• Syllabus

    Digital Media Literacy – FYSE 1396

    Fall 2013, Professor Jason Mittell

    T 1:30 – 4:15 & Th 1:30 – 2:45, Axinn 105


    Professor Mittell's Office: 208 Axinn Center, 802-443-3435            

    Office Hours: Mon & Thurs 10:00 – 11:30, or by appointment

    Peer Tutor:  Sinead Keirans


    From Wikipedia to texting, Facebook to PowerPoint, digital media has dramatically changed how we read, write, and communicate in the 21st century. In this course, we will explore what it means to be “literate” today, considering how we read, research, write, create, and present ideas and information, and how these changes impact our society. We will focus on educational practices, with outreach into local schools to explore how we should teach literacy for the next generation, and prepare Middlebury students for a 21st century liberal arts education.

    As a first year seminar, we will spend a good deal of time learning how to succeed in college, and many of those lessons will directly connect with the content of the course as today’s college students must be digitally literate. Tuesday’s class is a double-block, with a lab session where we will engage with technology, take field trips, and do in-class projects. We will also work to apply some of the lessons we learn in the classroom by teaching lessons to students at Middlebury Union Middle School. Much of our work will be collaborative and conducted in the public environment of the web, so students must learn how to share their ideas to a broader audience than just the classroom. Finally, in order to shape the course to address student interests and expertise, the syllabus will evolve throughout the semester, so keep checking back for the latest versions and updates.

    Learning Goals:

    • To learn how different media formats and platforms shape our communication practices and possibilities
    • To explore various styles and modes of digital media, considering what forms are more or less appropriate for different forms of communication and education
    • To examine how digital media literacy might be taught to students at various educational levels
    • To foster active participation and thoughtful citizenship in an age of digital media
    • To develop college-level writing, research, and presentation abilities


    Required Texts & Readings:

    Nancy Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Polity Books, 2010) HM1106 .B38 2010

    David Buckingham, Beyond Technology: Children’s Learning in the Age of Digital Culture (Polity Books, 2007)

    Richard Bullock & Francine Weinberg, The Little Seagull Handbook (Norton, 2011) PE1408 .B883 2011

    Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein, They Say / I Say, second edition (Norton, 2010) PE1431 .G73 2011

    Note: If the bookstore runs out of these titles, it is your responsibility to get access to a copy for assigned readings. They are on reserve at the library and easily available at online bookstores. All other required readings are accessible through the course website. 


    Course Requirements:

    More details about these assignments will be forthcoming throughout the semester:

                Blogging                                                          Collaborative Wiki

                Reading Responses                                        Teaching Presentation & Module

                Scholarly Article Analysis Essay                    Midterm Essay Exam  

                Research Essay                                             Class Participation      


    Each student will maintain their own personal blog to engage with and respond to course material and related topics. Students are expected to write at least two posts of substance each week, averaging at least 500 words per week. These blogs will be on the open web, accessible to anyone. Posts should build on concepts explored in the course, but can connect to any topic, experience or idea—you can comment on readings, screenings, or class discussions, link to another website or online video (with your commentary), present some thoughts about your other writing projects, pose thoughtful questions, or use it as an open space to work through your ideas. Sometimes Prof. Mittell will provide specific prompts for you to respond to. Each student is also expected to read other students’ posts and provide feedback, with a minimum requirement two comments of substance on other posts each week. Writing style can be informal, but always be careful to write clearly and grammatically, no matter the forum!

    Collaborative Wiki:
    The class will collaborate to create a wiki detailing a range of web platforms and social networks. More information to come.

    Reading Responses
    The majority of readings for this course are scholarly articles and book chapters. To help you develop the skill of being able to identify and engage with scholarly arguments, you will write short reading responses throughout the semester. Each week, you should write a response of at least 250 words to one article in that week’s readings. They may be on any assigned articles or chapters throughout the semester except for those marked in the syllabus with **, and they must be submitted via Moodle by 9 am the morning of the class meeting for which the article is assigned. You will not receive credit for submitting reading responses after the day on which the article was assigned unless you have been absent from class for an excused reason and have made specific arrangements with Professor Mittell. You may choose which days and articles you will write about, but you must have submitted at least 8 responses by the end of the semester to receive full credit for this assignment. You may not write more than one response for the readings assigned for any one day, even if there are multiple articles. You must do your first reading response for the class meeting on September 10.

    Reading responses should accomplish two basic goals: they should briefly summarize the argument(s) of the chosen reading and give you a chance to respond intellectually to this argument. The first paragraph should be an abstract of the essay, summarizing the main point and arguments from the reading in your own words; further paragraphs should analyze, contextualize, critique, or otherwise go beyond what the author wrote. Papers that simply summarize a reading without exploring any of your own thoughts will be graded down. Papers that discuss interesting issues that emerge from the reading are encouraged, but you must tie these thoughts to the readings and your summary of the argument, not just launch into a tangent. Tying a reading to topics raised in previous readings, class discussions, and screenings is particularly encouraged. These papers are not “thought journals,” but they should provide you an opportunity to present your own reaction to these issues in written form. Writing style and form is important, so be sure to take time to edit and proofread responses, although your writing style may be more informal than the more formal essay assignments – as long as you seriously engage with the relevant issues.

    Midterm Essay Exam:

    On October 17, we will spend a portion of class doing an in-class essay exam.

    Teaching Presentation & Module:

    In the second half of the course, we will focus on applying some of the concepts of digital media literacy to education. Students will work in pairs to create lessons in digital media literacy that they will present to a class at Middlebury Union Middle School, and create a learning module for Middlebury College students. You will also write a reflective essay about your teaching experiences.


    Formal Writing Assignments:

    This class approaches writing as an ongoing process, not simply the creation of “products.” All formal essays will require multiple stages throughout the semester; as such the grading for each project will be based both on the final results and process undertaken to arrive at these papers, including multiple drafts and peer feedback. The writing process will include required peer writing workshops, meetings with a peer tutor, and individual consultation with Professor Mittell. Although each paper has a “due date” to receive a grade, students may revise their work beyond the grading point in consultation with Professor Mittell—revised papers will be re-graded, with the two grades averaged together (e.g. a B paper that is revised into an A­– will receive a total grade of B+ for the assignment). More detailed assignments will be distributed as the semester progresses, but here are overviews of the assignments:

    Scholarly Article Analysis Essay:

    Students will choose a scholarly journal article on a topic related to the course, and write a 4-5 page analysis of the article using the ideas explored in They Say / I Say.

    Research Essay

    The longest essay will be on a topic of your choosing, resulting in a 10-12 page argument-driven paper supported by primary and secondary research.

    Class Participation & Attendance:
    You are expected to attend all class meetings on time, having done the readings, thought about the material, and prepared the necessary assignments. Attendance will be taken regularly. Students who miss a class should find out what they missed from their classmates and make-up the necessary material. Your class participation grade will be lowered one full mark (e.g. A– becomes B–) for each unexcused absence in excess of one. If you know that you will be absent from class, please contact Professor Mittell as soon as possible to make necessary arrangements and avoid penalties. The class participation component of your grade will reward students who actively participate in class or otherwise demonstrate their engagement with the material. Likewise, this grade will be used to downgrade students who are clearly disengaged with the class or fail to uphold their end of the course policies.


    You will be graded based on the following scale, using a 4.0 scale on all assignments:

    • A (4.0) indicates truly excelling on assignments, demonstrating mastery of the material and significantly surpassing the expectations of the assignment.
    • B (3.0) indicates above-average work, clearly achieving the course goals and completing all assignments in a strong fashion.
    • C (2.0) indicates satisfactorily meeting the course requirements in an adequate fashion.
    • D (1.0) indicates not achieving course goals and not adequately meeting expectations.
    • F (0.0) indicates dramatically failing to meet course goals and course expectations.

    Submitting Work:
    Late assignments are highly discouraged, as they throw off schedules for both student and professor. If you must hand in any assignment later than the deadline, please contact the professor in advance as soon as the situation becomes apparent. If an assignment is not turned in on time without advance approval from Professor Mittell or a Dean’s excuse, it will be penalized by one mark (e.g. an A- becomes a B+) for each day of lateness. All papers should be submitted via Moodle as a .doc, .docx or .rtf file format document.

    Cutting You Some Slack:
    College is one of the few situations in life where the expectations are clearly laid out and the consequences for meeting or missing those expectations is transparent. The grading system and workload has been designed to be as fair and straightforward as possible, allowing students to choose how to prioritize the class versus other obligations or interests. However, there may be times that things become challenging and you want to ask for some leniency. One time per semester, students may request to be cut some slack, resulting in a more flexible attitude toward grading or other policies. Simply type on an assignment, or send an email describing the request, with the phrase “please cut me some slack” – Professor Mittell will adjust his expectations accordingly. Slack cannot be requested after a grade has been given, nor will it apply toward honor code violations.

    Academic Dishonesty:
    All work you submit must be your own and you may not inappropriately assist other students in their work beyond the confines of a particular assignment, in keeping with the Middlebury College Honor Code. All papers and exams must include the statement of the Honor Code along with the student’s name (as a digital signature) in order to be graded. There is a no-tolerance policy for academic misconduct in this course! The minimum penalty for academic misconduct will be a failing grade (F) for the course – further academic and disciplinary penalties may be assessed. The definitions of plagiarism and cheating used in this course are consistent with the material in the College Handbook, Chapter V. We will be discussing this issue directly throughout the semester. If you have any questions about the honor code or academic misconduct, please raise it in class or to Professor Mittell so all students can understand this key facet of the Middlebury College experience.

    Course Policies:
    Any student with a disability or who otherwise needs accommodation or assistance should make arrangements with Professor Mittell as soon as possible. If you know that you will have conflicts due to athletics or other college activities, you must notify Professor Mittell in advance and arrange to make up missed work – athletic absences are not excused and it is the student’s responsibility to make all arrangements.

    Email is Professor Mittell’s preferred mode of communication (besides face-to-face conversation!), generally checking regularly during the work week – if you email him asking for a response and do not receive one within one working day (M-F), assume that your email may not have been received. Office voicemails will typically be answered less promptly. Please do not call Professor Mittell at home.

    Printing & Computer Use Policy:
    Writing assignments for this course are submitted via the course website or your own blog, with no printing required. Many readings are online – students are welcome to print or not print at their choosing, with the understanding that students should take notes on electronic readings either via digital annotation or separate notebook or word processing file. You should bring assigned readings to class each day, either via paper or on a laptop screen. Feel free to use laptops throughout all class meeting. If you are on your laptop, you are expected to engage with course materials, not free-range surfing the web, checking email, Facebook, etc. (unless that’s the topic of the class meeting!).


    Daily Schedule

    September 3 – Introduction to First Year Seminar

    September 10 – What Is Digital Media Literacy?

             READINGS:  Nancy Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age (PCDA), Ch. 1

             Joshua Meyrowitz, “Multiple Media Literacies”

             LAB:  Intro to Middlebury curricular technology with Joe Antonioli & Heather Stafford

    September 12 – Theories of Technology

             READINGS:  Baym, PCDA, Ch. 2

             Plato, excerpt from The Phaedrus

             Walter Ong, “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought”

             **Randall Munroe, xkcd.com, “The Pace of Modern Life

             WRITE:  Complete Academic Honesty Tutorial


    September 17 – Twitter and Online Writing
    READINGS: Baym, PCDA, Ch. 3

             **Bill Keller, “The Twitter Trap

             Zeynep Tufekci, “Why Twitter’s Oral Culture Irritates Bill Keller

             Megan Garber, “Is Twitter Writing, or is it Speech?

             LAB:   Time management with Sinead; Twitter

             WRITE:   Complete Information Literacy Pre-Test

    September 19 – Experimenting with Twitter

             READINGS: Anne Trubek, “Why Tweet? (And How to Do It)

             **Jay Rosen, “@JayRosen_NYU Explains How He Tweets

             Alice Marwick and danah boyd, “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately


    September 24 – Writing & Research & Argumentation

             READINGS: Graff & Birkenstein, They Say/I Say

             **Bullock & Weinberg, Little Seagull Handbook, “Research” (68-92)

             LAB: Library orientation with Steve Bertolino

    September 26 – Social Networks

             READINGS: Baym, PCDA, Ch. 4

             Nicole Ellison & danah boyd, “Sociality through Social Network Sites”


    October 1 – Wikis and Wikipedia

             READINGS: Baym, PCDA, finish book

             Henry Jenkins, “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies” parts 1 and 2

             Jason Mittell, “Wikis and Participatory Fandom”

             **Randall Munroe, xkcd.com, “Citogenesis

             IN-CLASS: Visit from Nancy Baym

             LAB:  Wikis, Google Drive & introducing Collaborative Wiki project

    October 3 – Critiques of Wikipedia’s Participation

             READINGS: Judd Antin et. al., “Gender Differences in Wikipedia Editing”

             Shyong Lam et. al., “WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance”

             Adrianne Wadewitz, “Wikipedia’s Gender Gap

             **Explore the topic on Wikimedia’s Gender Gap page


    EVENT October 7: Lecture – David Levy, University of Washington, “No Time to Think! Technology, Balance and Academic Life,” 7pm, Dana Auditorium

    October 8 – Turning It Off, or Contemplative Computing?

             READINGS: David Levy et. al., “No Cellphone? No Internet? So Much Less Stress

             Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, “Introduction to Contemplative Computing” (read and/or watch video)

             Laura Portwood-Stacer, “How We Talk About Media Refusal” (read all three parts)

             **Jonathan Safran Foer, Middlebury 2013 Commencement Address video

             DO:  Media Fast for 24 hours and blog about it

             LAB:  Visit from David Levy

    October 10 – Citations, Plagiarism, Originality

             READINGS:  Susan Blum, “Intertextuality, Authorship & Plagiarism”

             Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence”

             Lawrence Lessig, Remix chapters 1 & 4

             **Trip Gabriel, "Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in the Digital Age"

            VIEW:  Disconnected (2008) in Twilight Auditorium, 7pm


    October 15 – Technology & Oral Presentation

             READINGS: Edward Tufte, "PowerPoint Is Evil"

             Peter Norvig, "The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation"

            WATCH: Lawrence Lessig, "WIPO Keynote"

             WRITE: Scholarly Article Analysis draft due via Moodle by 9am

             LAB: Peer review workshop on essay; slideshow software     

    October 17 – Midterm Exam In-Class


    October 22 – NO CLASS for Fall Break

    October 24 –Educational Technology

             READINGS:  David Buckingham, Beyond Technology, Preface - Ch. 5

             "Vermont Technology Grade Expectations"

            We will be going to Middlebury Union Middle School - meet in Admissions parking lot at 1:20.


    October 29 –Digital Media in Education

             READINGS:  David Buckingham, Beyond Technology, finish book

            **Thomas Philip & Antero Garcia, "iFiasco in LA's Schools"

             LAB:  Joint meeting with EDST 320 class – workshop on designing lesson plans      

             WRITE:  Topics for Research Essay

     October 31 – Citation Management & Zotero

             READINGS: Dan Cohen, "Creating Scholarly Tools and Resources for the Digital Ecosystem"

             FINISH:  First assessment of wiki assignment

             BEFORE CLASS: Install Zotero on your laptop

             IN-CLASS:  Stacy Reardon on Zotero

    November 5 – Connected Learning

             READINGS: Mizuko Ito et. al., Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design

             LAB: In-class, we will watch Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century (PBS, 2011)

    November 7 –In-class proposal workshop

             WRITE:  Proposals for Research Essay


    November 12 – Digital Reading

             READINGS:  Erin Reilly et. al., Flows of Reading (as an experimental electronic book, explore the interface as well as the content)

             Henry Jenkins et. al., "Reading in a Participatory Culture"

             LAB:  Joint meeting with EDST 320 class – practice & refine lesson plans

    November 14 –Information Literacy

             READINGS: Read Middlebury's Information Literacy website, paying careful attention to Infolit Skills page.

             WRITE:  Answer Information Literacy questions & interview per Moodle site.


    November 19 – Participatory Culture

             READINGS: Henry Jenkins, "Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars

             Henry Jenkins et. al., "What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?"

             IN-CLASS: Henry Jenkins Skype visit

     November 21 – Networks: Local & Global

             READINGS: James Glanz, "The Cloud Factories" - Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3

             IN-CLASS: Field trip to Middlebury's servers & network system

    November 26 – TBA

            WRITE:  First Draft of Research Essay

    November 28 – No Class, Thanksgiving


    December 3 – Presentations

            IN-CLASS:  Presentation of Research Projects

    December 5 – Presentations

            IN-CLASS:  Presentation of Research Projects

            FINISH: Final assessment of wiki project


    FINAL ESSAY: Final Draft and all other final versions of assignments must be submitted via Moodle by December 12 at noon