Upcoming Course: Social Media and Social Change (Summer 2011)

About the Course

In light of recent uprisings and political transformations in several Arab counties in North Africa and the surrounding region (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan), activists on the ground have expressed appreciation for online social networks like Facebook, and micro-blogging services like Twitter in helping to provide access to a broader public sphere and the tools to organize online and mobilize offline. Many scholars and journalists are making claims for the causal relationships between social media and social change. This class attempts to parse these claims and contextualize the phenomena within social movement studies, political science, and communication studies of the affordances and uses of social media.

Course Description

Social media sites and services (e.g microblogs-Twitter, social network sites-Facebook, user content sites-YouTube) are recognized as important tools for distributed reporting, raising awareness, organizing offline participation, and engaging a broader public sphere. In spite of these benefits, limitations arise with regard to privacy and surveillance, the lack of control over one's data, as well as the participation gap where many do not have access or the skills to use new media. "Do social media hinder or help democratic citizenship?" This class sets out to answer this question by examining the opportunities and limitations of using social media to support activism, advocacy, and democratic participation. In addition, students will have opportunities to create their own social media campaigns.

Featured Course: New Media Ethics

About the Course

In New Media Ethics (Fall 2010), students completed the semester by producing the e-publication "New media ethics: Framing ethical issues in digital media and online culture," a collection of collaboratively authored articles available for download on the class Wiki. This publication offers a set of frameworks and case studies to be used as an entry point into ethically engaging with digital media. Each article explores an ethical dilemma in digital media and attempts to frame responses that can help lead to appropriate choices, decisions, actions, and/or outcomes. The reader is invited to consider reflection questions to help think through their own responses to these digital dilemmas.

Course Description

This course is designed as a series of case studies used to critically reflect on ethical issues in new media, the Internet, information systems, computers, and digital culture. Students are equipped to engage in discussions about controversial and topical issues using diverse ethical approaches such as virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, feminist ethics of care, Confucian and African frameworks. Subjects covered in the class include: privacy on search engines and social network sites, professional ethics of online journalism, cross-cultural communication ethics, ethics of computer games and virtual worlds, Internet filtering and censorship, Wikileaks and online anonymity, intellectual property and convergence culture, youth practices, digital inclusion, and research ethics.

Course Recommendation

" I recommend New Media Ethics to any student at a the College of Mount St. Joseph, as a way to not only learn about Communication Studies but about current New Media topics in the world today. Professor Bodle does a great job of helping to cover the subject matter of the course, and prompting in and out of class discussion. This class does a great job of balancing current New Media dilemmas and helping the student learn about basic ethical frameworks that they can use to analyze ethical issues beyond the subject matter of the class. The participants are asked to not only read the material presented, but to also view current New Media dilemmas, analyze them and formulate an ethical viewpoint of their own. But, the students are also asked to listen and to keep an open mind to the views of others as a way to practice the ethical frameworks. The students are also asked to use many new media tools as a way to familiarize themselves with issues that are covered in class. This course does a great job of challenging and engaging the students with an interdisciplinary structure that still stays true to Communication Studies." Drew Fox, Student, College of Mount St. Joseph

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Featured Course: Human Rights in the Digital Age

About the Course

My new course Human Rights in the Digital Age was offered for the first time this Summer. Students gained insight into how information and communication technologies and networked media both uphold and undermine Human Rights. I have posted some reflections on teaching the course on my blog.

Course Description

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), negotiated and affirmed by governments of the Unites Nations, stand as a firm commitment to uphold and protect fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of each person and the equal rights of men and women. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) present tremendous opportunities to enable individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life. This course explores each section of the UDHR as applied to the Internet, to examine how the Internet can evolve in a way that further expands and supports these rights.
View course Wiki

Course Recommendation

"Dr. Robert Bodle is an outstanding professor at the College of Mount Saint Joseph. He is extremely passionate concerning Human Rights in the Digital Age which was a recent course I pursued at the College of Mount Saint Joseph. He is engaging, understanding, energetic, and intelligent. His extensive knowledge intertwined with his creativity opens up a whole new arena of thought. Best of all, he is approachable, and is always willing to answer any questions. I came away from this course exceedingly knowledgeable with the intricacies of new digital technology with human rights implications. I highly endorse Professor Bodle's teaching style and if I get a chance to work with him again in the future, I will surely enjoy another academic encounter under his tutelage. Marianne Carella Supply Chain Professional" Marianne Carella, Student, College of Mount St. Joseph, July 28, 2010

Featured Course: New Media and Society

About the Course

An upper-division undergraduate course I developed, New Media and Society, utilizes new media for instructional delivery and social learning. Social learning "shifts the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated" (Brown & Adler, 2008, p. 4). The course utilizes a class wiki and blog, online learning objects, YouTube videos, virtual environments, and computer and video games to extend the classroom and provide new contexts for peer-interaction. Students are invited to connect the course content to their own lives by sharing their online experiences and interests in class and online. Using new media to teach New Media and Society increases my interaction with students, but it also helps support the study of new media as it shapes and influences our society.

