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1. Community Participation (45%)

Two of the major tasks of the semester are to develop a professional online identity and connect with others in a variety of online communities and spaces. To those ends, you will engage in two primary activities:

1a. Participate online and in class. We will all contribute contemporary examples of many of these principles and theories through our online conversations, posts, and classroom discussions, and we will extend our thinking about these issues together. Specifically, we will:

  • Engage in class discussions: You will participate actively in our weekly class sessions, coming to class prepared and ready to discuss the readings in depth.

  • Engage in weekly G+ challenges: We encourage you to stay connected with one another during the week via our G+ community. All of us will link to blogs, videos, essays, memes, and/or other popular media texts to supplement, stretch, and challenge our in class conversations. Each week we will have a ‘G+ challenge’ to help prepare us for the upcoming class—we ask that you post your challenge response and comment on at least one other person’s each week.

  • Participate on Twitter: We will be sharing our work and promoting our activities on Twitter using the #diglits hashtag this semester, so you should sign up for an account you can use (you may want to open a new professional account separate from your personal one). You should check this Twitter hashtag regularly, since we will be using it as a communication platform and promoting our work in the class via Twitter. In addition, you will participate in two live Twitter chats about teaching or digital literacies. You will post on G+ about your experience Twitter chatting and provide us links to the archived chats.

1b. Keep a blog. You will keep a professional blog this semester, one concerned with your role as a student and/or educator, and we will discuss the merits of different platforms like Weebly, Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. You will post 5 times over the course of the semester and promote the blog within our course community, via Twitter, and through other social media that we will experiment with, as relevant. You should plan to blog about something connected to your professional world: your teaching experiences, your fieldwork experiences, the course and/or our readings, the course activities or projects, your role as a graduate student, your reflections on various professional development experiences, and/or any other professional topic you think readers would find relevant. The goal is for you to experiment with public writing and the development of a professional identity online. I do ask that these be thoughtful, well written, and engaging posts that you feel comfortable sharing publicly. Twice you will collaboratively write with a fellow diglits classmate on our class blog (on Working with your partner, your team will synthesize across that week’s blogs, the readings, and the G+ conversations, and these class blog entries will help kick off our in-class discussion. Altogether, you will write 7 posts this semester (5 personal + 2 class).

2. Interview Project (15%)

The first major assignment in the course is an investigation into a young person’s practices with technology (anyone high school age or younger). The goal is to learn more about the ways that youth engage with digital media, focusing not just on the tools they use but the how, where, when, and why of their engagements. You should aim to learn more about how this young person sees the world, using the method of portraiture that Davis (2011) describes: What is it like growing up in a digital era? How do they negotiate their worlds using various tools and engaging in a variety of practices? How do they feel about technology more generally? It’s fine if your participant is not ‘into’ technology—that tells us a lot too. You may choose to share your portrait with us by writing a short paper (~3 pages), creating a short podcast, or making a brief digital story. We will share papers and stories with other classmates (therefore, make sure you use pseudonyms to protect the identity of the participants), and you will make a short presentation of this work as well. This assignment is due on February 25.

3. Final Project (40%)

For the final project in the course, you will engage in a four-week research project, investigating either a community of interest to you or an individual (which can be a deeper inquiry extending your earlier project). You should begin collecting data in your community the week of March 17. If you have another idea for a final project, please discuss it with me first.

3a. Join a community or follow an individual. You have two options for this research project. In the first, you will become a member of an online community beginning in March, moving from observer to participant as you learn to think, act, and talk like a member of this particular “affinity space” (Gee, 2004). You will spend 4 weeks thinking about the meaning making practices of this community across offline and online spaces, using your experience in this community to help make sense of the course texts we read and your own scholarly agenda. What does it mean to be a member of this community? What literacy practices are affiliated with and embedded in members’ participation? We will talk during the semester about how to identify a community that interests you, so that you are inspired to participate not just for the purposes of this assignment but because you share an affinity. Some ideas: fantasy, sports, video games, transmedia franchises (e.g., Star Wars, Spiderman), home design, DIY, fan communities, hobbies, politics, information, religion, others (e.g., geo-caching, Meetup, etc.). In the second option, you will choose one young person and examine his/her digital practices in depth, looking across the different communities in which s/he participates. In many ways, this is an extension of the earlier project, seeking to understand your participant’s world from an ethnographic perspective, but it also involves investigating how people move across spaces. You should use a variety of methods to help you think in depth about this person’s digital experiences, including following them places, observing them, asking them to videotape themselves, surveying them, etc.

3b. Collect data. You will collect weekly data for the 4 weeks of the project. At the minimum, this will involve weekly field notes and the collection of artifacts, but it might also include interviews, more frequent field notes, and other data. In the weekly field note, you will write down what you are learning as a member of this community, illustrating it with screenshots and excerpts from online interactions (or alternatively, what you are observing in your interactions with your participant). You will reflect in these notes on your experiences in the community: What are some central meaning making practices of members? What beliefs and values are rooted in those practices? You will examine and reflect on the discourses, genres, texts, and literacies of this particular community/individual in relation to your research question (which of course may change as you become more immersed). You may also want to use these field notes as opportunities to reflect on the course readings through the lens of this community (for example, thinking about the ways people participate in the community or how identities are represented and negotiated) or in relation to your participant’s digital practices.

3c. Present your work. We will have opportunities in class to talk with one another about your research, both formally and informally. On the last night of class we will have Ignite style presentations about your projects. You will prepare a 5-minute PowerPoint slideshow, with exactly 20 slides timed for 15 seconds each. We will discuss how to give this ‘Ignite’ style of presentation in class.

3d. Write a final paper or create a digital project. The capstone part of this project is a 10-page paper (about 2500 words, excluding figures and references) or equivalent digital project, due electronically May 5. In this final paper/project, you will report on the findings of your research study. These sections/areas should be included:

  • Introduction – Presents the background of the community and your rationale for choosing it, including your research question driving your inquiry
  • Literature Review – Discusses relevant literature from the course and possibly from your own research that helps to contextualize and/or illuminate your findings
  • Methods – Briefly discusses how you collected your data and provides insight into your positionality as a researcher
  • Findings/Analysis – Presents and analyzes the data and draws conclusions about it that address the research question and connect to the literature review
  • Conclusion – Provides the significance of your findings along with implications for literacy, learning, or schooling
  • References – Correctly formatted for APA

More information about the final project will be provided in class.