Collaboration in Action!

I did a pretty good job of wallowing in misery in that last post, didn’t I?

Let’s just say that developing functional literacy ain’t easy. Shall I even mention the fact that I’m incredibly behind on my coding?

No! Because I have something rather positive to write about today!

Mary, Aaron, and I are working on a small article together about our experiences developing online writing modules for the UC (through a larger project called the Online Instructional Pilot Program. I’m sure “the public” will learn about this more as the program is piloted in Fall 2012). In a nutshell, OIPP is a UC-wide initiative to create online courses. Our role within this initiative is to author/design online writing modules to be used for an online writing course. What this course will look, we’re not entirely sure, and indeed, there’s much resistance for the modules to even BE a unified course. But I digress.

The article we’re working on is exciting because it explores some of the challenges we’ve run into as course writers and designers, relays some of the questions we’ve had developing these modules, and provides some critical and pedagogical connections for scholars to consider in future online course development. All very neat stuff!

Perhaps what’s most exciting, though, has been the process of working with Aaron and Mary. Initially, we all free-wrote, drafting our initial thoughts about the project individually. We plopped these free-writes into Google Docs and then, over the weekend, we all logged on to Skype together and collectively edited the Google Doc.

Now, I had shared documents in Google Docs before, but primarily for things like camping item check-lists. This was the first time I had composed anything serious in Google Docs and – lo and behold – how useful is this tool?

I suppose this should be a no-brainer; after all, I’ve been taking a class all quarter advocating for collaborative learning via new media. However, being able to speak with Aaron and Mary and watch each other’s curses course through our words in real time was a remarkable exercise. We went from three free-writing documents, each with very different and individual voices, to a robust article introduction, unified and coherent.

Granted, the essay is not done yet. We still have a bit to add in and edit.

However, this was really the first time I had engaged in collaborative writing on this scale and, if nothing else, these few short meetings we’ve had have really convinced me of how something substantial can really be composed in a group. Sure, it’s likely less “efficient” to write in a group than it is to write individually (and, indeed, in our information age, “efficiency” seems to be valued above all). However, I know that the product we’ve created is far more sophisticated and nuanced than I would have likely conceptualized alone. It certainly helps that Aaron and Mary have had greater experience writing pedagogy-focused articles; it is when writing these kinds of articles that I realize, as an English student, I will likely have to acquire skills for article writing in both the humanities and social sciences to bridge the gaps of the different academic communities.

But this exercise was not about my experience; it was about working with two determined and intelligent people and “practicing what we preach” by using the technologies to mediate our discussion and, in fact, enhance what we may have done in person on separate pads of paper.

Sails Up!

Hi!

My name is Jenae. This is what I look like:

High Quality Laptop Camera FTW

I’m a first-year PhD student in the English Department at UC Davis and I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: I’m going to learn to code in JavaScript.

Perhaps the title of this blog is misleading: I’m not a luddite. In fact, I was born in 1988, which makes me a “digital native,” right?

Indeed, when I buy a new electronic product, I don’t read a users’ manual. I tend to dive into new products, darting between screens, pressing different buttons, and simply seeing what works and what doesn’t. Only on computers do I approach the unknown with such brazen disregard for rules.

Yet computers are governed by rules. Scripts upon scripts dictate what we see on our screens. There’s a whole language that determines why our keystrokes appear the way they do.

For a long time, I’ve been content with ignoring this “man” behind the curtain, the words, letters, and symbols that do the work of my computer before me. As a humanities student, I am often firmly content with delegating technical understanding of the world to skilled engineers. How does that stove turn on? Magic! How do magnets work? It’s a miracle! Why do objects fall to the ground? Um, gravity?

But understanding how a program works has some very tangible relevance for me. If you’re reading this, you know that writing is changing. It’s no surprise that digital communication is the primary means by which we exchange information in the 21st century and, for better or for worse, fellow luddites, that’s the way it’s going to be. I love a dusty, old book as much as the next English student, but goodness knows I’m not going to resist this pressing change in our literacy practices.

I’ve tried this once before. This past summer, I attempted to teach myself Python, partially for the professional value and partially because mentioning my interest in programming scored me a lot of messages on the online dating site, OKCupid (SIDE NOTE: it really is incredible how many men are interested in a woman who knows a technical skill. This, in and of itself, is worthy of some sociologist’s dissertation work).

I perhaps should also mention that I’ve felt hugely hypocritical for remaining absent from the blogosphere. After all, as part of my English degree program, I am pursuing what is known as a “designated emphasis” in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies (WRaCS) and plan to specifically focus my (eventual) dissertation research on digital writing practices in some way. In what way that will be, I’m not entirely sure.  All I know is that our digital literacy practices have huge implications for our future study of literature and writing and I’m not about to miss out on that.

With that said, this blog will chronicle my process of becoming less of a technological noob and more of a technological neophyte. There will be some musings here about my own relationship with digital literacy, cool links/websites I find related to digital literacy and practices, and perhaps mostly my journey in learning Javascript.

I am currently working through Codeacademy‘s Code Year project to learn Javascript. Each week, Codeacademy will send me a new lesson and I will complete it within the week.  Some weeks I may look like this:

This was captured candidly when I was trying to figure out my webcam...

Other weeks, I may look more like this:

Whyyyyy?

But by making my thoughts public, I will hopefully be held accountable to push on through and avoid looking too much like this:

In the meantime, I’ll be balancing graduate school coursework, but will likely tinker with some web design as well, not only to personalize this page and make it beautiful, but also to become a more apt, savvy, and comfortable tech communicator.

See you in cyberspace!