How this course works

Welcome! This course is going to be fun and enriching for those who choose to get involved in doing classwork in new ways. We’re going to experiment.  The success of our experiment will depend on our work together as a learning community – in class and online. (Please click and read each link on this page – and ask yourself if you are ready to continue at this level of commitment through the rest of the quarter). Each one of us will be required to work differently than we usually do. Most courses focus on the delivery by a teacher of a specific body of knowledge to students, who are held accountable as individuals for retaining and comprehending that knowledge. In this learning community, we’re going to be inquiring and reflecting more than delivering and memorizing, and we’re going to be thinking, discussing, learning as a group as well as learning individually — we’re going to be both collaborative (working together on projects) and cooperative (co-responsible for each other’s learning). That part alone is going to require more work on your part than you might think.

According to this source on process-guided inquiry learning (you don’t have to read the source document unless you are interested in why our learning journey is structured the way it is — and if you really want to dig into the instructional design of online collaborative learning, this slideshow is good):

Five key ideas about learning have emerged from current research in the cognitive sciences.

This research documents that people learn by:

• constructing their own understanding based on their prior knowledge, experiences,

skills, attitudes, and beliefs.

• following a learning cycle of exploration, concept formation, and application.

• connecting and visualizing concepts and multiple representations.

• discussing and interacting with others.

• reflecting on progress and assessing performance.

You’ll see that your missions and our classroom activities fit these criteria.

At the same time that we’re adjusting to new roles as learners, we’re also attempting to  learn and use new online communication media at a furious pace. By the end of the quarter,  you will know how and under what circumstances to use forums, blogs, comments, wikis, chats, mindmaps and Twitter. You will have taken responsibility, together with other student team members, for co-teaching a class session, leading development of the wiki lexicon, and facilitating conversations in class and online. You will each help the other co-teaching teams by collaboratively creating a lexicon on the wiki. You will use our forums, wikis, blogs, and social bookmarking tool to create a collaborative project with other students, to be presented during the final class sessions. You will comment on each other’s blog posts. With that much novelty and complexity compressed into ten weeks, it becomes even more important to make clear at the very beginning what is expected of students who apply to participate in this course. Please read and agree to the following before applying for or continuing in the class.


This course is built upon interdisciplinary, collaborative, inquiry:

The texts, discussions in the classroom, and online discourse revolve around collaborative inquiry in which students and instructor pursue questions that matter to us about issues raised by the communication media we use in the course. (Note that according to some practitioners, “getting over learned helplessness may take some time” — resistance to what I’m suggesting is a natural artifact of the way students are institutionalized to learn and teachers are trained to teach in most classes.)

The instructor, together with student teaching teams, invites and facilitates co-exploration of and co-experimentation with social media theory and practice. There is no canon to be transmitted (although we certainly will examine texts). Knowledge is to be explored, interrogated, critically analyzed, argued, played with, and collaboratively assembled in our online collaboratory by the class as a whole. Cyberculture studies requires tunneling through disciplinary boundaries and looking at questions through multiple lenses. The instructor will invite experimentation, suggest themes, model expected behaviors, point out connections, contextualize, ask, guide, contest, participate, provide resources, tell stories, respond to questions; but from the beginning, students are charged as individuals and as a group with assembling and making sense of the knowledge we harvest from these inquiries. For more about the pedagogical theory underlying this kind of learning, see Enquiring MindsAnti-Teaching , Moodle Pedagogical Philosophy. Constructivist, constructionist, collaborative inquiry is well suited to learning that blends face to face and online discussion. If you want to dive a little more deeply into the relationship between social media and contemporary learning, an hour-long video by Michael Wesch conveys the spirit of what I’m trying to do with this course — A Portal to Media Literacy.

Collaborative inquiry requires individual committment to active participation

Learning and practicing social media competencies and understanding the social dimensions of cyberspace should be fun and should enable students to have a voice in one of the most important emerging aspects of global society — the power of every desktop computer or smart phone to function as a worldwide printing press, broadcasting station, market, community center, political organizing tool. If you commit to this course and pay attention, you will develop skills that are directly relevant to your personal development and your place in the world after graduation. The price for learning to use the media and methods we use for collaborative inquiry is a serious committment of time and attention by every member of the learning group. This way of working is not for everybody; those who dislike this approach say it “has too many moving parts” and “requires too much time outside class.” (These are direct quotes from evaluations.) We will be engaged in a continuing discursive process that cannot be fulfilled by just turning in homework the morning it is due. Peers will need each other’s input many times throughout each week, through a variety of media, in order to conduct ongoing inquiries, conversations, collaborative writing, team teaching, peer assessment, and group projects. Like RSS and twitter, online discourse is a flow, not a queue.

Please also see this more detailed explanation of assignments, expectations, and grading.

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