Annotation Invitation: Writing Our Civic Futures

The last round of this year’s Writing Our Civic Futures from Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus is a chance to engage with the first part of writer/educator Steve Zemelman’s new book From Inquiry to Action: Civic Engagement with Project-Based Learning in All Content Areas. 

I know Steve through the National Writing Project and I interviewed him for my Middleweb column recently.

You can access the chapter via Hypothesis (free and powerful open source annotation platform) and Steve is right in the mix, too, interacting with readers in the margins of the text.  In his book, Steve lays out the rationale for student engagement that moves into social and political and community action. His emphasis is on impact in the local communities.

Come read and annotate and discuss the book. You can also read more about the Writing Our Civic Futures project here.

See you in the mix.

Peace (in and out of the margins),
Kevin

 

 

 

CLMOOC Annotation: On Ivan Illich and Connected Learning

CLMOOC Annotation: Illich

There’s been some interesting conversations flowing in the margins of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society as part of a CLMOOC annotation activity, proposed by our friends Charlene and Sarah. We’re using the annotation tool, Hypothesis, to “mark up” Illich’s seminal critique from the 1970s of traditional schooling and the ways students are under/mis-served by the educational system in the United States. I have to admit, I’ve never really read Illich that deeply, so this has been an experience.

 

And I come away from reading this piece over a few weeks with some lingering reactions. The first is that I find myself in a defensive crouch as Illich attacks traditional schools from all different angles, arguing that teachers are ineffective, that schools only care for students as cogs in the business machine, that funding is misspent, that curriculum is merely a means to keep young people in line, the entire educational system is designed to slow down learning.

CLMOOC Annotation: Illich

I won’t say some of his criticisms don’t have some merit, even today, decades later. But I felt as if he were attacking me personally, as someone who has dedicated my career to teaching and working with young people. It may be that I am too sensitive and ready to shout back (which I did in the margins of Illich’s text).

Still, Illich has some interesting points that do seem to coincide with the principles of Connected Learning — particularly around the concepts of student choice, peers as powerful motivators, project-based learning (which is what Charlene to first suggest this text for annotation, I believe), finding mentors in the field to help guide understanding, and building networks through technology to expand access to materials and information.

CLMOOC Annotation: Illich

Remember (and I remind myself), he wrote all this during the time of Mainframe Computers and microfiche files. He was envisioning an expanding educational system that allowed students to think and learn beyond the walls of the classroom, to follow their interests. He talks about poverty and urban schools failing their students. Those are insights to wonder at with appreciation (too bad I find his writing tone off-putting and snobby in its own way).

I’ve enjoyed reading and interacting with the other readers of the text, and marvel that there are more than 130 annotations (so far) about Illich’s views, and that many of the annotations have responses and discussions unfolding. It’s pretty cool.

And open. You can add your ideas, too, and reflect along with us.

I plan to head back in and make the rounds of comments, and think about how to keep the threads turning on our thinking. I hope to see you there.

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

CLMOOC Pop-Up Invitation: Annotating DeSchooling Society

CLMOOC Annotating DeSchooling

The deeper I am reading into Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society, the more annoyed I am getting at his view of teachers, like myself, in public schools, like where I teach. His accusatory tone and finger-pointing of the problems of the world seem to fall squarely on the shoulders of teachers. In some ways, this echoes the political landscape of today, with the kind of sentiment stated by Betsy DeVos and her crew, although the recent teacher actions are visible public counters to this narrative.

Which is not to say that every teacher in every classroom is doing what they need to do for all their students. There is plenty of blame to go around for why too many of our students are not getting the education they need to live the life they deserve. But Illich has all teachers in traditional settings in his crosshairs.

That said, I am enjoying the ability to annotate and discuss his book in the margins via Hypothesis, as a part of a CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Activity, and others are in the mix with me. I have just finished the section section and am moving on to the third.

You come, too.

We’re having discussions and feedback in the margins of the text, with a focus on how Illich’s views on education (published in the early 1970s) on student agency and individualized student learning might connect/disconnect with the principles underpinning Connected Learning. It’s been interesting to read this piece with that frame in mind.

So far, I see nearly 75 annotations have been made. There’s room for you.

Join the annotation.

See you in the margins.

Peace (off the side),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Close Read the World with Digital Annotation

My latest post at Middleweb for my Working Draft column is all about digital annotation tools, and how they open up a text to the world for conversation. In particular, I reference the Marginal Syllabus/Educator Innovator’s Writing Our Civic Futures project, which is underway now with its January text.

See you in the margins.

Read Using Crowd Annotation to Close Read the World

Peace (read closely, with others),
Kevin

Annotation Invitation: Critical Literacies and Student Stories

Annotation Event: Critical Literacy

As part of the ongoing Writing Our Civic Futures project, through Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus, a crowd annotation of Linda Christensen’s deep article on how she turned her classroom around to focus on the lives of her students is underway.

