Most of the imbalances in Wikipedia are quite predictable. Your example of Bieber vs. Wilma Mankiller is hardly bizarre. The majority of people who have free time to edit Wikipedia (young people in the US) are more interested in Bieber than Wilma Mankiller. Understanding the editor demographics helps you understand what is on Wikipedia. 90% of Wikipedia’s editors are male, for example. That shapes the encyclopedia.
It is perhaps new within academia to care about systemic bias in Wikipedia, but there have been efforts underway for years on Wikipedia to remedy these problems. Ignoring them and privileging only what professors have done wipes out the history of those of us on Wikipedia have been doing. Academics did not suddenly “discover” the problems on Wikipedia and rush to fix it. Wikipedians have known about them for a long and time and have been working tirelessly to fix them. The gender gap outreach efforts, for example, started with a WikiChix lunch years ago at Wikimania and have had at least 3-4 years of sustained, funded efforts to help improve the gender problems you discuss.
This is a great paragraph! Successful Wikipedia assignments always have this step-by-step structure! Thanks for showing yours!
Could you show how having Wikipedia articles changed how the internet perceived of the people whose articles you created? I’ve often found that once a Wikipedia article is created the text is copied on many sites – this would show how important the notability criteria is. Its effects are not just internal to Wikipedia.
It might be good to compare what Wikipedia has about Erdrich and Alexie to the authors you had your students write about, as I know it is a lot more. It would add force to your point in this paragraph.
Academic encyclopedias are very different from Wikipedia, however, and it is crucial t make this distinction. One of Wikipedia’s core policies is that it only summarizes secondary research and does not offer original research.
Are there ways in which you can frame the discussion also as ways in which multimodal argumentation allows for new kinds of argumentation or changes our ways of thinking about argumentation? That was how the essay opened and that was quite exciting!
I’m torn by your use of this example. I think it is a powerful one but because it is not an example of student writing I think that it detracts from your point a bit. I see that you are showing this writing at its best and that it is a vibrant form in and of itself but in order to convince me that students gain something from writing in this format, I wonder if student writing shouldn’t be at the center of the essay.
I have invited students in my Composition II course an opportunity to conduct slavery research. Students have studied persons included in an historic Civil War document, which names former slaves and their owners. Approximately twenty percent of the students decided to participate. Of this group, almost thirty percent, four of them, elected to continue working on the project after the course.
I set up a public wiki for our work. Each student was provided a password and given lessons on how to compose a profile of their subject. This project has experienced many successes including the students’ gaining experience in archival research and connecting with people across the globe. A failure of the project has been the students’ reticence to make the project their own and take the initiative to transfer their research findings to the Web.
After the course, I administered a survey to glean how students had decided on their research topics. I have had conversations with the four students who continued working on the project. I have reached various ways of understanding how all topic choices were made and of understanding why even the four students who continued were slow to post findings.While these students have willingly moved onto traditional paths of writing about research the transcription project has lagged due to their not taking hold of our wiki space. Working with the students closely, I had witnessed many times their being unnerved by serendipitous connections, some of them online, some of them during archival work.
I am interested in knowing what the problems and possibilities are of involving twenty-first century students in digital work on slavery. Is there something about traditional research methods and formats that provide a buffer that online formats does not?
I very much enjoyed reading your essay. I have no criticisms. I am intrigued by your title, on both sides of the colon. I wonder specifically about “student accountability.” What would make students accountable to Native authors? Is it that student-researchers and writers, as part of their coursework and authorship of Wikipedia articles, must play a role in expanding the Wikipedia canon? Do you, in other words, see them as having literary, social, and political responsibilities to expand Wikipedia’s coverage? If so, is this kind of informed and informative citizenship limited to the classroom, or is there a larger ethic at work that has implications beyond. For instance, one might ask if people who witness a human atrocity without acting on behalf of its victims are in theory accountable. Do you, in this way, see your students as accountable to Native American authors, Americans in general, the world, etc. if they fail to participate in the movement of these various authors from margins to center, or, better put, from their localities to the mainstream?
Thanks Shelley. These suggestions are very useful. In this first draft, I am deeply focused on what might be going on emotionally with the students and greatly minimize description and discussion of nuts and bolts of the assignment. As I’ve perused other submissions, I’m getting a much clearer idea of the goals of this particular book project. I see lots of text that might easily be cut from this draft to make room for the above-mentioned discussion.
I have tons of images, so they are forthcoming!
I think the fact that involvement for most of the students ended at the close of the course may mean that the value of their involvement in the project did not extend beyond the limits of the course. Maybe. For the two students who did continue, they were excited about new opportunities to share their work in other formats, namely the traditional research paper, but not online.
Silly question. Do I upload pics through WordPress?
Thanks Jack. Indeed. Here’s a link to photos of Holly Springs, Mississippi architecture.
It may just be a matter of what they’re used to.
I am up at 2:00 a.m., a rarity for me. Saturday evening, I attended an annual Holly Springs event, The Wrecking Ball, a fundraiser to restore Chalmers Institute, known to be the state’s oldest university. In its third year, the gathering remained relatively segregated; it was a mostly white crowd, with a sprinkling of blacks (myself included). The degree of segregation is matched by the crowds that gather, later in the year, for Rust College’s fall Founders’ Week activities. I took students to the aptly named Wrecking Ball, an ironic example of reverse psychology. Stewards of history may forestall near certain destruction of its physical referents. There seems little doubt that the organizers of the fundraiser are aware of the physical and violent connotations of the event name; the reunification of the theoretical and the real has far-ranging implications.
“Student Digital Research and Writing on Slavery” is perhaps most centrally interested in how teaching and learning will or has already changed as a result of an incidentally democratized Web in which sensitive, digitized records on slavery are suddenly, after hundreds of years of being vaulted away, available to a mostly unsuspecting public.
So far I have read only one other essay submission to this book project–“Indigenizing Wikipedia.” I commented there, asking the author some pointed questions about the subtitle, “Student Accountability to Native American Authors…” I am in fact challenged by the idea that students (and certainly, by association, teachers) are accountable to the nation, the world, or some other entity for leaving certain Native American authors marginal. The author of the essay seems to be suggesting that to know and to have the tools to alter written history, a digital written history, is to engender a new responsibility and accountability perhaps for all. He doesn’t say this, but he does seem to imply it. Again, I was challenged by the very idea even while I can see that my own research project in which I involve students supposes the same. If thousands of records of slavery suddenly are at our disposal, how can we not engage them with our students. Just as importantly, are we not, as the author of Indigenizing Wikipedia suggests, newly accountable–not because we haven’t been accountable all along but because the tools we have today, the incredible information we have today, makes it harder to justify various flights from historical stewardship. Like the author of Indigenizing Wikipedia, I am concerned with accountability, as well as with personal and social, emotional and intellectual, and political effect.
In fact, it seems to me that this challenge to less activist notions of how we might teach in a digital age is a great example, as the editors of Why & How for Liberal Arts Teaching & Learning, seem to realize of crossing boundaries. My own essay, quite risky I think, is placed under the section–Crossing Boundaries. The placement seems appropriate. The digital sphere, a new formation, inherently urges such crossings, and the nature of the historical work we are doing at Rust simply demanded that I speak to emotional, spiritual, temporal, and, yes, political crossings. I have been worried that my essay does not fit very nicely in a text that may lean clearly toward the practical, but, on second thought, I am even more concerned that attention to the work of teaching in a digital age may be under theorized. My observation that my students involved in writing digital histories felt that they transcended temporal barriers definitely is not something that I could ignore. Former training as a journalist and reading in anthropology taught me to look for the story waiting to be told. Seldom is this the one on the surface. In this essay then I chose not to write about the nuts and bolts of assignments but about problems and possibilities–and surprises–in involving students in slavery research. If the question of how students can be expected to engage sensitive historical information doesn’t have a place in this publication (and I can accept that it may not) twenty-first century educators who expect to involve students fully in a democratized Web must certainly find a place for it. I think organizers of The Wrecking Ball realize this at some level.
Thanks Amanda. Yes. I think even encouraging students to write personal histories (including experiences that they might like to forget) is to play a role in shaping their senses of and personal constructions of time. A majority of my students here in Mississippi would prefer definitely not to directly engage the history of slavery, even when its remnants are all around them. What does it mean, ethically, for me to call their attention to those remnants? These are the kinds of questions that I hope to form a discussion around.
I think what has brought this to light as an ethical issue for me is that I am asking students to engage an historical era that is close to them yet distant. Not only that but I am asking them to research it, which has the potential to bring it even closer. And then, they are asked to write a biography and place it online. All of this just got me to thinking that they are being, with my encouragement, jetted across time (150 years) in a way that doesn’t allow them really to create buffers or to call upon convenient ones that have been created by others to keep from having to confront history on a personal level.
In a different scenario, I was a few years ago part of a team that installed a mural in a small town in Michigan that had been really active in the Underground Railroad. Certainly, we thought the mural was a meaningful way to recover the town’s important ties to the UGRR, but there was protest from some key African American residents, one of whom met with me and begged that the project be dropped. She sobbed as she made her case before me. She preferred that profiles of courageous African Americans be told on, say, Happy Meal inserts sponsored by McDonalds. That kind of treatment would be palatable but not more familiar, local, history displayed in ways that would demand that history be engaged or confronted daily.
I realized then that modernity provides many options for constructing time as one would like and that, for all the good intentions of historians, they at least have to consider whether there is an ethical issue involved in forcing historical education. Few people would argue that history should not be a Gen Ed requirement, but the question is how much and whether it should be taught in ways that make students engage it directly. In the FTP project, since it is an option for research in a writing course rather than a history course, I have always allowed students an out.
Thanks Siobhan. I think I have to wait until the open review closes to fix the link, correct?
Link to the class project: http://digisense.wikispaces.com/
Link to lastroad website where project is described: http://www.lastroadtofreedom.com/transcription-projects.html
Your comments are very reassuring. I was really thinking that my essay doesn’t fit at all though I do see common purposes between yours and mine. I am excited about the book project and hope that I can find time soon to read others.
I will definitely read Ahmed’s essay. Thanks so much.
Thanks so much Kate. I still have much of the original writing and am excited actually to reread it. I don’t know why including it hadn’t really come to mind.
I can easily shrink background information on FTP in order to attend more to the assignment and to challenges students had with the whole experience, as well as the rational vs. the spiritual.
I would argue that the similarities in those lists come from expectations about what is “good” writing based on what was originally learned as “good” writing for a traditional essay. After all, web writing is a new format that demands respect for a new online culture. I don’t know if traditional essay writing is exactly translatable to web writing, even though it is done, of course. Perhaps web writing opens up a space for a more fluid idea of good writing and writing in general that is unique. It seems to me that good web writing may not even be writing at all–consider tumblr, where an image or a short sentence with no capital letters or punctuation speaks to hundreds of thousands; or Facebook, where sharing an article link expresses your thoughts on a topic. Can web writing be compared to expectations for a traditional essay without allowing the precedents of that traditional essay to quash internet culture?
I would just like to point out that on this page, the most comments are on the shortest paragraphs, indicating that web writing is short–web readers will not stop scrolling to read a lengthy post, unless they are simply commenting –students and teachers alike!
Thanks to Jack, Shelley, and Jennifer for the thoughtful comments. As Carmel and I have further discussed this idea, our thoughts about how we might write about this project have come into focus. We are now thinking to zoom in on the role of writing in the sister class collaboration, specifically 1) how we used blogging assignments to help students test out the new content and concepts they were learning; 2) the role each sister class played in providing an audience for that writing; and 3) the character of the discussions that emerged out of this exchange. As we both agree, this exercise did not necessarily lead to the kind of discipline-specific writing we might hope to see in upper-level classes, but it was a great way for students to “practice” new content by teaching it to others. We could certainly include some nuts-and-bolts content on how we put assignments together, too, either by including it in the manuscript or creating links for readers to follow right to the assignments themselves.
That’s a great observation–thanks! We actually did have a number of written assignments in each of our courses, each conducted within the course itself. A great idea for a second iteration of this course would be to bring those assignments back into the blogging collaboration. You’re also making me think about how we might restructure this essay to account for these “behind the scenes” assignments.
Good point. Isn’t that often how the process of writing works? That is, you don’t really get to the important questions until you’ve written your way into them.
Holly, I would rather encourage my students to approach their writing assignments with their own voice, too. But in my experience, that actually isn’t their first instinct. I think that all too often, students perceive writing assignments, especially ones that ask them to respond to discipline specific questions, as a task which forces them to “sound scholarly” rather than one that one that encourages them to think like a scholar. My point here is that if we allow them to approach assignments in a voice that feels a little more natural to them, we may be able to help them master the thinking that is key to learning a new discipline…the stylistic elements can come later, and as a response to a student’s deeper immersion in the field.
Leigh, I hope the remainder of the essay answered your question. We had different emphases and different structures for the work we asked the students to do with the blogs, and our results differed accordingly.
Yes, Kate. Sometimes there are students who don’t want to participate, and there are also students who just plain forget to do it (no matter how often you remind them). On the other hand, the tradeoff is that you will find students who don’t enjoy participating in class discussion finding in the blog the voice and a medium in which they can really articulate their thought process and engagement with the material. But you’re correct that we are concentrating (perhaps a bit too much) on the gains here, rather than the losses.
The blog (at least on my side of things) was accessible to anyone who had the URL, but we did not allow to be indexed by Google, so the probability of anyone from the public finding it was fairly low…though I’m not sure how well my students understood that and I do think that the idea of “the reading public” played a role in how they crafted their work for the blog. That said, I did share the URL with many of the guest speakers who came to our class, some of whom were also instructors the students would have known from different classes, and that turned out to be a good idea. Many of our guest speakers read the blog before visiting the class and were able to respond, right there in person, to my students’ evolving conversation. I think they gained a well-deserved sense of pride from moments like that.
Carson–good question! As I think I mention just a little further on, we graded for completion (i.e. writing the full 500 words, making a minimum number of comments) rather than content. I didn’t want to place too much pressure on what the students wrote (that would have defeated the purpose of allowing them a low-stakes environment to write in, and they placed plenty of pressure on themselves to do a good job!) but I did want to incentivize active participation.
Emily, such a good point. Conversation on our blogs did not happen naturally and I think one of the most common errors we can make a teachers is imagining that the “digital natives” we teach are able to automatically adapt to an academic use of what might be more familiar to them as tools for social use (blogs, social networking sites, etc). My hefty requirements for posting and commenting on the class blog and our sister class’s blog emerged out of a sense that the students would need some training and some incentivizing to really make something out of the blog. I spent a lot of time not only showing my students how to use the blog, posting sample posts or other items to generate conversation, but also praising and showing off some of the great questions students were asking or interesting material they were posting. That was the tough part. The great part what was then emerged out of it–really rich conversations and opportunities for learning that would have been much harder to orchestrate in the classroom.
Great point, Jason. And I did find that different students took the blogging assignment in different ways. Some essentially wrote personal essays, while others posed questions for discussion, while others wrote something a little more like book reviews or film reviews. Discussion was important, but it is helpful to think about other models they might have been drawing from in their blogging.
Thanks, everyone. Comments throughout this essay make me feel that we need to be more concise in how we craft this essay. Many people seem to feel they have been waiting too long for information that is important to them, or posing questions that aren’t answered for many paragraphs. This will be very helpful information as we rethinking the pacing of the essay. The comments might also reflect something about the expectations for pacing that we bring to web-based documents, and that’s helpful information too.
Laura, a great question. Yes, there were more traditional writing assignments done in both classes, with a different set of instructions and very different expectations. If we were to try a collaboration like this again, one thing I would like to try is bringing students together over these more traditional assignments, which we really didn’t do this time around.
I think all three reasons had something to do with it for different students. Some were very worried about forgetting to do their comments, so I worked lots of reminders into class discussion. My students definitely had a heavy reading load…but that’s English class for you.
I appreciate the feedback here. I always struggle with endings. I think the point we were trying to make, though perhaps not as clearly as we could, was that just like the blogging assignments for the students, this was for us a way to learn more about our teaching by allowing ourselves the free space to experiment, seek out connections, and learn to talk between disciplines. I wanted to emphasize that, like any experiment, there were some ways in which we succeeded and some in which we failed, but above all an exciting sense of new directions in which we could take our teaching; I think our students left both classes feeling the same way–that blogging and videoconferencing between classes really could open up exciting new channels for learning and intellectual exchange. I can definitely see the need for a stronger ending, but I would hesitate to write anything too prescriptive here.
What an interesting experiment! I really like the way you scaffolded the two assignments in such a way that students had to look to one another’s work to construct their arguments. I’m curious to know what the classroom side of this project looked like, though. Were there workshops on citation to complement the assignment? Was there a formal “launch” to your website marked in class? I think an important part of making web writing assignments work lies in how they are supported in face-to-face interactions with students. Would it be possible for you to say something more about this in your essay?
Could you explain your purpose in using group vs. individual exercises? It seems a little unclear, though I’m sure each has its advantages that you’re using strategically.
I have a colleague who uses student Tweets to review students’ close reading of course texts, but he actually organizes them with Storify, a social media reading service that allows you to search Tweets with a common hashtag and group them into “timelines” or other “narratives.” That might be a useful addition to this exercise.
What do you make of your student’s funny Tweet? That is, what does it tell us about how your student Tweeters are imagining their audiences and the impact of their writing? Is this an example of integrating academic work with the social presence of peers?
Oops! I guess you can disregard my earlier suggestion. It’s great to hear about the creative use to which you are putting Storify!
I love the multiple learning goals you are supporting with this assignment. At what point in the semester does this assignment take place? It sounds like something that gets students to use multiple skills, and thus I assume it must come later on in the semester.
The colleague I mentioned before was actually using Twitter to help students become better close readers, as well as learn how to state and respond to academic claims. Please feel free to check out the webinar we recently recorded about these Twitter-based assignments, or the short description I wrote of it: http://blcollaboration.wordpress.com.
This is a good opening paragraph but there is a problem in the framing metaphor. Did you “wake up” one morning to discover there was a problem (as suggested in the opening sentence), or were you searching for one over a long stretch of time (as suggested in the last sentence)?
I really like this illustration because I find it a little shocking. When you described the colleague’s practice of posting papers, I assumed that blank pages were left next to the anonymized student paper for commenting. I’m surprised the colleague allows other people to write ON the assignment.
Just last night I had the leader of our Writing Center come to my seminar to advertise its services; their tutors never write ON student papers–they just talk to the writers. I must have had this practice on my mind.
I for one am really persuaded that non-disclosure of student names is a vital option. The examples of potential stalking/domestic violence in our FERPA training convinced me of that.
This paragraph is leading me to consider making this essay the very first thing I assign in my digital history course next spring–without having read the rest of the essay yet.
Excellent points in this paragraph. Consider all the paragraphs in this project that no one has commented on.
The last sentence in this paragraph begs for elaboration.
I think the essay needs a stronger conclusion. I was surprised to reach the end so quickly after the introduction of a new idea.
Were there any qualitative discussions with you and the students that could be reported about how they responded to the assignment?
One point you might want to address in this paper is how the assignment of writing in a public environment turns upside down the original assumption of private writing: that it is a low-stakes opportunity to receive private feedback on one’s writing–so that one is ready and motivated to write for a public audience, one has built up skills without the fear of public ridicule/criticism (such as might be invited by the posting of papers on walls, as in the illustration below).
I’m even more surprised by that information.
I’m enjoying reading the essays and learning from them. One thing that keeps striking me is that in assembling the final volume, the trick will be to tip the balance to the “web” side of “web writing.” Many of the papers are so much about composition and the teaching of writing that the general purpose of reflecting on the web could be very easily submerged.
1. Purpose of the manuscript
The purpose of this project is to engage college-level liberal arts instructors in a conversation about how the ability to have students write in online environments transforms how to teach and how students learn. Like the previous digital age history project, the volume succeeds in raising many questions. A key question implicitly raised is how to rethink the purposes of everything that happens in a traditional FTF classroom with traditional on-paper writing assignments. Many of the entries reflect recent faculty experiments with a variety of on-line possibilities; I would have liked to see one from someone that said something to the effect that I’ve tried online stuff and am using it for much of my teaching, but in these specific circumstances I feel compelled to continue traditional methods, and here is why.
The one area in which the volume threatens to veer from its goal is that the bulk of contributions from authors in the rhetoric-composition area may appear to tip the balance of the project into their disciplinary framework. Several of the essays rely on insider rhet/comp jargon and may be read as more engaged with internal questions than the fundamental questions about web writing posed for the volume.
2. The intended audience for this volume is college-level liberal arts instructors. It is valuable both for faculty who have not taught using any online writing and for those who are already engaged, for it helps us think about how to make decisions about running our classes. My own feeling is that the more valuable contributions are the entries that concretely illustrate creativity in student web writing (such as Tweet Me a Story). I am personally less interested in the theoretical elements of web writing, but perhaps others will disagree.
I personally am also planning on using some of the contents in my graduate teaching. In spring 2014 I will be teaching a graduate seminar on digital history and will invite students to read some of these essays as shortcuts to the kind of thinking that they could find out the hard way by doing similar assignments.
3. The basis of the manuscript
Most of the manuscript is primarily based on pedagogical experience. One or two exceptions, most notably Kate Morgan’s paper on “Visuality and Vital Information,” are based more on theoretical scholarship than classroom practice (reflecting the early stage of the author’s career). In most cases, the authors bring good insights based on their teaching to their essays. There is less scholarship used, but it is used effectively in some cases.
A notable absence is reflections on how to use existing web writing in teaching. Most of the essays are about having students write for web environments. Perhaps instructors are not using the web for reading; or perhaps no one thought that a notable direction to follow up on in response to the CFP. I used the page’s search function to look for the word “read” and came up with only 10 hits: all of them were material extraneous to the core manuscript–except for the two essays but editor Jack Dougherty. Only Anita DeRouen’s essay “Engaging Students with Scholarly Web Texts” takes on this problem. Interestingly, she appears not to use the word “read” anywhere in the essay (or the search engine is limited). To me, this alone is an argument for retaining DeRouen’s paper in the final volume.
4. Overall presentation
Yes, the overall presentation is clear and the writing in good shape. As suggested by my earlier comments, I find the theoretically-driven essays a little hard to follow because of the insider rhetoric, but that doesn’t mean the writing needs work–more than I need greater familiarity with the language and authors under consideration. It seems to me that one of the great strengths of the open review process is that the readers can make very specific comments on sentences that need improvement.
The digital format is well used. Some of the essays rely on the digital presentation of material, which is suggested by the use of the comment function to engage directly with the images.
5. Overall organization
I read the manuscript backwards (without intending to answer this question), so my thinking about the structure of the volume is a little upside down. It seems to me, though, the the sections are well conceptualized and grouped, with the “crossing boundaries” section being particularly coherent.
The one change I would suggest is moving the “rethinking section” earlier and/or putting the annotation section last. I can see that by being at the end, “rethinking” opens the web writing project back out to the wider word. But to me, annotations and citations belong logically at the end–even in the looping world of the internet.
6. Strongest and weakest features
The strongest and most useful features of this volume are the essays that offer concrete examples of how to use web writing in class, such as the essays in the “engagement” section. These offer very specific ways for less experienced instructors to visualize how they can transform their teaching to account for the questions the volume raises about student web writing.
As should be clear from my earlier comments, the weakest features are essays that are more engaged with rhetoric/composition than they are with the web per se. It is possible, however, that others will see value in these approaches that my own proclivities as an empirically-driven historian cannot appreciate.
To the question about strongest and weakest features, I would also like to mention that having the drafts of the book indefinitely available is also very much a strength of this project. I will be using several of the essays in my upcoming digital history class, even though the project is not “published” yet. Additionally, I will be teaching about the project as an experiment in peer review that upcoming scholars need to be aware of. My gratitude to all involved in making it available.
In regular closed peer review, once you finish and send it off, you’re done. I’m noticing that I have been drawn back here several times to see if there are additional edifying comments I might want to read!
It is interesting to me that some portions of the project continue to be private, taking place behind the scenes. I’m not arguing with the idea of retaining private emails in which authors are notified that their papers are not advancing, as that seems like the soul of courtesy. But it does suggest limits on the process of open peer review that probably have implications for understanding the wider process.
I’ve noticed that the authors in this volume respond differently to the comments. Some people thank the commenter for their insights; others defend or explain their original text. I suppose those differences shouldn’t be surprising.
I was thinking more about this on my way to work this morning. It seems to me that the difference I was thinking about is the difference between reviewing and editing. And it makes sense to keep some editorial processes behind closed doors.
I just wanted to check in with an observation about how I am re-reading the essays that I’ve assigned in my grad seminar.
It’s tricky to figure out how to read when you have both the main article and the comments available, and you know there is a conversation about the essay going on in the comments. I seem to find myself reading the comments through first (including sometimes getting distracted by links embedded in them) and then going back to the essay. I’m not sure I would do it the same way if I hadn’t read the essays before. I’ve also noticed as I read the essays published in the Writing History in the Digital Age project volume that I miss the comments.
I would like to invite the editors to find a way to link the idea that this is an “online, asynchronous course with open enrollment” to discussions of other forms of online teaching. This course is obviously highly labor intensive, but also quite successful. Could the authors add a few statistics about how many teachers take and complete the course so that readers can have a guess about how much work the instructors are doing?
I really love this essay. It is practical, thoughtful, and well written.
The point about pseudonymous blogging and appropriate platforms for that choice is a helpful generality.
1. end of the first sentence requires an S for “students.”
2. It is possible that the student mentioned in the first sentence didn’t miss the point so much as s/he objected to the objective.
What seems to me missing from this essay is a discussion of what students actually wrote, and how that writing transformed their views.
In a revision of this essay, I would like to see more about the web aspect of this assignment. Most of the paper focuses on the idea of identity exploration rather than its articulation with the web environment. There is a little bit of the digital aspect (Word Press blog), but for the most part, this paper could be about a conventional writing assignment.
What I was trying to say was that as far as you describe the assignment, the imperatives of the web platform are not apparent. I am sure that as you constructed the assignment and interpreted it to students, it had to be on the web–but those reasons are not transparent in the context of the essay.
This question is a bit orthogonal to the purpose of the larger volume (with the emphasis on web writing), but I am curious about the pedagogical assumptions here.
I was intrigued throughout the paper by the use of the word “group membership” as the apparent term of art. If white students are predisposed toward “colorblindness,” won’t they be likely to reject the notion of race as a “membership” rather than a characteristic that other people ascribe to them, causing to gravitate toward discussions of salient groups that they have actively chosen to belong to (such as religion)?
“work as proof”
It seems to me that humanist scholars don’t use each other’s work to prove, but to argue.
1. In sentence 2, I’m confused about the word “author”–that means the Native American author, not the student author, right? This implies that somehow you got the Native American authors involved in your class.
2. In sentence 4, I think you want “fleshed” out not “flushed” out.
I’m confused by the reference to Justin Bieber’s page being on lockdown. Perhaps sometimes it is, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be. Can you add the word “sometimes” to the parenthetical?
Thank you for including the link to the School and University Projects page, which I did not know about (despite being cited by name in this paragraph! thanks for that too!).
This is a compelling paragraph, especially the last sentence.
Great paragraph, good points, rare academic praise for Wikipedia.
I think you need one more sentences after the “more profoundly” sentence. The excellent student quotation does not fit well with the first part of the paragraph about timing of response.
I would suggest moving the parenthetical comment about the Native authors up to the beginning of the paper as an explanation. I’m also eager to know about their responses to the student papers.
There is a lot going on in this paragraph.
I got stuck on the sentence beginning “like many college professors.” I’m not totally sure I understand that. Do you mean both Wikipedia and college professors valorize information published in print sources like newspapers, magazines, and scholarly books and journals over tribal websites? For what ends, I would ask? I would disaggregate this a bit more–college professors value scholarly books and journals over newspapers and magazine articles for certain kinds of activities but not for others.
Also, what’s going on in the last sentence (the Rosenzweig quotation) doesn’t fit with the first part of the paragraph. The first part of the paragraph is about meeting a notability standard–if there aren’t traditional publications about the person, then they don’t count (from Wikipedia’s point of view). But the Rosenzweig quotation is about quality, not a count of whether books or articles exist about a person.
Did you have students back up, or turn in non-Wikipedia copies of their work to you–so you had it even if deleted online?
By the end of this essay, I was looking for you to make a distinction between Wikipedia’s idea of “notability” and the scholarly notion of “significance.” I wonder how these articulate.
This is a terrific and helpful article. I will be assigning it in my spring 2014 Digital History graduate seminar. I can’t think of anything else that I have read that really so effectively takes on Wikipedia’s “notability” standard–to which I had not given much thought before.
In a comment on the last paragraph of this essay, I ask about the distinction between notability and significance. This paragraph is one place to weave in that idea. Notability is much more about celebrity, and significance about long-term importance.
On re-reading this for my class, I can see that you definitely meant flushed. Sorry for the original misread!
On re-reading this I’m fascinated by point 1. I agree that “Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.” As a long-time encyclopedia writer and now editor, however, I disagree with the parenthetical as applied generally to encyclopedias. Academic encyclopedias often are based on primary research; and interpretation is a form of a opinion. An informed form, but certainly a form.
Also doesn’t permit original research…
I find the use of “thus” at the start of this paragraph a little confusing. The author moves from an abstract, theoretical discussion to a practical application based on her her own experiences.
I would suggest breaking the part of the sentence that begins with “particularly” of into its own sentence. The new sentence could read, “This problem seems particular acute when it comes to gender-related issues.”
I don’t know how it is that I’ve gotten half-way through this manuscript (reading backwards) and realized only now that the whole project is an example of its own title: Web Writing. This essay makes that particularly clear.
I found this essay helpful. Thank you for sharing it.
What are Lanham’s rules for creating an attention trap? Provide a citation or a link?
Great surprise paragraph.
Never mind, I see that it was above and I just skimmed over it. Maybe use a parenthetical comment to gloss the idea of the attention trap?
If this is the key to the essay, maybe it should be more closely referenced in the title?
I read it that way too. Since this isn’t a composition volume per se, you should explain WPA for uninformed readers like me.
There is a chance somewhere in this section to reference the “Tweet me a story” article, which is about yet another way to put together and read real-time news events.
It would be helpful to mention some examples of reading strategies. As a non-rhet person, I’m not sure what they are.
This presentation also offers some reading comprehension challenges–a nice way of underscoring the issues for the reader. I wonder if the book designer can take that sensitivity into account.
A link or citation would be helpful here for the uninitiated.
I was misreading here–I see now that is the article referenced in the previous paragraph. I scanned that as an image of a journal cover rather than an actual article. Clearly the professoriate needs to do more re-learning to read as well.
I really like that the distracting bits are blurred out here.
I like this essay. Although there is some mysterious rhet-comp jargon that I couldn’t quite penetrate, the overall point is clear and well done. I think that putting the word “reading” somewhere in the title would help the reader grasp the focus of the article early and not be as surprised as I was to get to the thesis paragraph.
Certainly there are important challenges to reading Web Writing, and this essay gets at them in a way most of the other proposed papers do not.
I am going to try to read the essays from the end to the front. I wonder if placement of essays in an order means that the ones first get more attention during the peer review process.
This is pretty provocative, in a good way.
Great paragraph! Please leave this as it is.
I haven’t read to the end, but this paragraph compels me to ask what the gender breakdown of the class was.
Did students ever reference the Choose Your Own Adventures in this class? My partner was reading this summer a book he had helped pay for with Kickstarter–a choose your own adventure version of Hamlet, from a variety of points of view.
I really enjoyed this essay. But I have to admit that I was disappointed to get to this point and realize how little there would be about what the students did and learned in the class. The set-up of the class is really strong, but I have much less sense of what the outcomes were. When magicians do their tricks, we don’t see the secrets. But we do see what they did–with a flourish. This essay needs more than just a brief discussion of “accuracy” to convey how students learned about history and writing, and the intersection with coding–something else that I hoped would be more fully developed here (as I continue to ask the question about how much I need to know the code).
I have been continuing to think about how SG could better develop the students’ learning portion of this paper. My best guess would be to include a longer discussion of the Medics’ War (a fantastic idea that made me think of an ancestor), including how it reflected students’ learning about history in particular (as opposed to about coding). I would be especially interested to know if they replaced their developing ideas about accuracy with something else, like, say awareness of context.
Shawn, can you say more about what you think the title means? I can’t figure out the connection.
You are welcome, by the way, for the comments. Your Wikiblitz article is the one that stands out for me the most from the previous project.
If you can develop more about what the students did, then saying more about the students as you do here might be useful.
Great set of ideas, compelling opening.
This paragraph is really helpful as well. I’d suggest breaking it into two paragraphs, the second one starting “Scholarly citation, too…”
Does the “via” notation for shared items on Facebook provide a kind of distant citation chain?
Hmm….should historians list the documents and archival collections that the consulted but decided were not relevant to their arguments? I am generally in favor of historians, at least, being more transparent about the research process, but the suggestion of citing Google searches goes too far. Especially considering that everybody’s Google searches yield idiosyncratic results these days (I piece of information I first picked up at the AHA 2012 in Chicago but am too pressed for time to dig up the citation for).
This is certainly a thought-provoking essay.
I had to nod my head in agreement as I read this paragraph. Right now in my browser I also have open my email and Facebook, and I notice myself sometimes dragging along one type of writing into the other formats.
The last sentence in the paragraph reminds me of when Terry Gross interviewed Leonard Cohen and asked him how he knew whether he was writing a poem or a song.
That last sentence is still resonating with me several paragraphs later. This seems a key question for humanists in the digital age. When I teach my first graduate seminar on digital history in the spring, I know that a central topic will be thinking about how the research tools (and the presentation tools) must be matched to fit the historical questions and arguments.
On another level, this paragraph reminds me of a key question we ask junior and senior high school history students when they present their National History Day (http://www.nhd.org/) projects: why did you decide to do a documentary (or a performance, or a website, or a poster, or a paper)?
I’m really persuaded that making these choices consciously is a key skill for the 21st century.
Really strong introduction.
Out of curiosity, I clicked through to see how your thesis looked. The absence of a title page equivalent made it very difficult to figure out who you are or where the thesis was produced. Interesting…
It seems to me that the phrase beginning “code switch” also needs a “who.”
I find this paragraph hard. The meanings of all the clauses after “especially” are not clear. I’ve never heard the phrase “archive of publication” before. Is this a list of publications? Sometimes (often?) authors fail to bring these together in the sense that they become an archive.
This paragraph opened up a new possibility for me for understanding the significance of web writing that some of the other essays allude to but which I hadn’t quite clarified before.
As I read the quotation from Cawley, I thought about my own experience as a student. What she describes is a responsibility I always felt, and which I imagine the best students do–the desire to create the best work possible even if the audience is only the professor. But this passage suggests to me that one of the pedagogical appeals of web writing is how it invites students who are not motivated by impressing the professor.
I think that this is really right.
I love the idea of the paper tweet, which retains the interesting constraints of Twitter (described in the Tweet me a Story essay) with the privacy and safe, experimental space of the classroom.
On reading through to the end of the essay, I was disappointed at the failure to revisit the theme of “public/private,” which I took to be the central focus of the essay from the thesis statement at the end of this paragraph.
The essay does get at some of the benefits of writing in the public space of the web, but it does not reflect on the reasons classroom space is traditionally–and might remain–private.
I agree that I wanted to know what those guidelines were.
The slip of paper that the teacher confiscates and reads aloud in front of the class…
I very rarely text myself, but when I do it’s because a phone call is impractical or more expensive.
I really liked how that phrasing joined the English and the Latin seamlessly.
I’m confused by the relationship of the first part of the paragraph to the last sentence.
What I like about this paragraph is how it brings the out-of-class web writing into tension with the other out-of-class activities. Would your students have reached this level of civic engagement without the web writing requirements?
Were the students reading each other’s blogs?
I like this essay very much but think it would benefit from a clearer, more analytic introduction. Right now the introduction is pretty descriptive.
It is interesting that Stephen Colbert is a recurrent figure in our teaching (I wrote about Colbert in my essay on Wikipedia of Jack’s other project: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12230987.0001.001/1:6/–writing-history-in-the-digital-age?g=dculture;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1#6.3). But Colbert gets lost from this essay. The set-up implies the question of whether Colbert ever came to your college. Perhaps you could resolve reader tension about this question by answering that question (I assume with a no) in your final paragraph.
I’d like to know if these activities displaced political science content, as you feared they might.
I am a little confused about why you use quotation marks around “makes” and “breaks” here and then talk about “building” and “breaking” in the rest of the paper. This switch in usage added to the confusion I felt already about these very unfamiliar concepts around which you have built the essay.
I appreciate the brevity of this paragraph and the sentences, both short in the spirit of Twitter.
I do wonder about the word “correctly,” however. This suggests that there is only one right way to use Twitter–which there clearly isn’t. I wonder if “deliberately” wouldn’t help. And then adjust the rest of the sentence to include the word pedagogy.
You could respond to this suggestion with an illustration of a tweet that includes both an @identifier and a #hashtag.
You might also want to mention its role in people participating in a major event getting the news out–for example activists in Iran or Egypt who were protesting government and then being cracked down on.
One of the things that deters me from using my twitter account more is that tweets are often unwieldy combinations of tweetspeak (abbreviations) and mysterious @handles. I’m writing this comment before I’ve read the rest of the essay, but I hope you will address the question of what rules of English your students are supposed to follow when they tweet stories.
Hooray for style guide!
Do you have the students tweet out information from real stories or fake ones (contributing to the welter of perhaps unreliable information in the Twitterverse)?
Would you post a copy of that permission form?
I really like the term “social media scavenger hunt.”
Could you say a little more about whether there is a distinction between taking notes electronically and tweeting out what they have learned? Are those the same thing or different.
Also, with respect to tweeting on deadline: was it that they had to get a number of tweets out by the end of the game, or a tweet every several minutes? The latter makes tweeting reminiscent of radio announcers who call the game.
I really like this paragraph, especially the parts about practice tweeting using a video in class.
How did students accumulate followers for their professional accounts? Was the “disregard” student using his/her personal account instead of professional one?
Were there any issues with students not owning the equipment needed? Does the library allow students to check out equipment?
I think that the assumption about crowdsourcing corrections is only true if there is a critical mass of participants. I’ve tried quoting at academic conferences, and there are not enough people on Twitter to guarantee the comments are read, much less corrected.
I knew that a Jennifer Weiner reference was coming. You might want to pull out and use Jonathan Franzen’s disparaging comment about Jennifer Weiner self promotion for this.
I really enjoyed this essay from start to finish. Well done!
PS I should have mentioned that I especially appreciated having Storify explained. That’s going right into my own teaching.
Maybe mention how the New York Times reporters tweeted their stories during recent DOS attacks?
I have two criticisms of the last sentence in this paragraph.
First, at many universities, students are already in the “marketplace,” sometimes even as fulltime workers.
Second, and of course you may disagree with me about this, the liberal arts are being attacked from a variety of quarters by people who think their sole purpose is to prepare students to be workers. Unless you mean to accept this (controversial) line of thinking, you might want to find some other way of representing the idea that writing skills they develop in college are transferrable to jobs. As the focus of this book is on the liberal arts, this is a topic that should be handled with great care.
Do they also have to come up with the idea for the proposal, or are these handed to them from other sources?
One thing that I don’t feel clear on after reading this section is whether all the writing students do in this course occurs through traditional word processing delivered to the professor or in a web-based environment.
I’m interested in the description of the student comment as “wise.” I wonder if a different adjective that hits on the paradoxical content of the quotation would be more effective here.
I’m not sure if this is a criticism or praise, but I note that this essay is essentially written for insiders who are familiar with many of the rhetorical, pedagogical, and digital issues the author raises. The tone contrasts with the explication that occurs in some of the other essays proposed for this volume, in which people who are not so familiar with the issues are educated about what’s going on in the conversation.
The last few sentences of this paragraph reflect the kind of discussion of the significance of annotation that I was looking for in Jason Jones’s essay.
One thing I’m noticing in this project that was not the case in the Writing History in the Digital Age project is the use of the word “multimodal.” I don’t know what to make of that difference. The word of the year? The introduction of more Rhet/Comm scholars into the pool? The subject matter?
This seems a very appropriate first entry in the volume. I suddenly regret my strategy of reading through all the essays in reverse order (which I did in order to ensure that essays placed at the end got covered by readers, assuming that most people start at the beginning and proceed in a linear fashion).
I’m curious about the decision to refer to the authors here as “Dr. Hagood” and “Dr. Price” rather than with first an last names–which is the practice when referring to scholarly authors.
Style comment: to me the word “pupils” implies children, not adult college students.
I feel like I’ve been hanging, waiting for the description of the assignment in the other class.
This is a really strong essay. One of its successes is that it made me want to know more about what happened in those classes. That information isn’t necessary for the essay to achieve its goals; but is suggestive of its power.
It seems to me the essay is more about the “sister classrooms” idea than just about the cross-campus blogs.
This comment suggests to me that the teleconferences element of the class should be better set up in the introduction.
I think it is in the spirit of this volume to address that specifically.
Great question–a topic for another essay!
I’m fascinated by the suggestion that changing students’ sense of time has ethical dimensions.
It is hard to follow the technical considerations of the mechanics of grades and timing of work here.
This long, important paragraph might benefit from being broken into two paragraphs.
I’ve been pondering this ethical comment on and off as I worked today. As a historian, my work almost automatically calls readers’ and students’ to a past outside of their normal comfort zone. I’ve never thought about this as an ethical question before, but if I had, I probably would have considered it an ethical mandate to expose people to the uncomfortable past rather than something to consider as ethically uncomfortable to me. Interesting line of thought.
I’m revisiting this essay because of I have assigned it in my graduate digital history seminar for spring 2014.
This is certainly an interesting and informative article. I’d like to know more about how annotation relates to thinking and writing.
I like the idea of calling one of the students PI each time.
It seems to me like it’s inviting a whole lot of extra work for an instructor to have to read versions of a report to assess each student’s contribution. Can you talk about how much time you think that added to the process of grading?
I wonder if instructors in business or other disciplines which routinely assign group projects both to assess individual contributions–or do they just grade the whole, and that’s the grade everyone gets.
I’m so glad to see a scientist participating in this project.
I agree that this first paragraph is unduly long; in contrast to the end of the essay, where I thought that the paragraphs were too short.
Great suggestion to talk about your own response to reading lab reports.
I was thinking something similar with respect to the pedagogy of group projects. I have no idea what professional reflection on the assigning of group projects says, but this paper made me want to know!
This did not feel like a concluding paragraph to me, so I was left feeling a little unsettled at the end of the paper.
Interesting choice of the phrase “writing implement” to describe a computer program like a pen…
I’ve been having similar conversations with my DH collaborators, many of whom do not use Word. Yet the EMKE needs stuff in a single format.
This paragraph seems to be pointing to a really different set of ideas than the first paragraph did. In the first paragraph, I was thinking about other private writing platforms, such as Pages, Scrivener, and WordPerfect. On re-reading, I see that the last sentence of the first paragraph does transition to the second paragraph, but I was so caught up in what those older programs invoked for me (as well as their newer incarnations) that I was startled in paragraph 2.
While I sat and watched the text move on this image, I was reminded of a terrible mistake I made collaborating with a co-author over the summer. I suggested that we use the campus cloud service to work on successive versions of the paper. She must have uploaded or used the wrong version of the paper at least half a dozen times. In the end, I should have suggested we collaborate on Google Docs. I had not, however, because of experience with one of her older, similiarly tech-challenged colleagues. I thought she couldn’t be made to learn Google Docs and write the essay that the same time. But in retrospect, she couldn’t learn the protocol required for saving different versions of the paper to the cloud. And I couldn’t be trained to go one step backwards and track different versions of the paper on email.
