More about me

Born in the backseat of a light blue Dodge Dart on the side of a highway in California’s Mojave Desert, I did little else of note for some years. While I always loved reading, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune and everything written by Charles Dickens, I nevertheless pursued a precarious but satisfying career as a ballet dancer in the San Francisco Bay Area before pursuing a college education. After attending wide selection of the community colleges in the Bay Area, I transferred to UC Berkeley where I finished my English degree with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa.... Read More | Share it now!

Is Whittier Scholars the path for you?

This week first year students at Whittier College are learning about the Whittier Scholars Program. An alternative to the liberal education program, Scholars allows admitted students to design their own requirements for graduation from college. Here are the slides that introduce the program to students: ... Read More | Share it now!

A new year in October

One of the things I love about the academic world is the annual cycle of beginnings and endings. Since I’ve been living in Southern California (more than 10 years now!) I’ve been especially aware of the seasonality of the academic calendar since it’s often the only way to notice seasonal change! So here it is October, and we are one month in to a new academic year. With this academic came A LOT of changes for me, and I’m only now catching my breath and able to reflect a bit. This year I am in a new role, leading the team of faculty and staff involved in Whittier College’s “Whittier Scholars Program” (#WCScholars we call it). #WCScholars is this year celebrating our 40th birthday as an alternative path to a liberal arts degree at Whittier College. Students in #WCScholars design their own majors AND ALSO they design their own entire liberal education curricula. It’s an amazingly flexible approach to education that puts undergraduates in charge of envisioning, proposing, defending, and executing their own educations. I LOVE this program, and have become increasingly involved in it for the past few years. In #WCScholars I work with an Associate Director, Charlie Eastman, one of the funnest and smartest faculty members on campus, and a Program Coordinator Joanna Diaz, who is also in a new position. So the three of us are forging a new path, trying to continue the strong program we inherited while initiating a reflective and thorough practice of regular assessment and revision. #WCScholars currently has close to 100 students spread across the full four-year curriculum. The students are each pursuing a uniquely-designed educational path that they revise each year as they learn and grow. So one of our most significant routine tasks is managing the course selections and changes of all those students each term. There is no standardized checklist of courses for any part of the program, so each student truly is creating a completely individual set of graduation requirements, requirements which then go through a faculty approval process and then go to the College Registrar to be coded into the system. And then, the following semester or year, each student changes. And that’s GOOD! Because what is education but a process of change? It’s exciting when students hone their choices, refine their goals, reenvision their plans. But it is also, currently, a whole lot of paperwork. A. WHOLE. LOT. So, to reduce paperwork and to foster integrative, metacognitive reflection by students about their choices, we are rolling out a new digital spine for the program, which we call a “Poetfolio.” (We are, after all the Whittier College Poets, a mascot as unique as our students’ educational designs.) Poetfolio will be an ePortfolio system in which all #WCScholars will collect, share, and reflect about signature learning experiences across their four years of college. We are really excited about the possibilities! It is powered by Reclaim Hosting, using open source and open access software (primarily WordPress), so that students learn useful web writing and design skills as they build and maintain their own Poetfolios. I plan to write another post soon about Poetfolio and what it does currently, and what we hope it will do soon. Please stay tuned!... Read More | Share it now!

DigLibArts 2020: “Only Connect”

[caption id="attachment_3851" align="aligncenter" width="600"] This is the first in a series of posts on DigLibArts 2020 Initiative (#dla2020) in support of sustainable innovation in the liberal arts. It is cross-posted on the blog at Diglibarts.whittier.edu.[/caption]

Ubiquitous technology challenges us to ponder and practice the values that motivate us as individuals and unite us as a community.

