Friday, October 18, 2013

Inspired by this morning's fruitful reading, I've spent much of my afternoon sketching out the syllabus for the class ("drafting" is too strong a word to use here). Phew, for getting really going.

How is this for language inviting students to use their devices in class?

"Students are invited to bring their laptops, tablets, phones, and other digital devices to class. You may use them to tweet about the class using the course hashtag, conduct research for the benefit of the class discussion, and make demonstrations to the group. Please respect the normal rules of classroom conduct and do not idly surf the web, post to Facebook, or otherwise absent yourself from the seminar."

Now, if only I could figure out which readings to put in which week...

Practical additions to the class

I've been spending time over at Jack Dougherty's Web Writing project, reading about the pedagogical implications of having students write on the web instead of on paper for a professorial audience. Jack's own essay, "Collaborative Writing, Peer Review, and Publishing in the Cloud," put me in mind of some practical things that I would like to do in my seminar.

1. Offer the students a shared, collaborative notetaking space, using Google Docs as the platform. Right from the start of class, students will be given the opportunity to use that space however they see fit to share resources, notes, and ideas. I intend that we have an ongoing conversation about the uses to which they put that space, perhaps prompted by a reading of Jack's essay.

2. Conduct a pre-class survey of what digital tools students have used and have heard of. My guess is that Survey Monkey would be fine for that survey. I'd welcome your suggestions for items that should be on the list. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

Google Docs
Word Press
N-gram viewer
Survey Monkey

Now that I get going, there are so many possibilities I wonder if I might get carried away trying to write the survey...

Jack's essay also made me wonder whether I should allow students to do a collaborative project for a final paper in the class. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's a graduate seminar for programs that lead inexorably to an independent project like a thesis or a dissertation. On the other hand, digital history projects are almost invariably collaborative, so practice in the shared arena is probably good training. If a collaborative project is accompanied by a shared reflection or process paper, that might ease my qualms.

Another thing that the larger collection reminded me of is that I want to encourage students to tweet from (or about) the class. I have a question out on my twitter feed right now considering the appropriate hashtag. I'd welcome suggestions here. But I do have unresolved feelings based on an article I read in the Chronicle of Higher Education several years ago suggesting that it was inappropriate to require students to use platforms that require them to sign a service-agreement contract such as those of Facebook and Twitter. I've never encountered an effective rebuttal to that argument, but moving students onto corporate platforms seems so ubiquitous that perhaps I should not worry about it. Probably my plan to use Google Docs hinges on the same problem, and I've never thought that through.

Finally, I'm grateful to Leigh Wright's terrific "Tweet Me a Story" for explaining what Storify is and elucidating some of the possibilities for using Twitter to teach journalistic (at least) writing.