WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Social Media and the Mind

Instructor Contact:

Michelle Albert

Email: michelle.albert@colorado.edu

About the Course:

The smartphone as we know it was first introduced into our world in 2007; along with the device came the burgeoning popularity of social media. Also in that same time frame, researchers and journalists have reported a sharp rise in the rates of anxiety and depression among people in their teens and 20s. So, what does this mean? What is the relationship between smartphones / social media and well-being, especially among the generation that has been using these technologies since childhood? Clearly the ubiquitous presence of smartphones affects a lot about the way we live, including how we relate to others and to ourselves; how we communicate; how we spend our time; how we think; and how we receive, share, and understand information. We’ll explore these themes through reading, writing, research, and discussion. This course is taught as a writing workshop and is designed to help you hone your writing, research, and critical thinking skills.

Course Prerequisites: Restricted to arts and sciences juniors and seniors.

Course Learning Objectives:

Our work this semester is designed to help you:

  • Develop specialized rhetorical knowledge and effective communication strategies, drawing on popular and scholarly texts from disciplines relevant to our course topic, critically analyzing disciplinary or specialized discourse, composing messages for specific audiences and purposes, and adapting content and form to the needs of a range of stakeholders.
  • Compose in a variety of genres, selecting and adapting genre conventions as appropriate, and meeting audience expectations in features such as style, format, documentation, and specialized vocabulary.
  • Hone your writing process, using multiple strategies to generate ideas, to draft and revise your writing, to control features of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, to critique your own and others’ work, and to reflect constructively on your practice.
  • Develop specialized information literacy, critically identifying the issues and stakeholders involved in a given conversation; how authority, influence, and expertise are constructed among participants in the conversation; and the range of genres driving the conversation.
  • Foster critical thinking skills, evaluating the sources of and support for claims; applying a reasoned skepticism to all claims and beliefs, including your own; posing questions that lead to sustained inquiry and innovative thinking; and framing an issue and developing a stance based on evidence and sound reasoning.
  • Develop digital literacy, analyzing how visual and aural persuasion contribute to effective communications in the discipline, and using a variety of technologies to compose and circulate communications in these modalities for a range of audiences.

Required Texts:

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Grading (out of n points):

I may revise some of these assignments to better suit a 5-week, online asynchronous course.

Assignment # of Points
Philosophy of Technology Use (300-600 words) 50
Narrative/Reflective Essay (900-1200 words) 150
Joining the Conversation: Response to Twenge (500-750 words) 100
Countering Mis/Disinformation Plan (500-750 words) 100
Inquiry Project

·       Proposal (250 words)

·       Brief Annotated Bibliography (750-900 words)

·       Academic Argument Essay (1500-2100 words)





Final Reflection (300-600 words) 50
Reading Logs (200-300 words each, total # of logs TBD) 100
Class Engagement & Peer Feedback 100

Grade distribution:

93-100 = A

90-92 = A-

87-89 = B+

83-86 = B

80-82 = B-

77-79 = C+

73-77 = C

70-72 = C-

67-69 = D+

63-67 = D

60-62 = D-

59 & below = F



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8:00am to 5:00pm


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1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado