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First Day of Class w/ Dan Ariely, Cathy Davidson, Duke Students, and You: #Dukesurprise Join Us!

Remember the heart-pounding thrill of the first day of class?  I'm starting to get emails from some of the students signed up for "Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature," the class I'm teaching this term with behavioral economist Dan Ariely and I can feel the rush.  In fact, I'm experiencing it too.  It's going to be a great semester and the public is invited!

Here's the website for Surprise Endings:      #Dukesurprise


Overview  The basic idea is that, today, students will divide up into project teams of four students, who will be in charge of each week's topic.   They will pare down readings and maybe offer alternative readings and viewings on classic ideas in social science: attention blindness; self control; the identifiable victim effect; relativity and defaults;  obedience, evil, and resistance; dishonesty; social proof; gender and success; race, prejudice, and political correctness.  They will read scientific papers and they'll read literary works or view films that grapple with the same topic, and will host a public online discussion group on the website, on the readings and ideas.  They'll be tweeting those out too as #Dukesurprise and encouraging the public to become engaged in the conversation.  


Dan isn't able to be in class today so here's his WELCOME and overview:  http://


This is not a couse for the faint-hearted but, for the students brave enough to try, it will be full of life lessons that mirror the content of the course.   Dan's work is all about how we do not know ourselves or control ourselves nearly as well as we think we do.  We need experiments that show us our own blindspots.  My work is all about how we can use learned, practiced, interactive collaborative methods and management techniques to together, collectively help us be aware of our blindspots and compensate for them.  This is the HASTAC method known as "collaboration by difference," a management practice based on and compensating for attention blindness.    


On camera interview each week with Dan Ariely and Cathy Davidson:    The student project leaders will also formulate questions for a what will be edited into a highly professional 45-minute interview, on camera, with Dan and me.   Dan and I have pledged not to talk to one another before this. Every Monday, on-airinterviewer will pose questions and we'll answer them spontaneously.   The students will then take the interview and have a week to add subheadings, credits, anything else, and we'll post it to a Duke YouTube Channel a week later.   We'll tweet it out so you know when each topic is posted and then the process begins again.  


Supplementary Web Material:  The pedagogical fun begins off camera.   After the interviews, the class will break into groups, working with a remarkable team of professional videographers, web developers, and open course developers (the four really astonishing teaching assistants in the course), and will create supplementary course material that is as inventive and interactive as they can come up with.  They'll preview a draft, we'll give feedback, and then they will work on their finished product.  At the end of the class, we'll syncrhonize the videos of me and Dan with the work produced by the students.   Graduate students might also be working to turn it into an actual Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).  


Contract Grading and Peer-to-Peer Project Evaluation and Management:  This course will be the best project-management, peer-feedback, organizational psychology, and practical team leadership training course available just about anywhere.  In addition to contract grading, we have a formal evaluation sheet that each project team will customize outlining the kinds of contribution each member should make.  At points throughout the term, each team will award recognition points or "badges" to the team member contributing the most in each category.  They will then share these evaluations and will all see who is contributing to what, and make corrections if it turns out that one member, for example, is getting all the badges in one category (such as "fire starter":  the idea person, and "implementer" and "finisher" and "online learning content manager" and "videographer":  if one person is thought by all the other three to be the leader in ALL these areas, something is really wrong with the collaboration in that group).   Each week, the project team in charge will also be responsible for checking "yes" or "no" on a grid to indicate that every class member has contributed to the public blog conversation about the topic--fulfilling their individual contractual requirements for the course.   To view the draft contracts, you can check this out:    


MOOC:  Meaningful Online Open Course:  The MOOC we produce will push the boundaries of interactive public learning and teaching-by-doing.   I am increasingly frustrated that with all the exciting digital media and learning happening all over the globe, so many elite universities are signing on to the Talking Heads/Sage on the Stage model of online top-down learning.   This is utterly antithetical to what the Web is about.   We're hoping by having STUDENTS involved in thinking about Meaningful Online Open Courseware, that they will help return the conversation at the elite universities to the iterative, process-oriented, true learning that all the research shows is the best way to actually learn, as opposed to being entertained.   There are amazing possibilities for learning all over the Web.   Look at Wikipedia or Yelp!   We all love to contribute what we know and think.   Why in the world reduce all that the World Wide Web has to offer, all that we as colearners have to offer, to an idea of education as some static content that some tenured professor at an elite university has to tell you?  It's faster to read his or her book!  


Students as Learning Leaders: a Meta-MOOC.    This class is making an online class, turning our knowledge into public knowledge with public contribution and content.  It's also about what education is.   It is a Meta-MOOC.  What does it mean to make learning massively?   I am frustrated that the conversation around MOOCs seems to have forgotten that students exist.   And that they have ideas.  And they maybe even have a stake in how they learn and how they are taught.   Our Meaningful Online Open Course (I believe this term was coined, by the way, by educational blogger Audrey Walters) is student led.   We hope all those distinguished Sages on the Stage will listen.   Please, listen!


Instructional Team:  Although Dan and I are the "celebrity teachers" in this class, we have four "teaching assistants" plus one professional videographer plus one crackerjack webmaster (who is also a trained lawyer) who are far more expert than we are at all kinds of things.  This team includes Erin Allingham (writer, scholar, teacher who works closely with Dan Ariely), Kaysi Holman (web developer, executive assistant, conceptual strategist, lawyer), Amanda Starling Gould (Literature doctoral student, expert and certified online course developer), Peter Lisignolli (film maker, MFA student), Talena Sanders (film maker, documentary maker, producer), and Catherine Angst (professional videographer and film maker for the Franklin Center and Franklin Humanities Institute).  You can find their bios here:


JOIN US!     Our experiment will have the most impact if there is excitement beyond Duke.   We hope you will go to the Surprise Endings website, let us know what you think.  I'll be blogging at both places.   Dan will also be blogging on his own blog.   Help us get out the word, join the fun, exchange ideas, contribute, and see if we can't take the latest learning idea and help it fulfill the potential that we all need and deserve for the future of learning! 



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