And you are invited.

The project uses the open sourced Hypothesis tool, which allows for discussions and annotations in the margins of online documents. Linda Christensen is also participating, so you might have a chance to dance in the text with Linda. The article — Critical Literacies and Our Students’ Lives — was first published by NCTE via In the Middle, and Christensen’s views about how to pivot towards authentic stories in times of testing is an important sharing moment.

I’ve been moving some of my annotations of the paper version of her piece to the online piece, via screenshots. But you can add text, images, gifs, videos, sound, and more in Hypothesis, creating a multimedia collage of thoughts and connections.

Critical Lit Margins6

I was fortunate to be invited to take part in a video conference with Linda and some other educators to talk about what she wrote and the nature of public annotation of writing, as sort of a preview for the annotation event. She was very open and insightful, and I most appreciated her thoughts when I asked her about how she was feeling about opening up her words to annotation in the commons. (see her response)

I hope you can join us in the margins …

Peace (in and beyond the classroom),
Kevin

 

Aw Snap — Introducing Digital Annotation with #BookSnaps

BookSnap Mentor Example

I ran across a reference to an idea called BookSnaps that seemed intriguing so I followed the thread to Tara Martin’s blog, where she shared out information about how to use digital tools, particularly Snapchat, for annotation and layering of media.

Watch Tara’s short talk/presentation about the idea:

I was intrigued because I am interested in finding more ways to engage my sixth graders with annotation and digital tools, for many of the reasons that Tara gives: the ways annotation focuses attention, how it helps us remember, how to it makes visible the learning of a text.

While Tara shares about Snapchat as the platform, I was more interested about using something within our students’ Google accounts, to make it easier to teach and easier to save. We are in our Independent Reading unit right now, so this is a perfect way to share the first pages of books they have chosen, I am thinking.

My sample — for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, see above — was done in Google Drawing and it all went quite well, using call-out text boxes for the writing and some images searches for the “stickers.” There’s not a lot of space, so finding focus will be key, as will setting parameters for how many overlays can be on a page. I can see my kids getting carried away with images.

Tara does have a video about using Google Drawing that helped me think this through:

(Note: Google has now changed the way one can take image snapshots within its system, so the direct method that Tara mentions in her video may no longer work. I used PhotoBooth for my sample, but Tara kindly mentioned a free extension by Alice Keeler for Chrome that takes pictures and puts them into a Google Drive folder, which can then be moved into Google Drawing. I tested it out and it seemed to work quite well.)

I envision this BookSnap idea as one of the first steps of our work with digital annotation, and the connection to Snap Chat (even though we won’t be using it) with layered text and layered image, and sharing, should grab my students’ attention. And sharing out books, and reading about what others are reading, is always a powerful sharing experience, made more fun with layers of annotation.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

If you are thinking that the use of Snapchat App is of interest, this video by another teacher (not Tara) gives a good walk-through of each step along the way:

Peace (layer it and annotate it),
Kevin

Hanging Out in the Margins: Print Text vs Digital Text

Annotation: Print vs Digital

I saw this piece via CNN that explores print text vs. digital text with learners and I thought it would be worth giving it a closer read, given my own interest in digital writing (whatever that is) and digital reading. I am using Hypothesis — an add-on that allows for collaborative annotation of digital text — to annotate the article. The nice thing about Hypothesis is you don’t have to annotate alone. Come join me.

Go to https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/06/health/print-education/index.html and hang out in the margins with me. You will need a Hypothesis account, but it is worth having, for sure.

I also put the piece, even though it more about reading than writing, into my occasionally curated Flipboard Magazine: Along the Edges of Digital Writing, which you are welcome to read and subscribe to, if it interests you.

Peace (print it),
Kevin

Sussing Out Ideas with Crowd Annotation

Annotation: Copenhagen Letter

I followed an invitation by Maha Bali to annotate a document known as the Copenhagen Letter. Maha had her university students in Egypt doing annotations on a digital text, and she put out a call on her blog to others.  The Copenhagen Letter is an open letter to the world by a gathering of technology and social media folks, and other “thinkers” of some kind or another, as a manifesto for change when it comes to technology. (Here is a link to some of the background of the conference and the letter itself).

We used the Hypothesis add-on for crowd annotation, which is such a handy tool for this kind of work. You can read through the nearly 40 annotation observations by following this link: https://via.hypothes.is/https://copenhagenletter.org/ and I suppose Maha would say, Come on in and add your own thoughts, too.

As I dove in to the letter from the margins, I found myself feeling mixed about the content. On one hand, the letter is a call to action as a counter to the negative vibes and corporate for-profit threads that seem to be changing the entire DNA of social media spaces. It’s clearly the voice of frustration in terms of corporate desires overtaking user needs. On the other hand, the content of the letter is so vague and so general that is seems almost meaningless as a call to action.

