Monday, September 7, 2009

Week 1: Course Introduction

Welcome to p574: Learning in New Media!

I’m Dr. Kylie Peppler, and I’ll be teaching this course. I’m really excited that we’ll be learning to design and participate in new media this semester together. Over the course of the semester, we will be covering a range of new media tools and communities, with an effort to understand their implications for learning. As you do so, you’ll become familiar with a theory of learning called constructionism, which highlights the central role that designing an external artifact can play in the learning process. Because of this, we’ll be spending about half of our course time in the studio – in a mix of activities ranging from designing new media artifacts, participating in online communities, and reflecting on our learning process through our writing in our course blogs. For many of you, this may be your first online course. Not to worry! I’ve tried to make everything as intuitive as possible, but if you do run into any trouble please don’t hesitate to email me at or one of the course’s Teaching Assistants (TAs) (contact us).

  • Oncourse and other Portals: On a weekly basis, all you need to do is log into Oncourse and get started by clicking on the syllabus tab, just like you did today. Once you’re here, there are two key pages within the syllabus that you can access from the tabs above. If you need to go anywhere else, there will be a link in the Weekly Activities page that will take you there.
    • About: These pages describe the course in general, as well as all policies related to grading, participation, overviews of course assignments, important dates, and a full listing of the course readings.
    • Weekly Activities: The weekly activities tab is intended to summarize what you need to do each week in terms of readings and assignments. This is your one-stop-shop for knowing what to do and will include the reading assignments, links to any course videos, links to the appropriate assignments. After the first week, whenever you click on the Syllabus in Oncourse, it will default to the weekly activities tab to make your life even easier. If you notice anything else you think could be included in this page, please let me know!
  • Next steps: I recommend that you now do the following to get started:

1. Be sure to order your copy of Mindstorms by Seymour Papert. It’s the only book that we’ll be reading this semester in its entirety but it’s one of the first on our reading list. It’s widely available through sites like

2. If you haven’t yet responded to the course survey, please do so as soon as possible. Your participation in the course’s activities will be hindered until we hear from you.

3. Read over About this course and the sub-pages, including Course Policies and Expectations, Course Activities, Important Dates, and Course Reading List.

4. Take a look at the Weekly Activities tab.

5. Take a look at the short course introduction VoiceThread that I have prepared for you. This is brief oral introduction but does not cover everything in the syllabus. You should still read through all of the links above. This is just to clarify the most confusing aspects of the course.

6. Lastly, please download and read this week’s readings, Bers’s chapter from her book Blocks to Robots and Resnick’s paper titled The Computer as Paintbrush, as well as participate in Week 1’s VoiceThread discussion. The readings are available in the Resources Tab of Oncourse in the Week 1 Readings folder. This assignment is due Sunday, January 16 at 11:59pm. If you’re interested, you can check out some of the supplemental links below, which expand on this week’s readings.

One last note from the instructor: Keep in mind that we’ll be exploring a wide range of new technologies this semester. You may get frustrated at times – take your time and remember that this is part of your learning process and will give you insight into how people more generally learn in new media. This course is intended to provide a safe space for you to learn and explore new technologies that you might have heard about or have always wanted to try. We also won’t love every tool that we’re investigating and that’s OK. If that happens and we all agree we should do something another way, we’ll change the course assignments and/or tools to promote greater learning. After all, that’s the whole point of the course! OK, ready, set, play!


· Marina Bers’s website:

· Mitchel Resnick and the Lifelong Kindergarten website:

· Interview with Mitchel Resnick: (scroll to video titled “Lifelong Kindergarten”)

· Mindstorms Robotics:

· Mindstorms Robotics Community: (check out other communities and books on as well)

· Pico Crickets:

· The Computer Clubhouse Network:

· Information on Seymour Papert and links to learn more about the LOGO programming language: