Notes for the potential major:
We will work on this from a backwards design perspective, and that might involve post-it notes.You are warned.
The connection to mission: working from a Board member’s proposal for what we want to develop in students, we want to help create ‘SEAL teams of faith and innovation, dedicated to solving problems both here and in the larger world.’ We take the Brothers’ ideas of educating students where they are at seriously, and we want to create an environment in which Walsh students can thrive in a digital world that calls for empathy, communication, and compassion as well as technical expertise.
First focus – what students should be able to do:
- listen actively to clients and others in their network (mentors, technical people, the audience/clients of clients)
- recreate and rework client needs so that they are understandable by all entities involved
- manage writing projects from a content perspective
- understand versioning, content management, and brand awareness
- understand and be able to articulate the importance of form, through examples and creating their own formal approaches to content as well as that of others
- be able to migrate their work from one modality to the next
- remain in tune with the latest in web content while retaining their own creativity
- be aware of who’s reading their writing, and why, through a combination of both quantitative and qualitative means
- know writing fundamentals well enough to edit the work of others as well as create their own
- even if not bilingual, know the culture of translation well enough to recognize pitfalls and provide solutions
- read and enjoy everything from McSweeneys to Brain Pickings to LongReads to tap essays to this
- understand how elearning works, from MOOCs to personalized platforms to for-profit universities to corporate training to genre-specific forums to games
Second focus – what our blinders and weaknesses are:
- technology – more than one person will need to keep up
- content management – know what this is, and be aware of available tools
- audience – how people read on the Internet, and how we find the data to back that view up
- reading skills – understand the role that format and visuals play in comprehension and understanding – we are wedded to the long essay
What do I think will interest students? And can they find jobs doing this type of work?
This entry is too much of a why, of course, and not enough on specifics, but I’d like this degree to work on a completely different basis than what we do now. One possibility might be to think of skillsets…
- Students determine the skillsets they want to develop. Maybe these feel esoteric: skills such as making stuff. Maybe they are more concrete: students will be able to write HTML, create/connect a song list on SoundCloud with another project, design branches for a game storyline, and do an annotated close read of either contemporary or historical texts.
- These skillsets may not be courses as much as they are badges or certificates. They might include Gary’s logistics, or a social media (although that’s a passe definition now that needs to be revised). They might include some sort of ethnography on a piece of digital culture, or they might include learning a specific set of knowledge and communicating that to an interested lay audience.
- Coding seems to be a no-longer-needed part of this skillset, but maybe how code is used is what students study, which of course means that they have to do some coding. If we focus instead on programming, then this might cover what we are looking for.
- I’ve talked not at all about gaming, but I’d like to see a skillset with it developed, one that uses gaming a system as a pejorative as well as some magic elixir to get kids thinking about their education.
Maybe another way to think about this process is to better understand lit crit, which tends to see texts as harbingers and artifacts in a grand scheme – modernism replacing postmodernism, marxist and conservative critics arguing back and forth over intentionality, and so on. Is what’s going on in the lit scene that new, with all the attendant buzzwords that are perhaps more descriptive than we care to admit?
What should students produce?
Course work: proficiencies, start working on core.
Major: Identify digital culture ecosystem they want to explore. Identify faculty partners, including one from outside the digital culture faculty. Identify first project/report.
Objective: by the end of the first year the student will have identified badges they want to earn, including creating own badge.
Course work: continue core. Begin work on badges.
Major: Map out ecosystem. Produce one artifact that has faculty approval (report, focused web presence, attack plan).
Objective: by the end of the second year the student will have earned first badge, will have basics of certificate paths completed.
Course work: Theory/methodology courses in combination with work on earning badges. Identify problem to be solved.
Major: With ecosystem mapped, students work on core experiences.
Objective: by the end of the third year the student will have earned two more badges, will have proposal for final project.
Students make and/or create. My vision is to help students become what they want to be, with emphasis on creating sustainable stuff, aware of the cost and the effort and the joy. They might code, they might design web sites, they might create reams of twitter poetry, they might start bands and write film scripts and/or scores, they might create game narratives (and game design), they might research problems and identify ways to solve them through open source solutions, they might help produce educational systems that help students be owners of their voices, they might do a million things.
Ah, the A word…
How do we measure what this student should be able to do? Some possibilities:
- (Crass, unacademic measure) Student marketability: number of interviews, Jobs, Careers, Paid internships…
- (Flighty, pie-in-the-sky measure) Ecosystem map, problem report, focused internet presence, attack plan.
- (Clearly academic measures) Proposal, project, self-reflection, methodology statement, literature review, research essay
- (Creative pieces) Game narrative, film script, virality campaign
- These are to-be-determined, but we are currently surveying organizations involved in writing for the Internet: companies both large and small, non-profits, consultants, fiction and non-fiction writers, and many more.
- We will survey students as well.
- We will also need to work with other programs, especially as we develop certificates. The emerging digital media and web-based programming majors look to be natural allies.