Get Your Head Out Of Your Asana & Look Around: An Introduction

“Asana is a simple way to stay on top of your classes, assignments, and student club activities. Before you get started, it’s important to understand how to set up Asana.” – Asana.

The Digital Communitas project, Student Voices, is actively soliciting blog posts, vlogs, and mp3 audio from post-secondary students at Canada’s universities to share their experiences in the classroom with digital media. Sara Humphreys, our fearless leader, has challenged both my colleague Shannon Haslett and I to come up with a blog post which meets the precipitous of the guidelines of the call for posts. I have come up with the idea for a series of posts under the title “Get Your Head Out Of Your Asana.”

One of the tools we use to communicate with each other and control workflow for Student Voices is through an app called Asana. Asana is project management software intended to replace the need for email by making work more “social.” In learning to use Asana, I visited its “Getting Started” page, and immediately noticed the language they used to sell you on their product especially its big-headed and “new-agey” marketing rhetoric. Looking at Asana critically, I thought it would be fun to pick on it to create a series of posts which comment to what level digital technology provides a source of assisting in our education and to what level they provide us with a distraction from learning. How much attention is the twenty-first student paying to Wikipedia and YouTube in the classroom as opposed to well-trained instructors? Or engaging with projected PowerPoint presentations instead of with their peers for in-class discussion? Or looking down at their various digital devices instead of observing the world around them? Where platforms such as Asana or Blackboard provide excellent tools for managing and synthesizing information, to what extent are they becoming a priority for institutional investment at the expense of learning resources whether digital or physical? Is ease of access and coded interactivity truly more important than the information we engage with? Could Marshal McLuhan have been right? Has the media, or the tool, really become the message?

Cool app or Kool-Aid?

Asana was started up by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein in 2008. Their goal is to revolutionize the way we communicate with each other by basically ridding the need to communicate needlessly via email and other, presumably, face-to face means (no more virtual water cooler chit chat), so more actual work can be produced. It professes to replace perceived idleness with efficiency yet it is a bit oxymoronic; replacing traditional digital communications with social communications so you can communicate less.

Ironically, Asana also refers to a yoga position which literally translates to the art or “mastery of sitting still.”  There is no real ‘sitting still’ embedded in the Asana software despite its name, unless they are referring to the ideas that are stagnating. It claims “[y]ou’ll spend less time reading and writing emails and more time getting work done.” Less time reading and writing… hmm. In actuality, it replaces not idleness with efficiency but creativity with efficiency, for out of boredom and dialogue, ideas are born. In the humanities, the work being done is about people and their interaction with (fill in your specialization here).

So, is Asana a good tool for education? What Asana proposes is digital Fordism or Taylorism, where we work with parts never being able to conceive of the whole. And isn’t trying to understand the big picture what a good education is really about?

In their own words,“Asana is the single source of information for your team.  Add projects, tasks, and comments as you go, and you’ll instantly build a team archive that’s easily accessible whenever you need context or information.”  Unfortunately, Asana is about Asana.  It’s mission to keep our heads in our Asana and out of other digital and physical spaces.  However, the truth behind the rhetoric is that Asana can only provide limited information and context, obvious to anyone who takes the time to logout and look around.

 

 

 

 

Call for Posts!

We are starting the next leg of our project where we will give undergrads more of a voice on this site (and hopefully, in how their classroom and courses are implemented). Please share this poster with your humanities undergrads, share with colleagues, or submit a post! We want to know how undergrads are using digital tech in the classroom or what they think of the tech in the classroom. Are smartboards useful? what about smartphones? Tablets? Laptops? The deadline is August 15th  and this post can be listed as a publication on a resume!

 

Deadline is July 31st - send to studentvoices@trentu.ca

Deadline is August 15th – send to studentvoices@trentu.ca

 

Blackboard Jungle -BW

What Using Google Docs in the Classroom Tells Me: We Need to Change Everything

I have been experimenting with Google Docs – I realize loads of teachers use this resource, and I am definitely not writing a how-to guide here. I am not even extolling the virtues of Googles Docs. Yes, it allows for online collaboration, and it’s relatively easy to use for those who have a fear of “digital anything.” What I am writing about here is the relief that students clearly felt at being able to collaborate without a central figure telling them how to learn. .

Students want to control their learning path – they need guidance but not a gatekeeper. While Don Tapscott and I don’t always meet eye to eye, I am on board with the concept of actual student-centred learning, which is very hard to achieve. The very structure of the university is not set up for student-centred learning. The current model of the classroom still privileges a factory, industrial model. The desks are aligned in exact rows; students sit as units of production, and the factory supervisor or professor supplies knowledge to the units. Just to prove my point further, it might make you more than a little queasy to know that students are regularly referred to as Basic Units of Funding (BIU). Each student reported to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) in Ontario (and I am sure this is true at ministries of education nationwide) is worth a certain amount of money. Clearly, post-secondary education requires funding, but from the way the MTCU configures its relationship to students to the actual architecture of the classroom, students are to be processed rather than actively engaged with. Ken Robinson, in his talks for the Royal Society and TED , has been telling us about this problem for years, but what have we done about it?  What I have discovered in using cloud computing tools (like Google Docs) in an industrial classroom is that these tools show us just how outmoded the university system really is. The good news is that these tools can transcend the industrial classroom.

I have been reading up about how others use Google Docs, and there are ideas bandied about like “stump the instructor” – in this particular assignment, students ask the teacher questions that they think might stump the teacher. This is an exercise in positioning the teacher as gatekeeper – the “holder-of-the-knowledge.” In other words, the digital tool is put into service of a certain type of learning. I mean, students could just write a question on a piece of paper and hand it to the teacher, so what’s the use of the digital tool, in this case? When Google Docs is used for actual collaboration, something incredible happens: students take control of the classroom and they love it. Unlike having students give a presentation where they mimic the professor (in essence), Google Docs allows them to take on an active role in constructing the class.

It can seem chaotic at first, because as the students log in and take on their Google ID (or if they do not have a Google Plus account – and most don’t – they are given animal identities like “anonymous liger”), they all seem to be randomly roaming the document as a bunch of cursors…..

All Together Now

but then something wonderful happens – they start to work together on one (digital) page that is a hybrid of the word processing application they use AND the social networking sites they interact on. Guess what? They collaborated brilliantly and productively. So much so that I could not keep up. Next time, I will use “time outs” where we stop and look at what everyone has done and then go back to the document. I should add that the Doc was up on the big screen so everyone could see on their screens and for those without the ability to connect (only 2 people out of 30), they could see as well and also share with classmates. The screen actually create a hub for us as we collaborated.

Students were answering the questions I asked on the Doc enthusiastically and passionately – and they also answered each other’s question on the doc!  The conversation on this digital page was electric, and when I asked students why they were so enthusiastic about this particular tool, they said that they felt at ease communicating in this format. They felt empowered by being able to add their thoughts without feeling pressure to answer (and, therefore, be judged) me directly. Instead of me being “the boss” they must answer to – I was just another roaming cursor adding to the document. Interesting – no? I think the impulse by some teachers will be to condemn “this generation,” who need to learn social skills and so forth. I have not seen a decline in social skills (there are as many rude middle aged folks as young folks, I’ll wager). No, the point here is that the need to communicate collaboratively is as strong as ever but the venue has changed, and post-secondary pedagogy is way behind. Native digital users communicate through online collaboration (e.g. social platforms) and teachers need to get on board or lose student interest and vitality. You can dig your heels in a wish for a better time or join in and have a blast.

Here is a snippet of what we produced in real time (note – students used bolding, color, and italics but all was erased in  the cutting and pasting of that document to this document):

Google Docs Transcript

Question One (I know, this is really a series of questions, but they are linked!)

In both Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, the lead characters leave reality, enter fantasy, and, in the end, return to reality. Are Alice and Dorothy changed by their experience? Does the fantasy world challenge the norms of reality? Does the fantasy world support certain norms? Does the return from the fantasy world negate the social criticism found in the fantasy world? For that matter, what social criticism did you detect in either story?

So?  Any answers?

Alice and Dorothy return from the fantasy world with new perspectives of their own world/reality.  (SM, MB, GM)

In Dorothy’s world, the fantasy does challenge the norm of reality when she first sees the colourful and abundant flowers, which she wishes were in Kansas. (GM)  The colours and “aliveness” of Oz really influence Dorothy’s worldview in that she is so taken aback by the brightness

I don’t think Alice and Dorothy are changed by the experiences but they bring the changes with them when they return. (Ed)

That’s an interesting point. What did Alice “bring back” with her?

Answer to purple text: Alice brings back a different view for her sister and a brief lapse back into her childhood, (as read to us by Sara). (Ed)

Alice brings back the value of imagination and wonder which children were taught to grow out of in order to have a successful adulthood. Alice introduces the idea that fantasy cannot/should not be defined by age. This is a positive spin on the story, which is important – most often, it is seen as defining girls as“civilizers.”

The fantasy world definitely changes the norms of reality but only in the Western sense of norms. (Ed) That’s true

The criticism of reality dissipates at the end of the story, as Alice and Dorothy discard their adventures at the end of the story, but the reader may change his/her perception of reality based on the fantasy world. (Ed)

Good point-why would dorothy want to return to such a grey place (kansas) when she could remain in the colourful world of Oz?

Dorothy wants to return to Kansas in order to be with her family; her auntie and uncle. Maybe to her the beauty and fantasy of the Oz is worthless in the light of her loved ones. (GM) Interesting point – and Em certainly changes

In terms of social criticism-in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy remarks that her land is civilized-there are no witches or wizards there…perhaps alluding to the isolation that different people face? The witch then explains that while there are bad witches, there are also good witches maybe challenging people not to judge those who are strange to society? (BK) I think this is a really good point. There is a lot of diversity in Oz and Dorothy also frees a lot of oppressed peoples

Is there any significance in Alice growing and shrinking? Also, is there any significance with the rabbits white glove that he drops, Alice picks it up, and then puts it on? (BK)    Yes.

I believe that the size changes represent the power of adults in society. Adults hold the power in society and when Alice grows in size she is able to exert more power over the other characters.    YES!

the size changes can be seen as Alices perspective changing … in the end alice turns into a giant and she is able to speak up against the nonsensical trial. YES!
the size change can represent the changes the body goes through in adolescence?

Perhaps- as much as a female wants to grow(for lack of a better word) they are constantly brought back down? (BK) Any advancements that were made for women in society were shortly lived before they were brought back down to size?

Children were previously viewed as passive in their own intellectual and moral development.  Alice has to learn how to take an active role in her own development (whether she’s making herself smaller or bigger).  Perhaps this is the author’s way of endorsing the agency of children.

Since Alice always has problems when she grows bigger, maybe since children are smaller they are able to do and see things that adults cannot? (GM)

The growing and shrinking could represent her lack of experience, or in this case her feeling inferior to something she doesn’t understand, and she grows as she begins to understand and get some measure of control over a new experience.  For instance, she shrinks when she realizes she can’t get the key but stops when she calms herself down enough to think.  In regards to the Rabbits house she is completely thrown by the change of (attitudes? behaviours?) in this strange world but begins to grow when she believes she can exert a manner of control or understanding. (Ed)

(MH, MM)Their experiences do change them in the sense that the characters are no longer jaded, they have a newfound understanding of the world around them in the sense of understanding people and how not all people are who they appear. It does challenge the norms of reality in the sense that it makes a kind of makes a mockery of real culture, like when Alice is falling through the rabbit hole and consumerism follows her as she looks at the different items surrounding her. The fantasy world supports the norm of childhood curiosity and actually encourages it, by way of providing many things intended to encourage the child to question, study and judge the world around them (example being the curiosity of Dorothy in whilst in Oz of her surroundings and the strange people she meets, or Alice and the vivid and somewhat terrifying world that surrounds her).

I think Alice comes back more mature than before her journey because she’s experienced life on her own. But how do we know that? We only have her sister’s view of things…but an interesting idea. Because it’s HER story, does she have power?

Alice brings back to the world a willingness to fantasize that adapts to fit the world it is now a part of, which she passes on to others in the world, such as her sister.  It’s not the full, intense fantasy of Wonderland, as it does not seem to directly alter the physical world, but it is a mental fantasy that transforms the world through perception–a fantasy about Alice’s still somewhat mystical future and a romanticization of the “real world”. (Carly)

In Alice in Wonderland the criticisms are rampant.  At the end of her adventures there’s a massive ‘dis’ of Western courts.  The croquet game is a parody of how lucid rules and regulations are.  The tea party was discussed in class.  With the baby the duchess was caring for the critique was how much value we put on children, in this case a baby is represented as a pig. (Ed)

Blackboard 9 or Taylorism in the 21st Century

Fasten your seatbelts: I am critically analyzing aspects of Blackboard 9. I tried to think through the positives as I use Blackboard 9 as my digital classroom. I am not convinced that universities should implement platforms like this without student and faculty collaboration prior to implementation. Overall, Blackboard 9 is not as collaborative or as pedagogically friendly as it could be but there are useful and important features. So far, the one feature I like is the wiki option, but guess what? Only one person can be on it at a time, apparently, and it’s very glitchy. Often the Java does not function well in ANY browser and so the buttons do not work or say what they should say (e.g. “submit” reads as “????wiki????” or some such nonsense). But why does the “submit” button say “submit” anyways? Why doesn’t it say what it really does, which is “save” or “save changes.” -Blackboard, I am sorry to say, has mediocre design; the functionality is clunky and glitchy; and the pedagogical choices are fair to suspect.  But this isn’t a rant without proof – read on!

In  Norman Fairclough’s Language and Power he writes that institutions are ideologically constructed by social relationships that are realized through particular discourses. In other words, social hierarchies and structures are constructed by overarching concepts, such as capitalism, that prescribe ways of behaving and thinking. In turn, these overarching concepts are the structuring principles of institutions, including educational institutions. Through this kind of analysis, we can envision the university as a workplace that places certain ideological demands on its workers, including faculty. How do these demands translate into digital spaces and what effect do such demands have on pedagogical practice?

Admittedly, Fairclough’s work seems rather out of date, with the bulk of his research published on the cusp of the digital age. Despite this fact, Fairclough’s theories are enormously important to understanding the networks of power that underpin the digital tools and user interfaces (the point of contact between human and machine) we engage with on a daily basis. Fairclough’s formulation of critical discourse analysis (CDA) is all about tracing and tracking the social relations of power that determine our social positioning. Further, Fairclough’s main purpose in using CDA is to make people conscious of the way power operates in their everyday lives, because such consciousness “is the first step toward emancipation” (Language and Power 1).

By using the loaded word “emancipation,” I mean to say that in order to use this platform and its associated tools effectively, we need to be aware of how this system is presented to teachers and students. Not to mention that through such knowledge, teachers and students can make requests of the Blackboard developers and their own institutions to improve the user’s experience.

What follows is not an exhaustive analysis, but offers a way to read the user interfaces in academic spaces that are becoming more common and institutionalized.  I know that I tend to use an interface as quickly as possible to tell the program what I want it to do. But what if we slow this process down and think about the content and form of the narrative voice that tells us how to use the interface? What rhetorical acts does this voice use and what kind of actions are we being guided towards? What are we being steered away from? These are some of the questions I am going to tackle in this post on Blackboard 9, the latest iteration of the enormously popular Blackboard learning platform. If you are a post-secondary student or teacher, dimes for dollars you have used or know someone who has used Blackboard. The latest iteration is much more 2.0 friendly, encouraging social interaction and more extensive use of popular social media tools (for more on the 2.0 functions and possibilities of Blackboard 9, please see the interview with M.J. Pilgrim). The user is invited to spend much more time within the digital space of Blackboard – so what does this mean for post-secondary education?

• Is this push toward collaborative, interactive communication inclusive or are certain users marginalized?
• What beliefs and values are narrated via Blackboard 9?

We will find that Blackboard narrates a digital form of Taylorism. However, if the user is savvy enough, this strict, almost frightening model of clock-time efficiency can be by-passed for a more friendly experience for teacher and student.

Please don’t get me wrong – I like to be organized as much as the next person, but there are so many calendars, reminders, bells, whistles, pokes, and shoves toward academic efficiency in Blackboard 9 that the effect, I argue, is overwhelming and feeds into  concept of efficiency first brought into being in the early 20th century. In 1911, Frederick Taylor published Principles of Scientific Management in which he claimed that worker efficiency could be increased by measuring production, locating inefficiencies, and then allocating tools to improve the speed of production. Charlie Chaplin satirized what came to be known as Taylorism in his 1936 masterpiece Modern Times. In the scene depicted below, the main character is subjected to a feeding machine that will lessen the time that he takes to eat lunch.

I bet someone took this machine seriously.

This principle of using tools to increase efficiency over and above pedagogy is at the heart of Blackboard’s design. There are calendars, reminders, and alerts that inform both students and instructors that they have work to do – so get to it! What Blackboard offers is a means to make sure everyone is efficient over and above collaborative communication, pedagogical innovation and communal learning spaces. Welcome to Taylorism in the 21st century.

The Sandbox:

I am going to use the sandbox area of Blackboard as a case study for the whole platform since it is the space in which instructors can let their pedagogical creativity loose and design test courses. As an aside, I really doubt that many instructors outside of software development actually know what a sandbox is. When I attempted to see if this information is readily available for instructors to look up, I was met with no results in Blackboard help – oh dear. The sandbox is meant to be a space of play and experiment and this one does allow instructors to build test courses, but there are some serious issues with this area. Case in point, I was excited when I saw the link to the “course module” link (see below) where I thought I’d find some really exciting content, perhaps linked with library resources at Trent….

No such luck: imagine my dismay when I was taken to a list of modules that included content by NBC? Yes, the U.S. network provides content from their NBCLearning.com enterprise. I am flabbergasted. If you don’t believe me, check it out:

Even if this is K-12 content, it’s pretty shocking that this stuff is in a Canadian post-secondary institution. Click on the image for a surprise.

Believe me, I wanted to like Blackboard 9 and I looked forward to its release since the previous version was, for want of a better term, clunky. Unfortunately, there is little for post-secondary instructors to use in the Sandbox, unless they want to use McGraw-Hill content or material from NBC. If we consider that social interactions and structures are formed via the conventions associated with certain social institutions, then what does this sandbox offer instructors? There are no less than five different organizational tools on the homepage: Alerts, To Do, My Calendar, Needs Attention, and What’s New. Even though these tools can be removed,  because they are located on the homepage, they are given importance by default. Fairclough states that we are constructed via the order of discourses that tell us how to behave and react. When faced with an overwhelming number of Taylor-esque modes of time organization, I can only assume that time measurement and not pedagogy is the main ideological thrust of Blackboard 9. Should these tools be given primacy? Why can’t instructors be given a list of digital tools and options on the homepage?

For another approach to online course management, check out Moodle, where instructors are invited to create collaborative communities that share knowledge. While these kinds of functions are available in Blackboard 9, the impetus is, again, on time management and organization, which is not collaborative or community building.

Public Feeling and Iconic Images: Mass Cultural Exhibitionism?

Co-authored by Sara Humphreys

 

“Kent State Murder”

Type it into Google and a number of images, websites, and blogs will come up, along with the Neil Young song above.   The historical moment is repeated, consistently, through images and through the circulation of these images on the internet and through other mediums.  Digital culture has canonized this moment of grief and loss.  It has canonized the moment of turmoil and fear that shook America when the Kent State tragedy was publicized in newspapers and broadcast on the news days after former President Nixon announced that American troops would be invading Cambodia, as a side mission to help “success” in Vietnam.  When students protested Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia, Nixon ordered the National Guard to restore order on Kent State campus and the result was that four student were shot and killed and many more were injured (Hariman and Lucaites in No Caption Needed:Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy).  The iconic image of a young woman wailing over the dead body of her friend, who lies flat on the sidewalk, has become one of the most circulated images of the 1960s and is symbolic of this historical period.

