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Chapter Eight: Surprise Endings: Putting the Lessons into Action

Chapter Eight: Surprise Endings: Putting the Lessons into Action

Surprise Endings:

Putting the Lessons into Action


Omar Daouk


Thus far, you, the readers, have experienced a wide-ranging yet cohesive set of perspectives on education, literacy, and general life in our shared, 21st century digital environments. You’ve learned about how our community and this project were inspired by Cathy Davidson. You’ve also discovered wisdom and solutions to the complex web of digital streams from Patrick Morgan, the importance of what we know to be “open source” in its most general and more specific forms from Elizabeth Pitts and Barry Peddycord, the troubling yet opportunity-rich nature of access to digital education from Tina Davidson, the distinct nature of digital media as a medium of light from Jade Davis, new innovations in how we approach attention and education (or chocolate-covered broccoli) from Cris Damasceno, and insights into how design plays a fundamental role in online education from Jennifer Stratton.

What you have just been exposed to is the future face of education. I would like to thank each member of our experimental community for their contribution; I have myself learned a tremendous amount from each of you, yet still have a long way to go.

See, truth is, I am most likely the least qualified of the bunch to write a chapter that, based on its academic merit, adds value to this e-book endeavor. So I reflected on what it was that I could offer to you, dear reader, and to my Duke21C community, in terms of this chapter and the class meeting I was dedicated to teach during the spring semester that Duke21C met. And it was upon realizing where my relative strengths reside that I went forth with my assignment to the class, and thus the content of the following chapter. While these may seem to be trivial strengths, I quote Barry and Elizabeth from their chapter: “Professors need to find ways to market their courses.”

It was decided collectively (which as you’ve discovered is a key theme in 21st century literacy) by Duke21C that this chapter focus on practical issues of representation in and out of the classroom. Specifically, this chapter is devoted to the direct application of each contributing author’s lesson to your own classrooms, or in other words, how to implement what you’ve just learned from this sharp group of leading scholars. And I will use my topic/area of specialty, representing oneself in and outside the classroom, as an example to help inspire you in your own pursuit as an educator, a leader, or most likely, a leading educator.

I will start each section with a header that encapsulates or directly quotes each chapter’s essential argument/lesson, followed by a description of how I perceive it to relate to my own topic (representing oneself in and outside of the classroom and applications), and end with a revised “lesson plan” for the course I would hypothetically teach. Each section will build progressively on the last, so as to capture the unique cohesion of thought that results from the union of such a diverse group of individuals.  


Don’t Start with a Blank Slate

In her introductory chapter on “how a class becomes a community,” Cathy Davidson describes the birth of our class (or community, rather) manifesto, which we didn’t start from scratch, but rather from a preexisting manifesto created by the Mozilla organization. This principle literally affords me a sigh of relief in getting this chapter going. So here is how I will start: with the original assignment that I sent to Duke21C prior to the workshop that I led towards the end of the term:

Create a five-minute video (using Photo Booth computer software, or your smartphones, etc.) in which you introduce yourself and outline the objective and purpose of your contributing chapter to our field notes e-book. You may be as creative as you wish in terms of incorporating various media (text, image, music) or other people in your clips. Make sure that you incorporate a persuasive argument as to why people need to hear what you have to say; create an argument that drives people towards the book and to your chapter.

We will then do an in-class activity where we each work on our own (hypothetical) first MOOC video lecture. Filming will be involved, the means of which are taken care of. This process will help us all understand the practical (and symbolic) nature of this quickly changing digital environment, particularly how video is a crucial component of digital literacy—if not for you personally, then for the next generation of digital connoisseurs. 

Your participation in this class is completely voluntary. However, this practical, workshop-style class serves to help  your own personal involvement with the digital literacies of today.

No reading is required as this will be a workshop more than a seminar. However, if you really want to read up on the subject, suggested titles will be provided. All you have to bring is some courage to face and tackle a new medium.


A few days later, I sent a follow-up assignment:

On Apr 7, 2013, at 8:20 PM, Omar Daouk wrote:

Hi All,

An update can be found by visiting the link below:

I look forward to our upcoming workshop, and apologies for the lateness of this email.



