Team Sylvia Update

Charge! Sylvia Onder’s TLT work advances on multiple fronts. In her new “Anthropology, Colonialism, and Islam” course, students are using a blog to co-ordinate their collective work on both a Dipity timeline and on a Google map. Sylvia reports that her students are linking between the timeline and map and the blog, where their detailed entries are located. The resource they are creating for each other (and potentially, for outside audiences as well), will be a navigable storyline of intercultural interaction across much of the globe, from the 15th century to the present. Sylvia reports in her blog that one student had expressed reservations about blogging, but that by starting the process early on, the course would not favor more regular bloggers who may be more comfortable with the tools and the style(s) of writing involved.

The map is integrated right into the blog, using a WordPress plugin that we modified to make it easier to use. The timeline is accessed at This proved to be less fluid for Sylvia and her students, as they had to set up separate accounts, and she had to ‘follow’ them through her Dipity account. We searched for Dipity timeline plugins for WordPress, but as there are none currently available, we made an attempt to write our own. This requires some support from Dipity, which we are still working on getting. We’re looking forward to setting this up in the future, if there are interested faculty. Please contact me at CNDLS if you have an interest.

Sylvia had already started her Turkish language students on eportfolio blogs, and this year, she is working on extending eportfolio use throughout the Turkish curriculum. These should make a great example of eportfolios which show the development of language proficiency over time. The examples she has shown us so far also make good use of video and other media.

In Sylvia’s “Introduction to Medical Anthropology” course, she needs for students to be able to post with absolute anonymity. She hasn’t been able to achieve this using Blackboard, so we wrote another WordPress plugin for her. Using this plugin, when students assign a blog post to the “anonymous” category, the post does not get attributed to them but to “Anonymous User.” It would be very difficult to determine who the original poster was. Hopefully, this will give students the proper environment in which to make potentially sensitive, and useful, comments.

Perhaps the most exciting development in Sylvia’s work involves her growing collaboration with Gallaudet University, in a project that is coming to be called, “GU squared” (not to be confused with the “G squared” project between the GU Medical School and George Mason University). Sylvia’s students will be chatting live and asynchronously with a group of Gallaudet students addressing the notion of being ‘fixed’ by technology, and what that means for deaf culture. They will also take a trip to Gallaudet to meet each other and kick off the collaboration.

Also, under Paulina Maldonado’s direction, and with Ryan Walter’s video production and post-production skills, the CNDLS video team has already begun shooting footage of a Gallaudet production called, “Visible Impact,” directed by Susan Lynskey of Gallaudet. “Visible Impact”¬†features original works by Gallaudet students and will premiere at Georgetown as the centerpiece of the¬†DiverseABILITY Forum (Oct 21-23). Students involved in the production will be interviewed for the documentary piece, as well as students from Sylvia’s medical anthropology course. Two edited pieces are planned, both of which will share footage, ideas, and live and/or online discussions between the students and the performers around articles selected for the course.

We’re very excited about the great work moving forward and about helping Sylvia’s students to create meaningful resources about real issues.

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