Imagining the New Humanities

Here is a video from Richard E. Miller, the Chair of the Department of English at Rutgers, explaining his thinking about the shift to a new vision of the humanities and how that vision will be enacted through physical space at the university. It certainly suggests some of the changes that we will have to make in our thinking, especially at the universtiy level.

One particular element of this video that makes it compelling is his idea about the missing piece of the Wikipedia puzzle, and what universities have to offer students as they make their way in a read/write web world.

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Notes and Reaction from “Growing Up Online”

Here are some notes and reactions to the “Growing Up Online” special as it goes…

  • Some initial introductions, showing students as deceptive about online activity and generally showing parents as luddites
  • Scenes from schools, teachers claiming that they need to be “entertainers” and that it is difficult for students to focus and can not be engaged in thoughtful discussion
    • Students who haven’t read books because they don’t have time; rule at high school that they aren’t supposed to be using Spark Notes — is this cheating?
    • Students have to submit papers to; searching for instances of plagiarism
    • Do we fight against this, or accept it as reality as how the outside world works — borrowing and stealing as cheating or not
    • “Fighting the good fight” — to keep up educational standards
  • Social networking — the hub of online social life
    • Kids vie forgetting the most friends through MySpace or Facebook — you have to admit that you only know a few of the friends that you meet online
    • These are also the place where kids seem to hash out their conflicts, too
    • Fight recorded and put on YouTube; students reflected on the implications for college and jobs
    • Things that adults take seriously – discretion and privacy – are taken for granted
  • Relationships
    • Sending pictures in provocative settings
    • “You kinda want to look hot, but not too hot”
    • Social networking as a digital representation of identiy; teens are trying on different identities — C.J. Pascoe, Berkely
  • Example of Jessica Hunter
    • Was made fun of in school, led to insercurity
    • Online, she was reborn as “Autumn Edows” and her parents didn’t know
    • Dad – she just disappeared and we would never see here
    • I was fourteen, but looked older and people started noticing – “I was on the computer all day, replying… It was crazy, but I loved it.”
    • “I didn’t feel like myself, but I liked that I didn’t feel like myself.”
    • Dad – call from principal, another parent saw a picture that was “pornographic” as far as she was concerned
    • Jessica’s parents took the computer and looked at every single file – where does the information go and how is it perceived
    • The fame and hundreds of friends were gone as quickly as it had begun – “It seems stupid that I am getting upset over it… but having it taken away is your worst nightmare.”
    • “My fear is that my good kids will make a bad decision… and will pay for it permanently.”
  • Safety and social networking
    • Safe community, but social networking has punctured the safety net
    • What if a stalker gets obsessed with my children?
    • Kids think that nothing bad can happen to them
    • Media coverage of online predators; To Catch a Predator
    • Congressional hearings on predators
    • Son – my mom has always been catious, yet she is overbearing and is having a hard time getting past that
    • One family computer is stationed in the computer
    • Who gets the passwords – should the mom have access to them? Daughter – “It’s my own stuff”
    • “My parents forget that I have been online since second grade.”
    • Only one major study of predators online by Department of Justice that showed most kids know to avoid predatory practices online.
    • Kids engage in a lot more risky behavior offline. Most solicitations were very slight – Danah Boyd
    • Need to begin thinking about what students can do to each other
  • Sara – eating disorders
    • I have a happy-go-lucky life, and then the real life online; thinspiration
    • I will go online and be the anorexic person that I am – some days I am completely ana, other days I am not
    • My parents know nothing is that I like to eat healthy and exercise
  • Sharing on the internet
    • Putting myself out there
    • Power to act on impulse and that is where trouble happens
    • Example of students posting video from concert – some parents were appreciative, and others were mad
    • Students were mad, too, because they were getting in trouble
    • Mom – it is really hard to be on the other side, even though I remember keeping secrets
    • What is next – where else will they hang out that we can’t find them, control them?
  • Cyberbullying
    • Boy who committed suicide after being bullied
    • Others who didn’t realize what was happening, including parents who thought bullying was at school
    • When a popular girl flirted with him on IM, she humiliated him at school
    • the computer amplified the pain that he was feeling in the real world
    • The internet has become a new weapon in the adolescent arsenal
    • We need to teach them good cybercitizenship
  • Fundamental change in the way of life today — Danah Boyd
    • Jessica back online as Autumn Edows
      • Dad — looking for a way to create and reach out
      • My parents do support me
    • Sarah — told parents about eating disorder

Join the conversation online:

The program provided a thoughtful analysis of adolescents and their online lives, including some of the positive possibilities that kids can engage in as they compose alternative identities. Of course, the dangers were explored, yet they were contextualized in a smart way and in contrast to what we see in traditional news media (for instance, who are the predators and how are kids approached). One thing that I was disappointed about (in the general trends of teens online, not the program itself) was how many of the teens presented are really only using the internet for social networking and feeding their narrow interests, whereas only one teen was shown seriously reconsidering her identity and the positive implications that brought. Where are the kids who are — in thoughtful and productive ways — creating their own content and distributing it to a worldwide audience? What are we doing to push them to use the potential of the internet beyond simply being on Facebook? All in all, a very useful report, one that I might use to show students in my classes.

