This term, as I’ve discussed a bit before, I’m teaching Honors Rhetoric and Composition1 as part of the University’s project with Sony. We are checking out Sony’s ebook Reader and doing most of our course’s readings on this — either in ebook format or in pdf format. Students will be researchers in the project as well, interviewing each other with IRB approved research questions.
It’s been an exciting two days so far. We haven’t started with the Sony Readers yet, because the students are getting the books next week, but we’re starting the term off with a critical analysis unit on the non-neutrality of technology and design. We discussed Jennie Winhall’s “Is Design Political?” today in class, which was fruitful. Students are most excited (I think) that they don’t have to buy textbooks this term (and I don’t blame them — in fact, that was part of the reason I was excited). My students so far have been talkative and great and offered some interesting ideas and perspectives.
The thing that I’m most frustrated with at this point is the course blog. The teacher of the other section engaged in this project and I decided that rather than traditional journals or posts on ANGEL (which I loathe almost as much as Blackboard) that we would have class blogs. I set up a Movable Type blog on my PSU webspace (figuring that it would be best to keep things on PSU server space) and started immediately running into problems. I can’t invite students to the blog until they’ve taken an online questionnaire showing they “understand” copyright laws and PSU policy for their webspace. We did this in class today, but there is a 1-3 business day turnaround for their registration to go through, so I’ll have to wait to invite them to the blog. And I’m not used to MT (I’m a WordPress blogger, for certain), so it was a bit of self-teaching and information seeking in order to set comment moderation the way I wanted, to incorporate links in the sidebar, etc.
I’m not sure how much privileges I’ll be able to give students on the blog. I want them to have quite a bit of control to play with the blog, including adding links to the sidebar, should they feel so inclined, but I’m not sure what MT will allow for users who don’t “own” the blog. Guess we’ll find out.
What’s most exciting about this experiment is that it’s obviously an experiment. I view all my teaching as an experiment (like a pragmatist), exploring what works and what doesn’t, and what works in what situations. But this term, I’m doing so much that’s just new to me and to students. It’s probably going to take up a lot more of my time than teaching did last term, but that’s okay.
Additionally, we’re using the Sony Reader in one of my graduate courses, which is exciting, so the eleven of us will also be exploring the tool as we discuss literacies and technologies.
1 The course catalog and ANGEL (our Blackboard-esque software) call it Honors Freshman Composition — a term I am not too fond of because of the gendered “freshman” and the lack of “rhetoric” in the title. Our non-honors sections are titled Rhetoric and Composition.