Blog Post 6: New Technologies, New Learning

Hi everyone,

Our two chapters of Davidson’s book for Monday give us provocative case studies of how educators might use new technologies to produce new, different kinds of learning, and to encourage their students to engage in that learning fully and actively. For Davidson, technologies like the iPod and video games allow for a kind of learning that has all kinds of possible uses in the classroom and beyond.

Since one way to approach the third paper is to expand Davidson’s thinking into new areas, to jump-start your thinking on that, for this blog post I’d like you to try imagining some possible new applications of technology in the classroom (or in a college/university environment more broadly) and think about how they might fit into Davidson’s theories. While the paper will ask you to research and analyze actual real-world examples, you don’t need to do that for this blog. Instead, be creative—imagine or invent a use of technology that would enhance or change your learning processes here at Temple in important, meaningful ways.

The “important and meaningful” part there is crucial to coming up with a strong response to this question. Don’t just come up with an idea that would make class or homework faster, easier, more entertaining, etc. Those are all important, but for Davidson, the technologies she discusses aren’t just convenient or engaging gadgets—they transform the very nature of how students learn. Your suggestion should shoot for that too!

One obvious first thought here is something using mobile technology like the iPhone or iPad, and there are certainly lots of potential apps and uses of those devices that might address these issues (many of which have already been developed). But think more creatively too—how might we use texting, Facebook, Twitter, phone cameras, or any of a number of other technologies to change the way we work in our classrooms?

To get full credit for this blog posting, you should quote, sandwich, and explain a passage from chapter 3 or 5 of Davidson’s book, and explain how your technological idea illustrates or addresses that passage—in looking for material to quote, remember to think of bigger-picture conceptual moments in her writing rather than narrative anecdotes.

Good luck, be creative, and have some fun with this—who knows, you might see your inventions in a classroom next fall!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Sunday, April 6th, the night before our Monday class, and should be at least 150 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 5: A Rape in Cyberspace(?)

Hi everyone,

Our last article on digital social relations, Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace”, takes us back from the present moment of Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere to an earlier, different kind of digital community, the text-based multi-user environment LambdaMOO. LambdaMoo is an online environment that allows users to take on imagined identities and roleplay interactions with one another and with the space of the environment itself — you can learn more about it and enter it here (although it’s very much from an earlier moment in history, it’s still active many years later). In his article, Dibbell narrates a series of events that transpired during his time in LambdaMOO during the early 1990s, in which a character by the name of Mr. Bungle seized control of several other users’ characters through a program known as a “voodoo doll,” forcing them to perform graphic, horrific sexual actions on themselves in the public space of the MOO.

Dibbell relates this narrative, as well as the narrative of the LambdaMOO community’s reaction to Bungle’s actions, because he wants us to think about the capacity for an online environment like this to function as a reality, with its own laws, ethics, relationships, etc. So for this blog post, I’d like you to take on the central underlying issue of Dibbell’s article: is a rape in cyberspace a rape? Why or why not? What characteristics of this online world and the relationships and identities it allows you to take on make Bungle’s actions rape or not? In other words, what role does the way this technology works play in what we might think about the “realness” of this rape? In your response, you should quote, cite, and analyze at least one substantial passage from Dibbell’s article – not just a single small term or concept, but a fuller claim of the kind that you might quote in a paper. Make it clear what he thinks about the question of rape here, and why he sees it that way — how do he and the community of LambdaMOO react to Bungle’s actions, and what does that tell us about digital identity and community more broadly? Then respond directly to his thinking with an argument of your own.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Sunday, March 16th, the night before our Monday class, and should be at least 150 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email. Have a great break!

Blog Post 4: Digital Democracy/Digital Disaster?

With Andrew Keen’s article, we head further into the question of the political possibilities of digital culture. Keen’s article is a sharp critique of the political assumptions of web 2.0. While many advocates of this participatory, community-oriented, networked form of digital culture (such as Shirky) see it as a productive, democratic cultural change, Keen is much more skeptical — he sees that school of thought as a kind of smokescreen for something that’s ultimately less empowering and less beneficial to the culture as a whole.

For this blog post, I’d like you to play out a specific connection between Keen and Shirky. You should quote and integrate substantial passages from both authors into a paragraph of your own writing, and in doing so you should show how their arguments in those passages relate to one another and how you would respond to that conversation.

Do you think the rise of the individual’s voice within digital culture poses the dangers and problems Keen envisions? Why or why not? If it doesn’t pose those problems, what does it offer us as a culture according to Shirky? If you agree with Keen that it does pose those problems, what are we to do with them as a culture — what possibilities are there for valuable personal expression and social coordination? Keep in mind that both of these authors are advancing complex perspectives about the politics of the participatory web, so you need to make an argument of your own that’s aware of their ideas and the relation between them — instead of just saying that one author is wrong and then going on to say whatever you think, offer a closer, more specific response to his argument through conversation with the other. Similarly, if you want to agree with Keen (for example), don’t just say that he’s right and leave it at that — build from his argument to add something of your own to it in response to Shirky. In your response, you should introduce, quote, cite, and analyze at least one substantial passage each from Keen’s and Knutilla’s articles – not just a single small term or concept, but a fuller claim of the kind that you might quote in a paper.

This is a short article, but Keen’s argument is a challenging one to wrestle with — I look forward to seeing what everyone has to say about it! Good luck and I’ll see you all Monday.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Sunday, February 23rd, the night before our Monday class, and should be at least 150 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email or Twitter.

Blog Post 3: Your Life as a Digital Native

Hi everyone,

Our reading for Wednesday, Marc Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” makes a strong case on behalf of a digitally informed way of thinking, teaching, and learning. In Prensky’s eyes, education and culture have to catch up to the thought processes and lives of digital natives in order to make the most of the new potential they have to offer. Since we’ve spent several classes mulling over and debating the validity of the kinds of arguments Prensky makes, let’s take this as an opportunity to shift perspective and ask about the how of this world—what are some of the characteristic actions of digital natives, and what potential do they hold? Playing out these questions on the blog will give us a chance to practice some digital skills, and to think about possible topic directions for the first paper (not every topic you might raise in this blog post would make a good paper topic, and you’re certainly not required to use what you come up with here for your paper topic, but it should at least get you started thinking in some useful directions).

So for this blog post, I’d like you to reflect analytically on your own lifestyle as a digital native. In order to do this, you need to do several things: first, find a passage in Prensky’s  article where you see him talking about some element of digital native culture that you think is interesting, or surprising, or important to his argument—it should be a good, meaty passage of concepts and ideas rather than facts or figures, at least two or three sentences long (the kind of passage you might quote in a paper). Then think of how your own behavior as a digital native reflects what he’s saying in the passage you’ve chosen—focus on one specific, particular kind of action you see yourself doing, whether it’s on the computer or on your phone, at work, school, social life, etc. Then find an illustration of what you’re thinking about online (an image, a video clip, etc.), and explain how your behavior and the illustration of it you’ve chosen relate to the ideas and claims in your quotation.

In order to get full credit for your posting, you must write a paragraph in which you do several things:

  •  Introduce, quote, and cite a passage from Prensky’s writing in your own writing, and summarize the argument Prensky makes in the passage you quote.
  • Analyze that passage and show how the ideas within it connect to the behavior you’ve chosen. How do the issues from Prensky’s writing appear within your new example? What cultural possibilities and promises do they raise in that specific situation? (Don’t just point out that the issues do appear—be specific and analytical in how you connect them).
  • Include your media example in your post through an embedded video, a link to an image, etc., that illustrates the behavior and issues you’re discussing. To embed a YouTube video in your comments, simply grab the URL of any YouTube video and paste it directly into your comment on its own separate line (without any text around it). To include an image, you should also paste the URL into your comment, but this will sometimes only show a link rather than the direct image.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Tuesday, February 4th, the night before our Wednesday class (note that this is different from the usual schedule), and should be at least 150 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email or Twitter.

Blog Post 2: Debating the Digital Brain

In their essay “Your Brain Is Evolving Right Now,” Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan consider many of the same issues that came up in our discussion of Carr’s essay—questions of how immersion in a digital environment changes the ways in which we read, think, and construct ourselves as human individuals. But while Carr’s article is largely skeptical about these changes, Small and Vorgan offer a different perspective.

In order to explore the tensions between these authors’ arguments more thoroughly, in class on Monday we’ll approach our discussion as a mock debate between supporters of Carr’s argument and supporters of Small and Vorgan’s argument. Here’s how it will work: If your last name begins with A-Mak, you are on the side of Carr, and if your last name begins with Mako-Z, you are on the side of Small and Vorgan. Among other things, this mock debate is an exercise in roleplaying and in understanding an argument by taking it on—so you must adopt your assigned position and support it in class, even if you don’t actually agree with it in your own real mind.

I’ll give you time in class to prepare as teams before we start debating. In order to start preparing now, for this blog post I’d like you to do a little initial work with putting these two essays in conversation. In your post, you should:

  • Lay out an argument or claim on behalf of your side, using quotations from both Carr and Small and Vorgan—if you’re on the Carr side, you should quote and cite him to critique or disagree with another passage you quote from Small and Voran, and if you’re on the Small and Voran side, you should quote and cite them to critique or disagree with another passage you quote from Carr. Make sure that you introduce each quotation clearly as part of your own writing and quote and cite it properly — don’t just stick it into your post without any context.
  • In addition to quoting passages from both articles, you should explain in your own writing how the two relate or connect and why “your” assigned side’s argument is more valid and valuable than that of the other side—what is your essay saying in the piece you quote that counters or goes beyond the other side you quote, and how/why? Think of this post as playing out a little miniature debate in writing before you participate in our in-person debate in class.
  • As you’re reading and writing between now and Monday, make sure to check into the class Twitter stream and see what people are saying about these essays and how you might respond.
  • Keep in mind that although the required minimum length for this post is 150 words, you’re quoting two passages and still have to make connections and do thinking of your own in what you write, so I encourage you to go beyond that length however you need to.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Sunday, February 2nd, the night before our Monday class, and should be at least 150 words (although note the fourth bullet point above in relation to this). If you have any questions, let me know.

Blog Post 1: Analyzing Carr

Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” lays out many of the key questions of how we think, act, and interact within digital culture that we’ll be thinking about over the course of the semester — Carr wants us to think critically and intelligently about the new digital world around us and what it means for our minds and our identities.

To start practicing some of the skills of working with complex texts and arguments that we’ll develop this semester, for this first blog post I’d like you to pick an important passage from Carr’s essay to paraphrase and analyze. Once you’ve read through the essay as a whole, look back through it for a passage where you feel like he’s laying out his major idea or ideas—two or three meaty sentences that give you the big picture of his argument that you can respond to with analysis and argument of your own. There’s a good amount of narration in the essay, so try to resist the temptation to quote an interesting story or anecdote—look for a bigger idea instead. As you’re reading but before you post your response, remember to jump into the class discussion on Twitter at #ddc04 — see what people are making of this essay and try to get some discussion going there.

In order to get full credit for your posting, you need to write a paragraph in which you do several things:

  • Set up a passage from Carr in your own writing — instead of just sticking it at the top of your post and then starting your own writing on the next line, integrate the quotation you choose into your own writing — introduce it with some ideas and writing of your own and fit it into the flow of what you’re writing. Then cite and paraphrase that quotation— in addition to quoting it, explain what Carr is saying there in your own best words.
  • Analyze and respond to the passage—how do you respond to what he is saying there? Why? What is important about the claim you’ve quoted? Is this claim valid? If so, what do we have to think about differently? If you don’t think it’s valid, why not?

If someone has already written on the passage you wanted to use when you go to post, you can still use that passage, but you have to add something to the conversation—don’t just say “I agree/disagree.” Try to move the conversation along—take a different spin, suggest a new result or implication, play devil’s advocate and disagree with them for the sake of argument, etc. Looking for multiple responses to a single idea is part of what good analytical thinking is all about!

Reminder:  Your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by midnight on Tuesday, January 28th, the night before our Wednesday class, and should be at least 150 words — you also need to have started your tweeting for class by this time as well. Good luck, and feel free to email or tweet me if you have any questions—I’m interested to see what you come up with for this first post!