Group Research Project, Spring 2005
What It Is
For those who choose not to do an Individual Research Project, students in each section will break up into groups of between 2-4 people each; each group will focus on an author of their choice and produce a web page or pages devoted to his or her novel; these pages will be organized and designed by a web master or web masters in each section; and both section's sites will become part of a Science Fiction @ SUNY Fredonia web site. Groups may choose to use any combination of literary criticism, historical criticism, cultural criticism, or interdisciplinary criticism and to divide up the researching, writing, and editing labor as they see fit. Each group in each section will work independently, although individuals are encouraged to collaborate and exchange useful information within and across groups/sections.
Hence, students will join working groups at the beginning of the semester, complete their author page(s) and an activities journal during the semester, and turn in the former to their section's web master and the latter to me near the end of the semester. (Each section will have at least one student web master responsible for designing that section's index page and developing a page or pages for each author group.) By the end of the semester, we will have produced web pages for a good range of authors and novels in the course and designed them in such a way that the two sections' sites come together as a Science Fiction @ SUNY Fredonia web site.
Section 1: Here are the section 1 author groups; the name in each group with the star[*] after it is the group rep [to be determined], who will be the contact person with other reps and with the web masters (Becky Adams and Josh Kopstein). Click here for the Section 1 pages.
Duties, Responsibilities, Expectations
What It's For
Last fall and winter, while considering a culminating project for the course, a final exam or a final research paper didn't seem too attractive to me, because I've noticed that students tend to put off studying or researching till the last minute and usually fail to do their best work under the time and energy constraints of the last two weeks of the semester. Plus, knowing that I'd have many graduating seniors in the course (given the way Fredonia's course selection process favors seniority), I didn't want them to leave Fredonia with the same old final project options and hence to graduate without doing anything less than their best work in my course simply out of boredom or burnout.
So I started thinking--what ought I to do instead? How can I come up with a final project that fulfills many of the same purposes as an exam or a research paper, but that would be more interesting, fun, and rewarding to do and that would allow students to work on it consistently throughout the semester? One that would help them make the transition from being a Fredonia student to becoming whatever they would become after graduation, but that would still be valuable for the occasional underclassman (and -woman) who got into the course? One that would require them to put in consistent effort, to push themselves, to work with others and on their own, and to draw together everything they were learning in the course?
Well, over time, I began to realize that in my own planning to teach the course and process of course design, I was relying a lot on the web to get my hands on basic information in the field--background on major authors, works, movements, and themes, histories of the genre, and various examples of courses and criticism were a lot easier to get through google and the databases that Fredonia's library makes available to me (and to my future students) than trudging to the library in 10-degree weather and leaving my wife and 1-year-old daughter home alone. So as I designed the course web site, I made certain to give credit on our own links page to the science fiction sites that influenced me the most and that I found most useful and interesting on the web. That's when I realized: why not require my students to produce their own science fiction information and research web site for the course's final project? What better way to build on the enthusiasm that had students stopping me in the hallway last semester to find out which authors and works I would be teaching, that led to almost 90 people getting turned away from the first section during the course selection period, that had the Fredonia Science Fiction Fantasy Gamers' Guild giving me feedback during the late fall on possibilities I was considering, that gave me the impetus to open up another section, that filled it up within a week, and that had people emailing me during the winter break for the syllabus? Why not try to give back to those who had helped me without knowing it--and to others who might find themselves in my position down the road--by giving my students responsibility for planning, designing, implementing, and revising a Science Fiction @ SUNY Fredonia web site?
Despite some turbulence along the way--including a rejection by both sections of my original plan for the site--I remain committed to the idea that students who wish to follow this option will run with the responsibility I was putting in their hands: to represent, through the choices they make in designing and producing the SF@SF site, what a Fredonia education prepares students to do when they are given the task of collectively making something not just for themselves or for me, but potentially for anyone in the world with a web browser, an interest in science fiction, and the good taste to click on our site. Even the arduous process of coming to a consensus on the retooled scope/scale/goals of the site and the structure/roles/process of making it is part of my teaching philosophy or putting as much responsibility in my students' hands as possible and pushing them to consider possible consequences of their choices so as to make the best possible decisions.
Those remaining in the GRP will draw on their own readings and interpretations, our class discussions and group teaching presentations, our reflective essays and critical essays, their research and collaboration, and the skills and talents they've developed in their other courses and in their lives to produce a web site they can be proud of. Hopefully this project will simulate some possible 'real world' experiences they might soon be having in the working world--probably not directly in terms in science fiction or web authoring, but more generally in the types of research, writing, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and collaborative skills valued by most employers today.
How To Do It
Given that the basic tenet of this project is putting responsibilities in students' hands, I've supported student suggestions to retool the GRP to maximize individual and group flexibility, autonomy, initiative, and efficiency. Of course, anyone may contact me if you want advice at any time on any topic, or if you see a developing problem I should troubleshoot. I'm available during office hours and by appointment, by email and telephone, so don't hesitate to let me know how I can help you.
Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of factors: the quality of the web pages to which you contributed research, writing, and/or editorial or design work; my assessment of your ability to work with others effectively and contributions to the group dynamic; my overall assessment of your contribution to the SF@SF site, as evidenced by your activities log; and my assessment of your overall performance relative to the duties, responsibilities, and expectations laid out on this page.
ENGL 216: Science Fiction, Spring 2005
Created: 4/14/05 3:58 pm
Last Modified: 5/9/05 1:07 pm