Marginal Syllabus Conversation – February 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM EST

Image by Hans from Pixabay
Image by Hans from Pixabay

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM EST, join my colleague and co-author, Dawn Reed, and me as we participate in an “Annotation Flash Mob” on the preface for our book, Research Writing Rewired. We’ve been invited to participate in this opportunity through Dawn’s collaborations with the Marginal Syllabus Project.

The Marginal Syllabus team is part of the larger Hypothes.is Syllabi Project, which “leverages web annotation to collect primary source documents by theme and organize communal conversation of those documents.”

Here is a bit more from the Marginal Syllabus’s “About” page:

The Marginal Syllabus seeks to advance educator professional development about education in/equity through the use of participatory learning technologies. We are a dynamic, multi-stakeholder collaboration among:

Hypothesis, a non-profit organization building an open platform for discussion on the web

Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, CO, and in particular educators and administrators associated with the LEADing Techquity research-practice partnership

Researchers and teacher educators from the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development in Denver, CO

While this group will work together for one hour tomorrow night, I am looking forward to seeing how the conversations Dawn and I had while writing will come alive with the Hypothes.is annotations of other educators.

All educators are welcome to participate, and we recommend that you sign up for Hypothes.is ahead of time, and install the Google Chrome browser extension.

From their blog, it also seems that the conversations might keep going on, and I am interested in seeing how that unfolds over the days and weeks to come.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Hosting #engchat Next Week

This next Monday, Kristen Turner and I host #engchat for a conversation on Connected Reading. Here’s the announcement:

Recently, a friend of Kristen’s on Facebook posted a GIF that showed the evolution of a desk.  In 1980 the desk was covered with items: books, newspapers, magazines; a fax, phone, stapler and tape dispenser; a rolodex, clock, globe, calendar, and bulletin board; and a computer and phone.  One by one the items on the desk evolved – and disappeared, becoming an app on the computer – as a scrolling mast of years advanced.  By current day, only a computer full of apps and a Smartphone remained on the desk.

The GIF represents the possibilities of a digital world.  We can, if we choose to do so, conduct our professional and personal lives entirely on, with, and through devices, and a recent Pew study suggests that more and more teenagers and adults are making the choice to go digital.  What does this transformation mean?

As teachers of reading and writing, we recognize that our own desks – and those of our students – are markedly different than they were even just a decade ago.  We accept that, as the National Writing Project asserts, “digital is,” and we wonder how we can help adolescents to become critical readers in a world where they encounter short-, mid-, and long-form texts through their devices on a daily – and even hourly – basis.

For us, reading is not an isolating activity.  Digital tools allow individual readers to connect to a network of readers; texts of all kinds can be shared quickly and widely.  Digital tools also allow readers to share their reading experiences – before, during, and after – with others.  In a digital world, reading is visibly social.

In our book Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World, we describe a model of reading that takes into account the networked, social nature of reading today.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.39.36 PM

This model suggests that readers encounter texts in a variety of ways.  They may receive them from others, somewhat passively, or they may actively seek out new reading material by surfing without much intention, stumbling through sites with some intention, or searching with focused intention.

How do we help students develop their comprehension skills as they encounter and engage with Kindles and Nooks, RSS feeds and Twitter, hypertext fiction and digital textbooks?  How do we help them to read critically in a world where information flows constantly?  And perhaps most importantly, how do we help them to leverage the possibilities within a network of readers?

As we consider these questions, we look forward to the #engchat session on October 5, where we will discuss what it means to be Connected Readers.

In the mean time, you might be interested in reading this recent feature article in NCTE’s Council Chronicle: Teaching Teens—and Ourselves—to Be Mindful, Connected Readers.

See you Monday on #engchat!

Update on 10/27/15: Courtesy of Momchil Filev, the video creator, I have updated the link of the video to the original file available from BestReviews.com.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Rewiring Research on Teachers Teaching Teachers

This past week, I was able to join in a conversation with my good friend and colleague, Dawn Reed, on an episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers so we could talk about our forthcoming book, Research Writing Rewired: Lessons That Ground Students’ Digital Learning. Enjoy!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Reflecting on Digital English in Taiwan

Screen Shot from Peace's Video Project
Screen Shot from Peace’s Video Project

With a little bit of time in Tokyo’s Narita Airport, I figured I should try to capture some of my thinking about teaching my Digital English Learning course at Shih Chien University (USC) in Taipei, Taiwan. As expected, the three weeks have disappeared already, and we focused conversations and class activities on issues such as online privacy, creating a professional digital footprint, participatory culture, media literacy, and, of course, digital writing.