What a great idea!
In my grad classes, I often use the chalk (white) board to write out a thesis statement for a paper or book the class has read together. It would be easier if they could all just write them into a google doc.
I’d like to know about the grammar of the phrase “a Google Docs,” which I would render as “a Google Doc.”
This makes me realize you are missing an “as” in that sentence.
Thank you for including the invitation to use the Organizer page right in the essay.
Jack, can you address why you didn’t choose Word Press, which you were familiar with from the WHitDA project (and others)?
Interesting choice to make your professorial comments public in the same way the students’ peer review comments were. Can you talk about the public/private issues embedded there?
I see you do that in the next paragraph. Good thinking!
And here you answer my earlier question about Word Press–although not why you didn’t choose it in the first place, since it obviously has peer review features.
I appreciate your scholarship!
This essay is more descriptive than analytical, but deeply helpful nonetheless. I’m inspired to write a blog post about planning my DH class for spring.
I don’t think that “blindly” fairly describes the unsubtle advocates on one or the other side of the divide. To me it’s more like willful simplicity or stubborn lack of nuance.
I would be interested in knowing how colleges and universities allocate credit (or fail to do so) to scholars who write articles for this project (or a project like this one), but who do not advance to the final volume. Is it like giving a conference paper? Is it the same as “publishing”? Is there any articulation with the disciplines where you have to write the paper and have it reviewed before it is accepted for presentation at the conference?
I imagine there is only anecdotal information, at best, on this question, but it might be useful to know about.
Timing of open peer review: indeed, I regret that the open peer review period does not correspond to the spring semester, when I will be teaching my first digital history graduate seminar.
No money from royalties: in my book about graduate school, I quote the documentation I received from Johns Hopkins UP that explicitly said whatever financial rewards academic authors receive usually come in the form of raises and promotion by their home institutions.
I think it’s more than helpful, but crucial, to talk about the costs associated with publishing–whether print or online. I had a grant rejected (in part) because the reviewers assumed that publishing to web rather than the print format we planned was free. Thank you for including this information.
This paragraph needs a little more development. For example, I really want to participate in this peer review process for a couple of reasons (my own edification, planning my class, supporting this experiment). But it does require aligning my plans for when to read what to the schedule you posted. I hoped to read earlier in the semester but could not until this was up. Now I have to carve out the time. In reality, that’s not super different from traditional private peer review, but somehow it feels different. I wonder if that’s because we secretly know we can slip a closed review deadline, but if we miss this bus, we are out of luck. Or is it because I think of the open peer review process as truly flipped–already published–and I think I should be able to read a book on my own schedule, thank you very much, without having to coordinate with anyone else.
Do they really say “sources”? So often my students say “quotes,” reflecting an even less sophisticated view of their arguments.
The use of impact factor is cute.
This essay feels a little short. I think it needs a bit more reflective ending, although I sure enjoyed reading what is here.
Thank you for such a great article. I can tell the difference between the earlier and latter essays you’ve published just from the first paragraph alone. My greatest concern as a student may not necessarily be regarding the privacy of my work, but the quality of it. I know that you have us google ourselves during the beginning of the semester, so this is a habit I’ve picked up, and I find that the more I google myself, the more my work (from your course and other outlets) pops up on google. While I am ecstatic that I have the opportunity to have my work published on the internet, it is terrifying to know that there may be scholars with years of knowledge judging the quality of my writing. I think that before publishing any content, the most important thing a student can do is have their work- regardless of what it is proofread and looked over by a peer or professor. This is undoubtedly the best way to prevent oneself like looking like uneducated on the internet. This in turn, helps to validate the legitimacy of the course and content that is assigned to us as students. Upon reading some of the comments written for this particular essay, I realized that my work is actually out there, and sometimes I may not want that, depending on the quality of my work. I think I’ve come to realize the importance of having some sort of privacy when it comes to the work that I want published on the world wide web…after all, it is WORLD WIDE.
Before reading this article I did not understand how Twitter could be a beneficial teaching tool in a collegiate setting. I enjoyed reading through this article for several reasons. I consider myself technologically savvy, but when it comes to Twitter, I don’t think I use it properly…regardless of whether I am using it for personal or professional use. I’ve been an active twitter user for about 5 years now, and still never understood the purpose of the social media outlet. Upon reading this article I thought about all of the possibilities when it comes to educating college students. I tend to forget that great writing is never measured in quantity but quality. This essay seems to justify this notion. When you are constricted to 140 letters, you have to be concise and clear about what you want to say. As easy as that may seem, it simply is not. I sometimes find that I struggle when trying to tweet anything of great substance because I’m limited to a mere 14o characters. I wish that some of my English and history professors devote some time during the beginning of the term teaching us the importance of quantity versus quality and the importance of precision when writing through the usage of Twitter. Professor Wright’s idea to have a series of assignments embedded in the use of Twitter was a brilliant one, as today’s college students will be tomorrow’s writers, and given that technology rules everything in today’s age I am sure that Twitter will always be the to-go-to website.
I’d be interested in writing about using social media networks to teach audience. I would route this discussion through an assignment I’ve run multiple times in a technical/professional writing class in which students write professional biographies. For these documents, I have them think about audience needs by adapting their biographical information to three networks:
A Personal Website
Students think about the needs and affordances of each kind of network, as well as learn about using each in their job search. I set specific length and content requirements for each of the three, and the students produce three separate versions of their professional biography.
In discussing this assignment, I would talk about the way that students, while often not able to grasp abstract concepts such as audience, do have an innate sense of the conventions of various kinds of websites. Utilizing this sense suggests the importance of writing for the web: our students already have some understand of its conventions.
Thank you, Scott! I just imagine the sounds and the smells of them.
It’s the organizational principle behind the final document, regardless of format; since most of the platforms chosen were “pages” or “books,” it was easy to just condense the print argument to fit a new home. The new documents were easy to see as new versions of the original.
Thanks, Amanda! I do need to give some more information on that as it’s more related to the overall argument than I initially thought.
Will definitely make that change!
LOL–thanks for the tip about the standards! Are they going to include more attention to reading in the multimodal context?
I can see that; I think there might be other connections to make within the volume as well.
At the most basic level, whether the student approaches all texts in the same manner–reading, for example, from start to finish as opposed to conducting a preview of the reading to determine where to place their focus or to see what components comprise the text and how they relate to each other. Manarin focuses on student response strategies as well–do they spend a great deal of time working with personal response, for example, as opposed to approaching the reading in an analytical frame?
I can certainly expand on this idea.
Thanks Jason–it is a block quote and I can certainly rework this section to make it more readily digestible. I thought the framework was necessary, but it certainly doesn’t require a quote.
I have to admit that the potential for this essay to appear in a book threw me; my expectation was for more multi-modality overall, and it will be interesting to see what happens with the final print product.
Save us from Fox News! :-)
I entirely agree about the way that we privilege particular formats; I try to make students aware of their role as rhetorical designers, but it can be difficult to reinforce and extend that idea when their academic engagements across the curriculum tend to privilege these long-standing forms. I like the potential, though, that texts like the ones published in KAIROS have to disrupt.
Those moves certainly can be just as baffling to the uninitiated; one difference, I think, is that the multimodal text contains the link and invites the reader to explore/discover the connection (and even if the link isn’t there, that the text lives in the browser–is a creature of the browser–might encourage a bit of side-searching to uncover mysteries).
I think that we won’t see a huge shift in perception on this issue, though, until faculty themselves begin to run into more and more of these sorts of texts. I’m wondering when the scientists will really catch the bug–I think the multimodal text is a natural fit for sharing scientific findings, but I’m not aware of anyone doing that sort of writing at the moment.
I should include a link; when I drafted this essay, I was thinking of the images as also elements in the argument, but I shouldn’t assume that readers will connect the image of the page with the text itself. Thanks for pointing this out!
I have no doubt that my relationship with the Kindle app on my iPad encouraged that vocabulary choice…
So glad that you found the essay interesting and engaging! There’s certainly more to do in this area; I hope to continue my explorations with some studies of actual student engagements and reflections.
I see the journal example that you give as more the digitization of print as opposed to a truly digital creation. I would argue that our popular engagement with text carries the same sorts of distinctions; the holy grail for the e-reader market became the creation of e-ink which rendered a near-enough-to-print reading experience to entice readers to take the plunge, and the designs for the physical elements of those devices, while not looking like books, suggest an attention to the physical space that the trade book would command and an attempt to make the electronic experience as “bookish” as possible.
Yes, it is! I think our students, though, are burdened now with having to negotiate the print and the digital to the same end (in this context, at least), which feels like a much more arduous task.
I often feel like I’m in a reader’s wild west where I don’t know what I’m going to wander into–saloon, shoot-out, tumbleweeds? As far as the texts themselves go, I expect that web design will eventually hew toward the needs of the mobile platforms, which will necessitate new formats.
Thank you, Amanda, for this thoughtful and helpful comment. I agree re: the title of the article–I would certainly change it to better signal the focus, particularly in a collection where writing seems to be the main focus of discussion. As for the jargon, I believe that you and others left some very helpful feedback on this issue that I’ll take into account in revision.
Thank you for these really helpful suggestions; the implicit argument that you noted at the end of your comment does need to be more clearly underscored for readers in this essay, particularly since the field tends to view literacy skill development from the writing end of the spectrum as a matter of course. The suggested connection between the undergraduate project and the scholarly web text is certainly another area where I can do some simple–and productive–revision as well; once students can read and appreciate the various ways in which academic web text arguments can “mean,” they may begin to find creation of these arguments and their public sharing a way to take the knowledge of the academy into the public sphere.
Thank you for this supportive comment and the helpful suggestion regarding your own work in this area; I must admit that I am not quite sure how I missed it, but I will certainly consult your work to find the spaces where I might productively engage in conversation!
Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment; I’m going to be teaching our department’s intro to literary course next term as well as a web writing course, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how to navigate the reading/writing conversation around a number of genres that provide new challenges the students are generally not prepared for. It’s useful to remember to temper my–and my students’–enthusiasm for new technology platforms with careful study and analysis of how those platforms “mean.”
Essay Proposal: Scholars continue to challenge expectations for academic writing; the rhet/comp journal, KAIROS, provides wonderful examples of the sorts of engaging pieces of scholarship possible in this medium. How, though, do we prepare our students to engage texts that challenge the expected forms and formats of scholarly writing? This proposed essay will examine the reading challenges presented by scholarly web texts and offer suggestions for classroom engagement.
In my conversations with graduate students or faculty about creating digital editions, we often discuss how they will know when their digital edition or project is successful. To some, peer-review is what will make it successful, to others, acceptance by an online publisher or organization, such as NINES. More recently, Mozilla announced Open Badges, which will allow scholars (authors, students, etc.) to receive a badge (recognition or public support) from an entity, such as a publisher, as a public show of support for one’s writing or project. I would like to see a discussion that really explores how this concept of open badges could be utilized by academic institutions and faculty for work submitted by students.
To some extent, it seems that using a medium like the blog gives a number of students freedom of voice and expression where the pressure of face-to-face discussion or the classroom environment invites immediate judgment/hesitation, especially when commenting or responding. Consequently, did you also find that some of your students who were more reluctant to participate in class truly found expressing themselves easier through the online platform?
The Twitter scavenger hunt is a great idea (not to mention it includes one of my favorite activities- people watching)! I have never heard of Twitter being used this way, but I think it incorporates many important elements of observation and efficiency and pushes students to expand their expectations of learning and social media.
It sometimes seems that using a medium like Twitter gives a number of students freedom with their voice that the pressure of face-to-face discussion or the traditional classroom environment stifles. In relation to this, did you also find that some of your students who were more reluctant to participate in class truly found their voice on Twitter?
Did you have any students who didn’t like Tweeting? The current social body assumes young adults, especially at the college level, thoroughly endorse the idea of social media. If there were individuals who did not like the idea of using Twitter (or social media), I believe including their perspective could be interesting and important. Acknowledging the variant viewpoint not only shows that you’ve considered all of the angles but could ultimately prove to make your case for Twitter even stronger.
I’m excited to see how this project develops. It was fun and stimulating to see Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolesence open for comment using this platform, and the side conversations in the margins were often really thought-provoking. I can imagine it’s also a little daunting for authors, but it’s a means of peer review that I hope to use one day.
I’m also pleased to know this book is coming out with the Maize Books imprint which I think is a very interesting model for open scholarship. Michigan Publishing is doing inventive and useful things.
Being all about open, I may as well confess that I am one of the people invited ahead of time to comment. I’m not sure I qualify as an expert but I’m very interested in undergraduate writing, writing for the public, and exploring models of new publishing, so I can plead massive interest if not expertise.
I really enjoyed reading all of these essays. I’m going to be lazy and respond to the review questions in a completely literal way.
What is the purpose of the manuscript, and how well does it accomplish this goal in its current form?
Reading this collection felt like being at a workshop faculty from across the curriculum sharing teaching ideas – and having enought time to think about why as well as how to teach. I particularly enjoyed the variety of disciplines and kinds of courses represented here. I also like the liberal interpretation of liberal arts – not as a kind of institution or even as a rarified set of subjects so much as an orientation to teaching and learning, what the AAC&U calls “liberal learning.” One of the reasons I find the variety of disciplines so valuable is that it reminds us that our undergraduates deal with this discursive tower of babel. Having to think about how and why we teach using language that isn’t embedded in particular disciplines and their codes and secret handshakes is immensely useful. In a curious way, it illustrates the tall order we give students when we ask them to “invent the university.”
Who do you envision as the intended audience of the manuscript, and does it address their interests and needs?
I imagine this anthology would interest a wide range of college teachers who care about pedagogy and who are curious about ways to use technology effectively as a platform for writing and as a subject to explore. The ways we express ourselves these days range far from the traditional research paper assignment and the argument-based essay. There’s so much writing going on in public spaces that we have both an opportunity to practice writing in public and (I would argue) a need to prepare students to engage with the world this way.
Is the manuscript based on pedagogical experience, insightful observation, and sound scholarship?
Yes, with each individual author choosing their own balance between experience and scholarship, between why and how. There was loads of insightful observation throughout, though the voices were varied and distinct. I felt that was actually a strength because it demonstrates the varieties of discourse available to us.
Is the overall presentation clear? Is the text well written?
I’m not sure I always appreciated the categories in which the essays were placed, but I’m not sure that’s because it’s unclear; I think it was more a function of my dipping in and out when I had time and the fact that I find those larger navigational issues (if that makes sense) much more difficult online than in print. I have always found it trickier to see the overall shape of things when I can literally measure the chunks of text with my fingers or see the relative size of chunks of text. I also suspect some of the essays could just as logically live in “communities,” “engagement,” or “rethinking.” (Citation and annotation was a more distinctive category.)
The writing in some of the essays appealed to me more than others, and some are in a more finished state than others. I particularly enjoyed the reading experience with Indiginizing Wikipedia, Student Digital Research and Writing on Slavery, Consider the Audience, Tweet Me a Story (these last two have already changed my plans for course in the spring), and Learning to Write at a Distance (which is just plain fun to read). Oh, and The Secondary Source Sitting Next to You and There Are No Directions in Annotations and probably others . . . In part they worked for me because they were well framed and engaging and partly because they contained ideas that I found particularly exciting or useful or both.
Does it make effective use of its digital format?
Erm, well . . . a lot of the essays are pretty much words. They seem to work, regardless, which perhaps confirms the notion that it’s all about expression and not so much about technology itself. I think in some cases more illustrations of work or links to assignment prompts or other material provided to students would be valuable.
I do wonder about the aparatus of footnotes in ditigal texts in situations where links using DOIs, WorldCat records, or those weird new things that start with http:// would make more sense, but I’m an outlier on this issue.
Could the organization be improved? If so, how?
I can’t think of anything. I am looking forward to the conclusion-to-come.
Overall, what are the strongest — and weakest — features of the work in its current form?
I love the variety of voices, the border-crossing mix of disciplines, and the fact that it’s full of deep thoughts about teaching and learning and writing but also ideas that readers will be able to borrow and remix. I really like the conceptual, public process, the open access commitment, and the way that IP issues were thought through in advance.
One gap that I saw repeatedly (that is, I saw places where these questions came to the fore for me) had to do with the 2st century intellectual property regime and the significant issues it poses both for the sharing of culture and scholarship and for the ways we use (and are used by) technology platforms.
Caution: rant ahead.
Many popular tech platforms are like carnivorous plants, presenting attractive spaces that simultaneously fill with content donated by the public and (after becoming even more attractive because of that vast amount of content) suck personal information up out of our identities, mixing it with other data sources, using it to “improve the customer experience” – meaning to target advertising with precision (and to sell it to other aggregators). The size of the companies we have come to rely on and the libertarian-neoliberal philosophies that are embedded in them are pretty terrifying to me – and that was before we learned they are being used in an extraordinary state project to build an infrastructure that would be just dandy for totalitarianism. That sounds like crazy paranoid talk, but what they have created (both the companies and the state) is unprecedented and troubling on so many levels. The fact that the people refused Total Information Awareness a few short years after 9/11 (the event that started the war that won’t end all wars but simply won’t end) but then met Facebook, founded shortly after TIA was axed, and decided privacy wasn’t important after all – that’s frightening. I didn’t see much acknowedgement of that.
The other, more practical and vexing issue is that so many of the things authors describe are impossible if using most cultural artifacts created since 1923. Sure, we can annotate the heck out of books and films and images – the technology is terrific, and it’s what scholars do – but what if the rights-holding corporation objects and claims you’ve made a deriviative work or are using an unauthorized copy? What if you aren’t sure who holds the rights or wether the object is even under copryight (a huge portion of work produced in the 20th century falls into this legal black hole) – do you just take the risk that somebody won’t go after you? Even an innocent infringment has ridiculous penalties – $50,000 per infringment. Fair use helps, and pushing the boundaries of fair use helps even more, but it’s tricky to make those interpretations and many institutions just don’t want to take those risks.
(Even rantier rant ahead …)
I personally am particularly frustrated when faculty members who ask me about these issues and are put out that the thing they want to do is extremely cool but unfortuntely a copyright violation are the same people who blithly give their copyrights to corporations (or societies that outsource their publishing to coprorations, or societies that have become profitable corporations – ACS and APA, I’m looking at you) and have absolutely no sense of responsibility or concern that they participate in a highly profitable system that turns knowledge into corporate intellectual property that is only valuable so long as its scarce or so long as third parties foot the bill. One of our humanities professors asked me about an article she’s publishing this week, knowing I’m a fan of open access. The fee she (or someone else on her behalf) would have to pay to ransom its freedom was as close to $3,000 as dammit. That’s totally insane. That issue doesn’t especially bear here, unless the thing you want to annotate or remix is a scholarly article or book or book chapter that is coprorate propery (and most are), but it is both complicated for users and largely unnecessary. It’s a massive transfer of what we once thought of as a common good – knowledge – into private control.
I’m not sure what use these ranty bits are for this book, which is admirably open, but it surprised me a bit that the issue of copyright and the burden it puts on us all when it comes to do things with texts and other cultural objects came up so little. Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away, but I rather doubt it.
On the hand, I have a bumper sticker in my office given to me by a journalist – “ignore your rights and they’ll go away.” And the truth of that statment is clearer every day.
Sheesh … all the typos. Sorry about that. I was talking about the 21st century, not the 2nd. Sorry about that.
I was thrilled that so many people defined “liberal arts” liberally and didn’t think merely in terms of a particular kind of institution. To me, liberal artss is not the same as elite, but sadly it often is framed that way (sometimes by elite instituitons themselves).
Very cool setup and thanks for the Github version and for thinking through copyright issues so clearly.
A very small thing: I just went to look up a book cited in one of the essays using copy/paste and some stuff comes trailing along with it, e.g.
How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technologies – See more at: http://webwriting2013.trincoll.edu/communities/hagood-price-2013/#sthash.zSyZeLyL.dpuf
(when pasted into a text file).
So to search for the item, I had to delete the trailing information. Is that intentional? Necessary? I look forward to the time when we can link to bibliographic records rather than have to spell everything out – e.g. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/753915105 – but meanwhile I’m cutting and pasting and (in this case) cursing and deleting. Because I’m such a whiner.
This is a great example of the difficulty of writing for a multiple and not-entirely-known audience. I loved the opening, but I can see how it could be taken as an insult toteachers who, for whatever reason, use multiple choice quizzes. It’s very much a matter of situation and discipline.
I know a student who bragged nobody at her highly selective liberal arts college with a terrific faculty-student ratio ever would dream of taking one of those easy tests. I’m sure she never thought of how elitist and condescending that sounds to people who have to teach or take courses with enrollments of 300 or more.
Yes, a good essay. It’s interesting that I kept picturing this course in a face-to-face mode perhaps because that has been my experience with teachers engaging with new ways of teaching, but also because the platform enables communication between the teachers and the students (who are also teachers) but really isn’t enabling anything that couldn’t happen in a classroom.
It’s really helpful to have articles about doing this kind of work in the kind of environment that is more and more likely to be asynchronous and online (or if not that, blended) and to see both the why and the how.
This is such a fascinating finding and so important – I think it would be useful to say a bit more about how students felt about their own discomfort, what role becoming uncomfortable (aware of privilege?) plays for teacher training, whether you all debriefed and discussed those emotions in class, and how you are responding to or planning to use that insight in revising the assignment.
So fascinating to see how web writing is explored in different disciplines. I think of teacher education as a realm where technology is playing a giant role, but not necessarily in public expression. I think of the ubiquity of interactive whiteboards and the kind of data-tracking platforms that seem in vogue right now – which seem counter to development of identity and of voice.
I also find myself wondering about a teacher’s public identity in that they may have a harder time than most professionals of presenting an identity as teacher and being publicly themselves. (I’m thinking of their need to protect themselves from charges of bias about everything from creationism to immigration or any hint that they drink or have cranky things to say about educational policy. It’s a dicey thing to be a teacher in public these days. There are also a lot of hero-teacher legends about individuals who inspired students against the rules and those often have weird identity issues of their own.) Is that issue addressed at all in this course? It’s tangential to what you’re trying to do, so it may be a total distraction, and may be more appropriate closer to graduation.
Another interesting effect of reading writing from so many disciplines is realizing how true the differences in disciplinary discourse are. I found myself (a humanities type) really taken aback by the use of “assignment designers” at the start of paragraphs 7-9. I realize that it’s an appropriate voice to have in scholarly writing in the field of education, but it seemed a fascinating rhetorical choice given that what you are describing is a kind of writing that is introspective and personal. I think it would be worth considering writing it from a more first-person perspective even if that goes against the discourse conventions for scholarship in the field.
I wonder if giving a couple of examples of these walls student writers encounter would clarify your point, that an invitation to write may be seen as terrifyingly constrictive that shuts them out, but which could also be a canvas for their expression and a comment on the wall itself. (I have only read the one paragraph, but I’m guessing that’s where you’re going with this…)
Also, I think “increasingly digital-literate student population” is questionable. There’s a great deal of variation in what tools and experiences college students have.
I think it’s worth bearing in mind that these online tools are designed not for student self-discovery but as support for (mostly) first year composition courses. The creators of these sites, like many of the teachers of these courses, have walls of their own, and defacing them might be a firing offense.
These sites of learning are really tricky places where the agendas are often set at least partially by people teaching other subjects in other departments.
Can the composition classroom be both the introduction to college writing (that giant, scary wall) and an invitation to be part of a conversation that sounds so completely foreign and exclusive? Does defacing the wall help them get through it into the place they’re trying to be?
This is such an intriguing dilemma for this book – it’s sometimes hard to realize what’s shared knowledge and what’s inside knowledge.
Would it be helpful at all to think about how to explain this essay to a friend who teaches in really different field – a chemist? a psychologist? and see what would make sense to them. I think what you’re talking about has analogs to the teaching they do, but the terminology and frames of reference make it hard to recognize them sometimes.
Though chemists and psychologists have discourses that I find impenetrable, they usually can come up with a layperson’s version that makes the essential points understandable. This is such a useful way of thinking about student writers, I would love for it to be . . . er, well, more of a mestizo text that can be true to what you’re trying to say while being at home in other disciplinary discourse worlds.
Yes, excellent – as it happens I just told a student about it because it’s likely to be vry useful for a project she’s working on in a gender studies course, looking at how library categories and curation work (and don’t work) and how those issues persist in digital spaces.
I think this is a point that could be usefully addressed in the article itself. We tend to think of LMS as a standard and a given, but it’s not. WordPress, even when private, is closer to universal because it underlies so many websites around the world. So the experience of writing on such a platform (incorporating links, etc.) is more portable than the experience of using Moodle or Blackboard and also can be an experience that easily translates into publishing publicly.
Thanks for reminding me of Global Voices – I think it would be a great text for a course like this and a place for students to see themselves as writers (whether or not the ever submit their writing to the site).
I find your caveats about public writing in this essay really interesting and wonder if it might be effective to pull that caution out of the conclusion and highlight it more in the introduction. In the context of this book, I think the issues you are focusing on – how students might find web platforms a more valuable place to find their voices given cultural definitions of what behavior is appropriate for a classroom, but how we shouldn’t assume that writing in public should be a part of that learning experience – may be a more important feature of your essay than internationalization as a trend.
Just a thought, but to me that’s the great takeaway contribution of your essay – challenging assumptions that digital platforms are no more culture-neutral that our assumptions about face-to-face discussion as a feature of liberal learning.
PS: I don’t mean to downplay the significance of internationalization and the need to help our students become more aware of what it takes to be global citizens. That’s important, too.
Yes, and, but . . . in college we tend to privilege this arrangement to a strange degree as if this is how knowledge itself is structured (which is about as true as saying the Dewey Decimal System is a structure of knowledge. Dewey certainly intended it to be – and it was based on Amherst College’s 19th century general education curriculum.
Students are all to quick to take cues from their teachers who imply that a text dressed like the Psychhological Review article is more truthful than a Tumblr. I want them to be able to coax meaning out of these dressed-up texts (which is not easy) but see that as the same kind of activity they engage in when reading a television commercial or a TED talk or, gawd help us, Fox News or the New York Times.
Hmm … peer reviewed articles arranged this way are almost always encountered as if they are items in a Google search, with links (sometimes) to related articles.
The rhetorical moves an author makes with an argument (more in the humanities than in a science-y paper) are not so linear and are peppered with hyperlinks that just happen to be encoded as endnotes. These references (nod nod, wink wink) can be extremely baffling to the uninitiated.
What does “print scholarship” even mean today? Articles are unleashed from their journals, tossed like popcorn into databases. I understand that scholars are wedded to this distinction and still think of journals as categories and organizational principles, but that distinction is tribal and almost entirely invisible to non-members of the tribe who simply wonder why links are so laboriously hand-coded and broken.
Just had a random thought – how do these design considerations translate across devices? Are they going to persist in a mobile world, or as people download a text to a reader that wants epub or mobi formats? What is text and what is paratext and is there a difference? </random thought>
The ACRL standards are being revised. Thank goodness. They are wholly inadequate, imo.
(I can say that because I’m a librarian.)
Of course? It wasn’t obvious to me where you were headed. But that’s okay; I’ll chalk it up to magic.
At this point I’m a little confused. Are you teaching the “procedural rhteoric” of history using games (which has its own procedural rhetoric) or are you using games to expose history students to the idea that everything about the way we tell ourselves about the past is constructed, as games are.
Scanning down to paragraph 9 I see that you are using the games to give students a chance to simulate the past and unpack how we think about the past by playing with it.
In which case – would you accomplish the same thing by asking them to plan out a historical novel or a one-act play? Or is there something about algorithms and games that is specifically tied to this magic you’re trying to work? Is understanding games easier than (or more useful than) understanding fiction?
I guess I’m asking “what’s so special about video games?” (No snark intended.)
Not to pile on, but a snarky part of me (It’s late in the afternoon and it’s getting restless and keeps slipping its leash) wanted to know whether “we looked at” meant “I explained …” At least usually that’s what academics mean by “we looked at.” :P
Thanks for asking, Amanda – I was wondering, too.
In fact (and it’s not meant as a criticism) there’s something about the rhetoric of this entire piece that seems consistent with the way a lot of guys I knew who were into D&D back in the day told stories. Magic. Necromancy. Golem. The nod nod wink wink of “There was a bit of attrition…” Or maybe invoking the spirit of Arthur C. Clarke was what reminded me of Cory and Dave and the other boys who played games with many-sided dice.
Damn. That’s what I did wrong. (Sorry if I’m skating the surface at this point.)
That helps a lot – and I think it could be valuable to include the DH distant reading concept and distant writing. It needs a bit of unpacking I think. And it would be worth it, I think, to make it clear that what students are learning as they make stuff up about history is how we think about history and how that way of thinking shapes (at a distance) our beliefs about the reality of the past.
That said, it could get long and distracting because for many of the readers of this book, distant reading won’t be a familiar reference. Maybe an easier metaphor to draw on would relate to “play” which is a rich word or to the idea that students invent rules in order to see the rules at play in the study of history.
(Heavens, I say “I think” a lot.)
This is a fun essay – a playful essay, which befits its theme and is both a joy to read and thought-provoking in valuable ways.
I would like to know more about why games, and how algorithms fit in here, and what students learned.
In the prompt you mention students demonstrating “in passing” (pun intended?) what they learned and they are expected to refer to “literature” to demo that learning. I wonder if this is another kind of magic – transubstantiation of a citation into understanding. We do that a lot. It’s a con.
I am curious whether they throw in some sources to satisfy that bit or if they actually demonstrate learning in some other way. Because this strikes me as one of those lines in a prompt that leads to “oh, crap, we have to do this, too!” followed by frantic pillaging of websites and JSTOR the night before it’s due. Which demonstrates something – maybe an appreciation of the long con that is often called “student success” but probably not what we understand as learning.
This is an interesting connection. I’ve often thought the panic about students and plagiarism is tied to the titling of copyright law toward intellectual property owners. The claims and moral appeals are very similar.
It also illustrates that citations show membership in a community, which enhances your social capital through association. This is something that almost never is emphasized to students when learning how to cite sources. It’s all about what they owe to their sources, not about the credibility and credit it gives to the writer that they are hanging with the right crowd and are in the know.
I think more students have picked up on the value of citations for continuing research because of Wikipedia than anything else. It has always been hard to persuade them that that fine-print ingredients list is actually useful, but with Wikipedia they get it.
I’d be curious what would be needed in terms of a style sheet – use of signal phrases to indicate the source of the link? Linking to sources is so natural and obvious when blogging, but no hand-coded laborious text is required. A hyperlink is simply a faster footnote.
I think it’s wise to agree on what the reader needs. Simply having an agreement about what it takes for a reader to get to the source should suffice. (Incidentally, I find it completely mad that MLA dropped the URL from websites, assuming a search would locate the source – but obsessively documenting “print” and “web” as if that actually means something important.)
I think there are two issues here being mixed that aren’t entirely the same thing. One aspect of plagiarism is failing to cite a source, and students often transfer their anxiety about being found guilty of plagiarism to the mechanics of citatiion. (For which no other form of writing, short of spray-painting hate speech across the walls of the student union, carries such a high penalty? What other college activities involve routine and repeated threats of expulsion?)
I agree that there’s a curious confusion for many faculty who think citation good! Internet bad! And sometimes the internet is blamed for plagiarism because cutting and pasting is easier than copying text word by word (which happened plenty before digital texts made it easy – and has anyone railed against JSTOR because it makes it too easy for students to cut and paste? but I digress.)
But I think combining citation and copying in the opening may be dlituing the argument that the web honors the same impulse that made us invent citations. It may work better to just draw that parallel and then move toward how students’ familiarity with web conventions can help them understand what citations do in academic writing.
I’m not sure why the process should be documented. Search is such a circuitous, recursive thing. I’ve found trying to document it tedious and likely to interrupt the connecting the mind is doing.
It’s hard to get some students to write a literature review that isn’t “I found this, and then I found this other thing, and then . . .” as if it’s the story of their search. I would much rather use that time to think about what the stuff means as a group of voices being organized into a meaningful community.
I think there is also enough evidence in the reports from Project Information Literacy and other studies that finding isn’t where students struggle. It’s figuring out what they are looking for and understanding what the things they’ve found tell them and how those things relate to one another and to the student’s ideas.
I wonder if students would really benefit from this work of retrofitting citation managers to accomodate a novel style. I find the claim that “formatting citations is a valuable lesson in following instructions, and students will need to interpret and follow complex rules when they are out in the real world” – a common justification – unpersuasive. While I think there may be some value in going through the process of deciding what information is needed for readers, trying to teach Zotero to rearrange the elements in a unique way – isn’t there a more productive way to learn how to lay out or format work? Which frankly is kind of how I feel about the huge amount of time spent on citations. While the idea of writing within a community of voices and helping your readers identify those voices and see how those voices work together is the whole point, focusing on the mechanics of tagging them in some systematic way something of a distraction.
I like the strong case you make here that, though we often think of scholarly writing as documented and sourced in a way that lends it great value and gravity, the underlying rhetorical moves that make us cite sources (connecting us to other voices with something to say, joining a community and signalling membership by linking our thoughts to a community’s convesations, borrowing authority by quoting people who have it) are deeply embedded in web writing.
Where I am less perrsuaded is that citations themselves – the hand-coded assembly of metadata (this is the author, this is the author’s titlte, this is title of the thing the author published it in, and here are the traces of where that thing came from and when) the clusiest kind of linked data imaginable and not particularly valuable except as linked data. Reallly slow, really cumbesome linked data. It’s a kind of link scholars have gotten used to, so they think it’s important – but really the thing that is important is a) those links sketch out who’s involved in a conversation and in which community this conversation is happening and b) it tells you how to contact the people involved or find and examine the artifacts that the community is discussing (data sets, documents, or whatever).
That’s it! That’s the only value they have. The less time we spend on crafting the link, the more time we have to engage with the ideas the link takes us to.
So I love the idea of recognizing how the web can illuminate the purpose of what scholars are trying to do when they cite one another. I love the idea of learning to weave sourcees together and acknowledge them in ways that strengthen the author’s credibilty as a community member. I like the idea of using Wikipedia’s insistence on citations as a discussion point – why are they so hung up on sources that aren’t blogs? (Wiki is really charmingly old-fashioned when it comes to authority.)
What I find less persuasive is the suggestion that spending more time on the citation as a communicative form of arranging metadata would be helpful because I’m not persuaded citations are needed (at least as a string of carefully arranged bits of information. Very few forms of writing do not reference sources. (News stories do, though the sources are usually people. Snake oil advertisements do, though it’s usually a happy customer or a dubious piece of research. Even poems do, though you often have to have read a lot of poetry to catch the references.) It’s only in scholarly writing that it’s so tortuously arcane and yet treated as if its unique to scholarship.
Sources are needed, and ways to get to those sources are needed. Citations per se – not so much.
I realize I am probably a charter member of a lunatic fringe on this matter.
I think, because of its iconic stature, this is a worthwhile piece to mention as a traditional (and well-resourced) newspaper (of record!) starts messing about with video and images, etc. Student writing is often seen as baby steps toward writing scholarly journal articles and technology is seen as a way of liberating students from that asinine pursuit. (Sorry, that’s a strong word, but given most students will not become academics, it shows terrible lack of imagination.)
I would consider changing “few students” in the final sentence to “no way in hell could students …” okay, maybe not. But no, students could not do what that many NYT staffers did. Maybe you could, though suggest some things students have done – I was going to point you toward the Stanford Study of Writing for examples but the site seems offline at the moment. (?)
I have to confess – which shows my lack of imagination – I found Snow Fall overproduced and not terribly interesting and kind of annoying because it seemed as if that kind of resource allocation could be used to report on, you know, news. Maybe that’s my curmudgeonly side, but I get really frustrated with putting a lot into technology to make it interactive when sometimes it’s just patronizing (as in the TED talk showing a book by Al Gore that lets you blow on your phone screen and a wind turbine turns isn’t that FABULOUS? No. I’d rather Pat the Bunny.
The trouble comes when rhetoric is forgotten and people begin to channel the Discovery Channel. Or something.
I buy fractal (in the geometric sense of regular irregularity) but I’m not sure I like the neural turn here. I think I’m just fed up with all the sudden fascination with neuroscience, which often is simultaneously superficial and magical.
Very interesting to “read” mutimodal composition through ancient texts and classical rhetoric. I do wonder, as Jason does, what this actually looks like in practice. I know a lot of students who get all excited about creating these things, and their teachers say “great, go for it.” And then they run out of time or into technical issues and write a paper instead. It’s not a kind of writing most faculty can help with at the nitty-gritty level.
Maybe it’s because I’m at a small campus without a staff of instructional designers or equipment, maybe it’s because many of our students come from underfunded rural high schools, but we just don’t have much infrastructure to do this stuff. The one media production lab we have is only open to students enrolled in a handful of courses – it’s expensive equipment and there isn’t enough money or know-how to go around.
I know it’s beyond the scope of this essay, so this is not particularly helpful, but I think we sometimes underestimate the equipment, prior learning experiences, and basic infrastructure that just isn’t available to some students and a lot of faculty. Maybe what would help is if you were able to somehow substantiate (or limit) the final line of your first paragraph. What part of the instruction are those who are “familiar with the canons of rhetoric” able to do and what parts will remain challenging?
I adore this article. It’s elegantly written, fun to read, and insightful. Having a student perspective (admittedly at a remove) is a wonderful addition to the collection. I think it makes a good case for using Twitter to bridge the gap between scholarly communication and popular culture. I’ve read about using Twitter in courses before, but it has never made as much sense as it does here.
The idea of experiencing a kind of web writing on paper (paper tweets) as a way of separating the platform from the form of expression is interesting. It defamiliarizes the popular form of communication and plugs it into a situation where ideas are typically forced into a starchier format and that is a way of making us aware that ideas don’t just belong to a certain social situation, that ideas don’t just belong to school.
I find students resistent to the idea of blogging or tweeting about academic matters because they’ve grown so comfortable with academic prose. I like the idea of forcing a kind of reverse code-switching, deliberately pulling academic discourse into a social mode that students have usually not seen used to talk about Shakespeare or sociology or whatever they are studying.
Love this piece. Just leaves me feeling happy and excited about possibilities.
I want to hug this paragraph and take it home with me. As we see elsewhere in this essay, platforms can influence expression, but a lot of the writerly questions that arise while using a blog platform or Twitter or whatever have nothing (really) to do with the technololgy and everything to do with rhetoric. And by breaking free of the formula for sounding scholarly, students are confronted with questions they don’t normally have to deal with. What is this thing I’m doing – property? What are the implications of sharing my words and the words of others?
That plus learning how to query the platform as part of the process – what are the affordances of one interface over another? What do I need to know to make it work? We don’t generally have to ask these questions because the choices were already made for us.
I, too, was struck by “archive of publication.” It’s a great recognition that the writers in our classrooms are already published, voluminously. Yet we tend not to think of that public speech as publication. Publication is serious, singular, mediated by gate-keepers and probably really hard to read.
I loved being caught up short that way – though perhaps it would be worth expanding on that thought?
“These are skills that we learn” – YES. But we tend to keep them in a special box. I find this idea of code-switching by using popular forms of communication to make this work public (in ways we make all sorts of things public, but not necessarily the work we do in seminars) is so refreshing and promising.
You make a good case for web writing across the curriculum – recognizing disciplinary discourse conventions that are unique to different fields (or at least used in specific ways that differ from one discipline to another).
I had the same thought. It seems web communication is playing a major role in political participation these days (and campaigning and gathering financial and emotional support for candidates and causes) – so the idea of civic engagement via the web and social media is an intriguing one.
This is an interesting issue – at times, a course project may need to be hosted separately from the campus web presence. Interesting issue.
I agree – I am particularly interested in the idea of writing that is not directed to (exclusively) the teacher and also writing to learn that isn’t learning how to write in the mode of an academic. There is such a rich opportunity here to see how public writing, public engagement with civic life, and action in the political sphere can come together this way.
This is such a great example of how to incorporate web writing into courses in a way that enhances writing, subject knowledge, and civic engagement.
I’m really intrigued by the Colbert spoof on PACs and the whacky way we finance campaigns and wonder if you could say more about that – perhaps bringing the essay full circle by saying something about how it played out.
There’s something in this that I can’t quite put my finger on but which might be interesting to explore. The fact that an entertainment figure (who we also turn to for news, even though it’s filtered through a mock-right-wing-talk-show-celeb filter) uses the web to involve people in participating in this style of news/spoof. What is the role of parody and posturing? Did students ever feel as if their web communication was also a spoof or parody, or did they treat it more seriously, or do they blend parody and entertainment and self-expression and serious ideas without missing a beat? The ways we enact political life as individuals and groups is really affected by Web 2.0 interaction and that would seem to be a profoundly influential medium for civic participation but also for mockery and parody. It’s such an interest turn this medium has taken, particularly in the realm of politics.
I have a feeling I’m going to be talking about making and breaking a lot in future. Thanks!
I think you’ve seized on something that is becoming interestingly prominent in the nature of the social internet. Pinterest, for example, got instantly popular because it turns out people like expressing themselves through curation. It also taps into our Western tendency to identify ourselves through what we acquire (so in a sense curate our identities through bricolage) and represent ourselves with things that we display. I’ve never heard the word “curate” as often as I have in the past five years. It’s everywhere.
I wonder if this argument might be easier for some of us to grasp if you provided an example of an assignment from a course right up front, then explained how that assignment involves students in making choices about what belongs and what doesn’t. I think I would have been quicker to grasp the concept if I had an example first.
A total aside: I think we underestimate our tendency as academics to think of teaching as curation: I will assemble the best texts, images, film clips, and pieces of wisdom from the experts and BOOM! learning. There’s a whole lot more to learning than being exposed to a curated body of knowledge but sometimes I think 90 percent of the effort in designing a new course is in picking readings. Curation, in other words.
Cool – matching Twitter brevity with what you need to open a story. (Small question – lede or lead? Are both used or have I always used lede incorrectly?)
I’m finding this increasingly a problem – a big event, a huge drain on whatever wifi and cell phone coverage is available. A real world problem for working journalists covering a big story with a big audience full of active cell phones.
Agreed – it seems really optimal for journalists. Lots of curation and integration and interpretation – but in story form. There seems some reluctance to publish on platforms the news organization doesn’t own, as if it will pull readers away from the site – which, given the way digital advertising revenue works (or hasn’t worked) may be a serious issue for news. Interesting times.
Is there an extra “or” after “Wall Street Journal style”? I wasn’t sure which was the WSJ style in that sentence. (I don’t read it very often, so can’t rely on my own experience!)
Great essay. I want to teach journalism! I want to teach everything! This is one of those pieces that really revves up the pedagogical imagination. Even before the final section with the examples of how these techniques could work in other situations, I was sold – not because of the technology, but because of the way it can teach sharp writing skills. And because I think all writers could benefit from being able to do some reporting – capturing the essentials, shaping a story, and doing it in a way that is clear to any reader. We so often seem to be teaching Academic Stuffiness 101, followed by Advanced Obfuscation 201. Clarity is good. So are the values that underlie journalism. I have students read the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics because it’s really nicely aligned with academic values in many ways (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp).
Two things I wondered about. In the situations where students live-tweeted events, some reported and some commented. (Some also were simply more experienced at and quicker at taking notes from speech – which is a very handy skill and probably means they have developed attention skills.) Did you ever consider assigning roles? Is there a meaningful difference today betweeen news and commentary. As an old-school newspaper junkie, I see a major difference, but it’s far less obvious today when the sections of the paper are less distinguishable in terms of layout and when we get our news through multiple channels (one of which is the Colbert Report!) I wonder if students could slip in and out of roles as reporters striving for objectivity (while curating the main points) or as individuals who comment on the event as individuals with a visible persona.
