Tried something new this year on first night of class - beginning with a discussion of learning styles and educational philosophy. We started by looking at portions of Can You Picture This in which art professor Rachel Williams conveys her ideas about making research on women in prison accessible to "the woman on the street" via a comics format. Students had wildly different responses - ranging from "I love this medium" to "too difficult to comprehend". Great discussion of visual learning styles; for what audiences this comics medium might be particularly appropriate; whether feminist scholars have a duty to make their work accessible to non-academic types; and much more.
I also showed the video The Networked Student which focuses on self-directed learning using various Web tools from blogs to RSS feeds to Skype. Several students said that while they could see this approach to learning had merit, personally they preferred the more traditional lecture by professor plus assigned textbook approach. Others related positive experiences they had with this self-directed approach in the past. We discussed that while the traditional lecture/textbook method might cover material more quickly and efficiently, the self-directed approach might result in deeper learning. Many were excited by the possibility that a course built around this approach would probably entail a lot of student choice in what they studied.
Whether just by chance or as a result of beginning this way, students this semester seem really into learning.