Frontline’s “Growing Up Online” – Tuesday, January 22 @ 9:00

My friend Jim sent this along to me and I thought that it might be of interest to many of you, especially those of you who are parents. I am going to try to watch it and would be interested in hearing your thoughts and reactions to it.

FRONTLINE: coming soon: growing up online | PBS


FRONTLINE presents

Tuesday, January 22, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

Jessica Hunter was a shy and awkward girl who struggled to make friends at school. Then, at age 14, she reinvented herself online as “Autumn Edows,” an alternative goth artist and model who posted provocative photos of herself on the Web, and fast developed a cult following. “I just became this whole different person,” Jessica tells FRONTLINE. “I didn’t feel like myself, but I liked the fact that I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like someone completely different. I felt like I was famous.”

News of Jessica’s growing fame as Autumn Edows reached her parents only by accident. “I got a phone call, and the principal says one of the parents had seen disturbing photographs and material of Jessica,” her father tells FRONTLINE. “They were considered to be pornographic. … I had no idea what she was doing on the Internet. That was a big surprise.”

In Growing Up Online, airing Tuesday, January 22, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE takes viewers inside the private worlds that kids are creating online, raising important questions about just how radically the Internet is transforming the experience of childhood. “It’s just this huge shift in which the Internet and the digital world was something that belonged to adults, and now it’s something that really is the province of teenagers, “ says C.J. Pascoe, a Ph.D. scholar with the University of California, Berkeley’s Digital Youth Project. “They’re able to have a private space, even while they’re still at home. They’re able to communicate with their friends and have an entire social life outside of the purview of their parents without actually having to leave the house.”

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News from Teachers College: EdTV

This promises to be an interesting new twist on the scholarship of teaching. I’ll be watching:

TCRecord: Article
Children and Puppets and Rats, Oh My TCR Welcomes After Ed TV

by Gary Natriello ? January 18, 2008

A new short-form web video channel joins the TCR home page

For 2008 the Teachers College Record is beginning a bit of an experiment by welcoming to its home page After Ed TV, a new web video channel produced at the EdLab at Teachers College. The mission of After Ed is to bring new thinking in the education sector to a wide audience through engaging short-form video. The channel syndicates its content using a video player that can be deployed on any webpage just like it appears on the TCR home page. Complete details on After Ed, including instructions for adding it to any webpage, are available at the main website at There you will find the complete directory of current and past After Ed shows along with a blog in which producers of individual shows discuss the production process. The After Ed player at TCR will present a new video lineup every Friday.

After Ed takes it name from the notion that the rapid pace of change in the post-industrial era has the potential to move the education sector into a decidedly different stage than that which dominated the 20th century. The contours of this new or “after” stage are not entirely clear, but After Ed takes seriously its goal of highlighting the stresses and strains on existing educational systems as well as the growing number of clues about the future of learning.

Another Economist Debate: Social Networking

Crazy couple of weeks here with classes starting. So, here is a post that is not really a post from me, but from the folks at the Economist. Enjoy the next round of debates!

I saw all of your earlier posts about The Economist Debate Series and wanted to thank everyone for posting about our online events. In our first two debates, thousands of participants rallied around the topics of technology in the classroom and of national competitiveness, and our third debate looks to be just as lively. This time, The Economist debates social networking and the value it adds in the classroom. I invite you and the readers to take part by registering for free and commenting.

Since you are a preferred blogger and a member of the technology and education community we aim to serve with this debate, we wanted to give you an early look at what will happen on Tuesday when we kick off the debate.

  • This month’s debate proposition is: “The house believes that social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom.”
  • Our expert debaters are two leaders in education and technology, and will square off for three rounds of debate.
    • CON Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The author of 21 books whose research is often cited by the New York Times, Dr. Bugeja was among the first to analyze the use of social networks (Facebook & Second Life) before their use by students and educators was widespread and well-understood.
    • PRO – Ewan McIntosh, National Adviser on Learning and Technology Futures for Learning and Teaching Scotland, the education agency responsible for curriculum development, and a member of the Channel 4 Media Advisory Board. He writes about social media and learning for the Guardian and the BBC, speaks internationally and consults for organizations including the British Council, the RSA, General Teaching Council of Scotland, RM and Scottish Enterprise, advising on how social media can be harnessed for to improve learning. He blogs at
  • Guest participants will also contribute featured comments
    • Parry Aftab, Founder & Executive Director,
    • Judith Krug, Directory, Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association (ALA)
    • Ann Flynn, Director, Education Technology, National School Board Association (NSBA)
    • Nancy Willard, Executive Director, The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Follow the Debates on Facebook

The Economist has launched a Facebook group for followers of the debate. If you’re already a Facebook member, we encourage you to join our group where you’ll find syndicated content and be able to interact directly with members of The Economist community, including some of our previous guest participants.

