What do I actually do in this class this semester to create all that cellular, fractal ecosystem that I've been going on about? Let's put some rubber on the road:
- All students will open a Google Mail account using their preferred name in this style: firstname.lastname@example.org. Each student must then email me from that account, telling me something about themselves. Why? Email will be a primary way for the class to communicate, especially given that I am seldom on campus. Though most of the students will already have an email account, the Google accounts give us all the same kind of named account which gives the class an identity, quickly identifies us to each other, and helps us all learn each other's names. It helps create a community of discourse. Finally, Gmail gives the students a Google account that provides access to other Google tools, which we will use in this class. How? I could give the students a paper handout in class describing how to setup a Gmail account, for those who might not know, but I'm inclined to give them a URL to the handout so that they have to go online from the get-go (that IS a technical term). We may as well jump right in. When? I'll make the assignment during the first class meeting, and students must send me an email from their new Gmail account by the third day after the class meeting. So the Monday night class is due by Thursday, the Wednesday class by Saturday. The first two students from each class to send me an email from their new Gmail account will receive an automatic A on their first paper. I like motivation, and grades motivate. They will also learn other things that will help them with the class.
- I will reply to each email with directions to this blog: idst-2215.blogspot.com. Each student must post a reply to a specific blog entry that I will make later today. Why? This blog will also be a primary way for the class to communicate, but email will be mostly for housekeeping messaging among the members of the class, while the blog will be mostly for discussing the content of the class: Lakoff's frames and Popper's open society. How? This should be rather easy. I'll put a link in my email, and I assume that most students are Net-savvy enough to click on a link. Still, I will say something like: click on this link -> idst-2215. I will also tell them to look for the Reply button on the blog page and submit their reply. We'll see. When? Students must respond to the blog prior to the day of the second class meeting–that's Sunday for the Monday class, Tuesday for the Wednesday class. How will the students know to do this? By reading this blog. Are you reading, my dear students? I hope so.
- I will also reply with directions to the class syllabus at docs.google.com/View?docid=dghvd3sx_1cqttnr, which students must print and bring to class for discussion and modification. Why? Again, I want the students quickly to become comfortable with working the class over the Net. Also, I want them to edit the syllabus so that they can assume some ownership for the class. Their papers will be available on the Net for peer review, so why not the syllabus? Past students might want to leave some comments here to advise the new students about changes they might want to make to the syllabus. Also, I want the students to be able to print a paper from the Net. How? The link to the class syllabus is available in a post to this blog, as I will mention in my email. The students will have to find that blog post and print it. When? Students must bring a printed copy of the syllabus to the second class meeting.
- Catch of the breath: So, by the second class meeting, all students will have a Gmail account, will be able to send emails to that account, will check that account regularly for replies from me and others in the class, will access and respond to the IDST-2215 blog, and will access and print a Google document, the class syllabus. And from the syllabus they will have learned of and completed their reading assignments for the second class meeting. This seems very ambitious, but doable, I think. We'll see.
- During the first weeks of the course, I will try to add posts to this blog several times a week, helping guide the students' reading and responding to their responses. Why? I want to see what kind of communication community the blog can build. I want to expand the discussion beyond the walls and time of the classroom. How? I'll post blogs that I hope will elicit response. I'll also ask people outside the class, past students, colleagues, and friends, to join the discussion. When? This question makes no sense, but the answer is whenever anyone wants to respond. It's entirely possible that a post early in the semester may not elicit a response until late in the semester, or even after the semester is over. Or never, if it's a silly post.
- Students will set up Google Reader to aggregate their online reading. Why? I want the students to expand their reading beyond the basic texts of the classroom and to learn how to use an aggregator. How? I'll post a blog entry describing how to set up Google Reader. Students will bring to class a screen shot of their Google Reader account. When? I'll post the instructions by the second class meeting. Students will bring in their screen shot by the third class meeting.
- Students will set up Google Docs & Spreadsheets to create their online papers. Why? For years my students have used word processors to create their documents, but often they use a word processor that I can't read (MS Works, for instance). Using Google Docs keeps all our documents in the same format. It also makes our documents available online. Now, peer review works anytime/anywhere, and we all can watch a document develop from rough exploration of a topic to mature presentation of that topic. How? I'll post a blog entry describing how to set up and use a Google Docs & Spreadsheets account. Students will create a rough draft of their first paper. When? I'll post the instructions by the third class meeting. Students will have a rough draft online before the fourth class meeting.
- This may be enough for the class to work for me and the students. I'm considering using Google Calendar, but it seems a bit superfluous. Basically, I would use the Calendar as a support for the syllabus, but it may not be necessary. I don't want to burden the class with too much technology. I want the class to be about the discussion, not about the technology. We'll see.