Digging Diigo

Having just learned how to use Diigo (don’t make fun…), I am thinking about ways to use it in class to “get things done” that perhaps cannot get done as easily without a digital tool. So, here we go:

In class, when I talk about close reading — for content, for discourse moves, for language/grammar used to create the moves — I find myself going really old school. An OHP. Yes, really (don’t make fun). I print out passages from readings on transparencies, pass out pens and transparencies to groups of students, have them underline and annotate directly on the transparencies, and then present their results. I like the use of color, the tactile-ness of it all. I have recently tried this activity on google docs; while we lose the tactile element, the students can see and save all the annotations from all the groups.

Now, I want to play with websites as texts. Or, more specifically, I want students to.

I plan to find a few online samples of movie reviews — some written for a broad audience (Rotten Tomatoes?), some for a more specific one (educators, immigrant groups??) — of Spanglish, East is East, A Better Life, or some other film dealing with immigrant issues. And we will analyze/annotate the reviews with Diigo, focusing on the rhetorical moves and the types of language (evaluative and otherwise) used. We’ll see how it goes.

Next up — annotating videos — see the Ted Talk on Popcorn.

Alex/s and my homework: Thoughts on linearity

OK, more new digital media homework….

I was reading fellow digital media faculty seminar colleague Alex’s homework, and it got me thinking.

First, here’s an excerpt:
“’I want you to notice how hard it is for a person to realize how really unquestioning he is about the way he does things’ [Englebart, Augmenting Human Intellect]. In other words…once you reveal the invisible –automatic– linear structures that have been forcing your mind to think linearly, you are free to challenge them, and move on.”

And then…
“When I want to write something new, I rummage through these bits of information and re-arrange them to create a patchwork document I work with. A sort of essay cut-up. Each part acts like a node in a network. Then, however, I cave in to conventionalism and cover the emptiness between fragments with narrative and I allocate each concept in its place so my readers can access the one linear path I finally choose for them to access. I write an essay.”

And here’s my conundrum, what reinforces my ambivalence:
Students are assessed on their ability to synthesize all these bits of information, to re-arrange them, to cover the emptiness between them, to put each concept in its place, to create a linear path through Borges’ garden of forking paths.

I teach the essay.

I am an enabler.

Is this good or bad?

Creativity, Imagination, Originality

So, this morning, I remind myself to work on my homework for the digital media class I am taking, and — bam! — a story on NPR re: truth, facts, and Wikipedia.

INSKEEP: So Wikipedia is not a compilation of things that have happened in the world; it is a compilation of what reasonably reputable people have said has happened in the world.

In class, I was interested in the ideas brought up in our discussion of ‘original’ or ‘creative’ thinking: Since people pre-determine our paths through hyper links, we only think that we are coming up with new ideas. And I was interested in this discussion’s link to something brought up in our previous class — does the digital world expand our thinking or merely represent our thinking in a new, perhaps expanded way?

I am not sure where I stand concerning ‘original’ thought. It seems to me, at least as an academic, that thought evolves, builds off of or in reaction to previous thought. I know this is a bit cliché, but we are all part of an academic conversation. So, what came first? It’s a chicken-and-egg-like question. I don’t know where the first ‘thought’ came from (probably from repeated observation?). But, now that we have accumulated thoughts, the ability to write them down, and the capability to share more and more of it–albeit limited or framed by those reputable people Inskeep mentions–the possibility of original (read: purely original) thought is long gone.

I think creativity is a different idea. If we base our definition on ‘purity,’ original thought ≠ creative thought. Synthesizing, evaluating, and applying information and ideas in new and interesting ways — this is creativity. I know this is not an earth-shattering (creative, if you will) insight. But, I disagree with the claim that digital media does not allow for creative thought, just ‘fake’ creativity or pre-programmed thought masquerading as creativity.

Wikipedia: Yes, you can use it (in and out of class)

In class, students often ask if it’s OK to use Wikipedia. As a main source — maybe, as it depends on how well-referenced the entry is and how credibile those references are. But most importantly, it’s a great place to start. Don’t know anything about a topic? Not sure what people talk or argue about re: your topic? Not sure what is being referenced in a text used in class? Use Wikipedia as your secondary source for background information.

For example, in class this term, we read a speech by President Obama re: immigration reform. It was delivered in El Paso at the Chamizal National Memorial. This choice of location was strategic, but none of the students knew what this memorial was commemorating. And, Obama referenced the DREAM Act, Isaac Asimov, I. M. Pei, and Andrew Carnegie. Few of the international students (well, or those raised in the U.S.) knew who/what these were and thus could not see the persuasive power behind what Obama was doing. Wikipedia to the rescue.

Our next essay will examine DACA (Obama’s Executive Order — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Not much on Wikipedia yet, but the ‘stub’ entry does link to two good sources for background.

There are, however, many more interesting ways to use Wikipedia. I attended a workshop by Christine Tardy at the Symposium on Second Language Writing at Arizona State a few years ago. She talked about an assignment she uses in her writing classes that capitalizes on this forum.

For a description of the assignment, see Writing for the World: Wikipedia as an Introduction to Academic Writing.

For an interesting set of blog posts in response, see Changed my prejudice against Wikipedia .