Iconic images are felt individually, but often have a social function as well.  I was wondering how images circulated through digital media affect users differently, since digital media users are exposed to a plethora of images on the internet.  Whether advertisements (which often plague the internet), video, film, memes, GIFs, etc, images are everywhere.  I am using Kent State as an example.  In education, especially in history and historical research, photos are primary evidence that can be used to better understand a particular time.  Historical moments like Kent State resound through historical, literary, and sociological research.  Kent State is the epitome of student subjugation and the image is still circulated widely in universities.  What is more, the image also serves as an excellent example of cultural exhibitionism – something that the digital generation is very practiced at.  Since it is so circulated, does it affect us anymore?  Rather, should it affect us anymore?  ?  Sometimes the line between the real and the digital gets blurred.

The technology we use surrounds us like a fishbowl, surrounding us with a false sense of agency and knowledge.  The internet is another world, one of which, according to Geoffrey Nunberg in his article “Farewell to the Information Age,” “promises to disrupt this process [between sender and receiver]“.  It is a mediation ground that sharply increases the proportion of writers to readers.  There is far more content being produced than actually read, since it has become so easy to produce content on blogs, youtube, and elsewhere (518).  Images like “Kent State” become memes and, through this hyper-reproductive process, I wonder if they lose their meaning.  I weave Nunberg’s article in here because he talks about how the internet affects how readers use information:

“On the Web, that is, you can never have the kind of experience that you can have with the informational genres of print, the experience of interpreting a text simply as a newspaper or encyclopedia article without attending to its author, it publisher, or the reliability of its recommender.  We read Web documents [including images] not as information but as intelligence, which requires an explicit warrant of one form or another” (519-520).

So, we read the Kent State murder differently on the net than we read it in another medium (such as in the book I am reading now).  Since information on the net comes from a dynamic set of sources (some good, some bad) readers have to pry through information to find good sources.  The internet makes information casual, including something as iconic as Kent State.  I use Nunberg’s article in this post because Nunberg’s article disagrees that the internet will overtake print as the key source of information.  Although he acknowledges that we are in the digital age, he states that the information age still holds a strong influence on how we gather, share, and learn information through a variety of mediums.  In fact, without the groundwork that this age, the digital age would simply not be.  It is clear that humans cannot exist without sharing information using all sorts of language.  Digital technology simply presents a new means of sharing, one that interweaves a multitude of languages and mediums.  Digital technology shows the evolution of language technologies.   Kent State becomes a narrative that is accessible through a variety of these technologies.  We can access it through video, music, scholarly articles, and journalistic accounts.  The single event becomes accessible through the medium of choice and the reader can see how social this event actually was.

This brings me to a key point in this post.  I noticed that in No Caption Needed, Hariman and Lucaites write about iconic photographs from the early-to-middle twentieth century.  What makes a photo “iconic” seems to be linked to this age, when photos were circulated only through certain networks.  The general public was at the whim of journalists and news corporations, who presented certain images that would attract readers to a story.  In the introduction of their book, Hariman and Lucaites provide an extensive definition of what they mean by “iconic.”  I include part of this definition below:

Iconic photographs provide an accessible and centrally positioned set of images for exploring how political action (and inaction) can be constituted and controlled though visual media . . . . These images were obviously highly specific objects of memory and admiration, yet also somehow abstract representations whose value was far more symbolic than referential, and more a public art form than objects for connoisseurship (5-6).

Photojournalism played a major role in chronicling the twentieth century, the age of information.  However, we are now in the digital age.  Information is no longer as sacred, or rare, as it used to be.  We no longer share only through specific ways (i.e. phone; photograph) or through specific cultural practices (i.e. story-telling; conversation).  We now share through all these ways in a very abstract fashion.  Information is everywhere and the internet has made society a network (or networks) of information.  We are on a constant, continuous search for it.

How does this effect what it means to be “iconic”?  Is anything “iconic” anymore?  9/11 puts the concept of “iconic” into question, since 9/11 was a recent moment in history that transformed the world in countless ways.  While reading No Caption Needed, I kept thinking of the “Falling Man” image (below).  I have always had a difficult time looking at the image.  In fact, the immediate emotional response is that of nausea and vertigo.  The image captures a moment of complete loss.  An inescapable fall into nothingness.  No Hollywood ending.  The jumper could not escape the fire in the tower and was forced to make a terrible decision.  The “Falling Man”  invokes terror and pathos in those who view it or perhaps macabre glee, but in any case, affect is generated and will do so because this photo is digitally rendered – available for all to view at will.  Perhaps authenticity comes into question when something is seen so many times that the viewer is desensitized to its effect.

Yet, the “Falling Man” seems to still have an effect.   The image also functions as a symbol of national loss; therefore, it functions for nationalistic purposes.  This, according to Hariman and Lucaites, is crucial in the definition of “iconic”: its function for political gain (18).

So, is it “iconic”?  Somewhat.  The digital age, especially the advances in digital technology that were to follow 9/11, has allowed for mass circulation of images and video.  The “Falling Man” has become an iconic image, perhaps the first and last one, of the digital age.  Yet, it also remains among the company of many digitally circulated images and video which have been diluted of their meaning.  They are viewed by so many that it eventually becomes difficult to tell where and when this photo was taken.   Perhaps the image represents the subversion of political meaning.  The photo/video of the “Falling Man” transcends beyond a political purpose nowadays.  It cannot function to support a particular party, nation, or ideology.  The image transcends its iconic potential, since it deals with complete loss.  It deals with death.  In this way it is similar to the Kent State image.  Both situations show tragedy.  In the Kent State photograph, this tragedy functioned to ignite opposition to the Nixon government, the war in Vietnam, and the invasion of Cambodia.  The “Falling Man” was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2001; however, in 2012, the image is reluctant to show the support of any violence.  It is a still frame of potential devastation.  What happened to the “Falling Man” is not known.  The “Falling Man” does not bestow a nationalistic identity, even though it brings together a nation in trauma.  Due to its mass circulation – a symptom alone of how fascinating, yet ubiquitous, the image is – the “Falling Man” is an image of an uncertain fate, which America faced at the time and still faces.  Perhaps an uncertain identity is the new identity of the digital age.

Twitter Me Impressed or Why We Are Not the “Dumbest Generation”

One of the most intriguing faculties in the realm of the Digital Humanities I’ve discovered is that this loose and baggy discipline seems to span an innumerable number of disciplines. Today in Toronto’s Public Reference Library, I sat in a cubby with a stack of no less than ten books, spanning New Media Studies, Literature, Philosophy, and even pithy dentist-office-sensational-titled nonfiction studies like The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Why you shouldn’t trust anyone under 30), by Mark Baurlain. But I’ll get to that piece of…”writing” later.