Digital technology can isolate us. With headphones in place, screens held up to our eyes, and thoughts far away from the present moment, we can ignore the person sitting next to us. Focused on recording a moment for posterity (or, at least, Instagram), we take photos of our food while we forget to enjoy its flavor. Intent on achieving the next level of a game, we neglect those we love. How can we free ourselves from the distractions of chiming alerts and the desire to be virtually “liked”? Can we liberate our attention? Can mindfulness coexist with the conveniences of digital technology? Can the classroom become a space for community enriched by technology rather than distracted by it? We know that ubiquitous computing (the cell phone in our pocket, for example) offers us many conveniences. Youtube how-to videos simplify household chores. GPS enables us to navigate Los Angeles traffic. Cell phone cameras record precious memories, while social media can connect us with others who share our interests. What we need, then, is to learn to use, misuse, and change technology so that it sustains rather than undermines our connections with ourselves and each other. One of my academic heroes, Bill Cronon (@wcronon), argues that just such learning is the central purpose of liberal education. Drawing inspiration from E.M. Forster’s mandate to “only connect,” Cronon concludes his deliberation on the value of a liberal education, “Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education”:
“Liberal education nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that in the end it celebrates love. Whether we speak of our schools or our universities or ourselves, I hope we will hold fast to this as our constant practice, in the full depth and richness of its many meanings: Only connect.”
How does technology support or undermine our liberal arts mission? Can we repurpose digital technology and social media to enhance our interconnections, to nurture our community values, and to contribute to our individual and collective well-being? What is the relationship between digital connections and consensus? Between supporting first generation collegians and digital literacies? Between information literacies and computing? This post is full of questions, and there are so many more worth asking and worth answering–together.
That is the purpose of the DigLibArts 2020 initiative: to support the Whittier College community’s ability to share, discuss, research, study, and hopefully come to consensus on the questions and solutions we are individually pondering. The purpose of DigLibArts 2020, in E.M. Forster’s words, is “only connect.”
What questions or challenges are you pondering? Thanks to a $700,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, DigLibArts will be offering to support faculty and staff creativity by connecting you with others on campus and off. Read more at here about DigLibArts 2020 vision and our new learning community opportunities.  ... Read More | Share it now!

Digital Literacy and the Liberal Arts Curriculum

What should a 21st century college graduate know? What should she be able to do? Why? “Today’s graduates will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet” is a commonplace these days. So how do we educate our undergraduates for that yet-to-be-imagined future? If the ways that people live, communicate, work, eat, and travel continue to transform rapidly, then the best preparation would be the ability to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” as Alvin Toffler famously declared.
“What’s your major” we ask college students, as though their area of concentration is the key purpose of college.
Even in a liberal arts college context most incoming students are primarily focused on their majors, as are their parents and friends. Choosing a major feels like a jumping-off point for their path in life. Options narrow even as expertise increases. Each course in the college catalog accrues meaning in relationship to a teleological goal: graduation. A course, in this linear framework, is like a vehicle transporting the student in a direction–courses in the major advance the student toward the goal of no longer being a student, while the required, or general education, courses are like obstacles to be overcome and  elective courses are anything from tangential explorations to disorienting excursions.   [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="925"]Ven Diagram of Digital Capabilities for Information Technology proficiency by Helen Beetham, Jisc digital capability codesign challenge blog[/caption]
 

Flipping the Curriculum

What we need to do–somehow!-is flip the curriculum. Such flipping in no way undermines the centrality and importance of a major, but instead emphasizes that specialized knowledge, the expertise of the discipline, gains value as it relates to other specializations. In other words, it is the oft-dismissed “breadth” requirements that supply the framework that allows a graduate’s expertise in the major to become legible to the world. This post is still under construction…but instead of saving it privately, I’m going to put it here to wait publicly until I can return to it and develop the ideas.... Read More | Share it now!

Come join DigLibArts!

Call for Applications Whittier College’s Digital Liberal Arts Program invites applications for adjunct instructors to teach one or both of two new introductory courses in game design and web design starting in Spring 2017, with opportunities for renewal. These media studies courses are offered within the context of a liberal arts program, and allow for creativity in course content and design. Candidates are encouraged to offer these classes in a cultural studies framework, and must be able to teach them at the times indicated. The course descriptions are below. Whittier College is an independent, four-year Liberal Arts College distinguished by its small size and its nationally recognized liberal arts program. Whittier is also a Minority Serving institution, Hispanic Serving Institution, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution. Course Descriptions: INTD 245: World Wide Web: Origins, Form, and Function (MW 11am-12:50pm)- This course will introduce students to designing and publishing for the web. Students will be prepared to produce a user driven design that is appropriate for Web-based content. Equipped with a historical understanding of the web’s evolution and key industry-standard design guidelines to ensure strong online presentation, students will have a foundational knowledge of website creation and apply it to the planning, design and development of their own web page over the course of the semester. By the end of this course students will be comfortable creating, coding and posting basic HTML and CSS files to the Internet. No previous knowledge of Web publishing is necessary. INTD 246: Introduction to Game Design (W 7-10pm)- This course offers an introduction to the fundamentals of game design and game studies. Students will gain historical background, critical cultural perspectives, and hands-on experience creating analog and digital games. Through reading, game playing, and creating their own games, they will develop their understanding of gaming as an aspect of culture. The topics will give students a broad theoretical, analytical, and conceptual understanding of game design. Topics covered include iteration, rapid prototyping, mechanics, dynamics, flow theory, the nature of fun, game balance, and user interface design. We will learn several ways to approach the design of a game, and processes and best practices for prototyping, playtesting, and balancing a game after it has been designed. Required Education and Experience:
  • MA or PhD in Media Studies, Game Studies, or the equivalent
  • Experience designing a course and as instructor of record
To apply: Please send a curriculum vitae and a sample syllabus for one or both courses to Andrea Rehn, Director, diglibarts@whittier.edu (PDFs preferred). Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.  ... Read More | Share it now!