The other thing – and this is beyond the scope of this essay – is what this means for the future of news. Journalists are expected to be able to write, edit video, tweet, take great photos, and create multimedia stories using mutiple platforms. They have to report in multiple modes larely because the photographers got canned and the bosses want video even though they laid off half the newsroom last month. They are expected to do this in an industry that has lost its revenue base to Google and beeen (in too many cases) bought up by private equity firms that were only interested in turning it over fast and making quick bucks. (Mostly didn’t happen, so they stripped the assets.) What will the fourth estate look like in the next five years and what social institutions will we have that take on the role of journalists? Will we rely on Facebook and Twitter to replace those big press machines that used to rumble in the basement below the newsroom and, if so, what are the larger implications? As I say, that’s probably an essay for another day, but maybe there’s a place to acknowledge the changes in the news business here because every single one of us should be concerned about the fate of the news.
Sorry, that turned into a soapbox moment.
That word caught me up, too. Celebrities use it correctly for their rhetorical purposes. Maybe “when used to convey information instead of marketing or entertainment” – ?
I have had trouble convincing students that it can be a valuable source of information or place to connect with experts because they have only experienced it as an entertainment platform with occasional links to news and opinion. I think Ill curate some lists to do a better job of showing academic and news purposes. Thanks for the prompt!
I wonder if it might work to say soemthing like “from academic writing to writing beyond the college context.” A lot of “writing on” is likely to be not part of a marketplace at all (unless it’s a marketplace of ideas). In a way it broadens the scope from writing for this semi-artificial purpose and context to all kinds of writing for a wide range of purposes, some personal, some professional, some civic, some social.
… though since at least one of the courses you are discussing is “writing for the workplace,” perhaps “marketplace” is exactly what you mean to emphasize. Hmm….
I’m not sure I understand “classrooms have become virtual learning spaces.” Which classrooms? What is the nature of a virtual learning space? Is this referring to students interacting with one another online outside of class? In class, but online? Sorry, just got hung up on this line.
The final claim here, “potential . . . for learners from differing socioeconomic backgrounds” is a big thing. I need to finish reading the essay more carefully, but this seems like a significant issue that isn’t really tackled. Why do you see this potential? Is it that this kind of writing is less likely to privilege students from well-to-do families who have more familiarity with formal writing conventions? I’m not sure that they don’t also have greater facility with technology and the sometimes very class-delineated social interactions online. There’s a great deal of “insider” language and cultural references in online communication that is not necessarily welcoming to people who aren’t insiders.
Trivial suggestion – could you avoid “I will shift” and instead end paragraph eight by saying “Over the five-year period in which I’ve taught the course, students have responded …” so that you don’t need that awkward transition? I think it’s perfectly okay to have observations from the entire history of the course and then describe how the course is structured. All in the present tense.
I wonder if there’s a way to introduce this paragraph with a general statement of this part of the course. Jumping right to plagiarism software and then other automated tools seems to miss a framing concept that ties that software student may have been required to use for school situations to other kinds of software constraints and ethical issues involved. It seems also a bit unclear how ethics and software lead to peer review processes.
Could you say more about what exactly the context is for designing web pages for “multicultural audiences”? It would be useful to know what that means by use of examples. Is there a particular community or situation you focus on so that students have a context for designing a single site with multiple potential audiences? I’d love to know more about this, since it’s rare (in my experience) to consider online audiences from this perspective.
I probably should know this, but what is “the ‘one-to-many’ model of hypertextuality”?
This is a valuable contribution to the kinds of writing instruction that are particularly geared to what’s going on in the wider world. I did wonder if you are or might consider a couple of big points that loom large for web writing.
First, there is a growing expectation that writers will trade their work for exposure or promotion. It might be worthwhile to situate the explosion of opportunities to publish writing with the diminished opportunities for professional writers to actually get paid. Scholars don’t typically think of their work as a work product. It’s a gift economy and a joint effort to expand knowledge. A lot of professional writers outside of academia are beginning to raise exactly the same questions that unpaid internships are raising. Will only those with incomes apart from writing get to share their thoughts (because nobody will compensate all the time they put into them?) Are we hearing only a certain kind of voice, one that values self-promotion over wages (or can afford to not get paid for their writing)? This is not just a journalism problem, but is roiling writers for The Atlantic, Salon, etc. etc. We can now do “big things for love”, as Clay Shirky puts it, but only if we have wages that enable that and enough free time and internet access to participate. There’s a lot of exploitation out there.
And that plays out in another way. I didn’t catch a sense that your courses consider the ways in which giant platforms are profiting by making the people who use them their product. (It’s really only because Facebook changed our attitudes toward privacy that the NSA now has its technopanopticon. Their first foray into this area was shot down – the year before Facebook launched. For writing int he workplace, this would be a really interesting area to explore. What is the company’s relationships to the people in its social network? What happens to the personal information gathered in the process – not necessarily by the writer’s employer? What is the line between engagement with customers, marketing, and sockpuppetry? What are the ethical dimensions of participating in social media and the commodification of the self (and of all of the associations you make online)? Are there alternatives to relying on giant corporations with impenitrable terms of service and mutating “privacy” policies? What open source tools could a web writer use for a client that can’t afford or doesn’t want to be tied to proprietary software?
There are so many aspects to the way writing has adapted to the web, many of which are social, economic, cultural, and ethical – and much of those issues are deliberately concealed by an industry that is predisposed to male, white, neoliberal, libertarian, and falsely meritocratic dispositions.
Sorry for the long comment. One thing your piece has done for me is suggest how much fun it would be to teach web writing that is not simply transitioning academic-scholarly forms of discourse to the web. Thanks for the thought-provoking ideas and for highlighting this kind of writing course.
I think this is one of the challenges of this kind of collection. It’s THE book for a lot of people and barely on the radar of other communities participating in this.
I think this is one of the challenges of this kind of collection. It’s THE book for a lot of people and barely on the radar of other communities participating in this. What “we all know”is all over the place here. One reader finds in-depth explanation of “convergence culture” a distraction because “we all know” about it, and others want it defined. Vexing editorial issue! But it’s a situation undergrads deal with daily as they trudge from one discipline and its conventions to another.
Sounds like “breaking and making” !
<threadjack>I think it’s funny that we’re talking about commenting in comments. Also, I wonder if there isn’t some parallel here in the defense of conference attendance. There is no reason scholars should spend so much money to go to some soulless hotel and read papers at each other. So easy to comment online. But the commenting in person and the unplanned engagement that happens seems irreplaceable. Why is that, I wonder? Will it ever change or is there something enduring about being together in the same space?
I now return you to your previously scheduled program.
Very interesting observations. The very act of assigning value is a kind of commodification of effort and a way of disaggregating the self into monetizable things rather than whole experiences. There’s also that weird trade-off between effort and value, between individual and group, between inventing and conforming. Grades are such a pain.
Another threadjack – I’m just about a third into Dave Eggers new novel, The Circle, and this resonates strongly with that novel, which is about a FacebookGooogleplex built on frantically displaying yourself and your connections because to be outside the circle is to be impoverished, constantly under the threat of losing your job, your health, and everything that makes life satisfying. Kind of the way we frame the importance of getting a college degree.
Our students constantly perform themselves in a variety of digital ways. We don’t always appreciate how demanding it is for them to perform a biology self at 9 am, an anthropology self at 10:30, and so forth. Empowerment becomes really complicated.
I know it’s beyond the scope of this article (I’m in threajack mode, apparently) but it’s fascinating to see how Wikipedia is the site of a struggle over what the status quo is, who gets to be part of it, and who will be punished for challenging it.
I think public and participatory writing may be some of the work you want to do, but online communities quickly develop their own hierarchies. I like the turn you take in your concluding sentence – it’s not the technology, its the pedagogy that matters. I am, however, left wondering how technology replicates the status quo and whether it’s possible to address even more strongly that technologies of sharing are also hugely influenced by the status quo and have become an industry of commodification of the lives and labor of contributors who are both product and consumer as they express themselves and connect with others – and those connections and expressions are mined so that things can be more seductively sold to them.
This is really nice, and does a great job of showing how students respond to social annotation and how this process can perform really interesting work. So much of what happens in college classrooms seems geared to reading closely in order to understand exactly what the author has said and why and to learn the discipline by reading a curated list of the discipline’s most classic and influential works of scholarship. That tends to be a one-way trip – the student becomes a practicing member of that community, but only by adopting its values, its discourse conventions, and its history. The student only gets to critique it once the student has been absorbed by the disciplinary borg.
What I like here is that students are invited (and sometimes coaxed) to trust themselves to do critical work without first having to go through a complicated baptism and be declared born again —– (fill in the discipline). The knowledge base they draw on isn’t just the literature of the field, it’s their own multiple literacies and their lives. Quite honestly, I would never, ever have expected this to happen around reading The Elements of Style! What a wonderful surprise to have it turn out as it did.
I have a couple of questions (that may not help at all with this chapter, but I’m curious). What can we do when we want to critique something that is bound up in copyright restrictions? A class at my institution annotated a work of literature and wanted to publish it. It would have been awesome. It also would have been a lightning rod for the wrath of the publisher or, at best, a permssions fee that would eat the entire campus and then gobble up surrounding counties. It never once occurred to the instructor. How can we do this really useful work publicly under the current copyright regime, apart from focusing on what’s in the ever-shrinking and endangered public domain? How do we talk about the collaborative nature of scholarship when everything is locked up so tightly? I love Jonathan Lethem’s essay “The ecstasy of influence” but it doesn’t answer the practical problem of doing that kind of ecstatic work without getting sued.
Amazon can have a way for multitudes to publicly share an annotated text (and add it to their data mining operations), but that can’t be done legally by scholars and their students. What a crazy world.
The other one has to do with reading experiences. I’ve found, reading in this interactive way, that I have to push essays through Readability so that I can focus on the whole text before I look at paragraphs and the conversations about them. When I’ve done this kind of group commenting on a text with students, they find it very hard to get a sense of the whole text rather than granular parts of it and also feel their personal reading is being overtaken by others who got there and left comments first. It may be totally irrelevant here, but I’m really unsure how to encourage both reading the text as a whole and analyzing it in parts.
Very minor copyedit question – do you mean immanent readability or eminent readability? I could see either word fitting, but somehow I thought you might be wanting to say “for their pronounced readability” rather than “for their inherent readability.”
Oh, and in answer to the questions posed at the end of the paragraph – yes and yes! But I’ll read the rest to find out how you answer it.
We may not expect it of students, but we really do unintentionally expect it of students. See Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University” in Rose, Mike. When a Writer Can’t Write: Studies in Writer’s Block and Other Composing-Process Problems. New York: Guilford Press, 1985.273-285. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/11211866
I’m not sure blogs avoid the problem of “inventing the university” automatically. A lot of academic blogs are just as full of jargon and insider-isms as academic writing. In fact, they sometimes have such a chummy insider voice that they can be more impenetrable by outsiders than academic writing which pretends to be erudite and/or scientific in a bland way.
That said, I think for students there’s a kind of liberatory informality in the platform that can help them blend their sense of identity with what they are saying perhaps more readily than when trying to write formal, academic prose.
I’m not sure blogs avoid the problem of “inventing the university” automatically. A lot of academic blogs are just as full of jargon and insider-isms as academic writing. In fact, they sometimes have such a chummy insider voice that they can be more impenetrable by outsiders than academic writing which pretends to be erudite and/or scientific in a bland way. That said, I think for students there’s a kind of liberatory informality in the platform that can help them blend their sense of identity with what they are saying perhaps more readily than when trying to write formal, academic prose.
Interesting that students realized what a commitment a blog can be and/or that the teacher was willing to go along with a change of plan. Being willing to negotiate the expectations is something to consider . . . though keeping the commitment real (the blog isn’t just another task to check off, it’s as serious an assignment as more traditional forms of writing) might be a challenge in some situations. Very interesting food for thought.
I love both the interdisciplinarity of this but also the “what do we need to figure out to make sense of this for our other audience” that applies the analytical skills they’ve been learning to communicate beyond their classroom community – really cool!
As I’m reading and commenting at separate times, I’m going to contradict myself when, in a previous comment, I argued that blogs can be just as bounded by disciplinary language and argument conventions as other forms of writing. That’s true (at least sometimes) but I think what’s valuable here for teachers interested in devloping good writing assignments is that this experience seemed to give students a greater sense of belonging to the ideas and the conversations about those ideas and showed greater commitment to learning about them and explainging them than when writing more traditional papers that mimic a certain kind of academic flavor while not participating in actual disciplinary conversations (because those texts are not shared and are written for an audience of one – the teacher).
So I think the two issues are interestingly connected: digital writing is well-suited for interdisciplinary engagement with ideas and it also proved to get students more invested in both the content and the rhetorical moves they had to make as writers and readers and community members. In some ways this writing across the disciplines with an eye on writing not just in a discipline but truly across them.
I have to admit that one of my thoughts halfway through this essay was “oh my lord, this should be a book! I want to read it! NOW.”
What a rich and fascinating topic and how surprising it all is. The issues you raise are so fantastically complex and yet some just have never really occurred to me. The idea that writing local and personal history might make one kind of historiography (personal, shaped by being an African American, living with a synchretic mix of deeply felt Christian spirituality and a sense of our relationship to our people and the past) conflict with the historiography that influences the school textbooks that tell a completely different story . . . my mind is blown.
I think I will be haunted by the idea of voices crowding around a student who had awakened them all through this work and this knowledge.
I would love to think more about how to reconcile the emotional and personal experience of research with the scholarly insistence on letting evidence lead to conclusions and being able to step back and dispassionately draw conclusions. I think all honest research requires passion and personal involvement, and that being open-minded and willing to have one’s mind changed doesn’t rule out taking it all personally. I also wonder how technology platforms and the economic and cultural values embedded in them (many of them shaped by libertarian, neo-liberal, individualistic, privilege-blind perspectives) act on or run counter to the kind of work you are doing here.
Sorry – none of these comments are constructive, but that’s the price of having your mind blown.
Or is it just that the comment was being made at the last possible minute by a slacker who lost track of time? (Yes, I’m talking about me. I haven’t distributed my time well across these chapters.)
I was thinking about this tool as I started your essay. Glad to see it included.
This is really interesting, as I’ve always thought of those “associative trails” as a kind of hyper-footnote, a citation trail tying things together by individuals but shareable. Bush also talks about specialists in creating these trails. But I hadn’t ever connected that to annotation per se.
I’m so fascinated that both Bush and Englebart had absolutely no conception of the muddle we’re in when it comes to rights holders and the supremacy of intellectual material as property (and mostly not to property or rights belonging to its authors). I guess they never had to seek out IP owners and write out a giant check for permissions.
As an aside, I find it so much easier to read text that uses html for its references as opposed to endnotes.
Again – sigh! – they can’t legally share much of what they mark up if what they are marking up is an article from JSTOR or s chapter of a book. Copyright haunts me. Every time I begin to imagine the possibilities it comes up behind me and smacks me hard in the head.
Again – sigh! – students can’t legally share much of what they mark up if what they are marking up is an article from JSTOR or s chapter of a book. Copyright haunts me. Every time I begin to imagine the possibilities it comes up behind me and smacks me hard in the head.
Amazon is doing this with Kindle books. I’m not sure I like it when you have no sense of who your community is other than “customers who bought this book . . . ”
I asked students how they would feel about ebooks that could be socially highlighted and annotated. Some thought it would be annoying or creepy, but some said it would be neat, but only if the sharing was within a group of people working together. This feeling is probably influenced by buying a second-hand textbook and having someone else’s highlights and notes to read through.
I asked (or had a student interviewer ask) a dozen students how they would feel about library ebooks that could be socially highlighted and annotated. Some thought it would be annoying or creepy, but some said it would be neat, but only if the sharing was within a group of people working together. This feeling is probably influenced by buying a second-hand textbook and having someone else’s highlights and notes interfering with their own annotating. Just a guess.
I took it to mean that close reading in a classroom is a form of annotation. It would probably be a good idea to expand on that, though, since that kind of classroom work is not a universally practiced and standard pedagogy.
Are venture capitalists involved in it in an ownership capacity? I see it had a kickstarter, but it seems the people involved are committed to it being a non-profit.
I like the general thrust of this argument – Vannevar Bush is a fascinating read. There are other, older examples as well – the common place books etc. – but the way he imagined the web (and how it hasn’t quite worked as he imagined) is a corrective to the “everything is disrupted” approach to technology.
I also enjoyed reading about the new directions in annotation that in some fundamental way are not new. (I like the title because it plays off that quick-to-become-stale standard title, “new directions in ….”).
As you will see from the comments, my big hairy giant unanswered question is “how are we supposed to get away with this?” I am sure you don’t want to deface your article with a discussion of that dreary subject, copyright, but. I can’t. Even. Gahh – don’t tempt me with this stuff and then abandon me in the current copyright regime, it’s too cruel!
The Amazon highlight issue is an interesting instance. Amazon can do what it likes because its big enough to frighten copyright owners and because they have sold publishers on the idea that it would be really helpful to see what readers highlight so as to develop books all around OMG instead of the bits nobody highlights. People donate their reading labor under the same terms as they donate their lives to Facebook. This isn’t a declaration of freedom, it’s the creation of another profitable pool of user data to be exploited for money. But what’s a scholar to do? That’s not the game we’re in, and we don’t have the grubstake, anyway.
I’m also wondering if there’s a need to include the fact that user-generated content can vanish when the company goes bust, gets sold, or the owner loses interest. Choosing which platform to use is also a matter of examining what happens to the data you contribute (and whether you are being exploited), what standards underlie the design of the platform (are there any?), how the platform is funded (can it be broken like Flickr and everything else Yahoo touches has been because somebody at HQ thought it was a good idea?) etc. I expect this is beyond the scope of your essay, but I think these issues ought to be gestured at somehow, even if it’s a short paragraph that starts out with “Things I will not be addressing include . . .”
Just checked in with Peter Brantley (@naypinya) who is Director of Scholarly Communications, Hypothes.is Project. and he confirms that they intend to keep their non-profit 501(c)3 status, are working on getting additional funding, are based on open standards, and are adding work on tools for annotating video. (Sweet.)
Another quick thought – that image is very striking, but why did you choose it? It’s a scrapbook, not an annotated publication. If I missed something obvious, sorry for being dimwitted this afternoon.
This is a fascinating finding – grades were not improved (meaning the learning of the content or the process the lab was intended to convey wasn’t improved?) but they felt generally as if it was worthwhile and that they benefitted from the interaction among students (except, predictably, for those who felt their group members didn’t come through).
It would be interesting to see whether there are long-term benefits in terms of students retaining an interest in science or (if they aren’t ultimately science majors) if they are more interested in science than those who didn’t have this shared writing experience. That would be a much bigger, longer-term project.
I may have simply not read this carefully enough, but do you ever specify what course this is? I am curious how this affects committed majors who already have had a lot of experience writing in the discipline and those who may be either taking a science course as part of general education or who think they are pre-med in their first year of college until they realize they aren’t doing well enough in bio and chem and change course.
SOME of us remember typewriters and buckets of white-out! There was a cruel irony in the fact that as soon as we had software that would automatically make room for footnotes, in-text citation was suddenly allowed. Such a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth to get to the bottom of a page and realize there wasn’t enough room to type that footnote.
It always seemed such an abstraction to talk about audience when the literal audience was one. Even with peer reviewing in class, students were never fooled about who the real audience was.
That said, there are two somewhat distinct issues here – we not only have technology that allows us to have an audience of many, we have technologyt that blurs the distinction between audience and author. Students seem to grok the potential multitude in audience, but are less comfortable when authorship itself becomes shared and multiple. We don’t help much when we ask them to sign pledges that this work is their own and that it’s wholly original, etc.
Sorry, not a comment on this paragraph so much as a digression …
Students often have enormous anxiety about having to learn new platforms for their assignments, just as they can feel threatened when given an assignment prompt that is something other than the academic prose they’ve been trained to produce.
That’s a very useful video. Really makes the point.
I wonder if there is any way that this feature might also encourage revision. Do people feel safer making changes if they know they can go back to a previous version?
It makes me wonder if it would be valuable to ask students to look at revision history and analyze why changes improved (or failed to improve) a document.
Oh, well here you go … “Writing Out Loud” is exactly the exercise I was imagining. Cool.
I have to admit, it looks quite complicated (though you’ve documented the logistics well). Faculty often consider, then reject technology-based classroom tools because they know what they’ve done in the past works. Students can also be easily frustrated and anxious about learning new ways to do things they are used to doing with other tools. (I’m always finding students who don’t know basic Word shortcuts – who type in page numbers without using the “insert page number” tool, for example, or who create hanging indents by hand. Born digital, indeed.)
Another concern I sometimes have is that digital divide between students who grew up with technology at home and those who came from communities and homes with limited technology – and are often embarrassed about it. That’s a problem that’s not limited to technology, of course.
“Attachment hell” has been automatically uploaded to my vocabulary. Thanks!
We do have campus Google apps, but sometimes it actually creates additional issues since it doesn’t always play well with personal Google accounts. Or people want to keep a separate personal account and have to remember to log out and in regularly.
This is nice – I think I’ll do a short video tutorial for my spring course that will be creating and using wordpress.com accounts.
This is such a good point. It’s so helpful to see what other people are doing in their classes. It’s also much easier to answer questions about “what do you do in that course?” or “can I see your syllabus?” Some faculty seem reluctant to share their syllabi (seeing it as intellectual property they must protect) which is something very difficult for me to understand. I do open courses, too, and use Moodle only for readings that can’t be distributed beyond the students enrolled in the course.
This really brings home the idea of audience and purpose and why real writing happens when real people can read it.
In an earlier chapter on science writing, the author found that scores didn’t improve but attitudes toward writing did. In this case, I suspect the writing and attitude both improved because the public purpose nudged students to revise and improve their work.
You mentioned earlier that scholars who weren’t trained in composition may feel ill-equipped to teach writing. Yet as scholars they have had to revise and know that editorial interventions can be both vexing and improving. And take time! Giving students the chance to publish their work without calling it quits at the end of the term is really cool.
This reminds me of the way Writing Out Loud works – by analyzing specifics, you can get to generalities rather than goingt the other way around.
I really enjoyed this essay. It has a lot of practical information and how-to, but it presents it while also making a strong case for collaboarative and public writing.
The only thing I wondered – are there things that worked better in the past? Things students struggle with? Things you left out of the syllabus to make room for this kind of collaborative assignment? Are there times you deliberately choose not to promote tech-enabled collaboration or public writing and, if so, what are the pedagogical reasons – or are they logistical?
This is fascinating. I think grasping writing as collaborative is a big part of becoming a confident writer. I’m very fond of Doug Downs’ statement “sources are people talking to other people.” It helps students recognize that they are part of that equation, too, that scholarship is collaborative and conversational. Yet too often, they create sources that don’t get to talk to other people because they aren’t public. This process closes a communication loop and makes them part of something bigger.
Interesting to see this project as a way of enacting the ideas that underlie writing across the curriculum. I think, in some ways, this medium simply makes obvious the things that writing has always been about – communicating to an audience and, in the process, rethinking, shaping, and responding to readers to make a piece of writing better.
I admit to being confused for a bit about “the act of writing visually” because I thought visual was a property of web writing … rather than an act that visually demonstrates, whether it’s online or not. The argument, I think, is that a public online and provisional platform for the act of writing causes us to take seriously some of the things that we know goes into writing, but which we don’t always remember to emphasize enough.
I’m a huge fan of the WAC Clearinghouse – http://wac.colostate.edu, a rich resource for teachers of writing.
…. which is everyone who assigns writing to college students, I should add. Which is kind of the point of WAC.
This is likely to come up later, but as I read this, I wonder if students aren’t more likely to recognize rhetorical moves when writing online, since it’s a much more familiar kind of writing to them than the “research” writing that emulates some aspects of scholarship but which so many students initially think is about finding out what other people have said.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the Stanford Study of Writing has established that students do amazingly sophisticated rhetorical work when composing for purposes that matter to them while not recognzing how it works in schooled forms of writing.
I like this idea that we can in a sense reboot our approaches to teaching and learning, even if what we ultimately hope students learn is fundamentally not a totally different beast just because it’s online. It makes the process more public (making the idea of “audience” mean more than “what does the teacher want?” and more provisional (revision has a purpose).
A passing thought – what exactly is the purpose of a numbered reference when a link would do? Does it provide information that a link doesn’t?
Another passing thought . . . why do new teaching practices require evidence of effectiveness when standard/traditional practices don’t? I realize a default position benefits from inertia, but it’s a trifle frustrating that the burden of proof falls on those who want to test out something new while the old gets a pass as if it’s foundational and unquestionable.
Good point – I have wondered about the enclosure of course material into course management systems. There are things that need to be not-public, but if not-public is the easiest route and the default position, we have a lot to lose.
The new capacity to make student writing public (new as in since the Interrnet – most of our students weren’t born before the Internet) provides fascinating choices. What should be public? When should it become public – as work in progress or at a more consciously-chosen moment of publication? How can we imagine audiences for public documents? What does it mean to participate in a public community and how do public communities distinquish themselves in terms of voice and audience? We rarely asked these questions in the past unless we distrbuted anthologies of student work, generally within a very local community.
Also, the weird boundaries emerging between public, private, and kind of public – on proprietary platforms like Facebook or within a CMS – makes these rhetorical situations and publication choices quite complex, both in terms of who the audience might be but also in terms of what rights authors and readers can exercise.
Good point – I have wondered about the enclosure of course material into course management systems. There are things that need to be not-public, but if not-public is the easiest route and the default position, we have a lot to lose. The new capacity to make student writing public (new as in since the Interrnet – most of our students weren’t born before the Internet) provides fascinating choices. What should be public? When should it become public – as work in progress or at a more consciously-chosen moment of publication? How can we imagine audiences for public documents? What does it mean to participate in a public community and how do public communities distinquish themselves in terms of voice and audience?
We rarely asked these questions in the past unless we distrbuted anthologies of student work, generally within a very local community.
Oops – I meant that last comment to be a reply to Kristen who raised the issues of course management systems enclosing course materials in response to paragraph 9.
I agree – VERY useful information. The costs that Michigan contributes should also be considered. The staff involved in Maize books, etc. figures in here somehow. But first-copy costs of a unviersity press manuscript run $30,000 – $35,000 I believe and have to be recouped through sales, which are often measured in the hundreds. Funding up front can mean a much greater impact for both the donated labor and the start-up funding
Small bit of construction dust in the third line – it’s requires.
I like that idea! it makes the issue concrete by pointing out the implications of an everyday but often unreflective act.
One thing I like very much about this introduction is that it makes the decisions and processes involved in academic publishing transparent and questions why we have certain practices – such as the fairly common experience of contributing an essay to a collection but not knowing what the whole project looks like until it’s published. (The editors may do something to weave the contributions together in the intro, but the authors often have no idea that a point they made would be better argued if they knew the neighboring essay would bring up a related but different approach.)
So many of our traditions were accomodations made for a print-based medium. Even if we don’t change our practices, we can question them in new ways. Huzzah!
I hear “sources” a lot at a library reference desk – as in “I finished my paper. Now all I need is five scholarly sources. So, like, which search engine should I use?”
Not JK. This happens. More often it’s “I have my five sources, now I just have to organize the quotes.”
A neat article on this issue was recently published – preprint here: http://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/portal_libraries_and_the_academy/portal_pre_print/current/articles/13.3holliday.pdf
This is fabulous. Love the mix of creating a trusting community to work together followed by publishing pieces each member of the community wrote that practiced exactly the kind of interaction we think they are perceiving when they read citations – and almost never do grasp, at least in the first or second year (if at all).
There is also a nice balance between seeing oneself as an author and seeing oneself as an author working in a community that is all exploring the same thing. The audience of peers is genuine because they are using one another’s work to inform their own.
One key insight students seem to have had, here, is that sources are not things, they are people who are sharing ideas. When you think a source is a thing and research requires you to find things that the teacher will find valuable and arrange them in a pattern that will allow the author to add a moral of the story, there isn’t really any sense of obligation to the thing. The thing is there to be mined. It has no feelings, and it can’t complain that you represented it wrong, but a person who sits in the same room? Oh, that’s why I have to be responsible about how I draw on that source.
I love this so much.
I love this essay and the way it sets up the problem, describes a pedagogical approach to the problem, and reports on how it went. It’s both beautifully clear and insightful about a significant problem for undergraduates learning to write from sources.
I’m wondering if as a kind of appendix (or tear-off recipe card?) you might be able to put assignment prompts online and link to those. This is the kind of idea a lot of people may want to emulate, but may get bogged down in details. Maybe there’s even a way people could add their variations online.
The strongest statement in this piece is here “As a collaborative class effort…students learn through writing, rather than using writing as a means to prove mastery.” I suggest moving this point further up to the first paragraph.
The time to think and write outside of class is also very valuable for students whose native language is not English.
I think this is an important question to consider. Several projects exist to share syllabi, such as the Open Syllabus project, http://opensyllabusproject.org. Yet, it is still difficult to convince instructors to share their syllabus.
Debates in Digital Humanities began as a print book but has a wonderful life at a digital volume, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/. This model works well to keep a topic alive and current.
I agree. Not only may journals be open-access, but the unit of publication may no longer be the journal, but the article. The aggregation of articles in journals is a result of a print world. Online, articles are free of the constraints of traditional publishing models.
I like the idea of inviting reviewers to contribute to the conclusion. This sets a nice precedent for future projects of this nature.
[…] learn more about this project, join the Web Writing editorial team for a presentation and discussion on Monday, October 14, from 10:00-11:30 am, at Gallows […]
You need to investigate the authenticity of people like Trace DeMeyer before insulting the Cherokee people by calling white people indigenous. Next time you want to check on the authenticity of a claimed indigenous writer, let me know. I’d be glad to help you out. [Editor’s note: This comment has been edited to comply with our commenting policy.]
[…] – Google Documents – best feature is collaborative writing and live commenting — read draft book chapter in Web Writing – Evernote – free tool that I use for sketching outlines, scribbling pieces of drafts, and […]
[…] So if you have a minute, please consider commenting! Or, consider having your students read and comment, as an innovative writing assignment. The essays will be available between September 15 and October 30. See the current roster of essays and learn more about the here. […]
[…] article by Blood, Dougherty, and Rajchel provide insight to the world of blogging and web-writing. When combined, the three […]
[…] (even me!). The book is written by academics who use web writing in their courses, and the chapter “Collaborative Writing, Peer Review, and Publishing in the Cloud” by Jack Dougherty (a professor of education at Trinity College) is a fantastic model of […]
[…] Daugherty’s essay, “What Makes a Good Web-essay,” […]
I really like this idea about real writing only existing if it’s read. It’s a compelling argument for encouraging students to take pride in their work and to think about writing as an ongoing process of collaboration and conversation.
Just to riff on the opposite position of what you describe here – I wonder if there are different types of audiences and different sorts of values to be gained from them. Is there any writing that is worthwhile and that has value but that is also private? Is even your diary or journal always written with an audience in mind (yourself)? Does the value come not from the audience/readership at the end but by passing through a group on the way out to that audience (peer review)?
Reminds me of Prism and the contribution that it wants to make to crowdsourcing – the idea that the individuals in the crowd has can accomplish far more than a series of small tasks in isolation, that it has a sort of collective wisdom that can be shared. Prism is about collaborative interpretation, but it’s not far off from what you’re describing with collaborative editing or collective brainstorming.
What is the level of anonymity here? In the Writing Out Loud exercise, it quickly became clear that anonymity was a blessing and curse – students felt more willing to participate but also more willing to distract one another. Anonymity in brainstorming can clearly be productive – it can increase brainstorming to join in. But can it have downsides? Does an idea have any use if a collaborative document if it’s not attached to a person? Can you engage with it on its own term if no one is there to argue for its existence?
Interesting how much these collaborative writing activities depend on structure to come off effectively. Even the “exquisite corpse” game has very rigid rules. Is there room for play and flexibility in the collaborative writing? Or does the form devolve into chaos without strict parameters?
This essay has been accepted (with revisions) for the final volume, and we appreciate the thoughtful comments that will inform the next draft.
Your essay, “How We Learned to Drop the Quiz,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Our readers agreed that this was a strong, well-written piece that forced many of us to rethink our assumptions about the possibilities of teaching in an online asynchronous class. We also wish to highlight suggestions for revising your final draft.
First, as Jason Mittell recommended, it would be wise to clarify the argument in your introduction that multiple-choice quiz assessment did not align with your goal for historical thinking. Making this revision would avoid confusing readers who may believe that your essay argues against multiple-choice quizzes in all settings. See also comments by Meredith Safran and others.
Second, in your response to Kate Singer, you briefly described how learning also happens through digital back-channels, and it would be helpful to explain and show more of this to our readers, if relevant to your overall argument.
Third, in your response to Jason, you indicated that you may have some evidence on whether your higher-ed model is influencing how K-12 educators teach historical thinking to their students, and we encourage you to elaborate further on this, even if it is preliminary material.
Finally, several readers desired more background information about your students, how many began vs. completed this course, how much faculty time this method required, and definitions of terms that may not be familiar to all (such as asynchronous, back-channel, and iterative learning). Also, we realize that this essay relates to larger questions about online learning in higher ed, which are beyond its scope, but pointing readers to further reading would be appreciated.
The current draft word count is 3389 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3500, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Getting Uncomfortable,” for the final draft of this volume. The topic of identity exploration through online writing with pre-service teachers clearly resonates with the “crossing boundaries” section of our book. But our readers suggested several ways that this essay could be revised to fit with the volume as a whole, and we welcome another draft.
As Amanda Selgiman observed, a stronger essay (for this particular volume) would explain more clearly why it was essential for this identity exploration exercise to be conducted as web-based writing, rather than a conventional assignment. We believe that your current draft approaches this issue in para 10 (“students might take their [web] writing more seriously”) and in para 28-29 (student comments about peer praise or apprehension). But it’s hard for readers to evaluate the centrality of the web on student identity formation unless we see more of what they wrote, and whether their views changed through reading and commenting online. On a related note, we appreciate your response to Hope Boyer’s comment that this assignment may have two separate objectives (creating better writers and culturally responsive teachers), and Ashieda McKoy’s question (whether participation on this identity topic varied in person vs online), and Kate Singer’s remark about tagging, as we also wondered about these issues.
Kate’s reflection on your conclusion raises a second area of revision for an essay intended for this volume. Based on what your survey results told you about students expressing “greater discomfort” with cross-racial interactions, what are your next steps, and to what extent does this involve writing (on the web, in particular)?
One stylistic suggestion: since this subject matter is introspective and personal, we recommend writing more from the a first-person perspective (rather than “Assignment designers wanted. . .”).
Overall, we understand that our suggested revisions may not necessarily go in the direction you have planned for this line of research. Our motivation is to create a more coherent volume on web writing, and we will gladly work with you if our goals align. But doing so would require significant cuts to the current draft in order to expand elsewhere. The current draft word count is 4421 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000. The current count does NOT include the 1500-word assignment, which could be linked but cannot appear in the final volume due to contractual space limitations. You also have the option to link to your statistical tables, rather than including them in the final draft.
If you choose to revise, the deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Your essay, “Indigenizing Wikipedia,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Several readers raised insightful questions that we encourage you to address in your revisions, such as Alisea Williams McLeod’s comment about accountability and your response about engagement. Adrianne Wadewitz recommended that you mention how Wikipedians have worked to reduce gender bias before many academics recognized this issue. Several readers greatly appreciated how you shared your teaching steps (if you have more, please add or link to them), and your response to Jason Mittell’s query about the ethics of consulting living subjects should be incorporated into the final draft. See also comments raised in the close reading of your draft by Amanda Seligman and Kate Singer, which would be ideal to address if space permits.
The current draft word count is 3783 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3800, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Web Writing as Intercultural Dialogue,” for the final draft of this volume. Your work raised important concerns about cultural assumptions of public writing that engaged many of our readers, but they also suggested several ways that your essay could be strengthened to make your points more persuasive.
First, Barbara Fister recommended bringing one of your most compelling points out of the conclusion and into a revised introduction. See also a related comment by Kate Singer. Furthermore, while the current draft tends to move from abstract theory to concrete example, it may be advantageous to flip the order in certain places, to connect readers with a vivid example, then reflect on its broader meaning.
Second, Shelley Rodrigo asked you to define the “web” more carefully in para 9 to distinguish semi-private Learning Management Systems from the public web. We were pleased to read your thoughtful response in para 10, and as Barbara Fister suggested, that would be ideal to work into the revised draft. Furthermore, as you elaborated in your para 11 comment, your essay also speaks to the public-private issue, and in your revisions you can refer directly to related essays in the volume, such as Dougherty’s.
The current draft word count is 3918 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Engaging Students with Scholarly Web Texts,” for the final draft of this volume. Several readers recognized the value of your work — and your call “to challenge our students’ views of reading” the web (para 17) — but many identified ways that you could revise the essay to achieve this goal more successfully. In the comments, we appreciate that you responded thoughtfully to Kate Singer’s suggestions about making implicit arguments more explicit, and Amanda Seligman’s concern about the title and disciplinary jargon. (See also Amanda’s question about whether the key to the revised essay title appears somewhere in para 6, or perhaps your brief exchange with Jason Mittell about para 12.) Cheryl Ball’s recommendation to look at her scholarship on reading and composing webtexts also may be helpful, especially if you can frame it for our book’s focus on teaching and learning. Furthermore, as you recognized in para 14, it may be wise to refer readers directly to ideas raised by other authors in the volume.
The current draft word count is 4228 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Learning to Write at a Distance,” for the final draft of this volume. We agree with commenters who described your piece as a thought-provoking, playful, good read that challenged our assumptions about video games as tools for teaching writing in a liberal arts context. It’s a surprising, unconventional essay, and that’s what we like about it. Nevertheless, our readers offered many suggestions for ways to revise the next draft and to communicate your ideas more clearly with audiences who may be unfamiliar with the terrain.
First, based on your response to Amanda Seligman, we recommend that you draw out the meaning of the current title somewhere near the front of the essay, or change the title. Your second idea about “Writing Algorithmically” sounds mechanistic and doesn’t capture the spirit of “playing” that Barbara Fister described. On a related point, you may be helpful to draw out the introductory argument more clearly, based on Meredith Safran’s comment.
Second, as Jason Mittell and others suggested, tell us more about the course, what students learned, and the student project that exceeded your expectations. Paragraph 22 of the first draft disappointed our readers. Incorporating links to your syllabus and other learning materials would be an efficient way to do this within our word-count constraints.
We appreciate your responses to commenters during the open peer review, and hope that you can balance our request for further elaboration with the playful spirit of the original draft.
Oh, and can you do all of this in under 3,000 words? We bet you can.
The current draft word count is 2348 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Web Writing and Citation,” for the final draft of this volume. Our readers found your work to be intellectually engaging and thought-provoking, and your creative use of Twitter citation practices made many of us think about the topic in new ways, as Liz Bruno and others confirmed.
Several commenters suggested ways to strengthen your argument and exposition in your next draft. First, as Jason Mittell recommended above, consider rewriting the introduction “to highlight your core argument — that citation practices are to be seen as positive, community-based norms, not punitive arbitrary rules.” See also Kate Singer’s comment on para 10, which suggests that there may be an idea or argument in this portion of the essay that deserves to be moved closer to the front.
Second, as Barbara Fister and Jason advised, you may wish to separate the often-confused issues of citation versus copying in the opening to avoid diluting your argument.
Third, since this draft identifies “possible assignments” (para 14), it would be ideal if you could point readers to any examples you may have encountered over the past few months that move in this direction, if available.
The current draft word count is 3461 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3500, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Consider the Audience,” for the final draft of this volume. Several readers (including Barbara Fister) praised the intellectually engaging and insightful quality of your work, though many agreed that significant revisions are necessary to enhance and refine its argument for our readers. In particular, see Carol Clark’s suggestion to reorganize your introduction around the argument in paragraph 5, and her request to tell us more about the guidelines you mention. Jason Mittell suggested that you reframe your introduction to tell us more about the key points to come, and to inform the reader of your unique perspective in this volume as a recent undergraduate, since it informs your argument. Furthermore, Amanda Seligman asked why the body of the essay did not fully address the public/private divide (or what others described as “risks”) that she identified in your introductory thesis.
Overall, while readers were eager to engage with your ideas, we ask you to consider that your audience(s) have different levels of familiarity with the Internet, so you should provide clearer entryways in your next draft, particularly for those who are somewhat skeptical of social media in academic settings.
The current draft word count is 2618 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Creating an Environment. . .,” for the final draft of this volume. Several readers found your essay to be very engaging, particularly for first-time instructors of web writing in the liberal arts. We also agree with commenters like Amanda Seligman who recommended more analysis and less description, which you recognized in your response. Both Kate Singer and Barbara Fister suggested that you might draw insights from authors who have written about political communication on the web, and connect those with your classroom online writing assignments for civic engagement. Again, we were pleased that you acknowledged this point in your comments last fall and hope that you have had time to reflect in order to revise the essay this spring. Also, consider ways to address Kate’s request to include more examples of how this activity affected student writing (or given space limitations, perhaps short excerpts with links to originals online).
Two stylistic suggestions. First, please suggest a shorter, more concise title (perhaps something like “Civic Engagement and Political Web Writing with the Stephen Colbert Super PAC”). Second, while we all enjoy the intrigue, Amanda recommends that you directly address whether or not Colbert actually appeared (and why your pedagogical goal was broader than that).
The current draft word count is 4160 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. (Once again, try to replace some description with richer analysis.) The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Curation in Writing,” for the final draft of this volume. Through the lens of online writing in a cultural anthropology course, this essay raised several intellectual issues that engaged many of our readers. But we also agree with several of their ideas on ways to rework and enhance the essay for all audiences.
First, Barbara Fister suggested that you consider starting your essay with a vivid example assignment to more effectively communicate your argument. In the current draft, readers do not necessarily grasp what you mean until the sample assignment concepts in paragraph 21 and 33 (which are only quick sketches), or the case study in para 34. See also Kate Singer’s idea about bringing key points from para 9-10 to the front, and Carol Clark’s related point (and again in para 30), and Shelley Rodrigo’s comment in para 55.. Rethinking the essay structure may make your ideas more convincing to our readers.
Based on your response to Amanda Seligman, we expect that the next draft will distinguish between building versus breaking (rather than making vs breaking). Also, do not assume that readers are as familiar with technology as you are, and make better use of our digital platform by inserting links to tools or examples when relevant, as Shelley Rodrigo suggested. Furthermore, we encourage you to dig deeper into reflection questions that you pose in para 23, which clearly resonated with several readers, who want to hear more than just a sentence from you about these concerns.
The current draft word count is 3987 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Your essay, “Tweet Me a Story,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Many of our readers embraced your pedagogical imagination and remarked about how your writing assignment taught them to consider Twitter in new ways. Some suggested ways that your essay could be improved for the final draft. See Barbara Fister’s question about student roles as reporters versus commentators, and Jason Mittell’s request that you reflect more on whether or how use of Twitter influenced students’ writing in other contexts. Perhaps some before/after examples would illustrate the principle of writing concisely that interested several readers in para 6.) Furthermore, since your essay will appear in a volume with others, feel free to refer readers to more extended discussions (such as the public-private issue), and if you have permission forms or other pedagogical materials, consider hosting online and linking your essay to them, because it may not be possible to squeeze everything into this essay. (Ask Jack if you need assistance.) Finally, since some readers stated that they looked at your essay partly as a guide on how to use Twitter, you might refer and link to specific sources devoted to this topic (see ProfHacker and other guides written for academics).
