Blog Post

21st C Literacies: Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities: The GRAD Class

As I receive feedback, I'm revising my graduate class for the Spring and, after the third unit, it will be student-designed.  I'm posting updates because it is important to see how ideas evolve.  That, after all, is the lesson of the web:  publish first, then edit.  Iteration is all!  I don't always believe that but I do in building a collective, interactive, maker-inflected course.   Here's where it's at now: 

 

English/ISIS 890S:  21st Century Literacies:  Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities
Tuesday 4:40-7:10pm
Smith Warehouse, Bay 4   Room 107


******DRAFT 2*******


OVERVIEW:
The purpose of this class is to explore what it means to do academic research and teaching (re)designed and (re)purposed for the present.  We will be thinking systemically about formal education, both the systems we’ve inherited from the Industrial Age and the ones we wish to propose for the digital age.  We will be thinking about the social, philosophical, technological, and cultural systems that contributed to the current educational systems, and the stabilities and instabilities that persist within those (such as funding influxes after WWII and neoliberal defunding patterns in the late 1990s and 21st century).  We’ll work to sort out problems caused by defunding from larger architectural and ideological issues (including issues of privatization, capitalization, and commercialization) embedded in either well-funded or defunded models of Industrial Age education.  We will try to imagine a new form of education more suitable for the digital age.  What might that look like?  How much will it cost—and paid for by whom, for whom, from whom?    

The  premise of English/ISIS 890 is that contemporary higher education is not broken; rather, it is designed for a different world than the one we live in.  If education were simply broken, we could fix it.   If it is designed for a different set of social, technological, and global arrangements than are now relevant, we need a learning revolution not just reform.  We need to think deeply about what it would require to redesign education for a new, digital world.  The basic premise of the course  (and we may wish to refute this in the end) is that we need to reimagine education in profound, systemic ways.

We do not merely want to MOOC education (digitize and massively scale existing systems).  We want to revolutionize learning and learning institutions so that they provide support and preparation for those charged with shaping the future, not the past.

Backstory: The educational system we have now is an inheritance and outgrowth of the research university that began in the U.S. with Johns Hopkins University’s founding in 1876.  Virtually all the apparatus of contemporary higher education has evolved from the infrastructure created by or for that research university—a system deeply invested in skills and specialization designed to achieve measurable outcomes and maximum productivity (the mantras of the Industrial Age).   The research university is based on what Bourdieu called “distinctions,” including radical separations throughout our educational system between thinking and doing, theory and practice, work and play, critique and creativity, skills and systems, majors and minors, general education and professional training, and the “two cultures” of science and technology versus the human and social sciences and the arts.   The premise of English/ISIS 890 is that these things have been radically merged, blurred, and made “fuzzy” by the World Wide Web and the Internet that became popularly available in April of 1993 with the commercialization of the Mosaic 1.0 browser.

Consider this:  Academic specialization brings expertise—but it does not necessarily bring control, power, or self-determination.  As we specialize more and more, we can become (in one direction or another) more radically divorced from oversight of the system to which our expertise contributes.   (Think about Latour here, or Anne-Marie Moll).

What would it mean to remake graduate education—and therefore the future of education more generally—so the emphasis was not on outcomes but experience, not on skill development but on systemic thinking, not on the built but on building:  that is, learning as an ongoing, iterative, collaborative process.  What if our focus could be not on scored achievement/achievement scores but on adaptability, flexibility, creativity, or (as Toffler says) an ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn?

Example:  What if we had an assessment system that measured what we valued—not one that valued what is measurable?   What if instead of the Industrial Age’s statistical methods based on standard deviation, IQ tests, and ranked scores on multiple choice tests we collectively determined what constitutes excellence and considered our success to be the individual and collective attainment of that degree of excellence, as also validated collectively by our community?

These are the meta-goals of our course.  We begin by acknowledging that we will not all achieve all of these goals.  We begin by acknowledging that, in striving for them, and even if (especially if) we fail, we will all learn an enormous amount.

*   *   *
CLASS SCHEDULE AND ASSIGNMENTS   SPRING 2013

NOTE:  The first three classes will all focus on building the apparatus—intellectual and technical—that will be the scaffolding of our achievement this semester.  We’ll begin student-led reading and building after that.

­­­­­­­­­­­­

January 15, 4:40-7:10:   Tonight we will accomplish three goals.  

