Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Digital Revolution: Event Preview

For our Digital Civilization class, our culminating activity isn't the final examination; it's a public showcase, a special event for which we are now all anxiously preparing. We call it "Digital Revolution: Upgrading Education for Digital Civilization." [explained | on Facebook].

Here's a preview of each of the ten presentations that will be made that night. Have a look, then join us for the live event on December 9, 2010...

But first, why?
Why stage an event right at a time when students are deluged with papers, projects, and exams from their other classes? All the extra work! For crying out loud, couldn't we just have people write up a report on their final projects and let them loose to enjoy their holidays?

Lots of reasons, really. Topping the list is the fact that education is undergoing massive changes, and an event like ours can bring attention, focus, and energy to those changes -- not just for each other in the class, but for the broader publics who have a stake in those changes.

Backpack 2.0
Perhaps the most obvious change to education right now is the proliferation of communication and technological tools. These aren't just cool or fun; these tools are fundamentally reshaping literacy itself. One of our groups highlights digital literacy with their project, which they call "Backpack 2.0," for which they've created both a wiki and a blog. BriAnne Zabriskie, Alex Gunnarson, Brandon McCloskey, Danny Patterson, Kevin Watson, and Brian Earley have grouped these tools under the "three C's" of digital literacy that we've studied this semester: Consume, Create, and Connect.

DigiCiv: The Documentary
Another student group created a documentary about our course.  Maggie Weddle, Jake Corkin, and Dalton Haslam interviewed us professors and various students, trying to get at the heart of what made this approach to learning, and to the history of civilization, unique and valuable. Here's their teaser:

Digital Literacy Without Borders
When the world is your campus, it doesn't take long to appreciate the digital divide: not everyone profits equally from the educational technology. Because of BYU's excellent international study programs, many of our students have studied in foreign countries (such as Autumn Gardner) or are planning to do so. What does digital literacy beyond the United States even mean?

This was a question Kristen Nicole Cardon has been asking herself as she's been readying to study Tibetan schooling in India. She involved Parker WoodyMike Lemon, and Sean Watson in a group looking at the topic of Digital Literacy Without Borders.

Using Skype, they have been conducting interviews in India about how Tibetans there use technology in education. Obviously they have taken their literacy well beyond the borders of our classroom.

Our digital civilization is undergoing profound economic changes, including the ways through which businesses are started and funded -- especially in developing nations. Several students from our course are using the new communications tools available to organize a club devoted to microfinance. This group includes Jeffrey Whitlock, LeeAnne Lowry, and Jeffrey Chen.

Sharing the Gospel in a Digital World
Our university is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Ours is a very missionary-oriented church, and it is very natural for Mormons studying new media to want to apply these new tools and skills to spreading their faith. It turns out that this inclination fits in well with digital culture at large because "missionary work" -- promoting one's company, product, or just personal brand -- is part and parcel of digital culture. People (who may have little to do with religion) are calling themselves "evangelists" because the promotion of ideas with religious zeal (for whatever cause) is becoming a standard component of digital civilization.

One of our student groups got together with the pilot group of full time online missionaries from the church's Missionary Training Center and together put on a fireside, an event in which LDS church members could learn about how missionaries are using new media for teaching about Jesus Christ online.  Rhett FerrinJames Wilcox, and Andrew DeWitt each report on their blogs about the event's success, while Kurt Witt gives an historical overview of LDS proselytizing on his. Chase McCloskey is adding additional historical material to their wiki in preparation for the Digital Revolution presentation.

"Of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven":
The Journey of a Mormon Messages Video

Communicating in our digital civilization can't just be with words. Pictures -- especially moving pictures -- are what moves people to action. Corporations and organizations are waking up to the power of video for promoting their messages, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now using a video contest, crowdsourcing content for its public relations campaign.

A student group including Shuan Pai, David Potter, and Ariel Szuch will be presenting their video entry for the contest during our event.

First Life: A Music Video

Digital Civilization is not utopian, despite the many positive changes that are coming through computing and communications developments. One of our student groups used digital media -- video and music -- to bring these problems to the foreground. The following are production photos for the soon-to-be-screened video, provided by group member Madeline Rupard:

In his post about the impact of music, Clint Peterson explains the video's theme and how they will be remixing a song from The Killers:
It's of a modern day Thoreau, who struggles with the balance of his digital life and his real life. As his real life begins to suffer as a result of his overindulgence in his second life, he decides to venture into the wilderness and find himself. Doing so, he finds a balanced way to supplement his real life with his digital world. Though the video is somewhat comical, we hope to communicate a real message about the reality and danger of a second digital life overtaking our lives. We will be using a song by the Killers called Human; redoing the lyrics of course 
Morgan Wills has posted a Wordle that shows off the lyrics of their remixed song.
Are the futuristic changes that are upon us our doom? Trevor Cox wonders this in blog post that both introduces their video and invokes Future Shock author, Alvin Toffler. Regardless of the video's critical theme, the making of the video is an example of how work in the digital age is collaborative. The ensemble required for creating a film may in fact be a microcosm for much of the kind of work done in the digital age. It isn't easy coordinating various schedules, for one thing, as Eric Collyer explains in his post.

Medical Site Evaluation Project
Katherine Chipman, Jackie Corbitt, Autumn Gardner, and Sarah Wills have teamed up as consultants to assist groups like Sister Survivors in better using digital tools for assisting their support efforts.

Remix: The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Through Creative Commons licensing, people are making content available freely to others to be creatively remixed and repurposed. Together we read a very important treatise about open source content by Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. This team of students, made up of Brad Twining, Erin Hamson, and Shaun Frenza, are each taking a crack at remixing the plain vanilla text of this treatise into something more attractive and useful by using the various digital tools we've been exploring this semester. Who knows what they will come up with?

The Event Team
Here's our event planning team. Kristina Cummins and Megan Stern have set up a Facebook event page through which to invite people, plus a page for planning the event, giving our students ideas to promote it.

Image credits (all creative commons licensed): Michael Coghlan (adapted); Dennis S. Herd (adapted)