Comm Tech Major 2.0


This fall we’ll be rolling out a redesign of the York College Communications Technology major. In a discipline in which there is constant change, we’ve always worked to keep our courses and curriculum fresh. In the past we’ve made minor adjustments to the curriculum, but it was time for a bigger overhaul and refocus of our core concentrations.

At the foundation of the redesign is the redevelopment of the programs’ stated goals which is for our students to:

  • Develop a deep sense of why we create and value stories and how nascent communications technologes are affecting ideas of narrative.
  • Explore a variety of digital and non-digital technologies and develop a sense of agency with these tools, so that they have control over what they want to make.
  • Cultivate a sense of digital citizenship by regularly narrating and sharing their process as a creative and critical practitioners as well as engaging other practitioners in a reflective manner to foster community and growth.

We have two new classes that will set the foundation for these goals. One is the reworked CT 101 Digital Storytelling which has been piloted and taught with the help of DS106 out of the University of Mary Washington. The course requires students to build a domain of their own, tell digital stories through a variety of multi-media projects, and narrate their process. The class is inspired by the work of Jim Groom and Gardner Campbell who have both lead the way in theorizing the value of teaching students to establish and cultivate their digital identities in the context of their academic and professional lives.

The second class at the core is CT 137 Hacking and Building which we will be conducting in the fledgling makerspace we are building. The lab will have a variety of tools and resources including basic electronics, project computers and micro-controllers, 3D printers, and any variety of things you might find at a typical workbench. The goal is to foster in our students a sense of agency with technology through the (re)design of physical objects. Students will be required to imagine something they wish to build, brainstorm, troubleshoot, and iterate on what they make. We will be conducting the first section of the class on the Maker Commons, a community website we’re helping to create, dedicated to sharing ideas and examples of ‘making’ in curriculum.

The idea of bringing this kind of hands on learning inspired by the DIY and DIWO culture of making has been picking up traction in education and recently commented on by Audrey Watters a renowned EdTech Blogger and Dale Dougherty the founder and publisher of MAKE magazine. Though the makerspace will serve as a location to teach our Hacking and Building course, we hope to see faculty and students from across disciplines come and find interesting ways of incorporating projects into their teaching and learning.

The next big change to the major is we’ve reduced to two concentrations – Television Production and Web Design & Development – replacing the previous three concentrations. The Television Production concentration is a reworking of the ‘digital video concentration’ and continues our focus on non-fiction TV. Web Design & Development is somewhat of an amalgam of the two concentrations of ‘computer graphics’ and ‘systems and applications.’ The renaming and refocusing of the coursework in both we believe gives students a more clear understanding of their course of study, and a deeper understanding of the field they are concentrating in.

We’ve also reworked the CT minor which a reflects changes to the major and for the first time allows a student to pick concentration in their minor – Television Production or Web Design & Development.

With these changes, we feel we’ve dramatically improved the course of study for our students and will allow us to readily adapt to future developments in the communications technology field.

Students entering York College in the fall of 2013 will automatically follow the new curriculum’s guidelines. Students already majoring in Communications Technology will follow the older curriculum guidelines. These students may choose to opt into the new curriculum, but should get advisement from the program coordinator Michael Branson Smith.

About the Author

Michael Smith is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Communications Technology program at York College. Prof. Smith hosts a personal digital archive project blog on Commons titled It Cannot Be Trivial.