Here’s a short debate schedule:

  • Tuesday, January 15 – Opening statements & floor opens to comments from public
  • Wednesday, January 16 – Guest Participant, Parry Aftab,
  • Thursday, January 17 – Rebuttals
  • Monday, January 21 – Guest Participant, Judith Krug, American Library Association
  • Tuesday, January 22 – Guest Participant, Ann Flynn, National School Boards Association
  • Wednesday, January 23 – Closing statements
  • Thursday, January 24 – Guest Participant, Nancy Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
  • Friday, January 25 – Debate winner announced

Check back regularly to see the latest comments by your peers and to see if the moderator or debaters picked up your or other viewpoints from the floor. And as always, if you prefer not to be contacted again by me regarding The Economist Debate Series, please let me know. I’m more than happy to comply.

Please support discourse, and may intelligence prevail!

Video Welcome for the Semester

Things are underway for the semester — I am looking forward to teaching ENG 315 again, and I made this quick video to welcome students to the class.

My daughter helped a bit, too. Enjoy!

PS — If anyone can help me figure out why I can’t embed YouTube videos in WordPress, that would be very helpful!

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Things to Try in 2008

Well, it is the night before classes start, and I still have that little flutter in my tummy — I had a mentor once who told me that was a good sign, because the semester you stop getting butterflies is the semester you should quit teaching. So, I either believe him, or he jinxed me. Either way, I am a bot nervous.

So, to get some of the nerves out, I will rekindle an annual tradition. Last year, I made a list of a few things that a digital teacher might want to try in 2007 in light of Time naming “you” as the person of the year in 2006. I will repost that list here and add a few more:

Last year’s list:

And, to add this year’s list:

That’s about all for now. I feel a bit better about preparing for tomorrow, and the rest of the year. Good luck in your tech adventures this semester.

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This work is licensed under a
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Make Belief Comics

Recently, I was alerted to a new comic-making tool: Make Belief Comix. Here is a sample of what you can do:

Passing Notes

And here is a more thorough explanation from the creator of the site, Bill Zimmerman, who emailed me the following:

Dear reader,

I want to share with you news of my newest educational project and also
ask for your help to make it succeed.

I have launched a new web site — http://
where children and adults can create their own comic strips.  They can
select from 15 fun characters with different moods  — happy, sad,
angry, worried – and write words for  blank talk and thought balloons
to make their characters talk and think.  There also are story ideas
and prompts to help users create graphic stories.

This site can be used by educators to teach language, reading and
writing skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language
programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling, as well as
computer literacy. Some educational therapists use it with deaf and
autistic people to help them understand concepts and communicate.
Parents and children can create stories together, print them to create
comic books or email them to friends and family.  Others will find the
site a resource to be creative, calm down and have fun.

Because so many Spanish-speaking users asked us for the ability to
write their cartoons in Spanish as well as in English, we recently
upgraded the site to accept words written in Spanish, including
appropriate accent marks. This can be a useful tool for someone who is
learning Spanish as well as someone whose first language is Spanish.
In time, this feature will be extended to other languages.

I am hoping that you will share  with
your colleagues, teachers, students or readers of your publications and
resource lists.  The site is free with no advertising.  Any help you
might offer in getting word out about this project is very appreciated.
If you can suggest other people or groups whom I might contact to make
them aware of the site please send me their names, email addresses or
phone numbers.   Relevant Internet resource sharing groups would be
helpful, too.  It takes a community to build a useful resource like
this one.

As one who learned to read with comic books, I know that creating comic
strips can help people tap into their creativity and practice their
language and storytelling skills.  The site is free and stems from my
lifelong mission to create resources that help people find their voice
and express themselves. The concept for is derived
from my earlier books, Make Beliefs and Make Beliefs for Kids of All
Ages (which can be found on my other web site:  A Make Beliefs interactive feature
appeared for 13 years on my syndicated Student Briefing Page for
Newsday, and in National Geographic’s World Magazine.

I hope you like and will use it in your
work and personal life.  Your feedback is welcome and very helpful.

With thanks and every good wish,

Bill Zimmerman

Along with ToonDoo, which I was introduced to last semester, I am thinking about how I might use Make Belief Comix in my ENG 315 class this semester, so this was a timely email from Bill. Please contact him with questions.