Course Description

This course focuses on developing students' knowledge, understanding, and critical assessment of new media and their relationship to society. New media is defined as mobile and Web based technologies, platforms, and texts - user generated (blogs, YouTube videos, Wikipedia entries), mainstream (news, games, movies, advertising), and hybrid (crossmedia communication).

Issues course examines include: intellectual property rights and creative freedom, privacy and surveillance, the political economy of New Media, telecommunication law and policy, implications of commons-based production, information justice (access and education), journalism and new media, activism on the Internet, virtual environments for educators and instruction, the Internet's influence on youth development (Digital Natives), and the implications of social media in participatory culture.
View course syllabus
View course blog

Course Recommendation

"I would recommend COM 350K (New Media and Society) to any college student, especially those at The College of Mount St. Joseph. The course is exactly what the institution needs—a course that facilitates the introduction, understanding and implications of new media on our lives. The class is far from your typical COM class…it spotlights new, exciting, and important technologies—blogs, wikis, social networking, and more. You may spend one class exploring Facebook, Google, building a class wiki, blogging, or even meeting up virtually on SecondLife! This class will help you view new media as a viable and significant global communication tool. The course is well-taught, highly interactive, and very helpful in a world where it seems like everything is going digital." Allison Rotundo, Spring 2009

Teaching Philosophy and Approach

Creating a Healthy Climate

I have found healthy climates to be a gateway to trusting, sharing, confirming, and most importantly, learning. If students are not comfortable they will tune the professor out no matter how impassioned or expert they are in their field. I work quite hard to create a comfortable and trusting environment (climate) in all of my classes. I establish a common ground by disclosing some of my life experiences, "integrating life and learning," so that students perceive me to be a unique individual. Part of my approach, then, is to connect with students using real life examples and sharing my own opinions while encouraging counter-positions, even rewarding those who disagree and take a well-argued stand on an issue. In class discussion, I often push students to clarify, articulate, and provide supporting evidence. I also use class discussion to confront fallacious arguments including contradiction and hasty generalization. But I am only able to push students to test and challenge their thinking because there is a basis of trust that is established. Students know that they will not lose face if they change their minds, fight hard for their positions, and express themselves. I work to foster a healthy class climate, enabling me to guide student learning through humor, self-disclosure about my own learning process, (including my reasoning and active scholarship), and by establishing mutual respect.

Respecting Diversity

Establishing mutual respect requires acknowledging and supporting diversity in the classroom. Diversity of opinion often expresses social standpoints based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic background, and life experience. Adult learners, first generation college students, people of color, people from working class backgrounds, and others are empowered in classes that respect diversity of opinion, race, class, faith, and sexual orientation. By responding positivity to diversity I encourage a healthy climate that enables student learning, independent thinking, and social learning.

Watching Me Think: Collaborating in the Learning Process

Hubert Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, suggests that there is no one right way to teach, rather each class is a collaboration with students who are encouraged to think through problems, issues, and material along with the instructor. Dreyfus explains that he encourages his students to watch him think. This suggests that that while instructors impart knowledge, they are also learning with students. I provide access to my learning process by integrating my research and scholarship into lectures and class discussion. Students are encouraged to watch me think, to see how I frame issues and arguments, use evidence to support my assertions, and challenge assumptions. Students are encouraged to collaborate with me in testing my hypotheses, claims, theses, and findings.

Social Learning in the Digital Age

Recent studies suggest that students of today (Milleneals, Net generation and digital natives) primarily learn through social interaction and self-directed learning. In their essay, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 (2008), Brown and Adler suggest that learning involves participation, peering, informal environments, and collective problem solving. In a recent study, Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project (Ito, Horst, Bittani, boyd, Herr-Stephenson, Lange, & Pascoe, 2008), teens were found to learn online in the least likely of places, in chatrooms, on social network sites (SNSs like Facebook), virtual worlds, and gaming environments. Young people in the digital age are often gathering information by "grazing," taking a "deep dive," and through the "feed-back loop" (2008). Students scan information from several sources (both offline and online), dive deeper into topics of interest (geek out), and engage with this information by reworking it in many online platforms, sharing with others. To better adapt to how young people learn in the digital age. I try to guide instead of control students' education. I provide online resources, assignments, and environments to encourage social learning both inside and outside the classroom. I often set up course wikis with all course material posted online including: PowerPoints, journals, readings and viewings. I also provide blog sites for students to share information and engage with the course material in a more informal context. And I am actively exploring ways virtual worlds can be used in higher learning. By collaborating in the learning process and providing social learning contexts, I encourage students to be "self-directed learners" and "responsible decision-makers."