Humanities for the Net Generation

Many of our “traditional” aged students already have the tools to compose multimodal compositions, multimodal pieces of art, right in their cell phones. They do not eschew the humanities, they just need someone to help make the explicit connection between what they are currently doing, and humanistic traditions of the past. Shows like Battlestar Galactica and the broadway play Spring Awakening have demonstrated a manner in which we can help our students make these connections. Not only do they engage the narrative across multiple media, like Spring Awakening‘s music videos for the iPod as well as MySpace and Facebook page and BG‘s short internet webisodes that connected seasons 2 and 3, they also ask their fans to participate in continuing the narrative themselves (in true Star Wars fan fiction fashion, one of my favorites being Troops). Both narrative franchises invited fans to remix pieces of material into their own storylines. BG worked through their website at; SA used Eyespot.

I’m excited to see these types of tools and “official” activities to engage students in multimodal competitions. I think traditional humanities instructors need to learn from these examples to help make connections to their contemporary students. For example, I love showing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to my intro to film students and then show Rob Zombie’s music video for “Living Dead Girl.” Being able to discuss how and why he did this gets students to think about why knowing the history of horror films is important to Rob Zombie, both as a musician and a filmmaker.

Ultimately, this gets me thinking about how I’m about to start teaching my early American literature survey class. I was already planning on using wikis to have students publish their reports and interpretations about the material they read; however, I’m not thinking it might be useful to have them really think about the work rhetorically. What was the purpose for some of these early American writers. If they had the same purpose today, what different modes of media might they write and publish in? Why? How would it fit their purpose and audience needs? Could be fun!

Thanks to a Webware post for prompting this post!

Sandbox: Does a techno-teacher need Dapper?

I had to watch the entire demo video; however, I think I figured out that Dapper allows someone to make their own widgets. I’ll be honest, I can’t imagine asking my students (remember folks, I teaching writing and film studies) to use this tool. However, I think it might be a tool that is useful to teachers building discipline, even course or class, specific elements for their webpages, course management systems, or blogs. The tool is not super-easy to use. I’m definitely saving it for a “rainy” day when I’m really avoiding grading, or really have nothing else to do. If someone else understands this tool differently, and/or imagines it being used in education differently, definitely let me know!

Sandbox: Pedagogical Images

One of the things that first wowed me about Flickr was the ability to annotated picture. For example, I annotated this picture (below). Now, linking to it from the blog does not carry the annotations. You have to go to the actual flickr page to see and read the annotations.

2view is another tool that allows you to annotated pictures…besides those in flickr. I’ve used 2view to annotated this same picture. I think that 2view allows you to somehow incorporate the script for the annotations into your own posting of the picture (like in this blog); however, I didn’t quite figure it out. If someone else does, please reply below! 🙂

Now, this type of graphic annotating would be lovely if I was teaching anatomy; however, I can image using it on still images from a film to talk about a specific frame. Obviously, however, there are still copyright issues. Ideally these types of tools work best with images that you have copyright control over. Ahh…if I were teaching photography a tool like this could be used for a student to reflect on choices he or she made in the picture’s composition. Or it could be used by an instructor, or classmates, to give feedback on the same picture.

As I continue to agree with my rhetoric and composition colleagues who argue we need to be teaching multi-modal composition, finding tools like 2view and Slidez, an online slide show tool, gives me ideas on how to teach, assign, and provide critical feedback for multi-modal compositions.

Sandbox: Tracking Various Web Apps

If you are like I am, having students demo all different technologies each semester, it means both you and your students have accounts all over the web. Tabber looks like a tool that can help an instructor bringing it all together. So, if you have students with multiple accounts (for example a social bookmarking and blog) this tool could be one way to tie it all together. It looks like you could tag profiles you subscribe to (with a class number and semester). Finally, you could keep track of what students are doing with the various technologies after the course ends. I’m always trying to figure out new ways to track student work as well as periodically follow up on their use of the technology…Tabber could do both. This could also be an interesting way to keep track of other folks (friends, scholars, etc.) doing cool stuff on the web.

Sandbox: Social Bookmarking vs. Social Annotating

You know how much I love social bookmarking; however, I’m beginning to think I might start having my writing students use various social annotating sites instead. The difference?

  • Social Bookmarking: bookmarks page, allows annotation, allows tagging, allows various social forms of sharing
  • Social Annotating: everything above plus clipping text, images, videos, etc. from the pages being bookmarked

Over the past academic year I have converted–yes, as in “praise be” converted–to the social bookmarking tool I loved how “social” is. It is possible to make connections to other resources, other people, through tagging, sharing, subscribing, networking, etc.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing with various social annotating tools. The difference? Not much, they just make it much easier to “clip” copy and images from webpages and take notes on the site. I also like that they allow you to word search both the text you clipped as well as your notes.

Some of these social annotation tools include:

And Google Notebook, of course, will easily transfer materials to gmail or google docs.

I’m sure some of my colleagues would be unhappy that these programs promote blatant copying from the webpages; however, its the same thing as highlighting and annotating on a hardcopy. I think this tool, paired up with something like,  will give instructors great tools to help teach students to summarize, paraphrase, and cite sources.

Sandbox: Multi-Modal Composition and Course Repositories

I went to this wonderful presentation at CCCCs about how a faculty member assigned podcasts in her writing class. Now, I am a stickler for saying that podcasts are periodically published texts; however, she had her students follow the general conventions that are emerging in the world of podcasting. (So…they made audio files structured whose formats followed individual podcast structures). I really liked the idea of having them listen to podcasts, and then emulate them to dabble in multi-modal composition. Last week I found this article about (oops, forgot to save the article). I wonder if we’ll start seeing video sites like this, or themes/threads within YouTube and Google Video that have conventions of short syndicated information video segments (or the advanced Podcasts, or videocasts). In other words, getting format and content conventions to emulate, just like with Podcasts.

