Jeremy Birnholtz, Curriculum Innovation Award Recipient

Curriculum Innovation Award, 2017

Award recipient Jeremy Birnholtz is an associate professor of communication studies in the School of Communication and an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science (by courtesy) in the McCormick School of Engineering. Jeremy also directs Northwestern’s Social Media Lab and is the founding coordinator of the undergraduate curriculum module in Digital Media. This summer, he will develop a course that helps undergraduates develop digital literacy. Through a series of informal workshops, students will develop valuable knowledge communication strategies required for interactions with software engineers and developers.

Computing Everywhere: Informally Engaging Non-Technical Students with Computational Thinking

Jeremy Birnholtz’s course will provide communication studies students exposure to foundational computational thinking and the opportunity to develop basic digital competency. The class bridges the gap in students’ familiarity with digital technology by giving them prior preparation for additional courses and a foundation for future technological interaction in their personal, academic and professional lives. By providing learning opportunities through a series of workshops in novel settings, this course will draw on examples from students’ everyday lives to teach them how to critically engage with software, algorithms, engineers and developers.

 “Just as media literacy was essential in the past, computational literacy, or the ability to understand and critically engage with software and programmers/engineers, is an essential skill for all Northwestern undergraduates,” Birnholtz said.

According to Birnholtz, the class “will position students well for careers in industry user-experience research or product development, graduate programs in information and communication technology and introductory coursework in computer science.”

Birnholtz’s class builds on a 13-student pilot class first offered in spring 2016. The summer class will be an informal, zero-credit course without formal grades. Birnholtz said the format will incorporate valuable informal learning, facilitate risk-taking within the classroom and possibly reduce student stress and anxiety in a topic area known to be technically intimidating, time consuming and often too detailed to meet students’ needs.


The above is an excerpt from: Faculty given support to create innovative curriculum, Northwestern News, December 20, 2016 | By Kayla Stoner

The name of this award was changed in 2019 from Curriculum Development Award to Curriculum Innovation Award.