Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Do I Know When I'm Done?

Questions We know that we've thrown a lot of new stuff at you in this Digital Civilization class so far, and this paradigm shift can be overwhelming, to say the least. A few of you have asked some very valid questions in the past couple days: How do I know when I've done enough? How can I be confident that I'm prepared for class?

Well, Dr. Zappala and I were talking after class today, and we agreed that you are prepared when:

  1. You feel that you have a firm grasp of the topic at hand. You don't know everything there is to know, but you've done some reading, read through old notes, watched some videos online, looked at a few Prezis, talked to a couple people, read some of your classmates' posts, or done whatever else it takes to give you a good understanding of what we'll be discussing in class. And you don't have to be familiar with every aspect--you should know some of the overarching themes (the wiki is a good place to start for those) but you can focus in on a particular aspect that interests you. Are you an economics major?  Research the economic climate of the 18th century. Love art? Find some examples of art of the period and explain them. We want to take advantage of your individual interests as much as possible. 
  2. You are actively sharing your learning process on Google+. Post links, pictures, posts, etc. and what you're thinking about them along the way.
  3. You can write an intelligent blog post making a connection between a digital concept and a historical period (they don't have to be the ones you're assigned, but we recommend that at least one should be) and stating an opinion/making an argument based on that connection. This goes back to the post I wrote on blogging the other day. Sure, you don't know everything, and you may be afraid to make a claim for fear you've missed something crucial. I know I've felt that way. But throw caution to the winds and post anyway. Taking a position creates a much better environment for conversation. You should also include a visual element, such as a picture or a video, as well.
We've been pleased to see some of that connection and conversation happening even in these past few days. Marisa, in her post entitled "Hacking My Own Education," states her opinion/dissatisfaction with the way scientific education is often rigidly linear. Her post is compelling because she has a personal stake in it (she's studying microbiology and astronomy) and explains what she thinks should change. On Google+ we get a narrative aspect in the little bit of discussion she and Michelle had about her post, and that personal experience makes her claim that much more believable and her blog more valuable. We want these kinds of claims backed up with personal experience and historical connections. Let's see more of them!

Book of Mormon
I also liked Stephen's post introducing himself, his time period, and his historical concept. He shows an excellent basic understanding of the areas he was assigned, and he also brings in the religious aspect. We want, and even encourage, you to use tie-ins to the LDS faith. With a Mormon winning important primaries in the presidential election and the Church coming under more scrutiny from the public eye, it will be important that we are aware of what is going on around us and can explain our religion in both historical and contemporary contexts. (I have strong feelings about why the LDS people--especially young people--should become digitally literate; watch for my manifesto on the subject coming soon.)

So that should give you a little better idea of what you should be doing for this class. It may take a little bit for you to get a feel for what we're going for. But do not despair! Stick with it, and you'll get it after a bit. And we would hope that eventually the work for this class is not just something to check off a to-do list, but becomes something you're invested in and you realize the importance of. Like we've said before, it's about creating that mindset of learning and sharing and being aware what's going on in the world around you. It's about empowering you to be educated and active citizens in our digital world. In some ways, we hope you'll never be done with this class--that this mindset will become a part of you. It has definitely become a part of me.

To paraphrase James Lovell, Apollo 13 commander, when he came to speak at BYU in March of 2010: "There are three kinds of people in this world: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened."

Which will you be? Food for thought.

Photo credits: Oberazzi and jessestay on flickr