Authority

When Robots Write

Thursday, April 14, 2011 Comment 4 robots placed next to each other

Robots are always in the news, it seems. Whether they are serving as caregivers for the elderly or helping solve the Japanese nuclear crisis, robots are becoming an increasingly important part of contemporary life. Even though we all don’t yet own a personal robot assistant, there is a way in which automated processes are part of all of our lives: in the many bots that make the data structures of the Internet possible. Bots aren’t robots in the traditional sense, but rather are computer programs that scour the Net performing increasingly complex tasks. In his fascinating


Happiness, Learning, and Technology: Why “Affective” Schools are the New “Effective” Schools

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Comment young boy with headphones playing kids computer game

What are the connections between emotional education and digital media and learning? Faced with a global economic recession, civic unrest, and major environmental catastrophe, governments around the world are now obsessed with cheering us all up, especially kids. Measures are being designed to gauge global, national, organizational and individual levels of happiness, and well-being is being put at the heart of public policy. Ensuring children’s happiness now and in the future is therefore becoming an urgent aim for education. The State of Happiness Schools are emotional places. Everyone remembers their school days through the rhythm of


Wikirriculum: Curriculum in the Digital Age

Monday, February 07, 2011 Comment wiki curriculum infographic create usability and sustainability

Developing a school curriculum is a complex act of creative design. Add networked participatory media to the mix and curriculum design gets even more complicated. So, from the perspective of digital media and learning research, what kind of approaches to curriculum design should we be developing? A group of researchers and curriculum developers recently undertook some initial work on “curriculum innovation” as part of the DML working groups program. We were looking for the newest developments in curriculum design, situating what we found in a wider context of social, communications and curriculum theory, and just put


Why Teach?

Monday, January 31, 2011 Comment colorful graffiti written on brick wall

There are as many reasons to teach as there are reasons to learn.  One reason item-response testing (the twentieth-century’s dominant method of testing) is so deficient is that it tends to reduce what we teach to content (especially in the human, social, and natural sciences) or calculation (in the computational sciences).  Think of the myriad ways of knowing, making, playing, imagining, and thinking that are not encompassed by content or calculation.  This semester, I’ve moved over to highly experimental, collaborative, peer-led methods in my two undergraduate classes, “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” comprised largely


Peer Learning Isn’t Easy (But Some Days It’s Amazing)

Monday, December 20, 2010 Comment students sitting on couches working on laptops together

I’m not teaching a class this term.  I’m doing something lots harder.  I am making a collaborative, peer-led experience available to students.  There are six of them: three graduate students, two undergraduate students, and one recent alum.  There is no syllabus.  As part of HASTAC and the Digital Media and Learning Competition, my semester has been full of exciting opportunities so I wrote an open letter to Duke students inviting anyone daring enough to join me for a peer-created collaboration to build projects around these events.  I wanted to share the wealth and turn it into pedagogy.  I’ve never done anything like this before so I wanted to handpick the participants in what I call a “Tutorial in Collaborative Thinking.”  I had about two dozen inquiries; if the word “grade” or “requirements” came up in the email to me, I knew the student was wrong for this experiment in independent, self-guided group learning-by-doing.  The six who were bold enough to join have dubbed themselves FutureClass.  They created a class website and even co-created their own logo.  If you’ve never co-designed a logo with six people you don’t know, from different backgrounds, different ages, different kinds of expertise, well, let me just tell you it isn’t easy.  They pulled it off, too. Nothing about FutureClass has been easy.  To begin with, Duke doesn’t really have an institutional category for a six-person group independent study that crosses graduates and undergraduates and alums (including a doctoral student at UNC too), and in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  After an exchange of something on the order of a gazillion emails, a department chair (name omitted to protect the implicated) went out on a limb and just signed the form making this anomaly a reality.


Student-led Curriculum: Demanding, Digital, Compelling

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 Comment students and teacher sitting in college classroom smiling at the camera

At November’s University of California Institute for Research in the Arts conference, the emphasis was on college courses that couldn’t be planned out according to set syllabi and fixed course objectives, because students were expected to be co-creators of the classes in which they often found themselves enrolled. Whether capitalizing on emergent interactions with online or offline communities, such courses defy predictability, because the students on the class roster aren’t the only participants in a new generation of service learning courses that take advantage of social media technologies. For example, at the Otis College of Art


Community and Writing in an Age of New Collectives

Monday, November 08, 2010 Comment geographic map of online communities and platforms

In Larry Sanger’s history of the development of Wikipedia in Open Sources 2.0, the Wikipedia co-founder writes: For months I denied that Wikipedia was a community, claiming that it was, instead, only an encyclopedia project, and that there should not be any serious governance problems if people would simply stick to the task of making an encyclopedia. This was wishful thinking. In fact, Wikipedia was from the beginning both a community and an encyclopedia project. (p. 329; my emphasis). In other words, Sanger argues that the problems he associated with Wikipedia when he was head of


Digital Media and the Changing Nature of Authorship

Wednesday, September 08, 2010 Comment 8 photos of hands writing in notebooks

Students spend a lot of time writing. Most everyone vividly remembers writing essays for school, and, for many, those memories are not necessarily pleasant. Talk of writing in the classroom often dredges up images of empty pages yawning to be filled, writer’s block, and a general uneasiness with the idea of writing in general. The papers we wrote were typically read only by our teachers, and maybe our classmates, after which they disappeared never to be seen again. In Literacy in American Lives, Deborah Brandt explains the origin for some of these uneasy feelings, noting that


Crowdsourcing Scholarship

Monday, June 21, 2010 Comment girls sitting on steps outside holding cell phones

A few weeks ago, just before the 2010 THATCAMP, a well-known technology and humanities “unconference,” got underway at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the center’s director, Dan Cohen, and his colleague and co-director, Tom Scheinfeldt, made a radical proposal.  In a blog posting called “One Week, One Book: Hacking the Academy,” Cohen proposed that conference participants and others following the discussion on Twitter and in the academic blogosphere should assemble a book about digital media and higher education.  The mandate was to do the project quickly – in only one


In Praise of Mo’ Better Grading

Monday, May 10, 2010 Comment street sign steep grades sharp curves

Meanwhile, back at the pedagogical ranch…You may remember that back in November I reported on my experiment in grading, combining the long tradition of contract grading with what I call “crowdsourced grading.”  Since I was already constructing “This Is Your Brain on the Internet” (ISIS 120) as a peer-taught course, I decided that the students responsible for team-leading each class would also be responsible for determining if that week’s required blogs on their reading assignments measured up to the contract standard.  It didn’t seem like such a radical idea.  This is a course on cognition and