1.SURVEY TOOL:  We will build a survey tool using Survey Monkey and answer it.  What do we want to know about one another?  What do we need to know about one another?  

One purpose is to maximize “collaboration by difference” as a methodology so that, when we begin to build in class, your project team has the optimal set of talents to make the best possible project, offer the best and most constructive feedback, and help you to achieve your goals for this class.

Other purposes:
     This is a peer-led class—what can we expect of our peers?
                 This is a project –based class.
                 This is a contract-graded class.
                 This is a peer-evaluated class.


2. COMMUNITY PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES:  We will begin to create a class constitution or set of community practices.   I will get us started on this because there are certain principles—such as contract grading and peer-to-peer evaluation—that it is my professional responsibility to delineate.

What besides peer-to-peer grading, is it important for us as a collective to set out in our own self-created (and yet circumscribed) community document?  What institutional requirements/obligations are important to us?  What institutional rules best support our individual and collective goals for the class?

In essence, we are creating our own institution here within the larger framework of Duke University’s graduate school and within the larger profession of higher education.  We have parameters.  Within those, what can we do to structure the institution of our graduate class to support and promote our values?   What are the right assessment structures, mechanics, work flows, responsibilities, and procedures that will help us achieve our individual and collective goals?  What constitutes success?  What constitutes failure?

We will post our document to a Google Doc to which all members of the class have editing and commenting privileges until January 18.
·      On January 18, edits will be turned off and it will accept only signatures (document approved as is) or comments for discussion.
·      Everyone must have either signed the document or added a signed discussion comment to be discussed in class on January 22.
·      On January 22, we will review all outstanding comments, and take simple majority votes on whether to include the comments
·      We will then take a majority vote on whether to accept the class constitution and we will publish it to our Wordpress site.
·      The constitution can be emended by individuals and groups at any time.  (I’m assuming it wil be emended many times.)

3. WORDPRESS SITE:   We will be performing a lot of collective work, including critique and collaboration in public on the Wordpress Site.   Remember this is a public documentation of our class.   Use wisely.

           Goal for January 15:  Everyone signs into the site and leaves some public statement about why  they signed up for the class, what they hope to contribute, what they hope to learn.  

ASSIGNMENTS FOR JANUARY 22:
1.     Contribute to, edit, comment, or sign off to the Google Doc “Community Rules and Practices” by January 22.

2.     Edit your WordPress contribution if and only if you wish to.  Comment on anyone else’s if and only if you wish to.

3.     Either start your own website for your work in English/ISIS 890 or make a separate part of your existing website dedicated entirely to your work in this course.   This is your own ePortfolio.   You can do this as a Google Site, a Wordpress Site, or using a commercial tool such as Pathbrite (https://pathbrite.com/portfolios ) ePortfolio system.  Be prepared to come to class for a design critique of your site.
­­­­­



JANUARY 22:  4:40- 7:10 PM.  

(1)  Discussion of Survey Monkey results and creation of optimal project groups based on the principle of  “collaboration by difference.”   It is assumed that these groups may change in the course of the term.

 

(2)  Discussion of our Community Practices and Rules document and publication of the document.  It is assumed we’ll be emending the document throughout the term.



 

(3)   Website/ePortfolio Design critique

Work in small project groups to view one another’s personal websites.  Offer feedback and critique using think-pair-share method.

          Step one:  90 seconds.  Each person, including designer of website,  individually looks at the first website under consideration (organize by reverse alphabetical order) and writes on index card:  

(a) Which three things are most successful about the site?

(b) Which three things need help?  

(c) Circle the one you can help with.  Who else in your group might be able to help (based on reviewing all sites by group members)?

          Step two:  5 minutes.  Reconvene group.  Go around group and have each person read what is on card, ending with the site designer.   Focus on points of consensus and dissensus.  Prioritize revision agendas and who will help make the revisions.

          Step three:   3 minutes.  Make arrangements for site designer to partner with person who has most to contribute to arrangements.

          Step four:  Repeat for the next person alphabetically.  Etc.



********
ASSIGNMENTS FOR JANUARY 29:
--“Hack” assignment for January 29:   Revisit your personal site design with the comments and help of your colleagues.  Incorporate changes.  Next week, we’ll repeat again.