Whittier Scholars Photo Contest

[caption id="attachment_606" align="alignleft" width="184"]2016-05-03-19-37-29 Patrick Kellycooper ’16, Best Senior Symposia at the WSP dinner. Pic: @profrehn[/caption] I’m excited that the Whittier Scholars Program here at Whittier College has just launched the beta version (or maybe alpha…) of our new ePortfolio system! This digital hub for Whittier Scholars will be rolled out over the next two years. Currently, the site is only accessible to students enrolled in the second course in the Whittier Scholars program, WSP 201*, but it will be going public once it is more fully designed. [pullquote align=center]

What’s your favorite “Scholar’s Moment”? Do you have a photograph of it?

[/pullquote] That’s where you all come in. What started as a friendly rivalry between Andrea Rehn and Lia Kozatch ’08 is now open to all. Last year, Lia and I would each take pictures from and around Wardman Hall (often at sunset) and post them to the Facebook group. Then we started competing for the best image…and so this idea was born. We are having a Photo Contest to shape the new website design! The contest is open to all current Whittier Scholars and all alumni of the program. The purpose of the contest is to find an image for the header for the new site, Scholars.Domains. We’re looking for your pictures of what the WSP means to you. This could be Wardman Hall (inside or outside), class experiences, events, Senior Symposia, living in the dorm, working on projects, studying abroad, doing internships…any aspect of your experience as a Whittier Scholar that you want to share. Please enter early and often! Here’s how to enter:
  1. Join the Whittier Scholars Facebook group (open to current WSP students and all WSP alumni.)**
  2. Post a photograph of or from Wardman Hall and/or pictures of your favorite “WSP moments.” (If there are people in your photos, please make sure you have their permission to share their images!)
  3. Use the hashtag #WSPerspectives when you post your photo to the Facebook group, so we will know it’s part of the contest***.
  4. There is no limit to the number of photos you can submit. Just please post each on in a separate Facebook post, include the hashtag and the photographer’s name so we can credit them appropriately.
  5. Post by Monday October 31 at midnight.
  6. Once all images are posted, the WSP Council will choose finalists, and repost the finalists to the Facebook group.
  7. ALL MEMBERS of the Facebook group–alumni, faculty, and current student–will be able to vote for their favorites by “liking” the image.
  8. Winners will become part of the Whittier Scholars website, and photo credit will be included for all photos.
*WSP 201, “Designing Your Education,” is a one-unit course in which students develop and share the college curriculum they will pursue while at Whittier. You can read about the WSP’s developmental process for self-designed curriculum at our main website. **If you are not a Facebook user, you can still compete! Just email your photo to Lia Kozatch, lkozatch@whittier.edu, or to another friend in the program, and ask them to post it for you. ***By sharing these photos, you are giving Whittier College permission to reuse them, and you will receive credit when images are published.... Read More | Share it now!

Slides from Council of Independent Colleges, Consortium on Digital Resources

I had a wonderful time presenting tonight at the opening dinner for the Consortium. (My first keynote. So glad it’s over, and that you all kindly laughed at the jokes.) Thanks so much to Susan Barnes Whyte for the invitation, and to Richard Ekman for the opportunity. Here are my slides. Please get in touch if you have any questions. I’m always reachable on Twitter: @profrehn.   ... Read More | Share it now!