So we’re up and running with How the Web Works, my summer course hosted on WordPress. It’s definitely experimental, underdeveloped, emergent, and…messy! With one student (Chris) enrolled, it’s also sort of a paradox, as we try to co-construct a course that has principles of collaboration, peer-instruction, and connected learning baked in. But hey, we all play with the cards we are dealt, right?
So far, to be honest, my focus hasn’t really been on the WordPress platform as such, but on getting a clearer sense of the conceptual map of the course (on the macro level) and on designing relevant activities and assignments for each week (on the micro level). I guess you could say that I’m still operating from the “content is king” approach to learning and teaching that I was a part of for so long…which includes having a pretty well-defined map of the sequence of topics and themes that are going to unfold. But I’m still relatively new to this content area (after an earlier career teaching religious studies), and, truth be told, while I am embracing a connectivist point of view with considerable enthusiasm, there’s still a part of me that thinks that the content of the pipes is still pretty important.
I think that, at least for this iteration of the course, I’m happy with what we’ve sketched out as the major theme of each week (it’s a seven-week course, so each of these weeks is like two weeks in a traditional semester). Designing assignments has given me more anxiety, but that’s coming along too, with help from colleagues. Chris Lott is teaching a similar kind of course this summer, and I have benefitted greatly from his comments and from checking out his course site for ideas and inspiration. And my Austin College colleague Brett Boessen (who’s lurking in TWP15) has given me some good advice…he’s teaching “Elements of Media Making” right now, and the lucky guy has four students in his course (including the one who is in mine). Like I said before, summer school at Austin College is really small ball.
So what have we done so far? Well, in week one Chris got some tools in place to be a connected learner…account at Reclaim, WordPress installed, blog up and running (check it out and leave comments!), and Twitter account reactivated…follow him @DaWhopperFreak. The basics for building a PLN are there. We also got religion from Gardner Campbell on the personal cyberinfrastructure; I think Chris took to his baptism with fervor. And I had him check out some guides on digital identity and reputation to start keying in on some of those issues. I also worked through @CogDog’s tutorials to set up blog syndication with FeedWordPress. Geez, I love that guy! Of course, there’s not a lot to syndicate right now in this course, but looking ahead this is going to be so awesome.
This week we took a dive into the “history of the digital revolution.” We’re reading some stuff from Isaacson’s The Innovators, with particular attention on the unfolding of the Bush/Licklider/Engelbart vision of augmented intelligence (hello, Though Vectors in Concept Space!) Today we watched some highlights from “The Mother of All Demos,” Doug Engelbart’s 1968 presentation heralding the dawn of interactive computing. Chris was rapt!
One of the main assignments for the week is for Chris and I to collaborate on an interactive timeline of this history using Timeline JS. There’s a plug-in for that, of course. Chris is a political science major, history minor, with a particular interest in military history. And we all know how much the development of computers and digital networks was embedded within military purposes. So for starters, he’s digging into material relating to Enigma and Alan Turing. There’s not a whole lot on the timeline just yet, but you can check it out on his WordPress site here. I’m going to focus on adding elements from more recent history (the last 25 years or so). If you have a course that deals with narrative or historical material, Timeline JS might be a good choice to incorporate as a learning activity. I’ll also have Chris do a reflective blog post about his timeline.
Next week we explore the conversation and debates about digital literacy, web literacy (and any other kind of literacy you can think of, for that matter). We’ll read some stuff by Doug Belshaw (h/t to Chris Lott for that idea) and from Howard Rheingold, among others. I’m leaning toward building the activity/assignment for the week around some Wikipedia edits, but that’s still coming into focus (like I said, we really are making this up as we go). One thing I’m trying to do in the course is to weave into each week the chance to use different kinds of digital knowledge making tools (like Timeline JS). For example, I’d like to work in assignments using things like social bookmarking (Diigo) web annotation (Hypothes.is), and mind-mapping (suggestions?).
It’s a start, at least.