The current draft word count is 3975 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editors invite you to revise & resubmit your essay, “Empowering Education with Social Annotation and Wikis,” for the final draft of this volume. Our readers described your work as a provocative case study that demonstrated how students used the digital platform to comment and critique a classic text, The Elements of Style.
We look forward to the final draft, and ask you to consider some of the recommendations raised by readers. First, Jason Mittell observed that he felt the argument got lost a bit in the second half due to the entanglement of theoretical references and the case study (see para 19 and 26). We are pleased to see that you responded to these and other comments during the open review period in a way that shows your openness to rethinking parts of your essay.
Second, Barbara Fister raised some broader reflection questions about the challenges of teaching students to comment thoughtfully about the whole text (not just small pieces) and their sense of personal ownership during this process. While we understand if this is beyond the scope of your essay, sharing more insights about how your students navigated these issues would be ideal if you find it relevant.
Third, Jason also asked for more reflection about the reasons for choosing a wiki tool for a social annotation assignment. You already began to address this issue in your online response, and we also hope that you feel free to discuss constraints you may have faced, too.
The current draft word count is 4155 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Your essay, “Sister Classrooms,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Several commenters praised your essay as an insightful case study, which could be even stronger with some revisions. Jason Mittell suggested reframing the introduction to focus on cross-campus collaboration rather than blogging, and Steve Safran and Barbara Rockenbach encouraged you to bring your strongest points to the surface. Kate Singer asked you to clarify if and how the class blogs helped students deal with or avoid discipline-specific jargon. See also several comments about linking the conclusion back to your introduction. Amanda’s response on how she inventively uses class time to highlight selected student blog writing, and how students wrote in different ways, also would be ideal to incorporate into the final draft if space permits. Finally, consider relating Carmel’s reflections on student privacy to the related essay in this volume by Dougherty.
The current draft word count is 4329 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Your essay, “Student Digital Research and Writing on Slavery,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Our reviewers gave very high praise to your work, including one who wanted to read an entire book on the topic, and another who assigned it to her graduate seminar this spring.
We were pleased with your response to Shelley Rodrigo’s comment that your first draft focused on the students’ emotions, and now that you’ve seen other submissions, you see areas to be cut and revised to insert more about the pedagogy behind your assignment (with links where appropriate). As you plan your revisions, we also encourage you to address Kate Singer’s question about how the wiki tool and its conventions shaped the project’s goals and nature of student writing. Speaking to the ethical issues you raised in the commentary with Amanda Seligman would be ideal, too.
Please make sure all external links are working (re: para 19). As we already discussed in the comments, we welcome images with your revised draft, though it is your responsibility to make sure that you have permission (if someone else holds the copyright) to include them in the published book. If you have questions, send us links and info about particular images.
The current draft word count is 4008 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 4000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Jason, as we have discussed, the editors have accepted your essay, “There Are No New Directions in Annotations” for the final volume, with the expectation that you will revise it in light of the comments received here.
The current draft word count is 2654 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 3000, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Your essay, “Science Writing, Wikis, and Collaborative Learning,” has been accepted (with revisions) for the final draft of this volume. Several readers praised the inclusion of a lab science writing component in this set of essays, and we believe that it will encourage your science colleagues (and many humanities educators) to rethink their current pedagogy. We recommend that you consider Jason Mittell’s comment about reframing the essay with more context of the course level and student composition, as well as the writing quality issue he mentions at the end. Several commenters suggested ways to revise the introduction. Also, Carol Clark asked you to address what may be lost (for better or worse) by spending class time on the collaborative writing process (see also here), and Kate Singer encouraged you to expand on the same issue while recognizing the benefits of evaluating both individual and group contributions. See also Carol’s request to define your terms (collaborative vs. constructivist) in paragraph 4. Finally, Barbara Fister and Carol both suggested ways in which you could reflect on your findings in the concluding paragraphs.
The current draft word count is 2043 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should not exceed 2200, so think carefully about making cuts as well as additions. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. This is a firm deadline, and if you do not meet it, we cannot guarantee that your essay will advance to the final volume. In the next few days, we will post further instructions on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
The editorial team has accepted this essay (with revisions), and appreciates comments from readers, which will inform the final draft.
Chris, as we have discussed, the editors have accepted your essay, “The Secondary Source Sitting Next to You,” for the final volume, with the expectation that you will expand and revise it in light of the comments received here.
The current draft word count is 777 (as measured by WordPress), and the final version should be expanded to approximately 2000 words. The deadline for submitting your final draft is Thursday May 15th, though sooner is always better. More instructions will follow in the next few days on how to resubmit and edit your text in our PressBooks/WordPress platform.
Essay Proposal: The successful acquisition and application of information literacy’s critical frameworks and skill sets has become a crucial component of a student’s development in contemporary higher education. One of the most significant areas of information literacy is outlined in Standard Three of the ACRL’s (2000) “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education”. Standard Three states that “The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system” (11). Oftentimes, educators teaching information literacy apply this Standard, along with its performance indicators and outcomes, as a means to gauge a student’s ability to assess and employ credible web resources in academic papers. Indeed, this Standard’s primary purpose is to ensure a student can recognize factors such as reliability, bias and authority in sources and develop a serviceable understanding of how such factors can impact scholarship. Given relatively recent developments in our information landscape, including a marked increase in crowdsourced web writing, how do educators best address factors such as reliability, bias and authority in manner that is academically rigorous yet sufficiently responsive to a clear paradigm shift with regard to how scholarship is being conceived, produced, disseminated, and consumed?
I agree with you on this point, and am instinctually very conflicted about using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. I never let students cite Wikipedia pages as a reference for research papers, but at the same time often find them useful – particularly for citations – and more approachable as a first glance source of information. I wonder how one could structure a lesson around this apparent dichotomy, or even just a discussion about what constitutes a “credible” reference.
The process that is described here – online community members holding bloggers and other online writers accountable for crediting sources – seems very reminiscent of the formal peer review process. I wonder how, or perhaps more importantly if, over time we’ll see this process online become more formalized? Conversely, it’s interesting to me that with the rise of online open access journals in the sciences we see that the traditional peer review system is being forced to adapt to the rapid turnaround expectations of the internet.
I often integrate primary (peer-reviewed), scientific literature into the courses I teach, both for its topical relevance but also to get students familiar with scientific writing – which particularly for undergraduates can be very unapproachable. I have really struggled though with having students feel comfortable analyzing and critiquing peer-reviewed literature because they look at research papers as being perfect or flawless. As I read these essays, but in particular Laura’s piece, it amazed me how comfortable the students portrayed seemed to be critiquing published works. I wonder if other instructors have struggled with students perceiving works of literature as being authoritative and unassailable, and how you can help students work through this.
Yes, Siobhan, this is an important and tricky issue that deserves some discussion! In our case: the blogs were/are public. Although we did not get permission in writing, we absolutely received consent to publish student data and gave the students an opportunity to express concern (but they didn’t express any). Perhaps we should explicitly note this in the piece? Or perhaps we should remove students’ names? In addition, I consulted with Furman’s librarians on the issue of FERPA, as a result we sent an email to all students alerting them of this submission and again giving them an opportunity to express concern and request anonymity. I think FERPA is certainly open to different interpretations and applications. Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront!
Can you tell me a little about who the audience is? Is it any faculty member at a college or university? Across all disciplines?
I realize there are many different ways to organize the book (or to think about the different sections). Here is one possibility to consider: to organize the contributions according to how they fall along the private/public spectrum. This approach would help instructors to think about how and with whom they would like their students to engage, or what type of broader audience they think would be appropriate for their course. Issues concerning how public a project should be can be part of the larger conversation in the book, and something the introduction could touch upon based on the final essays chosen for the book. This organization may also help students who use the book to think about different levels of audience. I don’t know if this is possible, but this type of approach might be combined with another organizational rubric (such as type of platform). In this case, the public/private divide would help to order the essays within a given section.
One thing that I kept coming back to was the question about loss — namely, what is lost, or sacrificed, when a digital assignment/project is adopted? I thought about this first when I read Mike O’Donnell’s essay. He noted that with the new collaborative wiki approach to lab reports no student writes a complete report. This made me think about whether anything was lost in terms of student learning (especially as he explained that grades did not improve even though students’ engagement was greater). The answer might very well be “nothing,” but it left me wondering. In other cases, I can imagine that some course material had to be eliminated or condensed to make room for the project (training students or whatever). The trade-off made may be worthwhile and lead to greater learning overall, but in some essays I felt that such a discussion was missing. There may be also some more subtle losses that would be good to share with the reader.
Lastly, I liked the idea very much of having each essay begin with a brief intro (one short paragraph) written by the editorial team. (This idea came up at the workshop.) The paragraph would help the reader to place the essay in the broader conversation/framework laid out in the introduction of the book and would highlight the specific/unique contribution of that particular essay.
I like the idea of adding a 20-second video at the end of the paragraph.
Can you summarize what you think the benefits are from using this approach? What do you wish the reader to take away from working through this example? What do you achieve as the “instructor” or facilitator using “crowd writing” that you don’t achieve using a black/white board or some other method? In the end is there more collaboration and transformation of ideas as the process is going on?
I enjoyed reading this article. I had a little difficulty, however, following the argument, and at several points I thought a more carefully elaborated and discussed example was needed to convey (and convince me of) the thesis. Along the way I came across examples that did not explain in great enough detail how and why they related back to the central points of the essay. Part of the problem may be the fact that I am coming from a very different discipline and am new to thinking about digital audiences and student work. Thus, I would start out by asking you, Jen, who do you see as your intended audience?
One suggestion I have (to help a reader such as myself) would be to shorten the first four introductory paragraphs so that the reader quickly is taken to paragraph 5. Then, can you develop more fully your idea at the end of paragraph 5 (the tension between increasing opportunities to circulate student work and navigating the public/private divide) and lay out the main points to be considered in the essay? I am thinking that one key point is that we must consciously think about how platforms not only open up opportunities, but also shape how we interact with one another – as you note with the opening quote. Thus, we must make deliberate, purposeful decisions about choosing platforms – we have an opportunity to exert some control – and those decisions must have notions of audience in the foreground. I think the points you make in paragraph 20 can be brought forward to the beginning of the essay.
Later on, you mention the development of a set of guidelines during your senior thesis process. I really liked this point, but I was hoping to learn more! Can you talk a little more in specific terms about those guidelines – e.g., what do they help you to accomplish in terms of assessing “the complexities of audience”? What do you do differently now with those guidelines in mind? Can you provide a specific example? How do these decisions tie back to the central argument of your essay?
Can you explain a little about what you mean by “digital ecosystem”? I am not sure if it is helpful to switch between the terms of architecture and ecosystem in the essay. But, here again, I am quite new to this material, and I apologize if the question simply reflects my own ignorance. (If so, please just ignore it!)
There seems to be two important points in this paragraph. One has to do with student motivation — writing for a broader public through circulation beyond the classroom – and the other with student responsibility (or “accountability” as noted in many of the other essays). How do the two interact or reinforce one another? What does this mean for us as instructors? How should the points you raise influence how we think about our own goals as teachers?
Can the example from the “Global Shakespeares” course be reworked a little in order to link your specific experience and discussion thereof to your central argument? One idea would be to place the final sentence of paragraph 28 (“Ultimately, we were able . . .”) near the top of the discussion of this experience.
This paragraph was a little unclear to me. Can you expand upon your ideas in the second sentence? What do you mean by “their impact” and “flexibility between vernaculars” and why might this be important, given your main argument?
Susan, you have detailed beautifully the development of your idea for public writing on the web, the execution of that idea, and the results you obtained. The motivation for this project, as you outline in paragraph 2, is great – the link between new technologies and both the practice of politics itself and the development of useful skills for political science majors. Such motivation opens the way for meaningful involvement on the part of students and the inclusion of civic engagement/community-based learning projects in each of your courses. The idea of bringing together new technologies and civic engagements has great potential for enhancing student learning, and especially critical thinking and writing skills.
Susan, were your students official members of the SuperPAC?
I think your point here about maintaining an ambiguous stance towards Colbert is very important, and leads to a broader question about how to create an environment that welcomes students. This is an issue whenever sensitive, controversial or contested topics are part of the work in a course. In what ways does employing a public arena for student work add to the difficulty of getting students to engage directly and fully with the material? Lastly, I know that you made the decision to have students blog on their own sites, rather than on the parent SuperPAC website. Was this simply to keep the technological demands, or hassles, to a minimum? Were there other reasons for keeping separate student blogs from the other content? Did having their own pages add to creating a certain open environment?
Can you talk a little about some of the limits you placed on your course designs (quite separate from the technology choices you made) to keep your project feasible? Did you limit the size of your classes?
I am quite interested in learning a little more about your decision to include group research projects as part of the student work and contributions to the SuperPAC website. Why did you choose to make this change, while maintaining other traditional mechanisms for assessing student learning? And what did you see as the particular challenges to posting student research on the web? Were there ethical concerns that you would not normally face when student research remains private? And did you institute a process of instructor- and peer-review before research could be published to the site?
Susan, you explain that each course included computer lab sessions where you instructed students on the technical issues of WordPress and their blog sites. You also used those sessions to discuss the nature of public writing. What were the main topics that you covered, and how were students trained in writing for public audiences? And what type of decision rule did you establish for publishing student blogs? For example, would students post to their individual pages only after your review of their work? Or, did students decide independently when a blog was ready to be published? What guidelines did they follow?
The results reported in this paragraph illustrate how offering the students to connect the abstract and theoretical material with real world applications and reflections (such as the civic engagement projects) heightens student engagement with and commitment to the course material. Is this engagement further strengthened by the incorporation of non-traditional forms of reflection and collaboration in the form of web writing and public research projects? For example, you noted the unusual commitment of students to their civic engagement projects. I have found this to be true almost always when such a project is integrated into a course. How does combining these projects with an environment of writing for a public audience amplify these positive outcomes?
My comments on paragraph 23 also relate to your discussion here.
So true! Here the idea about blogging as a vehicle not only for communicating your knowledge but also encouraging you to explain ideas, concepts and academic material in your own words is powerful. This has been stressed in the writing across the curriculum literature for thirty years; now, there are new vehicles for encouraging this type of learning and perhaps vehicles that are even more effective than private writing. Lastly, the point about discussing ideas (and perhaps floating initial hypotheses) for research projects as the projects themselves are taking shape should be emphasized. An important part of helping students to become effective researchers is introducing them to the idea of talking about their ideas often and with different audiences – i.e., helping them to enter an extended conversation where they are open to suggestions and have an opportunity to offer feedback. If web-writing reinforces (or encourages) this process of dialogue, then all the better. Would it be possible to include these points near the beginning of the essay?
Great points! Feedback from the instructor (i.e., the instructor is integral to the conversation and is very much a part of the broader audience) reminds students that although they are not writing “only” for the instructor, the involvement of the instructor is critical to ensuring and enhancing student learning.
Susan, can you suggest some good references on these topics?
I would echo the above comments about defining curation early on and develop in greater detail (in paragraph 3) the relationship you see between curation and the pedagogy of building and breaking. Is your objective principally to have students become conscious and critical curators or to have them employ effectively a building/breaking approach to web-writing?
Following on the previous two comments, I am wondering if you might move some of the material from paragraphs 15 and 16 to the opening paragraphs as you develop the notion of curation. I am also wondering if you could include a specific example from undergraduate courses in the three different divisions (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences) as a way to make the ideas more vivid.
Can you include a specific example from your own courses that illustrates your argument here.
I also like the distinction very much between building and breaking. I am trying to think about how the two can come together in a synthesis.
I think this point is very important as it also speaks to keeping assignments feasible for both students and instructors.
I, too, really like this list of practical issues. I am curious to know whether you share with your students how you made decisions on these issues, as a way to help them understand the objectives and goals for the assignments and why certain decisions were made (i.e., there was a clear purpose and that purpose relates to the course goals).
I am wondering if this paragraph should be moved closer to the beginning of the essay, as it highlights the purpose of using this pedagogy and helps frame the essay for the reader.
It’s really nice to see a case study from your own experience. One suggestion I have is to lay out with greater detail in the opening paragraph of this section the project itself. When reading this section I was trying to figure out exactly what the students were assigned to do and how that assignment fit into the course itself. Can you add a little more description? And in this case study, what is the building part and what is the breaking part?
This paragraph is really the heart of your argument, and I am wondering if you can explain a little more about how you reached your conclusions. For example, why is it that the public nature of the process encouraged rethinking and collaborative learning, and in what ways did you see this play out? Or, in what ways are student blogs especially effective in bringing about these outcomes?
At the end of the paragraph, you argue that through blogging your students began to achieve the learning goals that are critical for advanced anthropological research. Can you explain how this works? In what ways does blogging help students achieve these goals better than the more traditional assignments?
I was also wondering (after reading the second example) how as instructors you help students negotiate the more difficult online encounters. In other words, there are certain risks involved in curating in public, and how do you as instructors help to prepare your students in a way that limits any harm or hurt that may arise in online encounters?
This is just a question of clarification: did Laura begin an offline conversation, or a separate email conversation with the respondent? The reason I ask is that in her blog she states, “while only communicating online. . . ” I was just a little confused. Thanks.
I am wondering if your discussion about what blogging culture achieves would be better placed at the beginning of the case study section of the essay. This helps to orient your discussion of the case study itself.
Mike, I really enjoyed reading your paper and thinking about how collaborative work can help students in the social sciences engage with the material.
One of the commentators suggested breaking the first paragraph into two separate paragraphs. I agree. One possibility would be to start the second paragraph with “Moreover, as lab educators . . . ” since that begins the discussion about collaboration in the sciences.
I am also wondering if you could add a sentence about what is lost (for the students, and perhaps even for the instructor) when students are sent away to write a lab report in isolation. Not only do they break with scientific practice, but also — I am guessing — they lose out in terms of their own learning and learning with colleagues.
Mike, here’s one last comment on paragraph 1: you state that lab instructors don’t like reports all that much. Can you state why? Is it the lack of creativity in the reports? Is it that the majority of them are not written well? This might also be part of the “loss” when students are asked to write reports in isolation.
Mike, can you define what you mean by collaborative and constructivist learning? How do the two differ? I think about collaborative learning as an approach that accepts a constructivist notion of how learning occurs.
I am wondering if this paragraph can be split into two. The first paragraph would be about “getting started,” and the second paragraph about how the different roles work.
The section on the different roles might be slightly rewritten — I had to stop a couple of times to think about what each student was doing. One possibility would be to communicate this part in a step by step fashion.
– Students are assigned a specific section for each report, and each section (Intro, Methods, Results, Discussion) has its own wiki page.
– Each student must submit peer review comments on each section.
However, it may be disruptive to the flow of the text to reorganize the paragraph in this fashion. Another possibility would be to put the table before the details of each student role.
I was very interested to see how you graded each student — their own writing and their contributions to the work of others. After reading this paragraph, I wasn’t sure if I understood fully your grading scheme. The student’s contribution factor was a relative score based on his or her total score in comparison to the group’s average score. Is the group’s average score received by summing up each member’s total score and then dividing by the number of group members?
More generally, Mike, can you talk a little about your own investment in this approach to lab reports? As an instructor, do you find that it is more/less time-consuming grading lab reports now? Do you find it more enjoyable reading the reports now? And, do you find that you are taking a lot of time to review (through the history log) each student’s contributions and evaluating the quality of those contributions? Have you found that your evaluation of a student’s contribution matches closely the peer review grades assigned by the other group members? If there is not a close alignment, what do you think is going on?
Mike, you emphasize the benefits that less successful students gain from the collaborative nature of the lab reports, from the suggestions they receive from the more successful students and from their observations of how the more successful students work. Can you talk a little about the benefits the more successful students gain from working in a collaborative group? Do they gain by “teaching” ideas and work habits to others?
I second the comments above! Students’ positive experience in an introductory course can shape how they think about science in general. Students may be willing to experiment with other science courses or may consider incorporating more science into their undergraduate experience, even if they choose to major in another area of study (i.e., other division of the college).
Mike, I am wondering if you could add a couple of sentences of your own thoughts (as instructor) as to why the student lab grades did not change. Do you think your own grading standards have changed? Or that you now capture something in your grading scheme that you did not capture beforehand but that helps to explain the lack of change in grades? In other words, can you help to explain the fact that the overwhelming majority thinks their understanding of science and their scientific writing have improved while their grades have not? Is there something lost when a student does not write a report from start to finish?
Do you have some new ideas for changes that may address the comments registered in paragraphs 20 and 21? Have you thought about experimenting with the size of the groups? Are you planning to make any changes for next year?
I think that this is a very important section to have in your book. Although many students may overlook this section, Web Writing is all about different ares of the web and how to utilize them. If we want to be engaged and updated, like we are with a blog, you make it possible to do so through your own blog, twitter, and e-maill. Talk about multi-modal! The sections I read in this book incorporate many of these strategies to optimize the Internet, which you too have done here.
I think that I would like to hear more about what students found to be a great learning experience since I was so surprised by the result of this study. I would think that intergration of races through web writing would present a more positive outcome. Although acknowledgement of discomfort may be a valuable part of the learning process I wonder what kept students from feeling more comfortable. In addition, why did students decrease in comfort rather than stay the same in terms of comfort level.
I think that Storify is a great way to show students that their Tweets are more than just little blurbs that get disregarded after submitted. Tweets, when being written to tell about an event or story, must be treated like a book or blog post. Storify is a wonderful way to get students to think of their first Tweet as an opening sentence and craft following Tweets with transitions and topics. When students see their work and how it flows together they can make adjustments to the flow of their Tweeting appearance.
In my current class we talked about how tone is so important when writing on the internet because it can attract or disgust readers due to particular interests. Another topic we discussed was how someone can take on a different tone for another Twitter account. People can take on any identity they would like on Twitter. One girl in our class Tweets for Admissions at Dickinson and uses a different type of tone than she does for her own Twitter account. I wonder what would happen with these students if they were either assigned a type of audience to reach through Twitter or if they were to make an anonymous account and try a new approach to tone. Identity is anonymous online if we want it to be and we can take on whatever role we please.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this chapter. I created a personal twitter account a few years back, but have never really thought much of it. I hope to someday work in the field of communications and am a huge advocate of integrating social media into the classroom. This is a skill set our generation must have. As social media has become so commonplace in our society, it is imperative that it be integrated into college curriculums. I found your assignments to be especially creative and not something I have ever come across in my college career. The assignment you created on writing a dialogue over twitter is fascinating. I am currently enrolled in a creative writing class and I would find this exercise very useful. Writing dialogue is difficult, but having to contain it to 140 characters would be a challenging but rewarding practice. I am wondering if you could add more to speak to professors who may be hesitant to integrate twitter and what advice you may have for them. I think there are a lot of skeptics out there and addressing them in this chapter would be great.
This is a great way to teach journalism leads. Twitter is becoming such a prominent news source in our society that oftentimes you only have 140 characters to gain someone’s interest. This assignment is very useful for students learning about communications. I have difficulty shortening my writing at time and this is a unique way of framing that writing style. This type of assignment could also be translated into other subjects, maybe in practicing how to write thesis statements or topic sentences?
As a student, I appreciate this focus on collaboration in the classroom. I am currently enrolled in a digital writing class and have seen this kind of collaboration firsthand. I think this study works best in a small classroom setting so that the conversation and feedback can move fluidly from the classroom to the internet. I am wondering, from a teacher’s standpoint, what the grading scale looks like as this is a more “experimental” type of teaching and learning. I think it is very valuable to embrace the format of blogging as a way to teach writing. I think it will only improve mastery for students who have experience with digital and old school writing.
This is a very non-traditional way of assigning class participation. I’m not sure if I would feel comfortable with one student as the “webmaster.” I think it would be more beneficial for the whole class to learn how to design the website. This is important knowledge, especially if everyone was blogging. I think in this case it would be better to spread the wealth and assign participation a different way.
Or alternately as a substantive *response to* class discussion, carrying forth beyond constraints of the bell, where slower-thinking or more shy students can help move discussion toward complexity or depth that might require reflection after class discussion. The benefits discussed earlier, that students can spend more time thinking and crafting responses, mean that workload considerations have to be factored into the syllabus. Are students asking for fewer required posts because such work competes with a heavy reading load, or because blog work is weighted less than formal essays in the semester grade, or because they find the blog work less valuable for learning and understanding?
How We Learned to Drop the Quiz: Writing in Online, Asynchronous Courses
Essay Proposal — While “MOOC” has become a four-letter word for many, online, asynchronous courses have the potential to reach those whose location or work/family situation makes attending an in-person class impossible.
But how can these courses assess student learning without relying on traditional (and convenient) tools such as the ubiquitous multiple-choice quiz? This essay will share our experiences with two online asynchronous courses, Virginia Studies and Hidden in Plain Sight, designed to teach historical content and historical thinking skills to Virginia teachers. Specifically, we will address the challenges and rewards of using writing to assess both content knowledge and historical analysis skills and share the modifications we have made to the course design in an effort to improve learning.
An iterative writing process has been especially effective. For each module, participating teachers write a hypothesis about a primary source, research related resources, revisit that hypothesis, and apply their knowledge to create a classroom activity. Along the way, participants receive feedback on each piece of writing. This process makes learning visible and leads to growth throughout the course.
While designing and implementing these courses, we have made changes to encourage deeper analysis – including removing the multiple-choice quiz. This essay will address lessons learned and strategies developed for promoting meaningful learning and writing for a wide audience in an online, asynchronous environment.
(Kelly Schrum, Celeste Sharpe, and Nate Sleeter)
Jason, thanks for these overall remarks and points that we can clarify. To answer your question, we have gotten responses from the teachers on how they’ve adopted aspects of the module structure and exercises for their students. One told me how she had been very open with her students about taking a Virginia Studies class at the same time as teaching one, and how it encouraged the students knowing they were doing their own version of “grown-up” learning.
Good point, thank you.
The first module in both courses introduces the teachers to the process of historical thinking, including the interrogation of sources and the need to consider multiple perspectives. Questions on the lines of “what is missing” are to encourage teachers to apply the concepts and skills they learned in the first module throughout the course. The question you raise about anxiety is interesting. I think we did not receive indications of this because the number of “right” answers is large since historical narratives and sources aren’t comprehensive.
“That is why it is crucial that the student perceive the pedagogical environment, and the page as a space to continually engage with rather than a practice in producing something that he or she is detached from because those who are perceived to be in authority will be unlikely to value it anyway. … reliance on the purely textual medium to create help aids for the student can undermine the idea that the student should actively engage with them, even if the aids effectively model what the end-result should be in their portrayal of discursive circumstances.”
These statements are the core of what this essay demonstrates, for me, and they are strong points that every educator should consider. You mention multimodal aids, but I would like to know if you have found good, if imperfect, examples of the kinds of aids you would like to see created or expanded upon. The balance of the piece also tends to skew toward the theorists you employ, and while their work is interesting, I’d be much more interested to read more of your thoughts on how their work can be translated into pedagogical practice.
I’d be interested in hearing more about how you processed the students’ final projects in terms of the assignment objectives and how sessions progressed. What were your takeaways, things you would adjust the next time around, emphasize or spend more time on?
I wonder about the connection between exposure and implantation as a given here. Many students struggle with the same conceptual issues over the course of their academic careers: they have been exposed and yet aren’t able to implement them in their own work.
Were the students allowed to keep working with their blog after the course? I wonder if this is one of the drawbacks of the instructor mediating the hosting.
Crafting Historical Writing and Thinking: Teaching Critical Thinking in the Digital Age
Essay Proposal — The limited opportunities in many introductory courses for students to develop and practice critical thinking and writing is an ongoing source of frustration for many educators. To address this problem, we have created a content-agnostic online history writing lab. Recognizing that our students are increasingly engaged with digital exhibits, visual materials, websites, and databases, we focus on helping students analyze and develop their own digital arguments.
We designed Historical Writing and Thinking as an online asynchronous writing-intensive course that guides students through the process of analyzing, evaluating, and creating historical narratives. Students complete a series of carefully scaffolded assignments that help them develop their digital project and curatorial statement. The central pedagogical principle for our course is authentic learning as outlined by Marilyn Lombardi, and we focus primarily on four aspects: real-world relevance, ill-defined problems, reflection, and sustained investigation. Individual writing assignments are 250 words–appropriately short for a web audience. Students are given feedback on each piece, which they then reflect on and incorporate into subsequent submissions. Together these exercises create space for students to work out their ideas and build toward the final assignments.
This essay will discuss the scholarship and teaching experiences that have shaped the development of Historical Writing and Thinking, with particular attention to how our course continues the tradition in the humanities of critical thinking and written communication by extending these principles into digital environments. (Celeste Sharpe and Jeri Wieringa)
I’m curious how “writing at a distance” is being framed–could you include a short description/definition?
I just found this piece through a recommendation to another piece in the collection by a friend on FB. I’m super glad folks are writing about reading and composing webtexts, as it’s something I’ve dedicated my entire academic career to, as editor of Kairos. Perhaps Professor DeRouen would appreciate some of the scholarship I’ve done in this area, which is freely available on my website. Most recently, I’ve found that teaching webtexts to undergraduate students (as Prof DeRouen does) requires quite a bit of literacy preparation, as she says, and that students shouldn’t be unleashed on *any* scholarly article or webtext in the library without similar literacy training.I hope that issue is clear in her article.
I as well agree that the opening paragraph could be more catchy. It does not necessarily entice to reader to keep on going. I think starting off with a scary statistic or even a statement that would make people think. For example you could start with something along the lines of “will the future generations even know what an essay is or will essays merely be a piece read in history textbooks and we will live in a world where texting lingo is the norm”.
I think this can go both ways. This is the first class I have ever taken where my work is being published to the internet. Yes it makes me strive for perfection because it is an intimidating thing to know not only will your classmates view your work but anyone else who googles your name as well. The only downfall of online publication for a class would be the student holding back his or her real views because they are afraid how others may react to them.
It seems to me the focus of this piece shifts too quickly right here: what Cohen is talking about isn’t in any way pedagogical — he’s trying to define a genre of writing. Then we move right away into something that is very much pedagogical — an evaluation rubric. This is actually very interesting, and goes back to the idea of ‘authenticity’: what you’re asking students to do is actually very similar to what Dan Cohen is arguing that writers should do. Real writers! Students are real writers, too! But I think the pivot happens too fast for readers to appreciate the ramifications of this.
Web-Writing Across the Curriculum: One of the longstanding big issues in the teaching of writing has to do with writing-in-the-disciplines. We know that student writers can learn very effectively when they practice writing in a subject area that engages them. And most liberal arts institutions have accordingly by developing some sort of Writing-Across-the-Curriculum approach. The hitch is that writing varies a great deal in different disciplines, as does writing pedagogy. Faculty in different areas have different levels of preparedness, confidence, and inclination for teaching writing, not to mention different approaches. I wonder whether there’s anyone out there who can speak to how web-based writing has helped or could help facilitate collaboration among faculty who teach writing from different disciplinary backgrounds.
I think this observation — that “have an innate sense of the conventions of various kinds of websites” — is really helpful. I think I sometimes approach the task of getting students to understand issues of audience and conventions as if I’m starting from scratch. But your characterization of social media networks suggests persuasively that students have a (probably in some cases fairly robust) understanding of these issues. The task, then, becomes one of exploring the analogy between those conventions and others (e.g., those of an academic discipline).
Very interesting approach. I’d be interested in reading more about how this has gone, including whether students readily adapt to “collaborative authoring spaces” or whether they experience some discomfort and anxiety about an apparent breakdown of individual intellectual property. Some of the generalizations about the “millennial generation” would suggest that our students probably thrive using wikis in this way, but I wonder how true that is in practice?
The idea of web-based writing “put[ting] us on display” reminds me of a memorable line in a short NYT Magazine essay a few years back: ““In the heavily text-based media that require people constantly to type words to one another, it’s your diction by which you’re judged, rather than your accent, your appearance, your bearing or your handwriting, as in other eras.” The intimation, both there and in your overview here, is that writing digitally doesn’t just intervene in the ways we write and think but even in the ways we conceive of ourselves in the world. I’d be curious to read more about the particulars of your work.
Have just spent an enjoyable fifteen minutes poking around in your students’ digital projects over a cup of coffee. (Having written a fair bit about John M. Washington, I have a special interest in Civil-War Fredericksburg!) Just as a brief follow-up on Jack’s third comment/question: one of the things I find very intriguing about this kind of project is that, whereas most of what we call “writing” (even when it’s web-based) is relatively linear. Expanding “writing” to “curation” embraces other kinds of intellectual labor we would want our students to be able to do but which isn’t very well captured by linear writing — e.g., making the kinds of decisions about organization and audience that determine headings on drop-down menus, navigation, etc. I would love to be getting my own students practicing those kinds of skills, though, like Jack, I don’t think I yet have a flexible enough framework to evaluate them.
There’s an interesting point of intersection (not overlap) with Idea #11, “Social Media to Teach Audience.” As Andrew Pilsch was saying, there are some ways in which students’ use of the Internet may have already acculturated them to some of the values we have long been trying to teach w/r/t academic writing — in this case, citation. I’d be curious to read more about how far the analogy goes — where web citation practices mirror those we want our students to use in “traditional academic work,” as well as where they might not — and what strategies might be employed to help students understand the analogy.
I just want to echo Jennifer’s admiration for an assignment that unsettles the individualist assumptions of virtually all written work in educational contexts. Paul, your interest in compelling students to “negotiate a shared stance” reminds me of an archive of documents I’ve worked with — petitions by groups of formerly enslaved men in the Civil-War South. Like miniature, ad hoc constitutional conventions, groups of black men (and to a lesser extent women) would gather to air their grievances and aspirations, which a single appointed penman would write down in the form of a letter to some federal official, which all would sign. It’s impossible to reconstruct exactly how such groups negotiated the content and phrasing of these petitions, but it’s clear that the exercise was, in form as well function, a way for newly-freed African Americans to begin forming political communities. Which simply drives home the point both Paul and Jennifer are making — that a lot of the ways we might expect and want our students to use writing in their lives have different premises than the standard single-authored essay.
Really fascinating undertaking, Susan. It seems to me to raise (among other issues) a broadly relevant question about how faculty can experiment with new assignments without burying themselves in work. I think most of us get pretty good, over a period of years, if not at *controlling* how much time we spend teaching, at least in estimating it realistically. That is, if you set a stack of student papers in front of me, I can tell you to within an hour or two how long it will take me to grade them. But a person who experiments with a very novel set of assignments, as you did, probably can’t very reliably estimate the time commitment involved in, for instance, as you put it, “supervising their conduct.” That uncertainty — am I biting off more than I can chew or not? — is probably for many teachers an impediment to trying out a bright idea. Your misadventures may be very helpful in, among other ways, showing people how to chip away at that uncertainty.
Alisea, it’s a pleasure to learn about a project by a fellow researcher in the National Archives’ materials on wartime emancipation. I’m not quite sure what the “buffering” effect of traditional research would be, but I do wonder, is part of the issue you’re observing a generation gap? Between those of us who came of age keenly aware of how rare, hidden, and overlooked records of slavery are, and those who have grown up more accustomed to the availability of information online (in the case of African American history, a lot more than used to be available, though still not enough)? In any event, I certainly do think the Civil War era — the moment of formerly enslaved people’s bursting forth into literacy — is a great context for composition pedagogy.
I’m interested in the parameters of the assignment — to analyze a “video that is a component of a larger website.” I imagine you’ve given “contextual/rhetorical analysis” assignments before, without so much mixing the media of the rhetorical object and the context. I’d be curious to learn from this essay whether or not students found it challenging to think about a video in the context of a website–to move back and forth between text and moving, time-based content. Put differently: did the incorporation of web-based video into these assignments do more than make students more engaged? Did it awaken certain modes of reading and analysis you weren’t seeing in student writing about text?
There’s an interesting analogy between doing journalism in this way and writing serialized fiction. When a fiction writer publishes a novel one installment at a time, without yet having finished the whole thing (as often was the case in earlier times, when serial fiction was more common than it is today), he or she is, on the one hand, bound by what’s already been published — you can’t revise a character whom readers have already gotten acquainted with. On the other hand, a writer in that situation may find out what is and isn’t resonating with readers and adjust accordingly in subsequent installments. I wonder how your students experience those sorts of limitations and opportunities–either feeling shackled to the tweets they’ve already sent out, or being able to do better reporting because they’re already getting feedback before they’ve finished.
Browsing through some of the student work available at the second link–fascinating stuff!–I see a lot of what I would characterize as hallmarks of postmodernism: pastiche, reappropriation and remix, the use of generative constraints. Makes me wonder whether the use of digital tools is tending to *extend and amplify* trends in authorship from the late 20th-century to the present, or whether they’re actually *changing* those trends.
Very perceptive, Susan! Actually, the individual days (first phase) aren’t credited either, but you probably spotted a name other than mine next to the ‘posted by’ line on one or more of those early essays. That was the class’s peer mentor, or TA, who did some of the back-end work on the WordPress site. So that particular discrepancy is a technical accident, rather than a decision.
But the larger issue — identifying students publicly or not — is certainly something I thought about and did make a decision about. I considered having essays appear under students’ names by default but allowing students to tell me they would prefer to be anonymous or pseudonymous. But I decided instead to make anonymity the default and allow students to tell me they’d like to see their names in lights. I erred on the side of less-public because the students were in their first semester of college and, I thought (rightly or wrongly), might not have been ready to be thrust into public view.
As it happens, none of the students asked to have their names added, and so the online essays remain anonymous. As a practical matter, the authorship of the first-round essays was known to the class, because they had an internal document showing who was doing which date.
Ha! Well, yes, they say “sources” after they’ve become well enough socialized to my class to realize that’s what they’re supposed to say. Unguarded, I think they do say, like your students, things like “I’m not sure I’ve got enough quotes for this paper.”
Great point, Amanda, and I think this particular assignment might have been more effective had I, as you say, “supported” it a little better “in face-to-face interactions.” What we did do was have a series of in-class workshops on preliminary, non-public blog posts. When the students were doing their primary research, I had them write blog posts (on Moodle, our CMS — not visible outside the class) about a single source they were working on. The whole class read and workshopped these posts, so that we all saw the behind-the-scenes process, as it were, of how the first-round essays (on individual days) came into being. The goal here was that, when students in their final papers were citing their peers as secondary sources, they would have the maximum possible awareness of the fact that those ‘secondary sources’ were not the final word on how to interpret historical material. In some instances, students would actually be reading a peer’s essay and seeing that the peer had changed his or her analysis of a primary source from the time of that first in-class workshop.
And I think, as some other contributors to this volume have suggested, the choice between more- or less-public forms of student writing on the web becomes very different when students are writing about potentially sensitive issues. Theoretically, anything a student writes — even an essay about the Civil War — may be exposing him or her to unwelcome reactions. But that’s a pitfall of much writing (as anyone who’s written something for a website that has unmediated comments knows!).
This is very helpful to hear, Amanda. It really is just a zygote of an essay — in spirit something of a sidebar to the much more substantial contributions in this volume (although there are no actual “sidebars” in the CommentPress layout). But reading and responding to reader comments has generated some of the richer reflections that might nudge the piece toward essay-dom.
In response to your question above, Jason, the essays students were citing weren’t anonymous to them — they knew which of their peers had written which essays — and they cited them by name (so although the first round of essays was posted online anonymously, anyone who really wants to can figure out the authorship of them by looking through the footnotes of second-round essays). But that leads right into the really interesting question in your second comment, just above: did having personal acquaintance with the authors of secondary sources lead student writers actually to quote or paraphrase differently? I think I’d have to re-scrutinize the data. I don’t exactly have a control, at least not with this group of students, but it would still be interesting for me to revisit the essays with that question in mind. Thanks!
Thanks, Barbara, for the great suggestion — yes, including assignment prompts might be helpful.
Why write on the web? I find that iterative assignments, which allow students to refine their thinking and writing based on peer and instructor feedback, produce the kind of skill and subject-matter mastery that both I, as the instructor, and the students themselves can discern by semester’s end. One of the values of web writing, be it for the open public or in a controlled-access environment, is that many tools designed for this space more easily allow for and support the processes upon which successful iterative assignments depend.
With the recent proliferation of easy-to-use annotation tools, I’m quite interested in their potential use for fostering critical reading skills that, in turn, can inform student writing. In other words (and to oversimplify): by deconstructing how arguments are made students can come to a better understanding of the essential building blocks needed to compose arguments of their own.
One difference between collective annotation of an assigned reading and, say, having students blog about the text is that having the observations and the text itself visible in the same shared space can invite a closer re-examination of the text. And, one difference between web writing for “the public” and for the instructor is that it forces a discussion of the importance of tailoring one’s writing not only to the audience but also to the medium. For this reason when selecting course readings I always try to include examples of scholarship written for different audiences and media. While, I’m speaking here mainly of my experience teaching students to engage with secondary literature, I’m excited to see how you’ve begun applying it to primary sources. Also, texts need not be limited to the written word. Some tools allow images, video, etc., to become the centers of analysis and discussion.
Scaffolding external to the annotation tool is, of course, needed. My earlier analog attempts at this (Where were you Google docs when I needed you!) included introducing students to critical reading basics (e.g., what questions should we ask of a text); assigning students in pairs to compose and circulate questions on the week’s readings and to lead off our group analysis and discussion; factoring student written comments into the participation grade; and having students identify a rhetorical technique used by one of the week’s authors that they would try in their next assignment. As readers have no doubt guessed this was a seminar-style course (in American Studies) which made it easier to implement reflective learning strategies than would a large lecture class.
Since I’m not currently teaching, I’ve been on the lookout for others who are exploring collaborative critical reading. Moonhawk Kim at the University of Colorado Boulder (scroll down) is one I recently stumbled upon and I’m looking forward to what you’ll uncover in the course of developing this topic.
I understand the “culture clash” that international students are less likely to participate in in-class discussion than domestic students. However I feel it could be stated in a clearer matter. The sentence beginning with “While the literature…” is rather lengthy and confusing. The point you are making is a very important note to make but it might just help if this paragraph is simplified.
I agree that some web writing for academic classes should stay private rather than public and I think the reasons you give do a good job of supporting that point. There are serious and personal matters that could be too sensitive for a public forum. However serious matters are discussed on the web and I think Global Voices Online (what you mention later) does a good job of maintaining serious topics on a public sphere. Perhaps this is a good place to include how Global Voices Now could be incorporated in the classroom.
Its great to see what types of academic writing skills the live-tweeting project helped refine. Although twitter is typically know for its juvenile comments and celebrity’s post, this is prime example of how it can define a student’s tone and test their writing confidence. Since Twitter is a public sphere, anybody can read the tweets. I am interested and think it would be beneficial to hear about how the “Twittersphere audience” affected the live-tweeting and writing process. What types of feedback was there and was it beneficial?
I understand that it is necessary to separate personal and professional lives and I think it is an important point to make. Since the web is a public sphere, anything posted can be seen by anyone, including potential employers. However, I am unsure how a Twitter account would be an asset to show potential employers. It would be interesting to discuss how Twitter or social media can help or hinder in the employment process.
This is a very well-written and carefully on an important topic and I don’t think it needs many changes. My comments is somewhat general and may not be of much use. But I think the tone of the piece is a little bit more positive toward Wikipedia than is justified from my experience. For example, in para 3 you quote the “five pillars,” of which the most interesting is number 5, which quite a few commentators have noted is rarely followed (can it even be followed?)–Nate Tkacz especially. It becomes a feint or excuse to impose some extremely rigid and at times arbitrary rules of power that in many ways contradict some basic assumptions about how the site works.
In a related vein, I don’t think you dwell as long as I would on how very racist and sexist the Wikipedia community is. A couple commentators here say you make Wikipedia more compelling or attractive to academics, which in one way I support, but in another way I am a little concerned by the overall impression that Wikipedia is a good place to do work on indigenous peoples. It is–and yet I’m not so sure.
Part of that is a temporal dimension that you don’t quite mention. What most concerns me about projects like yours is that over time, they are likely to be deleted in their entirety, due precisely to the racism and rigid anti-rule organization of the project. The hostile, often white male editors who can for whatever reason devote a huge amount of time to the site, taking particular areas under their wings as “their” domain, simply wait out the interventions of people whose politics they don’t like. Then, once we (inevitably) disengage, they delete all the pages they don’t like due to “notability” criteria or lack of sources or whatever. I’d like to see the material in this paper revisited in 2 or 3 years to see how much of what is done remains–I’d be pleased, but surprised, if most of it persists.
That gives the piece a bit of “here’s what finally happened” quality that I think gives Wikipedia too much credit. There is never any “final,” and very often, over time, efforts to fight the deeply conservative bias of much of Wikipedia get overcome attrition.
I’ll be happy to be wrong, and in some cases I certainly am wrong, and maybe things are changing, but I remain very concerned about the problem I describe.
apologies for the exceedingly poor editing of my hastily-typed comment…
I am also curious about the decisions made concerning in class vs out of class assignments. Just like standard discussion forums there needs to be some trade offs. If everyone comments on everything we quickly get lost in the sheer volume. Deciding what should be done in class vs out can have a significant impact on the outcome. Using out of class comments to tease out specific areas of confusion, agreement disagreement etc could help the in class time to be more focused. Is there real value in spending a large amount of class time to this commenting vs discussion of the comments?
I like the idea of sharing but wonder what are the downsides of public sharing, especially in the early stages of thinking. I am just brainstorming here but wonder if instead of opening us up to new ideas it rather makes us more rigid, in knowing that our ideas will be up for very public scrutiny? However, if I was in my Vygotskyian mode, I guess I could argue that all thinking is shared, since we always in conversation wither with others or with ourselves. So perhaps what you are doing here is creating a tool for making that process more explicit.
I can see many of the benefits of having students write on the web and get feedback from multiple sources and for that information to be public. I do wonder about the resistance from weak writers, who although they may benefit the most from this approach, may be very reluctant to share their work in public. Is there research yet to show potential benefits of this approach? And if there is any research does it vary with the quality of the writing? It would be great to see an essay that argues for this approach based on research evidence.
This tool seems quite fascinating… How about for dissertation work? “white papers”?
Essay Proposal: Web Writing and Citation
The Internet is often blamed for a perceived increase in plagiarism. Students engaged in a culture of remixing and piracy, with easy access to texts that do not need to be retyped, will naturally include unattributed quotations in their essays, according to this way of thinking. The web, however, is an inherently citational medium. The primary markup language used to create web pages implies citation: the “hypertext” in HyperText Markup Language (HTML), refers to electronic text that includes hyperlinks. A link is a way of crediting a source or referring readers to additional information. Moreover, the original importance of citation has not been lost as the web has grown. Communities continue to create and enforce their own citational standards. One of the earliest conventions created by Twitter users was the “RT” or “ReTweet,” a way of giving credit when quoting another user. Posts passed around on Tumblr teach users how to find the creators of images and give them credit. In 2008, a major controversy broke out in the feminist blogosphere over allegations that Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon had appropriated ideas from another blogger without giving credit.
I want to consider the ways that, by participating in and studying online communities, students can gain a stronger understanding of citation standards as community standards, as well as of the purposes served by citing sources. Such an understanding helps students to credit sources appropriately not only in web writing but also in more traditional academic work, especially if they understand academic disciplines as communities.
I agree that this is an important distinction, and I think we can take a balanced approach—some writing (or at least early drafts) limited to the class audience and some made public. To me, the chief benefit of making student work public is that students get a sense of having a “real” audience and receiving feedback from broader communities. On the other hand, there’s a danger in the possibility of feedback, too: beware of trolls!
Would this include text generation and uncreative writing?
Maybe an alternative to audience/consumption-based models of success would be to see if the writing takes advantage what distinguishes web writing from non-web writing.
Mostly I’m trying to get my head around distant writing. Does it include the kind of thing Kenneth Goldsmith does? Or creating systems that generate text? Both? Either? Neither?
Generally speaking, web citation and traditional academic work are most similar in purpose and least similar in the details of what form citations take, and this has a lot to do with what it takes to be able to find a source online (a link suffices) versus what it takes to find a passage in a book; it also has to do with ideas about how long the writing is (rightly or wrongly) expected to last. If a link in a blog post expires after five years, we’re not too worried about it because we don’t generally expect the post to be read often after a few years pass (and readers who are that interested will probably be able to trace it using the Internet Wayback Machine anyway). One way students can understand this difference is to trace the sources used in a piece of writing. (Maybe an example of academic writing could be doctored so that the references were incomplete so students could see how difficult that makes tracking down sources.).
Digital music brings up another point that might be worth bringing up in this context—the differences between piracy and plagiarism.
A better word than “bizarre” here might be “troubling”, and a discussion of the demographics of Wikipedia editors would definitely help contextualize the issue.
This sequence is great and very helpful. When I revise my essay, I intend to link to it in my discussion of Wikipedia-based assignments.
In theory it could, but right now it only provides a single link. I have seen some pretty long trains on Twitter though.
Good point RE Google’s customized searches, though there is a way to deactivate this rather dubious feature; it might be particularly valuable to bring this issue up in discussion with students, as I still occasionally run into ones who don’t understand why they cannot just cite Google as if it were a source.
Good question. I think the horizontal link structure helps us to see the ideal that’s already there. Academic citation should be a conversation in community, but the marginal placement of footnotes makes that community seem secondary at best.
Regarding “a digitally-mediated audience of their peers”: are we talking about blogs that are fully public or that are restricted? If the latter, how does the potential of a broader audience reading affect the behavior of students as they write posts and comment? If the latter, it needs to be specified.
Commenting on blogs makes us a little more conscious of our non-verbal signals, doesn’t it?
Agreed. There’s also the issue of students who may need to be taught the difference between the kind of behavior accepted in places like YouTube comments and the kind that is appropriate in a digital academic space.
I am so thrilled that you found a way to incorporate twitter into the classroom and used it to promote scholarly writing. I would have loved to be in this class! The class hashtag is a great way to get each kid’s personal slant on the same topic and get them to read each other’s work and ideas. I also really appreciate how the negative stigma of cold, impersonal online interaction was broken down in the classroom and you remarked that the project actually got students talking to each other.
You note that the project “runs more smoothly” if a professor attends the live-tweeting event. While you set expectations and delineate the various requirements for the kids’ tweets, did you find yourself in a more collaborative or authoritative role? I feel as if to fully facilitate an online discussion, a professor must also be a part of the conversation. What if a professor participated in the class discussion alongside the students? Some may say that this is too hands-on for a college classroom, but it would be an interesting idea to play with.
This is the first time I have seen a discussion-based classroom and a blog compared. I truly agree that blogs can be a useful tool to conduct scholarly thinking and writing, and you enlighten us to exactly why that is. However, as I read this passage, I wonder if the ample amount of time students have to make blog posts could enable procrastination and thus inhibit their ability to delve into the topic at hand, whereas a class discussion keeps kids on their toes. This would be an interesting point to put into context here.
The social aspect of blogging can be highly contested. You bring up a great point about how incredibly social blogging can be, and how beneficial the peer conversations on blogs can be to students. With this collaborative effort, students can really enjoy using social media to create a full understanding of a topic. In your project, how did you manage to create the same level of enthusiasm for online discussion throughout the classroom? I realize that as a student, online discussion can sometimes feel forced and often requires an assignment to get kids to comment on their peer’s work.
I wonder if a better articulation of the skeptics (rather than those who would “reject new technologies as shallow substitutes for true learning”) are folks who resist using technology solely for technology’s sake, as if it is an inherent good. The important consideration of “why” is usually at the heart of these critiques. That position is, I think, the more serious one to address. (But, of course, if that’s one end of the spectrum, then this “middle course” may not be so middle, after all…?) Or, perhaps, skeptics are those folks who are intimidated by the influx of new technology and who question their ability (and time) to be able to learn how to use it all in meaningful ways. This could be another end (of another spectrum). Academics can be a rather conservative bunch. I’m not sure this quibble is relevant to the overall argument here, but I do think it’s important to fairly (and richly) represent the other positions out there.
I also might disagree with the assertion that “all academic disciplines value clear and compelling prose.” It might be more accurate to write that all academic disciplines “say they value…” or “purport to value….” Or maybe even “should value….” In my experience, many scholars write in ways that are (often intentionally) difficult, abstruse, or convoluted, as if that style were a sign of intelligence or rigor. (Judith Butler, for one, was famously accused of “obscurantism.”) Accessibility, clarity, concision– how we could write for the reader– is not always something emphasized in schools (across the disciplines or even within writing programs) and it is certainly not modeled in much of the disciplinary scholarship we might be asking our students to read and emulate.
I have found students who have difficulty with blogs (in general terms). There is a need for clear expectations, and some students expressed anxieties because it was either a new form of writing for them or it was a form they didn’t associate with academic work. In terms of results, though, I found that blog posts have produced some of the more solid student writing I’ve received. The content is to the point due to the short form, and I think the public-nature of the post makes them think about tone and style more. They want it to look good, even if the audience is just the rest of the class.
I think that this idea of “sister classrooms” represents the best usage of blogs. I am skeptical on whether or not blogs can do a sufficient job replacing essays, or acting as class discussions, but I do think that because they give two classes from different schools the ability to learn with each other, blogging definitely has potential to do good. These blogs provide students the means to discuss with a wider range of people and opinions which is very important for learning. Also, because the two classes teach different themes about the environment, the students from each of the classes can collaborate and draw connections from each of the fields which broadens their knowledge of their studies beyond their individual class.
I think this type of writing s important because it gives students an actual audience for their writing, which is not typically found in classrooms. I think this is a good thing because students would probably take the time to write a thoughtful comment, knowing that many people will be reading it. I think the discussions over blogging are beneficial, but only if they act as a basis for the in class discussions where students can talk face to face.
Jack, I believe an additional fear developed from my experiences writing for the web as a an undergraduate is the constant worry, “Is what I am writing any good?”
For whatever reason (my suspicion is it has do with my voice) people actually read my little journal like blog. Then when I see readers have viewed the pages for a meaningful amount of time, and do not comment I think, “wow that was probably terrible, and I am selling myself short.”
I wanted to add to the discussion, because as a student and TA, it has been an experience of growth, but one that is also full of insecurities.
It is unclear by what you mean about “effectiveness”. Are students able to tell a story more effectively? Share their ideas to broader audiences more effectively? Improve their writing more effectively Are teachers able to read, and assess student work more effectively on the web? Honestly, then talking about effectiveness I think you could argue, is student writing and our struggle with it an effective process at all?
All that aside, writing for the web as a student certainly improved my “student learning” because I was extremely carefully about the quality of work when producing assignments for class that the whole class, and potentially the whole public could read.
I am especially interested in learning more about how you address design, and usability when teaching and learning how to write for the web. Frequently I stumble across terrible web design, and it actually stops me from wanting to read any further.
As an undergrad (former student of Jack Dougherty) we spent little to no time on thinking about design and usability, primarily because time did not permit us to. Additionally, there was an online portfolio worksop series offered at Trinity, and the student created web portfolios may have been excellent, but the design was not.
All leading towards my question; how do you teach design to writers?
My questions and comments on this essay are similar to the comment made by Kate Singer. The essay begins asking two questions, are blogs suitable for student writing, and can they strengthen critical and creative thinking. I believe the essay resolves the latter question by demonstrating that the blogging collaboration between two courses, in your experience, did in fact challenge students to think about the material differently. However, are blogs a suitable format for student writing is a question left unanswered, and would be better articulated if “student writing” was not left as such a broad an indefinable activity.
I think the essay questions can be improved by asking, “is student blog writing an effective way to encourage cross discipline student engagement?” One of the advantages of class blogging, and one that you demonstrate is further strengthened with a two-course blogging project, is that all students are forced to thoughtfully engage with each other. As a student we are constantly concerned with course and professor expectations, but we are equally focused on how we are measuring up against our peers. An open blog encourages us to step up our student game so to speak, and foster better written communication with our peers, which is ultimately who will work with once we leave.
I think your point on Wikipedia embracing its use as a pedagogical tool is interesting. You may want to elaborate on what you see as proper use of the site as a teaching aid. Your first footnote gives reference to the assignments of Professor T. Mills Kelly, but you don’t touch on whether this is a good use of the website or not. I don’t think you should go into an extended discussion of web ethics, but I think the issue is worth mentioning.
As an extension of Holly Oberle’s point, I think that the reactions you garnered as a result of Wikipedia work are very interesting compared to student reactions I have seen to blog projects. I think that today’s students are not accustomed to being a single individual, but are rather used to being a cog in a larger system (something akin to the sharing that occurs on sites like Twitter and Tumblr). There is a lot of literature out there about this very topic, and I wonder what everyone’s thoughts are regarding the community nature of Wikipedia as opposed to the individualized nature of the blog.
This introduction immediately caught my eye (as a history major and a student worker in my college’s archives, working on a similar transcription project), and I think that your point about students not knowing about their local history is a particularly moving one. Has this project inspired the general student population to learn more about Holly Springs and the surrounding community? I know that students attending my college are very involved with our community, and I am wondering if a similar environment exists at Rust College. I think that this often has an impact on the failure or success of collegiate projects, and wonder if a note about this might also be an interesting aside for your readers.
The goals of FTP are quite similar to a project I work on through my school, focusing on digitizing documents from the local Carlisle Indian Industrial School. You mention the fact that fewer primary sources would be available to the public without the FTP. I am wondering what other documents are available to the public, and where they could be found. Are you planning on continuing transcriptions after/now that the Register is completed? It will be interesting to see this project grow over time!
Just to comment on the HASTAC experience, which was my first in-depth involvement in writing in public, I found it interesting to see how others were reading, interpreting, and commenting on the document and enjoyed being able to engage with those comments as well as the piece of writing. My graduate experience (archives and history) has made heavy use of Google docs, but really only as a time-saver to avoid having to schedule in-person meetings. For me there’s a gap between this process of collaboration as necessity and actual Web engagement. (I hope this makes sense.) I have a feeling that incorporating or crediting contributions that came in from the public Web sphere would not “fly” in my program. Embedding and evaluating collaborative Web writing in an academic program seems tricky, but also absolutely necessary — how does a program or department establish this practice as standard and a learning outcome in its pedagogy?
With so much in academia in flux, two things remain certain: the increase in the use of technology, and internationalization. As we think through the implications of integrating new technologies into the classroom, we also have be aware of how these new platforms affect international students. I have spent six years living, studying, and teaching outside my home country among diverse groups of students. During this time, I have thought a lot about innovative teaching tools that can better take advantage of the learning opportunities associated with internationalization. I think blogging, webcasts or podcasts, wikis and other web-based collaborative tools may create a space where international students may actually thrive rather than simply having to sink or swim in a foreign learning environment. For example, many Western students are taught from an early age to voice their opinions with conviction and this plays out in the familiar classroom discussion model at liberal arts institutions in which oral and face-to-face communication is the key. However, many students, especially those from different learning cultures or those lacking confidence in their English language skills, may feel intimated in this environment. Integrating other mediums of critical reflection may provide these students with an opportunity to engage with their peers in ways that allow their views to be heard. At the same time, these tools may allow domestic students to engage in more meaningful ways with their international peers in order to more fully appreciate different cultural perspectives. On the other hand, any web-based tool must be approached cautiously in a diverse classroom, particularly if students, both domestic and international, are not experienced users of technology as a result of their cultural background.
My essay will mostly be based on my personal experience, first as a graduate student in an international classroom and second as a teacher in an international classroom. Given that I’m at the beginning of my career and my experience is somewhat lacking, I’m hoping to find people with a bit more teaching experience to aid my thinking on these a matters. Jack, I’m wondering if you might expand a bit on your experience iwth the student from Liberia and what specifically the challenges were. Thanks!
Thanks Jack. Yes, the example is thin but it reflects my experience quite well in that “non-Western” students in my classroom aren’t eager to simply jump into class discussions and sometimes I think they find that sort of teaching tool overwhelming. Hence, my experimenting with bringing in more writing opportunities but in a way that still allows for student discussions and collaboration.
I really like the emphasis on being a facilitator rather than gatekeeper. This should be a running theme throughout the entire book in my opinion.
I might suggest elaborating a bit more on what you mean by “blitz” editing.
Not only is Wikipedia and other crowd sourced versions of history likely to be male-biased and potentially racist, there is also a problem concerning the authors on Wikipedia, which are predominately white men, and the removal of female American writers from a list of American writers. You might be interested in this link if you’re not familiar with this debate: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/apr/29/wikipedia-women-problem/.
Whoopss…I spoke too soon. Please ignore my previous comment on the paragraph above. But I’m so very glad to see this issue addressed in this book!
This is very compelling! I wonder how those of us who choose to blog can make this case to our students…in my experience students do not believe that their blog will be read by anyone but themselves.
I also love this setup but I’m also wondering how one might go about producing content on a deceased author? And was there any difficulty between the student and the authors? Were there any students that were unwilling to participate? I can imagine that writing an article about someone you’ve had contact with might be a very intimidating process!
I want to echo the comments above…such a wonderful essay and a contribution that makes a forceful case for web writing. I learned a lot myself from reading it, not only about Wikipedia and web writing itself, but also about Native American authors.
Thank you for the suggestion. You’re right-an example here would be helpful. My own experience is that the presentation software that is slowly becoming more and more popular over Powerpoint, Prezi turns out great looking presentations but it was overwhelming for some of my students from developing countries and the others made sophisticated projects but the content was lacking. Therefore it turned into more of an art project rather than a critical thinking exercise. But Prezi itself isn’t a good example of a “web writing” tool.
I think you have to realize that LMS is not, at least in my international experience, a normal part of the learning infrastructure outside of the US. We had one in my German university but it was poorly designed, extremely technical, and students actively hated it. Therefore, there is really no good way to use a tool like that in the way I’m proposing. I suppose an LMS might work in some scenarios. But I also think that the public/private issue in my piece is being paid too much attention. I’m not arguing that web writing MUST be private or even that doing it privately among class members only is the BEST way to do it. But I’m calling attention to some of the problems of completely public web writing. As a feminist, the first time I blogged about the issue of subtle sexism, I was immediately berated by trolls on the site I was blogging for, and since I had linked my twitter account to the blog post, I received threats over twitter. This is consistent problem for female bloggers, which has been well documented. I wasn’t prepared to expose my students to that risk. Writing on the blog privately for each other was a way to introduce students to the concept of writing for a broader audience, but it assured that the discussion was polite and respectful.
What I mean by versatile enough for tech savvy students is basically an open-ended thing, and in comparing it to LMS (at least the one’s I’ve worked with which are few) blogs are much more versatile in terms of allowing students to link to content, include pictures if they want, dynamic commenting, but essentially allowing the students to take control of their content rather than forcing their content into the straight jacket of the platform, the way LMS’s do (again, in my experience, I suppose there are LMS’s out there that do this just as well).
I think you have to realize that LMS is not, at least in my international experience, a normal part of the learning infrastructure outside of the US. We had one in my German university but it was poorly designed, extremely technical, and students actively hated it, and for good reason I must say. Therefore, there is really no good way to use a tool like that in the way I’m proposing. I suppose an LMS might work in some scenarios. But I also think that the public/private issue in my piece is being paid too much attention. I’m not arguing that web writing MUST be private or even that doing it privately among class members only is the BEST way to do it. But I’m calling attention to some of the problems of completely public web writing. As a feminist, the first time I blogged about the issue of subtle sexism, I was immediately berated by trolls on the site I was blogging for, and since I had linked my twitter account to the blog post, I received threats over twitter. This is consistent problem for female bloggers, which has been well documented. I wasn’t prepared to expose my students to that risk. Writing on the blog privately for each other was a way to introduce students to the concept of writing for a broader audience, but it assured that the discussion was polite and respectful. What I mean by versatile enough for tech savvy students is basically an open-ended thing, and in comparing it to LMS (at least the one’s I’ve worked with which are few) blogs are much more versatile in terms of allowing students to link to content, include pictures if they want, dynamic commenting, but essentially allowing the students to take control of their content rather than forcing their content into the straight jacket of the platform, the way LMS’s do (again, in my experience, I suppose there are LMS’s out there that do this just as well).
Thanks for your comment. I would say that the problem isn’t that serious topics shouldn’t be posted publicly, but that issues of personal importance should not have to be subjected to the whims of the web. It seems to me that almost all the authors in the collection argue for public writing with the idea that public writing makes for more accountable writing. That might be somewhat true, but not always. What is not adequately addressed in this volume, and my contribution does little to address it as well, is the issue of student privacy as we digitalize our learning environments. We have already seen so many problems as young people voluntarily and without proper reflection post their entire lives on the web. For many young people, this has led to harassment, bullying, shaming, etc in ways that may be even more vicious than that which takes place face-to-face.
As I think about this issue more and more and read the comments on my contribution, I think this is an issue that really needs to be addressed more adequately in this volume: the public/private issue. It could be addressed in the “building and breaking” contribution: what sorts of discussions/topics/assignments are best done in a completely public space versus that should be done with a smaller audience in mind? What sort of architecture exists or should exist to restrict audiences or target audiences? Is there a place for web writing that is completely private? Is our understanding of the web defined in part by its public nature? (ignoring the NSA scandal for the time being)? Again, perhaps it is my international perspective at work. Germans are very privacy oriented, and perhaps that is why my students thought a class blog was a good idea but they were very keen to keep it private and even erase it at the end of the class. Americans on the other hand, I think, at least with regard to the web, have seemed to give up on the idea of privacy. Thanks for everyone’s comments as this has stimulated an entirely new line of thought on my end concerning culturally-defined approaches to technology.
At the risk of sounding vapid, it might be helpful here to define more clearly what exactly is meant by multimodal composition.
Just my two cents, but I was not confused by the “make and break” versus “building and breaking.” The connection between the two concepts were relatively clear even before I read the rest of the essay.
However, this one sentence was NOT clear: “Blogs as a writing strategy that is creative and encourages students to curate knowledge about culture through reflection on key issues in the social sciences…”
It feels like an incomplete sentence to me. Perhaps you simply meant “Blogs ARE a writing strategy…”.
I might also suggest that you define “curate” in this paragraph.
This is an impressive list and great examples of creative web based assignments. I will be exploring these suggestions as I design next semester’s syllabi. Thanks!
These are all great questions to consider. I might add a few more, which was prompted by some questions that came up in my contribution (Web Writing as Intercultural Dialogue), and that is the question of privacy. I understand that most web writing projects will take place on the public web, which in general is ok and is one of the great advantages of web writing. But are there not some assignments that might take place on a smaller forum, such as a closed invitation-only blog? This also relates to your question of the life span of the project. When students contribute, do they expect their writing to exist forever and forever in that space? ( I realize that even if a blog or project is deleted, it still “exists” and could be retrieved if someone really wanted to do so). What are the implications of this for students? Might there be risks involved if, for example, a student produces a rather unreflective blog post, which future employers find when googling the student’s name? Bein publicly accountable for one’s writing is one thing when you’re a professional academic or a journalist, but should young students who are still learning, be held forever and publicly accountable for the projects they produce at the age of 18 on a subject matter they had never engaged with before? How will students negotiate their social/private/academic lives online? And is it our job as educators to help them separate or even integrate those identities online? Just food for thought.
I’m just wondering for what sort of class this assignment was given? I can see doing something similar regarding what language and country you search from.
I agree with Carol’s comment. It isn’t until this paragraph that I really understood your entire approach.
This really links up well with my contribution in this ebook. I’m wondering, in more concrete terms, how students actually engage in “cross-cultural” encounters through their blogging? Unless your classroom is particularly diverse or the blog somehow attracts attention from truly cross-cultural participants, how do you really gauge whether students are actually engaging in cross-cultural dialogues?
Ok, perhaps it is just because I was an undergraduate student long ago, and I’m only beginning my own teaching career, but I don’t think I expect students to adopt a specific “voice” that is specific to my subject matter. In fact, I would rather encourage students to approach the topic with their own voice. Furthermore, it is possible you’re adapting a very discipline-specific voice in this very essay that is making it a bit too academic?
I think your emphasis on learning through writing is really important. This is a central thesis of my own contribution, but perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough. On the other hand, are there not writing assignments that can be done on the web that IS meant to demonstrate mastery? A final thesis for example?
I wouldn’t overestimate how “inclusive” web language will be. My own experience shows that particularly obstinate students may be even more difficult during blog discussions since there isn’t as much of a reputation cost when confronting other students’ face-to-face.
Again, in my own personal experience, it is important to stress that blogging for class should be thought of as something completely different than writing for social media, at least the way my students use social media. Social media is usually all about knee-jerk responses, rather formulating an articulate thought. Social media can be vicious and far from affirmative.
This is a comment on style: it was not clear to me at all until this paragraph fairly late in the piece that this is a contribution about cross-campus blogs (other than the title). I think you could probably be more brief about the overall advantages of blogging itself and get to the example of cross-campus blogging more quickly. Perhaps this goes to the general structure of the book…the first chapter should probably be about writing on the web in a general sense before launching into specific examples?? I suspect some readers will already be a little overwhelmed by the concept of blogging in their classroom at all, let alone trying to coordinate it across different universities.
Just a question, which links to my essay in this volume: how did you grade the writing of blog posts? I’ve struggled with this because if I give students participation points, there are always two or three students that blog constantly and comment constantly because they think it will get them a better grade. I’ve also found that having rigid requirements for number of posts sometimes really takes the creativity and thoughtfulness out of the posts. It is pretty clear when a student makes a comment just because it is required rather to seriously engage.
I’m also missing the link between the conclusion and the opening paragraphs. You talk about discipline-specific language in the opener, which I found a bit strange to begin with, but that question or theme doesn’t seem to be addressed. How did your project specifically help students overcome discipline-specific language?
Yes! Please see my contribution “Web Writing as Intercultural Dialogue.”
I like this paragraph because it re-focuses the book on the larger project of simply reinvigorating teaching and learning techniques, which I think is the best angle for this book. However, I might here also pay some attention to the probable future where all or most writing takes place on the web in some way shape or form (private journals are hosted on the web more and more). If our job as educators is prepare students for the “world,” then we are almost obligated to incorporate web writing into the skill set we are giving students.
There is a very strange lack of research on this topic as I found when I was reseraching my own contribution. Perhaps this paragraph could speculate as to why that is?
Perhaps this is the paragraph where a brief discussion about new directions in academic publishing. The web is changing and destabilizing the old journals that used to be gate keepers for researchers to advance their careers. I see a not-so-distant future whereby journals are all essentially open-access.
Not sure if this is the appropriate place to put this comment, but I see the general direction of this entire project aiming at a very open-access and very public form of web writing, which I think has its place. But I teach gender and women’s studies in an international setting and we talk about very sensitive subjects. For example, I dedicate at least one session and sometimes two to the topic of sexual violence. I always have my students participate in some sort of journal assignment (both online and offline) and you would be surprised how many journal entries I receive in which students disclose their own personal experience with sexual or other violence. I haven’t read all the contributions yet but I think at some point the volume needs to address how student writing will change depending upon whether it is on or offline. I doubt that my students would so easily connect the literature on rape in wartime to their own personal experiences if it were online. Perhaps there needs to be discussion about how writing changes when exported to the web, and how to balance the online and offline writing experience?
While I agree with the information provided in the first paragraph about the presence of color-blindness and the discrepancy between minority students and white teachers, I did not initially make the connection of how this writing exercise was going to make students better writers and the teachers more culturally responsive. It seemed as though this assignment was trying to tackle two completely different and separate objectives that I felt did not easily tie in together. In terms of the improvement of their overall writing, I feel like this assignment would almost have the opposite effect in that students would have to think carefully about every word they were writing so as to not offend the audience. This could cause them to write for an audience instead of stay true to their own writing style. Maybe it is just my opinion that thoughtful writing is not necessarily always better writing.
I think it is important that this section is added because it explains not just what happened in the study, but what subsequent efforts should be made. In general, i feel that this study draws attention to the grey area of differing cultures and identity but does not do anything to follow up or mitigate those uncomfortable feelings associated with the findings. Therefore, I would like to see another article added in addition to this one that looks at the growth of culture perception and how students, through writing and commenting on others’ blogs, were able to become somewhat more comfortable with expressing their own identity and accepting others.
I agree that students generally tend to encorporate as many facts as possible, often times not realizing which facts are necessary and supportive to an article’s main points. This might be due to how professors and teachers expect a certain word amount on papers and reports, which have trained students to elongate the body of their writing. It is interesting how newspaper editors want leads of 35 words or less. I have taken several courses on writing in several different contexts and never known that fact. Maybe there could be more information in this section on why condensed writing is so important, not just in a digital online writing context, but in print as well.
I found it interesting that you had students live-tweet a basketball game, despite some students’ limited knowledge of the sport. I put myself in their shoes, completely unaware of how basketball works myself, and concluded that I would tweet about the environment of the arena. This really drives home the fact that separate minds can see the same event but react to it and observe it differently. That must have been fascinating to follow this diversified conversation. Though you remark that it was generally successful, did you find that some student’s personal voices across their class twitter accounts were stifled because they we’re aware that it was going to be read by their peers and professor?
My experience is similar to yours–I’ve had students use pseudonyms on their public blogs, but the vast majority are happy to have their actual name out there. I really like your idea of a brief class google demonstration.
I haven’t worked yet on increasing comments from the outside world, but I love your ideas. I do sometimes require students to post on each others’ blogs, and to write blog posts responding to others’ posts. I’ve learned that, since the first time I used blogging in class I came to feel halfway through that I was the only one reading the students’ blogs. The “public sphere” of the classroom it self is powerful, as you know!
Yes–I find it very interesting that the bulk of the criteria are similar. I’ve been wondering in my own teaching about how the actual forms of essays are shifting, though, in this digital age. I think our criteria for “good” writing might necessarily shift. How? I’m not entirely sure, but I think the slow, gradual, development of ideas is losing favor.
I am inclined to disagree with you, Meredith in your statement regarding the use of the word magic as being merely whimsical. Many people would equate technological advances to magic, thus it is not whimsical – but rather, in my opinion, just a fact. In my own experience (having relatives that are not tech savvy), they are mystified by the ‘magic’ of computers. Magic in this sense, if I’m not mistaken, is not the pointing wands and shouting incantations type of magic – but rather the sort of magic as an art, which requires processes and practice to achieve. I do however really like your comment of ‘pulling back the curtain’ in reference to the Wizard of Oz. Having participated in the hist3812 course, I believe that is a most apt comparison. Mage in this sense would mean ‘learned person’, allowing for the clever play on words and context.
I figured the italics were for placing stress on the words in question – not to give meaning; if it is for emphasis, it’s doing a very good job – but if Meredith is correct – that is a very poor job of explanation. Also, should not then “rule-sets” be italicised, since it’s what the focus is on, so that different understandings of history may be represented?
If my understanding is correct with the “history itself” – the focus is on the different understandings of history – as there are several ways to approach one event, and no one way to view the event is correct, but with viewing all the possible inputs, we are given the best story possible. The history itself refers to the facts that cannot be doubted as they are present no matter which version of history is being discussed. If that’s not at all what that is , someone please do correct me.
Great question, which I’d like to open up for broader discussion. My thinking is to frame the “why?” sections to college-level faculty, and the “how” sections to faculty and their students. Most of my experience and examples draw from expository writing in the humanities and social sciences, but I wonder if similar principles can be extended to other disciplines and genres. Perhaps the best way to explore the audience question is to ask here: who finds this work to be interesting?
Laura, thanks for your interest in Web Writing and for offering to share more about your experience. While all of the subventions have been allocated, we still welcome essay proposals on our idea discussion page, with full drafts due by August 15th, 2013.
Naomi and Kathryn,
Thanks for posing excellent questions, which led my colleagues and me to stop and rethink our vision for the volume this summer. It’s taken some time, but I believe we’ve staked out a clearer direction for what Web Writing is — and is not — in our Introduction, specifically the first section on “Why this book?”
We would appreciate your continued feedback. -Jack
Jen, these are great questions, and I don’t have all of the answers you’re looking for. You’ll notice that I’m most comfortable using web writing tools over which my students and I have the most control regarding the display of personal identity. For most of my teaching, I use WordPress self-hosted at my college (where I administer the site and students control their individual profiles), and GoogleDocs (where students create their own accounts under a Google username of their choice). I’ve never used social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for required class writing assignments, and I have no idea whether my public-private policy would work with those platforms or others. Curious to learn how other faculty who teach with these tools address related issues.
Thanks for commenting on this image, an important piece of the essay as a whole. To clarify, all of the handwritten notes on this public paper appear to have been written by the professor, which probably is still most common way that instructors provide feedback on my campus. No one else appears to have marked up the page, nor is there any signage that invites (or prohibits) people from doing so.
Thanks for catching that! I remember waking up one November morning in a panic because student privacy was an issue in the digital campus world, and I had not spelled out my vague thinking about the importance of public writing, with privacy safeguards. Will address that more clearly in revisions.
Yep, this draft has a weak conclusion, and I appreciate you encouraging me to give it more thought. Also, I need to look over notes from several classes where I asked students to reflect on what they learned from the writing process, which is a typical in-class assignment that I do immediately after they complete a digital essay. Perhaps there are some themes — or absence of them — that’s worth mentioning here. Next draft!
Shelley poses two great questions here that challenge us to carefully define what is — and is not — included in the scope of this book. As one of the editors, I acknowledge that we have not fully addressed whether “web writing” by definition must be “public writing” beyond the password-protected walls of a LMS (Learning Management System) for one’s course (such as Blackboard or Moodle). One of my essays strongly implies that expository writing for the public is always preferable, but see also Holly Oberle’s essay, paragraph 11, where she argues “for web writing that is closed rather than public,” such as student reflections on gender and privilege, which should not be “at the mercy of the depersonalized and often knee-jerk nature of public web discussions.”
Furthermore, as Shelley points out, we editors have been very loose with what we mean by the term “liberal arts” in this volume, and I’m surprised that no one has called us out on it so far (as far as I can recall). In one sense, we could have simply used the phrase “higher education” in the title, to signal to readers that our focus was beyond K-12 sector. But on a deeper level, the book also tries to carve out a more assertive stance for what liberal arts learning does best to distinguish ourselves from the mass-scale MOOC debates. Still, I suspect that many readers see the phrase and think “elite private liberal arts colleges,” such as Trinity College, the primary sponsor of the volume, which may give the false impression that what’s described here cannot be accomplished at larger public institutions. I hope that essays by authors at state-funded universities such as Old Dominion (Rodrigo & Kidd), George Mason (Sharpe, Sleeter, and Schrum) prove otherwise.
Thanks for your idea, Chris, which now appears for further discussion in paragraph 8.
I’d be interested in reading more about the effectiveness question from different teaching & learning perspectives. Seems like great terrain for a co-authored essay, or perhaps a coordinated set of solo-author essays.
Anna, your idea deserves its own section for discussion, so I moved it to paragraph 9.
Good idea, Lisa, which I have moved to paragraph 10 for further discussion.
Thanks, Andrew. Your idea now appears in paragraph 11 for discussion.
Yes, please invite Kurt and his collaborators to visit WebWriting and share comments and/or an essay with us. Also received the same recommendation from @triplingual on Twitter.
Anyone who wishes to try out the public demo of MIT’s Annotation Studio, sign up at: http://app.annotationstudio.org/users/sign_up
Ideas & essays also are welcome on other annotation tools, as there’s several out there and more in progress.
Great topic, Lesley, which I have moved to paragraph 12 for further discussion.
Thanks for your proposal Sean, which I have moved to paragraph 14 for further discussion.
Interested in reading more about your idea, Jeffrey, and have moved it to paragraph 18 for discussion.
Thanks for your essay proposal, Shawn, and I always learn a great deal from how you and your students engage with writing on the web. Your idea now appears in paragraph #19 for further discussion.
A thoughtful proposal, Elizabeth, which now appears as paragraph #20 for discussion.
Thanks for including the link to selected student digital projects, since viewing some helped to articulate what interests me, and what I’d like to read more about your work. First, what differences/similarities arise when comparing student writing in “traditional” historical research papers versus curatorial writing for digital exhibits? If you placed samples of both genres side-by-side (perhaps from past versus recent courses you’ve taught?), what would we notice?
Second, how do you help students become more thoughtful exhibit writers, and do you analyze past digital examples to see what works & why?
Third, how do you assess curatorial writing (such as 1950s: The Classroom Experience) versus traditional research paper writing, and how have your criteria evolved as you’ve taught this way? FYI, my current web-essay criteria seem rigidly thesis-driven, in contrast to Sherman Dorn’s call for digital history to be “more than an argument” about the past in WHDA. Just pointing out my own biases, and encouraging you to help me rethink them.)
Fourth, on a more pragmatic level, how do you (and your students) decide which writing tools (e.g., Wikis, WordPress, Omeka, etc.) are most appropriate for the job?
Finally, how do you manage student exhibit writing assignments, and what does that say about your role as the educator? I recall reading a digital history post you wrote about this topic and am wondering how it applies to the writing aspect in particular. Sometimes in related situations my role shifts from “faculty expert” to “project manager” to (when things are going really well) “project advisor.” What does your teaching (aka learning management) style look like on project-oriented student writing?
Thanks, Michelle, for your comment and links about writing in public. If you would like to propose an essay idea for this volume, please tell us more about the connection to our theme on teaching & learning. For example, I’d be interested in knowing whether public writing in your scholarship has influenced your pedagogical work.
Thanks, Michelle, for making the connection to teaching & learning. I merged your two comments into paragraph 21 for further discussion.
Nigel, thanks for sharing a topic that you’d like to read more about in this volume, which I’ve labeled as “Writing about Virtual Sources” in paragraph 22 for discussion.
Must course websites be public to contribute to this volume? No. A prospective contributor recently explained that when she uses blogs in classes, they are typically public, but for the particular class she wishes to write about in this volume, it is not. She asked whether a public course website was a core requirement for submissions to Web Writing.
My response affirmed that all essays in this volume must address the teaching and learning of writing in the context of the web, but need not necessarily be public. That said, essays that publicly share rich examples of teaching & learning (instructor’s materials, screenshots of student work, typical comments by students and instructors, etc.) are more likely to be valued by readers and make their way to the final manuscript of this volume.
Your “Sister Classrooms” concept and NITLE webinar led me to reach out to a colleague at a different campus who teaches courses related to mine, and now we’re planning to link up for one or two web-based writing assignments in Spring 2014. Looking forward to reading more of your experiences and reflections to help us focus our ideas.
Interesting essay proposal, Mary, which I’ve labeled as “Online Research Journals” and moved to paragraph 24 for discussion.
Great essay proposal title & topic, which now appears in paragraph 25 for feedback from others. I also inserted links to the websites of the two online courses mentioned.
As an interested reader (who also attended your THATCamp Prime 2013 workshop), I’ll be curious to learn more about the iterative process you describe here, with examples of participants’ writing, feedback received, and if/how this prompted them to revise their hypotheses.
Thanks for your essay idea, Thomas, which I’ve listed in paragraph 27, under the heading of “Code-Switching between Classical & Contemporary Rhetoric,” for feedback from others.
Thank you, James and colleagues, for this essay proposal, which I have moved to paragraph 28 for feedback, under the heading, “Refining Web Practices in the Composition Classroom.” Also, I copied your citations into our bibliography in-progress, where they should appear soon.
Thank you, Holly, for your proposal that stretches our thinking beyond domestic boundaries. I’ve moved it to paragraph 29 for further discussion under the heading, “Innovation and Internationalization.”
An intriguing topic, Laura, which I’ve moved to paragraph 30 for feedback, and inserted inline citations for items that will soon appear in our bibliography in-progress.
Thanks for sharing about your experiment, Susan, which I’ve listed as an essay proposal under paragraph 31 for discussion.
Looking forward to reading more, Jennifer and Rochelle. Your essay proposal has been moved to paragraph 32 for feedback.
Thank you, Paul, for sharing this essay proposal, which now appears as paragraph 33 for feedback.
Thanks for this proposal, Peter and Gabriela, and I look forward to reading more about student learning in this innovative anthropology class. I have moved this idea to paragraph 34 for feedback.
Thanks for your essay proposal, Kate, which I merged with the other version you posted under the heading of “Writing and Remixing” in paragraph 35.
Peter, thanks for submitting your essay proposal, and I look forward to reading more about both of your courses. Your contribution now appears in paragraph 36 for feedback.
Kate, I moved this comment here and merged it with the one you wrote above.
Peter and Gabriela, I will be interested to see how your essay incorporates excerpts of student writing from the anthropology course blog, since your act of scholarship appears to address similar issues your students faced when curating culture. For example, regarding the politics and ethics of representation, when students created their blog content, did they clearly understand it would be publicly accessible by people outside the class? When quoting excerpts from student works, will they be anonymous or attributed? Do students own the copyright to their words. If so, did they agree to freely share the content online, or will your quotations fall under “fair use” guidelines? These are the types of questions that other essay contributors have asked about, and I raise them here to encourage you to address them if relevant. Looking forward to reading more.
It’s an intriguing collaborative writing exercise, and given that “their response lives openly on the Web,” I hope that your essay will interpret selected excerpts and link to the full text for curious readers (like me). Also, I’d like to know more about your decision-making process that led up to this. Did you previously offer group evaluations before the final exam in this class, or in prior classes? Did you intentionally choose not to use a Wiki tool, which (I believe) would have made it easier for you — or students — to track authorship?
Did their collective response emphasize one viewpoint, or did differences of opinion emerge? If the latter, to what extent did they draw upon the “They Say/I Say” rhetorical strategy? If we examined the final text, would we see students attributing specific ideas to individual class members (“Jasmin argues that. . .). Or did they articulate differences of opinion within the class (“Some of us believe X, while others contend Y. . .)?
Did students or you raise or write about the “free rider” problem or “individual accountability” in group work? Did students comment on the final, or what they learned from the collective writing process, in course evaluations or conversations with you? Looking forward to learning more.
Very interesting assignment and framework for why you created it. In addition to the detailed behind-the-scenes instructors’ view on how it was scaffolded, I’m especially interested in the text of student responses and how they evolved from one draft to the next. For example, were there any examples of student writing that illustrate the “aha” moment, where authors revised their words in response to a “real” audience who didn’t interpret it as intended? Looking forward to learning more.
Very brave of you, Susan, to leap into the deep end of the pool with such a rich blend of writing and civic learning goals, with all three classes, during a national election! Like you, I’m unsure whether you consider this a failure or a “misadventure” (the latter sounds more forgiving). As a reader, I’d like to learn more in your essay about exactly what kind of learning did not happen as you expected. Did students not write, or not respond, as you had hoped? Did they merely go through the motions of the blog, rather than fully engage with their election-year experiences and insights? And what might you do differently next time?
