Live-Tweeting as Public Engagement

Like you, I just received from Center for Faculty Development the notice that Fall books orders are due to Spartan Bookstore.

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At week 10 of 16 in the semester and Spring Break beckoning us next week, faculty just want to

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Alright, alright. Book orders are due on April 12 for Summer and Fall courses. Like many of you, I received my course schedule yesterday.  This means that I have approximately 15 days to confirm what books, supplies, materials I would like my students to purchase for my 3 fall courses:

The request for textbooks at this early stage is warranted to help accommodate as many students as possible with our textbook selections. But it’s difficult to look up from the mounds of grading and the enthusiasm for the current class project to think about what it means to engage an entirely new set of students, usually in a different course, perhaps at a different skill level in 5 months.

What lessons have you already learned from previous iterations of this course?

Do you need to slow down and engage some of those reading and annotation activities mentioned a couple of blogs ago?

Have you beta-tested a new assignment with your more experienced students in order to use it in a general education course or scale the assignment up or down for other classes?

Have you developed a rubric for grading blogs that would work in other types of low-stakes writing assignments? I did! I use the below scale for all of my weekly writings:

Grading rubric for posts:

  • 18-20 points: The post explores the prompt using references from our discussions, details from evidence, and an intellectual exploration of the topic. The post is free from grammatical and writing errors and follows MLA style as well as our Style Sheet (see Writing Tips). This level of points is difficult to achieve. Expectations are high for the intellectual rigor of the post.
  • 13-17 points: The post has the beginnings of intellectual rigor but lacks one of the qualities above. (Posts will be severely down-graded for ignoring our Style Sheet and MLA style.)
  • 9-12 points: The post regurgitates class discussion without exploring the topic further in addition to lacking evidence. The post contains grammatical errors, informal writing (such as the use of I or you), ignores MLA style and our Style Sheet.
  • 1-8: The post severely lacks elements from above or does not answer the prompt. This point range also signifies a lack of formal writing and a recommendation to visit the Writing Center for help with formal writing style. This point range also signifies use of personal pronouns throughout the post as well as a lack of interest in the topic/prompt.
  • 0 points: This represents not submitting the post on time, not at all, or not answering the prompt at all.


Or, have you found a great way to articulate expectations for participation (according to our SJSU policy, students may not be graded on attendance but instead on participation):

  • To earn a “C,” do the minimum: read and prepare assigned readings so you are never at a loss if you are asked a question, but speak only when called upon, do “ordinary,” plain-vanilla presentations and responses. This is the “bottom line” for getting a “C” in this part of the course.
  • To earn a “B,” prepare assigned readings thoroughly, initiate discussions about them by asking good questions or suggesting ways to interpret readings, do presentations that reveal that you have done good additional work that you can make both interesting and meaningful to our discussions, and participate actively in those discussions.
  • For an “A,” take it up another level entirely: prepare readings thoroughly, find and talk about connections among them and among other aspects of culture (then and now), take a real leadership role in class discussions, including working actively to get others involved in the talk, make your presentations and responses “sparkle” by bringing to them something really special in terms of your own contributions, interests, skills, and abilities to think in broad even interdisciplinary terms. Most of all, remember that an “A” indicates the very best grade a person can get; that should tell you what sort of work you need to do to earn the grade of “A.”

With these types of policies honed over several years (and tested each semester), I can turn to textbook selection and innovative teaching strategies without the weight of laying out the entire semester’s schedule. I don’t rush to pick textbooks or tools. Sometimes, I even test these strategies for feasibility before I write up an assignment prompt or ask students to use a new tool or use an old tool for a new purpose.

More and more, I’ve noticed that we have some tremendously impactful, relevant, and engaging event programming happening all over campus all year long. Often we receive notice of these events about 4-7 days prior to the date. So, included in my textbook search is always a search of the SJSU calendar for next Fall in the hope that interesting events pop up that I can integrate into my curriculum with a significant assignment (other than attending for extra credit).

The College of Humanities and the Arts is doing just that with its Artistic Excellence Programming for 2019-2020 (many events at the Hammer Theatre). With competitive funding for proposed events, faculty in our college will be offering a dynamic range of events from symphonies and dances to Japanese Rakugo demonstrations to published author workshops. Many events are clustered around our Borderlands theme, widely defined, as well as the Deep Humanities and Arts theme.

Do you do this for your courses each semester?

How do you integrate students’ interactions with these events?

What style of curricular integration do you offer?

Is there a way to offer a public-facing engagement between these events and our students?

For all of my courses, I employ the AAC&U’s High Impact Practices, primarily in project-based courses. Students do a lot of teamwork projects and presentations to gain skills in project management, collaboration, iteration, play. But, I’d like them to expand beyond our disciplinary boundaries — campus events can offer that style of engagement and interdisciplinary interaction as long as I guide their efforts.

Perhaps I have a solution

Last night, I attended the SJSU Art Program’s Tuesday Night Lecture Series about Jonathan Keats‘ project, Robotic Democracy.

The room in the Art lecture hall was packed! presumably with students — because as 6pm neared, many filtered out of the room to signal the start of their evening classes. The Art Building is foreign to me, but so incredibly fascinating. The workrooms were alive with loud noises and people breaking stuff together or huddled over a single workbench staring intently at some unknown item. There’s a sense of activity in the hallways — and a sense of community, the element we all crave and attempt to instill in our students.

I sat in the back of the stadium seating so I could peaceably engage with my laptop without disturbing anyone else behind me with its glowing light. For, you see, at every conference or gathering, I use my laptop not to take notes but instead to live-tweet.

for colleagues who couldn’t make it to the event.

for my Twitter followers in Digital Humanities who might be interested in this multi-disciplinary talk.

for me to synthesize the complexities of the discussion and record my potential questions.

for the speakers to demonstrate a record of one audience member’s interpretation.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has recently published a series of articles, really, screeds, against Digital Humanities and all its degradation of the fields within Humanities. But #academictwitter offers a space for geographically-dispersed Digital Humanists (and others) to make further connections than we can in real life, to engage in conversations, to discover those scholars you may not know, to give a voice to contingent faculty who work hard on often-unfunded research.

…and my undergraduate and graduate students follow me on Twitter. With this in mind, I am sure to stick to my professional persona — not necessarily being “nice” (because that’s gendered code for “don’t rock the boat”), but instead making connections, promoting events, amplifying voices, and voicing criticisms where they are due.

Reading Twitter can be like drinking from a fire hose – I hear you. “Dear Humanists: Fear Not the Digital Revolution,” as Ted Underwood writes today in The ChronicleHashtags can help limit the force of the stream for a user. And, there are strategies for making this social tool into an engaging educational tool, e.g., see my Tweeting as a Character assignment.

So, I live-tweeted the Tuesday Night Lecture event using a particular set of protocols (tone, synthesis, queries, making connections), under the #deephumanities hashtag (for findability), identifying the source (always include the speaker’s Twitter name or last name in every tweet), and threaded (to create a monologue of tweets, of sorts, for easier reading in order). Live-tweeting also forces me to focus intently on the speaker’s meaning, to parse out those engaging tidbits that make my synapses fire. When it came time for Q&A, I was ready because I had already tweeted some connections and questions to the Twitter-verse.

The evening was thrilling!

Would you have your students do something like that?

for an assignment, perhaps?

as a form of public engagement?

as a representation of play 

in this type of AAC&U’s High Impact Practices?

As we venture into Spring Break, what innovative assignments might you engage in next Fall’s courses using existing digital tools that could offer your students an opportunity to flex their public intellectual muscles?


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