Posted: March 23, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , ,

A lot of time spent in college, depending on the college, is time wasted. General Studies programs are the laughing stocks of people who went to pursue higher education fresh out of high school. You’re literally paying to take the same classes you took last year: basic Algebra, Biology, English, even P.E. (at least at my school) for Christ’s sake. What part of you thinks any part of me wants to re-experience P.E.? Yeesh.

Luckily, there are certain classes where your brain actually has to stretch a bit, you need to utilize (and harness) a set of skills, and you can walk away feeling like your time wasn’t wasted.

If you haven’t gathered, I’m reflecting on my Digital Literacy class, taught by Dr. Elisabeth Ellington.

Sacha Chua

Photo CC-by Sacha Chua, and pretty accurate to boot!

To be honest, going into this class, I was completely unsure of what to expect. The catalog description simply said “learning how to utilize technology in a way combined with literacy” or something really vague and over-generalized, as college catalogs tend to be. I expected to have to be tweeting and blogging (mostly because I knew the professor and her preferred methods, not because I knew anything about the class), and so far, that has obviously rang extremely true.

Considering that I had no expectations, they couldn’t exactly be defied – I was going in blind, but curious to see where I’d wind up. To say I’m surprised would be an understatement. This class has been multi-faceted in a way I wouldn’t have ever thought of. We’ve covered what it means to be technologically savvy, the best way to utilize technology in classrooms, ways to use technology to network properly and build a career path, as well as the infinite different ways technology can be put to use as a creative outlet. All without stepping on anyone’s toes, doing anything that can get us sued, or stepping out of the comfort of our homes and / or preferred coffee shops.

Denise Krebs

Photo CC-by Denise Krebs

This class hasn’t only helped me learn the ropes of a lot of facets of the web I wouldn’t have thought to use prior (including blogging and Tweeting, as well as searching for photos and videos that won’t have copyright lawyers banging on my door), but has also taught me a few things about myself. 1) I procrastinate, real bad. I always figured I sort of did, but trying to stuff 2 blog posts, 20 tweets, and more in one Sunday night is something I need to stop fucking doing jesus why do I do this to myself

I’ve also discovered that I very much enjoy trying to farm all sides of perspectives and arguments. When TEDTalks were introduced to the curriculum, I wound up gravitating toward anti-TEDTalk TEDTalks. So meta. So edgy. So hipster. When proposed initiatives or radical renovations to old-school teaching are offered, I’m the first one in line for both the pros / possibilities as well as the cons / harsh realities and obstacles. I’m not trying to be a contrarian because I feel cool – I genuinely feel like perspective gained is worthless if it isn’t all-encompassing. Stacking the deck in favor of your opinions or beliefs doesn’t help anyone, and it makes you look like a nimrod.

For future reference in this class, I’d very much like to connect with or see some people who have put these alternative forms of education and learning into practice. Granted, we did watch a TEDTalk and read a fistful of blog posts with examples, but I mean on a larger scale. Someone out there has to be doing something to better our busted-ass educational system, and the idea has to be gaining steam. At least, the (tiny) idealist in me hopes so. I also wouldn’t mind maybe some more collaboration / actual back-and-forth between classmates. Responding to tweets / blog comments is fine and dandy, but I’d be lying if I said that it felt like most of us were doing it for the sake of the assignment quota, and less out of a general interest. Regardless of how cool an online class is, I do value the all-important face-to-face components.

Paul HocksenarPhoto CC-by Paul Hocksenar

Overall, I am enjoying this class immensely, and I’m excited to see what else we cover before the semester is up. I’m also excited, if not a little leery, to begin my Daily Create project. I feel like it’ll force me to have to flex my creative muscles a bit more than I have been, and hey, I’m not going to complain about that.


  1. Jeff,

    I’m with you – I’m enjoying this class immensely – I really like learning new stuff, especially techie type stuff!

    You mentioned wanting to see something where the schools are working in a new direction, similar to what we see in the TED Talks, or otherwise. I believe the tide is turning…you might be interested in exploring this information from Edutopia

    Students Can Get Work Done in Groups by Bernice Yeung

    At the Sacramento New Technology High School freshmen are introduced to what the school calls “power skills: the abilities, such as communication, collaboration, time management, and organization students need in order to participate effectively in a project-learning environment – or in any group.” The ability to participate in collaboration is a great skill for students to develop for future success. Participating in collaboration develops the ability to exchange and evaluate ideas, and provide feedback in a calm and supportive manner, just what we all need!

    As a Theater geek, project-based learning comes naturally to me, so I appreciate this approach. The article will link you to more information about the school, and there are others like it using this approach. This is how collaboration and group work in class can develop not only collaboration skills, but also expand creativity, build self-esteem, and promote societal and cultural awareness.

    • jamcfarland says:

      Hey, nifty! Thanks for the link!
      As much as group projects in general studies make me want to pull my own teeth out, I really dig collaborative projects when I feel like I’m in a group of people my own caliber. Maybe that’s selfish sounding or egotistical, but I know which of my classmates work hard, and I know which ones actually put the effort in, as opposed to show up and exist for an hour and fifteen minutes.

  2. This was worth waiting for. And the rainbow swirly goodness picture is like my new favorite thing ever.

  3. kaylahall02 says:

    I felt the same way about the class. I came in not knowing what to expect and I have learned so much since the first day. I thought I was going to hate this class because I hate trying to figure out technology and I really hate online classes. I feel like I learn much better face to face rather than reading directions and figuring out what I’m supposed to do from there. I really have enjoyed this class and it really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I also have became a lot more comfortable with technology because of this class.

    • jamcfarland says:

      This class has definitely helped me get more comfortable with certain technologies and services. I feel the same way about online classes as you, though. With the exception of classes like this, online classes are usually a joke. A whole lot of Googling test questions and almost no real retention – and why should you bother? 95% of the time the instructor doesn’t want to teach the class this way and slapped it together from a pre-constructed curricula in the first place.

  4. I definitely agree with how you feel about Ted talks. I remember watching one in high school where this white guy talked about how we need to treat Native Americans with more respect and how awful we all are because of what our ancestors did and I was all like, “Okay, person with the exact same heritage as me. It’s all my fault and none of yours, eh?” But this class has helped me located more Ted talks that are reflections of people’s actual experiences and expertise, instead of ones that are biased and overly critical of something the person may not understand (except for that kid, that kid I didn’t like at all).
    I’m with you, balancing on the precipice of “educational reform” and “things are the best the way they are.” I guess I won’t know how I feel until I enter the classroom and see things for how they really are, and gauge how I feel about education based on my expertise and experiences.

    • jamcfarland says:

      Finally, someone else that didn’t enjoy LaPlante’s TEDTalk! Haha. I found it mostly to consist of “dude, my schooling is real cool, and other people should also have real cool schooling” with no real suggestions as to how to make something like that happen.
      I know based on my educational experiences, I feel something needs to change – but I couldn’t pinpoint one thing, nor how exactly to come about it.

      • I think understanding how to enact change in education will come with time and experience. For now, I’m just content with learning about as many ideas as I can (good or bad) so I can shape my initial educational methods.

        But yeah, Logan LaPlante’s TED talk will probably not play into my educational philosophy.

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