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summer 2016

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summer 2016

LL Year Two: Experiments in General Education

This summer the Learning Lab is supporting Harvard's General Education program by prototyping assignments, activities and media for expression that align with the goals and values of the Gen Ed program. Over the course of the past seven weeks, we have collaborated closely with Professor(s) Gojko Barjamovic on his course "Ancient Lives," Evelynn Hammonds on her course "The Changing Concept of Race in America," Maya Jasanoff on her course "Ancestry," John Huth on his course "Primitive Navigation," and Jennifer Roberts on her "Maneuvers" initiative at the Radcliffe Institute. In between each of these collaborations the Bok Center also met with Ariane Liazos of Social Studies who advised us on how to incorporate "engaged learning" into Gen Ed courses, filmed the Houghton Undergraduate Summer Fellows reflecting on their research projects, hosted a workshop on interview skills for scholars from the Crimson Summer Academy, and filmed them in conversation with graduate students and faculty in STEM fields at Harvard. 

 

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Week of 6/20 to 6/25


Week 1

06.20 to 06.25

Week of 6/20 to 6/25


Week 1

06.20 to 06.25

In Week 1  we kickstarted the summer of supporting Gen Ed 2.0 by first reviewing the documents that the Gen Ed team has created to establish the program’s goals and learning objectives as it enters into its next phase. We also devoted a lunch conversation to discussing how “engaged scholarship” may be one of the unconventional ways in which you could achieve many of the complicated goals set out by the Gen Ed program. “Engaged scholarship,” by which we mean learning through “doing” (in many cases, “service learning”) is a particularly apt solution given the newly established Mindich Gift for those exact initiatives . We spent the rest of the week, therefore, learning about what is going on in the engaged scholarship space at Harvard and thinking about how that activity could possibly link up with some of the Gen Ed courses that taut goals such as “civic engagement” and “leadership.” Ariane Liazos, of Expos and Social Studies, actually teaches a course on the history of service learning at Harvard, and so served as an adviser for us as we imagined how Gen Ed might begin to expand into that space.

 

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Week of 6/27 to 7/1


Week 2

06.27 to 07.01

Week of 6/27 to 7/1


Week 2

06.27 to 07.01

For Gojko Barjamovic’s course ANE 103: Ancient Lives, students will have the opportunity to select one of four options for a creative final assignment: molding and casting at the Harvard Semitic Museum, Ancient Egyptian fermentation with Pia Sorenson, developing a digital platform that will host and document each group’s process, and finally, a new addition: a theatre option in which students will have the opportunity to develop and stage a performance of the epic of Gilgamesh.

 

When the course team, made up of Professor Barjamovic and special artistic TF from the ART, Brenna Nicely, first communicated with us to ask about support for a theatre project, we began to think about the sorts of training materials that we that we might be able to offer students to give them a deep and more rigorous understanding of the sorts of decisions that happen when you are mounting some piece of theatre. Students then will be asked to write a reflective paper on the decisions that they made in each strain of theatre—lights, costumes, sets, etc.—and about how these decisions contribute to the final outcome of the project. Though a lot of creative assignments purport to “remove constraints” from students and set them free to engage with the material as they wish, we intended to impose a whole set of new constraints in order to teach students a whole new vocabulary (that of the theatre and all its disciplines) in which students could articulate the ideas of the course. This week we tried to develop some initial steps or teaching moves that instructors could use in order give students a comprehensive introduction to the elements of that new vocabulary.

 

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Week of 7/5 to 7/8


Week 3

07.05 to 07.08

Week of 7/5 to 7/8


Week 3

07.05 to 07.08

For Professor Evelynn Hammonds’ upcoming Gen Ed course, The Changing Perception of Race in America, we designed a timeline-based assignment that could 1) allow students to contribute to the timeline week by week throughout the semester, 2) aggregate aggregate weekly entries into a larger, longer-reaching timeline 3) include multiple categories of information, such as social changes, artistic/cultural changes, and economic changes.

 

Under the guidance of Associate Director for Teaching and Learning, Adam Beaver, we looked at Cartographies of Time and thought of the timeline as a rich way of visually representing history, and so developing this assignment became not merely a technical exercise but something that engaged with the pedagogical foundation of timelines as well.  

