Laboratory Life: Seeking input from YOU on course design

So I’m redesigning a course I’ve taught a few times now (CMNS 253, which I’m teaching right now, too) to transform it from a lecture/tutorial format that uses an all-in-one wiki/blog/CMS (Howard Rheingold’s Social Media Classroom build of Drupal) into, well, a lecture/lab course in writing for social, mobile and pervasive media (using Mediawiki, WordPress, Twitter, Digg, and a whole ecosystem of other open-platform mobile and social media tools).

The 2 hour lectures still follow the same format, tracing the history of analog and digital communications media as told by Wade Rowland in Spirit of the Web. However, what’s new is the lab component: 1 hour following the lecture every week is a workshop in social media literacies and tools, culminating in (1) an individually written research paper in the form of a crowdsource-mediated blog post and (2) a citizen journalism exercise/team multimedia project.

I’m interested in your input, so I’ve included a draft of the syllabus below. Please comment on this post if you have any ideas or criticism. Some of it is more-or-less complete, while stuff toward the end of the thirteen weeks is a bit hazier as of now.

In particular, I’m wondering if there is room in here for things I haven’t yet included – web metrics and analytics, for one, but there are probably others. And I’m also open to suggestion as to whether the lectures should match each lab somehow in terms of theme (though I don’t think this is really warranted, as Rowland’s history stands on its own, and dramatically underlines the watershed represented by the Internet and social media in communications history.


CMNS 253 (W) J1, Spring 2010 – Draft Syllabus

Week 1 (Jan 5) Information, technology, new media, social software.

  • Read: Rowland, Prologue, Chapters 1, 2, 3. See Week 1 for details.
  • LAB: Introduction to the computer lab
    • Overview of Lab Assignments
    • Start a Blog, Get on the Wiki
    • Post a brief blog post about yourself, then post a link to it on the wiki.


Week 2 (Jan 12) The Telegraph. Theories of technology.

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 4, 5, 6. Also, Kierkegaard’s The Present Age. See Week 2 for details.
  • LAB: Doing online research
    • Tools: Google Scholar, Google Books, EBSCO & library databases
    • Style: APA, blogging/linking conventions, attributing, Zotero, Endnote
    • How to identify and use a peer reviewed source
    • How and why to use non-peer reviewed sources
    • Choose a topic (you sill stay with this topic throughout the semester) from a list provided, OR choose one off-list by emailing me about it.
    • Exercise: find a scholarly article that is relevant to the topic you’ve chosen, post the APA-cited reference to it on your blog before next class (we will need you to read it before next class too, as you will be discussing it in next week’s lab).


Week 3 (Jan 19) The Telephone. Theories and critics of Information Society.

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 7, 8, 9. Also, Howard Rheingold’s Disinformocracy, Rheingold’s encounter with Habermas and Kellner on Habermas. See Week 3 for details.
  • LAB: Searching and Social Bookmarking
    • Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon introduced. (We vote on which to use)
    • Search techniques (both push -twitter, friendfeed, etc. , or pull -google,yahoo,wikipedia)
    • Topic search to find a news article, blog, or other timely (academic or non-academic) source of relevance to your topic
    • Find at least 2 people who are experts on your topic who you can follow for timely topical updates
    • Create a social bookmark for the article you found. Establish a routine search for topical items. Everyday, do a news/bookmark/digg search. Also read your feeds (people, experts)


Week 4 (Jan 26) Radio. The Tetrad Protocol as a method.

Read: Rowland, Chapters 10, 11, 12. See Week 4 for details.
LAB: Microblogging (twittering), bouncing ideas around about topics.

Start a twitter account (link to it on our designated wiki page for this)
Find the people (experts) on twitter that you identified last week. Follow them and create a twitter list for your topic.
Update this list regularly, and post a link to it on the appropriate wiki page.
Tweet about something related to your topic. use a hash tag. reply to two other tweets (I will configure a twitter list for the class. You can reply to someone else in the class, or to one of your tweeps you’ve identified as a ‘knowledge broker” in your topic).


Week 5 (Feb 2) Radio as an Industry.

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 13, 14, 15. See Week 5 for details.
  • LAB: Blogging.
    • Post a blog as a first draft for your Major Research paper, based on your research thus far. Include your two sources (at least one academic) found thus far. Be sure to cite in APA (including a references cited list) and link/attribute appropriately.
    • Comment constructively on 2 other students’ blog posts about social media.
  • Assignment: Major Research Paper draft


Week 6 (Feb 9) Television (and review of previous weeks).

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 16, 17, 18. See Week 6 for details.
  • LAB: Collaborating on a Wiki
    • team forming, idea clustering (based on topics chosen) (teams will also work together on the video assignment later)
    • discuss and differentiate your ideas. identify your unique contribution (we can’t all write about “Facebook and surveillance”, for example – if more than one person is writing about something – try to work together to differentiate your individual topics)
  • Due: Major Research Paper draft. Give it to a partner for formal peer review.


Week 7 (Feb 23) Midterm exam

No reading assigned this week. No lecture/lab this week. 2 hour in class exam. See Week 7 for details.

Week 8 (March 2) Pre-history and history of computers

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. See Week 8 for details.
  • LAB: Exploring & Coordinating Online Syndication: RSS & APIs
  • Due: Major Research Paper draft – formal peer review – use form for review, communicate review privately to original writer (ccd to me).


Week 9 (March 9) Microchips, computers, and the Internet

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 24, 25, 26, 27, 28. See Week 9 for details.
  • LAB: Exploring multimedia sources
  • Due: Major Research Paper (final draft). Post as a document (Word, Open Office, something that permits me to comment and edit) to your blog. Revise based on peer feedback.


Week 10 (March 16) Search, Social Media and the Real-Time Web

  • Read: Rowland, Chapters 29, 30, 31 and 32, and Jenkins’ “If it Doesn’t Spread It’s Dead” (part one). See Week 10 for details.
  • LAB: Mobilizing your social media
    • What’s in your phone/laptop?
    • Using SMS and MMS with social media
    • Using cameras, streaming media
    • Using location apps
    • Using the field: making use of free wi-fi, 3G, Bluetooth to communicate live (laptop or cel phone)
  • Assignment: for the final multimedia assignment, decide on a topic based on your teams’ individual research. Can you combine your topics or just use one (or two) of your individual studies to springboard into a multimedia project? Remember that you will decide on a local event (or create your own) that is useful to your research topic – a conference, barcamp, public event, political protest, or flashmob. Preferable to use one that’s already happening.


Week 11 (March 30) Copyright and its Digital Discontents

  • Read: Oswald’s “Plunderphonics”, Doctorow’s “The DRM Sausage Factory” and DeBeer’s “Respect and Reality are Keys to Reform” See Week 11 for details.
  • FIELD EXERCISE: Citizen Journalism and/or Flash Mob. We will cover a live event, or create one of our own and cover it, in teams we formed back in Week 6. we will decide on the location ahead of time, so the timing might not sync with lab time. in that case, we’ll cover the event (on a weekend or evening only that we decide as a team, or as a class if we all do the same thing, but regardless it will have to be something that happens in wek 10 or 11 in order to have enough time to edit footage down. I will compile an event calendar of things accessible via skytrain or bus that will be suitable), and instead use this time in the lab for editing/scripting as needed by the various teams of 5. post your footage to the wiki, blogs, and make it creative commons.
  • Assignment: In teams, and using the wiki, script/design your video or multimedia project. Remember that as we’re doing this around a live event, you need to decide what kinds of footage you’re likely to need:
    • interviews – with whom, and using what questions? script your interviews ahead of time, get model release forms and informed consent forms signed first, on location
    • b-roll – establishing shots, ambient footage. looks good behind voice-overs, can be used for montage, etc.
    • event footage. when we get closer to the event, spec out the setting for: lighting, probable noise, angles, probably sites where the action will be, where the audience will be, where signage is, etc.


Week 12 (April 6) The Mobile Web and Pervasive Computing

  • Read: Castells et al, The Mobile Communication Society (Chapters 6 and 7). See Week 12 for details.
  • LAB: editing, remixing, mashing
  • Assignment: Edit your video or multimedia project.


Week 13 (April 13) Student Video Presentation Day

  • No assigned readings. See Week 13 for details.
  • Hand in video/multimedia project via this wiki the night before (April 12), and bring a hard copy to class as a backup.
  • Screening of student multimedia projects in Lecture.

2 thoughts on “Laboratory Life: Seeking input from YOU on course design”

  1. Looks like fun. I’d probably do a little less history, but that’s just a personal bias. Be careful with too much social media at once–in my experience students sometimes don’t get beyond the frazzle to to the dazzle if you move from one platform to another too frequently…

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