--“Yack”/Reading Assignment for January 29:
Yochai Benkler, “Coases’s Penguin”
                       Cathy Davidson, Now You See It  (free copies available—do not buy the book.  NB:  I thought about not requiring my own book but that seems coy—so we’ll start with it, and move on…)



                       Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning:  Cultivating Imaginatin for a World of Constant Change



--Hack/Yack Assignment for Contract Grading/Peer Grading:
Individual Writing and multimedia response to readings:
Public upload on our class WordPress site (make sure to reblog it to your personal site).   Two parts, one text-based, one multimedia, prompted by (positively or negatively) either Benkler, Davidson, or Thomas/Brown:
(a) 300-500 word response prompted by either by Benkler, Davidson, or Thomas/Brown.  This can either be an assignment in a class (specify the class topic, level) or an idea for a project prompted by either work.
(b) Plus a nonverbal component (video, music, napkin sketch, archive, object, media art, photographic sequence, installation, start-up company, architectural drawing, community action, whatever your imagination conjure).   
           NB:  Future assignments might well be collaborative but the second part of this one is a group assignment in peer-to-peer evaluation so this one begins with an individual blog and/or video.






          
January 29, 4:40- 7:10 PM:   


(1) Website Revisions:  Rapid-fire demos.  45 minutes:  Rapid demo’s of all websites.   3 minutes each max.  Show onscreen.  Point out revisions made. No group critique today.  Just rapid display.  If anyone has individual suggestions to make, talk to or text your classmate and work on it later.


(2)  Peer evaluation , feedback, and contribution exercise.   1 hour.
Nothing in the contemporary educational system is designed to help us be good at giving or receiving and incorporating feedback.  Yet it’s probably the most valuable skill any of us can master.
    Procedure for today (we may emend this in future classes):
Divide into our project groups.
In alphabetical order, use the think-pair-share technique on each “contract graded” blog/video produced by the members of your group.
Step one:  90 seconds.  Everyone in the group (including the author) takes 90 seconds to write three things on an index card about the blog/video produced this week by the person whose last name comes first in the alphabet.
1—what you like best
2—what you think it needs to be acceptable (i.e. fulfill contract) or, if it is acceptable, how it could be even better with revision
3—how and what you can contribute to successful revision

           Step two:   5 minutes.
           Each member of group reads out three things on the card.  Focus on the positive where there is most consensus.  And the negative where there is most consensus.   If the author agrees, plot out a revision plan.

           Step three:  1 minute.
           Group decides whether project should get full contract-worthy credit now or be revisited after revision.  

           Repeat same steps with the person whose name comes next in the alphabet.   

We will begin by dividing into our project groups and reading/viewing the writing/video assignments together.
           Think-pair-share topic:  For each video/blog you read, write individual for 90 seconds:  Did they meet the contractual standard (acceptable) for the first assignment for this course?  If not, what needs to be improved to meet the standard?
           Now, reassemble as a group and look at the cards and together vote either acceptable or “needs revision” for each group project for which you are responsible.


DINNER:  Dinner discussion: what did you think of this process?  How do Benkler, Davidson, and Thomas/Brown’s ideas contribute to this discussion?  How can we improve it?  What should we try next to facilitate constructive peer contribution while fulfilling the contract, peer-to-peer grading requirement?   
          

After Dinner:  Discussion of Benkler,  Davidson, and Thomas/Brown.

6:50-7:10:
ASSIGNMENT FOR FEBRUARY 5:
           15 minutes:  Group 1 will set reading (viewing/experiencing) assignment and writing/blogging/making) assignment for February 5 class.   
           Write out all steps of the assignment on our Google Doc or evolving public Wordpress class syllabus.
Since this is the first of these student-led assignemnts,  we can discuss it as a group or in small groups as Group 1 wishes

 

 

 

Below is the earlier iteration:

 

English/ISIS 890S:  21st Century Literacies:  Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities

Tuesday 4:40-7:10pm

Smith Warehouse, Bay 4   Room 107

****DRAFT****

OVERVIEW:

The purpose of this class is to explore what it means to do academic research and teaching redesigned and repurposed for the present.  We will be rethinking the education systems we’ve inherited from the Industrial Age, and the social, philosophical, technological, and cultural systems that contributed to them in order to imagine what a new form of education (including research and publishing) more suitable for the digital age might look like. 