Because I was teaching a course for the Applied Foreign Languages Department, most of my students were studying English. Yet, as with all students we teach across all contexts, my students in this course came with differing levels of proficiency. As the mantra goes, “we teach the students who are in front of us,” and after a few days and some formative assessments, I was able to adjust my expectations and pacing as I learned from them and they from me.

Having never fully learned another language myself — and having little official training in teaching English as a second or other language — I adapted many of the reading and writing strategies that I have used across the years, from teaching middle school to graduate school, and our shared efforts — me teaching, them learning; me learning, them teaching — seemed to work quite well. They produced more and more writing as the weeks went on, and that led to more participation in class. In hindsight, I am sure that I could have scaffolded more interaction in class, and helped them get to know one another better, so if I had that portion of my teaching to do over again, I would focus more intently on community building in the first few days.

Still, I was able to work with them in class as well as through individual writing conferences with many students (on the weekend, no less), and I modeled the researching, thinking, and writing process for them with Google Docs, Citelighter, WriteLab, resources from the Purdue OWL. This also led to modeling and trying a variety of multimedia tools that they could use to create and share their final presentations. Last night, they shared their projects, with most creating work with Prezi and Powtoon.

Most of the projects were quite good, and a few really stood out. One student, TJ, created both a Prezi discussing the positives and negatives of using social media and, embedded within it, he also produced a short live-action film using WeVideo. Using the example of a friend who got in a fight with his girlfriend via social media, TJ demonstrates the ways that he can compose multiple forms of media and blend them together to create an effective argument.

https://prezi.com/embed/dwciewb6g42e/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&PARENT_REQUEST_ID=e84402de13f4b43a#

Another student, Emma, took the idea of “remix” that we discussed in the class, and created a mash-up of news stories about Snapchat to complement her brief oral presentation.

As mentioned, many students used PowToon, and Banet’s was one of the most powerful examples. Combining critical media literacy skills with his knowledge of social media and fashion, he effectively blended images of fashion, his own voices, and elements from PowToon to create a compelling description of what the industry is doing — and could do better — with social media.

Finally, Peace found that he could not accomplish all his goals with WeVideo, so he turned to iMovie. Combining his own drawings with screencasting and other found images, Peace creates a thoughtful argument about the ways in which students can, and should, take responsibility for their use of technology in learning.

There are more projects than what I can reasonably feature here in a blog post, yet these four represent a great deal of thinking, writing, and learning that has happened in our brief three weeks together. I’ve enjoyed the experience teaching at Shih Chien, and I hope that you enjoy these students’ projects as much as I have enjoyed watching my students create them.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Notes from Michelle Hagerman’s “Disruptive Promise” Dissertation Defense

As the fall semester nears its end, I am planning one more round of classroom visits to work on our “Reading in a Digital World” book project. So far, Kristen Turner and I have collected nearly 1000 surveys and 20 interviews. We are still doing lots of thinking on all of this. Thus, I wanted to hear more about what research is showing us in terms of how students read online.

So, earlier today I was able to attend a colleague’s dissertation defense. Michelle Hagerman presented on “Disruptive Promise,” a study where she worked with 16 ninth grade students to discover how they used the open web, including multiple and multimodal texts, as they worked to find evidence and build an argument. She asked them to use multiple internet sources (of any type) to write an essay on radiation treatment (a type of integrative task is one that is indicative of the types of tasks students will be required to do for new science standards). Her method was interesting, as she used screencasting and a webcam recording to capture both what happened as the students were searching as well as their conversation (and facial expressions) while searching.

She introduced her “LINKS” strategies for working with students as they evaluate online materials, including purpose, source, trustworthiness, connections between and among texts, and other scaffolds to help them work while reading online. Hagerman coded “strategic episodes” in her data where she observed what students were doing during their reading and searching process. With her first research question, she was looking at frequency of strategies. In her control and experimental group, she saw no statistically significant difference in the amount or frequency of strategies that students used during their research process. She did, however, as a part of her treatment, see that those students would use pre-existing knowledge while searching. Using the strategy instruction did have an effect over time. Identifying important information was the primary strategy, and they would spend more time searching for information.

