Wednesday, March 02, 2011

DML/Kairos Webinar

If you missed the webinar with David Parry, Mark Marino, Katherine Harris, and me, you can click on this link and see the archived version.

It began as a Twitter conversation between Harris and Parry, which can now be followed with the hashtag #infoarts. As people involved in teaching writing, we asserted that the main issues have less to do with tools and more to do with linking facts and creativity, as Harris argued. Parry noted that moving from "information" to "knowledge" involves engaging students rhetorically in "information arts" rather than "information science." I argued that thinking about information flows is central for this kind of teaching and cited Siva Vaidhyanathan's Critical Information Studies Manifesto.

In particular, we discussed the limitation of using the term "digital literacy," because it is 1) excessively text-centered, 2) often perceived as remedial by students, 3) invites turf battles between different departments and academic units, and 4) ignores the importance of digital rights. Mark also questioned the assumption that "digital natives" were competent at search or able to understand how to author metadata and use social bookmarking tools, and Parry claimed that teaching these skills involves thinking about a new kind of reading, the reading that a computer does, so that students learn to "write for the machine." (Parry also observed that reading web stats was useful for students to "dig into.")

The conversation contained a number of assertion that might seem at odds with traditional pedagogy. For example, Harris insisted on the value of "play" and making students "comfortable with being uncomfortable," Parry argued for both "loose" or "unstructured" assignments oriented around time limits rather than page limits, as well as the importance of "failure," and Marino describes his class as on of the "workaround" and "Zen patience." Our unconventional assignments include telling a lie on Facebook or photographic surveillance cameras in their daily lives.

We also grappled with some hard questions about student privacy, academic labor, corporate interests, and the unintended consequences of engaging with the "real world." (See Parry's blog entry on "It's Not the Public Internet; It is the Internet Public" for more.)

As Harris pointed out, by describing a "Food and You" class with a public audience and lots of face-to-face tasting time, we aren't talking about distance learning in the conventional sense.

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