I noticed, as I read the margin notes of Maha’s students and others, that not only was I not alone in that critique, but others were far more critical, questioning many phrases and intentions behind the letter. Someone even shared out Aaron Swartz’s 2008 Guerilla Open Access Manifesto as an counter example of calls to action.

At the end, where folks can “sign” the Copenhagen Letter, I wondered aloud: Did anyone in the margins ever sign the open letter? No response yet. (I did not sign it.)

An ancillary conversation on Twitter pursued this frame of thought a bit more – about whether such a manifesto does any good or if it only exposes the fuzzy language of how we talk about social media and technology in our lives. I’m still unsure about how I feel about the letter, but I appreciate that folks took the time to come together, to recognize the need for change, and worked to articulate concerns to the world. That’s not easy to do.

I’ll leave us with a comment by my CLMOOC friend, Sheri, who is wise and always has insightful and positive things to say about the world:

Which leads me to share out news that the group behind Marginal Syllabus, in partnership with the National Writing Project, is launching a project called Writing Our Civic Futures, in which various documents will be open for public annotation with Hypothesis over the course of a few months. This project begins this coming week, so now is the time to engage in discussion and discourse.

Learn more about Writing Our Civic Future here. And read the first invitation to annotate a post by Henry Jenkins about youth culture and social media, and change.

And a bit about Hypothesis:

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

 

The Dilemma of Digital Texts: Who Owns What’s on the Web?


Close Open flickr photo by Kaarina Dillabough shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

An interesting, and quite challenging, discussion unfolded on Twitter this past weekend that centered on the concepts of crowd annotation tools and content that can found on the open web. Tools like Hypothesis (which I use pretty regularly) allow you to annotate most websites and blogs, creating a digital margin side area for discussion. The benefits seem obvious to me: crowd annotation provides a space for engaging group discussions about specific texts and ideas, generating new and expanded understanding of the digital pieces that we are reading.

But the provocative question was raised by a writer with a large audience (one whom I read regularly and support via Patreon): Who owns that original text (that content which is being annotated in the digital margins) and how much say do they have over whether the annotation should even happen in the first place? This particular writer used a web script to shut down Hypothesis and other annotation tools at their site.

It’s not a clear-cut issue, at least in my mind, and a long discussion on Twitter between nearly a dozen people (including the writer, for a bit, before they became angered by the discussion and asked to be left alone) revealed the complexities of ownership of content, and what relationship the writer has with their readers when posting something to the open web.

I find myself appreciating a writer’s desire to be able to control what is being done at their website or blog, and understand the sense of being concerned about what people are doing in the margins of an original text. Sure, comments potentially do open up that discussion, too, but let’s face it, the comment sections of many sites — particularly those run by women with strong opinions — often get overrun by those with nothing better to do in their petty lives than leave vicious comments and provocative, and perhaps profane, words.

The worry is that someone writing in the digital margins will be malicious, too, and the writer would have little (at this time, anyway) recourse. This is a legitimate concern, as any perusal of comments at YouTube will tell you. (Hypothesis is close to adding some new functions for flagging content and has been mulling over this very concept of writer’s rights). To be honest, I have yet to come across anything like that in Hypothesis.

Still, as much I can see the point of protest, another part of me (maybe the naive part of me, that voice that says look to potential and possibilities with digital writing) thinks, if you post something to the world via the Web, you can expect (hope/intend) that maybe someone will want to read what you wrote and maybe react to your words. Why else post your writing if not to engage a reader? (The argument against this viewpoint is that people do the writing, not technology, and writers should not be held hostage to the potential aspects of technology. Or something like that.)

I believe tools like Hypothesis give space for collaborative discussions, allowing the margins of the text to come alive with conversation and questions and associative linking that extends the thinking of the original writer. It empowers the reader, although perhaps that empowerment comes at the expense of the writer’s authority over their own words at that point.

Personally, I use Hypothesis to closely read online texts, to examine and think, and to bounce ideas off the text to others in the margins, who help push my own thinking forward or force me to re-examine my beliefs and ideas. Your text, if posted to the web, can become a source of inspiration for me, and others. That’s a real gift to your readers.

Clearly, not everyone thinks this way.

What do you think?

Who owns the text once a writer makes it public on the Web?

Peace (thinking),
Kevn

PS — There were other nuances to the Twitter discussion that I did not capture here — including the right to be forgotten in a connected world; obligations and compacts (or not) to readers who financially support the writer who is not wanting to be annotated; and what role a text has in the public sphere.

PSS — I purposely did not name the writer because they clearly were upset that their decision was being questioned, and I did not want to make their situation any worse. Besides, the individual case here is less important than the larger discussion.