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Howard Rheingold: For an example of how I'm reshaping my teaching methods around the Co-Lab

This course is built upon interdisciplinary, collaborative, inquiry:

We are committed to asking questions together, in person and online. The texts, discussions in the classroom, and online discourse revolve around collaborative inquiry in which students pursue questions about the issues with social cyberspace that matter most to them and that are raised by the communication media we use as part of the course. The instructor, together with student teaching teams, invites and facilitates co-exploration of and co-experimentation with social media theory and practice. There is no canon to be transmitted. Knowledge is to be actively explored, interrogated, critically analyzed, and collaboratively assembled in our online collaboratory by the class as a whole. Cyberculture studies requires tunneling through disciplinary boundaries and looking at questions through multiple lenses. The instructor will invite experimentation, suggest themes, point out linkages, ask, guide, contest, participate, provide resources; but from the beginning, students are charged as individuals and as a group with assembling and making sense of the knowledge we harvest from these inquiries. For more about the pedagogical theory underlying this kind of learning, see Enquiring Minds, Anti-Teaching (PDF), Moodle Pedagogical Philosophy. Constructivist, constructionist, collaborative inquiry is uniqely suited to learning that blends face to face and online discussion.

Collaborative inquiry requires individual committment to active participation

Learning and practicing social media competencies and understanding the social dimensions of cyberspace should be fun and should enable students to have a voice in one of the most important emerging aspects of global society -- the power of every desktop computer or smart phone to function as a worldwide printing press, broadcasting station, market, community center, political organizing tool. Students will develop skills that are directly relevant to their personal development and their place in the world after graduation, but the price for learning to use the Social Media Collaboratory for collaborative inquiry is a serious committment of time and attention by every member of the learning group. We will be engaged in a continuing discursive process that cannot be fulfilled by just turning in homework the morning it is due. Peers will need each other's input many times each week, through a variety of media, in order to conduct ongoing inquiries, debates, collaborative writing, team teaching, and group projects. To get the most out of this course students should be expected to devote approximately eight hours per week to study and collaboration between class meetings, allocated as follows:

Individual work

4 hours reading per week

1 hour each week viewing video online

1 hour each week in written reflection in personal learning journal

1/2 hour each week in preparation for student teaching or group project collaboration

1 1/2 hours of individual online activity each week in forums, blogs, wikis, chats, twitter, and/or other media

These numbers are approximate and variable: the week before a team teaching session will involve heavy collaboration; other weeks will include continuous but less intensive collaboration.

Collaborative projects

Each student will participate in three different kinds of collaborative projects. First, students form and collaborate in teaching teams which prepare, teach, and lead inquiry during one class presenting, raising questions and moderating discussion about one specific theme (by selecting and reflecting on a self selected set of texts & media & practices). Second, following the leadership of the student teaching team, the entire class will participate in constructing a wiki page for structuring the knowledge that is initiated and catalyzed by each teaching team. Finally, students will organize teams of five to conduct an independent inquiry (research project) during the last half of the course.

Key Theme Team Teaching Project

Each student will use the wiki to sign up with two other students to be responsible for co-teaching a specific class. This starts with the syllabus: the teaching team must, at least one week before their teaching session, give the remaining other students four hours worth of specific assigned readings and videos. The instructor offers an annotated list of resources, including his own opinions about their value, but it is up to the teaching team to select the specific texts from the instructor's list -- or relevant texts that are not from the instructor's list. Teaching teams must sign up at least two weeks in advance of their class session and, arrange to meet with instructor during office hours at least a week before the presentation. Each team will be responsible for leading the entire class in making meaning from the texts, face to face discussion, and online discourse -- not just delivering a book report or identifiying material likely to be on a final exam. In addition to succinctly presenting the key arguments and important terms, issues, and ideas of each reading or video, the teaching team formulates five questions for five different in-class student groups, designed to initiate inquiries most likely to lead to deeper knowledge of the text's subject. The teaching team leads the wiki-based process of capturing and distilling collective knowledge from classroom and online discussions -- before, during, and after the class meeting


Before Class Meeting

Teaching team will evaluate the texts suggested by the instructor and will select 4 hours of reading for the entire class, write a short paragraph explaining why these texts were chosen, and transmit their select to the other students in the class at least a week prior to the class meeting.

Teaching team will meet in person and online and frame general inquiry for the entire class through a brief multimedia presentation (see below).

Teaching team will set up a wiki page in advance of the class meeting, framing the top-level heading, creating a separate page for a lexicon. This page will be used during the class meeting by the teaching team, and by the entire class during the following week.

During Class

During class, the teaching team will

Present what they decide is the essence of the texts -- use of interactive multimedia for presentations via Google docs, Voicethread, Wiki, PowerPoint, Youtube, mindmapping, is encouraged. The presentation must involve all members of the teaching team in creation and presentation and cannot exceed five minutes.

Explain and distribute their generative questions to five break-out groups who will convene, then report back about their discussions -- conclusions, open questions, conflicts, key arguments and insights.

A key objective of this course is to develop a mindfulness about and the beginnings of a literacy about the way we use attention in a situation with other co-present humans, each of whom has wireless Internet access. During student teaching presentations, the presenting team will be the the only students to keep their laptops open. One member of the team will initiate a section in the wiki collaborative journal for that class session -- entering into the wiki before class the main top-level categories of the team's presentation and other essential elements, and amending and/or restructing it with notes in real time during the classroom discussion. Another member of the presenting team, the keeper of the lexicon, identifies in real time the key terms and phrases raised by the text and discussion and enters them into the lexicon portion of the wiki. The wiki, in this sense, is meant to be a collaborative learning journal, created by and useful for every member of this class -- and future classes. The third member of the team will search the Web in real time for relevant links and add them to the wiki during class discussion.

After Class

During the week after each class, each student is required to add at least one substantial contribution to the collective learning journal wiki -- expanding on existing notes, adding new material, adding links to relevant sources, posing additional questions and comments. Each team member is expected to put in at least 4 hours in preparing for their teaching session, and to meet as a team with the instructor in his office hours at least one week before their session.

Final Course Project

During the last five weeks, teams of five students will use social media of their choice and face to face meetings to design, implement, and document independent inquiries into some aspect of the course subject matter; multimedia group presentations, no longer than 15 minutes long, followed by discussion, will take place during the last class meeting; , each student is expected to devote at least 9 hours after class to the team project, spread over the last five weeks of the course, in addition to the eight hours of individual work required weekly.

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