Turn the clock back 20 years and you’ll find Dale Bradley in awe of this thing called the Internet.
The newly paved information superhighway was a place for ideas to be shared and come to life. It held the potential for activism by anyone in ways that had previously never existed and were even difficult to imagine.
But it didn’t take long for the World Wide Web to become a tangled mess of mindless cyberstuff once mainstream media got its virtual hands in the online world.
“For old guys like me, it was magic when (the Internet) happened and there was hype and hope that it would be a democratic utopia,” recalled Bradley, chair of the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film. “But then it turned into this world of YouTube videos of water skiing squirrels.”
No offence to rodents who can hold their own behind a boat but Bradley wants to take the Internet back. He’ll be doing that by teaching students how to find their online voice and become content producers in a world that has been more about consumption than active participation.
Enter COMM/FILM/PCUL 2F00, a new online course called New Media Literacy that Bradley will teach during the spring term.
The full-credit context credit course is open to students in all faculties and given that work is done with a computer and Internet connection, the class can be taken sitting at a picnic table in the sun instead of in a lecture theatre. Students can also chip away at course work at any time of day – even in their pajamas before bed – because there’s no set lecture or seminar times.
It’s one of a handful of online courses offered this summer as part of Brock’s expanded spring term course calendar. Other online courses available are: Introduction to Leisure in Canadian Society (RECL 1P03), London: Monster City (ENGL 4V37), Calculus with Applications (MATH 1P97), and Biology: A human perspective (BIOL 1F25).
New Media Literacy, which has room for 100 students, will use social media, including blogging, podcasting, online video production and Twitter, to teach students how to produce content while tackling issues such as copyright and privacy.
Blogging, in particular, will be the forum through which students can analyze class readings and interact with their fellow students through comments.
“It tries to bring the skill and the critical learning element together,” Bradley explained.
Students will also be encouraged to blog about a particular interest, such as the environment, find communities of like-minded people, and develop an online presence with relevance and staying power.
“The hope is then, that afterward, they’ll keep doing this … and they’ll become part of an online conversation they’re interested in,” Bradley said. “Once you get connected to people with similar interests, you get sucked in. You can’t stop checking your Twitter feed.
“I’m hoping (students) will see it as a beginning point for them to do something that has personal meaning and social relevance in the world.”