Ultimately, I’m thinking it could be interesting to have students make short “casts” (whether audio and/or video) that would build, over time and classes, into a repository of information about the topic/course. This would be the same type of idea of having students adding to a course wiki that would expand over time as a resource for future classes.

Spock–reclaiming your name


If Spock works…it could be an interesting way for individuals to clean up their identities on the web. Think about your students with “2sexxxy4u<at>” email address, or, other stuff graduate students have done and don’t want found when they go on the job market? Although I don’t see this tool being anything that I would specifically build into a lesson, I can imagine having some interesting discussions about it, especially in my technical writing class. Our tech writing course curriculum requires that I have the students write a job application packet. I think it could be interesting to discuss the hows and whys a site/tool like Spock becomes necessary. It might also be a great discussion to have with students before asking them to open/start some new account.

Student Replay

Ever wonder why/how we lose our students in web based coursework? Maybe various screen capture tools will help us figure it out? Last week I read about Robot Reply, a tool that will track what web site visitors do while on the website and thought “cool, maybe this tool will work!”

I’ve wanted to have students screen capture their work on the web, especially after I’ve asked them to work with a new technology. Last year I tried having students download a free 30 day trial of Captivate to record their sessions as they were working with a new technology. Don’t ask…it was messy. I like this idea of Robot Reply, where you set up the capturing to be done on the webpage/server side…nothing to ask of the students. However, it appears you have to have a lot of control over your webpages to add a line of code to the bottom of every page on the website. This wouldn’t be a problem with CSS coded websites; however, it still implies that you have access to the website. The “new” tools I’m using are usually web-based and hosted off site. And I can imagine many instructors wanting to track how their students move their a course management system…yeah, get access to that base code, snort!

But I’m excited to find Robot Replay. As I played with it and a website I did have some control, a wiki I’m playing with, I realizing that the wiki has templates. This summer I was going to have students construct a class wiki. I think I’ll combine these tools and track what the students do this summer with the wiki.

I also found CamStudio, a free screen capture software, as I was writing this blog entry. I think I’m also going to spend a little time trying to find some open source screen capture softwares to re-attempt the work I did last spring. That type of screen capture work might have to wait until next fall.

Sandbox: organizing PDFs in iTunes–organize-your-pdf-library-with-itunes-240447.php

Wow…and I’ve spent lots of time finding stuff to organize web research, but this is cool! I’ve been sold on social bookmarking sites for a couple of years now. And now I’m starting to like these various “clipping” or “notetaking” type bookmarking tools as well. However, the problem with most of them is that they do not bookmark, clip, or save/cache PDF files from library databases. Now I’m trying to teach my students that research in library databases tends to be a little more authoritative, scholary, academic, etc. than what they find on the web. And some days I can’t blame them, it is a whole heck of a lot easier to work with texts on the web, than the stuff in the library databases.

So…why not use a tool many of them already know and love, iTunes?

As I read the instructions for how to do this, they reminded me of the major drawback…it’s just an organizing plan; iTunes doesn’t have a PDF reader within it. However, the blog entry also lists the major plus for using iTunes to organize research PDFs, tagging. Currently I have all my research related PDFs saved in the files with the projects that I found them with. Now, most scholars know that they use the same resources for many projects. By tagging, instead of filing, iTunes allows you to associated the PDF with any past, present, and future project it needs to be associated with.

The one change I would make…the instructions linked to above mentions that you could leave your PDFs in files all over your computer. That is part of my problem! I’m now thinking put ALL research related, heck maybe just all, PDF files into one file folder. Then organize them within iTunes as outlined above. And then, as also mentioned in the article, use Google Desktop to search the text in the files for the exact PDF needed. (yes, you read that correctly, once Google Desktop scans all your files, it can read all the text in your PDF files). That just gave me another techno-clean up for this summer:

  1. organize bookmarks in delicious
  2. finish digital list of DVDs (insurance purposes, ya know)
  3. dump all PDFs in one file & organize in iTunes

Engage Them!

That’s it…I’m tired of these types of posts/articles/etc. about how faculty members are banning laptops from their classrooms because they are too distracting to the students. And all this particular faculty member is reported to do in class is lecture and ask questions. Haven’t these people heard of the research that says people fade out after 15 minutes? Haven’t they heard of the various short collaborative assignments/activities or classroom assessment technique activities they can work into the class period to break up the lecture and engage the students? If this faculty member had consistent, formative assessment and feedback with the students, they would know whether or not they needed to lay off the web surfing. But, if this is a traditional lecture, lecture, lecture…and only mid-term and final tests…yeah, students aren’t going to know they are not “getting it” until it’s too late. In other words, I’m wondering if bad teachers are blaming technology for bad results in their classes. Technology used, and/or allowed, in educational settings can be both positive and negative. And we’re talking all “technologies” here, books, pens and paper, etc. I used to read pulp fiction in my High School English classes because I was so bored. If that instructor had asked me a question, I would have needed it repeated.

Folks, and I’m probably preaching to the choir with my blog, there are lots of ways to pedagogically “spice” up your classroom…and technology is only one of them. I’m forever grateful to various mentors introducing me to collaborative/cooperative learning, CATs, JiTT, active learning, case studies, etc. Generally, I find, I’m using technology to supplement one of these other methodologies, as well as the good ‘ol lecture.  And why not make the students with computers responsible for adding technological elements to the lecture, discussion, and other activities? Why not have them do synchronous collaborative notetaking or Google Jocking? Just as we sometimes need to teach students study skills, we might need to teach them how to “study” and “learn” with the technologies they only know how to “play” with.