Coalescing between these multiple disciplines is the differentiation between the cultures of reading & critiquing (consuming) more situated in the 20th century, and the building & making (producing) of the 21st. It is not my attempt to set up a dichotomy, rather acknowledge a difference social participation congruent throughout many texts and theorists speaking to the Digital Age.

In his introduction to a digital humanities reader, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Matthew K. Gold references three-minute plenary speech by Stephen Ramsay at the Modern Languages Association Conference in 2011, that would go on to spur controversy.

Ramsay stated that those who are truly involved in the Digital Humanities (DH) needed to construct and therefore had to know some sort of coding or programming language. I am not sure how in-depth he meant (how about rudimentary HTML, Steve?), but the point was that digital literacy in the humanities means more than knowing how to use MS Office. But Ramsay’s speech (what is it with people named “Ramsay” and controversy?) brings up an interesting questions for the directions DH research needs to take.

Gold goes on to provide an introduction with plenty of probing questions for DH scholarship. Has what was formerly New Media Studies become the Digital Humanities? Does the Digital Humanities need theory? Does the Digital Humanities have politics? Is it accessible to all members of the profession? Do social media platforms like Twitter trivialize the Digital Humanities professional discourse?

I’m going to pause and address this one, because I have seen it surface again and again, as a quipping newspaper headline quivering in its ad revenue boots from the threat that ‘print is over’, to thinly veiled patronizing head pat-ernalism from a clumsy radio commentator, to all varieties of dress up dress down entry points to discussion ‘this young generation’.

As a literature major, and someone not quite 30, it irked me to hear a CBC program discussing the nomination of the graphic novel Essex County in Canada Reads 2011, wherein a participant in the broadcast chuckling reflected on the genre of the graphic novel as something of the ‘Tweet of literature.’ Turning two emergent genres and platforms for narrative and theorizing against each other in such a belittling, unintelligible fashion, is an increasingly common grating of gears meddling with the media presented to our younger generations.

But where exactly is all this coming from? In a body of worked entitled “Technoromanticism‘, (a term coined by Stephen Barron) Richard Coyne explores the pragmatics of cyberspace by discussing the ways in which narratives derived from the Enlightenment and Romantic periods speak situationally; how “every attempt is being made to consign the Enlightenment to the realms of the other, to render it strange and unfamiliar” (180).

In Bauerlein’s sensationalizing study, he balks at a hypothetical ‘Susie’ and her proud parents, beaming with her ability to navigate a multiplicity of media concurrently, but failure to exact the knowledge of what the Soviet Union was. He examines with a quick brush and silver hair ‘the minds of youth’ as negatively influenced by the fleet of digital media that clutter our bedrooms, with the presence of books themselves merely being bookends. Our intellects (assuming we have any) and our physical spaces are a set up of distraction. He attempts to explain in his interview with reason.tv, his distrust of the younger generation as something of a failure on our part, to utilize ‘technology,’ to return to these ideas of mastery, connected in former assemblies of knowledge. However, in his explanation, he demonstrates in himself instead a lack of understanding of the technological objects he (at times improperly) names. At 1:05 seconds he begins to explain that these tools are not used to ‘progress’ ourselves, to go to museums, to learn, to engage. He explains Facebook as something of a Lyceum, where we’d all rather smoke pot and compare hairstyles. But what about our education in school – are we directed to the Smithsonian Institution website? Or has he actually been to Buzzfeed? There’s smart stuff on there, Mark, mixed in with news about “catz.” In other words, maybe this is a failure of the classroom and not so much the user?

Through my apparently feeble-minded Facebooking fingertips, I  turn your attention to the Twitter account of Kim Kierkegaardashian, and reflect on what we’ve already introduced here on the work of Don Tapscott.

There is a fear that is permeating, not strictly located in older generations, but among common publics discouraged by technology and digital media, and that is a fissure, or “trauma” as Coyne posits, from this shift in the comfort of understanding time through a past and future. A ‘networked self’, Papacharissi explains, is always all the time negotiating sites of production and construction of self, and the suggestion of Facebook as a ‘distraction’ is a myth.

Digital Media and Transformation of the Essay

Digital Technology and Hybrid Essay Format

One of the purposes of this site is to show that there are other ways of learning over and above standardized methods (like an instructor reading from slides or, worse, a textbook. if you do this: stop – stop it now).  The essay format has been a stand-by in the humanities and social sciences.  Professors swear by it and it has been institutionalized as a trustworthy way of accessing writing skills and critical thinking.  From high school on, students write essays every year and continue these habits as they enter into post-secondary school, regardless of the discipline they enter.  This post will focus on how and why the essay format is changing to accommodate the different modes of presenting a thesis and the arguments that support it. Digital communication is changing the way we interpret and argue, not just the way we learn.

The Law of Identity: Challenging Strict Structure

Active Vs. Passive Voice: There is an emoticon for that.

A thesis is a thesis is a thesis.  A thesis argues a point, like this “essay” is currently attempting.  Students are encouraged to support these points with arguments and conclude them very neatly our essays.  Essays are not simple, but they have a simplified format that instructs students to present information in a structured, logical way: topic, thesis, body, conclusion.  The essay structure has been institutionalized – or shall I say, burned into students’ minds – since high school.  It does have many benefits, including the following:

  •  the essay teaches students to make an interpretation of the texts studied
  •  the essay teaches students how to research and present research in a logical manner
  •  by making a solid claim, the student is learning to have a voice and opinion on what they study.
  • grammar and literacy improves

What else?  Actually, the criteria of essays is pretty straightforward.  It can also be very narrow.  The essay does not always encourage students to explore a topic fully because of the strictures placed by format and structure.  Also, due dates force students to adhere to a structure and essay plan.  After completing essay after essay, the structure is bound to weaken.  However, digital media is changing this.  First, let’s brain-storm how:

  •  the essay format is adapting to incorporate digital media into its structure.  For example, online scholarly databases and journals provide excellent sources of information that is both factual and theoretical.
  • the essay format is being presented on different mediums other than print: online essays, including those on blogs, are providing an innovative new way of presenting information
  • the essay format is changing its traditional structure to include different ways of expressing a central argument (example: images, hyperlinks, podcasts, etc)

The essay format is becoming a product of the digital culture.  With more research online nowadays, students are encouraged to include multimedia in their essays.  This allows for a hybrid presentation of knowledge with the addition of web content for extra information and a more in-depth analysis of a particular topic.  The pros of this are many, one of which is that the transformation of the essay has resulted in a far more interesting product.  Scholarly sources become conversations, not merely one-way, or one-dimensional, presentations.  The essay format is becoming multi-mediated from so many sources – the sources of which most people, whether in higher education or not, are familiar with.

So, am I suggesting that the scholarly essay may be available to the many individuals – a widespread allowance into the information of scholarly institutions?  Although the internet enables students access to previously inaccessible content, copyright laws maintain a stronghold over the rights of academic material.  In “An Empirically Grounded Framework To Guide Blogging In Higher Education,” G. Conole, et al. includes an earnest assessment of some of the drawbacks of blogging, such as the difficulty in getting students completing them.  The article looks at how blogs are often stereotyped as a leisure activity. Conole specifically notes that students are more concerned about the purpose of doing a blog: “the ideals of educators can be difficult to put into practice.  From the student’s perspective there are two fundamental questions they ask themselves about blogs: “why would I want one?” . . . “what’s in it for me?” . . students need to develop a purpose for blogging that is clear to benefit them” (Conole An Empirically Grounded Framework To Guide Blogging In Higher Education).  So, unlike essays, which carry an academic authority due to a long-standing tradition within academia, blogs still struggle with legitimacy.  Conole makes an interesting point, when he states that the blog presents a blurring of the private and public.  The blogger is autonomous over their blog and can network with who they wish; however, it also puts them on a public platform.  The student interacts with a more public stage during their assignment, including their peers.  Blogging allows them to construct knowledge for themselves and not just adhere to a format and strict set of requirements.  Conole does recognize that when students do complete blogs, they find that they have gained many skills that writing an essay does not allow them to gain.  The study also admits to some negatives with blogging, including the finding that 7 out of 9 bloggers eventually use a routine format after blogging.

So is a blog just a blog just a blog?  Or is there uniqueness to each one?  Simply put, blogs allow for the exploration of content that does not exclude other forms of communication, including other types of media.

PhD candidate Melonie Fullick of York University states her article, entitled “Becoming Prof 2.0“:

meritocracy, the notion that achievements are determined by individual merit rather than by a complex of factors (some of which are beyond our personal control), is a concept that is crucial to academic culture and the operational logic of academe itself.  Because students internalize the idea that their success is dependent on this narrow notion of merit, they often blame themselves if they “fail” to perform adequately during the PhD.  They might be reluctant to speak out about problems, since usually no one else is doing so, and they might feel they are revealing personal inadequacies, rather than bringing to light systemic flaw.

Fullick upgrades this essay’s argument.  What about graduate-level education and the transformation of the essay format and the use of digital media as a means to transform of the curriculum?  Fullick admits that narrow definitions of success are plaguing the university curriculum and giving students at all levels a false estimation of success.  Estimating success based on merit, which itself is dependent on arbitrary factors determined by individuals or a committee, can often cost students a great deal, not only in terms of the financial implications, but also affect them in more personal ways.  Faculty who wish to change how they learn and how their students learn often hit a brick wall that has been constructed by those outside of the classroom.  So, challenging curriculum and methodology can be dangerous to some extent.

However, how does an institution evolve?  How does anything evolve, really.

The issue of digital media in the classroom cannot be ignored.  Digital media is changing the way we learn and why we learn.  Its implications on the basic learning styles, including the academic essay, are open to interpretation and opinion, but cannot be ignored.

The Great Divide: Professor 1.0 and Professor 2.0

^Terms to Know

Similar to many students, social media is part of my day.  It needs to be: family, friends, life, etc – all of these aspects of my life hold the main one up, which is my education and future.  The logistics of my life are different from students of previous generations because students now live in a world where digital technology is part of how we interact, how we learn, how we structure of everyday routines, and why we do what we do.  Therefore, professors really shouldn’t be surprised that their students are vigorously (and sometimes rigorously) using technology, especially hand-held technology, in the classroom.

However, there is a divide between professors who choose to use technology in their classrooms and those who do not.  This divide originates with the student.  The student represents the potential of how education is going to, either, stay traditional, with a traditional classroom setting where the professor lectures to a group, or become an entire new animal, where the students and professors interact on a more collaborative level.  The design of classrooms would inevitably change, perhaps with a more pluralistic social structure that recognizes students and professors as collaborative colleagues.

Some professors (Professor 1.0) argue that technology is a distraction and, therefore, the use of it in the classroom should be limited, or completely banned (my aside: good luck with that one ;P).  Other professors (I’ll call them Professor 1.5 since I love decimals) agree that technology should be in a classroom setting, but with limitations on what technology is used and how it is used.  These professors are stuck in the middle of the leap of progression that is occurring in education.  Changes are big, but similar to any revolution, changes are small details.  The bigger picture, as well as the enormous change in pedagogy and practice that is occurring will one day be seen.  One day, hopefully, soon.

And then there is the Futurist: Professor 2.0 embraces the idea of students not only using technology in the classroom, but also believe that students should be given the hard skills to harness how this technology can be used to benefit them personally and professionally.  These wizards are willingly to learn and apply new skills in their classrooms in order to mould students for the Digital Age,  vigorously and rigorously so.  In fact, Professor 2.0 is coaching previously ‘soft’ disciplines into playing hard ball academics.  Such is the case with the Digital Humanities, a new field that is developing with the collaboration of many departments that centre around traditionally Humanities-based projects.  Please refer to the interviews with Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone Executive Director, Valerie Fox, and/or Dr. Constance Crompton of the University of Victoria for more information on some awesome, on-going advancements on the Digital Humanities frontier in Canada.  Professor 2.0 is a frontiers person of sorts, one who is exploring the digital frontier for what resources can be found that help them teach and learn.  Like all explorers of a new frontier, they face many unexpected obstacles, one of which is the divide created between them and other professors who rely on traditional methods of teaching and are not willing to change tried and trusted methods so quickly.

The divide between Professor 1.0 and 2.0 creates tension – and some of this tension is personal, not just professional.  Technology takes time to learn to use.  It is not always a click of a button, but sometimes requires education on how tech things work.  The designing of a blog, for instance, may require that the blogger have some knowledge in programming and web design.  Also, free blog platforms, such as WordPress, take time to learn, use effectively, and network (and market) your blog.  In other words, Professor 2.0 needs to be educated in the technology they use in the class.  Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: showing that new learning tools are helping students learn.

Traditional teaching focuses on standardized educational methods, such as teaching students how to prepare essays, step-by-step projects, and giving in-class quizzes and tests.  What work is not completed in class is taken home.  Lectures are a time for the professor to profess.  This method is fading out because students are have a more difficult time engaging with the lectures and the work because it is not on the mediums they use.  Professor 2.0 has an edge because they use Web 2.0 tools in their class – and the stakes are only getting edgier as software developers and Web 2.0 companies are investing more and more into education (please see my post on Web 2.0 technologies entitled “The Digital Divide, part 2″).  Academic publishers are also getting on board by providing electronic copies of journal articles.  Why?  Because the investment is a constant resource.  To invest in students is to invest in the institution.  How this institution evolves as a result is what professors and other members of the academic public can and must shape.

