robin_anne_reid: (Treehouse)
robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2013-01-06 07:41 pm

MLA 2013 Session #129: Teaching in the Shallows: Reading, Writing and Teaching in the Digital Age

Thursday, 3 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Berkeley, Sheraton
Presiding: Robert R. Bleil, Coll. of Coastal Georgia; Jennifer Gray, Coll. of Coastal Georgia
Speakers: Susan Cook, Southern New Hampshire Univ.; Christopher Dickman, Saint Louis Univ.; T. Geiger, Syracuse Univ.; Jennifer Gray; Matthew Parfitt, Boston Univ.; James Sanchez, Texas Christian Univ.
Responding: Robert R. Bleil
Nicholas Carr’s 2008 article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains argue that the paradigms of our digital lives have shifted significantly in two decades of living life online. This roundtable unites teachers of composition and literature to explore cultural, psychological, and developmental changes for students and teachers.

* * *

This title caught my eye immediately: I do not dispute that patterns of reading and writing and viewing have changed, but I do immediately get grumpy at the tendencies of people of my generation or older to go all Golden Age and claim that students/people now cannot read or do X as they used to do, and that it's all gone pear-shaped and bad, instead of changing. Why not say people who grew up in X time cannot navigate the new materials and develop the new reading skills the internet age demands? Why always the Golden Age, it was perennially better in the past that comes out?

This is fairly small room--one table in back for bloggers (at the earlier second language learning session, the room was twice as large, but only half as full). I am always conflicted: it's great to be in a full room, for the sense of excitement. But I hate being in crowds (I usually sit in the first row or so, yes, I am that type, which fills up only reluctantly and only if there's a crush). Now, I'm in the back row with one other person at the blogging (I was the only one at the blogging table at the languages one).

I am realizing I need a new toy: Fluffy, my netbook, is only about three years old, not even that (summer 2010?), but it slow, and clunky, and I want something even lighter and easier to work with. Summer paycheck is I predict likely to be spent on a new something or other--will probably go through Dell since we get employee discount.

This writing up notes from conference presentations is the easiest way to work--as long as I post (and tag!) on my DW -- my hand written notes are nearly unreadable even to me.

* * *

Rob Bleil from U of coastal Georgia.

Discussion at the end.

Slide before each presenter.

Conversation began with the Google article on bad impact of internet. Article spoke to something that spoke to him--started as librarian--doing technology, and felt like h was losing track of conversation. Marshall McLuhan, Media, and Nicholas Carr, The Shallows. Jennifer and I wanted to convene panel is because the references they saw were borderline vitriolic--a lot of venom being directed at Carr. This speaks to issues that we're seeing in our classrooms, talking about at our colleagues, and they'd never seen a single panelist at MLA that addressed this issue. This is the opportunity to get involved in this conversation.

Comic: Google Making us Stupid? First side of a postcard that Jennifer received in the mall in November, announcing Andrea Lunsford's new book, published by Norton, and I thought it was cool, but the postcard on the back: We don't think so," researchers who looked at thousands of pieces of writing done by students in first year writing in composition classes didn't find a single usage of students using abbreviations.

Carr doesn't mention it in the book or in the article-Andrea Lunsford's new book is published by Norton--same publishing house that published THE SHALLOWS. The PR department's not talking to each other. Need to have conversation.

Right now, without further introduction.

SUSAN COOK: (like the slide)

One of my grad school mentors taught low tech survey courses; she explained she felt students were losing their ability to focus and listen. She used an overhead projector, or lectures to the class. And she read. I was a TA for her 19th century survey course so I knew students had a hard time with absence of visuals, and focus on single text, rather than multiple ones. Graduate department is digital humanities one (Santa Crux?) In a recent article for INSIDE HIGHER ED they argued digital humanities has value beyond its status as a hot new field. Liu and Thomas try for well-conceived humanities conceived models of digital work--to affect university policy. I often think about two competing attitudes as resisting the shallows on the one hand, and seeking to transform them for non-shallow on the other.

Effect of juggler's brain? (term)

Explore extent to which I think he is right--but he neglects to consider that deep sustained thought is not categorically removed from digital brain. Can mitigate more deleterious effects.

Greater good of humanities.

Carr's argument through SHALLOWS is that our brains are becoming rewired because of time spent on the internet. Engages all senses (except smell and taste), simultaneously. The net in other words demands multi-tasking. Provides high speed system for rewards and feedback. Rewarded cognitively for moving through material correctly. Distracted mind, surface level attention at best.

We become used to new way of thinking, crowds out time for deep reading and thinking.

Read passage--to my two sections of freshman composition this fall. Before I started reading, I asked each class to pay attention, and asked them for questions. Across two sections, three out of thirty students were able to answer all four questions. Difficult to listen on reading aloud. Difficulty to pay attention.

This time, however, as a result, both classes of students that they wished they were able to focus. Shock and embarrassment of being confronted by their inability to pay attention, or cultural shift. This is a marked change in attitude. I conducted experiment in response to Carr--all-day writing. Prove Car wrong. I gave the students a separate homework challenge. Read for an hour without getting up or looking at other media. Any reported they were unable to complete the challenge.

