Arts and Technologies Curriculum Discussion

During PSU’s January Jamboree (JJ), I was involved in four sessions: First Year Seminar Update, General Education Update, Lessons Learned from Cluster Project Proposals, and the Arts and Technologies Curriculum Discussion. Now that the semester has successfully started, I’ll write summaries of all 4 sessions. But I’ll start with the Arts and Technologies Curriculum Discussion. Thanks to Ann McClellan for posting her notes about the discussion which filled in some blanks that I had in my own notes. For those of you on campus, you can find her notes in the Arts and Technologies (A&T) Office 365 group’s Drive space in a folder called “TECO Brainstorming.”

The conversation for the session was actually advertised to be about the Technology Connection in the Disciplines (TECO) portion of the General Education program. Last year, the chairs of the departments that have programs in the A&T cluster (Art, Computer Science and Technology, Communication and Media Studies, English, and Music, Theater, and Dance) had met a couple of times to talk about creating common curriculum for the cluster. We originally thought we might start with a common TECO course in which we could teach the technology skills and knowledge that is common to all of our disciplines. During the JJ session, we decided that because the TECO course often contains disciplinary content in addition to the technology skills and knowledge, it might be difficult for us to find room in our various programs to include a separate course for just the tech skills and knowledge.

Our discussion then moved to the idea of creating a common Integrative Connection (INCO) course for the cluster. Most of us don’t require a specific INCO for our students even though we all offer INCO courses. The President has said that a Gen Ed capstone experience is critical for the success of his vision for the clusters and the INCO is already described as a Gen Ed capstone course (even though most of our INCO courses don’t currently fulfill that function). Students could work on film production projects, start new magazines or newspapers, create an art exhibit of some sort, create a social media campaign, design and develop a game, put on a performance, and so on. We didn’t really talk about the content of a common INCO other than to express support for the idea that the course would be project based and bring together students from our various disciplines (and probably others) to work on those projects in interdisciplinary teams.

That led to a discussion of the kinds of technical skills and knowledge students would need in order to be able to work on these projects. Some of the ideas we came up with are: Web design, using Web sites as effective marketing tools, rhetorical digital communication, sound design, video editing, basic HTML, copyright and intellectual property knowledge, and cyber-security issues.

The discussion then moved to the idea of creating a set of 1-credit “tool-kit” courses to teach the skills and knowledge students need. We got quite excited thinking about the possible topics for the tool-kit courses. Some of our ideas are: blogging, video editing, search engine optimization, Web design, writing style, podcasting, fundamentals of visual communication, and fundamentals of audio (both sound capture and sound editing). The ideas were coming so quickly that I’m not sure we captured them all. We think these 1-credit courses will be pass-fail and would start with students brainstorming about a project they wanted to engage in as a means for learning the tech skills and knowledge of the course. We could perhaps groups some of these together to create some sort of credential (a certificate?) that would appear on the student’s transcript. We could also keep track of which students had taken which tool-kit course so that when we were building interdisciplinary teams for cluster projects in the future, we could invite students with specific skills to be part of the team.

We decided that our next step would be to start working on the tool-kit courses. We would like to use Banner’s “discipline” code to indicate the type of course. So for example, the tool kit courses would not be tied to a specific discipline but would instead all have course codes that start with TK. That is, we might have a course on blogging that is TK1000 offered by the English department and a course on video editing that is TK 1010 offered by the Communication and Media Studies department. Now, each department will start thinking about how they might offer some of these courses and what the topics might be. The creation of these courses is the topic of the A&T cluster meeting on February 15, 3:30-5pm, in Lamson 031. If you’re interested in this conversation, whether you are part of the A&T cluster or not, come to the meeting. These are exciting and energizing discussions.

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