¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 *SEE NEWER VERSION OF THIS ESSAY* Here’s a DRAFT essay concept to start the balling rolling on better ideas for this book (-JD).When teaching a course or leading a workshop, one of my frequent learning goals is for participants to share their ideas with one another. One time-tested low-tech method is to ask everyone to voice their opinion, though some may be reluctant, others may be overbearing, and only one person can speak at a time. Another group facilitation strategy is to ask groups to write down their ideas on poster-sized sheets of paper and tape them up around the room for others to see (though this requires sufficient time and wall space).
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 But my group-sharing strategies expanded after I attended my first THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) and experiencing its “un-conference” alternative to the traditional humanities conference model of reading aloud one’s scholarly writing to a captive audience. At THATCamp, a session organizer would open up a collaborative Google Document and share the link, other participants typed in their ideas on their laptops, and everyone read and responded — in real-time — on the same word-processing page. The first time I saw this in action, my jaw dropped wide-open, and my teacher’s brain awakened with new possibilities. (Side question: would readers who have never witnessed this type of online collaboration benefit from inserting a 20-second video clip of GDoc screencast in action?)
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Here’s a basic “crowd-writing” exercise that I used in a faculty workshop, where the objective was to introduce the concept behind this volume, Web Writing, and ask for both individual and small-group written feedback on topics that they would like to see addressed in the proposed book. After a brief overview of the project and potential technology, we began the discussion with an individual hand-written writing exercise on a traditional paper handout, with a writing prompt (see Step #1):
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 After individual participants wrote down their responses on their sheets of paper, for Step #2 I asked them to share and compare notes in small-groups (duos and trios). Step #3 introduced “crowd-writing,” where each group typed their collective responses into a shared Google Document, at the same time as other groups. Click the image below to open the document — and add your own response, if you wish.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Does everyone need to have their own computer to participate in a crowd-writing exercise like this? At my relatively well-funded liberal arts college, I’ve taught this exercise in different settings. Sometimes I hold class in a computer lab space with one desktop per student. More recently, as a vast majority of students at my campus report that they own or have easy access to laptops, I have begun teaching classes that strongly encourage — or even require them (with advance notice, in the syllabus) — to bring a laptop, which I can ask them to bring out (or put away) at different points during our session. (It’s easier now for me to occasionally loan an old laptop when emergencies arise, but the real trick has been to invest in a few $10 electrical power strips with long cords, to boost those laptop batteries.) In the group writing exercise described above, we had 3 computers and tablets divided among 8 people, and asked participants to work in pairs/trios to merge ideas from their individual sheets of paper onto their computer screens, which fed into one virtual document for the group. Sometimes blending old-school and digital strategies is the best method to achieve your learning goal.