opportunity to partner with iFixit, a how-to website and online community which offers repair parts and step-by-step manuals to guide individuals in fixing their technology rather than disposing of it.
“I really wanted to approach this class, which is a core requirement, in a different way than previously taught,” Kaufmann said. “My hopes were to provide students with hands-on technology projects that would highlight the importance of communication and writing in our field.”
During their time in the class, students received technology and toolkits from iFixit and wrote proposals for replacement guides for that assigned technology. Kaufmann and her students worked in partnership with the UK Media Depot to take professional-level photos of each step in the repair process for students to include in their guides.
“We were very lucky to work with Kirk Laird and his group in the Media Depot,” Kaufmann said. “They helped us with first-person perspective, lighting, balancing white space, taking action shots so that the students could select their best photos for iFixit review.”
Once students drafted their guides, professionals from iFixit reviewed their work and provided feedback. In total, students went through a minimum of five reviews with the iFixit team and incorporated their feedback each time to improve on their guides.
Kaufmann said this new class structure helped students gain experience with leadership, group communication, email communication, professionalism, audience analysis, visual communication, technical writing and mediated speaking, as well as problem-solving, critical thinking and time management.
“The thing I liked most about this class was the opportunity to work hands-on with technology,” Isaac York, a sophomore ICT major, said. “Disassembling the technology and documenting the repair procedures was a very involved activity that stepped outside the theoretical approach I’ve had with many classes.”
York enjoyed the new class format and said that the hands-on approach felt like the professor “took the training wheels off” and let the class problem solve on their own.
This class also serves as the Graduation Composition and Communication Requirement (GCCR) for the ICT program. This requirement means Kaufmann focused much of the class on communication skills to help students master those skills learned in earlier classes like CIS 110, 111 or 112. Kaufmann’s focus on communication was well-received by students.
“Having to communicate in a professional manner with iFixit’s tech writing team will help me in my future professional endeavors,” Noah Baldwin, senior ICT major, said. “I am better now at communicating with other professionals in the field.”
Communication skills learned also include technical writing skills, which students had to use in clearly writing steps for their guides.
“[The guide] was very different from your standard college essay piece, and your client ended up reviewing what content you produced, then providing feedback to make it appear the way they wanted it to look,” said Cassie Hunter, senior ICT major. “It really showed how things might appear in a professional environment.”
Students also worked on these guides in groups to encourage team communication and collaboration skills.
“This class pushed me to develop my communication skills, especially when working in teams and providing feedback to my peers,” said junior ICT and Gender and Women’s Studies double major Quinn Troia. “I think I had a strong rapport with my teammates, and I feel much more confident working in groups than I did going into this semester.”
Kaufmann said she hopes this class helps students gain applicable skills for their future careers. “I hope that students see the importance of communication and group work in this type of experience,” Kaufmann said. “More specifically, they are self-aware of their audiences and how to effectively communicate solutions to a problem.”