new challenges and exciting adventures.

(cross-posted to my Digital Design Fellowship blog … )

This weekend/next week, I’ll be attending my first-ever academic conference. I’ll be part of a roundtable discussion/presentation for “Uncommon Ideas for Common Reading Programs” at the 30th annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, held this year in Atlanta, alongside some Agnes Scott Common Reading Committee members. That was a mouthful. To say the least, I’m excited and a little nervous!

We’ll be talking about the common reading project, which is an important first year tradition at ASC. I’ve written a little about the project in the past, but it’s a topic worth revisiting. The idea is just as it sounds: every incoming first year student is assigned a selected book to read over the summer before arriving on campus. This past year, that book was Outcasts United by Warren St. John, which profiles the Fugees, a soccer team in Clarkston, Ga. comprised of refugee children from all over the world, and their mentor, Luma Mufleh. First years are then required to compose a reading response open to any medium they choose — whether that’s a poem, written reflection, or artistic response. Those responses are then given to each student’s academic adviser, and then … well, what happens to the responses after that? That’s where I come in. Ever handily.

So, at the conference, the committee members and I will be discussing our “uncommon ideas.” One of those ideas has been utilizing blogs (and social media, by proxy) as a means to get first years engaged with the material they’ve been assigned. The eventual goal is to archive a sort of “Best Of” list of student responses, thereby showcasing students’ intellectual work and creativity in the short pre-college months. User Education Librarian Casey Long and I created an official blog for the Common Reading project during summer 2010, which currently houses some reflections on the book and announcements on related programming from Agnes Scott faculty and staff. On February 8th at 10:30 am, I will discuss the blog’s statistics and impact it’s had on the ASC community, and how we can better our efforts to WIN THE FUTURE for the Common Reading project.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, and the Internet increasingly accessible, it’s necessary not simply to imagine the future for even the most staid of traditions at Agnes Scott, but to actualize that future, and create goals accordingly. Amongst other things, it’s one reason I’m so excited the Digital Design Fellowship exists. I work to encourage students (and faculty and staff, natch) to incorporate responsible, thoughtful blogging into their academic lives. I don’t just do it for my health, but so our students will be better-acquainted with the demands of a competitive, technology-centric society. While the current Common Reading blog is an experiment in making students aware of blogging as a viable means of academic communication across disciplines, one of its goals is to get students blogging on their intellectual experience, thereby establishing a habit that continues over the course of four years.

How’s that for ambition? Anyway, so my first grown-up, super-fancy academic conference. I’m sure I’ll be the youngest participant there, which I find simultaneously amusing and exciting, so I’ll try not to embarrass myself (… or the College). The last time I was at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis was as a late-night spectator at Dragon*Con 2010.

Wish me luck for next week! Oh, and happy Monday.

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