Digital Pedagogy Metis in Online Discussion Forum Advice


I’ve experimented for years with various online fora as tools for fostering student discussion beyond the classroom walls, with mixed success.  I’ve tried both optional and required assignments (certain numbers of posts and/or replies, etc.), with quantitative (points/grade) and qualitative (comments from me) evaluation schemes.  And I have tried them in a range of different kinds of media studies course, from topical surveys to upper-level seminars to skills-based production courses.  One thing I’ve realized is that the kind of practical advice Heather Van Mouwerik offers in her Inside Higher Ed piece, “Fostering an Active Online Discussion,” might be the most useful in terms of identifying and alleviating individual and group roadblocks to implementation.

For example, as a response to the deafening “crickets chirping” scenario she describes, Mouwerik suggests five practical guidelines for helping to nurture an online discussion forum, including being “the active participant you want your students to be” and redirecting any questions from students to the forum.  These tips clearly come from practical experience working with many course-based forums with her students.

Such metis – practical wisdom or prudence – is a crucial part of digital pedagogy today, especially when the technology behind each tool becomes less and less difficult to wrestle with.  You can learn the abstract theory of how to use this or that tool as well, but it is in its practical application in actual classrooms and/or with actual students that use of a particular tool shifts from an abstract exercise to a pedagogical practice.

A New Experiment

For those who know me, you will not be surprised to learn that I’m embarking on yet another teaching experiment, though this one is far less risk-prone than many of my previous forays. Though I’ve been teaching full-time for eleven years, I have never taught a standard summer course, but I’m starting my first one this week.

I’ve been mulling over an idea in my mind for some time that there might be room for our students to have available a course that provides them with access to elements of media making theories and skill practice, but since I’ve always taught the digital video production sequence, I never found there was a good place in our little curriculum for such a course. But the summer has its own rhythms – faculty and students go off in myriad different directions – so I began to think that summer might be a perfect place to explore such an endeavor.

The course will be structured around the production of core elements of contemporary media making – text, image, sound, interactivity, and networked media – through short introductions to simple principles and theories, in-class short walk-throughs and exercises, and practice with slightly more involved assignments outside of class.  Students will maintain their own blogs and post both their reactions to the concepts to which they are being introduced through the course and links to the work they are producing as part of it. The goal is for them to both practice the basic skills of contemporary media making and to engage in a community of practice built around the development of those skills and a mindset of exploration and experimentation.

I do tend to overstuff my courses with work, at which, not surprisingly, some (many?) student balk.  So I’m trying to get into that slower, summer vibe with the structure of the course. We’ll see. Perhaps I’ll report back later.

The course trailhead will be a page on this blog, the Summer 2015 Course link above. You’re welcome to check it out and leave me/us feedback about it.

Soderbergh Has a Fascinating Process

So Steven Soderbergh posted this cool little rumination about the powerful clarity of shot selection/juxtaposition in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In it, he talks about how he forces himself to really look at films he admires in order to understand them more deeply.  To facilitate that with Raiders, he’s removed the audio, replaced it with a contemplative track, and removed the color.

It’s a great way to get inside a work.  It also reminds me of the fabled, blink-and-you-missed it Topher Grace recut of the Star Wars prequels. Again, it’s about taking something apart to see how it works, putting it back together in a different way to see where its possibilities lie.  Good stuff, both.

Talk: Media-Making as Plugin

On Tuesday, I gave a talk at the University of Toronto – Scarborough’s Digital Pedagogy Institute entitled “Media-making as Plugin: Considerations for Incorporating Digital Media into Assignments.”  (It’s a version of my piece for the video essay Cinema Journal Dossier.)
If you’re interested in getting a sense of the talk, you can take a look at the Prezi.  Here’s a storify of the Twitter backchannel during the talk as well:
I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the Comments. 🙂

Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of

Just watched this video essay on Claude Shannon by (via  I had read about Shannon in James Glieck’s book Information: a history, a theory, a flood (which I found deeply intriguing even if I felt almost lost at times).

As the video essay explains it, Shannon’s insight was one that allowed humanity to make a significant leap in the way we thought about information.  I had been telling this to my students in my digital networked media lectures for years – that the insight that all information can be transmitted as 1’s and 0’s was an incredibly important one – but I had not thought about it in such grand terms (a “leap forward” for humanity) not had I known it was Shannon who brought it to us. (This even though I had read Glieck’s book, since he does such an excellent job contextualizing the developments of the 20th Century that brought us to where we are, a technique which tends to downplay individual contributions).

I’m looking forward to stirring in more discussion of Shannon to my digital networked media courses in the future.


Cool open-source film archiving tool

Cool open-source film archiving tool

This is a pretty sweet project if you’re an archivist trying to figure out how to digitize a large library of films.  

I can still remember opening the print of The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie to pre-screen it for our graduate school film screening series and immediately noticing the vinegar smell.  The color was all tinted pink and red, and it was unusable.  I still haven’t seen that film.

If this kind of technology, at this kind of cost ($3200 including the camera), had been available, perhaps we could have screened the digital version instead so at least more people could have seen it.

A week in

I’m a week into the semester, and I’m thinking a lot about how many different times I’ve already discussed the fundamentals of narrative: what it is, what it is not, its core components, and ways to develop your own story.  This semester, I’m teaching both Digital Video Production I and Screenwriting, which both begin with this topic.  Plus, I just finished the Go Fellowship digital storytelling workshop this weekend, where we discussed narrative as well.

A useful aspect of this gauntlet of narrative is that I can alter and/or augment what I’ve discussed in previous sessions during later ones.  Unfortunately, it also means I tend to forget which group of students got this anecdote or that example (I hate to use the same material repeatedly unless its really excellent for the point I’m making).

One place I’m not talking much about narrative (yet) is in my freshmen seminar on games and culture, although we’re still working at the fundamental level, discussing the nature of play via Johan Huizinga’s work, Homo Ludens.  So far, the class seems like they’re really leaning forward into the material.  Let’s hope that continues as they begin to be inundated with work in their other courses. 

Links for 15 November Tech Talk Lunch

Here are the links to the presentations I’m using in the Lunch:

Here are links to some examples:

And here are some resources you can use if you’re interested in more information: