So I’m not a very creative person, and I’ve been trying to jot down as many ideas as possible, but so far have only been able to produce 1 and a half ideas, and here they are:
1. The half idea: I like the way memes play a part in the social life of the Internet. I was impressed with Patrick Davison’s ‘The Language of Internet Memes’ in The Social Media Reader, as well as our conversations about memes in the Core I class – their folk character, their ephemerality but also how they can provide a window into the cultural conversations of the time. I think it may be a good idea to show students how to create these cultural objects, how to trace their distribution in a social network and how to analyze the conversations people initiate because of the ideas embedded in those memes. This does not have to be a ‘creation’ activity only. Before students start creating their own memes, we could learn how to analyze the significance of past memes that garnered much attention (ex: #muslimrage, the ‘this is what I actually do’ meme, etc.). Students will learn about the context of such memes (why and how did they start?), and learn how to analyze their impact on the communication, spread, and death of ideas.
2. Creating an intro level Sociology inter-textbook: For an intro level class in Sociology, almost all professors use a large and expensive textbook that is usually never bought or read by the students (at least in my experience at BMCC, where students come from financially unstable backgrounds). I’ve been thinking of ways to provide students with the relevant chapters as cheaply as possible without violating copyright laws, but it still does not seem to be enough. Even if they have access to the material, it is often written in a language that is not at their reading level and/or does not engage them enough. Thinking through how to get the students to engage with any material before class, and connecting it with the principle of intertextuality at the core of the Internet as well as the principles of collaboration, citation and source-recognition at the core of Wikipedia, has led me to this idea: the students will use the Internet’s many ‘texts’ (written, pictures, videos, audio, games) to create their own chapters on a very large online cork board-type space (pinterest?). As the professor, I would provide lots of structure, like taking the main concepts found in one textbook chapter and setting them up on the board in a logical manner, and guiding the students to figure out what is a good source and what is an unreliable source of information. The students will then post (under their assigned concept) any relevant texts that provide the definition of the concept, examples of the concept, people associated with the concept, etc, with a brief explanation of what the post is and how it relates to the concept. Students will also be required to comment upon and question the postings of other students and thereby engage in a dialogue about their interpretation of the concepts. To make this as close to a traditional textbook as possible, the questions on any quizzes or tests will relate directly back to the boards they create. In short, I envision this as a space for students to create their own chapters, still working with the concepts that any traditional textbook would contain, but making it their own by posting texts that make sense of the ideas to them and engaging with other students about the validity of their sources and the level of understanding they have about the concepts. Class time would be used to go over the board the students have created during the week and fill in any gaps or correct any inaccurate information.