last year, my digital journalism students began the semester working collectively on a group blog and ended the semester working individually on blogs of their own. this year, we did the opposite. students spent the majority of the semester working individually on their own blogs (and flickr accounts) and ended the semester working collectively to create a map of our city.
we diligently followed the digital journalism syllabus for the first six weeks, but by week seven things had to change.
in early march, i attended a panel discussion in the donohue rare book room (third floor, gleeson library). the panel included sasha carrera, education coordinator for the corita art center in los angeles, and amy franceschini and stuart mckee, both USF graphic design professors. the panel was part of the opening of POWER UP: Serigraphs by Corita Kent in USF's thacher gallery. long story ridiculously short: corita kent, also known as sister corita, ran the art department at immaculate heart college in los angeles until 1968, the year she left the order and moved to boston to focus on art and social justice. her serigraphs gained gained international fame during the 1960s and 1970s, and although you may not recognize her name you might recognize this:
or, perhaps, this:
during the panel, i learned about an assignment sister corita would give to her art students. first, she would have them draw an object. next, she'd give the students two or three days to draw the same object one hundred times.
during discussion, a number of audience members identified themselves as former students of sister corita, including one who remembered well the draw-this-a-hundred-times assignment. "i began thinking i knew what i was drawing," she said. "but after four or five drawings, i realized i had no idea. after a while, maybe around seventy or eighty drawings, patterns began to emerge. by the time i reached one hundred, i had a better understanding of what it was i was trying to draw."
the following day class met and i had a proposal for my students - let's suspend the syllabus for one week, maybe two. instead, i proposed, we'll explore different parts of USF campus and blog about them consistently and creatively.
the proposal passed unanimously.
over the course of the semester, i assigned my students three beats. first, campus. next, golden gate park. third, san francisco. and like sister corita, i'd tell my students to do it and do it again and do it again. they'd come to class to share a killer blog post they wrote the night before (or that morning) and we'd use a laptop to project it on a screen on the wall and i'd read it aloud and we'd laugh and say "yeah!" for the parts we liked and gave suggestions for the parts in need of improvement and then right when my students began to feel comfortable even content with what they had created i'd say: "good, now do it again."
through my assignments (grueling!) and their interest in blogging (budding!), i kept my students busy. all i required was that they had to physically visit the places they were blogging about. log off before you blog off.
and they did, first with campus.
later, we turned our blogging and photo-snapping attentions to golden gate park, a park packed with goodies to explore and located a cool two blocks from campus.
finally, we stepped into the big leagues and gave san francisco a spin. then, the last week, fueled by pizza, we filled our map full of posts.
although corita kent may have scoffed at our mere fifty pins, i'm sure she'd acknowledge that my students - austin, brigid, emilia, jacob, laura, and miles - and i now have a better understanding of the campus and city we call home.