Univ 200 Syllabus


UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument

Digital Engagement Pilot: “Living the Dreams: Digital Investigations and Unfettered Minds”

June 10 – July 31, 2014


This is a Course With Many Names.

Our official name is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument.

Our special digital engagement pilot name is “Living the Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds.” The “dreams” are those of the pioneers and architects of the digital age, people like Vannevar Bush, J. C. R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, and Adele Goldberg. We’ll be reading and working with five essays by these dreamers this summer, learning new concepts that will help us build better questions and better learning networks with our trusty personal, interactive, networked computers (including the one you may have in your pocket right now).

Our catchphrase is thought vectors in concept space. It’s the source of our #thoughtvectors hashtag (Twitter) as well as the plain tag thoughtvectors. Our course librarian, Jenny Stout, has a great video about that phrase. Take a look.

As befits a “digital engagement pilot,” this version of the course is fully online and has several moving parts, which you can read all about right here on our syllabus. Note that the syllabus is “beta,” which means that some of the specifics (synchronous events, activities, interactions) may shift a bit from time to time. We want to be able to respond, whenever possible, to the needs of our learning community in this course of study as those needs emerge. We will do everything in our power to avoid truly nasty surprises (for example, you won’t learn that the assignment due next week is suddenly due tomorrow).

These kinds of adjustments are normal for most courses of study, but for a fully online course you’ll need to keep a sharp eye on your email, the Twitter hashtag, your section site (the one you’re on right now), and the main course site for updates. We’ll push the messages out through as many channels as possible, but it’s up to you to keep yourself “tuned in” to the course activity sites. Work in the “spirit of thoughtvectors.” Commit!

So let’s get started.


Week One: As We May Think (Vannevar Bush)

Associative Trails
Considering Inquiry Projects

Week Two: Man-Computer Symbiosis (J . C. R. Licklider)

Formulative vs. formulated thinking
Designing Inquiry Projects, part one (and considering teams)

Week Three: Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (Doug Engelbart)

Integrated domains, personal learning networks, dynamic knowledge repositories
Designing Inquiry Projects, part two

Week Four: Computer Lib / Dream Machines (Ted Nelson)

Curating and sharing ultra-rich environments
Building Inquiry Projects, part one

Week Five: Building Inquiry Projects

Shifting into overdrive: Building Inquiry Projects, part two
Using and citing research sources

Week Six: Personal Dynamic Media (Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg)

Going meta with computers, writing, and research
Mindfulness in writing
Building Inquiry Projects, part three

Week Seven: Finishing and Polishing Inquiry Projects

Week Eight: Publishing Inquiry Projects




Ready for a deeper dive? Here’s an overview of the assignments. You’ll be posting each assignment to your blog, the same place where you do all your daily writing. Your grades will be posted to your section’s Blackboard grade book. Specific writing feedback will be delivered from your professor to you, typically via email. Basically, you’re not going to be graded where everyone can see the grade. Worry not.

The Inquiry Project

The final assignment is the inquiry project. You’ll have to have this finished and published for a grade by the last day of class. It’s worth 35% of your final grade. Think of your inquiry project as a research paper for the digital age: although it will have many of the characteristics of academic writing, it’ll take advantage of thought vectors in concept space–and lots of creativity–to make something much more involving and rewarding than a typical “term paper.”

The Essays & What You Make Of Them

We’re also reading five essays by our “digital dreamers.” For each essay, we’ll be doing three assignments. You’ll be learning more about these assignments as they come up, but here’s a brief summary:

Nuggets: For each reading, we’ll ask you to take a passage from the reading that grabs you in some way and make that passage as meaningful as possible. It could be a passage that puzzles you, or intrigues you, or resonates strongly with you. It could be a passage you agree with, or one you disagree with. The idea here is that the passage evokes some kind of response in you, one that makes you want to work with the passage to make it just as meaningful as possible. A good length for your nugget is about a paragraph or so. Too much, and it becomes unwieldy. Too little, and you don’t have enough to work with.

How do you make something as meaningful as possible? Well, use your imagination. You’ll probably start by copying the nugget into your post. From there, consider hyperlinks, illustrations, video clips, animated gifs, screenshots, whatever. Make the experience as rich and interesting as you can. And as we go along, you’ll have more and more of your classmates’ work to link to as well. In fact, linking and commenting are such vital and necessary parts of this course that they have their own definitions page.