 

The ideology of the class is that education is not broken.  If it were, we could fix it.   The educational system we have now is an outgrowth of the research university that began in the U.S. with Johns Hopkins University’s founding in 1876.  Virtually all the apparatus of contemporary higher education has evolved from the assumptions of that research university—a system deeply invested in skills and specialization in order to achieve measurable outcomes and maximum productivity (the mantras of the Industrial Age).   What this means is radical separations throughout our educational system between thinking and doing, theory and practice, work and play, critique and creativity, skills and systems.   As we specialize more and more, we become (in one direction or another) more radically divorced from determination of the system to which we contribute.  

 

What would it mean to remake graduate education—and therefore the future of education more generally—so the emphasis was not on outcomes but experience, not on skill development but on systemic thinking, not on the built but on building.

What if we had an assessment system that measured what we valued—not one that valued what is measurable?   What if instead of the Industrial Age’s statistical methods based on standard deviation, IQ tests, and ranked scores on multiple choice tests we collectively determined what constitutes excellence and considered our success to be the individual and collective attainment of that degree of excellence, as also validated collectively by our community?

 

These are the meta-goals of our course.  We begin by acknowledging that we will not all achieve all of these goals.  We begin by acknowledging that, in striving for them, and even if (especially if) we fail, we will all learn an enormous amount.

 

*   *   *

 

The first three classes will all focus on building the apparatus—intellectual and technical—that will be the scaffolding of our achievement this semester.  We’ll begin reading after that.

 

 

 

January 15:   Tonight we will accomplish three goals.  

 

1.SURVEY TOOL:  We will build a survey tool using Survey Monkey and answer it.  What do we want to know about one another?  What do we need to know about one another?  

 

One purpose is to maximize “collaboration by difference” as a methodology so that, when we begin to build in class, your project team has the optimal set of talents to make the best possible project, offer the best and most constructive feedback, and help you to achieve your goals for this class. 

 

Other purposes: 

      This is a peer-led class—what can we expect of our peers?

                  This is a project –based class.

                  This is a contract-graded class.

                  This is a peer-evaluated class.

 

 

2. COMMUNITY PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES:  We will begin to create a class constitution or set of community practices.   I will get us started on this because there are certain principles—such as contract grading and peer-to-peer evaluation—that it is my professional responsibility to delineate.

 

What besides peer-to-peer grading, is it important for us as a collective to set out in our own self-created (and yet circumscribed) community document?  What institutional requirements/obligations are important to us?  What institutional rules best support our individual and collective goals for the class?

 

In essence, we are creating our own institution here within the larger framework of Duke University’s graduate school and within the larger profession of higher education.  We have parameters.  Within those, what can we do to structure the institution of our graduate class to support and promote our values?   What are the right assessment structures, mechanics, work flows, responsibilities, and procedures that will help us achieve our individual and collective goals?  What constitutes success?  What constitutes failure?

 

We will post our document to a Google Doc to which all members of the class have editing and commenting privileges until January 18. 

·      On January 18, edits will be turned off and it will accept only signatures (document approved as is) or comments for discussion.

·      Everyone must have either signed the document or added a signed discussion comment to be discussed in class on January 22.

·      On January 22, we will review all outstanding comments, and take simple majority votes on whether to include the comments

·      We will then take a majority vote on whether to accept the class constitution and we will publish it to our Wordpress site.

·      The constitution can be emended by individuals and groups at any time.  (I’m assuming it wil be emended many times.)

 

3. WORDPRESS SITE:   We will be performing a lot of collective work, including critique and collaboration in public on the Wordpress Site.   Remember this is a public documentation of our class.   Use wisely.

 

            Goal for January 15:  Everyone signs into the site and leaves some public statement about why  they signed up for the class, what they hope to contribute, what they hope to learn.  

 

ASSIGNMENTS FOR JANUARY 22:

1.     Contribute to, edit, comment, or sign off to the Google Doc “Community Rules and Practices” by January 22.

 

2.     Edit your WordPress contribution if and only if you wish to.  Comment on anyone else’s if and only if you wish to.

