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WRT 205-M305: Critical Research and Inquiry Learning in Digital Times

Spring 2012, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-4:50 p.m., Physics Building 106 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Fridays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. and by appointment

“Learning is the constant disruption of an old pattern, a breakthrough that substitutes something new for something old. And then the process begins again.” —Cathy Davidson, Now You See It1 “Old learning can be done on new machines. Using new machines is not necessarily a sign that ubiquitous learning has arrived.” —Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, Ubiquitous Learning2 Course Overview The goal of this course is to teach you not only how to write well, but also how to conduct critical inquiry and research. What does it mean to write “critically”? How do you use research effectively to develop an argument? How and where do you find appropriate research? How can you use visual media to advance your claims? To answer these questions, we will explore writing and reading processes, tactics for collecting and representing research, and, perhaps most importantly, rhetorical strategies for crafting effective prose. Throughout the semester, you will compose two shorter papers (five and six pages), one sustained argument essay (eight pages), and a final “translation project,” as well as complete a series of informal/invention writing assignments. To do this type of work, we must be willing to listen to views and perspectives that disrupt our thinking. We live in a cultural environment saturated by an unprecedented amount of information competing for our attention, sometimes distracting us, and it can be difficult to slow down and question the assumptions that inform different discourses. In order to succeed as writers, thinkers, and citizens, we need to learn how to ask good questions—questions that trigger an active engagement with issues and concepts. The topic of inquiry for this course is “learning in digital times,” a subject that affects all of us at the university and beyond. This inquiry provides us with a frame for reading, researching, and writing; it encourages us to think more critically about many of the things we take for granted in our daily routines and opens our eyes to issues of which we might not otherwise be aware. Cope and Kalantzis say that “[o]ld learning can be done on new machines,” suggesting that technologies alone will not dictate advancement in people’s use of them. What might we learn from looking closely at how our learning is changing because of new technologies? In a January 3, 2011,

Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print. 2 Cope, Bill, and Mary Kalantzis. Ubiquitous Learning. Urbana: U of Chicago P, 2009. Print.



New York Times article, Eric Sheninger,3 a high school principal, writes, “For the new generation that is growing up in the digital age, learning needs to be relevant, meaningful and fun.” While many would agree with Sheninger’s statement, we might also think about the “old” generation— don’t they also need learning that is “relevant, meaningful and fun”? What are some examples of new ways of learning, researching, and writing in digital times? What, if anything, might be lost by embracing these new forms of learning? In the readings for this course, writers research and analyze some of the histories of learning and digital media and argue for why these things matter. They aren’t just looking at their own learning with digital media (although that, at times, is part of their focus); instead they are focused on how we define learning and the extent to which dominant patterns need to be disrupted. The writers draw on primary research and personal experience, tap into the knowledge of others in their own and related fields, examine cultural trends, and rhetorically attend to their audiences. What these writers have to say is complex and provocative and will model for you ways to read, analyze, and synthesize for your own writing and thinking. Course Goals 1. Students will investigate a shared topic of inquiry and develop research questions that engage the complexities (social, political, ideological, economic, historical) of and current debates about that topic. 2. Students will learn multiple research strategies, including primary research, and develop more extensive knowledge of library databases in order to identify sources appropriate to their research questions. 3. Students will evaluate the validity of their sources in the context of their research questions. 4. Students will read sources rhetorically, which involves considering authors’ positions in relation to audiences, recognizing points of congruence and difference among texts, and establishing a genuine dialogue with others’ ideas. 5. Students will understand the role of genres, sources, styles, and media in communicating with particular audiences and for specific purposes. 6. Students will understand the ways in which digital media shape all stages of the research and writing process—invention, composing, revision, delivery—and will understand how the effects of digital media vary according to audience, genre, context, and purpose. 7. Students will produce texts that demonstrate a nuanced understanding of and an ethical relationship with sources and research participants. 8. Students will demonstrate how their dialogue with sources has broadened and enhanced their own thinking about the issue. 9. Students will practice and produce analysis, argument, synthesis, and summary as central components of researched writing.


Sheninger, Eric. “Leverage Social Media.” New York Times, 3 January 2012. Web. 15 January 2012. 2


10. Students will complete a series of informal writing assignments as part of their composing process, as well as at least three sustained, finished texts that respond to specific rhetorical situations. 11. Students will practice the strategies of incorporating the research of others into their own texts in a variety of ways (including summary, paraphrase, and quotation) and will provide textual evidence of where, how, and why sources are being used. 12. Students will develop revision and editing strategies for organization, prose style, and technical control. Course Texts and Materials The following books are available in the SU Bookstore and Follett’s Orange Bookstore  Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Logan: Utah State UP, 2006.  Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Dennis Lynch. The DK Handbook. Milwaukee: Pearson, 2011. Other requirements:  Various pdfs available on Blackboard  approximately $20 for copy expenses over the course of the semester Attendance & Participation Since this course involves regular in-class tutorials, assignments, and workshops, regular attendance is required in order to be successful. If you miss a class, you are expected to stay current by contacting me and/or speaking with a classmate. Coming to class unprepared, unresponsive, or more than 20 minutes late will be considered an absence. If you miss more than four classes, you will receive a reduced or failing grade. The Writing Center If you need any help with your writing, the Writing Center ( is an excellent resource. Workshop consultants can help you learn how to improve your writing by offering assistance with planning, drafting, and revising. This resource is free, and I highly recommend it. You are also always welcome to utilize my office hours for help with assignments. Special Needs and Situations If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS),, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call (315) 443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible.

Syracuse University and I are committed to your success and to supporting Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that in general no individual who is otherwise qualified shall



be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity solely by reason of having a disability. Religious Observance SU’s religious observances policy, found at, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holy days according to their tradition. Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes. For fall and spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class. Assignments Project #1

Flashpoints Portfolio (20%) Using the critical reading guidelines outlined in chapter 1 of Joseph Harris’s book—“Coming to Terms”—you will compose critical summaries of three assigned readings and one text you locate through database research. You will also generate a researchable question specific to the course inquiry topic. (Length: five pages) Source Analysis (20%) and Rhetorical Precis (10%) In a six-page composition, you will analyze the secondary sources you locate (specific to your research question) and account for how your perspective on your research topic has changed as a result of your encounters with other ideas, perspectives, and positions. Synthesis Essay Drawing on Primary & Secondary Research (30%) You will write a research essay, directed toward a specific audience and drawing on no more than three secondary sources as well as primary research. (Length: eight pages) Translation and Reflection (20%) First, you will translate your research essay into a visual presentation or “trailer” using some form of technology (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.) and drawing on a range of new sources (10%). You will then compose a final reflection in which you analyze and account for the rhetorical choices you made in your presentation (10%).

Project #2

Project #3

Project #4

Academic Honesty The academic community requires ethical behavior from all of its participants. For writers, this means that the work we claim as ours must truly be ours. At the same time, we are not always expected to come up with new ideas; we often build our thinking on the ideas of others. We are



expected, however, to credit others with their contributions and to clearly indicate the boundaries of our own thinking. In cases where academic dishonesty is detected (the fraudulent submission of another’s work, in whole or part, as your own), you may be subject to a failing grade for the project or the course, and in the worst case to academic probation or expulsion. For a more detailed description of the guidelines for adhering to academic honesty in the College of Arts and Sciences, go to:  

Student Writing All texts written in this course are generally public. You may be asked to share them with a peer, the class, or me. It is understood that registration for and continued enrollment in this course constitutes permission by the student for the instructor to use any work resulting from the course.

Course Schedule for Unit 1 (subject to change) Date
WEEK 1 Tues, Jan.17

In class
Introduction to the course, the inquiry, and the Unit 1 assignment.

At home (due the following class)
Read and annotate chapter 1, “Coming to Terms,” in Harris. Then view Sir Ken Robinson’s “Bring on the Learning Revolution” at

(Note: an interactive transcript is also available at the site, on the right.) Write down three “flashpoints” from Sir Ken Robinson’s talk at the top of a Word document and compose a 200-word summary that accurately represents what Sir Ken Robinson is trying to “do” (by defining the writer’s project and assessing the text’s uses and limits). Your summary should connect with the quotes you select.

Thurs, Jan.19

WEEK 2 Tues, Jan. 24

We will take up Harris’s strategies for “coming to terms” with a text and share and respond to each other’s summaries of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk. We will also review the Unit 1 assignment. We will share our summaries of Davidson and Bruce and deepen our understanding of and engagement with the readings. Begin brainstorming keywords for research topics and article searches. I will introduce the library database guide.

Download, read, and bring to class the Unit 1 Flashpoints Portfolio assignment. Read and annotate Cathy Davidson’s “I’ll Count—You Take Care of the Gorilla” and Bertram C. Bruce’s “Ubiquitous Learning, Ubiquitous Computing, and Lived Experience” (both available on Blackboard). For each article, write one flashpoint and a 200-word critical summary, once again drawing on the guidelines in Harris.

Read and annotate Henry Jenkins’s “Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars” and then… Write a flashpoint and a 200-word critical summary, continuing to practice the critical reading strategies in Harris. Begin searching in the library databases listed in the handout on Blackboard. Keep a list of interesting articles, being very attuned to the location of the source (where it was originally published), whether it’s scholarly or nonscholarly, and its date of publication.

Thurs, Jan. 26

We will take up the Jenkins chapter, share our flashpoints, and attend to and revise

Select the article you want to read and use to round out your portfolio summaries. Write a critical summary, with flashpoint, of the text. Send me an email with a two-sentence summary.



WEEK 3 Tues, Jan. 31

Thurs, Feb. 2

WEEK 4 Tues, Feb. 7

our summaries of the text. We will also discuss your search results and prepare to select and post our articles to Blackboard. We will discuss the differences between longer, more sustained summaries and shorter, more concise summaries. Pre-writing toward the portfolio reflection. Please have the original unit assignment with you as well as all of your summaries. Revising on the sentence level—a workshop: Bring your summaries to class along with The DK Handbook. We will work with pages 240259 and attend to the academic styling of our texts. Flashpoints Portfolio due. Introduction to Unit 2 assignment. Refining the researchable question. Database searches vs. Web searches—inclass exercise.

Draft your portfolio reflection and post to Blackboard by Thursday. Read and respond to one classmate’s reflection by Friday (I’ll assign classmates to reflect upon one another’s work on Thursday).

Decide which summaries of which articles you want to submit in your portfolio (remember—you only need to submit three of the four summaries of assigned articles, and then one summary of an article you found through research), then revise and finalize your portfolio documents. Provide feedback to one peer’s reflection by Friday night.