Obviously, one of the main goals of this assignment is to get you to read these essays carefully and respond to them imaginatively. Your work with “nuggets” should be both fun and in earnest. It should demonstrate your own deep engagement and stimulate deep engagement for your reader as well.

Concept Experiences: For each of our five essays, we’ll ask you to experience and reflect on a particular exercise related to a key concept in the essay. The idea here is to turn concepts into experiences–in other words, to take a key “dream” from the essay and make it something you do, something you make. For each essay, we’ll specify the experience and set up the parameters. Each experience will have some game-like elements–some things that are arbitrary, but meaningful. All of them will give you practice in habits of mind and inquiry that will help you create better questions, find better problems, and craft better writing.

Progress Report / Research Reflections: Once a week, typically toward the end of the week (see the schedule below), you should write a blog post reflecting on the week’s experience and asking yourself where you are in relation to the inquiry project you are considering, designing, building, and eventually sharing.

Other Committed Activities

In addition to the specific assignments above or others required by your instructor, which will include many rough drafts of, and reflections on, your budding inquiry projects, you will also need to write write write. And create create create. And explore explore explore.  In other words, you should participate robustly in free-range learning and sharing. What you do should be relevant to the course, of course, but please think of “relevant” as potentially a very large set of things. A large part of this course depends on consistent, robust, and relevant participation. Without it, the course is just a bunch of assignments. Good assignments, mind you, but not an adventure or a journey. What you will make, and the total of what we make together, will be visible to the world and might even inspire others. Actually, if prior experience is any guide, it will inspire others. And we could all use some inspiration.

A specific schedule of assignments and due dates follows. But first, let’s have an idea of what each component of the course activity is “worth” in terms of your final grade.

The inquiry project is the biggest goal and the most important destination of the course. 35% of your final grade will be based on the quality of this project, as judged by your section professor.

The assignments linked to our readings (nuggets, concept experiences) will be worth a total of 35% of your final grade, because they are essential parts of building strong and unfettered inquiry brains that can actually live the dreams. If you can’t live the dreams, your inquiry project probably won’t be very interesting or rewarding.  (In our section, as explained below: All blogging will amount to 50% of course work.)

Each section professor can assign the other 30% as he or she sees fit. Some may put all or most of that percentage on participation, including the weekly progress report / research reflection. Some may want to put smaller percentages on various stages of drafting and polishing the inquiry project. This part of the weighting will reflect each professor’s own strengths and strategies for encouraging and inspiring you to build strong, unfettered inquiry brains.

Our Section breakdown of this other 30%:  15% added to blogging as a practice (because we will do much than nuggets and concept experiences.  Blogging grade must reflect research posts, etc).  This 15% brings the blogging total to 50% of course grade.  The remaining 15%: Collaboration and Class Participation to include blog COMMENTS, Peer Review of final drafts, and Twitter participation.

Course Schedule In Detail

A note about deadlines: EACH DATE INDICATES THE DATE WORK IS DUE. WORK DUE ON A SPECIFIC DATE MUST BE SUBMITTED BY 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Be sure to check your time zone to see what “11:59 p.m. EDT” is where you are living as you take the course.

A note about synchronous (same-place, same-time) events vs. asynchronous events: although most of the course is asynchronous–participation will happen at various times, loosely organized by days–there will be some special synchronous events, mostly live Google Hangouts streamed to the web. They are noted below. If you cannot make a synchronous event, don’t worry: there will be an archived version you can watch later. There will be possibilities for real-time interaction during the synchronous event–for example, asking questions of a guest speaker–that won’t be available when you view the archived version, but either way there will be plenty of opportunities to make use of the material and to interact around it.


June 10: The Course Begins
SYNCHRONOUS EVENT: Live Google+ Hangout with all six professors
ASSIGNMENTS: Read Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think.”
Blog post: a self-portrait in words and more. “How Does It Feel When I Think?”   A fuller explanation of this assignment can be found here.

June 11
Blog post making nugget from “As We May Think” as meaningful as possible
Do “associative trails” concept experience.  You can find the assignment for both of these here.