What about Professor 1.0?  As their 2.0 colleagues venture forth into the new digital world of education, Professor 1.0 is still trying to harvest knowledge on dying soil.  There efforts in class are needed, but only regulate the classroom.  Sometimes, they even may hold back the class.  Their knowledge and expertise is still appreciated, but is being countered by the Web 2.0 technologies.  For instance, a professor may be able to teach Shakespeare, but so can the many databases there are out their dedicated to the Bard.  A math professor is sometimes outwitted by the Khan Academy, which can teach students complicated math and statistics at students’ own speed.  Professor 1.0 is gradually finding themselves marginalized by the technology their students use.  Yet, they shouldn’t feel hostile or intimidated.  The benefits of learning to incorporate technology within the classroom are extensive and unique.  So, why doesn’t Professor 1.0 jump on board?  Scholar Thomas R. Klassen thinks that it is a generational problem.  Many professors who are lopped under the title, Professor 1.0, are part of an older demographic who were not educated using technology, especially not Web 2.0 tools.  Professor 2.0 grew up and into using technology in and out of their classrooms. In the Thomas R. Klassen article, “Upgrade Anxiety and the Aging Expert,” Klassan writes extensively on the benefits  of technology in the class for the aging expert.   He makes several solid points which I would like to further explain:

(1) “Information and communication technology have resulted in the democratization of knowledge, as colleagues at smaller institutions now have the same, or at least similar, access to scholarly information and databases” (8)

(2) “Many universities are not taking advantage of the skills possessed by younger and older professors respectively.  Nor are younger and older faculty members taking advantages of each others’ skills, either” (10)

The first point touches on the fact that knowledge is now so easily attainable.  All knowledge from every discipline can be found somewhere on the web.  It is futile to think that the professor is the sole source of this knowledge anymore.

The second point reveals the main problem: the lack of communication.  Professor 2.0 may feel slightly superior to their 1.0 co-workers (and vice-versa).  They may also feel as though they can compete with their older co-workers’ experience in the field.  Vying for power only results in the eventual collapse of the system.  So, we have to have a common understanding of the importance of Web 2.0 tools.  There are some important questions that should be raised, including the following:

1) What Web 2.0 tools should be used and why?

In a recent study by Michael Simkins and Randy Schultz entitled, “Using Web 2.0 Tools At School,” the scholars found that the Web 2.0 tools used in class were also for personal use.  So, the personal and professional usages of these tools must be blended.   This is part of what is called “Hybrid Pedagogy” (defined in point 3).  This type of pedagogy recognizes the need for technology used in the everyday for professional use.  For instance, if a student uses messaging with friends they may also, under certain guidelines, use it to communicate with their professor during class.  Furthermore, a wiki is something most people are familiar with, thanks to the world-renowned site, Wikipedia.  Wikis, which allow users to modify the content on a site, may be used in addition to class discussion and lectures.  These allow students to interact with material in new ways and on their own time while also ensuring the professor still has control over content.  Youtube videos can also be used for presentations or podcasts, etc.

2) What should be restricted?

Anything too personal or unrelated to the course content.  If students use online discussion boards to discuss personal matters unrelated to the course then the instructor can set a limit to how much is shared.  Anything inappropriate is instantly declined based on an ethics code.  Anything unrelated to the course can be deleted.

3) What is Hybrid Pedagogy?

The blending of two or more teaching methodologies.  Professor 2.0 has the advantage of using traditional methods of teaching without relying on these methods.  So, technology allows them to frame the same content in different contexts (on different mediums) to make the class structure more open.

I suppose the main question is: how can this divide be bridged?  It is only through collaboration and open communication can knowledge be shared.  Since teaching, learning, and other educational activities rely on the communication between colleagues and students, then bringing technology into the class relies heavily on how we can use this technology effectively.

Works Cited:

Klassen,  Thomas R.  “Upgrade Anxiety and the Aging Expert.”  Academic Matters. OCUFA. May 2012: 7-10. Print.

Simkins, Michael, and Randy Schultz. “Using Web 2.0 Tools At School.” Leadership 39.3 (2010): 12-38. Academic Search Elite. Web. 18 July 2012.

IDEAGORA: The Educational Institute as Digital Text

Text: The wording of anything written or printed; the structure formed by the words in their order; the very words, phrases, and sentences as written (OED)

Institute: A society or organization instituted to promote some literary, scientific, artistic, professional, or educational object; also, the building in which the work of such a society is carried on (OED)

Digital (later use): Of signals, information, or data: represented by a series of discrete values (commonly the numbers 0 and 1), typically for electronic storage or processing, ex: a digital program (OED)

Goal: Educational institutions should be treated like a digital text that is to be read for its informative, interactive value. Such spaces promote open learning, creative communication, and innovative engineering. In such environments, students will be encouraged to share information, including the lessons and knowledge they are currently being taught. So, for instance, in such environments the mathematics department will blend its research with other departments effortlessly, seeing purpose to developing cross-disciplinary research. ‘”Majors,” or individual, pre-structured programs will work with other disciplines to connect their interests in meaningful ways. Ideally, technology simplifies logistics, improving the costs of time, material, and space, and allows projects to be carried out without many difficulties. Educational institutes that allow for digital technology to structure their environments will benefit from the ease of reading (interacting) with these environments.

Here are some benefits:

  • Lowing the cost of education by improving logistics using digital technology (the long-term costs would balance out the short-term costs)
  • *Promotion of interdisciplinary learning environment; cross-discipline collaboration; a heterogeneous educational space
  • Providing goods and services effortlessly (the software is already there; the platform is ready to be used; washing our hands of logistic problems)
  • Training students to use digital technology with ease. Not punishing them for it (such as lowering their grade if they cannot use such a program.  Some universities punish students for not using the technology correctly.  Allowing students to develop a meaningful relationship with digital technology at their own speed is crucial.  Accessibility is crucial.
  •  *Promoting open educational environments everywhere. Access to education is not limited to a physical space.  Students learn on and off campus.  The breakdown of such structures, with all their social codes, rules, and regulations, allows for students from different countries, education levels, and educational styles to maximize the benefit of their education.
  •  Promotes distance education (not limiting, once again, students access, despite their age, capabilities, or financial situation)
  • Creating new jobs for students, professors, educators, and academic staff alike. Digital education creates new jobs.
  •  Allowing more meaningful interaction between students and educators
  •  Can be applied to all disciplines, from the humanities, sciences, engineering, and other types of professions
  • Developing new ways to strategize a solution to a problem or project
  • *Students can ‘engineer’ or ‘design’ their education to fit their immediate needs
  • Students can re-design their education to fit their needs
  • Promotes both individual and group education
  • Promotes creative thought

*key point

As a digital text, the educational institute can flourish from its open access to knowledge.

Three main benefits to keep in mind:

1) Improving logistics

2) Inspiring Innovation

3) Attending to everyone’s particular needs

The Frontier of Education

Works Cited:

“institute, n.1″. OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. 15 July 2012

<http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/97104?rskey=zVn6fX&result=1&isAdvanced=false&gt;.

“digital, n. and adj.”. OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. 15 July 2012

<http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/52611?redirectedFrom=digital&gt;.

“text, n.1″. OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. 15 July 2012

<http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/200002?rskey=Ag1QFU&result=1&isAdvanced=false&gt;.

Student 2.0: How Social and Digital Media is Shaping New Types of Learners

“A powerful force to change the university is the students.  And sparks are flying today.  A huge generational clash is emerging in our institutions.  The critiques of the university from fifteen years ago were ideas in waiting – waiting for the new Web and for a new generation of students who could effectively change the old model” (Don Tapsott in Macrowikinomics – see page 156)

The wave of new students has arrived and they have been dubbed “digital natives,”  of which I am apparently one.  This wave of new students use digital technology with ease, but are they actually well-versed in digital technology? Not in my experience.  After all, I am still learning and have a great deal to learn about how the digital “stuff” I use actually works.  I prefer to think of digital natives not as oppositional from digital immigrants ( those not born into digital tech), but as a diverse set of learners who are working with (or sometimes still waiting) for the education system to meet our needs. Let’s move away from simplistic sound bites about teachers being “old-fashioned digital immigrants” students as digital savants. Neither position is entirely true nor entirely off-base.

This is the stereotype but not the reality.

We can say that students who are digital natives are really artists of their own education using the palate of social media technologies and platforms to learn and study, conduct research, and collaborate with professors and other students alike.  Social media is about sharing, while also about individualizing one’s own unique online experiences.  So, as the new student is learning on their own steam, they are also interacting with a community that transcends their classroom.  Thus, they are the global student.  The new student can access lectures from renowned scholars from MIT for free, for instance.  They also can use some free brush-up math or science help from the Khan Academy.  This is unprecedented.  The source of the plethora of information stems from the tools students have, in particular laptops and Smartphones (with their many array of apps), which allow them to manipulate, interact with, and network with the information they learn.  This new wave of students relies on collaborative learning.

Collaborative Learning 101:

Interactive multimedia consists of text, image, audio, and video, which all collaborate to help students learn and create.  The interactivity of these tools is revolutionary, as social media guru, Don Tapscott, prolifically acknowledges in his 2010 best-selling book, MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World: “we need to toss out the old industrial model of pedagogy – how learning is accomplished – and replace it with a new model called collaborative learning” (141). (Read our interview with Don by clicking here for the post and here for the prezi). This new pedagogy ensues all “participants would contribute to an open platform of world-class educational resources that students everywhere can access throughout their lifetime.  We call it a Global Network of Higher Learning” (141).  In schools, students are becoming part of a global network and the value of this is far-reaching, especially in regards to reshaping the global economy for a new century.  Furthermore, students from an early age are not just becoming more marketable, but reaching potentials that move beyond the financial benefits of a good education.  The new student has social media skills that seem inborn, but they have actually been actively trained by their exposure to social technology.  It is the Millennial Generation (1980-1995) and Generation Z (1995-present) of which are now occupying schools and often face educators and curriculum that cannot meet their learning needs.  This applies to all disciplines in education, from the humanities, arts, to the social and natural sciences.  Due to the internet’s hybridization of information, students no longer separate information into categories.  In other words, the average young person’s life is multidisciplinary and requires multi-tasking in order to be part of their demographic.  The Wikipedia effect is an example that Tapscott has pointed out.  Wikis are more than just sites, they are collaborative spaces which are shaped by readers, who enter, edit, and delete information.  Wikis are more than just simple websites because each wiki is a site of interaction between multitudes of readers who are also simultaneously writers.  Due to their exposure to this model of knowledge production, students are used to interacting with what they learn, therefore, the simple teacher/professor – student relationship is changing.  This last point must be recognized.  Collaborative learning, as Tapscott argues, is changing power dynamics on both microcosmic (in the classroom) and macrocosmic (in educational institutions throughout North America) levels.  Instead of a hierarchy, classrooms and institutions will be more like communities, where power is shared and focused on serving the development of many individuals.  Communities value trust over obedience and authority, therefore, students develop a sense of belonging on their own terms that will ultimately serve others.  Ultimately, social media encourages community and communication because it is collaborative.

The Blog as a Unique, Collaborative Learning Tool for Student 2.0:

As pedagogy, social media is inherently experimental.  A blog is a good example of a type of social media which is empowering students to experiment and shape their ideas.  For instance, part of Dr. Sara Humphrey’s teaching methods is to allow students the option of doing a blog for a major assignment.  Many students jump at this opportunity and use it as a new way of exploring a literary text.  Since blogs are a dynamic way to express content, students can write blogs similar to essays and/or use different ways to present their interpretation of the text.  Aside from producing analytical content, students also design the blog, which enables them to unlock creative ways to express an interpretation.  We have provided a link to Dr. Humphrey’s own blog, “The Expendable Citizen,” below.  In this blog, you will find links to student blogs from Dr. Humphrey’s courses.  We are confident that you will be impressed!  The blog as a learning tool provided these students with a unique challenge.  Why is this relevant?  For various reasons.  The university is changing to accommodate social media on all levels.  The challenge faced by universities right now is to incorporate it in the undergraduate classroom, in order to introduce students early on to using it, exploiting it for its value to their studies, and begin to develop an inter-disciplinary communication network with students throughout their academic career.  Blogging as a digital media tool offers an introduction to an array of skills that helps students prepare for the future.  Many students agree that a blog can be a step towards a professional online identity since blogs can be used as an addition to a CV or resume.  Blogs may even function as a CV and such innovation is bound to encourage future employers that their candidate has unique skills ready for a digital world.  Ultimately, blogs and other digital mediums open up a new dimension for educational institutions to explore.  Digital media in the classroom is so promising because it encourages the five principles of digital media that Don Tapscott points out: collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity, and interdependence.

It is a whole new way being a student for a new age. The following resources offer examples of instructor’s embracing digital mediums in their teaching.

Dr. Diane Jakacki’s blog:

Diane Jakacki

Dr. Sara Humphrey’s blog:

The Expendable Citizen

Dr. Constance Crompton is a postdoctoral fellow at the Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory at the University of Victoria. She specializes in digital humanities, Cultural Studies, Victorian periodicals and popular culture, the literatures of transition (1880-1920), and gender studies. We have included her personal teaching philosophy on our site, as it expresses a particular exemplary opinion of digital media in the university setting.

Dr. Constance Crompton’s Teaching Philosophy: Dr. Crompton’s Teaching Philosophy