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Let’s get digital

Inaugural cohort of Digital Gardener Faculty Fellows gathers virtually for first retreat

Teaching and learning Feb 16, 2022

What do you do when the in-person digital literacy event you’re planning for faculty falls right in the middle of a COVID surge? If you’re Justin Hodgson and Adam Maksl, co-founders of IU’s Digital Gardener Initiative, you host the event on a cool virtual platform instead and practice the digital literacy you’re preaching.  

On Friday, January 21, 2022, the inaugural cohort of Digital Gardener Faculty Fellows gathered on SpatialChat for the initiative’s kickoff retreat. The 35 Fellows include representatives from every IU campus and more than two dozen schools and departments. 

“The Digital Gardener Initiative is a faculty-created, faculty-led effort to help our colleagues build creative confidence with a suite of tools and practices,” said Hodgson, associate professor of English at IU Bloomington. 

We want to support faculty in designing digitally infused activities, assets, and assignments that create dynamic learning experiences for students.

Justin Hodgson

“We want to support faculty in designing digitally infused activities, assets, and assignments that create dynamic learning experiences for students,” he said. 

During the semester-long Fellows program, participants will learn to integrate digital literacy into their courses, their teaching, and their work with students. By bringing together faculty from across disciplines and campuses, the program hopes to increase collaboration and cultivate a university-wide culture of digital literacy, creativity, and learning. 

“Just as a garden can house a diverse variety of plants, the Digital Gardener Initiative is meant to be inclusive of multiple disciplines and conceptualizations of what’s needed in a digital world,” said Maksl, associate professor of journalism and media at IU Southeast.  

“That includes creative competency, media literacy, information literacy, basic digital and computer skills, and more—key goals for preparing students for digitally focused media- and information-rich environments,” he said. 

As part of the retreat, Fellows were introduced to digital literacy tools available to IU faculty and encouraged to collaborate, create, and share their work based on what was learned, and to imagine how they would incorporate concepts into their curriculum.  

This was the first of many learning experiences that have provided new tools to enhance the virtual learning experience for my undergraduate students.

Tommy Renfro

Margaret Lion, senior lecturer in kinesiology in the School of Public Health at IU Bloomington, was invigorated by what she learned. “I’ve been searching for a simple video editor for years and Adobe Express Premiere Rush looks perfect,” she said. “I found myself creating a second level to my existing class as there is so much for students to produce for their own benefit.” 

The virtual platform provided opportunities to break into smaller groups for teamwork or networking, as well as ideas for future class activities. 

“The SpatialChat platform was a wonderful change of pace in online collaboration,” said Tommy Renfro, lecturer in education at IU East. “This was the first of many learning experiences that have provided new tools to enhance the virtual learning experience for my undergraduate students.” 

If the goal is to help faculty feel comfortable with digital literacy concepts and tools, the Faculty Fellows are off to a great start.  

“The first two sessions of the Digital Gardening Fellows program have provided new tools that have instant learning impacts on my students in physical and virtual learning environments,” said Renfro.  

“I’m thoroughly enjoying this experience,” said Lion. “This is the work I have been doing in my class for over a decade—it’s nice to have a shared language and colleagues who understand and do the same.” 

Learn more about the Digital Gardener Initiative and digital literacy at IU here, or contact 

Spring 2022 Digital Gardener Faculty Fellows 

  • Sarah Blanco, visiting assistant librarian for student success, IU South Bend 
  • Rebecca Carlton, teaching professor, Communication Studies, IU Southeast 
  • Sau Hou Chang, professor, School of Education, IU Southeast 
  • Pat Clark, lecturer, Department of Biology, School of Science, IUPUI 
  • Janine Giodano Drake, clinical assistant professor, History, IU Bloomington 
  • Christine Eckel, associate clinical professor, IU School of Medicine (IU Northwest) 
  • Paul Edwards, professor, IU School of Dentistry, IUPUI 
  • Nancy Evans, senior lecturer, Kelley School of Business, IU Bloomington 
  • Shari Fowler, assistant professor, Accounting, IU East 
  • Maryam Heidaripour, visiting assistant professor, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, IU Bloomington 
  • Denise Henderson, clinical assistant professor, School of Rehabilitation Science, IU South Bend 
  • Kathy Holcomb, associate professor, Psychology, IU Kokomo 
  • Heaven Hollender, clinical assistant professor, School of Health and Human Sciences, IUPUI 
  • Juliet Istrabadi, curator of Ancient Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, IU Bloomington 
  • Kevin Jones, associate professor of management, Division of Business, IUPUC 
  • Kym Kramer, lecturer, Library and Information Science, IUPUI 
  • Sandra Kuebler, professor, Computational Linguistics, IU Bloomington 
  • Suha Lasassmeh, lecturer, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, IU Bloomington 
  • Hannah Lee, associate professor, Psychology, IU Northwest 
  • Margaret Lion, senior lecturer, Kinesiology, IU Bloomington 
  • KT Lowe, assistant librarian for education, IU East 
  • Pamela Morris, assistant professor, Communication Studies, IUPUC 
  • Walter Pettus, assistant professor, Physics, IU Bloomington  
  • Susan Popham, associate professor, English, IU Southeast 
  • Andrea Quenette, associate professor, Communication Studies, IU East 
  • Tommy Renfro, lecturer, School of Education, IU East 
  • Jaynne Rivas, assistant professor, School of Business and Economics, IU East 
  • Miranda Rodak, clinical assistant professor, English, IU Bloomington 
  • Lamia Scherzinger, senior lecturer, Kinesiology, IUPUI 
  • Megan Solon, lecturer, Spanish, IU Bloomington 
  • Ben Storey, assistant director of writing studies, IU Bloomington  
  • Josh Wells, associate professor, Anthropology and Informatics, IU South Bend 
  • Erik Willis, associate professor, Spanish Linguistics, IU Bloomington 
  • Kate Wills, professor, English, IUPUC 
  • Gina Yoder, clinical associate professor, Education, IUPUI

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