With her second research question, she developed an “integrativeness rubric,” where she looked at how students would combine resources in the effort to make an argument in their writing. Between the control and experimental group, there was no statistically significant differences in how students constructed their writing. She also looked at a case study of two students, and discussed the amount of time that they spent on different strategies. By the end of the study, the two engaged in a broader set of strategies overall; they used more strategies and had slightly more integrative writing. She noted some “disruptive promise” in the LINKS strategies, and demonstrates how difficult it is to teach these strategies; still even a nudge from teachers toward a more active stance in internet research would be helpful for students.

Hagerman’s work demonstrates the immense complexity of teaching students how to choose, comprehend, evaluate, and synthesize the many components of digital reading. It reminds me that — despite years of good work from the New Literacies Research Team at UConn — I am not sure that we are any closer, at least in K12 instruction, to really teaching the (digital) reading strategies that students need today. It also shows me how important it will be to teach students to use tools like Evernote or Citelighter as a key component of their own searching and reading because, as Hagerman notes, even if they use strategies it may not have an effect on their writing. In short, we have to teach students to use strategies and document their work along the way. Also interesting, in the Q/A, she also noted that students did not use multimodal resources, and that — in school at least — they are often discouraged from using anything other than text on a web page as evidence.

Finally, her suggestions for teachers are helpful, and remind me that we, as teacher educators, need to model this work for K12 teachers, too. First, Hagerman suggests that teachers think about complexity of the online reading process and do some think aloud modeling, just as we would do with other reading comprehension strategies. She also suggests that we use screencasting for brief clips demonstrating these strategies, possibly a good resource for flipped classrooms, too. Lastly, of course, equipping students with a set of online reading strategies can be helpful, and reminding them of those strategies before, during, and after the process of reading.

All of us interested in digital literacy should appreciate the work that she has done in her dissertation. I want to get my hands on the “LINKS” framework that Hagerman has presented and see if there are some connections to what Turner and I are trying to document in our book. Our students need a great deal of support as they learn how to read digital texts, and my hope is that the book can provide teachers with some specific ideas. Hagerman’s dissertation will surely be one resource that we cite.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

My Digital Reading Practices, Part 6

From Flickr: Some rights reserved by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

With the encouragement of colleagues who have read, responded to, questioned, tweeted, retweeted, and otherwise pushed my thinking on digital reading over the past week, I want to bring this series to a close (for now). There will be more to come as Kristen and I continue to work on our book for NCTE, and I am scheduled to talk with Heidi Perry and Sydnye Cohen tonight on the Reading Room webcast. I love the interwebs and my PLN.

At any rate, I am feeling the need to bring some closure to all that I have composed this week. And, as a writing teacher, I want to rethink that old adage that we should “read like writers” and turn it around to think about how we can “write for readers,” especially in digital contexts. This is not a comprehensive list, but just a few thoughts that I wanted to get down before my ideas about digital reading strategies escapes me.

  • First, we need to help students navigate different forms of digital writing.
    • In one sense this is obvious, but perhaps it really isn’t for our students. Reading a basic ebook is different than reading a webpage in a browser is different from reading an RSS feed is different from reading a mulitmedia ebook. In short, the device may be the same, but our comprehension strategies need to be very different.
  • Second, no matter what the format, we still have to guide kids to carefully consider their digital reading.
    • I helped my daughter set up her Feedly account last night and, along with cute pictures of puppies (which was easy to find), I also helped her subscribe to the CNN student news (which was not so easy to find). They need a good variety of text types and topics, and we can’t rely on them to use the tools to find this variety on their own.
  • Third, we really need to better understand the intersections between digital literacies and comprehension instruction, especially in this new era of “close reading” proffered by the CCSS. 
    • Because it is, quite literally, not to mention metaphorically impossible to keep students within the four corners of the page for close reading, we need to consider how digital reading tools can and should be used to help kids read, comprehend, and respond to texts in critical and creative ways. I am reading the Jenkins et al book about this right now. Also, I trust other teacher leaders who are on the cutting edge of thinking about close reading, like Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. We need to be vigilant in the ways that we describe smart digital reading practices, especially vis-a-vis the current conversations about “close reading.”