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Week of 7/11 to 7/16


Week 4

07.11 to 07.15

Week of 7/11 to 7/16


Week 4

07.11 to 07.15

In Week 4, the Learning Lab Team worked to develop an assignment for Maya Jasanoff's upcoming Gen Ed course on ancestry that utilized the structure of the family tree. Just as when we developed our timeline assignment, we first learned the basics of the family tree--its simplest possible form, and then its most common deviations from that--in hopes of understanding the ways in which the family tree both succeeds and fails at relating ancestral information. When considering how a family tree can best relate information about one's ancestry, however, we ran into a new crop of questions--what exactly does "ancestry" refer to? One's genealogy? Is ancestry purely genetic, or does it include pseudo-family members too? And how does family history interact with History? 

 

Mid-week we hosted a "Lunch and Learn" to discuss how we might go about designing an assignment that balanced all of these questions, though the discussion soon transitioned into an all-staff assignment construction session helmed by resident historian Adam Beaver.  

 

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Week of 7/18 to 7/22


Week 5

07.18 to 07.22

Week of 7/18 to 7/22


Week 5

07.18 to 07.22

In Week 5 we built upon a weeks-long collaboration with Professor John Huth and tested a re-designed version of the first assignment for his popular SPU course "Primitive Navigation." In contrast to some of our other summer Faculty Fellows, Professor Huth's course has already been taught several times to much positive response from students, however during a consultation with us, Huth suggested that some students still emerge from the course not understanding the value of navigation in our increasingly digital world. In essence, they miss the "why" of the course. To this end, what we chose to test with our student usability testers was an updated version of the course's first assignment, re-written to specifically evoke reflection on the experience of getting lost. A fundamental element of this assignment update included a notebook in which students would handwrite their responses to reflection questions, in addition to sketches of the path that they took.

The notebook is now a permanent fixture of the course; students will use it to reflect on each assignment. The Bok Center is in continued collaboration with Professor Huth to adjust the remaining assignments to extend these metacognitive practices throughout the length of the semester. 

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Week of 7/24 to 7/29


Week 6

07.24 to 07.29

Week of 7/24 to 7/29


Week 6

07.24 to 07.29

For the first two days of "Maneuvers" week Marlon was stationed at Jennifer Roberts' annual "Maneuvers" workshop at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Maneuvers Initiative is a project helmed by Roberts that involves studying a specific move that spans multiple art-making disciplines--this year centered around "rotation"--by inviting artisans who are masters of their trade to lead members of the HAA department and other Harvard scholars in a workshop that teaches them the basics of that craft. Two trades that were featured in year's workshop were filmmaking and lathe work, as both depend on the rotation of a material. Later, participants attempted to bridge the experience of performing the maneuver with their theoretical understanding of it. 

Marlon and Professor Roberts have repeatedly discussed the possibility of expanding the Maneuvers model to an undergraduate classroom, and so the assignment that we gave for our student usability testers this week focused on "cutting" as a manuever, and was designed to function in an undergraduate HAA lecture course. 

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Week of 8/1 to 8/6


Week 7

08.01 to 08.05

Week of 8/1 to 8/6


Week 7

08.01 to 08.05

In Week 7, the Bok Learning Lab team partnered with Houghton librarian Emilie Hardman, who ran the Houghton Undergraduate Summer Fellowship. We initially became excited about a collaboration with Emilie and her student fellows because it posed a particular challenge: though we had wanted to film students with the actual manuscripts that they studied, items in the Houghton collection cannot leave the library. Our solution was to set up a pop-up studio in a room on the second floor of Houghton, allowing students to call up the manuscripts/objects that they were studying, and to explain the objects' importance to their research with the objects physically in front of them. Because it is not usually possible to speak about an object from the archives on-camera, we made use of our short-term set up to record other Harvard librarians talking about their favorite manuscript in front of the camera. 

Looking forward, the Learning Lab team is hoping to set up a studio in an archival space again soon, in hopes of further publicizing the innovative research that occurs in these spaces, from the undergraduate level up through tenured faculty.