For the last couple of days, I’ve been batting around ideas for The Fayetteville Project, a class wiki project that will be produced primarily by students in my graduate seminar on “Technology in the Language Arts Curriculum,” and Krista Kennedy was kind enough to offer a number of suggestions, first on Twitter, but after the confines of 140-character posts began to seem too constraining, we moved things to email before eventually posting them to our blogs. In addition to providing some useful guidelines, Krista asks a number of excellent questions that I’ll have to address quickly for now because I have to finish syllabi for two other courses tonight (her comments are italicized):
I think [the complexity of this project] means audience analysis is more important when you teach with this sort of project than it is in a more typical class where everyone writes a paper and that’s that. Who are these students? What are their majors? What is going to suck them in and keep them engaged? What kind of parameters will explode their minds just enough but not be too overwhelming?
Secondly: How big is your class? Is everyone going to work alone or are you going to break them into two person teams? (I did the latter in the 35W project..) If, say, you have a class of 20 working in teams of two, that lets you do rather different things than a class of 25 working alone. It also makes your grading criteria and team goals quite different.
Thirdly: What sort of composition and research skills do you want them to leave with? Do you want them to gather oral histories and compose a project that is largely based on sound files? Do you want them to raid local archives, learn about publicly funded works and the public domain, and learn to edit, tag, and post images?
English 518 consists primarily of M.Ed. students, most of whom are local elementary and high school teachers, although two of the students are seeking M.A.’s in literature. Right now, the class is very small–five students–but I’m hoping to get my freshman composition students involved late in their semester. When I required students to produce a wiki in the previous version of the course, it didn’t quite work, and I concluded that I had failed to define the goals of the wiki clearly and had also chosen a topic that didn’t really capture their interests. To alleviate that problem, I decided to reimagine the project this time so that it would focus instead on local cultures and spaces in order to create something that coul tap into their expertise as residents of a community in which they (likely) have some investment.
Given the focus on teachers, I think the “hidden histories”approach couldprove pedagogically valuable, especially, as Krista notes, to provide “room to talk about teaching with public projects, IRB review, ethics of conducting and recording oral histories, etc.” But I’ll admit that now that Krista has posed some of these questions, I’m realizing that there is a lot I need to think about before getting students started on this project, especially if I have my freshmen involved, and my excitement, to some extent, is giving way to a great deal of caution. I’ll have more to say soon, but I think I need to sort out some parameters for the project first.