 

3.     Either start your own website for your work in English/ISIS 890 or make a separate part of your existing website dedicated entirely to your work in this course.   This is your own ePortfolio.   You can do this as a Google Site, a Wordpress Site, or using a commercial tool such as Pathbrite (https://pathbrite.com/portfolios ) ePortfolio system.  Be prepared to come to class for a design critique of your site. 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 22:

 

(1)  Discussion of Survey Monkey results and creation of optimal project groups based on the principle of  “collaboration by difference.”   It is assumed that these groups may change in the course of the term.

(2)  Discussion of our Community Practices and Rules document and publication of the document.  It is assumed we’ll be emending the document throughout the term.

(3)   Website/ePortfolio Design critique

Work in small project groups to view one another’s personal websites.  Offer feedback and critique using think-pair-share method. 

           Which three things are most successful about the site?  Which three things need help?   Circle the one you can help with. 

           Discuss.

           Reconvene as group to discuss all

 

Assignment for January 29:   Revisit your site design with the comments and help of your colleagues.   Next week, we’ll repeat again. 

 

Reading Assignment:  Yochai Benkler, “Coases’s Penguin”

                             Cathy Davidson, Now You See It  (free copies available—do not buy the book.  NB:  I thought about not requiring my own book but that seems coy—so we’ll start with it, and move on!)

 

Individual Writing and/or video assignment:  WordPress (reblogged to your individual site):  300-500 words and optional video, prompted either by Benkler or Davidson.   You can either create a class assignment for a class you are teaching (specify the class, level, field) or a napkin sketch for a collaborative project you would like to build. (specify the audience, partners)  

            NB:  Future assignments might well be collaborative but the second part of this one is a group assignment in peer-to-peer evaluation so this one begins with an individual blog and/or video. 

           

January 29:   Peer evaluation, feedback, and contribution exercise.  Hour 1.

            NB:  None of us is good at this.  Nothing in the contemporary educational system is designed to help us be good at giving or receiving and incorporating feedback.  It’s probably the most valuable skill any of us can learn. 

    Procedure for today (we may emend this in future classes):

Divide into our project groups.

In alphabetical order, use the think-pair-share technique on each blog/video produced by the members of your group.

Step one:  90 seconds.  Everyone in the group (including the author) takes 90 seconds to write three things on an index card about the blog/video produced this week by the person whose last name comes first in the alphabet.

1—what you like best

2—what you think it needs to be acceptable (i.e. fulfill contract) or, if it is acceptable, how it could be even better with revision

3—how and what you can contribute to successful revision

 

            Step two:   5 minutes.

            Each member of group reads out three things on the card.  Focus on the positive where there is most consensus.  And the negative where there is most consensus.   If the author agrees, plot out a revision plan.

 

            Step three:  1 minute. 

            Group decides whether project should get full contract-worthy credit now or be revisited after revision.  

 

            Repeat same steps with the person whose name comes next in the alphabet.   

 

We will begin by dividing into our project groups and reading/viewing the writing/video assignments together.

            Think-pair-share topic:  For each video/blog you read, write individual for 90 seconds:  Did they meet the contractual standard (acceptable) for the first assignment for this course?  If not, what needs to be improved to meet the standard?
            Now, reassemble as a group and look at the cards and together vote either acceptable or “needs revision” for each group project for which you are responsible.

 

Reconvene in 50 minutes.   Discuss process.  How can it be improved? 

           

 

Break for dinner, informal formal conversation of what just happened.

 

Hour Two:  Discussion of Benkler and Davidson.

 

 

Hour Three:

            15 minutes:  Group 1 sets reading (viewing/experiencing) assignment and writing/blogging/making assignment for February 5 class.    Since this is the first of these, we can discuss it as a group or in small groups as Group 1 wishes. 

 

            45 minutes:  Groups work on revising their video/blogs and also giving contract credit to work that has been deemed acceptable by the group either in its original or revised state. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments

Thank you for this forward thinking work. I teach humanities to 10th and 12th grade students in an independent high school with a 1:1 laptop program. I'm particularly interested in building skills based on systemic thinking, inquiry-based learning, deep and complex search and re-search, and collaboration. Think-pair-share always generates ideas, values, new directions. I'm chiming in because I plan on scaling down much of the above with the goals of re-imagining and re-making education, literacy, critical thinking, inquiry, and research at the high school level. In a  seminar for seniors on the literature of espionage and terrorism, we'll begin by adapting many of the above structures. 

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Wonderfully promising take on how to go about fostering digital literacies.  Look forward to participating!

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