Several of us have learned a great deal from Mark Sample’s essay, “A Better Blogging Assignment,” posted on ProfHacker in July 2012, including many who responded with comments. I’d be curious to read your reflections on your experience, perhaps with reference to what others have written. Our readers tell us that they’re highly interested in “misadventures” with web writing and what we can learn from them.
Shelley, you’re correct that it would be very difficult for someone to design, conduct, and write up results from a traditional empirical study within the time line allocated by this volume. But as Dina Anselmi demonstrated in MediaCommons in May 2013 (also linked from this volume), we can learn a great deal from thoughtful reviews of existing studies on web writing that have not been widely circulated.
Susan shared more of her story in paragraph 31, so readers should comment there.
See Annotation Studio’s link to pedagogy and research on similar annotation tools, and see also Laura Lisabeth’s social annotation & student protest proposal in paragraph 30.
I’m looking forward to this political twist on social annotation, which moves beyond the basic topic about web-based annotation tools for sharing insights on class readings that I offered in paragraph 7. Glad to see the “critical classroom” emphasis at the front and center of this proposal. Still, given the recent emergence of this tool, I’m curious about some practical pedagogical issues. Why did you choose a wiki for students to annotate Strunk and White, and what were strengths and limitations of this tool for this type of assignment? Can you share screenshots or a public link to the document? Most important, what did typical student annotations look like, and did they challenge knowledge in the ways that you anticipated?
Thanks for challenging us to think outside of our domestic context in this volume, which has been one of my own limitations. Your proposal’s attention to cross-cultural differences in student voice and web writing caught my eye, and reminded me of how I had to rethink my approach when teaching a recent immigrant from Liberia in my high school classroom decades ago. As a reader, I’m especially interested in rich examples of cultural differences — or strategies to bridge the gap — that may have been captured through web writing technology. Perhaps there’s a connection with the cultural curation blog project by Peter Coco and Gabriela Torres in paragraph 34?
I’d love to hear a thoughtful dialogue among liberal arts educators (including those with and without comp sci backgrounds) that focused on real examples of automated scoring of student writing. I wonder if your assessment group (or a similar gathering) would be willing to record a conversation on this topic, perhaps to be transcribed and edited as a contribution to this volume?
As a reader, what interests me most is your last line about web writing offering space in the composition classroom for student growth. I’d like to learn more about the type of growth you have — or have not — witnessed in these settings. Have you seen changes in students’ consumption/production roles regarding the web, or a similar dimension inside and/our outside of your classrooms? What kinds of changes appear in students’ web writing works over the course of a semester or longer, and how might showing us some of this evidence deepen your broader argument?
Also, this essay proposal stands out because of its five authors, where others have only one or two. What kind of collaboratively-authored essay about the teaching of web writing — including areas of agreement and disagreement — might you offer us that takes advantage of your multiple points of view and experiences? Here I’m thinking about what Paul Schacht described in paragraph 33, and wondering whether your group might consider pushing the envelope with a co-written essay contribution, particularly one that’s not driven solely by group-think. Just a suggestion – no obligation.
Leigh, see my response to your updated submission below.
Thank you, Leigh. I moved the second version of your submission to paragraph 38 for feedback.
Thanks for your submission, Robin, which now appears in abbreviated form (closer to our 300-word max) in paragraph 37 for further discussion. If you wish to restore anything that was dropped in the transition, feel free to post comments there.
Celeste and Jeri, I appreciate your essay proposal, which now appears (with a condensed title) in paragraph 39 for feedback.
Caleb, thanks for your essay proposal, which now appears in paragraph 40 under the heading “Recognizing Reliability, Bias, and Authority,” for feedback from others.
For readers seeking background on this topic, I attended a THATCamp CHNM 2013 session co-instructed by Celeste and Jeri, titled “De-MOOCing the Past – Alternative Approaches to Online History Courses,” which they spoke about their course design, Historical Writing and Thinking. See also paragraph 25 here by Kelly Schrum et al.
Thanks for your essay proposal, Jen, which now appears in paragraph 41 for discussion.
If readers have not seen Jen Rajchel’s online undergraduate thesis (2010), it was built on an earlier version of CommentPress, the same tool we’re using here.
A suggestion for Jen: In addition to reading these thoughtful reflections on your own writing process, I’m interested in learning what you’re seeing current liberal arts students grapple with in this realm, from your unique vantage point as a recent graduate who works with the Tri-Co Digital Humanities and Re:Humanities undergrad symposium on digital media. What are some of the web writing challenges that current students deal with, and to what extent are these similar or different than what you encountered “way back” in 2010?
Great to read more about your project. The purpose of comments on this book-in-progress is enhance communication between authors and readers during — rather than after — the research & writing process. Take all of the time you need to draft your full essay by the Aug 15th deadline. But if you want to add a comment here with a link to a screenshot of your wiki project, that might help other readers to offer thoughtful feedback. (To add a link to a comment, just select the text and look for the link symbol to appear. FYI, I use the free Skitch tool to make screenshots, occasionally blur out details, and share on the web.)
More substantively, your insight about students bringing different “Englishes” into the classroom and the tensions surrounding that fascinate me, and I’m very curious to learn how these dynamics were captured, curated, and/or crossed over with web writing tools and exercises. I don’t claim that the web solves our social problems, and it certainly can worsen them. But the web also has the amazing potential to make what’s not seen more visible, often the first step toward broader recognition of a problem and making change.
Thanks for your essay proposal, Anita, which I have listed as “Engaging Students with Scholarly Web Texts” (feel free to suggest another title) in paragraph 42 for feedback.
Alisea, thanks for raising these challenging issues in your essay proposal, which I’ve listed as “Problems and Possibilities with Student Digital Research and Writing on Slavery” (but feel free to suggest a different title). It now appears in paragraph 43 for discussion.
Thanks for following up with an essay proposal, Mia, which I’ve moved to paragraph 44 for feedback.
Peter, I look forward to learning more about how you incorporate web writing into your courses, which sound very appropriate for this volume. Do you have public links to each course, and if so, would you be willing to post them here in a comment?
Shelley: Yes, essay authors will be given a WordPress page, with the option to create subpages. Also, we will encourage authors to link to external sites when appropriate, with instructions to “open new tab/window” so that readers don’t lose their place in your essay. More to come very soon.
Good to reach out for broader experiences, Holly, but my story about the 14-year-old Liberian student happened two decades ago and is fairly thin now. Mostly what I recall was his cultural norm for showing respect (deferential to authority, looking down, not speaking unless asked) clashing with my cultural norm as a teacher who desired students to gain a stronger personal voice in writing and class discussion. Hope you find better connections with others.
Peter and others should feel free to offer their own response, but here’s my two cents. Leave the teaching of design to specific courses in that field (where they have time to teach CSS styling, etc.) and focus on the writing, which is our main job. If you’re teaching writing with WordPress, as many of us do, set a default theme or recommend 2-3 that will make your students writing look good — and most importantly, readable!
Thanks for sharing this essay idea, Siobhan, which now appears in paragraph 45 for further discussion.
This sounds like a great writing project, and I imagine that many readers will find it even more approachable by your very recent entry into the world of Wikipedia, and your candor in describing both successes and failures. When launching the Writing History in the Digital Age book project two years ago, several authors also shared fascinating accounts of their experiences with student writing for Wikipedia. Be sure to see relevant essays in parts 2 and 3.
Great question, Kristen. (For those who may not know, she and I co-edited our first experiment in large-scale open peer review, Writing History in the Digital Age, in fall 2011, and together we figured out much of the process that informs this venture.)
As for instructions/encouragement to authors to participate in the open peer review, I sent this message to each section when their batch of essays went live, a day before the official launch: “Your essays are now public under the ___ section of Web Writing, with more to come. Would you help us get the ball rolling on Monday by commenting on at least one other author’s essay?”
When we officially launched on Monday morning, here’s the relevant text I emailed all contributors (with a link to blog announcement): “Feel free to circulate the announcement above — and a direct link to your essay — via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. We’re relying on our authors to start the ‘commenting party’ by posting feedback on other essays. Feel free to ask questions, request clarifications, challenge assumptions, offer constructive criticism, or add links to suggested reading. Take advantage of this valuable opportunity for developmental editing before the final book is completed.”
One day into this process, several authors have posted comments on each other’s essays, but most have not at this early stage. No worries – at least they’ve finished their essays, and I’m late in getting my own uploaded to the site.
I’d love to hear thoughts from you (and others) about what a “how-to open peer review” tutorial would look like, and whether it’s necessary or not.
Are authors required to participate in the open peer review in order to advance to the final manuscript? No. To check this, Kristen and I counted each comment and its source after the 2011 review of Writing History in the Digital Age. Looking back at the spreadsheet notes, I see that authors of 24 out of 28 essays posted comments, either on other essays or in response to their own. Of the 4 essays with non-commenting authors, we advanced 3 to the final volume. Kristen and I wrote about how we made these editorial judgements, which certainly were not driven by a mechanical popularity contest (as some highly-commented essays did not advance), which you can read in “Conclusions: What We Learned.”
Do I still recommend that authors participate in the open peer review process? You betcha. As writers, developmental feedback from readers of our drafts is what we crave. Give to others and you’re more likely to get some back.
Moreover, all of the contributors to this edited volume have a stake in raising the quality of the work as a whole, because a stronger and more coherent book is more likely to be read and recommended to others, thereby increasing the odds that broader audiences will find each individual essay. Author participation in open peer review may be an ideal case study of the benefits of altruistic behavior.
Kristen, just saw your tweets about open peer review guidelines, and will link to the timely blog post you cited for others to read:
Cristina Costa, “Open Peer Review Is a Welcome Step Towards Transparency, but Heightened Visibility May Also Mean Vulnerability,” Impact of Social Sciences: The London School of Economics and Political Science, September 17, 2013, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/09/17/peerreviewcosta/.
Barbara, thanks for asking this question, because I had wondered the same and only figured it out about two weeks ago. When copying and pasting text from our site, the “trailing #sthash” is automatically appended, which is a feature (or flaw, depending on your view) of the Share This plugin. See more info in paragraphs 11-12 of this “How to read and comment” page.
Interestingly, a similar thing occurs when copying and pasting from a particular Inside Higher Ed blog that I follow. (Maybe you’ve heard of it?) Here’s an example:
The WAC Clearinghouse is a first choice publisher for many authors in the field it serves, and it’s nimble, inventive, and does high quality work on a shoestring
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/bypassing-sustainability-test#ixzz2fwMMSh7Y
Inside Higher Ed
Personally, I like yours better, but I don’t know which plugin IHE uses, and whether it’s compatible with CommentPress.
I agree that, down the road, it will be a great day when every website/article/book comes with its own universal/OCLC/DOI web address.
Our WordPress guide for contributors is now available with details about footnotes, and I’ll continue to add more about adding images/video.
Good question, and a slightly complicated answer. Yes, the WordPress platform accepts images (aka media), and we described how to do this in our WordPress guidelines for authors, starting para 22. But our editorial policy for this book does not allow authors to modify their essays during the open peer review, because doing so would screw up the paragraph numbering that CommentPress relies on to manage paragraph-levels comments.
Here’s an alternative solution: If you have images that you would like to show readers (especially to ask for feedback on which ones might work best with your essay), you can upload them to a second site, and post a comment on your essay that includes a link to those images, with instructions to readers about what kind of feedback you would like. This second site could be your Freedpeople’s Transcription Project, or a Flickr (or other type of photo service), or a personal website.
Siobhan, you make several excellent points on Michael’s essay. But I paused on your request for more on the “current state of the field within Composition Studies” on peer evaluation. Were you asking Michael, a biologist, to summarize a field that may be far outside of his specialization? Or are you encouraging other readers (who may know more about this topic) to add their input here?
Understood, though sometimes I find that the process of figuring out which parts need to be described to broad audiences, and how best to accomplish this, turns out to be an analytical writing exercise.
Just figured out that EMKE = Encyclopedia of Milwaukee (https://www.facebook.com/EncyclopediaofMilwaukee)
Good questions. Yes, private writing definitely has value, and I want to avoid giving readers the mistaken impression that it does not. For that reason, I qualified the sentence to focus on “the deeper purpose of expository writing.” Also, you offer a good idea about clarifying the value of “passing through” the peer review process as adding value.
Some commenters on the Introduction (such as Emily Gravett) have argued that we need to address the “overwhelmed” audience as an ally.
See also other annotation tools that Jason Jones describes in his essay in this volume, “There Are No New Directions in Annotations.”
Thanks for catching my error. The first sentence should end with “such as Google Docs.”
In case I didn’t make this sufficiently clear in the text, in my courses I usually lean toward students using Google Docs for drafts with peer reviews, and WordPress to showcase final versions.
But I have not used CommentPress (the WordPress plugin for paragraph-level commenting, the tool you’re using right now) because it requires its own site, separate from my course blog. I’m trying my best to keep things *relatively* simple for my students, who bear the burden of a professor who juggles too many platforms.
Good question. As a teacher I tend to favor course structure more than student self-expression, but that’s because I’m nervous that these learning experiments will flop without it. Perhaps more adventurous souls feel otherwise.
Jason – Yes, I have written permission from each student featured in the comment screenshots in the paragraphs above. Also, each image came from a publicly accessible page.
Thanks for asking me to elaborate on specific sections of the essay. This semester I’ve been tracking students’ peer commenting more carefully, and digitally archiving their feedback in stages, which I plan to analyze and incorporate into the next draft.
Barbara, you’re correct that setting up an Organizer page for peer review with Google Docs may look daunting at first. But a Trinity colleague watched this video and set up her own Organizer page for my students to peer-review her seminar’s essays, so it worked for at least one other person! Furthermore, her Organizer looks much cleaner than mine — see this link.
Yes, perhaps we should begin the conversation by asking this simple yet vitally important question of our higher-ed colleagues: Is your syllabus publicly available, or locked inside a password-protected site? Who made this decision, and why?
Emily, thanks for the thoughtful critique, which is exactly the type of developmental editing feedback this Introduction needs.
On the first point, you’re absolutely correct that the current draft misleading divides the world into two extremes, when the reality is more complex. I think we’re looking for a concise rhetorical strategy that fairly describes the key parties’ positions, perhaps something more like:
This book is written primarily for the middle group. . .
Regarding your second point, clearer writing and thinking is precisely what we “should” value, and that’s what we’re striving to do in this volume for liberal arts educators, regardless of one’s particular field of study. While it’s tempting to call out those who hide behind the jargon of highly-specialized subdisciplines, that would probably distract readers from our key arguments here.
If I understand you correctly, the question is: Why do you continue to use Chicago-style numbered footnote references, rather than simply embed links to the sources in the text?
Our goal is for essays to be readable in two formats — online and print — and to prevent “link rot” for future readers. If we only embed links in the main text, then readers of the print version cannot see this source information. Furthermore, if/when links change, a footnote provides the best clues to find the source again. As we explain in our WordPress Guide for Contributors (paragraphs 10-18, in this volume), authors are welcome to embed selected links for the convenience of online readers, but all sources must be footnoted for the reasons above.
Why continue to use numbered footnotes, rather than un-numbered links to individual notes at the bottom of each page? For those who “read backwards” and want to match specific sources with the main text, numbered footnotes seem to work best, especially if you’re reading a printed version. Hope that answers your question.
Good point, Holly. I would gladly insert a discussion about new directions in scholarly publishing here, but did not wish to repeat what previously appeared in the “Introduction” to Writing History in the Digital Age, particularly the sections on “Why do we publish?” and “Why not publish on the open web?” Furthermore, it seems important to maintain this book’s focus on teaching and learning, rather than academic publishing, though I recognize that all of this might fit under the newer category of “scholarly communication.” Still, this is an opportunity for readers to tell authors what issues they want to see addressed in the text.
Going back to its embryonic stage, I recall that Debates in the Digital Humanities began in a digital CommentPress platform similar to this, though password-protected so that only contributors could view and respond to each other’s drafts. Its subsequent evolution to sales through print and e-book only (for about a year), then open-access with commentary on the web, offers a hybrid model for other authors and publishers to consider.
But the site will still be here when you teach your course in Spring 2014.
Looking back, I agree that this is a weak paragraph that needs much more work, and some decision-making about what does and does not belong in this introduction. The first sentence sought to raise Kathleen Fitpatrick’s argument in Planned Obsolescence that the future of scholarly publishing requires not simply fiddling with technology, but “social, intellectual, and institutional changes,” which are harder to accomplish. Then the rest of the paragraph wandered away into other topics. As I suggested above in a prior comment, it’s tempting to write more about the changing world of scholarly publishing, but I’m concerned about keeping the book focused on teaching and learning. Input welcome here.
Great question. Last year I participated in a teaching and learning faculty seminar series at my campus, and was struck by some of the disciplinary differences in the conversation. Some (but not all) physical science and social science faculty strongly desired empirical evidence of effectiveness of innovative pedagogy, primarily to persuade their fellow scientists to permit changes in departmental teaching practices. While I’ve witnessed many debates over teaching and learning where evidence did not really matter (K-12 and higher ed), I’m always sympathetic to those who argue that they need evidence to make changes happen.
Also see open-access book by Cummings and Barton, Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom (U of Michigan Press 2008) http://www.digitalculture.org/books/wiki-writing/.
I love the use of Natalia Cecire’s quote. I think it perfectly illustrates the frustrations of navigating social media’s inherent public nature, especially as a college student without a guaranteed career. I just wanted to point out that the article is called “How to Public Like a Frog: On Academic Blogging.” Also, the link at the bottom leads to a “page not found” page. I just recently tried to find her article after having found it previously because I was using the same quote for a piece I was writing and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I’m not sure how you would be able to find a working link to the article. Good luck!
I love this idea! I recently started live-tweeting events and I found that for some of them my tweets were better than my notes would have been because I was thinking about what the audience would find interesting and how to put everything in the context it was being discussed in. I think it might be interesting to expand on how tweeting in class helped or hindered the class.
I really loved reading this article! I think, however, it would benefit from looking at the risks involved for students in writing publicly. As a student, I am constantly second guessing what I want to write on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog. I fear that if I write something incorrect or something that could be perceived poorly, it will affect my chances for employment or being accepted into graduate school. These challenges are real and cause students to shy away from social media because generally we only hear about the horror stories of students not getting jobs or into schools because they said something “stupid” on social media. However, social media can be a powerful tool for communication. I think that students should be taught how to thoughtfully use it as you have suggested in your article.
I completely agree that we should write lab reports collaboratively because that better mirrors the scientific process. I think this paragraph is a little too long, especially for an introductory paragraph. Perhaps you could split it at “Moreover, as lab educators…” Also, I think it might be interesting if you briefly explained why instructors don’t like lab reports either.
I think that each of us would agree that we have seen a great deal of growth in our students as we have made web writing a bigger and bigger part of what we do. This has included, but is not limited to: (1) a growing critical awareness on the part of students of the rhetorical contexts in which web writing occurs as well as increased skill in navigating those contexts, (2) increased participation on the part of students both in and outside of class, (3) a massive uptick in both the volume and quality of student writing spanning multiple contexts and genres (including web writing), and (4) an increased sense self-efficacy both in terms of composition and digital literacy.
As to the question of multiple authors . . . Right now the five authors coming together in this proposal represent a variety of backgrounds (philosophy, literature, creative writing, rhetoric, teaching, gender studies) and two distinct teaching groups at our university. Two of the authors (Angela and Allyson) help to manage and coordinate a fully online version of composition at the university called “The Writier’s Studio.” Meanwhile, Mark, Shillana, and I form a three person faculty team creating a unique blended version of developmental FYC in f2f environments at the university. As such our collaboration brings together a variety of perspectives (rooted in both individuals and groups) and pushes us to think of web writing as something emerging from and reconditioning both f2f and digital spaces.
As Olin Bjork (2012) has recently noted, the digital practices and pedagogies that have emerged in the field of composition studies in the last twenty years are closely aligned with one of the prevalent research threads in the digital humanities: media arts studies. Like practitioners and scholars in media arts studies, composition pedagogues have most often designed curriculum that validates digital objects as worthy of study. In this way, the composition classroom (including blended f2f and online settings) has gradually evolved into a space in which web writing (e.g., blogs, wikis, web pages, social media, etc.) has moved beyond something unproblematically consumed by students as though it were no different than any other text to, as Kathleen Yancey (2004) notes, something that is richly situated and determined in a unique rhetorical context. The proposed chapter will explore this shift towards the increasingly complex consumption and production of web writing in composition classrooms, arguing that as this shift continues, practitioners and scholars must understand the complexities of emergent digital literacies tied to writing curriculum composition classroom. In the process, the proposed chapter will stress the need to engage students (something which Jonathan Foer  has recently observed is of increasing interest both in and beyond the university) and cultivate a sense of self-efficacy (Ibrahim & Callaway, 2012) through and in web writing. To accomplish both of these goals, we will argue that practitioners must refine qualitative practices while integrating more quantitative practices. Further, we will suggest that such a rich view of web writing in the composition classroom provides a space of possibility for student growth in new and exciting contexts, something that is sorely needed in the sometimes alienating space of digital technologies and digital pedagogies.
Bjork, Olin. “Digital Humanities and the First-Year Writing Course.” Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles, and Politics. Ed. Brett D. Hirsch. Cambridge: OpenBook Publishers, 2012. Kindle File.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. “How Not to Be Alone.” New York Times. 8 Jun. 2013. Web. 12 Jun. 2013.
Ibrahim, Mohamed & Rebecca Callaway. “Assessing the Correlations Among Cognitive Overload, Online Course Design and Student Self-efficacy.” Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012. Ed. Paul Resta. Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), 2012. Web. 12 Jun. 2013.
Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key.” CCC 56.2 (2004): 297-328. Web. 12 Jun. 2013.
Just a thought as I go through the book: would a pop-up glossary be feasible? Some terms that might be unfamiliar (or defined differently) depending on audience could have a rollover or pop-up definition to provide clarity & consistency of usage. Examples that I’ve noticed include multimodal, annotation, wikis, Moodle, etc.
I agree with Meredith that bashing MCQ might be rhetorically problematic, as many teachers might be attached to using them for particular purposes or contexts. Maybe offer a caveat that while D is the correct answer in many contexts, MCQ can serve uses – what you’re arguing against is treating them as the default for online instruction, and highlighting what they lack.
Might it be worth differentiating between the course’s credentialing vs. learning goals? Not knowing the context, I imagine that your courses need to have some assessment devices for credentialing, and it sounds like those might be at odds with the pedagogical goals you hope to accomplish. Highlighting these differences could help contextualize your choices.
This point about the development of historical thinking is crucial – I’d move it earlier in the essay, highlighting how this learning goal conflicted with the assessment tool.
This is a strong piece, offering very detailed, applied models for online instruction. I do think there needs to be a bit more context iterated early on, outlining the structure of the courses (technological, temporal, size, population) and the learning goals. It seems like the key lesson here is that MCQ is the default for online courses like this, but it doesn’t fit the goals of historical thinking – making the assessment/goal alignment more explicit would help not bash MCQ as a catch-all tool.
I’d also like to see a reflection on how this form of pedagogy might impact the practices and choices of the teachers taking the course – I would imagine showing innovative writing exercises might inspire K-12 teachers to find ways to resist conventional MCQ and short answer tests in teaching history. Do you have any information about those connections in the evaluations?
This essay raises a lot of interesting questions, but ultimately feels like an outlier compared the majority of essays in the collection. It is much more of a theoretical piece, addressing a very different audience (in a different rhetorical mode) than the rest of the volume, and thus feels out of place. I don’t know if it could be revised to really focus on the “why and how” that the book’s title suggests, with more concrete language, examples, and structure aimed to make an applied & tangible argument—but that’s what would be needed to make it fit the volume. As of now, it does not cohere with the tone & scope of the collection.
I wonder if it’s worth reflecting a bit on the ethical issue of consulting with the subject you’re writing about. I know that WP has guidelines to ensure that people are not writing their own biographies (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Autobiography ), and the edict against original research might apply to interviewing the subject. Is it worth discussing these issues here?
Agreed – just word counts & longevity of the entries would contrast effectively.
Just to concur – an excellent piece with some good suggestions for improvements from other commenters!
Is this a block quote missing formatting? Hard to follow either way – can you paraphrase it & boil it down for non-experts?
Just want to mention that I love the use of “enkindled,” which evoked eBooks for me in this context.
I think distinguishing between “print native” and “digital native” is still relevant, and maybe that distinction should be clearer here. Even if a PDF is never printed out, it’s clearly designed to be in a way that a multimodal piece is not.
This essay raises some great points that are vital to the volume, as teaching writing assumes that students know how to read at least at the level they can write – but with multi-modal scholarship, that’s not true. (As an aside, I teach film & media studies and production – students often think they know how to make films because they watch them, but soon learn that they have not really learned how to watch a film at the same careful level that they can read literature… yet.)
I do agree that a bit of jargon obscures at times, and that the title does not do the essay justice. I look forward to see the revision!
I love the idea of the final sentence, but the way “magic” is introduced is clunky. Might I suggest:
Why has the phrase outlived whatever usefulness it may once have had? Magic.
I really like the playful writing style in this section, but I would recommend going over it again to tighten the prose to create a more uniform tone – at times I wasn’t sure what was meant seriously vs. playfully (in a way that I don’t believe was intentional).
I agree with Amanda that this paragraph is an anticlimax. I wanted more discussion of how Medic’s War worked, but more so how it surprised you as teacher – was the learning they displayed “magic”?
I really like this piece, and think it’s a strong entry in the volume. I agree that the title doesn’t fit. And I said in the margins, I’d like to see more about the strong student project and how it fit with & exceeded your expectations, and a bit more precision with the writing style will make it a very strong essay!
One more thing: how does this essay fit with the scope of “web writing”? The technology & writing link is clear, but I think the connection to the web needs to be foregrounded (or contextualized in the introduction to allow for such broader scope).
This opening paragraph has some conceptual drift – I understand the irony that you’re trying to point out, but the ideas don’t flow clearly enough to make the juxtaposition work.
Is it worth connecting “banking model” of knowledge with the concept of “credit”? What is owned & how is value created through citational credit?
Final sentence here is quite important, but hard to follow.
Second sentence needs to be clarified.
Very interesting idea – can you cite or point to any examples of such assignments?
Might you also want to discuss the difference between Works Cited, Works Consulted, and Bibliography here? It seems relevant to mention that the research process that informs student (or any) writing is not always reducible to a list of citations.
This essay raises some very interesting points. I think you need to reframe the introduction to highlight your core argument – that citation practices are to be seen as positive, community-based norms, not punitive arbitrary rules – as that element only became clearer as I got into the essay. You might also want to mention the frequent conflation between citation/plagiarism and intellectual property/copyright issues – too often, I see students and educators claim that plagiarism involves copyright violations, which gets even muddier in web writing.
I agree that “multimodal writing” is a bit of a contradiction that you need to justify using. There’s some similar controversy about use of the term “media literacy” for privileging writing as the dominant mode of communication, with video, audio, etc. subsumed to it. “Composition” or “communication” are more neutral terms.
I’d recommend splitting this paragraph at “As Snow Fall only uses music…” to give the student example its due. You might also look for the tradition of “vidding” for the often ironic remix juxtaposition of music and images: see http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/326 for a sample of the scholarship on the genre.
I agree with your argument; however a frequent counterargument is that most faculty are not trained to teach (or produce) multimodal discourse, and thus they will either lead their students to create subpar work, or have no way to evaluate & assess non-written work. While you cannot solve that problem here, you might want to acknowledge it and point toward remedies.
(Personally, I think the answer is better collaboration across disciplines so that writing faculty can learn from film, music, art, & other creative faculty.)
I like this essay’s layering of theoretical concepts and practical examples. I do think it could benefit from a little discussion on how you teach multimodal creation – maybe some mention of how you teach students to read/watch “Snow Fall,” what models & goals you give them, etc. I fear that the average writing teacher would read this and feel that they lack the expertise and support to make the leap you’re calling for.
I second Barbara’s comment – great essay, raising big picture issues and micro-examples side-by-side in effective, provocative ways. I would only ask that in the introduction you signpost a bit more to frame what will follow, especially identifying your position as both a recent undergrad digital writer, and now as a mentor to undergrads & collaborator with faculty. Those identities are not typical of most of the other authors, so it would be very useful to signal that early, as it contextualizes your experiences quite effectively.
I agree this is a good succinct description, but I bristle at the use of “ideally” – there are many uses for Twitter, so avoid normative prescriptions.
As an aside, check out #sixwordstories, where people tweet Hemingwayesque mini-narratives.
I agree this is a strong essay, clearly iterating the logistics and rationale for your assignments. I do think you could conclude with a bit more of a reflection about how you think using Twitter impacts your students’ prose style and use of language in other modes of writing. Some people might be skeptical that all you’re doing is teaching them to Tweet well, so discussing how they connect that ability to broader writing would be very helpful.
You might also look at http://annetrubek.com/2011/11/why-tweet-and-how-to-do-it/ , which is my favorite academic reflection on the usefulness of tweeting, both for students and writers.
A stylistic note: I find strings of sentences saying “I will…” off-putting. You can just make the preview say what you do, not what you will do.
I’m not sure this piece belongs in the volume as drafted. The focus shifts between paragraphs of broader theoretical explorations, and very specific description of teaching plans. But what’s missing is the middle-ground analysis of teaching practices, reflections on what works and doesn’t, and most importantly, a clear sense of what the takeaways are for teachers across disciplines.
Another issue is raised by one of the other commenters: how does this essay fit with the “liberal arts” framework? I’m not ready to say that these type of courses are not liberal arts, but they feel much more professionally-aimed than most liberal arts courses (and most of the other essays in this volume). So if the article is to remain in the book, I think it needs a major revision to shift scope & focus to better fit with the tone and aims of the whole book.
From my academic vantage point, multimodal connotes more than just written language via connection to sound, visuals, movement, etc. So I would not call most wikis multimodal, as they are primarily written text.
I’m not convinced that the parallel between so-called “twitter revolutions” and Kickstarter, and wiki rewriting of a canonized text are the same thing. There is a danger of painting too utopian a spirit onto this type of assignment by equating it with a revolution (not to mention some skepticism about how important Twitter was in the Arab Spring anyway) or an end-around of media industries. But the analogy doesn’t really help you enough to justify a potential objection – you could cut that sentence with no real loss.
This paragraph is hard to follow, as it interweaves references to White, Tracy, Kynard, and Prendergast in a way that makes the point too obscure.
Expand on how students responded to this prompt – as is, it doesn’t really make a clear point.
Unsure how this paragraph functions in the essay – it’s an entire subsection, but how does it fit with the larger exploration? I’d either expand & clarify, or cut it.
Interesting example in this section, but I think you need a bit more analysis rather than letting it speak for itself.
This essay explores a really interesting case study, with nice relevance to the project and raising provocative issues. It feels like the intertwining of the case study and theoretical references get too tangled up at times, and I lose the argumentative thread, especially in the second half. It would also be helpful to reflect more about wiki as a platform for this type of work – I wouldn’t consider wikis as a tool for “social annotation” (compared with CommentPress or SocialBook, for instance), so I wonder how many of the challenges you faced were from the interface/platform? Explaining the reasons for using the platform you did would fit with this book’s reflexive tone.
I do wonder whether the comparison to discussion is the best, vs. other writing assignments like reading responses, journaling, and the like. Blogging merges the literacy of writing with the orality of conversation – a tendency made more acute in microblogging platforms like Twitter. Highlighting the range of activities and engagements combined in a blog could help avoid seeing a blog as a simple substitute for discussion.
This essay does a nice job presenting a specific case study and exploring the issues it raises. My main critique is about the introduction, which does not really focus on the core topic of cross-campus collaboration. I learned much more about that element than blogging, so I’d encourage a rewrite of the first few paragraphs to highlight the collaborative elements which are not introduced in this draft until paragraph 7, and downplay the blogging facet (which is really only one of the collaborative tools used).
The liberal arts teacher in me cannot let a mistaken use of “it’s” go unremarked upon…
It seems like there’s a missing sentence here explaining how annotation is so foundational to the LA classroom.
I like how this piece connects a good deal of thinking about reading & annotation to some concrete tools and applications. I would like to see more connective tissue, exploring how these tools can be implemented in the classroom to manifest some of Bush’s ideals, and even tie back to a longer history of annotated volumes. I think a final couple of reflective paragraphs could do a lot to strengthen the connections implied throughout the piece.
I wonder why you didn’t reference the public highlighting & annotations on Kindles and other eReaders? It seems like a promising way to explore how a large group reads a text. Also SocialBook is a developing tool worth referencing: http://www.livemargin.com
But you’d be grading 1/4 the number of reports this way, allowing for much more granular attention to the process & drafts.
Agreed that it’s excellent to have a science writing perspective, and this is an excellent case study to explore. It might be worth framing the course more explicitly in terms of level, size & composition (majors, prereqs, etc.). Also at the end there is a slippage between the grades maintaining their same level, and the implication that the quality of the lab reports did not change. Is this true? Or were the grades different than quality because of the participation factor? Would be worth discussing more.
I’ve done in-class collaborative drafting in Gdocs with few parameters – just work to write an essay that answers these questions. What I’ve found is that there’s a “farting around” stage at first, and then they start to self-organize and get to work. That transition from play to work is a fascinating one to observe and discuss.
Speaking of privacy, have you gotten permission to post screenshots of student comments with their names/avatars? Not sure what the book’s policy should be on this, but it feels a bit squirmy without permission.
I think the description/analysis balance is well-pitched, as the concepts are articulated in iterating the choices made, and then reflected upon via what students did & how it compared to other platforms. I think the essay works really well as applied pedagogical reflection!
I think the pieces in this section work well together. I do think an introductory overview about citation and annotation as writing practice could be helpful to frame them.
A few wording quibbles that seem important in an opening paragraph. “fading visions of the past” seems a bit harsh – perhaps something more like “cling to pedagogical models that may be less applicable and sustainable in the 21st century”?
I’d also recommend tempering “what the liberal arts does best” with “one of the things…”, as some might argue other strengths of LA model beyond writing.
Finally, “skill” seems like a weak term for writing pedagogy. “practice” is more complimentary (and accurate).
A larger terminological question: why “web writing” instead of “online writing” or “networked writing” (beyond alliteration)? I ask because “web writing” implies “writing for web publication” to me, not inclusive of closed-access tools like Google Docs, or cross interface platforms like Twitter. You might address this later, but in reading this, here’s where I first wondered about it.
Can you cite some of these studies here?
You might want to indicate the advantages & problems with leaving the commented draft online after the revised version has been published – and what is your plan regarding that?
Would it be worth mentioning how using tools like WordPress and CommentPress are drawing upon open source projects whose funding comes from elsewhere as well – these tools are free to use, but not to develop and maintain.
It would be useful here to signpost that you’ll be discussing the book’s development process explicitly in the spirit of openness and sharing best practices – what follows is not typical for a book’s intro, so establishing why you’re sharing this helpful info and process is key.
I agree with Amanda’s point. It might be worth mentioning that previous open review books (both KF’s and my own) struggled with finding holistic, macro-comments. The choice to pay reviewers to engage at that level is an innovation worth mentioning (and in the revision, reflecting on how well it worked). But highlighting how open review requires a cultural shift is an essential point that should be emphasized.
I agree that the meta-reflexivity and openness of this intro is welcomed. I do think you need to signpost this a bit more, explaining what an iteration of the book’s production and editorial process yields in terms of the issues it raises.
I wonder if you might add a consideration about what you had them post via closed Moodle vs. open blogs, and whether open blogs were under their real full name or not – highlighting these distinctions between open and closed would be quite intriguing.
How did citing anonymous sources work, especially when integrating quotations into an essay?
I really like this short reflection on an assignment, and think the book can work with a varied length of pieces. I would like a bit more reflection at the end, and maybe further consideration about the idea of quotation itself as it functions as a form of citation. Too often I find my students quote from a secondary source as a voice of authority, and feel constrained by the language that sounds “above them” in terms of academic prose style. (I always insist that they only quote a source if the phrasing adds something significant to the ideas; if not, paraphrase & cite.) I wonder how students found quoting each other – were they more likely to quote at length or paraphrase?
Sounds great. Awards should go beyond the honor roll, and this looks like the way to take student recognition into the new century! Plus they’d have new acquaintances in the publishing/work world–not just college.
When liberal arts issues straddle citizen journalism, we have a real opportunity for a would-be writer to get his/her views out in the mainstream of either the community, nation, or world. Develop an audience before you send submit that book proposal. Show that you can cover a live event and write an article about it. Even my meat-and-potatoes article on Subject Verb Agreement has gained an outstanding readership in The Philippines and now Singapore through Academia.edu
Stephen Colbert is a wonderful comedian and political satirist, as well as a deep thinker. This assignment sounds like a noble venture.
Persuasive Essay Topics
1. Your Major: If you’ve decided on a major, then you could probably find at least three reasons to convince an undecided student to consider your major.
2. My Hometown is Great: Try to get me to visit or even move there. Pretend you work for the county’s economic development director or convention/tourism bureau.
3. A Significant Moment in Your Life. This would be a before-and-after compare-and-contrast essay. Maybe you started listening to a new style of music; in my case, becoming a fan of Spanish-language music improved my skill. Maybe you switched to a more conservative fashion statement and hair style to help your job prospects.
Digital Curation/Exhibit Building as Web Writing
I’ve been working with students in a number of classes at my liberal arts institution to create digital resource projects and online exhibits, sometimes digitizing analog content and sometimes gathering and displaying born-digital content. [See some examples here: http://mcclurken.org/selected-student-digital-projects/]
Over the course of the last eight years, students have used MediaWiki, WordPress, and Omeka to curate and share these sources and exhibits. I’d like to propose an essay exploring these forms as a particular type of web writing, the benefits and issues related to the use of these assignments (and of these tools) in teaching and learning, and a few suggestions for incorporating these assignments into other classes.
Jack and Christopher,
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. As I think in more detail about the essay I would envision writing here, I see myself most interested in exploring Jack’s 2nd, 3rd, & 4th questions.
So, then this essay would use a selection of my students’ digital resource projects as examples to discuss the use of exhibit/resource creation as writing assignments* consciously different from the thesis-driven research paper/project. Specifically, I’ll talk about some of my pedagogical goals (writing in public, curating historical resources, learning about information architecture through construction) and my practical goals (occupational marketability for students, creation of useful digital public resources, advertising for the school and for the life of the mind) for the assignments, the process of developing student skills in information architecture and historical source curation (including the analysis of digital history resource sites to find useful models), and the ways that I assess student work that is different from much other writing assignments in history. As part of this essay, I’ll discuss the pragmatic aspects of the tools I choose to use for students to create these projects, including an exploration of the one class (Adventures in Digital History) in which I allow them to choose the tools from a “digital toolkit” of options.
*See also Trevor Munoz’s wonderful summary of his talk, “Data Curation as Publishing for Digital Humanists,” which addresses some of the same goals and issues that I’m trying to get at with these projects, albeit from the perspective of librarians.
Jack, I really like the way you set-up the publication aspects for your students. Demonstrating both the positives and negatives of web writing as well as the options for how one might approach is really helpful.
My concern with pseudonyms as of late is will private or protected accounts or posts remain such? And could this impact the assumption that anonymity allows to write about more vulnerable topics as shown in your example of the student who ultimately removed her post?
For example, a few years ago, when signing up for twitter, one’s handle is what showed up as an account marker. However, recently, there has been shift in the way that companies are shaping social media interactions and identity. For example, Twitter elected to make a change to its interface that not only ties the name of the account holder with each tweet, but makes the “real” name the primary association by making it a larger size font and bolder than any of the other text, including the handle. The rollout of Google+ seems to have done a similar authentication as Youtube, Gmail, Blogger, and Google+ synced. Like these, will there be ways to link posts to existing identities and is this something students should consider?
Genre, Audience, and Context: Rethinking Platforms (Essay Proposal)
Web writing provides the opportunity to rethink questions of genre, audience and publication through the investigation of the chosen platform. As an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College, I chose to write a senior thesis that incorporated special collections materials and produced a website rather than a traditional paper-based thesis. Through this process, many of the questions that I grappled with in my classes as an English major such as tone, circulation, and audience were amplified as I considered the publicness of my own work. I also explored questions that I had not previously considered such as: the copyright of Special Collections materials, terms of service and intellectual property, sustainability, and the creation context through a specific medium. Through this work, I was able to more deeply consider the nuances of platforms moving forward in digital media. It also changed the way I approached traditional papers. I began to recognize the capacity to leverage elements such as footnotes, titles, and citation in new ways. Through this essay, I would like to explore various modes through which web publication can raise questions of genre, audience, and context in a liberal arts setting. And in turn, how these questions engage critical thinking and provide a forum for creating best practices of online publication.
Thanks so much, Shelley. I think that would definitely be helpful, especially in considering how the culture of citation seems to shift across social media platforms.
Is there a piece in particular you recommend?
Many thanks for your thoughtful responses throughout this piece. Your queries have helped me to think through which points to expand — especially my thesis.
A large part of the work of my thesis pushed me to think through varied audiences as well as how I might contextualize it and my arguments in more pointed ways (e.g. for some who might come to it not knowing Marianne Moore, etc). From a technical and legal standpoint, I learned about open-source platforms (like CommentPress) and copyright (to ensure that what I was reproducing was not in violation). Lastly, I learned and continued to think about how the format of interface and structure of the essay (which relied heavily on hyperlinks) might be made more apparent.
Again, thanks for your comments!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and sharing your own experience. I agree that adding more about what some of the risks are would be helpful. As you mention, though, I think balancing these risks with the potential is key.
Thanks so much, Jason. This is really helpful. One of my own audience questions was how much of my personal experience to add.
Thanks for making this connection more explicit. Paper technologies that suggest intimacy are still recorded and can function in similar ways as the “errant tweet” as you suggest.
That’s a great point. As Meredith points out above, I think both utility and economy can influence usage.
Yes, that’s my error. Thanks for your catch.
Utility does seem to play a role here. The infrastructures of communication and more specifically platforms direct us in many ways. For example, I would suggest that if you are already logged into Facebook, you might live chat with someone or send a quick direct message instead of emailing or texting. If this becomes your primary communication tool, it strengthens your investment in the platform. In a sense, I wonder if utility informs intimacy. Thanks for pointing this out.
I agree, Sarthak. But I also wonder how much the content of users that pre-date our own platform adoption (and their audiences) shapes our content.
Thanks, Jaime! I’ll check on the link.
I did originally have a short introduction, but one of the interesting things about writing my thesis through a college hosted WordPress site is that my site was upgraded and the layout/ format changed — making it harder to navigate. This definitely raises questions for me about sustainability (i.e. what should be my policy on revising it) and also how much one can depend on layout for navigation.
Amanda, I did originally have a short introduction, but one of the interesting things about writing my thesis through a college hosted WordPress site is that my site was upgraded and the layout/ format changed — making it harder to navigate. This definitely raises questions for me about sustainability (i.e. what should be my policy on revising it) and also how much one can depend on layout for navigation.
Thank you for your generous comments, Barbara! Your synthesis and commentary is really helpful in crystalizing some of the key points. Your phrases “defamiliarization” and “reverse code-switching” really capture how moving between form and content in unexpected ways can allow for the envisioning of both.
Thanks so much for the suggestions and for posting the link. One of the things I neglected to mention is that since the site was upgraded, the interface has become a bit jumbled. This is one of the sustainability issues I had not anticipated.
The comparison is really great idea, and I will reflect more on what the changes have been. My first thought is that a lot of the challenges are very similar, though amplified by an increase in platforms and the expectations of having an online presence. I think one of the exciting possibilities for web writing is the possibility for small scale assignments to challenge students to contextualize questions of media change both in relation to their scholarship and online identities.
