Category Archives: Digital pedagogy examples

The Humanities in the Digital World–and at DLD in Germany

I recently gave a talk about “The Humanities in the Digital World” at DLD Summer in Munich, Germany. The DLD conference (which stands for Digital – Life – Design) bills itself as “a global network on innovation, digitization, science and culture which connects business, creative and social leaders, opinion-formers and influencers for crossover conversation and inspiration,” and it is organized by one of the biggest media companies in Europe, Burda Media. Similar to its much bigger North American cousin TED, DLD seeks to bring cutting-edge topics  and ideas to the forefront of the cultural conversation in Europe. I was honored and very happy to see DLD pick up the Humanities topic and let it enter the fray with a focus on the urgency of education for digital literacy, digital citizenship, and lifelong learning.

MUNICH/GERMANY - JUNE 23: Steffi Czerny (DLD, r.) introduces Petra Dierkes-Thrun (Stanford University) to the podium during the DLDsummer15 Conference at the Allianz Auditorium on June 23, 2015 in Munich, Germany. DLDsummer took place for the very first time focusing on the interface between technology, health and lifestyle through digitalization (Photo: picture alliance for DLD/Jan Haas)

MUNICH/GERMANY – JUNE 23: Steffi Czerny (DLD, r.) introduces Petra Dierkes-Thrun (Stanford University) to the podium during the DLDsummer15 Conference at the Allianz Auditorium on June 23, 2015 in Munich, Germany. DLDsummer took place for the very first time focusing on the interface between technology, health and lifestyle through digitalization (Photo: picture alliance for DLD/Jan Haas)


These topics were also front and center at a panel discussion in which Esther Wojcicki, Gabriele Zedlmayer and I shared our perspectives (with Esther addressing K-12, me speaking about higher education, and Gabi looking at it from the point of view of the workplace), engaging with a lively audience at the Amerikahaus in Munich. Judging from conversations at DLD and the Amerikahaus, Germany may still lag a little bit behind Silicon Valley when it comes to digital learning, but there is a hunger for critical reflection and intellectual discussions of pedagogy that we in Silicon Valley can only learn from.

On June 21 and 22, DLDsummer takes place for the very first time focusing on the interface between technology, health and lifestyle through digitalization. Photo: Picture Alliance for DLD/ Jan Haas

On June 21 and 22, DLDsummer takes place for the very first time focusing on the interface between technology, health and lifestyle through digitalization.
Photo: Picture Alliance for DLD/ Jan Haas

DLD Academy 4

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A new Stanford course, a new Twitter role-play: #Frankensteinplay

As part of this quarter’s investigations into the ways social media and technology can enhance, complement and translate the study of literary classics in my new Stanford class,”Literature and Social Online Learning,” my students tried out a literary Twitter role-play for themselves: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to be impersonated, interpreted, spoofed and socially connected for two days and nights over Halloween, October 30 and 31, 2014, with the hashtag #Frankensteinplay. This time, the prompt for the play was a virtual literary conceit: Victor Frankenstein, hot in pursuit of his Creature on the Arctic ice,  and presumably shortly before he gets picked up by Walton’s ship, falls asleep on the ice one night and has a nightmarish vision of being in front of the gates of hell, where he is verbally assaulted by all sorts of shady and illustrious characters from literature, history, popular culture, even sports (dead or alive). They were allowed to ask @victorasleep questions or prompt him to respond, using  #pokefrank as the hashtag, or  try to get into a direct dialogue with the Creature himself, @franksdaemon, who was (strangely) reachable in the virtual world via #pokemonster.

(Note for context: I first developed the idea of a literary role-play on Twitter for Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray back in October 2012. I have blogged about that experience here, and posted prompts for two more role-plays here and here.)

The full Storify of #Frankensteinplay is now available.  Some wonderful things happened this time ….

Because it was Halloween, people combined their Halloween experience with their novel-reading and role-playing experience and merged the physical event (trick-or-treating, party-going on Halloween) with the virtual one (the Twitter role-play) by posting pictures of decorations or themselves in costume, making costume-related jokes, and bringing Frankenstein’s creature together with other monsters to give him some company on Halloween.

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The instructors (Petra Dierkes-Thrun and Sebastian Thrun) made a special effort to dress the part for the role-play, doing their best to look credible as a Zombie Creature and a Haunted Bride (Elizabeth).

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They even enrolled their six-year-old son, who doubled as a (very changed) little William.

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The role-play announcement was widely retweeted and picked up on Twitter. At least one other literature professor assigned the role-play to her English class for extra credit:

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For the first time ever, a Twitterbot (built by @stargould, currently teaching her great Augmenting Realities 2.0 class at Duke University).


