Stanford prof founds online university

A friend sent me this story from The Chronicle for Higher Education. A Stanford professor (also a “Google Fellow”) has left his tenured position to found an online university, along with another professor from the University of Virginia. It looks like the first courses are in the computer sciences and apparently they are delivering technical expertise on programming robotic cars and building your own search engine.

While we are all grappling with ways to use the expanding array of online educational technologies, I wonder how their video-oriented method would work for courses that combine cultural theory with critical thinking. I look forward to comments from SCT faculty members.

Here is a link to the site for the university, called Udacity.

 

 

Open Source Learning: Fad, Flawed, or the Future?

Having recently edited a text anthology that combines theory with films, I am naturally very interested in the future of the textbook. I came across this TED Talk (Richard Baranuik, Rice University) and wonder about the pros and cons of this theory of textbook distribution using screens and links. Is digital and online music the way to model the textbook industry? Though there are surely benefits to the “knowledge ecosystem” and global access, I suspect there is something naive about this application. Will it produce the learning “machines” (his term) or a hive mind? This assumes that the education and knowledge issue is merely one of access and distribution, but seems to ignore the effect of the screen, links, network, and hive mind on comprehension, cohesion, and, especially, critical thinking. When one looks at reading trends in America, it seems less that books that need to be remade, but rather that reading needs to be restored.

 

BTMM students make “critical videos” that combine theory with production to put media analysis on the screen

My large lecture courses (BTMM) are all based in “critical theory” designed to provide students with new models and methods for evaluating and critiquing the surrounding media environments. Though my courses are not “production” courses, I had long wanted to include a video component to complement exams and papers, but it was impossible to find sufficient cameras for 150-200 students. Now, with the ubiquity of inexpensive video cameras, it has become possible to create a video assignment in which students combine their production interests with ideas from my courses to put critical thinking and media analysis into the art on the screen (and not only on paper).

THE CRITICAL VIDEO ASSIGNMENT

Students work in teams of two or three to create 3-5 minute videos which critique something about the media environments of their everyday life, using the models and themes in my text anthology, Media Environments (San Diego: Cognella Academic Publishing 2010). The four media models are:

1) Meme: any idea, belief, or behavior that can be copied, replicated, or passed along like a virus. Ex: Lady Gaga, tattoos, body piercings, wearing jerseys of favorite teams, Quentin Tarantino films, Occupy Wall Street, political propaganda, and virtually all forms of fandom and mass belief. The list is endless.

2) Network: everyone is connected to everyone via electronic media technologies operating on local and global scales. Ex: Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the internet.

3) Spectacle: the image is more important the reality it represents. Ex: American Idol, reality TV shows, celebrity culture, and most of the images that appear electronic screens, be it television, computers, or mobile phones.

4) Hyperreal: substituting the signs of the real for the real to create a new “reality.” Ex: Disneyland, Las Vegas, Coke Zero, Facebook, the NFL and NCAA football, and so on.

Themes could include: the medium is the message, media technologies are not neutral, we are not the center of the universe, the maps are overtaking the territories, the celebrity and sports systems, surveillance and privacy, hive mind, counterculture, catastrophe culture, globalization, science, dumbed down, Spaceship Earth, media and ecology, Plato’s cave, and many others.

For the students, this was their chance to be creative and enlightening by taking what they have learned and putting it into a multimedia format involving visual imagery, written/spoken narrative, and/or music and effects. Their video could take the form of a news story, documentary, short film, video artwork, music video, or parody. We know BTMM and SCT students get excellent training for producing television shows in studios and films on locations. But, since this is not a production course and not everyone had access to the same quality of camera or software, the videos were evaluated on their artistic and intellectual concepts (media models and themes), content, and style and less on production qualities such as lighting or special effects, though surely the videos must be coherent and well-edited. Some of these videos were made with cell phone cameras.

Below are some of the best videos from Spring 2011 and Fall 2011. I hope you appreciate the creativity, imagination, and effort that went into making these zero budget videos.

STREET ART: CULTURE JAMMING OUR SURROUNDINGS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpgPbhypVQ0

THE AUTHENTIC FAKE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF6RoWvO2BM&feature=youtu.be

SCREENS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyoP47EudLM

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY

http://www.vimeo.com/22750399?ab

CONQUER CAPITALISM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i_rE5U7OsU

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

http://www.youtube.com/user/NoSnowDays4Temple?blend=4&ob=5#p/a/u/0/l6jEPn8oYgQ

IT’S A MEME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MDYKVSgVvI

PEPSI MILK

http://youtu.be/UqmqffNPb7o

I’M A MEME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH6atIEXGDE

I’M LIVIN’ IN THE HYPERREAL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIZWfzaVF_0&feature=email

OCCUPY WALL STREET

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLowHaWBNgU&feature=channel_video_title

THE CAVEMEME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3f9AnQULUo

TOM CRUISE IS DEAD

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vL958KyqQw&feature=youtu.be

BRON BRON’S LEAVING CLEVELAND?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyuN8Ix26QU

WHAT DOES BEYONCE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4I8VmZumo8

ANOTHER MEME BITES THE DUST

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U66YLg08tmM&feature=youtu.be

CATASTROPHE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb3HaT-mhAg

FACEBOOK: TAKING OVER OUR LIVES … AND REALITY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hu0TCvgUPU

I’M MEME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL0GvmKHvM8

THE SOUNDS OF HYPERREALITY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJgPM6r0710&feature=player_profilepage

TRUE LIFE: I’M A HIPPIE

http://vimeo.com/27830595

LIVING THE iLIFE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22a1zEXqo5k

MEMES Rebecca Black Parody

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHZb4Yhdocs&feature=youtu.be

JERSEY SHORE PSA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=41dwoiIvD_M

THE REALITY OF THE JERSEY SHORE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw-c3gL5RAI