Thoughts on Morville’s “The Sociosemantic Web”

Today for Critical Studies, we read a chapter from Peter Morville‘s Ambient Findability, “The Sociosemantic Web.” This chapter suggests that taxonomies are out, folksonomies are in, yet (given the choice) Morville says, “I’ll take the ancient tree of knowledge over the transient leaves of popularity any day” (p. 139). That was the one line of the text that confused most of us, given his overwhelming support of how links, tags, and other forms of metadata can contribute to our understanding of the web, but that was one of our only concerns.

A few things that the chapter raised, however, related to the ways in which we, as researchers and educators, find, use, and distribute knowledge, as well as what counts as literacy now. First, we talked about the ways in which we “traditionally” did research in school with 3×5 cards, encyclopedias, and card catalogs which then lead to a final, polished paper of regurgitated information. Today, students are (or, at least, they could be) working from Wikipedia, keeping Google Notebooks, checking out social bookmarks and blogs of others working on similar research, and creating collaborative reports with a wiki. In what ways does this challenge the traditional power structures evident in schooling, in general, and literacy education, in particular? Was there ever a “pure and good” way to do research, despite the clear and concise steps that we would like to believe comprises good research?

Second, the idea that the world was built on taxonomies and is now working in folksonomies (although we are not so sure there was ever a dichotomy) makes what we want students to do as literate citizens very different than what it used to be. It is no longer about memorizing one idea sequentially after another, but instead looking for connections — sometimes suggested by experts, sometimes by peers — and trying to synthesize ideas into something new and useful, not just to repeat it for a test. We talked about the list of genres represented in hypertext (p. 146) and the ways in which composing those texts on paper as compared to using hypertext drastically changes the task. In some ways, linking is the new way to create citations (although, looking at a list of someone’s references to see what to read next has been a skill that we’ve used before the Internet).At any rate, it was an interesting read and since Morville might be coming to campus later this year for a talk, I figured it would be good to write a little bit about his work now.

Notes from “Using Multi-Media Records of K-12 Practice as Teacher Education “Texts””

Here are some notes from another presentation on campus:

Using Multi-Media Records of K-12 Practice as Teacher Education “Texts”

by Pam Grossman and Anna Ershler Richert

In this presentation we will explore the use of web-based, multi-media representations of practice in teacher education. Both of us are affiliated with the Quest project, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Quest has been actively developing web-based cases of teaching for use in teacher education. Over the past several years, we have been looking at how teacher educators use these representations of K-12 practice in their teaching, and how both their assignments and the nature of materials focus novice’s attention on particular aspects of the work. We will introduce the overall project and explore more deeply the uses of these materials in our different teacher education settings. In addition, we will discuss how we have
documented our own practice and created web pages that describe this
particular teacher education strategy in our classes. Our documentation work has has provided us new ways to think about our students’ learning, which we will explore in this presentation as well.


Anna and Pam will talk about their work as teacher educators — how to put practice at the middle of teacher education in the university and not to wait until they are in the schools. There will be an overview of the Quest project, then talk about how we use these multimedia texts in our classrooms. Finally, they will talk about future directions for the project, both in terms of practice and research that could be done.

  • Project Overview
    • Making practice visible: the development of the CASTL website
    • Learning to use multimedia materials in teacher education, developing curriculum and pedagogy
    • Creating a community of teacher educators
    • Making the practice of teacher educators visible
    • Documenting student learning
    • Now we want to know, “so what?” What is the new advantage to using these tools?
  • Part of this began as a way to help teach English teachers how to talk about literature with their students
    • How do we get them to lead kids in student-centered text discussions?
    • There was a two hour video of a class discussion on the website, and it was a lot to see (it happened in April)
    • My students would not see all the work from the entire year that led up to that April discussion; how did the teacher get there?
    • We went back and videotaped earlier parts of the year, and the website became collaborative between teacher educators
    • Yvonne Divans Hutchinson’s website.
    • Where does this fit in an already crowded teacher ed curriculum. I wanted it to be more than show and tell, and have the pre-service teachers investigate the website.
      • I developed an assignment where I created a set of questions around the teaching of discussion, and I had my students investigate the site in pairs. People took different questions.
      • Second, they had to come back to our class and enact a discussion on their questions. The pairs were split so they could lead a discussion with half of the class.
    • Decomposing practice into constituent parts
      • Leading a discussion in the teacher ed classroom to approximate
      • Then, they had to identify something that they learned from Yvonne and do it in their classroom. They taped it and brought it back to their student teaching classroom.
      • Finally, they brought it back to our teacher ed classroom. They viewed the video, reflected on their experience and sought input from their peers.
      • We are teaching them to learn from the practice of others and to learn from their own practice, making the connection between the two.
  • How to help students grapple with the centrality of “knowing the learner” in secondary school settings?
    • One thing that I didn’t expect would be how obvious it would be to establish the purpose for talking to students about how they should love their subject, and their students.
      • They didn’t understand why they were taking adolescent development
      • There are many websites of secondary teachers that are teaching well, and I wanted them to look at websites of teachers who were having success teaching students of color
    • They needed to know them as learners in general, but also in the different subject matters, too.
  • There were three texts in the adolescent development class
    • One, a hefty text of course readings
    • Two, the voices of kids — talking to adolescents
    • Third, working with the websites of experienced and accomplished teachers of adolescents
  • The websites were assigned by content area and students were asked to investigate the sites alone and with partners.
    • I gave them a frame to look at the sites:
      • How did the teachers learn about their learners?
      • What did they find out?
      • How are they using this information?
    • You have to build things into your practice to get to know kids.
  • How can we use this information to create a professional learning community for teacher educators, helping prepare doctoral students to do this work, too.
  • Representation
    • What do we choose to represent?
      • Do we need lots of video?
    • What is the nature of the representation?
      • Do we need full videos, or just clips?
    • How do we design multi-media representation of practice to best support novice learning?
    • What central principles and practices lend themselves to multimedia representation?
    • What practices, assignments, and contexts facilitate learning from multimedia representations?
    • What are the consequences for student learning in approaches like this?
  • We can now look at all these representations in many ways and we need to think about how best to use them.
  • Q&A
    • Q: One thing that you noted was how this helped teacher educators have discussions with one another. How?
      • A: Teachers talk in stories, and the video helps us look at the fuller picture of what is going on within a larger context. It is a type of case in teacher education and builds on that work. Many of the teachers come back and want to create websites so they can share their work with other teachers.
    • Q: How do we avoid the trap of having teachers look at these examples and dismissing it (these kids are not like my kids, etc.)?
      • A: I have them look at practices, not the practitioner. I also have the enactment piece, so they will try it out, even if they are resistant. One student said, “I didn’t think this was going to work, but I couldn’t believe how well it did when I tried it.” So, they can all analyze it in some way.
      • Need to select sites and focus carefully on practice. The stance that you take on it, of the “images of the possible,” is what matters. Approach it from an inquiry stance. We know that the students are going to react this way, so we need to anticipate it and design assignments in such a way that they will be able to get something out of it.
    • Q: How do novices and expert teachers look at it? What do they see in it at different stages?
    • Q: How do we have students explore this in a social collaborative way?
      • A: Looking at these sites together helped students see different things that they may not have seen on their own.

eSchool news article on New Literacies Research Team

Here is an article that features a summary of the great work being done by the New Literacies Research Team. I saw them at AERA earlier this year and I think that they are on to some interesting points about online reading, especially in light of all the Wikipedia-ish concerns this summer.

Study aims to improve internet literacy
Researchers test new way to teach internet comprehension skills to students

By Laura Ascione, Assistant Editor,
Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Clemson University are in the middle of a three-year project to find a proven method of boosting the internet literacy skills of disadvantaged students. As part of the study, they’re testing a new way to teach students how to read, understand, and critically evaluate the information they find online, through a “reciprocal” model that has been proven to work well in teaching traditional literacy skills.

eSchool News online – Study aims to improve internet literacy

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