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In addition to the bot’s uncanny visits, not one but TWO virtual avatars from other digital writing projects related to the Hybrid Pedagogy journal and operated by one of its founders, Jesse Stommel (@jessifer), tweeted with us and engaged the novel in creative ways: @MOOCMOOC is a grumpy virtual monster who eats MOOCs (and presumably people in MOOCs if they are not careful), and @digiduck is the virtual mascot duck developed for DigiWriMo (Digital Writing Month, a digital writing project running along NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which is happening every November).  @digiduck is clearly good with words and likes punning, in this case on the famous last line of Frankenstein, which sees the monster disappearing into the dark night:

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On the Road with Lolita and Humbert Humbert: A Public Literary Role-Play on Twitter

The most notorious road trip in American literature, live on Twitter next week!

24 hours only: THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 2014 (anywhere in the world)

Follow @LolitaRoadtrip, use hashtag #lolitatrip on Twitter to find and play with us!lolita2

Join our Stanford University Literature and Transgression class as we take to the road with two of American literature’s most famous characters, Lolita and Humbert Humbert. Follow and interact with them as they travel through America, meet many strange and interesting characters (some of whom may be on the run themselves), and stop at notorious sights and watering holes along the way. Embody your favorite character from Nabokov’s novel or tweet as an author or character of other scandalous literary works or films (road movies!), popular culture or history, or make up memorable characters of your own.

Make sure you include your character’s name at the start of each of your tweets so we know who “you” are. Feel free to switch your persona, include links and visuals, be creative and engage others directly. Make sure you include that hashtag, #lolitatrip, so we see your tweet!

Sample tweets:

  • LOLITA: Daddy-O is getting on my nerves again about enchanted hunters and stuff. I’d rather hunt for cute clothes. #lolitatrip
  • MOTEL OWNER: Why did they not ask for a rollaway? Better keep my eyes on this guy. #lolitatrip
  • EMMA BOVARY to Lolita: I know of a really lovely county fair nearby. Worth a stop! #lolitatrip
  • Milton’s SATAN: Getting ready for you any day now, Humb. Hear you’re a smooth talker like myself. Enjoy that evil #lolitatrip while it lasts!
  • HAROLD (from Harold and Maude): You’re so young. Not my thing. #lolitatrip
  • RYAN GOSLING: Hey girl, look here … #lolitatrip

More details:

Lolita is a 14-year-old, fully social-media-savvy teenager. She has a smartphone, secret thoughts and agenda, and lots of contact with other people as she travels with Humbert Humbert. She visits internet cafes, chat rooms, may sometimes even “borrow” strangers’ phones. She loves comics, fashion, pop culture, so she often also posts visuals or links to stuff she likes. Humbert Humbert is a true technophobe, so he mostly has no clue about Lolita’s electronic life as they travel–which may be one reason why he truly doesn’t know her. Through the Twitter role-play, we get a privileged insight into Lolita’s character and thoughts via her tweets, instant messages, and postings. Don’t forget that she may also be into emoticons …

You can invent new characters or expand existing ones in Nabokov’s novel, even dead ones ( e.g. Charlotte Haze, a brawny mechanic who talks to Lolita at a gas station, hotel chambermaid who makes up HH’s and Lolita’s room, a former student of HH’s, someone at a restaurant who looks at Lolita and HH and wonders what they are doing, etc.) Is anybody back home wondering about Lo and her stepfather? Had she confided in any friends at school or camp? Are any friends, moms or teachers suspicious or worried? What’s happening to the Hazes’ empty house?

Other characters, authors from literary texts, or authors or ideas from theoretical texts about transgression also tweet. E.g., what commentary or advice would Madame Bovary, Bataille, Madame Edwarda, Herod, Satan, or Sam Delany have for Humbert Humbert or Lolita? How would “the Limit” tweet? What would “Transgression” say? How would “Carnival” chime in? etc.

Suggestions for intertextual tweeting:

Some transgressive works that our Stanford class has read and discussed as a class this quarter (besides Lolita) and that may enter our mix of tweets include the following–but feel free to add your own books, movies, or favorite authors to our transgressive road trip!

  • Ibsen’s Ghosts
  • Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
  • Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost (Satan passages)
  • Wilde’s Salome
  • Bataille’s Madame Edwarda
  • Excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses, Samuel Delany’s Hogg, Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless
  • Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home
  • Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto (and Valentine de Saint-Point’s Futurist-Feminist response)
  • Ionesco’s The Chairs
  • Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”

For information about previous literary Twitter role-plays about Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and a Decadent Twitter Soiree, please click here and here.

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Dorian Gray and Friends: A Decadent Twitter Soirée


Update: The Storify of this Twitter role play is now at …


It is time to do a public literary role play on Twitter again! After the smashing success of last year’s 24-hour role play, in which hundreds of people from all over the world participated and lit up the Twitterverse with their wit and creativity, my Stanford students and I are ready to do it again–and to add some new twists and tweaks. Play with fictional characters not just from from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray but also from other Decadent novels, plays,  and visual artworks, impersonate a Decadent author or artist at our virtual soirée, or visit Dorian Gray’s Shopping and To Do List on our new PINTEREST page. There are also rumors of Dorian Gray’s Portrait getting ready to rumble over there in the Facebook attic. (I’m sure that old chum will have interesting things to reveal while Dorian fools around with his friends on Twitter.)

