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Update: “Digital Literacies Block” Proposal

Caroline, Jennifer, and I are collaborating to propose a block of general education courses for incoming first-years geared toward encouraging digital literacy and reflections on the use of technology. As we now conceive it, we would each design and teach a gen. ed. course in our field–Jennifer would offer “Introduction to Programming for Artists”; Caroline would offer “Introduction to Sociology”; and I would offer a first-year composition course. Our courses would function independently, but they would culminate in a shared student multimedia project related to the theme of “Autobiography.” Our presentation and proposal will thus center around two problems:

1. How to design a parent site (in WordPress) to be shared by all of the block’s courses.

2. How to design a culminating assignment using the technology as a tool to bring the courses together and allow students to “publish” their work for their class communities.

We will also provide background research into the efficacy of learning communities and blocks for first-years as well as on concepts of general education and the first-year experience. The technology functions in this project as a tool for collaboration between faculty and students geared toward encouraging an awareness of disciplinary distinctions as well as interdisciplinary connections.

I am attaching a very early skeleton draft of my writing course syllabus here as well as some preliminary ideas as to how my class might contribute to the culminating assignment:

Composition I

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of course students should be able to:

  • Read and understand complex texts in a variety of disciplines and genres
  • Analyze and synthesize these texts in writing
  • Demonstrate a command of edited American English.
  • Demonstrate a command of American academic essay structure (thesis-driven essays)
  • Demonstrate an awareness of audience and rhetorical situations
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the writing process and the value of revision

Each student will “publish” a final, 1,500-2,000 word essay as part of a multimedia project evidencing the above skills at the end of the course.

Course Schedule

Module I: Life Writing: Methods and Meaning

Assigned Texts:

Selections  from:

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Frederick Douglass, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

[Accessible theoretical texts on autobiography emphasizing the distance between the lived and the narrated–TK.]


3-4 page “Educational Autobiography” essay

3-4 page Analysis essay

Module II: Making Connections: Using Personal Experience as Evidence

Assigned Texts:

Marlon Riggs, Black Is . . . Black Ain’t (DVD)

Mike Rose, “I Just Wanna Be Average”

David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster”

Virginia Woolf, selections from A Room of One’s Own

Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”


3-4 page Synthesis essay

Module III: Autobiography and Revelations of the Personal in a Digital Age

Assigned Texts:

Mark C. Santos, “How the Internet Saved My Daughter and How Social Media Saved My Family” (multimedia essay on Kairos)

Emily Gould, “Exposed”

Lisa Nakamura, “Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet”

[Articles on social networking, identity, and privacy issues TK]


3-4 page Persuasive essay

5-6 page Synthesis and/or Persuasive essay (emerging from an earlier essay) using features of autobiography to forward a thesis—to be revised several times and “published” with sociological analysis and digital self-portrait online.

Possible assignments:

  • Describing an important turning point in their lives then reflecting on how it compares/constrasts with features of the autobiographies we have read.
  • Using this “turning point” or other significant personal experience to construct a mini-research project (finding 3-4 outside sources) on a topic and then developing a persuasive essay from this experience and these sources.
  • Constructing an essay about life writing on the Internet.

Posted in Project Concepts.

2 Responses

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  1. Laurel Harris says

    Hi Rowena:

    This is actually one of the very things we’re working on. As we’ve conceived it thus far, Jennifer’s course in programming for artists is the one that will most substantively use the web to compose digital portraits. This forum will serve more as a publishing platform (within the classroom space–I am not sure that we would open it up for privacy reasons, although this is something we’re discussing) for the composition and sociology essays. However, the form of this final multimedia project is something we’re working out now, and it is a central challenge.

    Thank you for asking about this–we’ll certainly keep you updated on how we approach this question as we move forward.

  2. Rowena Li says

    I am really interested in this proposal of integrating three subjects – writing, sociology, and programming for artists – into the introduction to digital literacy and use of technology. I am reading the above writing modules, how do you make it connected to multimedia projects or presentations? I am just curious.

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