Monday, October 31, 2011

Involving our students in publishing and presenting digitally

As Daniel Zappala and I have been discussing the next round of Digital Civilization which we will be teaching starting in January, 2012, we are intent upon finding authentic projects in which to involve our students. Two such ideas are the creation and publication of an eBook; and participating in online conferences or webinars.

Prior students made and
published an eBook.
Currently we've been brainstorming having our students get into teams to research, prepare, and publish an eBook about key issues in changes to education today -- all from the historical vantage point of digital civilization. This idea stems from the success that my students had in Spring, 2011, producing Writing About Literature in the Digital Age. After blogging through various related issues on the topic, they each produced a chapter for this eBook, which we then launched in a public webinar. This has led to some good things, such as NYU PhD Candidate, Anna Smith,  using our book as a way to structure her own experiments in teaching writing digitally. This constructive response encourages Daniel and me to repeat and perfect that experiment. We'll have more to say about that as our ideas form and as we involve our students in planning.

A second idea is to have our students participate in online conferences, such as the Global Education Conference or the Library 2.011 Virtual Worldwide Conference, both happening in November, 2011. First, students could virtually attend just such a conference. This could get them launched very quickly into present conversations on key topics and give them an idea for how they could, in turn, participate later by presenting their own ideas at such an event.

I'm glad that one of the themes of the Global Ed conference is authentic learning. Daniel and I believe strongly in breaking through the artificial barriers of academic courses and getting students involved in influencing their evolving world. We can do so very easily today, and as students realize they have both a stake in and a voice in these matters, then suddenly the history we research and the concepts about digital culture we explore will obviously be relevant.

Another source for such conferences is educational webinars.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Message to the National Collegiate Honors Council

Several of us from the Fall 2010 Digital Civilization course have been invited to present at the 2011 National Collegiate Honors Council in Phoenix Arizona regarding our innovative course.

Our course was generally organized around historical periods and topics, but also around three general principles of digital literacy:

  1. Consume
  2. Create
  3. Connect

We thought we would start with a kind of platform for learning in the digital age. Here are educational ideas we stand for:

  • If students do not publish their process of learning, their products of learning will have diminishing value (Gideon Burton)
  • 50 brains are better than one, even if that one has a PhD (Daniel Zappala)
  • Self-directed, as opposed to teacher-directed learning, is the key to successful undergraduate education (Kristen Cardon)
  • If students do not become digitally literature by
    1) consuming information intelligently;
    2) creating ways to effectively synthesize and share information; and
    3) connecting people and ideas both in person and online, they will not reach their potential in the digital age (Ariel Szuch)
  • Formal education is useless if it is not seamlessly integrated with social media networking and social discovery (Jeff Whitlock)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading the Present through the Past

As Daniel Zappala has done in his retrospective post, I wish to reflect on the Honors history of civilization course we pioneered at Brigham Young University in Fall, 2010. I'd like to point out in particular how we connected the digital present to ideas and movements from the history of civilization.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Looking back on our first semester teaching Digital Civilization, there are a couple of things that stand out for me (besides the fact that this was the most fun I've ever had teaching a class):
  1. I really like how we were able to integrate computing concepts and digital culture into our coverage of western civilization.
  2. Our emphasis on self-directed learning has revolutionized the way I think about teaching.
More about these below ...