Please join us! Spread the word, invite your students and colleagues, and get ready for 24 hours of unabashed 19th- and 21st-century Decadence on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, lasting a full 24 hours, day and night (like any self-respecting Decadent party).  Feel free to dress up in mask, tie, or cocktail attire and read on for all the juicy details below.


Pick a fictional character from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray or from any Decadent or Symbolist literary work–such as Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Huysmans’ Against Nature, Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus, Wilde’s Salomé or  “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” Baudelaire’s or Mallarmé’s poetry, etc.–or from the visual art of the period, such as Gustave Moreau’s Herod in L’Apparition, Klimt’s Judith, Franz von Stuck’s Sin, etc.  Tweet at least three brief statements (140 characters or less) addressed to Dorian Gray or another guest at this Decadent Twitter party throughout the course of the day.  Alternatively or in addition, feel free to impersonate a contemporaneous Decadent, Symbolist, or other author or artist writing to Dorian.  Possible authors or artists to consider might be Huysmans, Flaubert, Zola, Mallarme, Aubrey Bearsdley, Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, etc. Your tweets can include links to visual art–for instance, imagine Redon trying to sell his Ammonaria lithograph to Dorian with a few juicy words, or Beardsley submitting a sketch of attendees at Dorian’s latest orgy for Dorian’s consideration, or Moreau insisting that Des Esseintes and Dorian really misunderstood his Salome pictures … 

You may tweet in character as one or more people throughout the play, and let your character speak from a 19th- or a 21st-century perspective, since we are pretty sure some ghosts from the pasts will turn up and be eager to catch Dorian up on current events, culture, and the latest Decadent haunts on the internet.

And if you have some lingering bad feelings about your host, give Dorian a piece of your mind! Tell him what you think of him and his actions, lament or rejoice at his demise, assure him of your sympathy, flirt with him, insult him, adore him, ask him about his private doings, offer help, offer goods or decadent indulgences, give advice, heckle or praise, etc.–whatever tickles your fancy. Tell Dorian what you’ve always wanted to tell him but never dared to say. Be creative, be bold, be daring.  Snark, wit, and nostalgia are all welcome.  If you’re lucky, Dorian Gray will personally reply to you via our direct and personal line to the fictional and real dead, @wildedecadents!

Important: Please include the name of your chosen character and the hashtag #digwilde somewhere in your tweet. Post your tweets any time during your calendar day (24 hours) on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  

Here are some sample tweets so you can get an idea of the possible format:

  • DORIAN: Spent the longest time in the closet. Couldn’t decide what to wear to the opera tonight. #digwilde
  • BASIL: This is too much. Next time, I’m painting a landscape. #digwilde
  • SIBYL: Dorian, I pine for you. The water is so cold! Take care of mother… #digwilde
  • SAINT ANTHONY: I wonder if I was reading the wrong book. #digwilde
  • RAOULE: Dorian, I have a thing or two to teach you. Bring your tools. #digwilde
  • EVE (from Stuck’s “Sensuality”): I dunno why you prefer bees to snakes, Dorian. My garden: more fun than yours. #digwilde

Possible fictional characters you might want to consider impersonating are

  • Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward, Sibyl Vane, Alan Campbell, Hetty, Gladys, Lady Henry (from Dorian Gray)
  • Dorian’s portrait
  • Des Esseintes, a Jesuit priest, Miss Urania (from A rebours)
  • Raoule de Vénerande, Raittolbe, Jacques, Aunt Ermengarde, Marie Silvert (from Monsieur Vénus)
  • Beauty from Baudelaire’s “Hymn to Beauty” or the swan of “The Swan”
  • Saint Anthony, Hilarion, the Buddha from Flaubert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony
  • The old man in Mallarmé’s “The Windows”
  • Jean Delville’s “Idol of Perversity”
  • a Rossetti or Waterhouse beauty, such as Pandora or Circe
  • or any other character from a Decadent or Symbolist novel, play, essay, poem, or art work you’d like to impersonate in order to “talk back” to Dorian
  • … but we know you’ll come up with even better ideas! Let’s play!


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Students Turning into Teachers: “Queer Literature and Film” Turned Inside Out

Update: the outcomes of the students’ ideas for their teaching projects in my Queer Literature and Film class at Stanford last quarter are now accessible through our class website.

Please check out the original assignment prompt and context here and find the students’ wonderful final projects here.

The number of students in this particular seminar was rather small (six students, mixed undergraduate and graduate), but I was blown away by students’ inventiveness and motivation as they designed their own syllabi/teaching sequences for others at the end of the course: one unit on bisexuality; a four-week sequence on trans of color critique; one unit on heteronormativity and queer identity aimed at high school students; an entire ten-week syllabus on the literary history of sex, including a unit on feminism and pornography.

Students turning into teachers, applying what they have learned and deepening it by teaching others: I hope this final class assignment and the students’ amazing responses to it will inspire others and live on. This is what learning in and for the public looks like!

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