For sure, there will be more thinking on all of this coming from me in the next few weeks as I visit some classrooms in Michigan and as Kristen and I continue work on the book. For the moment, I thank everyone for your thoughts, questions, and contributions to my series on thinking about digital reading. I look forward to continuing the conversation.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Digital Reading Practices, Part 5

In response to one of my earlier posts this week, Will Richardson asked:

So without going down the rabbit hole completely, how do you decide what feeds to read, which Flipboard magazines to sub, which Twitter users to trust enough to follow, etc.? It seems like there’s a whole ‘nother layer to “preparing to read” that used to be provided by editors, reporters, authors, et al who came with a built in reputation of trust. How do we assign trust in an easy-to-publish world where everyone can create and contribute?

As always, Will asks great questions and I have been mulling this over since yesterday. Let me start a reply by backing up one step, then jumping into that rabbit hole.

What is Digital Reading Comprehension?

First, much of the literature on reading comprehension and the Internet has relied on the fact the most people begin reading online by doing a search. That is, most studies look at how students go about searching to begin with, how they choose to click on those search results once they appear, and how they evaluate the credibility of the webpages that they find. This is good work, and Julie Coiro is the person I trust the most when it comes to looking at online reading comprehension. It’s important to know when, how, and why people look at search results and then continue in a hyperlinked reading experience.

That said, while looking at how students evaluate search engine results and the credibility of individual web pages is a perfectly reasonable and smart approach, it is not the only approach to reading digital texts. Will and his colleagues at PLP have documented time and again the many ways that we can connect and learn online through social networks. That is, we don’t necessarily go searching for things by starting at Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Instead, we have others send us stuff (sometimes when we ask for it, often times through “passive” search on our own social networks, and, as is the case with emails from that one annoying friend or family member, when we don’t want it at all). This is not necessarily objective and neutral information from credible sources. Instead, we get caught in our “filter bubbles” and are likely to read and view many of the same texts that others with our same ideologies share via FB, Twitter, etc.

So, what does this mean for us — and our students — as digital readers?

Curating the Curators

First, I think we need to turn the tables on how we go about finding digital reading material. We need to curate the curators, both machine and man.

Yes, the Internet search has been and will remain a key way of finding new information on a topic. However, we can also teach kids to be strategic in finding curated material, via RSS, from smart and thoughtful people, but making that our own.

In some ways, is the difference between going to the library and simply looking for a book as compared to going to the library and talking with the librarian about a topic. If we teach kids (and ourselves) multiple ways to find good information, it is much more likely that they will find diverse perspectives as well as credible information. With the Internet, surely there are at least two sides to every story, and probably hundreds more.

Second, to fall down Will’s rabbit hole of a question, I would say that my own decision-making process is guided by two primary means, and then a number of secondary strategies.

Number one, I begin by looking for the topics I am interested in and will simply trust, for better or worse, the curated material that others have presented. Similarly, I will trust someone who has many followers on Twitter and also produces a variety of good tweets that include links, strategies, and helpful interactions. Perhaps this is a bit naive, as some people have millions of followers and produce nothing worth reading (the old, “what I ate for breakfast” blogging problem). In this sense, Twitter is not another form of entertainment for me; instead it is a source for personal and professional knowledge. If someone is just advertising a product or into shameless self-promotion, then I am not interested in following him/her.

The second way that I do this (and I admit that it takes time and doesn’t always work out) is that I follow some of the trails and see where they are going. For instance, if a colleague on Twitter for trust mentions another person and the context of the tweet suggests that I might want to follow him/her, that I will click on his/her twitter feed and take a peek at it. This whole process takes me anywhere from about 10 to 30 seconds, which doesn’t sound like much but really is an investment of time.

Similarly, when using a tool like Flipboard, if I see that story has risen to be “popular” or the app has automatically suggested another content feed for me, then I will peek out at it briefly. If it appears to be good, then I will subscribe. I have to trust the wisdom of the crowd, just as I would trust a good librarian. Yes, sometimes the crowd leads me astray (I could certainly benefit by decluttering my Twitter feed), but the fact is that I am a highly motivated reader with the ability to skim and determine importance. If I see something that is not useful, I breeze by, and the amount of good reading material that I get from my PLN far outweighs the bad.

Other Digital Reading Strategies

Another strategy is that I pace myself with the feeds. For instance, I may open up my Feedly to look at news from Central Michigan University, but I usually only do the about once a week. I simply don’t need to keep up on it every day.

On the other hand, the folder in my Feedly for edubloggers is something I check quite often, usually about every other day so I can scroll back through the last 48 hours of headlines. Over the course of an entire week, I may spend about an hour in Feedly and an hour in Flipboard, each of which may launch me into another hour or so of linked reading.

I also get those regular e-mails and my main twitter feed, which may also each result in another hour or so of reading. The rest, quite honestly, it’s just browsing to make sure that I am catching the major headlines both from more formal journalistic sources as well as my PLN.

During this reading time each week, I will likely find some new sources that — because they are being recommended by existing colleagues and edubloggers that I follow — I will, as Will states, “assign trust” to and begin to follow. Now, this doesn’t happen every week, as I have plenty of feeds to keep track of. In fact, it probably happens about once every month or two that I pick up a new blog feed that I really want to stay on top of. In that sense, my digital reading practices are, paradoxically, quite slow.

Lastly, it is often the case that I may see something in one of my feeds and not click on it at that moment, only to find that — two or three days later — I find myself googling for an article that I barely read member seen the headline. For instance, this week, I know through both my twitter feed and one of the e-mail updates that there was a major article about Murdoch, Klein, and the Amplify tablet in the New York Times. I didn’t have time to read it the other day, but I did catch the headline, I was able to quickly find it this morning.

As I think about how my digital reading strategies align with the tried and true comprehension strategies I listed the other day, I see some cross over as well as some areas that are distinctly different:

Activating background knowledge

 

  • Carefully building my RSS feeds and PLN to reflect my needs and interests, as well as opposing opinion
  • Setting up Google Alerts to be notified of certain names and terms that appear in the news or scholarly publications
  • Approaching my reading (Feedly, Flipboard, Twitter) intentionally each day
Questioning the text

 

  • Clicking on links to see original sources
  • Taking notes and pulling out quotes
  • Reading four ways: upon, within, beyond, against
Drawing inferences

 

  • Knowing the background and slant of the writer, his/her history as a reporter/blogger/scholar
  • Understanding the context in which the work is published (own blog, organizational blog, scholarly journal)
Determining importance

 

  • Skimming and scanning major headlines and stories to determine importance for me as a reader
  • Searching within the document for key words (Ctrl+F)
  • Checking other sources that the author cites
Making mental images

 

  • NOTE: this is not so much a comprehension strategy I use with non-fiction, both because it really is something that lends itself to narrative and because many non-fiction pieces are supplemented with audio, video, or images
Repairing understanding

 

  • Right-clicking to bring up the dictionary if I encounter and unfamiliar word
  • Searching within the document for the first instance of a term if I missed it in my original reading
  • Jumping to the end and seeing which citations are used for which rhetorical effect
  • Clicking back on a previous link
  • Clicking ahead on a link to see why an author included it, then returning to read that article after finishing my reading of the first one
Synthesizing information

 

  • Writing
  • Writing
  • Writing
  • Seriously, I write. A lot. Through my notes in Zotero, condensing ideas into Tweets, writing my own blog, comments on other blogs, and (of course) scholarly writing for articles and books. Writing is the best way for me to synthesize reading.

Conclusion

All of this is just to say that I do make a very conscious effort to curate even what has already been curated for me. There is no way to keep on top of everything, and I don’t even pretend to try.

Over the course of the past 10 years or so, as I have learned to use RSS (and, yes, Will’s original blog was the first one that I followed with my original Bloglines account!), I have pulled together feeds that are useful for me. Twitter has, to some extent, supplanted that. I try to keep a “balanced” reading list, inviting some RSS sources that will, I know, help me see beyond my own filter bubble.

Moreover, I actively use and adjust my online comprehension strategies so I can make meaning as I go. Often, as I wrote yesterday, that means finding key quotes and staying with one article (web-based or PDF) before clicking off to read something else. That takes a very conscious, active effort on my part, as the natural tendency is to keep clicking.

I don’t know that I am any closer to digging myself out of the rabbit hole. I don’t know that I, or any of us, ever will be. Still, IMHO, I have a good lantern and all the other caving tools that I need to keep exploring as a digital reader. I hope that Kristen and I can figure out how to summarize and share these strategies in a way that is most helpful for teachers and students.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.