June 12
Leave a substantive, interesting comment on at least 10 of your classmates’ nugget posts.
Blog post on “associative trails” concept experience

June 13
Comment on at least 10 of your classmates’ “associative trails” blog posts
Blog post: first “progress report / research reflection”

OVER THE WEEKEND: Read J. C. R. Licklider, “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” and choose a nugget you’ll work with.


June 16
SYNCHRONOUS EVENT: Live Google+ Hangout
Blog post making nugget from “Man-Computer Symbiosis” as meaningful as possible

June 17
Do the nugget post again, revising it with links to at least five classmates’ posts from June 16. (In other words, get in the habit of linking out to other blog posts, including your own, frequently and robustly.)

June 18
SYNCHRONOUS EVENT: VCU cMOOC Live in Concert at the New Media Consortium! (4:00-5:15 PM EDT)
Do “formulated vs. formulative” concept experience and blog about it.

June 19
Comment on at least 5 of this week’s revised nugget posts and 5 of this week’s concept experience posts.

June 20
Progress report / research reflection post, with links to at least four other posts (you may link to earlier posts of your own as well).

OVER THE WEEKEND (a big one!): Read at least these excerpts from Doug Engelbart, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”:

Chapter I, “Introduction,” parts A (“General”) and B (“Objective of the Study”)
Chapter II, “Conceptual Framework,” parts A (“General”) and B (“The Basic Perspective”)
Chapter III, “Examples and Discussion,” part A (“Background”) sections 2 (“Comments Related To Bush’s Article” and 3 (“Some Possibilities with Cards and Relatively Simple Equipment”)
Nothing from Chapter IV
Chapter V, “Summary” (all)
Chapter VI, “Conclusions” (all)
and of course, pick your nugget.
You should also watch some or all of “The Mother Of All Demos.” There’s a nice set of highlights made by SRI International that’s great as an overview.


June 23
Blog post making nugget from “Augmenting Human Intellect” as meaningful as possible. Don’t forget the links (make them interesting, make them revelatory, make them creative)

June 24
Blog post
Begin integrated domain concept experience

June 25
Blog post on integrated domain concept experience. Other concepts to explore: personal cyberinfrastructure, dynamic knowledge repository/ecosystem

June 26
Blog post commenting on and linking to at least 5 classmates’ posts on the integrated domain concept experience.

June 27
Progress report / research reflection post, with links.
Inquiry project proposal draft #1 posted with request for comments.

OVER THE WEEKEND: Read Ted Nelson, Computer Lib / Dream Machines (excerpts. pdf download) and pick a nugget to work with.
Comment on at least 5 of your classmates’ inquiry project proposal drafts


June 30
Blog post making nugget from CL/DM  as meaningful as possible.
Work on creating and curating ultra-rich environment.

July 1
Blog post making nugget even more meaningful.
Share and discuss ultra-rich environment.

July 2
Continue to share, revise, discuss ultra-rich environment (don’t forget the “fantics” or the “thinkertoys”).

July 3
Continue to share, revise, discuss ultra-rich environment (don’t forget the “fantics” or the “thinkertoys”)
Post progress report / research reflection.
Post inquiry project proposal draft #2 with thoughts on design as well as direction and topic.

July 4
Independence Day holiday (USA)

OVER THE WEEKEND: Comment on at least 5 of your classmates’ inquiry project proposal drafts.
Continue to refine your own inquiry project design.


July 7-11
Intensive work on inquiry project topic, direction, design
Blog every day! Comment every day! Tweet often! Link frequently!

July 7

July 11
Progress report / research reflection

OVER THE WEEKEND: Read Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, “Personal Dynamic Media” (pdf download). Pick a nugget to work on.


July 14-18
Intensive work on inquiry project topic, direction, design
Blog every day! Comment every day! Tweet often! Link frequently!

July 14

Blog post making nugget from “Personal Dynamic Media” as meaningful as possible
Begin concept experience on “meta” and the craft of argument: metamedium, metaphor, metacognition

July 15
Concept experience continues

July 16
Post to share concept experience

July 17
Comment on classmates’ concept experience

July 18
Progress report / research reflection

OVER THE WEEKEND: Review current state of inquiry project–what work remains to be done?


July 21-30
Intensive work on inquiry project.
Blog every day! Comment every day! Tweet often! Link frequently!

July 21

July 28

July 30

July 31
SYNCHRONOUS EVENT: Closing Ceremonies

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