Listen to Your Customers

In their chapter, founded upon the principles of Eric Raymond’s essay, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Barry and Elizabeth persuasively argue in support of the open source paradigm, not just in coding and software, but in business, education, and, generally speaking, in life. Rather than summarize their chapter, I urge you to take this time and revisit their chapter before continuing.

There was one section of their writing that really stuck out for me as a presenter and layman:

Release early, release often, and listen to your customers. […] Raymond’s essay shows that the essence of what makes the Bazaar model successful isn’t the fact that making code publicly available magically makes it better. It’s that giving the customers a say in the development process and recognizing them as valuable team members helps give the developers the insight to create the tools that their users need and want. (emphasis mine)

There is tremendous wisdom and universal applicability in these words. If it wouldn’t be considered in vain to add on to this notion, I would take a step back and say know who your customers are. So for purposes laid out in this chapter, my initial customers for the assignment above were members of the Duke21C community. How to incorporate this powerful thought laid out by Barry and Elizabeth in the context of my video assignment?

Well, allow me to share with you some of the video submissions that my fellow classmates shared with me, so that we can listen together. (Please note that not all are included, either due to technical issues or because I never received uploaded videos—but every member of the class completed the assignment and shared their video with the rest.)

"From a Class to a Community” (Cathy Davidson, 2013)

Watch Online:

“What is the 21st Century Medium?” (Jade Davis, 2013) 

Watch Online:

“Barry’s CatB Video” (Barry Peddycord, 2013)

Watch Online:

“Looking Upside Down” (Cris Damasceno, 2013)

Watch Online:

“Digital Divide” (Tina Davidson, 2013)

Watch Online:


If you plan on continuing to read this chapter, I strongly advise if not require you to watch each of my classmates’ videos (all links are included above). Thanks to Barry and Elizabeth, I will refer to each video as a sign that I am still listening to my customers, who were in the case of my class assignment, as Barry and Elizabeth note, “valuable team members that helped give the developer [me] the insight to create the tools that their users [i.e. you, dear reader] need and want”.

Now, how can I use what I’ve listened to in these great videos that my classmates produced to reformulate my original assignment? Well, firstly, I am going to continue forth in my revisions using solely what I’ve learned from my “customers” by listening to them and their videos. Secondly, in an effort to maximize the shared utility of the digital medium of video, I invite you to upload your video directly to my website (the same link I included in the second part of my initial assignment). Visit,where you will find not only my instructions, but also the submissions of my classmates as well as a submission form where you can send me the link to your video, and I will upload it on the very same page.


Find Your Banjo

If you have watched each of the videos above (and if not, go back and watch) you not only heard my classmates speak, but in the case of Patrick Morgan, you heard music. Reader, I cannot tell you how much this young man’s video submission amazed me. I initially perceived Morgan to be a shy, highly literate and soft-spoken guy. That was until I watched his video submission.

If this section leaves you with anything, I hope it is this: Patrick Morgan is a rock star, with the only difference being that he is literate as well. Not only did he kill it on the banjo, he drew a metaphor that bridged him to his chapter topic based on Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart, and if you’re still not sold, just check out the confidence he displayed while doing all that. I couldn’t believe my eyes (or ears).

So in terms of applying what I’ve learned from Patrick to my video assignment, I will revise my assignment to include a “find your banjo” component, in which I require you to begin your video introduction (as described in the assignment) by showing your audience a skill they wouldn’t imagine you had, and relating it to who you are as a person and as a teacher. You will see this revision in the updated assignment (geared to you, reader) that is re-written at the end of this chapter.

And Patrick, if you are reading this, my assignment for you still stands: I want you to record more banjo-playing.


Acknowledge and Question All Possible Divides

Tina Davidson also did a remarkable job with the video assignment. After listening to her over the course of the spring semester, particularly during the class she led as well as the video she made, I realize that not everybody has access to the technology required to make any sort of video, and this might hinder some of the most creative and capable individuals from participating in my open assignment.

To reiterate what Tina opens her video with (again, if you have not yet watched it, I strongly advise that you do), it is important to start with a question, which in Tina’s case is: what does “open” do for you? And again, I will not summarize her chapter but will advise you to revisit. And as Tina also ends with a question, “Who are we leaving out?”, I will address my personal answer to this question with regards to the video assignment at hand. And this answer is in fact a question that I pose to you, the reader: Who do you know, personally or distantly, who does not have access to the videotaping requirements of my assignment? Think about it. I will even leave space for you to jot thoughts down on the subject below.

So to revise my assignment accordingly, I add an amendment to all those who might not have access to video recording technology, which you will see incorporated in my final assignment rewritten at the end of this chapter.


Lightening Up Your Medium

Jade Davis, in a perfectly creative manner, discusses the 21st century medium in its relation to traditional and increasingly archaic media such as print-based books. As has been the trend thus far, if you have not yet watched her video submission (which is super creative), or have not yet carefully read her chapter in this book, now is the time for you to do so.

In her chapter as well as her video, Jade asks a very important question, especially in relation to my particular assignment at hand: “How do we change writing and reading from a practice based on stillness and fixedness to a practice based on movement and possibility?”

And to incorporate this question, and the answers that come to me based on my background and the assignment, I invite you the readers to use the space below to scribble your thoughts about a medium you feel strongly towards that can be added to either text-based writing or video, and you will be assigned to include these thoughts in your video submission per my revised assignment. Remember, thinking outside the box is always encouraged in 21st century literacy, as Jade has done remarkably in her chapter and video.


Get Attention with Chocolate-Dipped Broccoli

Cris Damasceno, who also submitted a video with an encouraging dose of shock value, discusses the importance of video games in how they relate to education and attention more broadly (upside-down, in her attention-grabbing video). And to relate video games, attention, and being upside-down to my video assignment, I quote Cris from her chapter: “Books are great media to deliver explicit and static content, whereas video games enable the cultivation of pre-literate and tacit knowledge.”

Video games, according to Cris, are great digital tools to deliver tacit forms of knowledge. Nevertheless, many people  advocate that video games allow us to perceive education in a new way: learning through video games is equivalent to eating chocolate-covered broccoli because games, in a sense, cover what is perceived as boring with a sweet, delicious coating. So my final revision to the video assignment at hand includes key lessons from the field of gamification.

The assignment to the reader is now a competition: only the first ten readers who submit videos (via the website submission instructions mentioned above) will have their work made available publicly, and will be admitted to the next stage of this competition. Of course, all those after the first ten will still be able to participate, but not publicly. Second, those who do not have access to videotaping technology (as mentioned in Tina Davidson’s chapter) will have the opportunity to win a Duke University-sponsored camcorder based on a written proposal which will be judged by a panel from Duke21C.


Ending With a Remixed Version of Where You Began

So here is my updated assignment, which is now open for anyone and everyone to participate in:


Duke21C Challenges You: Create a five-minute video (using any video software, or your smartphones, etc.) in which you introduce yourself and outline the objective and purpose of your “lesson plan” (regardless of topic). To draw your audience in, please begin your introduction by highlighting a unique skill or talent that you may have.

For inspiration please click here.

You may be as creative as you wish in terms of incorporating various media (text, image, music) or inclusion of other people in your clips. Make sure that you incorporate a persuasive argument as to why people need to hear what you have to say; create an argument that drives people towards your next lecture or lesson.  


If you do not have access to a video-recording device, you are still eligible to participate in this challenge: rather than submit a video, you may submit a one-page written proposal for a video that demonstrates your unique vision for a video that introduces you personally, as well as your community. Our Duke21C panel will award the top proposal (based on a collective review) with a camcorder to turn their vision into a reality.


Please note that incorporating additional media besides video to accompany your video submission (i.e. photography, text, music) will earn you extra points, particularly by demonstrating how fluid 21st century media are in comparison to single-form, static ones.


The top 10 submissions(based on our Duke21C panel’s collective ratings) will have their videos posted live in an exclusive feature on HASTAC’s website.

All submissions can be sent by using the form found on this webpage:


The deadline for submission is December 31, 2013.

And in conclusion, I hope that this demonstration of how to apply complex theoretical and literary topics in 21st century literacy has helped you in your own pursuit of doing the very same. You are now welcome to submit your multimedia video-based projects per the instructions above. May the 21C force be with you.  




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