Digital Cultures and Creativity - a teaching / learning practice

This is just a short post to explain my involvement with Digital Cultures and Creativity, a living learning program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland. What follows is my own conception - how I see the program functioning, what I hope to see it do in the future, etc. In doing so, I hope to pre-contextualize some of my future blog posts, as I intend to think through my teaching / learning practice in the spaces of HASTAC.

Background:

DIgital Cultures and Creativity (DCC) is a new program- we are currently in our second year with students-  and are a living-learning program in the Honors College. UMD has a number of these 'living-learning' programs - where students live together, and have a close connection to faculty and research in that programmatic area. There is a more 'formal' component - they take certain classes, and then there are residential events that complement the area of study.

DCC is in the Honors College, and as such, incoming first-year students who are invited to join the honors college have a choice of living-learning programs- they rank their preferences, and then the individual programs (such as DCC) offer acceptances.

The Program:

Accepted DCC students then spend their first two years on campus with us, (mostly) living in our dorm, taking 16 DCC credits, culminating in a capstone project. We also run a series of co-curriculars: a speaker/event series, a film series and hands-on workshops where students get to experiment and play with concepts they wouldn't normally come across in a classroom.  Our offices and workspaces are in the basement of the dorm, giving the students unparallelled access to us - we can be found there late at night and on weekends, and encourage them to come and hang out, make things, work together and with us on projects.  This makes it possible for students to come to us as they are thinking/cooking up ideas, and we help them figure out how to make it happen.  It's exciting for us as well as for them.

Staff:

We are a team of 4:  Director, Associate Director, 2 Graduate Assistants

We are a hive-mind: even though we all come to digital cultures from our own areas of expertise, we all understand this program to be a space for our students to gain a broad, well considered set of experiences, and for us to support our students as they explore their own interest areas. This is key in being able to accomplish what we want to.

We also have faculty-fellows and faculty from other departments who teach courses in their specialty to our students, and this is highly valued by all.

Students:

Our students come from just about (if not all) colleges on campus - we have students majoring in theater, art, architecture, languages, English, computer science, various forms of engineering, biology, mathmatics, physics, American studies, journalism- and more- these are just the ones I can think of easily. Many also have second majors, and most are involved in other programs on campus: from band and sports to student groups like acapella singing, ballroom dancing and quidditch.

They are intellectually curious: they are thinkers who are/will be makers and do-ers, and not just in all things 'digital.'  This curiosity, this eagerness, for me, is probably the most important trait a student can have.  I believe that many of our students will go on to do fabulous, world-changing things.

My Role:

I am 'officially' a graduate assistant for the program.  This means that I am part-time (we actually only have 1 full-time person on our staff) , and that this assistantship is secondary to my own research and work area. Thankfully, my research focus is related!

What this actually means varies day to day.  Remember that hive mind I mentioned earlier? Well we do much of this together, but here's a sampling: I co-develop and co-teach courses; co-create and run the hands-on workshops, do advising- curricular and project-oriented; and go to a lot of meetings!

A 'typical' week will include:

  • lesson planning for our co-taught intro course (there are 4 of us teaching at the same time)
  • showing a film
  • advising a student on a long-term project
  • brainstorming ideas
  • playing a game
  • grading student work
  • sending out emails for interesting upcoming events 
  • trouble-shooting code with a student
  • running a hands-on workshop with 30 students
  • hanging out / talking with students about nothing in particular

I suppose this about sums it up!