Assignments for English 725

Spring, 1998


Aside from the readings, there are five assignments in this course:

Each is described briefly here; more information will be provided in class as we progress through the semester, and this site will be updated periodically. For information on how these assignments will affect your grade for the course, see Nuts and Bolts. Also, consult the course schedule for deadlines.


Commentaries. The commentaries will be brief (1-2 page), focused explorations, provocations, musings, examinations, polemics, and/or discussions of specific issues arising from the course readings that interest, concern, or compel you or otherwise catch your notice. Their purpose is to facilitate our collective investigation into the issues raised by the various authors we'll read and to help us engage their ideas. You will be asked to write two commentaries during the semester (see commentary schedule for due dates) and to distribute these to the class via a newsgroup or class listserv (more on this later). You should post each of your commentaries by the Friday prior to the class meeting when it is due (to allow time for the rest of the class to read them prior to our Monday class meetings). Each week everyone in the class is expected to read the commentaries posted for that week; these commentaries will serve as a primary vehicle for our class discussions.

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Online Discussions. Throughout the semester we will extend our in-class discussions by engaging in ongoing online discussions of course readings, issues, assignments, and related matters through the use of a newsgroup and/or listserv. You will be required to log in weekly to read what your classmates have posted to the newsgroup and to participate in the discussion by posting at least one message per week. (Please note that you will not be required to post a message during the weeks when you have submitted a commentary.) During the semester we will have the opportunity to engage in online discussions and an short online collaborative project with students from a graduate course taught by Jeff Galin at California State University at San Bernadino. We will also be able to participate in one or more MOO sessions. During the week we engage in this online collaborative project, you will not be required to submit a commentary.

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Group Presentation. The group presentations will be a kind of supplement to the readings and other required activities in this course. As the course description makes clear, this course is a collective inquiry, an exploration of the complex issues surrounding literacy and technology. In that vein, the group presentations are intended to bring into our discussions readings, ideas, information, questions, etc. beyond what is represented by the assigned readings. In other words, each group's task is to extend our discussions by making a presentation about a reading (or set of readings) not already on the required reading list. Alternatively, a group may decide to structure its presentation around a software program or some other online technology. It may invite us to participate in some sort of activity, or it may choose simply to introduce for discussion issues or ideas that we have not encountered. In short, the nature of this assignment is slightly ambiguous in part because the nature of the course is somewhat uncertain.

Format and topic are thus wide open for the group presentation. It's up to you and your group members to decide what to do and how your topic and/or activities might enrich our collective inquiry. The only parameters are that your group should have at least three members and you should plan to make a presentation that lasts 45 minutes or so (though you may request more time if you need it). You will be provided some class time for your group to meet, but for the most part you will need to plan your presentation outside of class. And don't hesitate to talk to me about this assignment if you have questions or concerns.

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Short Paper. For this assignment you will be asked to write a relatively short, formal paper (10-12 pages) on some issue or problem that grows out of the course readings and activities. The format for this assignenet is a standard academic paper on a relevant course topic. But you may consider other appropriate formats: for instance, a conference paper or a scholarly review.

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Course Project. This assignment should be the focus of your formal work for this course. Ideally, your work for the other assignments will somehow inform or feed into this project. Its format is negotiable, and in fact I encourage you to consider formats other than the conventional seminar paper (though that format is perfectly acceptable and may be most appropriate for some students). Web sites, hypertexts, multimedia presentations, or some sort of heretofore unknown hybrid text are all possibilities; another possibility I encourage you to explore is designing and online course or a pedagogy that integrates new technologies in some significant way. Like the conventional seminar paper, though, this project is intended to be a more extensive and focused examination of a specific issue or problem that arises for you from the work we do in this course. It should be the "equivalent" of a seminar paper of approximately 20 pages.

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