protect the commons

The Writing Program has developed a statement on using technology for teaching which encourages us to “teach with technology in considered ways.” So explained the illustrious Donna to an auditorium of returning ENG112 Teachers eager to tackle the second semester. The Writing Program has put together an exceptional package of resources for students and teachers, which includes mycomplab, an online supplement to the Penguin Handbook containing loads more info and resources plus some neat features that folks might want to use, such as a built-in “exchange” for peer reviews, a “research navigator” to help direct one to useful resources, several model papers, and (for instructors only), some tips on teaching English as a Second Language. It’s good stuff and students are paying for four years of access when they buy the custom Penguin edition for UMass (which, by the way, is half the price it would otherwise be).
Any teacher can get a WebCT/Blackboard/Spark(?) course set up to complement in-class instruction – this is a university-wide offering, as is the new Udrive system. A tutorial guides one through the process of loading and sharing files (another option for peer review), establishing groups, and even drafting webpages before they go public.
All of these are great and I’m definitely going to ask my students to play with them: I’m really curious if they have preferences for one or another.
Meanwhile, I’d like to keep using the umasswiki format (to the extent that students are willing) because, quite simply, it exists “outside” the bureaucratic “container” of “the university.” I’m uneasy with the degree to which a public university education (in general) is geared toward certain modes of conformity, hence I am leary of uniformity in practices and tools. Let me clear, the Writing Program explicitly does not insist on extreme conformity except to the core of a common curriculum and overarching program goals. How individual teachers accomplish these goals and deliver this curriculum is – largely – up to each teacher.
I think this offers a rich palette of opportunities for undergraduates, not just in terms of becoming familiar with different kinds of technology (which is crucial), but also in the debates opened up about the public sphere, privacy rights (which differ by context), and the power of writing as a form of/forum for critical public thinking. Speaking of which, the integration of text with visual images is an increasingly powerful mode. Check out what the media scholars website, In Media Res, is up to:


This would be awesomely cool to project onto the big screen in the rooms with built-in projection equipment! Get your key from the Provost’s Office, connect your laptop, select .mov at the mediacommons website, bingo. Contact AIMS on campus for assistance if necessary. (They have saved my hiney on more than one occasion.)
Meanwhile, some internet scholars have posted a teaching case on wikipedia, whose objectives are
1) To show the delicate balance between issues of authority, expertise, community consensus and norms of behavior in a distributed setting, and
2) To discuss success and failure modes in online communities.

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