Instructors flex their ‘digital imaginations,’ and practice tweeting, in new-media seminar

Bobby White

Bobby White, ETS instructional designer

Decades before the first use of hypertext online, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges created a hypertext-style novel, The Garden of Forking Paths. Similarly, the personal laptop, computer mouse and iBook were all anticipated by visionaries writing about “mechanically extended man” at or before the dawn of the digital age.

For the past 10 weeks, 21 campus faculty and staff members have been studying the intellectual, historical and cultural roots of today’s “new media,” and using those 21st-century tools to reflect and interact.

“They saw it coming, yes they did,” blogs one teacher-student in “Awakening the Digital Imagination,” a pilot seminar offered this fall by Educational Technology Services (ETS). “Portable knowledge systems. Hypertext stories. Electronic books. … Talking refrigerators. They saw it all, freakin’ witches, fortune tellers and sorcerers that they were. And yet we still refer to ‘new media’ and ‘new technology’ as if it were something that we birthed just yesterday.”

blackboard ideas on social bookmarking

Thinking out loud about social bookmarking

Held in ETS’s active-learning classroom, the seminar is designed to introduce and explore new-media technologies. It also aims to foster conversations about how those tools — be it blogging or social bookmarking (think Diigo or Delicious) or web-based slideshow tools like Prezi — can be used to engage students and enhance learning.

“One of the most powerful things I witnessed this semester was just how hungry instructors are to talk to one another about teaching,” says ETS’s Bobby White, who designed and led the seminar.

Faculty from public policy, chemistry, East Asian languages, ethnic studies, rhetoric and political science — along with library staff, student advisers and College Writing Program instructors — exchanged ideas via lively classroom discussions, blog entries and tweets.

With the seminar as inspiration, Corliss Lee, a staffer at the Teaching Library, launched a blog showcasing library treasures she couldn’t fit into her exhibition, “From Abkhaz to Zuni.” (The display, which complements the College of Letters and Science’s On the Same Page program, this year dedicated to the languages of UC Berkeley, can be found in the Moffitt Library lobby.)

On MoffittExhibitBlog, Lee reproduced a page from one of more than 5,000 titles in Armenian held in campus libraries, along with instructions for finding the book through OskiCat. Other entries showcase San Francisco’s first Chinese-language newspaper and books written in the sign languages of countries around the globe.

Share the “Faculty Buzz” on classrooms and teaching

Want to talk with other instructors about teaching issues? Come to “Faculty Buzz,” to be held the third Friday of each month. You supply the questions, frustrations and brilliant ideas; ETS will bring the coffee and bagels. For those interested specifically in social and new media, check out the midday brown bag held monthly on the first Tuesday. For details or to RSVP for either, see the ETS website.

Class sessions saw spirited debate concerning, among other things, the pluses and minuses of tweeting. Some contended that 140-character “microblogging” degrades meaningful discourse; others countered — as writing instructor Jane Hammons does in her blog — that “people who tweet know that if you can’t say something meaningful in 140 characters, you can always link to it.”

According to White, the new-media seminar “fits perfectly” within ETS’s work to support the integration of teaching and technology. She plans to offer the course again during spring semester, incorporating more time for participants to use the new-media tools and “to envision how to apply these tools to their own teaching in order to enhance student learning.” Interested faculty and staff may apply online on the ETS website.

Related information:

  • A video on the new-media faculty seminar, with testimonials from fall 2011 participants, on the ETS YouTube channel starting in mid-December.
  • Bobby White’s video introduction to “Awakening the Digital Imagination.”