Incorporating Social Media and Digital Citizenship in the First-Year Experience Course

Last spring, the faculty senate of my university passed a series of resolutions aimed at updating the university’s general education program. Part of that program requires (nearly) all undergraduate students to take a First-Year Seminar (FYS) course and one of the resolutions updated some of the specific outcomes of that course. In this post I’ll discuss how we’re approaching the new outcome of “responsible use of the internet and other social media” that the faculty have added to the course.

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Baumol, Walker, and Xerxes

In the introduction to Athanasius: On the Incarnation De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, C.S. Lewis discusses the predilection that some people have to spend a considerable amount of time reading about an idea instead of simply reading the idea itself. An optimist, Lewis attributes this to humility on the part of readers who are hesitant to believe that they can directly confront and understand big ideas. It’s better and even necessary for us to have those ideas filtered and explained for us by learned experts.

This is part of the reason why I avoided directly confronting William J. Baumol’s “cost disease” idea, at least in his own words and writings. The idea is mentioned often enough in discussions about the cost of higher education that I thought I was familiar with it in very broad terms. As I understood it, the idea goes something like this:

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Many New Ideas are Quite Old

Now that I’ve finished my dissertation, I finally feel free to turn my attention to other scholarly pursuits.  I feel an obligation to bring closure to the historical work I began a few years ago so I will be spending the next several months working with primary sources and reworking old drafts into publishable articles.  More than feeling an obligation to finish this work, I genuinely enjoy conducting historical research because I find it interesting and comforting to continually discover that many of today’s challenges and issues have been with us for decades or even centuries.

Below, I share some quotes from early-late 20th century sources that would be at home in an article, book, or blog post written in 2014.  After reading each quote, try to guess the year it was written before you continue reading.

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Dissertation Journal: Defended, Edited, Submitted, Accepted

It’s been about a year-and-a-half since my last post about my dissertation.  Two weeks ago, I defended my dissertation NON-RESPONSE BIAS ON WEB-BASED SURVEYS AS INFLUENCED BY THE DIGITAL DIVIDE AND PARTICIPATION GAP.  I’ve included the abstract below if you’re interested in its content but I’ll focus here on some of the process.

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Perplexing Problems in ACPA Student Technology Infographic

I’ve whined about bad infographics and I try to avoid complaining about their continuing proliferation.  But I can’t bite my tongue about this ACPA infographic purporting to show information about technology usage by undergraduate students.  It’s bad not just because it’s misrepresenting information but because it’s doing so in the specific context of making a call for quality research and leadership in higher education.

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Going Through the Motions of Active Learning and Engagement

Whether it’s framed as active learning, student engagement, time-on-task, or <insert educational jargon here>, we know that people don’t learn well by simply listening to others talk.  Learning requires repeated practice and adjustments made via feedback.  A recent metastudy in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is making the rounds but it’s just the latest in a long line of studies reinforcing these facts.

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Is Radical Personalization Antithetical to Sustained Interactions With Others?

One of the more exciting developments at my university is the ongoing development of our new Mathematical Sciences Learning Laboratory (MSLL). Pronounced “missile” and the already the cause of many puns (e.g., the opening of the new lab is already being dubbed “the missile launch”), it’s a space that is “intended to serve students entering our foundational mathematics sequence, in particular, courses below the calculus level.”  It seems to draw part of its inspiration from the math emporium model which, in its most radical form, allows students to progress through lower-level math courses completely on their own pace because the material is completely personalized to each student.  Our colleagues in the local community college system, for example, allow students to progress through as many as three courses in one semester if the student is focused enough to quickly progress through and demonstrate mastery of all of the topics in those courses.

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I’m Not A Programmer But Programming Skills Are Still Extremely Useful

I don’t work in IT, software development, or anything even closely related to those fields so I’m often surprised at how much programming I do in my daily work life.  At times I write scripts or light programs (e.g., this set of Excel macros), usually to save time and ensure accurate, well-documented, and reproducible results.  More often, I directly use some of the skills of programming, especially flow control and abstraction, to make tasks easier, elegant, or possible.

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The Psuedo-curriculum

I know this will be provocative for some of you but lately when I’ve heard people use the phrase “co-curriculum” I’ve silently translated it in my head to “psuedo-curriculum.” I’ll explain more below but understand that I am not devaluing out-of-class activities but expressing frustration that we don’t really value them.

My frustration here has been long simmering but two strands of experience and thought are mingling and bringing things into focus for me.

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Essential Reading for Technology in Student Affairs v1.1

A few weeks ago, I posted a set of recommended readings that I originally sent to a colleague who asked me what I would recommend as essential reading for understanding technology in student affairs.  I’ve updated this list adding two sets of resources.  First, I included danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens now that (a) I have read it and (b) it’s available for purchase and download (for free!).  It supersedes her 2008 book chapter “Why Youth (Heart) MySpace: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” in Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. It covers many of the topics mentioned in this list and the introduction alone is a good summary of many of these issues.  Second, I added a mention of Eszter Hargittai’s work on Internet use and social inequality.  It’s a good addition and an oversight on my part to not have included something substantive on this topic in the original list.

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