My Georgia Tech ENGL 1102 Class Description and Reading List for Spring 2012, “The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age Explored Through Science Fiction”

Martin Widmer’s “Tomb [V’]” (2007).
[UPDATE: I volunteered to teach three sections of ENGL1101 instead of three sections of ENGL1102 when the school made the request. This gives me an opportunity to immediately revise my ENGL1101 syllabus and try new things with my students!] In Spring 2013, I will be teaching three sections of ENGL 1102 (sections: P1, E, and M). For these sections, I will guide students toward completing and exceeding the desired educational outcomes with a class structured on the them, “The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age Explored Through Science Fiction.”

Building on the rhetorical strategies and WOVEN modalities introduced in ENGL1101, this class further develops students’ communicative and critical thinking abilities by guiding students through challenging research-based projects. The research focus of this class is on the promise and peril of the contemporary digital age. Science fiction is a uniquely suited genre for considering the digital age, because it is the only literature that is firmly situated at the intersection of science, technology, and culture. Furthermore, science fiction is a literature about the present in which it is written rather than its imagined future. With this in mind, recent science fictions comment on our present and our near future in simultaneously promising and troubling ways. Drawing on science fiction across multiple media (including novels, films, and video games) and using newly acquired tools of critical theory from cultural studies and the study of science and technology, students will develop a number of research-based projects individually and collaboratively that explore how science fiction informs and critiques the on-going digital age. All of these projects will culminate in or include a digital component (e.g., blog posts, Twitter essays, Storify curations, online videos, and Omeka archives). Also, students will learn how to use digital humanities technologies to inform their thinking and research.

Reading List:

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood, Anchor, 2004, 978-0385721677

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, Broadway, 2012, 978-0307887443

Neuromancer, William Gibson, Ace, 2000, 978-0441007462

River of Gods, Ian McDonald, Pyr, 2007, 978-1591025955

Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge, Tor, 2007, 978-0812536362

Online reading:

Little Brother, Cory Doctorow [available here]

Game List:

CYPHER: Cyberpunk Text Adventure [available here]

I am still developing the class syllabus and assignments. When these are completed, I will post copies in a subsequent post.

My ENGL 1101 Syllabus for “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience”

My English composition students at Georgia Tech are now well into their second major project, so I figured that I should get in gear and post my syllabus for my newly designed, WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) focused ENGL 1101 syllabus. The title of my class is “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience.” Unlike the previous iteration of this class at Kent State called “The Brain and Writing,” I overhauled the whole class to only use nonfictional readings and more strongly emphasize multimodality in assignments and discussion. So far, I am very pleased with the results as demonstrated by the great work and commitment of my students. If you would like to read my syllabus, you can download it as a PDF here: ellis-jason-fall2012-1101-syllabus.

Online Guide to Accompany Using the Vista8 Course Management System Workshop

Today, I am facilitating a session on the Vista8 course management system at Kent State University for the Department of English at the Pre-Semester Workshop. I prepared a Guide to Vista8 [currently hosted on Google Docs, , which covers many of the topics that I will discuss during the first part of the session. Also, I hope that it helps instructors after the session is over when they are setting up the online components of their writing classes.

If you have trouble viewing the Guide to Vista8 online, you can download it as a PDF from here.

Find more information and resources on the Office of Digital Composition’s website here. I will be working there in Fall 2011.

Many thanks to the participants in my workshop today.

2009 KSU Writing Program’s Pre-Semester Workshop

Today, KSU’s Writing Program sponsored the 2009 annual pre-semester workshop for all writing instructors. This year it was held the Monday prior to classes, as opposed to the Friday before classes, which I believe works out much better for instructors including myself who take something from the workshop and incorporate it into our syllabi.

There were two break-out sessions–one in the morning, and one in the afternoon–with a number of interesting and practical modules. I decided to sit in on Uma Krishnan’s “Multimodal Projects and Ideas” and Eric Smith’s “Using Chat Rooms and Bulletin Boards.”

Uma made the point that we should not hold our students back when they are evidently capable of doing much good work, which was evident by the array of multimodal projects strewn around the classroom. There were videos, posters, a necklace, and even a dress–all created to emphasize or elaborate on the research and writing component of each of those particular student projects in her 11011 and 21011 classes. Despite some technical difficulties in the classroom, Uma gave us a very well thought 0ut presentation, but I believe that I am only going to take multimodality so far in my own classes. This has nothing to do with Uma’s presentation, but my own concerns about multimodality in the entry-level writing classroom.

Eric’s presentation, also beset by technical difficulties and indicative of the problems inherent to using computers in the classroom with folks who are not computer savvy, was a top notch introduction to the chat and discussion board possibilities with the classroom software, Vista 8. Based on what I learned from Eric today, I will switch my classes over to Vista this Fall so that the classroom will be completely paperless from syllabi to daily assignments to portfolio projects. I believe that this shift will allow my students to do more work in the classroom with daily prompts that build up to their larger assignments, and it will allow me to more efficiently read and respond to their work (in the past I have relied on paper in my first semester teaching, and email in the my second semester teaching). Additionally, a paperless classroom will save some trees and hopefully prevent or reduce the likelihood of getting sick by handling so many students’ papers. This is nothing against my students–I don’t think you are any more ill than any other group of persons in the population, but there are many of you who come in contact with a lot of other folks and you then hand me papers in effect handled by you and potentially a lot of other folks–but I want to remain healthy throughout the semester.

One thing that I do enjoy about the annual writing workshop is that it is the one time each year when adjuncts, LSRP grad students, and literature grad students are all in the same place at the same time. As much as I unreservedly want greater solidarity among the literature graduate students at Kent State, I also feel that there should be more cooperation and interaction between the groups on both sides of the aisle–rhetoric on one side, and literature on the other. What can we do to facilitate more coming together like this, and even better, how can we work towards more professionalization through research and publication involving members of both pools of graduate students?

And, this is Brian Huot’s final year as KSU’s Writing Program coordinator. Brian helped me out a lot in the 61094 teaching college writing course, and as my mentor when I first began teaching college writing at KSU. I haven’t been at KSU long enough to see the metamorphosis of the KSU writing program under his direction, but I can certainly see that things are electric at this point when his term is ending.

Unfortunately, I didn’t win any of the door prizes, but the new utopian studies guy, Alex, won something, and Seth got a sweet daily planner. John walked away with the grand prize. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year!