Thanks, Leigh. You’re right even a link to Klout might do the trick. You’re larger point to is what I am trying to get at. There’s an ecology of social media and web writing that I think a lot of students haven’t been asked to consider and aren’t aware of. I certainly wasn’t when even when I had a Facebook account for years.
Reminds me of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”. The idea that students need to learn to code switch between media is intriguing. The question of whether students should be writing for the we, I see as non-negotiable. Students research, learn and communicate via multimedia on the web. Wouldn’t omitting web writing be depriving students of a vital literacy?
I am involved in a peer assessment group with educators across the disciplines, some of whom are computer scientists. Many members of the team using automated processes to score peer reviews of student work. It has been a fascinating learning experience as I see how these software tools can examine patterns and intentify trusted reviews and reviewers, as well as the opposite. An instructor can quickly learn which reviews contain (or don’t contain) the desired elements, who is creating highly effective reviews, and whose reviews differ markedly from the instructor’s or from the class avaerage. I imagine itcould also detect patterns that exist across classes. In this way, an instructor can quickly gain valuable information aboout class and individual student performance. I imagine there is a great deal of skpeticism toward machine scoring – both of essays and reviews – but I admire your question here. While it may not always be desriable to use machine scoring, taking advantage of these tools to facilitate the evaluation process is smart. By discounting it from the start we would deprive ourselves of valuable tools.
I saw a wonderful blog collaboration between a group of under graduate students studying children’s literature and a 4th grade class. Bothe groups were reading the same novel at the same time. Bringing unlikely groups together to discuss common works is an enriching pedagogy. Kudos to you for orchestarting this.
My students create digital lessons for their peers. I see the powerful learning in this, especially for the “teachers”. We accomplish this asychnronously through Google Sites. Essentially the students collaboratively create the course text. I am curious about your use of technology to faciltate this project. The conferences occur synchronously I take it. In researching a little about social presence and teaching presence, especially as they relate to sense of community, I am somewhat surprised to hear that relationships were somewhat challenging. Usually sychronous (and video-based) communications would lend themselves to greater connections between the students. However, I found students tend to feel more uncomfortable using audio and video technologies (at least asychronously) so I wonder how communication preferences (and the novelty of these communication tools) factor in to your findings.
I hope to hear more about the project.
Fascinating experiment! I admire your courage to use this collaborative project as the final exam for a few reasons. 1 – It emphasizes the collective responsibility I believe students need to have for one another’s learning. Too often we emphasize only individual accountability and are unwilling to include dispositional targets into our learning objectives like “contributes to the learning of others”. I argue this a valid learning target and one that should be emphasized more – especially in an age where 21st century learning skills, like collaboration and communication are so highly prized. 2 – As you mentioned, it reconceptualizes the purpose of the final exam. In this case, the goal is a final product but also a collaborative process which again exemplifies the 21st century skills we purportedly want our students to master. 3- I was not so brave as you, I used my experiment as extra credit on the final exam, but I too gave my students a collaborative final exam, in this case, a multiple choice test on research methods . They could form their own groups or work alone, but once in a group, they had to stay together and collectively agree on all the answers. They had to sink or swim together with one answer sheet. Except for one student who chose to work alone, they decided to answer as a class. I sat back and witnesses some of the best discussion and high level thinking of the semester. Students were motivated to find the right answer but also to have everyone on board in understanding their answer choice. We need to be bold enough to use these communal assessments more often!
Being a teacher educator, and new to thinking about teaching writing to my students, I tended to focus on the diversity-related “ah-ha” moments that emerged from students’ sharing their stories. Our assignment focused on group memberships and their relationship to K-12 identity development. Accordingly many students shared stories, sometimes painful, sometimes triumphant, from their high school years. A few girls selected the group membership “cheerleader” as most influential in their identity. Some folks might be tempted to roll their eyes at this. I am certain many of my students did when they first saw posts tagged “cheerleader”. After all, cheerleaders are ditzy, conceited, and likely promiscuous– or so the stereotype goes. But unlike so many stereotypes which are socially taboo in this age of cultural awareness and political correctness, stereotypes for cheerleaders are acceptable, some might argue actively promoted. As these students described, even teachers openly endorsed them: “Teachers would pick on me and make fun of me because I was the stereotypical ‘dumb blonde cheerleader’. Funny thing was though, I was a brunette and had all A’s and B’s throughout high school” (The Easy Girl). The cheerleaders’ stories focused a spotlight on this destructive stereotype and helped their classmates understand how quick they had been to judge members of this group, without so much as a word exchanged, and how painful these judgments were. Estherboogie wrote: “Your story… gave me a whole new perspective. Unfortunately, I was always one of those to stereotype cheerleaders into the same categories you described… I never really thought about what you guys go through. It shocked me that so many people would be so cruel directly to you, or even behind your back.” Sharing stories with a real audience helped students understand the power they had to help uncover bias and ignorance – their own and others’. Reading comments from their peers helped them understand the effect their writing had on the audience who belonged to their group and those who didn’t. Now that I am coming to understand the power a real audience has on student learning, I can leverage it to help students improve their writing along with their cultural awareness.
I shared your invitation with my peer assessment group and three members responded:
1) Dmytro Babik: This is a very interesting debate. Our philosophy underlying Mobius SLIP is that to be competitive in the workplace and life, students need to become problem solvers. This means they need to practice and hone their creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills. Multiple choice tests make them data containers, rather than problem solvers. An automated algorithm is neither a good way of assessing human problem solving skills in complex task situations.
Talking specifically about writing, students need to learn to write for human audiences, not for the machines or software. No machine, no matter how intelligent, can appreciate talent, inspiration and creativity. The only way to master these traits is to communicate to other people and receive feedback, and also learn how to give constructive and developmental feedback to others.
Therefore, we position our social learning and assessment approach in the opposition to machine grading. The purpose of Mobius SLIP is to decipher social human review output into clear and actionable analytics. In other words, Mobius SLIP does not grade papers, it aggregates and translates data of peer reviews and assessment into information about individual and group performance that can be acted upon to improve.
I sense that CPR, CritViz and, I would guess here, SWoRD and Expertiza, are based on the same philosophy (please correct me if I am wrong).
Of what I know of the tools used by Pearson, they are a combination of machine grading (automated scoring), expert grading and peer assessment.
I think this topic is something we may want to address in one of the upcoming discussions at the PI Forum.
2) Ed Gehringer
I have not used automated essay scoring. However, there was an interesting article comparing automated essay scoring and online peer review in Research & Practice in Assessment (http://www.rpajournal.com/archive/).
Assessing Writing in MOOCs: Automated Essay Scoring and Calibrated Peer Review™
It should be possible to combine the two approaches, and, in fact, combining them would circumvent most of the objections to automated essay scoring, because any peer reviewer could/should be able to tell if the author is writing nonsense designed to look good to the scoring software.
3) Christian Dieter
A few additions:
– machine grading is more useful/reliable/valid for some skills / writing contexts than others. there maybe an oppositional relationship in which the skills/contexts for which peers are particularly useful are the ones in which machines are particularly useless and vice versa (e.g., argumentation coherence vs. advanced grammar)
– people learn from giving feedback, and automatic grading removes that learning opportunity
– In all the contexts in which SWoRD is used, sometimes we do need to rely on peer grading (in addition to providing feedback), and SWoRD does support that
You can email the group directly at email@example.com should you want to follow up with a proposed recorded session on this topic.
Sorry to be late to the conversation. The pilot project described here included 5 course sections in a communal blog that was not advertised outside the university community. So the interaction was cross-course (125-150 students) but did not engage the wider web. The new implementation this fall involves 6 lead instructors and 6 different courses within a teacher preparation program so the opportunities for exchange with culturally different peers has increased but we still have yet to engage the broader internet community. One of the functions of the tagging is to have students seek out peers they perceive to be similar and peers they perceive to be different from themselves. This tagging allows students to hear stories from individuals they might not interact with face to face – due to lack of exposure or apprehension. The online and somewhat anonymous environment creates a safer environment for uncomfortable interactions. Students can share uncomfortable stories and reveal uncomfortable attitudes and ask uncomfortable questions. Specifically asking students to read and respond and then reflect on the similarities and differences they detected in the posts helps them slow down and think about what they are reading, but many students took the easier route of finding smiliaries rather than the more challenging journey of exploring differences. In the newest implementation I might require students to get more uncomfortable by leaving a comment or question for someone they disagree with.
Interesting idea. I saw this comment as a reaction against the technology (another site to visit and login to) rather than a reaction against the requirement to share with others. I interpreted accordingly because the student mentioned Blackboard specifically (the tool) rather than expressing a desire to submit privately (the method/type of submission).
As I head into round two for this assignment I think your question warrants consideration. Maybe I can ask students more directly what about identity and identity development makes interracial interactions challenging.
As Shelley mentioned, many students did not think deeply about how they would support identity development in their classrooms and provided only generalized answers e.g. always be there to listen. This is a complex question and without a required pre-writing activity, students may have been unable to articulate a fully developed response.
This was evident in the white students’ writing where only students who were in a situation where their race became salient (e.g. they were one of only a few white students) wrote about race. Part of the assignment was to help white students understand that race can be (and often is) a salient group membership for other races. This can help white students understand that their experience of race may not be the same as others’ and that other racial/ethnic groups don’t have the luxury of not considering their race.
An important question related to this is how to ensure that white students are seeing these narratives and beginning to understand why taking a colorblind stance prevents them from truly “seeing” their students of color. It also begs the question of whether white students should be required to consider their whiteness.
This relates to one of the required readings for this assignment Optional Ethnicities by Mary Waters: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~jdowd/waters.pdf where she explains how white students have the option to choose an ethnicity, or not.
I like the idea of having a cross-disciplinary blog that allows scholars and students from different fields to comment on a particular topic. Environmental issues is a great topic for this type of multidisciplinary approach. I’m a library liaison, and I work with a few different departments in the humanities and social sciences. I’ve come to find that there are researchers in all of my departments working on similar topics yet coming at them from different angles. A cross-disciplinary blog would be a great way for them to learn from each other and think about issues in a way that perhaps takes them outside their area of expertise. Also, I find blogs or other web discussions to be great for those students who may not feel comfortable speaking up in class for whatever reason.
I do agree with Emily Meehan that blogs may not sufficiently replace essays or papers, but blogs could be another dimension to the teaching/learning process.
This is a very thorough and easy to read description of the social media tool. I have been intimated by the unfamiliarity of Twitter. I have not sought to use it as often as other social media outlets, because I felt it was too complicated and limiting. This brief guide has helped me to gain a better perspective.
This is an excellent idea. Students are always hearing about the “changing marketplace” but we are not always prepared to enter into this new arena. I am learning that it is imperative to maintain separate lines of interaction. Personal social media accounts should be private and professional accounts should be accessible to future employers. If done properly, professional social media accounts will showcase work and relevant interests. I am grateful to have had three college courses that have pushed me to develop and display my professional web writing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it has contributed a great deal to my skill set and visibility to employers and scholars in my field.
It’s amazing how tweeting makes the world seem smaller. One of my professors interacted with a guest speaker at a conference by tweeting about him. Had it not been for Twitter, my professor would have been a spectator. Twitter helped to facilitate interaction.
I would like to write a piece on how remix culture, virality and visual modes of learning can be incorporated into the composition classroom to teach elements inherent to classical composition by means of largely driving home the points of audience, joining a pertinent discussion (academic or otherwise) overcoming perceived marginalization of viewpoints and overall senses of organization–whether the end result is meant to be published digitally or on traditional paper.
The inspiration for this comes from my own experiences with students, as I personally find that teaching ideas like “synthesis” with remix culture as found in the work of contemporary artists like Banksy helps students to understand writing in a way that they can parse as it is situated in their contemporary culture and in what could be described as “born-digital Millennial sensibilities.”
In the consideration of digital technologies and their relationship to the discursive spaces provided both in the composition classroom and the products students create in said classroom, I’d like to author a piece that considers how elements of visuality and virality common to the web environment can be used to teach traditional composition concerns that relate to products that can be published either digitally or traditionally. Examples of elements such as synthesis, audience, joining and starting conversations (academic or otherwise) are ample in digital realms and can largely be taught by relating remix culture, discursive spaces such as blogs, social media, meme hubs like the Chive, etc.
For the tl;dr:
Conversations about the issues that matter haven’t change since the inception of classical rhetoric. How students relate to the items has, and can be taught using examples and conventions of new media.
Thank you! I was afraid this one hadn’t submitted thanks to the spotty connection here at the cafe.
I can certainly see how it would be challenging in the traditional first-year writing environment. I do think though that some of the time spent in-class or in the asynchronous environment that normally is allocated to the pre-writing process could easily be adapted to include a visualization exercise if nothing else.
This is a good distinction to make. Jeff Rice certainly does argue that McLuhan’s work indicates literacy must move in a direction that considers the medium.
I tended toward dealing in the word “proof” in the idea that Rice was forming a logical truth by means of argumentation by proof procedure, and not by any means an irrefutable truth.
I appreciate your candor in critiquing me here. Is there any thing else other than changing the writing style to be more succinct that would help you be more vested here as a reader?
This is a fantastic idea.
I think that adding a list of ways discussions can open up a space for change will strengthen this piece greatly.
This is a great point, though I think the nut that I’m trying to get at here is that they’ve learned things through both their classroom experiences and their personal take on those experiences in addition to their actual practices of writing that transpire in multimodal spheres.
In my understanding of the concept, internetworked writing is a term that cyberscholars use to talk about the state of pieces on the web and their relation to each other as no piece is standalone.
I guess my biggest suggestion be to duplicate electronic environments through the incorporation of visual elements in instruction materials and in the student’s synthesis processes.
I had hoped to devise a heuristic for judging methodologies and suggestions for instruction before I submitted, but sadly did not get to develop them before deadline.
I find your conceptualization of turning magic into fully understood and researched understanding of technologies cogent and quite applicable.
But here, where you say “you win some, you lose some,” you only go on to display one situation that seems to be a surprising “win.”
I want to know more about what metric you used to determine the win, and I want to know more about, even if only in general, what the losses look like.
You say that memory quite likely does not have the meaning it once did as memory palaces and mnemonic devices have waned with the use of technologies. You also do a great job to transition to what it evokes culturally.
I think, however, you do a great disservice to the concept of memory in not considering how the processes of interaction with technologies might also involve a sense of memory in as far as protocols, conventions and even just plain old muscle memory.
As you use Bakhtin to prove that the polyphonus text can incorporate sonic or visual elements, it might be argued that it can also incorporate interactivity, and motions involved in that activity can also be a part of memory.
I will definitely give those print-predecessor resources a go.
I think this is a really good point to consider Thomas, thank you for pointing it out. I definitely think I could spend some time considering how the student’s voice can continue to be present in the process of editing and revising.
I only mean to say that the academic/institutional gaze should be present in those processes to some degree, but I certainly do not mean to convey any sense of resignation.
For my part, I think this is a wonderful collection of essays that pose both innovative praxis and reflection on the state of web-based writing pedagogy at liberal arts institutions. I’m very much taken by the provocation that such a volume would not only serve SLAC teachers but other kinds of writing instructors and students more generally because of the careful attention to both pedagogy and the state of the digital. I didn’t necessarily think that the purpose of the volume needed to be further defined as much as the “results” or case studies, i.e., the group of essays as a collection.
It does seem as though there is a tendency in these essays to define “liberal arts” more along the lines of fostering community-based learning or global citizenship rather than the more hermetic critical thinking drive of many elite SLACs. I see this in many of the essay’s attention to wider audiences and public for a for writing. I personally would have liked to hear a bit more about how digital venues are changing writing itself and thus the teaching of writing, as a means of getting at how web writing might engage with critical thinking about writing on the web. In other words, how can teaching writing on the web help distance students from digital media so as to be critical/thoughtful of it. Perhaps there is room in the conclusion for these sorts of meta-comments? Regardless, as other commenters have suggested, I do think some attention to how these essays define the special place of the liberal arts college would be helpful.
For me, the best essays included: “Sister Classrooms,” “Indigenizing Wikipedia,” “Science Writing,” “Tweet Me a Story,” “Public Writing and Student Privacy,” “Curation in Writing,” and probably most of the Annotation/Citation section. I was most drawn to these during the reading process because of the way each described a project or technology to use with students and included reflective analysis about “web writing.” This last category encompassed analysis and observation about how certain technologies have changed the writing process, the quality of writing, or the use of language and rhetoric. (While the “Science Writing” essay was, I think, one of only non-humanities one of the bunch, I would still keep it because it is so strong and because it helps humanities teachers understand how their science students might understand the writing process through the genre of the lab report. Similarly, I “Getting Uncomfortable” presents a different sort of analysis of these issues, using statistics, and I’d include it if there could be a bit more elaboration about the possible interrelations between the statistical results and the tagging or writing done.)
I think the more strictly theoretical essays—and those that have less description of classroom praxis—would need revision to attain the quality of those essays that do both.
I also liked “Code-Switching” for its rhetorical approach to web writing, and it seems appropriate to place it either at the front or back of the collection, as a kind of meta-commentary. I might also place “Engaging Students with Scholarly Web Texts” in this meta- category too, because it helps to explain the interlocking practices of reading and writing via the web.
Section headings were useful but at times a bit nebulous (as others have noted). It was also a bit confusing to have one section as a specific technology/tool (annotation) while the rest were characteristics of web writing. Some characteristics appear in most of these essays (e.g., engagement or boundary crossing, even variously defined). One easy, though perhaps derivative, way to split the essays into sections would be to do it by technology (blogging, wikis, annotation tools, other). I think there’s still a lot more to say about how the structure of each technology lends itself to certain types of writing exercises, genres, digital mediation, etc. I’m not sure I can offer an alternative organization strategy, but I will, instead, suggest a few broader ideas and concepts that seem to arise from these essays as a collection. These might be (in no order of importance): the broadening of audience, especially the interplay between academic audiences and writing and the wider internet public; civic engagement and global citizenry, whether offering increased awareness (of environmental issues, race, slavery, etc.) or action (Super PAC, privacy, canon formation); a sense of networked culture and information; collaboration in writing and revising that leads to a heterogeneity and dialogism of rhetorics, styles, or voices within a single piece of writing; an intensification of self-reflexivity (aka, critical thinking) when it comes to the writing process itself.
These are my general comments this far. I look forward to seeing the collection come to fruition!
I love the emphasis on iterative, asynchronous learning that the online module encourages. I wonder whether the blog writing (the style, the length of the assignments, etc) encourages reflection in any specific way? (In other words, what is it about the online environment that encourages “learning”? Could you have an analogue model based on iterative learning too, or does the digital make this apparent to students as well?)
It occurs to me that while students (and teachers) often worry over quizzes, it is the digital module’s backchannel conversation–and the ability to have it easily–that provides specific user feedback. It makes me think that one of the important parts of your digital module is how such a meta-reflection is encouraged on the part of those taking the course?
This is such a great piece. I wish I could have such a forum for my own experimental lesson plans! Was the help you describe below typical of responses teachers gave to each others’ works? In other words, did most of the teachers take advantage of the opportunity (and how)?
Would another model for feedback be to have the participating teachers respond to each others’ initial hypotheses–in a sort of crowd-sourced means of feedback?
My other comment would be that this model seems to emphasize self-assessment and -evaluation?
Although the hook for the article is about dropping the quiz, I’m not sure it’s a surprise to many that teachers (and other students) would prefer some other sort of assessment to a quiz/rote learning (though I could be wrong). I wonder if a more central discovery is about how the module encouraged user feedback, iterative learning, and reflection–and what kind of reflection? While reading this, I found myself wondering how the online media for the course module was different from having students do a similarly scaffolded activity in class? (Perhaps something about bringing disparate teachers together, but also something more about the writing itself and the structure of assignments?)
This may be obvious to others, but are pre-service teachers those undergraduates getting a B.A. in Education?
These are great points about blogging’s propensity to offer students interactive scaffolding (post-and-response), a public forum both inside and outside the class, and a greater potential for diversity. Are these cross-cultural connections–and the tagging students did–to be found within the course or in the larger public space of the internet? I wonder too, in terms of the writing techniques the blog especially encourages, whether it does encourage students to slow down and reflect (vs spontaneously post and forget)? Or if there are specific types of blogs (or ways of instituting them) that offer this type of cross-cultural reflection?
The empirical results–and the finding that students became more uncomfortable with outside racial/ethnic interactions–is really intriguing. I wondered if there was anything (qualitative) in the personal essays or the pre-writing that could help to flesh out the statistics? Maybe more specifically, I wondered whether this question: “What is the main thing you will do to support your students’ racial identity and development….” led to any suggestions about what some next steps are, perhaps with other writing assignments?
Was there anything within the narratives or the pre-writing that could be analyzed qualitatively to suggest not just that students were thinking differently about racial/ethnic interactions but how? Was there anything worth exploring (rhetorically, figuratively) in their writing?
Maybe I missed this in the essay itself, but was the assignment done in stages (ie, one section a week, with students responding after each)? It might be helpful to know exactly how the assignment was planned and how students responded to each step (if serially)?
I would love to see how Jennifer revises and implements this again too–it seems like there would be so many rich dialogues to take place in between section assignments….they are each very rich and in some ways, ask for different types of writing (sociological anecdotes, narrative, etc.).
This paragraph about accountability renders the Wikipedia assignment more compelling than I’ve heard argued in the past. The standards also seem to alleviate the instructor’s role as possible grammar police….
This debate about notability has me wondering whether it spawned any class discussion about distinction, aesthetics, or alternative arguments for canon creation among Native American authors?
This question about the cultural frames (ideologies?) of tools and their cultural usage seems really important to an understanding of how the very structures of digital tools do cultural work. I wonder what this section of the book would look like if this essay were first, headlining this sort of question. (Incidentally, I wonder if you want to add Lisa Nakamura as a citation for technology and racial stereotypes, amid all the other great references in the paragraph?)
An example at the end of the paragraph would help to contrast with Word Press and illustrate this more problematic, technology-driven pedagogy.
I definitely agree about Prezi, at least in own experience! I’ve been wondering too, in thinking about how you pose web writing as bridging the oral-written divide, whether more successful web writing in blogs combines the colloquial/playful tone of many web tools alongside an iterative structure that in some sense forces or elicits reflection.
This is a really interesting argument (about the ways that the public sphere/web writing can be less than reflective), and I think it acts as an important contrast to some of the other essays in the volume.
I wonder if this way of invoking personal experience and small, local examples adds not only the personal but also the affective as a bridge between cultures that draws out conversation? (I’m thinking too of the piece on “Writing Slavery” that comes before this one in the collection.)
I agree–I also found this particular paragraph sensitive to the potential pitfalls of web writing–and the ways that it might not always work.
I think this essay could be potentially really important to the collection as a whole because it highlights how important reading practices are to writing–and how changing reading practices have and will alter how we write. There was a bit of a disjunction for me, though, between the undergraduate projects Anita had her students do and the scholarly rhet/comp experimental articles she is reading to mine new reading and writing practices. It’s not that these aren’t necessarily connected, but I think these two different sorts of webtexts could be better connected early on (that the essay will use the academic webtext to find examples of web rhetoric that students might use in their own more public projects). (I found myself a little lost between paragraphs 7-13.) By highlighting this move, Anita might also make explicit the implicit argument here that teaching students to read academic articles (and their rhetoric) is actually still necessary in the liberal arts classroom–as a means of teaching sophisticated methods of reading?
I agree, though I think an even more compelling argument occurs later. More than just “giving credit” or developing standards, the citations help to hail micro-audiences and to choose specific frames of knowledge from which to argue.
The RT vs. meme is a great contrast and social media parallel to citation-worthy material vs. general knowledge.
This paragraph really brings home the potential for teaching citation as a positive research tool vs. teaching plagiarism as a punishment-bearing omission. By showing students how and when to cite, we can help them enfranchise those who might be neglected–in quite unethical ways. The public nature of the debates online, as well, seem to hold writers accountable more quickly than academia?
It’s interesting that Wikipedia, as in previous article in the volume on “Indigenizing Wikipedia,” becomes a site of accountability, particularly for students….
I think at the very least a discussion of whether to cite or record Google search terms (if not cite them) would be really beneficial to students. I would love to know whether you explicitly “taught” searching or the art of finding citation standards–and the most important citations for any given context. (I have found this really challenging in a whole range of courses.) I also have found that discussing search terms (and the various idiosyncrasies and choices involved with them) helps students to explore further the intricacies of their topics and arguments.
The first two sentences here suggested the contrast between links and footnotes (also between those references of h/t inside an essay and those in the margins). Does the horizontal link structure of webpages (from page to page) help give us this more democratic, choice- and audience-based notion of citation, vs. the more hierarchical structure of footnotes?
Meanwhile, I very much agree with doing away with the “climate of fear” surrounding plagiarism!
I do love the metaphor of “codeswitching” between the two. It implicitly reminds us that teaching students multiple “dialects” or genres of writing is immensely beneficial (to know them, to understand the existence and consequences of multiple genres of writing). I wonder, though, if “multimodal writing” and “web writing” are separate genres in themselves (or not)? So I agree with Holly’s comment above that short definitions here of both would help.
I wonder if within this argument is sort of refutation of the Nicholas Carr antagonism to digital reading? Rather than assuming a piece that presents multiple pathways means that we superficially graze over the content, good multimodal construction ensures individual fractal networks that, due to their individuality, are more deeply sustained and retained?
I agree with you, Amanda, and think part of our challenge is to figure out how to teach all these media so that the student might choose well.
As I read it Thomas was contrasting rote memory (memorization and recall, perhaps favored by Classical rhetoric) with cultural memory, or the evocation of other times, moments, ideas, and conventions through snippets of culture?
Would you include code-switching between academic and more public (eg, journalistic or blogging) writing as part what needs to be taught to students?
I wonder if up here (or somewhere early on in the first ten paragraphs or so) is place where you might elaborate on the specific connection between newer technologies–blogging specifically–and the field of political science? It would seem as though something about the participatory nature of blogging–and perhaps its unique form of interactivity–speaks to some of the concepts surrounding voter education, participation, and the party system? Additionally–though something you may not have room to comment on–I wonder how blogging for a political science course might be different from other disciplines? (E.g., I’m thinking of the “Sister Classrooms” article in the volume, on the connections between environmental science and blogging?)
Did these reading materials include the influence of the digital on political public discourse? Or were the blogging and website projects a way to introduce writing as a public discourse into the class–with the digital being one means of doing so? (I think the role of digital writing here could be plumped up just a bit.)
These courses are especially compelling from the dynamic nature of their set up–you include both real-time civic engagement and reflective digital commentary, essentially having students become both activists/volunteers and political commentators. It would be interesting to have these roles linked more fully here–as perhaps two different types of public political actors? (In other words, there could be an opportunity to make a more pointed comment about the role of digital blogging within current political education and culture?)
Is there a specific example or two that might illustrate the kinds of conversation that occurred or the types of writing the blog (vs. academic assignments) encouraged?
It sounds like the blog superlatively inured students to become political animals–that the serial nature of the blog pushed them to follow and comment continuously on political events? (I also wonder what kind of specific nudging you as the instructor needed to do to spur and continue conversation?)
This observation might be expanded perhaps, to discuss whether students felt more accountable, what publics they might have felt they were addressing, etc.?
I wonder if getting to paragraphs 9 and 10 more quickly would help to define terms. You might also give a brief background on the terms–are you taking the idea of building, for example, from someone like Stephen Ramsey’s comments at the MLA and elsewhere on building (e.g., http://stephenramsay.us/text/2011/01/11/on-building/)?
Sorry, that’s Stephen Ramsay.
It’s really great to have this set of very practical questions to help design the intricacies of an assignment.
This way of thinking about curation reminds me of Melanie Feinberg’s work on personal digital bibliographies.
Pete, I agree that one of the strengths of the piece is broadening the notion of curation, or, as you say, unyolking it from disciplinary boundaries. (And I think the assignment-building techniques discussed here are very translatable and helpful in that regard.) I would definitely make these stakes even more clear and provocative at the start.
This discussion of web writing, blogs, and cultural crossings (via anthropology concepts) is really rich and suggestive, particularly in terms of two larger questions, which I’ve been thinking about in the day after reading this. They may extend outside the scope of a more practical/praxis essay, but I wanted to put them out there.
1) I wonder how the structure of making and breaking cultural knowledge and/or the structure of the blog itself enhances cultural crossings? Is it through a kind of building and deconstruction of the subject via an interaction between self and other? If so, why are blogs so good at this–is it because the public quality and diverse nature of its audience foments this process?
2) The concept of curation takes a really interesting shape, and I wonder how this technique of “information management” is related to both reading and writing (separately and together). I think there are other essays in the collection that brush on this conjunction, and I wonder what you’d say about how “curation” changes our notions of undergraduate writing–or whether undergrad writing should now be understood better as curation?
I wonder if there’s an opportunity here for a storify example of a series of journalism tweets?
Did you give them examples of what the content of their tweets might be or discuss what kinds of tweets garnered the most responses–or did students just begin live tweeting and figure this out for themselves? (I’m wondering from a practical and theoretical perspective about whether tweeting needs to be “taught”?)
I love the two-step assignment that begins with note-taking skills but then has students arrange their twittered observations into a creative narrative, asking them to re-encounter the event and remark on it through an iterative process. Did students notice any differences in their perspectives on the event after the second iteration in Storify?
A really interesting use of twitter to explore analysis/critical thinking as multi-valent creation. These applications in different humanities settings are really suggestive. Did students look at any examples of twitter fiction or academic arguments in Twitter (in addition to the perspective on narrative that Twitter offers, as you suggest below)? (E.g., http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/you-can-summarize-your-thesis-in-a-tweet-but-should-you/34962.) I wonder, too, how Twitter works differently as a tool of narrative vs curatorial analysis.
I’m interested in the claim in last sentence of the paragraph, and whether (and how) the two class blogs at hand specifically resisted using discipline-specific terms or jargon? Or, how did the blogs help students learn disciplines beyond or beside this vocabulary? (Maybe the second on the Muir discussion later could more explicitly comment on this issue?)
I wonder if there are students who do have difficulty with blog writing (the format, the tone, the mix of thoughtfulness and spontaneity), either in general terms or within these two class case studies? Does this general precis need to acknowledge the possible detriments–Are there times when course blogs are not helpful to student writing?
The detailed comparison between the two course blogs and their setup is great. Were students in one course aware of the different blogging requirements of the other?
This leads me to believe that synchronous events within classrooms (or among them) may be important or even necessary to spur good asynchronous discussion?
Since the essay begins with discussing student writing, I wonder if the conclusion could also speak to how, in addition to integrating students into networked, participatory culture, the blogs advanced or altered student writing (stylistically, rhetorically, etc.)? Or did they do so primarily by inspiring student ambition to communicate and their understanding of audience in doing so?
I would second Shelley’s comments here (and on the next paragraph), but maybe through the slightly altered lens of “cultural crossings.” It seems like, as Shelley suggested, the wiki bio writing offers students both activism and affect perhaps in contrast to more rational (argumentative, logocentric) academic discourse. I wonder if there’s a way to discuss this conjunction–and disjunction–that you found between these two types of writing as a sort of cultural crossing of African American spirituality and Anglo American ratiocination that inheres in language and written discourse?
I too was left wondering how the wiki, as a structured set of writing and technological conventions encourages the project’s goals of uncovering and making public the record of slavery. I wonder if you might add several shorter comments (dispersed throughout maybe) about the quality or nature of the biography/wiki writing done, even if it wasn’t submitted for publication?
I’ve had this happen in my own courses, and it has made me present the digital project differently, as you suggest in your last sentence, as an alternative discourse or mode of writing with its own benefits (public, affective, activist, narrative, etc.). I wonder, too, if conveying more complex notion of the public sphere might help students understand the multiple audiences accessing blogs or wikis vs. the academic audience(s). (Especially if peer review is involved, even academic papers could be “public.”)
I was thinking of affect theory too, Siobahn, in the sense of the kinds of “wonky” temporalities that affect enables (mixing and matching various historical temporalities, for example). The essay seems to suggest that cultural crossings might also require temporal and epistemological ones. This leads me to wonder whether the wiki itself and or the condensed narrative biography aids such an effort in its endemic structures? Is there a greater porosity in the wiki that allows for affect and the blurring of historical distance?
I agree with Jason–I was hoping for either more “connective tissue,” a bit of analysis about annotation as a practice of writing, or a bit of differentiation between tools–not simply in terms of what those tools can do but what kinds of ideas, networks, writing they encourage (and what ideologies their specific structures bring with them). From paragraph 10 on we have a really important, annotated list of annotation tools, but maybe there could have been another few paragraphs after 36 connecting back to “associative trails” to discuss where we’ve been and where we’re going.
I agree with Siobhan’s comment and would add, by way of emphasis, that the wiki approach gives a great model for helping to solve the problem of grading and evaluation for collaborative projects and writing. I do wonder about the labor here–are collaborative wikis more time consuming for students and instructors to write and grade? Or does the time issue become less central with a more interactive format?
It seems as though this comment and the example above indicate that collaborative writing helped students rehash the secondary material (sources for citation) together, outside of class–and gain a better understnding of it. I’d be interested to hear a bit more about whether this was the case, in thinking about wiki writing as a model for teaching how to integrate secondary sources in humanities. (My sense is that science students learn to read and integrate secondary sources much earlier and more efficiently than humanities students, so I wonder how this lab model might be help me think about how to better teach my lit students, for example, how to write about other sources and then establish their own viewpoint.)
I think this is a great essay for those who haven’t used Google Docs as a writing tool in the classroom–particularly for revision. It gives a “how to” guide, with some suggestive comments near the end about why Google Docs is such a good technology for iterative, self-reflexive revision. As someone who has used Google Docs before, I was hoping to hear a bit more in-depth analysis (as Amanda suggests) maybe around paragraphs 29/30 about how the structure of commenting (and perhaps the whole scaffolding of the technology) makes comments and revisions better. Part of me wanted to understand in more depth what kinds of comments students gave and why. More specifically, how can Google Docs get students to move past (I liked this part/I was confused about this part) toward more substantive commenting.
I wonder if the issues that Emily raises–and Jack’s answers–specifically have to do with the liberal arts angle of the project? The idea of writing across the curriculum and clarity in writing seem to me to be endemic to a (or one) liberal arts perspective (ie, there is a liberal art of good writing that we can identify across contexts). Similarly, the middle ground of technology as praxis also seems to be connected to such a perspective (technology can help us invest in a liberal/public humanities even as “good writing” can help us distance ourselves from those technologies to evaluate them). Without belaboring the point, I wonder if this liberal arts perspective could be delved into just slightly? It seems like this is one way liberal arts teaching can really elucidate and speak to important topics at the forefront of several different communities….
As promised in your #THATCamp session, I’m wondering where this very cool project might fit in a Venn diagram that included Composition and Rhetoric. Mainly because I know that folks in that subfield have being doing a lot with writing on and for the interwebs for at least the past five years or so. And I’m always looking for collaborations, overlaps, and where we can learn from the experiences of others rather than reinventing wheels.
All the best,
I just had a great conversation with Kurt Fendt (director of MIT’s Hyperstudio: http://hyperstudio.mit.edu) at the recent HASTAC 2013 conference about annotation in the classroom.
He and his team developed Annotation Studio (http://www.annotationstudio.org/)–a collective annotation software and user interface–as a way of helping teachers integrate web-based, collective annotation into MIT’s (humanities) courses.
Here’s a little bit more explanation from Annotations Studio’s About page:
Annotation Studio is rooted in a technology-supported pedagogy that has been developing in undergraduate literature classes at MIT over the past decade. The tool will remove barriers to first-hand discoveries that spark interest in close reading and critical writing about literature. By enabling the user to tag texts using folksonomies rather than TEI, this educational platform will allow students to practice scholarly primitives quite naturally, thereby discovering how literary texts can be opened up through exploration of sources, influences, editions, and adaptations. In other words, Annotation Studio’s tools and workspaces are meant to help students hone skills traditionally used by professional humanists.
If you’d like, I’d be happy to reach out to Kurt and see if he could put you in touch with instructors who have successfully (or even unsuccessfully) used Annotation Studio in their classrooms.
My comment on para. 3 on the Essay Ideas & Proposals page touches on this – at my institution in Germany, publishing student work on the public web would be unthinkable, and I think even if it were done pseudonymously students would refuse. Also, in a class of 15 or 20 students, it may be tough to keep track of pseudonyms and awkward to carry over in-person conversations to a digital forum in which the participants suddenly had different handles. What I like about having students post their writing on a web-based forum (even if “only” a non-public one) is that it builds a sense of community among the participants, and the comments the students make on each others’ writing seem to have a different (mostly higher) quality than those they tend to offer in person. When they write for each other online, they seem to write better, too, than if they just write for me, the instructor – even when they know we’ll do peer review in person (in class).
I think the distinction between “the web” and “the public web” may be important here. I have my cultural studies students blog within an instituton-specific moodle site, so that only they and their classmates can read and comment. There are many reasons for my having made this decision, but the most important is the way in which privacy and data protection are very highly prized (and legally enshrined) in the country where I teach, Germany. It would be hard for me to convince students to blog publicly under their real names; more than 75% of them have their (sole) Facebook accounts under fake names rather than “expose” themselves online. So while openness is clearly a positive when it comes to liberal arts teaching, its benefits may be limited when it comes to publishing learners’ works. When it comes to faculty works, that’s a different story, I should think.
I have a longstanding interest in the roles of authors, editors, and reviewer/commenters in open peer review, I’d be interested to know what instructions or particular encouragement (if any) you’ve given your authors as to how to participate in the open review as an author.
Do authors’ own comments (quantity or quality) play any role in the selection? I.e. do you think an author who replies to comments (at all, or in some depth) would have any edge over an author who doesn’t reply or engage in discussion about his/her text in the open review period?
Do you think authors would benefit from an “open peer review how-to”, or do you think they, like commenters, will find their way? It seems to me that authors have a lot more at stake than others (except, perhaps, editors) in “doing open peer review” right.
I like your encouragement of authors to participate very much, but what I don’t see (perhaps I overlooked it?) is direct encouragement to add comments or to engage with comments on one’s own essay. From my own experience as a commenter, getting a reply makes me comment more often (and, perhaps even more fruitfully), to have a real conversation. A while back I had a little discussion a propos of this with Michelle Moravec with respect to the Subjecting History project (on her “History in the City” blog at http://historyinthecity.blogspot.de/2013/03/whats-public-where-is-open.html.). Michelle writes there that “I really really wanted to pose questions in the comments, [on her own essay] which I do when ‘writing in public’ but didn’t know if this was part of the format of this particular volume.” I found this interesting, since I assumed this commenting on one’s own writing would be a natural part of the open review dialogue, but as you can see Michelle had some doubts, which I’d say may be related to the “format” of the volume, as she describes it, but also the culture as established by the instructions given and the models provided (performed) by editors and others who either set the tone or else (probably in a healthy way) don’t much care what the extant tone is. So I wonder whether open peer review on this model should not only accommodate but also encourage authors asking questions to readers about their own texts. Or is it important that the draft texts speak for themselves, at first pass? Can they even do that once comments (written by anyone, let alone the author) have appeared?
((Nodding vigorously)) to Alisea’s questions. Can you tell us more about accountability in the essay text? I only see a version of it (“accountable” once, in paragraph 10, and I can’t tell how you define it. I’m also curious whether it’s a characteristic the students bring with them, or whether it’s something you think they learn through this process.
Ha! Am reading this just moments after having typed ” ((nodding vigorously))” in a comment on another essay on this site.
This modeling aspect is key, and the public nature of what you are doing with this volume (and asking authors and commenters to do) will go far, I hope, into breaking down the silos that still exist for many faculty members when it comes to their teaching. These barriers to sharing were reduced for a while a few years ago when it became common to post one’s syllabus and other course-related info on public webpages, but only some of these included students’ work as well, and I fear that the growth in the usage of proprietary course management software on a password-protected basis in the meantime will mean that it’s increasingly difficult to access other faculty’s course-related materials, including student writing. This is just my feeling, though; perhaps others have evidence to the contrary? If so, I’d be relieved!
I have to agree – the comments and discussions have been terrific so far. And thanks for the shout-out to the folks commenting on Editorial Process! (Disclaimer overstated, though.)
I have been thinking about suggesting a group on HASTAC or another lively consortium of digital scholars that would create a twitter pool for those of us who would like to incorporate twitter into our pedagogy. Perhaps if we could commit to belonging to such a group we teachers could respond from time to time to other teachers’ classroom twitter projects. Likewise, when we assign a twitter discussion for our students, a hashtag would assure our students of some genuine engaged feedback from this pool of digital scholars.
Social Annotation and The Student’s Right To Protest:
Annotation has long been a channel for dialogue with official texts and ways of knowing. The potential of social annotation through web-based platforms is only just emerging, and, like many developments in the channeling and control of internet information and access, web-based annotation should be explored for its democratic and activist potential; its commercial and private investment interests must be contextualized as we start to “annotate the world.” The monolithic face of the social web as represented by Facebook has fragmented into “cafe” spaces where people gather according to interest and modal creativity. Pinterest and Instagram use visual narrativizing; Twitter accesses one set of language skills while Tumblr enables another more discursive set. Rap Genius and Social Book allow direct dialogue with published text. From a pedagogical perspective, these different types of social annotation platforms address multiple learning styles and individual student interests, a first step in developing a critical classroom.1
I would like to propose an essay that will discuss ways some of these social annotation experiences can be used to develop critical consciousness in the writing classroom, and engage Ira Shor’s concept of the student’s right to protest. How can we take the idea of “backchannel” from classroom discussion tool to engagement with communities and critical dialogue with power structures? I will draw on research from my Introduction to English Studies class in which students used a wiki to annotate Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. This iconic style guide represents what Carmen Kynard called the “unquestioned and un(der)theorized” dominant center2 of standard schooled English. Some questions for future research that I will address in this essay include:
How can annotation support the notion that no knowledge is neutral, as traditional guides to “good writing” would have students believe?
In what ways do strong, critical, creative uses of social annotation enable students to “act on their conditions” (Shor) as writers, as students, as citizens?
What are the benefits/limitations of different annotation platforms?
What are the benefits/limitations of private annotation, such as marginalia or private blogging compared to public/social forms of annotation?
1 In Ira Shor’s brief history of critical pedagogy in Empowering Education:Critical Teaching For Social Change (1992) he cites Dewey’s concept of participatory education: “To teach skills and information without relating them to society and to the students’ contexts turns education into an authoritarian transfer of official words” (18)–italics mine. He also cites Freire’s emphasis on “student subjectivity” as the starting point of critical thought (47.)
Lesley–I’m also intrigued by the pedagogical uses of wikis and other kinds of social “annotation” spaces. Some of my initial experiments with them have been at times magical but then often frustrating as students simply treat them like paper and pencil for writing notes to me or to each other! Trying to figure out what inspired the magical uses! I think we are all–students and teachers–learning how to exploit these spaces of social thinking and writing. I love that you have found a way to reach beyond the school walls into the community, something I have been thinking about too. I wonder what you mean by “commissioned research”? That sounds interesting.
I am now going over this preliminary research. I’m sure I could share screen shots–did you mean at some future date or now? I would need some time to double check any IRB qualifications. I would hope to have thoughts on all your questions in the proposed essay. Right now, I can say that there was tremendous resistance to challenging Strunk and White–not too surprising. So many issues go into this acceptance of what the “unquestioned” dominant center designates as “good” usage of English. There are the students who always excelled in writing from an early age who identify with the EB White style of discourse and do not feel as though it needs to be situated in any context. There are students who have brought other Englishes into classrooms that didn’t welcome those uses of English, and who associate standardized English with economic success and social access. The wiki was a start to what I think will be an interesting developing project. I felt that by the end of the semester, some students were just starting to rethink this style guide as a neutral set of guidelines, and to see its historical, cultural and social contexts.
I’m looking forward to doing more thinking about a few of the most interesting issues that arose during this project. There were several key interactions that individual students had with the text that brought out some of these social issues we’re talking about, and I’m just not sure yet how the web writing component may have impacted the students’ movement toward critical thinking– I think the answers are complex and will raise lots more questions. I agree strongly with the seemingly large potential for the web making visible the unseen, as you aptly put it, Jack. That’s exactly what I wanted to do with this project– to reveal the invisible agenda of a naturalized discourse, and the affordances of the wiki and other annotation platforms lend themselves to the layering and juxtaposing of knowledge(s) in a purposeful way.
Thank you for directing me to a new tool! I’m traveling and Internet access is not good, so will only give a short comment here. Several key interactions individual students had with the text of TEOS brought out some of these social issues we are talking about here. I agree that annotation platforms in particular make the invisible visible as you put it, and that is what I am going for with this project: making visible the agenda of standardized discourse so students may understand that it is not neutral. The affordances of the wiki I believe could be expanded upon with other social annotation spaces, and I hope to generate new questions for that project.
In the process of writing the draft for this project, I have come to a happy/excited (preliminary) realization that web writing creates access to networks of knowledge in ways that traditional classroom reading writing and discussion sometimes can–but not as quickly and creatively! Going over the wiki pages created by my spring semester students as they engaged with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, juxtapositions of images, text excerpts and student commentary became rich multivalent environments for situating the handbook in social, cultural and historical contexts. The wiki created a very thick environment and required time and thought beyond the scope of what I had planned for the class discussion periods. I now know that to capitalize on the those thick environments built by the wiki, I will need to restructure the way I use them–and I will be interested to hear what others say about their experiences.
I’m interested in how public sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Rap Genius (this is somewhat different as it’s more text-oriented) can be used in writing classes too, and for the same reason that Lisa mentions: to generate a kind of community ecology around the writing class. Michelle Kells writes about “transdisciplinary” dialogue to include students’ writing lives outside of school as well as in (my pdf of this article is without a complete citation–I can research it if anyone is interested.) She writes about the importance of community and history, land and laws to the students she works with in New Mexico. We cannot teach writing without including those other sites of the writing life. I think that the different kind of knowledge expressed by visual social media platforms is something needing more research–is this a way into connecting with communities? What can we learn from the kinds of videos being posted on Vine or what people collect on Pinterest boards?
Thanks for the reading reference! I have a large number of theoretical things on my desk: N. Katherine Hayles, Peter Krapp, Joseph Tabbi. I am really anxious to read more that is pedagogical.
I was very interested in this essay! I also found while encouraging students to enlist digital tools for a writing project that we were encountering new ways of thinking and reading that need to be explicitly taught. Pedagogy for this is scattered. Particularly in Composition and First Year Writing, I think students and teachers still see writing and reading in the Romantic tradition–as you say in this essay: relying on “personal connection” when web texts require the reader to be a “navigator” of diverse nodal connections in a network of knowledges. I finished this essay wanting to know more about resources for expanding how I approach reading practices, which may be beyond the scope of what you want to do. Just my feedback I guess, and a sign that you fired up this reader! I will mine your bibliography!
I like what you are saying here: that citation practices can be presented as relevant, flexible and interesting to students, a part of bringing novices into conversations with experts. I am wondering if you might have a part two to this essay (or even another essay!) that discusses institutional demands (i.e. English Department requirements that students must learn correct MLA form) and devastating disciplinary actions for plagiarism. Do some of these creative approaches and customized citation practices confuse or get in the way of helping students to satisfy larger institutional requirements? Teaching citation practices through web writing sounds like a very cool course that I would love to take or teach. But I can foresee not having the time to do this kind of deep engagement with citation in a regular composition class where departmental requirements can be strict. I would be interested to know if you have had any experiences with trying to balance these ideas with such institutional demands, and how you managed–because it is such a great idea for diffusing citation anxiety.
This is an important paragraph. I think articulating what web writing accomplishes pedagogically is a crucial goal of a book like this. This is the sort of information and reflection upon practice that I feel is hard to find in current literature–more so, coincidentally, in academic blogs! Maybe that is simply the wave of the future.
It’s interesting to read about such nuanced instruction in “writing for the workplace.” I like this student’s question about the impact that web writing does/does not have on critical engagement and the “world’s understanding of itself.” I’m curious to know more details about how persuasive web writing can anchor business and technical writing to social issues and (in paragraph 23) “the social ramifications of convergence.” Did students ever address the digital divide and the connection between access to technology and access to good jobs?
Amanda, you’re asking me to really think about the significance of this choice, and whether or not it’s the right word to use here. I think I need to agree with you that it probably does come from my Comp/Rhet reading, and I will do some looking into this and report back! I feel like it’s an older term, not so much the word of the moment. I need to do some more thinking on this. Thanks for pointing to it. I almost think it’s a word from an older pre-digital culture creeping in to my writing and describing something like a multigenre essay…
The concept of multimodal composition is explored in a book titled Multimodal Literacies: Resources for Teachers, edited by Cynthia Selfe, Hampton Publishers, 2007. In the first chapter, Takayashi and Selfe make the observation that the kinds of writing assignments given in composition classrooms have not changed for “150 years.” “If composition instruction is to remain relevant, the definition of ‘composition’ and ‘texts’ needs to grow and change to reflect peoples literacy practices in new digital communication environments” (Takayashi and Selfe, 3) In my essay I chronicle an attempt to create this kind of “multimodal” exploration of writing and texts.
I’m sorry that I didn’t quite understand the question this morning, so I wanted to try to address your thoughts. Just to clarify: there was “commenting” in the form of the multimodal annotation of the text in question: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. That was done in a small-group out of class format, and was the main meat of the assignment. And then there were additional traditional written comments made by the rest of the class in the comments section for each group annotation wiki page. You are right to notice that this is probably too much commenting on commenting, so to speak. I would probably cut out those out of class comments in the future.
However–it feels somewhat like trying to edit my most heartfelt writing to cut out that feature of the assignment, kind of hard to kill a darling no matter how much dead weight it is. Some of the best thinking and interaction went on in those out-of-class comment discussions on the wiki in response to the formal annotation projects done by the small groups. And it gave students a chance to give reflective or research-infused responses, as we talked about during the conference today. In class we were able to gather together the different modes of communication: the formal, metaphoric and “non-trivial” reading practices that came with experiencing the group annotations and the sometimes funny, personal comment responses, as well as the live discussion.
This was all part of what I thought made a rich contextualized environment for examining the complex text that was our subject of inquiry. It was cumbersome and too time-consuming in class–definitely needs streamlining or reconfiguring.
This is a point well taken. I wonder if there might be some way to maintain an alliance with Jesse Stommel’s point about the need to keep digital pedagogy from replicating “industrial era education” without sounding too broadly utopian. I agree, after even the last few months of keeping up with reading about social media, that transformative might not be a very precise adjective to apply!
The institutional demographics are quite diverse (international students– many from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures– African American, Caribbean, White.) The English major class this case study comes from was similarly diverse and reflected the institution as a whole pretty well.
Thanks, Siobhan. I think some of my ancillary research into the way TEOS is used in specific classrooms could be cut out. This seems to belong to other things I plan on writing, have begun to write, etc.
Jason–you have helped me think about this in very constructive ways. In this part of the essay, I’m working toward making a connection between The Elements of Style’s entry into academic culture and a reactionary moment in Composition history–given force and power by EB White’s reputation. This is nothing particularly new–Prendergast and Richard Ohmann have written about this. I’m doing this in order to argue for more genuine inquiry into the dominance of the kind of discourse TEOS describes. I’m not sure I have really articulated for myself yet that this is one of my central arguments. I can see how this paragraph needs cleaning up. I think more of my words and thoughts and fewer citations would be better here.
Jason, thank you for bringing my attention to this part of the essay as well. Part of the confusion here may be that the Gregson poem should be above the text, not below it, but that’s minor. Since this was one of the times the opportunity to address a direct comparison of traditional text and digital text arose, I would like to think of a way to keep it. It seemed like a very good time to point out the movement in reading and writing practices that we are experiencing as a culture, and to ask students to consider that the “rulebook” for writing should reflect that as well. I think you are right that it feels disconnected from the rest of the essay though. You hit upon a place where I know I could do more thinking to be able to articulate what I am trying to communicate at this point.
It’s so funny that you say this. Sometimes I get so sick of my own analytical voice and I know I had a conscious sense here that this creative and original student could make a better point than I could! I would like to know a little more about what kind of analysis you were hoping for–but I know we’re getting down the wire for end of peer review!
I gave short shrift to the reflexive part of this essay, so I would like to make the thinking about the wiki platform more rigorous. I initially chose to use a wiki instead of SocialBook because I specifically wanted students to be able to use images, video, audio, links to create and then reflect upon networked knowledge with their responses. So much more classroom time needs to be devoted to teaching those digital reading practices before starting a project like this, however. Using a text-oriented social annotation tool like SocialBook would have simplified the variables in the project, making my reflection and planning for other classroom research clearer.
I’m sorry I missed your great remark here, Barbara. As the semester got busy, I didn’t check back on my own essay. I love what you say about “something enduring about being together in the same space.” These conversations that were once ephemeral will perhaps have more opportunities to endure and to build with digital texts like this one. I wonder if the published material text and the living changing digital text will exist together, and what purposes that might serve. Dub poet Mutabaruka changes the versions of his poems every time he performs them–they are living changing texts that defy the stability of canonization. I feel like the entertaining of conversations around a text in all kinds of spaces suggests changes to many authorized practices such as the academic conference.
I really like what I read here about ways you changed assessment and student choice about curriculum–your responsiveness as teachers to the new configurations of classrooms and learning that come with digital writing. This to me me is one of the more important challenges: finding ways to realize the transformational potential of digital spaces instead of just replicating traditional learning models.
I think we often see blogging as only a way to enable students to engage in low-stakes individual writing, but you have brought in the idea of making research low-stakes, which is brilliant! Students do need ways to practice this difficult skill without the anxiety of having a large chunk of their semester grade dependent on it. I’m wondering how or if you encouraged or required students to do a certain amount of research and sourcing, since it seems all the writing in these courses was done through the blog. Was there any traditional writing involved?
Whoa, wait a minute there! As a representative from the field of Composition, I would like to speak out against those who try to scare the general public into believing that literacies like “text-speak” are going to ruin our civilization. I felt that one of the messages of this essay was that digital literacies will improve and bring more inclusiveness to our civilization. What this essay does is demonstrate that digital writing can and will make literacy more flexible, fluid and pluralized as it also deepens critical thinking skills. Blogs, texts-speak, twitter– all have their places in bringing, as Hagood and Price say, “our politics, our hobbies and obsessions, our travels, and even our personal stories” into academic writing, busting up its monolithic quality. So, I didn’t have such an issue with this opening paragraph. It asked a good open-ended question that I was interested in: “are blogs really a suitable format for student writing?”
I am easily drawn in by the utopian call of Hypothes.is. It certainly sounds good to enable individuals to critique large knowledge creators like websites. I worry about the venture capitalists’ involvement with Hypothes.is, but maybe because it is hard at this point to understand the direction this group is taking in launching this idea. Is anyone critiquing/inquiring into the powers that be behind Open Annotation? I like their short animated intro and the way it suggests a world without boundaries and disciplines that are porous. Is it just that I am inclined to be an old-school progressive who doesn’t trust monied interests? I wonder if there is any kind of counter-movement in Annotation, like an underground guerilla group! Or have corporate interests and guerilla movements merged?!
I spent the last two years in a FYW program in which faculty were strongly encouraged to have ongoing research projects based on their classroom practices. It was a spectacular system for community building among the faculty (for adjuncts in particular) and it raised the level of our scholarly investment in moving practice forward. In secondary ed, I know that dwindling funding and the drive toward standards-dominated writing pedagogy had created a sense among Comp/Rhet people that empirical evidence is necessary. Quantitative studies bring to states and districts a kind of visibility that Writing practices don’t generally have.
This sounds like an interesting project! The college I am teaching at is launching a Writing for New Media concentration, and I’d be interested in submitting something to this project related to how we are restructuring our curriculum … I just learned of this project and it is past deadline, but please let me know if the deadline is extended. Thanks! [Editor’s note: comment was moved into this section.]
So glad that you are addressing this as it became an issue for me when I started writing my essay. I asked my IRB for advice, and they said simply to give the students a permission slip to sign at the beginning of the semester in case I want to publish anything in the future. Anything that we do on social media should be OK from what I gathered.
I use blogs in all of my writing and reporting classes. Most of the time, the students do not get any comments from the larger world out there, but one student did garner attention from a political pundit when she wrote about the Twitterization of the Presidential debates last fall. She was scared at first because she realized that her writing really was public and then she was flattered that someone besides her professor read it. This is a great point to ponder for those of us that use blogging or web writing via social media in our classes. How do we get a better readership? I love the idea of the broader audience because it shows the students that writing matters beyond the classroom. Plus, for my students, as future journalists, they get the idea that they have to write something in a way that makes it relevant to the outside world.
Use your social media for good, not evil: We know Twitter is 140 characters or about 10 to 15 words, and we cringe when students use text-speak in their tweets to us or to the world. However, Twitter can be used to teach writing. It forces students to think concisely.
In my writing classes, I use Twitter to help the long-winded students organize their thoughts for their news stories. I encourage them to write their leads (story introductions) and headlines (titles) in Twitter, and I’ve used exercises in both newswriting and editing classes. Students like using social media in class, and they begin to craft shorter and better sentences. Editors recommend 35 words for a lead; however, I recommend 20. I have used Twitter in scriptwriting classes to help students write punchier dialogue, log lines and tag lines. Twitter also could be used in creative writing classes, history classes, political science and even science classes for students to write concise statements and engage in online conversations.
Additionally, I have assignments in which the students live-tweet events. This practice forces them to think on their feet and capture their notes electronically, which then helps them with building a story on deadline. Once the students have captured tweets, I ask them to combine their tweets with narrative and photos/videos in the social media curation site Storify.
This essay will examine the strengths of Twitter for the teaching of writing, the benefits of live tweeting and the benefits of combining tweets with narrative for an online publication.
Tweet Me a Story: In my writing classes, I use Twitter to help students organize their thoughts for their news stories. I encourage them to write their leads (story introductions) and headlines (titles) in Twitter, and I’ve used exercises in both newswriting and editing classes. Students like using social media in class, and they begin to craft shorter and better sentences. Editors recommend 35 words for a lead; however, I recommend 20. I have used Twitter in scriptwriting classes to help students write punchier dialogue, log lines and tag lines. Twitter also could be used in creative writing classes, history classes, political science and even science classes for students to write concise statements and engage in online conversations.
Additionally, I have assignments in which the students live-tweet events. This practice forces them to think on their feet and capture their notes electronically, which then helps them with building a story on deadline. Once the students have captured tweets, I ask them to combine their tweets with narrative and photos/videos in the social media curation site Storify.
This essay will examine the strengths of Twitter for the teaching of writing, the benefits of live tweeting and the benefits of combining tweets with narrative for an online publication
Thanks for that analogy. I may have to do some exploration (on deadline, no less, but I’m a recovering journalist). I have found that the tweets are like quotes the students would obtain from human sources. They may not use all of the tweets or quotes in a story, but by doing live-tweeting and curation, their audience sees the story being built in real-time.
I am glad to see this list. For years, I have railed against the usage of Wikipedia in my own classroom and in the classrooms of my middle-school age son. I was under the incorrect impression that it was a you-post-it and it’s-there-for-the-world-to-see deal without any level of oversight. One of my former bosses posted his bio on the site and was quite proud of his accomplishment. I think that’s what left such a sour taste in my mouth about Wikipedia. He was not an important figure in American history. Thankfully, Wikipedia did take the posting down.
I bet the Wikipedia editor comments made the students think more critically about their writing and strive to improve it. Students might be like children. We can tell them something over and over, but once they hear it from an outside source, it sticks. This essay is so interesting and might make this tough recovering reporter rethink Wikipedia.
I wonder at times about that as well. However, several times in my classes, students have reported that strangers have commented on their posts. At first, they are a bit creeped out, but then they realize they are reaching an audience somewhere. One of my class blogs (more of a vlog than blog) has had clicks from Russia and Thailand.
Also, love the idea that the feedback comes from Wikipedia in 20 minutes. These students are so accustomed to a fast-paced world. I wish I could grade assignments that quickly!
I love the sentence about the deadlines and students that are accustomed to cranking out a paper the night before and accepting a mediocre grade. Perhaps this assignment will show students the value of working ahead. Planning their work and working their plan. Plus, with an outside source that proposes deletion, it gives them that very real world experience that poor planning and execution that might fly in some (not all, please don’t get mad but we know a class or two that is not as rigorous as others) college classes doesn’t fly in the real world.
I’m a journalism professor. I love this part. I hope that the feedback from Wikipedia spurred them to do better research and writing … that they dug through documents and stacks for research and rose above the “local puff” that was mentioned.
Before reading this essay, I was one of the Wikipedia naysayers. As mentioned in one of the comments below, I had had a poor experience with Wikipedia and regarded it as a horrible source. However, I can see several interesting writing and verification assignments that could arise from Wikipedia for my students. I teach journalism, and thus, my students have to understand how to verify information. Most of their stories involve interviewing people and digging out documents at city hall or the courthouse. This could be useful to show them the rigors of verification. Interesting. I’ll have to marinate this idea a bit.
Great opening to this piece. It makes me want to keep reading.
I’m fascinated with the digital tenure portfolio. What a great idea. What does your university think about it? How do universities view these portfolios that have a digital element?
Absolutely. It’s the world in which we live these days. Students may end up working in offices in which they are charged with developing new media content, even if they did not major in journalism or new media or any of the current buzzwords of the disruptions in media.
I teach journalism and agree that the advance of easier to use multimedia software allows students to engage in the exercise. Snow Fall is a tremendous example of multimedia journalism at its best. I think it’s a great example to show in a variety of classes. Although most of us cannot do this type of project in our classes, we can use these multimedia tools for crafting a different type of narrative. Many of these tools are free and generally pretty easy to use. These tools also allow our students to visualize a story in both words and pictures. Some stories simply are not word stories. These tools also provide depth that otherwise might be lost in a plain narrative.
I agree with Amanda. The last sentence has a long-lasting resonance. It’s almost like the prewriting stage. Students have to think about what tools will best present the story. To me, this seems to engage the students in critical thinking at the beginning of the project.
This type of journalism is non-linear. The beauty of multimedia reporting comes from allowing the audience to engage with the content in different sections, unlike a traditional book that is chapter after chapter. I like the idea of encouraging the students to consider the audience. It makes them think more critically about their own storytelling skills.
Agree. Students today must be shown the relevance and how these writing styles will influence them in their careers. We no longer live in a society where we can disregard the new media as a passing fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s transforming so much of how we live our daily lives.
I’m finding that more of my students are involved with Twitter than Instagram.
I wonder if you might need to explain what a Klout score is. People that are not as heavily versed in social media might not understand. Of course, I am making an assumption that there are people that are not immersed and versed in social media, and I teach a class that involves heavy usage of social media. Even in my class of college students (ages 19-20), I am surprised at times with how little they know about social media even though they’ve all had Facebook or Twitter accounts for years.
Susan and Jen,
I run a live-tweeting exercise for my students each semester in the advanced newswriting class at my school. The audience factor is huge for live-tweeting and a great experience for them to interact not only with classmates but with a larger public. I think it forces them to think more critically about what they want to tweet and how to tweet it quickly. It helps to reinforce the skills of note-taking needed for journalism as well as other disciplines.
I then had the students turn the tweets into a Storify, which made them write narration and transitions between the tweets. One student ended up with interaction from a movie company that saw that she was tweeting about Spike Lee, who was lecturing at an event at our school. That one tweet helped to boost the student’s confidence as a writer. She saw that what she wrote actually mattered beyond a classroom.
(Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, this comment was moved to this paragraph, to follow the one above it.)
Could you explain why you didn’t set parameters for the content? It seems as if they took to the blogging concept pretty easily and understood what a quality post should be, which is good considering that some students in this generation like to blog about deeply personal things. Did you show them examples from political reporters or political writers?
You mention the visuals. Did your rubric strictly concern the writing elements or did you also grade for how well they could tell a story with other links or visual elements? Political news often can be dry (and I say that as a person who loved poli sci so much that I double majored in it) and needs to be presented with maps or other graphics to engage the reader.
Just curious, do you give them guidelines for where to find this content … news sites, blogs, etc., or are they free to define what they think constitutes digital content. Do you have parameters for the academic subject? Or are they free to pick up an entertainment site, for instance, or an academic site. Perhaps it’s mentioned below and I haven’t gotten to it.
Have you tried Meograph yet? I think it’s fairly new. You can embed video and maps as well as other elements. News stations are beginning to experiment with it. It looks fun!
Good point. I did run a fake live-tweeting exercise several days in advance when I did the exercise another semester. The first time I ran it, I assumed that all students knew how to tweet. It was not truly the case. I had to answer questions about how to tweet and how to follow the first time through. Of course, it may be the region of the country I’m in. We’re in a rural area of Kentucky.
I have Storify listed later in the essay. I am loving using Storify in the classes because it gives me a bit of freedom to explore writing between the tweets. It’s odd that many news organizations have not yet figured out how to use Storify as an alternative story format.
Good thought for changing to deliberately and the thought to adjust the sentence to note pedagogy.
If you’re interested, I have a list of news sources and news personalities that I encourage my students to follow on Twitter. I can send that along.
Barbara, If you’re interested, I have a list of news sources and news personalities that I encourage my students to follow on Twitter. I can send that along.
Thanks for that suggestion. Good thought about adding a description about the practice of using a hashtag. Facebook also has started allowing users to use hashtags, and it does make it easier to search for a specific subject if an organization has set up the hashtag. I’m not sure that I see value in random hashtags, though.
I was at a conference this weekend where several academics and professionals presented studies about the Twitter mistakes from the Boston Marathon bombing, the West, Texas plant explosion and the Sandy Hook shooting. Journalists are well aware about the problems with Twitter being used as a tweet-it-out-first-and-deal-with-it-later tool. I think we will see some changes coming in the future with news organizations and their commitment to verification before tweeting.
I might be able to bring in a small amount about NPR reporter Andy Carvin’s experience with tweeting during the Arab Spring and the uprising in Egypt last year.
I tell my students that they must use proper grammar and Associated Press style for their tweets.
Good thought to include the good and the bad for the example.
Lede is journalism jargon for the lead (or the beginning) of a story. We used lede to distinguish the word for lead (as in lead type) in the lead-type days of typesetting.
I used to teach freshman comp at a community college before I started teaching journalism. I think it would be a fun exercise for comp students and would allow them to engage in social media while learning writing techniques. I had students that struggled with trying to narrow down their thoughts into a focused thesis statement.
Good thought. I will add that. The group work allows them to gain confidence. Individual work allows me to see their progress.
Some employers do look at Twitter accounts (or Facebook accounts) to learn more about the potential employee. By asking students to maintain both types of accounts, they are able to work on their school/professional work in one account and keep their personal account just that. I tell them that I don’t want to see tweets about what party they attended or what they did over the weekend and hence the professional account for class. I then have the conversation with them to clean up anything that might be damaging from their personal accounts and to untag themselves from friends’ posts in which they might be shown in an unfavorable light. That’s really not a problem for most of my students.
Yes, I have the conversation about making sure that they know what’s posted and if they are tagged by any friends when they were at a party. I tell them not to post anything that they wouldn’t want their mom to read. That usually does trick for most kids.
I also don’t allow the students to send me a friend request for Facebook until after they graduate. When I worked in a high school program, several of my students immediately sent me a friend request a few minutes after they walked back to their seats from the stage. I got a good laugh out of that because they took it so literally.
I’d be happy to email you a form. It might be too big for the comment section.
I modified it this year to include a Twitter/Vine/Instagram scavenger hunt.
Good points. I have tried tweeting my own notes for stories, and I will admit that it’s difficult.
The deadline was the end of the game.
The student did send out a disregard for both her accounts. She had accumulated followers for her professional account.
I think it is.
With this particular class, I did not have any issues with students not having the equipment. However, it is something that may happen at some point based on our student demographic. We are in a rural area of Kentucky, and we might every so often have a student that has a flip-phone instead of a smart phone. Most of my students had a better phone than I did last year … until I finally was eligible to upgrade to the iPhone 5. Our library does have iPads and laptops for checkout.
The network issue: Yes, it is a problem. When our basketball team had a successful run a few years ago, my husband, who was a photographer at a regional newspaper in another city, would go to my mother’s house in town and use her Wi-Fi in order to send his photos back to the newsroom. I wasn’t teaching here yet and we still lived in the town where the regional paper was. The town in which the newspaper was located is an hour from campus. Photographers don’t have that amount of time to race back to an office and download photos on deadline.
I think it’s more collaborative. I have small classes (cap is 15), so I can be more hands-on than someone teaching a large lecture. One of the students came up to me after the lecture and said he wanted to be able to churn out concise tweets as quickly as I did. I reassured him that he would after he had worked in the business.
True, and not everyone at conferences is into live-tweeting. I was at one conference that did not have free wi-fi. As a result, only a handful of people tweeted. I ended up going over my data plan that month because I live-tweeted a couple of sessions.
This particular assignment happened near the end of the semester. However, I ran it early this semester and will do another one at the end of the semester to see how their writing skills and social media skills grew during the semester.
Would taking the “or” out make that sentence more readable? It might be tripping people up with the usage of “or” there rather than just a comma.
This particular class loves social media and is quite adept at using it, but I see your point. Some college students are not into social media. I had one in another class last year that rarely used social media until he took my class. Many of my journalism students also use Twitter as their news source.
I realize that the passage about “convergence” is a direct quote from a student, but I’m puzzled about the wording of “a place where media types interact, overlap, and gather.” Does the student mean the various types of media (traditional print, broadcast, online, social/mobile) or is he/she referring to the people involved in producing the media formats?
In my field (journalism), convergence is the buzzword as traditional media (newspapers and broadcast) try to figure out the types of content the audience wants for the web page. Some papers do a great job with supplying relevant video for stories while others have largely taken what’s in the dying print product and shoveled it onto the web. The convergence comes when journalists use a variety of audio/visual/online tools to enhance the traditional methods of storytelling.
The words “convergence culture” in quotation marks at first in this paragraph threw me, but it made more sense after I read the entire essay. I’m wondering if it needs a brief definition here or if the quotation marks need to come down. Is this an indirect quote from someone and hence the necessity for the quotation marks?
I agree with Laura about the good open-ended question. Blogs, texting, email, etc., are changing how we communicate. Ideally, yes, I want students to use proper grammar, spelling, etc., but the point is that these technologies force them to communicate in the written form. Unfortunately in a way, these new tools are taking away from how we communicate in person, but that’s another essay.
She raises an interesting question about the level of expertise needed to introduce a non-major to a field. I can speak for my own field of journalism. As journalists, we are expected to be able to cut through the bureaucracy of government, business, etc., and report on those issues for people. Does that not seem to apply here? In my mind, clear writing is clear writing, no matter the academic major or minor area. The student must be able to comprehend and then process the material before writing it into a fluid and fact-filled piece.
I haven’t read all the way to the end yet, but I wonder about setting a number of entries that the students have to do or making a professional portfolio by the end of the semester. Do you give the students prompts or do they get to choose their own topics? I have mixed feelings. When I give them a prompt, it controls the topic, but when I allow mine to do their own prompts, they come up with unique and engaging content.
Do you make the blogs public or private? I have used blogs in my classes, and the students left them as public. One student wrote a brief analysis of the coverage of the presidential election last year and received several comments from strangers. It was jarring at first, and then she said how cool it was to have strangers notice her writing. I think it gave her a boost and confidence in her writing abilities.
Very cool projects! Just based on what I’ve read so far, it seems as if the students engaged with the content. I really like the example a few paragraphs up about Brinkley, Arkansas.
This first paragraph is really long. I wonder about breaking it somewhere, perhaps with the section beginning with “Conversely …”
I really enjoyed this essay for the reasons others have listed above as well as the videos and visuals that provided additional depth for the reader.
Wikis Across the Curriculum
A small group of colleagues and I use free wikis (we’re very committed to free tools and platforms which students may use easily outside academic contexts) as collaborative authoring spaces for students in learning communities that range from our intensive first-year learning communities to our senior capstone seminars. We have developed a wide range of practices for these wikis, ranging from collaborative brainstorming on “tough” topics, to the creation of archives of research, analysis, brainstorming, presentation and results delivery to community clients for whom students have been conducting commissioned research.
I’d like to read more about: Writing for the web can be seen as a form of civic engagement, as students write for and engage with public audiences. However, I’ve run across student web projects (such as senior theses) that haven’t generated the commentary that they merit, despite using platforms that allow for conversation. How might we help students reach audiences and engage in rich, multi-faceted conversations with the public? In a broader sense, how might the goals of web writing intersect with those of experiential learning and civic engagement? I’m intrigued by the experiments Jack describes in “If You Build It…,” but I’m eager to hear about other strategies as well.
I like this paragraph because I think it gives students the opportunity to look at citations in a way that they may not be accustomed to. When I think about citations my mind immediately goes to college essays. Just the mention of Twitter in a chapter about citations made me want to keep reading so I could see how the author was going to link these two ideas. While I had never thought of Twitter as a service that could be used to demonstrate why citations are important, I now see how this is a unique and relatable example for students. I also think the fact that this “retweeting” feature became automatic a few years ago speaks volumes of the value people are placing on online citation and I think this example effectively supports the authors arguments.
I think this paragraph gives some great background information about Twitter, but I think that there could be a little more elaboration on the “hashtagging” feature. Personally, this was something that really confused me about Twitter when I first began using the service and I think it would be useful for people to know how exactly how hastags make conversations searchable and accessible. I think this would especially be useful because later in this section it talks about hashtags being used for a class assignment and I think it would help readers to know why this feature is necessary and how it would aid class discussions.
I like this section because it gives a concrete example of how Twitter’s 140 character limit can help students learn to become better writers. For an essay I recently researched other articles that talked about how Twitter could be used in the classroom and while most cited that it taught them to write concisely, many of them did not give any examples of how this skill could be applied in the real world.
I liked how in this section the author incorporated a screen shot of the tweets her students wrote during a class assignment. I am always more drawn to a text that has visual components and the use of these images made me engage more with the writing. I think it is additionally useful for people who do not have a Twitter account because it allows them to see the format of this micro blogging service and how it is specifically being applied in the classroom.
I’d like to read more about the following: Every interesting text typically has a point of view, how do you “get a point of view” out of a crowd sourced text?
Scholars have used research journals in their traditional forms for many years. In many university courses in research methodology, undergraduate and graduate students are also introduced to the practice of keeping a research journal. Online resources provide new and innovative ways of setting up and utilizing research journals. A utility like the blog or journal function allows students to contribute regularly to their research journals while also sharing them with professors who can engage in sustained conversations with students about their research as it evolves. The same utility can also be used for students to make selected parts of their research journals shareable with classmates.
Discussion of online research journals might include exploration of questions specifically related to pedagogy, such as: How does the use of an online research journal help students, classmates and teachers? Are there any potential drawbacks to using research journals in an online format, and if so, what are they? We can also discuss ethical issues, such as the possibility that some students might prefer not to share their work in this way, particularly in situations where they are asked to reflect on issues of reflexivity (asking, for example, ‘what prejudices or biases might I bring to my work’)? Finally, we can compare and contrast the utility of online research journals contained within existing courseware programs like Blackboard, versus the creativity afforded by other products available online which allow for more creative formatting, and the addition of photos, etc. rather than the traditional ‘text only’ research journal. It might also be useful to include student commentaries on what they like and dislike about using the online research journal versus the traditional bound volume.
The second sentence uses a lot of jargon, which makes the authors argument very hard to understand. The third and following sentence implies that this essay will delve into coding, “one can learn a lot about how game designers view the world by closely reading their code,” however very little is dedicated to how the students in the class physically made their games. As a student interested in the physical processes of what makes up the web, it would be great to read more detailed descriptions of how the games were made.
I definitely agree that people like what they can empathize with. This certainly carries over to other forms of media including well-written characters in literature and film. The interactive nature of video games is however, quite unique. It would be helpful to describe more games, and the specific interactions and decisions that involved history, and altered the character’s course.
I am in complete agreement that social media like Twitter can improve concise writing, quick thinking, and social interactions. However, can Twitter also be used for longer written pieces. I understand the inverted pyramid style of writing favors leads, but for larger more extensive projects concise writing may not be the priority. Perhaps Twitter could also be used for practicing writing good introductory sentences that connect paragraphs well. By using Storify to connect topic sentences an outline of a paper could be easily created.
I do not have a Twitter account, however I have heard of people following and being followed by their professors and employers and posting something that had negative consequences. This is why it is great you had your students create a professional account that can be shown to employers. Is there an aspect of your class that talks about monitoring your digital presence online? With all the information circulating about surveillance and privacy these conversations are now more relevant than ever.
I like how this paragraph points out the benefits of students publishing under their full names – it certainly suggests that taking the leap of claiming full authorship on the web has its rewards. Moreover, this paragraph makes a great point that identification can always be altered. In this way, although web writing has a longer lasting record and it reaches a larger audience, the author has the ability to monitor how public he/she wants his/her identity and writing to be.
I’m curious if students ultimately elected to display their full names on their public essays because they were academic essays. I think the nature of the piece of writing is a determining factor in how willing students are to publish under their full names. I wonder if there would be similar results in the number of students who chose to publish under their full names if the writing was more personal or creative.
I think that this paragraph does a great job of legitimizing different forms of social media as forums for web writing. One does not immediately jump to Facebook as a legitimate way to circulate academic information; however, when one considers the kind of audience and circulation one wants to achieve, Facebook becomes a valid platform. Though Twitter does seem to have been readily adapted into the liberal arts classroom, I do wonder how writing on Facebook could be incorporated into instruction as well.
I do agree that writing for a broader audience increases the investment that students have in what they are writing; however, I think it is also important to consider the stakes of claiming authorship in this public setting. As a student myself, not only am I concerned about the grade, but writing publicly also raises anxieties of error and authority, which ultimately effects what I decide to post on the web. Though there is certainly a necessity to take risks within web writing, I wonder what the best way to reconcile these tensions would be.
I truly enjoyed the ideas brought up in this paragraph about the “like” and the “retweet” buttons on Twitter and how communities can form through this. This statement is very true because once someone “retweets”a tweet, other followers can see the information put out into the social media sphere. Also the portion of the paragraph that’s discussing text message is very true. It’s a different form of communication that’s more personal and private. But a question that I may bring up is could these personal texts become tweets?
I loved this paragraph because it goes along with what I think people must realize about Twitter and other websites on the Internet. There’s a plethora of options out there to get the information you’re looking to get across to others. Twitter, Facebook, and even WordPress are great examples that I agree with. Communities can be formed through all three of these websites and to gain even more attraction, you can even use them all. But with that, what I find interesting is that Jen Rajchel mentions that we shouldn’t just resort to one of these websites, but all of them to properly make sure that we are getting the right information on a certain topic of interest.
I think that the idea of social media allowing reporters to quickly get their information out to the public is a very important aspect to have. Being that Twitter has become very popular in the past couple of years, many use it to get their news and current events. An issue that could occur with these bursts of information through social media such as Twitter, Instagram etc. do come with risks though. For instance, a reporter could be fed false information on the topic that they’re covering, causing false information and rumors to spur out from this. It’s definitely something to think about when using Twitter to inform others of a current event. Despite this, I would still agree that Twitter is a great way to spread news and information out into the public.
This statement by author Jennifer Weiner is very true in that Twitter and other forms of social media can enhance ones writing skills. Being that Twitter has character limit, it forces the writer to come up with concise and clean tweets. This can impact ones writing ability in a positive way being that it can help users of Twitter find their true voice. It’s a different approach to learning how to approach writing and write better and I’m definitely all for it. I for one realized through Twitter that I enjoy using sarcasm to express my feelings towards certain events. Twitter allows me to express any form of information I want to share with the public however I wish to share it, whether it’s a twitpic or just a plain tweet.
In retrospect, I see how the essays I read (the “Rethinking” section) were geared toward improved thinking and learning, and enlarging the notion of “composition” to encompass non-traditional media like computer programming and the integration of video and graphics–but I would stop short of saying that any of them addressed the craft of writing (which I distinguish from composition involving multiple media, as in Thomas Burkdall’s project). In fact, they mostly shied away from what I perceive as a real need for many students: learning how to communicate clearly in traditional word-based writing, whatever the genre. Knowing what words mean, intuiting how to choose the most effective word among close terms for a given context, developing a sense for the fluid arrangement of phrases, and being able to join clauses together into a well-wrought daisy-chain of ideas–that’s what I look for in good writing, and it means spending a lot of time with written language.
So while I see the pedagogical value at large for the projects I read about, I would be concerned about the Ozymandias effect of building ever-more complex levels atop the clay feet of students’ struggles to express themselves in a clear and well-organized way. I don’t know if the other sections focused on this particular topic, but my impression is that this volume is more about web-based *composition* and learning strategies, and not about writing per se.
I never thought, when I grudgingly began to use multiple choice quizzes to teach about five years ago, that I would ever be writing a defense of their pedagogical utility. However, in the process of mounting a defense of their alternative tool, I feel like the authors have framed the question so as to diminish the targeted value of the MCQ through a rhetorical caricature.
While there are definitely limitations to MCQs, I have found that a well-written multiple choice exercise is useful for checking students’ reading comprehension of long reading assignments. My quizzes are always keyed to reading guides, so they’re integrated into my pedagogy on two sides. The results, which I can skim in advance of class, serve as a jumping off point for my lecture and for the students’ participation in class discussion. Sometimes I find out in advance of class what key plot point students have missed or misunderstood, and I can address that specifically in lecture. Students are also primed to recognize the important turning points and characters in the assigned text in advance of class discussion. While they should only be used as a means and not an end in themselves, I also have found MCQs to be helpful in terms of keeping students on top of the material all semester. All together they constitute a meaningful but not enormous percentage of final grade (20%), and I drop the weakest out of the 15 or so I administer, so there’s not much anxiety about performance on any one quiz. It’s basically a graded homework component.
All this is not to dispute the potential value of the exercises developed by the authors, but to caution that any tool can be administered incorrectly–that is to say, to unsatisfactory results.
If possible, consider converting this block-text of questions into bullet points. Graphically, it is easier to absorb a long list of complex terms in that format. Somewhat more trivially, consider qualifying the term “quality” with the adjective “high”, since that’s what you mean: “high-quality online professional development”.
You refer throughout to the students of the course as teachers. Do you think that the fact that they are themselves professional educators would differentiate their experience from that of K-12 or undergraduate students? Is it important to remember that the students are in fact teachers themselves, perhaps in the hope that they might take a metacognitive approach to the course material and consider applying it to their own teaching practice?
In general, I’m a big fan of taking a graphic approach to laying out a staged process to enhance legibility. Here, for instance, you could break down step 1, step 2, etc. using returns and indentations to help readers follow the cumulative staged nature of the pedagogy. Especially if this is going to remain an online publication, eye-friendly layout makes a huge difference in usability.
The authors raise here an age-old question: to what extent should an instructor worry about the students who try to game the system rather than engage in a genuine learning experience? There may be a middle ground between extreme rigor and unsatisfying permissiveness. If you feel that there’s pedagogical value in letting someone take a quiz more than once, why not do so? For some online exercises I let students try up to three times, in order to self-correct; using a question bank that can cycle different questions in place of ones already correctly answered is one option. If I make an exercise open note/open book, I put a time limit on it to discourage students from sitting there and reading only for the answers. Most importantly, it took me a few semesters to learn how to write a multiple choice question that not only tested, it also taught. Since two of the authors are presumably in the early stages of their own teaching experiences, as PhD candidates, it may be that they came up against a similar challenge. I too was at first ambivalent–even hostile–to the format, but as noted above, I developed a use that I feel is productive. Quiz questions that don’t support the objectives of the course shouldn’t be used certainly, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do so.
Managing student expectations is always a challenge. Basically, this sounds like garden-variety grade-chasing. Was it made clear on the syllabus what (little) weight the quizzes carried? As K-12 teachers, do you think they were traumatized by the emphasis on standardized testing–in multiple choice format–emphasized by the NCLB and RTTT regimes, and carried that over to their own experience as students?
To what extent does this reaction lead you to reflect upon the psychological environment in which these educators are operating normally? It sounds like there’s a larger underlying problem that should be addressed (perhaps not in the context of this essay).
Is it possible to throw in a definition of the term “asynchronous course”? Since many faculty are not fluent in pedagogy-speak, defining the technical term would be a friendly gesture to newbies.
With respect to presentation of findings: I imagine this observation is a given. A writing assignment will always prove better in engaging students in thinking than an MCQ. Their functions are fundamentally different. An MCQ can spot check reading comprehension or acquisition of foundational knowledge and might be a precis to a writing assignment or discussion, but it can never do what you privilege here.
Again, none of these comments are to suggest that your tool is not a good and useful one. However, the rhetorical framing takes on a “straw man” vibe that does a disservice to the validity of your tool by tainting it with the appearance of a poorly designed experiment that compares apples and oranges.
If you’re looking to qualify the core concept of the first sentence, the appositional phrase after the dash doesn’t really add any value, especially considering its important place in the topic sentence. Maybe more to the point is the importance of starting with something discrete and tangible as the object of inquiry, out of which the larger, more abstract historical issues of the course will flow? And/or qualifying the exercise as one that relies primarily on the subjective experience of the object, alleviating anxieties about being “correct” that the quizzes activated?
When you refer to “instructor” here, you mean course instructor, as opposed to the teacher-students taking the course? Just clarifying, since you refer to the students of the course as teachers, above.
The phrasing of “move forward to view the modules’ resources” is a bit unclear; do you mean they click through to the next screen? Is “resources” a separate set of screens/pages, parallel to the stages of “Hypothesis” and “Rethink”? If so, perhaps there should be an additional separate paragraph that presents examples of the types of resources available, since this seems like the “research to assess your hypothesis” exercise.
Also, is “Rethink” being used here as a noun or a verb? I get the feeling it’s a noun. I’m not wild about grammatically awkward neologisms, since they teach/reinforce bad grammatical habits. (I admit: I am a philologist. It’s ten times more difficult to teach a second language when students’ grasp of English has made the language seem even more irregular and idiom-driven than absolutely necessary.)
Anyway, either “Hypothesis” and “Rethinking” would do (even “Thinking” and “Re-thinking”); or, “Hypothesize” and “Rethink”.
I’d be interested in knowing how students dealt with the question “What is missing?”. That seems vague and broad. How are they to know the answer? Did this question evoke the anxiety that getting something wrong on an MCQ did?
With respect to wording: Does the module connect to their existing knowledge, or does the exercise presented in the module do this?
Again: a good quality, or high quality, Rethink.
Rather, “In a high-quality Rethink, a student uses the Resources to connect the object to relevant themes in its historical context.” I think this is what you mean, at any rate. By dropping the actual student out of the sentence, the assertion becomes uncomfortably abstract. I’m not quite sure what to do with “engages meaningfully with the interpretations presented.” Whose interpretations? Those presented by the students, or those presented by the scholars whose work is featured in the Resources section?