Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sipping from the Digital "Deluge"

Here’s another plug for an NCTE book.

As I re-evaluate my students’ writing experiences, I must bring into focus an assignment that I invariably invest with so much ambition and excitement—and from which many students invariably reap so much frustration: the research paper.  I know a galvanizing research experience is possible: I have read about transformative project-based learning assignments, about students spurred to action by inquiry into their own communities.  But the vision inevitably gets lost in the execution, and I find myself as exhausted as those students whose voice and passion are diminished by the form’s considerable technical demands.

Enter Connected Reading (Turner and Hicks, 2015), another NCTE “Principles in Practice” book, which, in conjunction with Writing in the Dialogical Classroom (the topic of my last post), charts promising routes to successful research-based writing. Whereas Writing in the Dialogical Classroom maps an approach to habitual, reflective, and interactive writing, Connected Reading describes tools and practices that support the research process, just one part of a comprehensive methodology for teaching digital texts.

Among the authors’ objectives is to tame the online information crush. Their attempt to channel its “fire hydrant…deluge into something more akin to a drinking fountain” succeeds in these areas (124):
  • Reflecting on digital reading purposes and practices
  • Using technology to make social connections around reading
  • Using technology to research, annotate, and organize sources

Some highlights –

Reflecting on digital reading purposes and practices
The authors recommend students evaluate their reading purposes and practices. Many follow patterns of reading, passive and/or active, that they may not think about.

The book breaks down the digital reading process into three stages (paraphrased from p. 51):
  • Encounter the text in one of these ways: receive, stumble, surf, or search
  • Engage with the text: read, cull and toss, classify, annotate, revise, share
  • Evaluate the text: determine its value – assess interest level and purpose, find strengths and weaknesses, employ digital reading and sharing tools, prioritize reading over other claims on attention

Digital texts are likewise classified:
  • Linear – traditional print text (e.g., downloaded book) in digital form
  • Non-linear text with hyperlinks - webpage with links
  • Text with integrated media - webpage with visual, audio, and/or interactive media
  • Text with response options – webpage that invites visitor participation in forums or communication with the author

Using technology to make social connections around reading
“Training wheels” for writing and sharing reading insights (before posting reviews to Goodreads, Shelfari, etc):
  • Youth Voices – book review writing templates,
  • Youth Voices “Booktalk” channel – videos of student reviews

Reading discussion in class:
  • Literary circle wikis
  • Read Actively – web-based e-reader (public domain) with teacher-authored reading questions, teacher links to related content, reading discussion threads, and student commentary
  • Subtext – e-reader app with small-group reading discussion thread
  • Diigo, Ponder, Curriculet – other e-reader programs
  • Storify – to “synthesize reading” (122)

Online sharing:
  • Book reviews – Goodreads, Shelfari, BookTube, Quotev, Reddit
  • Sharing/interpreting books with alternative media – Toondo comics, Digital Films animation, Scratch or Gamester Mechanic video game, Glogster, “augmented reality” book trailer

Using technology for research, annotation, and organization
I was excited to read about these tools for digitally marking up texts, compiling and organizing research sources, and increasing students’ digital literacy:

Digital Literacy Practices
  • Give students a digital reading practices self-evaluation (see text p. 101)
  • Explain the “filter bubble”; introduce search engines like DuckDuckGo and Blekko that do not compile user data
  • Distinguish institutional websites from blogs: demonstrate using Technorati and Google Blog search engines

Research Tools (apps and/or web-based)
  • Citelighter – imports excerpts and bibliographic information from online sources; student comments on citation and exports everything to his or her document
  • Diigo and Evernote – to save and annotate online text
  • Flipboard, Pocket, Feedly, Clearly, Google Alerts – accumulate, compile, and/or store content on designated topics

Digital annotation (apps and/or web-based)
  • Google Docs or World Online/OneDrive – collaborative annotation of online excerpt/screenshot of print excerpt
  • Skitch – photographing, briefly annotating print text
  • Awesome screen shot – photographing text
  • Screencast-o-Matic –verbal annotations of photographed text

As promised, the authors maintain a steady, manageable stream of information about digital reading, including its application to the research process. I look forward to incorporating many of these resources and suggestions into my teaching this fall.

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