Wide spread distraction in our students across disciplines.

Illustrate Carr's juggler's brain at work in the college classroom.

Upper level students asked to design collaborative blogs (Dickens, popular media, etc.)

Teach valuable skill to create live collaborative website from within an English course.

New technologies surround students, ask them to spend less time. Try to subvert them.

Ask students to analyze values of projects I bring into classroom. I want them to engage in sustained thought, but I'm not sure we have to turn away from internet to get there. Sustained reflection inside the class--discussions--outside the class, reflection papers. Locate hidden depths within the shallows.

Christopher Dickman technology, classroom

Classroom pedagogies bring up some more expansive issues, question at the end, to what degree do we have a mandate for long-term memory, and how can technology facilitate it or address t.

Crucial neurological dynamic: "cells that fire together wire together" Hebb's rule.

Foundational principle. Carr doesn't deal with pedagogy--he's paying it.

Connections are basis of long term memory: a mandate than when students leave classroom, they take something with them.

We're most interested is not necessarily explicit memory (content), but more concerned with for long-term transfer and what students can take with them, implicit memory Concept/strategies.


Memory formed: motivation

Three cognitive pedagogical that can help facilitate some of these connections, firing of the neurons.

Active learning

Doing the 'work' of the class in class
Activates previous knowledge,
Opening multiple neural pathways

Immediate feedback

Quick better, not immediate.
Time lost is opportunity for wiring lost: the more time between, the less chance for strong wiring of neurons.
Why people can get so good at video games.

Peer instruction
Thinking about thinking, but also ability to monitor progress as we go along.
Make work and thinking visible, and put it into contrast with other work.

Put their work out there, in contrast with their peer's work (most important), as opposed to exerts.

Teaches students who are working at similar levels with each

How People Learn, Bransford et al.

Composition. Practice summary. Good introduction to abstract and how the abstract system works in professional articles, in sciences but also humanizes.

We have a conversation about what constitutes a good summary; after that, I have students try their hand at summarizing an article that we can handle in class. Paste it into a common Google document (see here on the slide). Three of their attempts, so immediately they have 19 other examples of someone who's tried this task.

Then they have to pic two that they think have done a good job--not their own--usually get clear winners. So then we have a conversation about why these are the best ones. How could you improve yours, why didn't yours get the vote. This particular assignment has all the articular things: active learning, doing the summary, feedback in the form of ratings, seeing other students' work, guided reflection to see the metacognition.

This is possible without technology, but it makes it quick, and efficient, and have it a daily occurrence.

Pedagogical consequences:

De-centers instructor
Gives students more control and responsibility
Feels less like a sandbox.
Developing own skills, not just playing.

Double Bind:

Try to incorporate technology more and more: necessity of liberal tech policies in class.

Whatever you can put on the syllabus, my students bring their own laptops, and tech.

Inevitability of distraction.

Exercising control

Loss of student agency

Less likely to transfer knowledge.

To what degree do we have a mandate for memory?
To what degree does tech and distraction prevent in-class schema formation.?
Can we or should we hope to guide student memory enough for transfer?

These answers I think really change from situation to situation I don't think there's one best way of thinking there are multiple ways of thinking and multiple literacies--in what situations are they the best.

TJ Geiger II

Three tracks and a Reprise
Mixed tape

Jason Homerie's tracks and composition
Track 1; Most recent issue of Profession, presidential forum
Track 2; The Citation Project
Track 3: Story from writing center

Jack Halberstam: "unlearning," attention, collective action
Kathleen Fitzpatrick literacy online, attention, interaction

And both cite: NOW YOU SEE IT by Cathy Davidson

Halberstam we have to unlearn what we have always taken or granted, or what has consistently been effective. Attention, Davidson talk about distribute selective attention, through groups coming together to form collaboratives, where we all notice things that stand out for us. What we eah have noticed, new ollectivities, new understanding emerges.

Fitzpatrick cites Davidson book: where literary is happening these days, online, attention, interaction.

Distribute knowledge, distribute engagement with a problem. Not expertise.

Track 2: The Citation Project

24 researchers led by Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamison examines
1911 citations in
174 student papers from
16 different colleges and universities (community colleges to Research 1)


Type of source use (graphic)

When a student cites a source, when there's a parenthetical, an acknowledgement, what are they doing: are they quoting as they paraphrasing, are they summarizing, are they patch writing (substitute word, rely so closely on sentence source), (summary: three or more consecutive sentences compressed by half expressed in fresh language).

50% copying directly
Most of the time they acknowledge it's a quote.
About 16% of the time they are patch writing, failing to paraphrase.
30% of the time, they are successfully paraphrasing.

6% of the time, they are summarizing.

1911 citations about 6% of the time.

What does that suggest about while source understanding.

Where in their source material are they drawing the citations from?

46% page 1 in the source
Website sources turned into a pdf, and it appears on the first page of pdf
Very top of page 2, even with a bunch of blank front matter we counted that as page 2.

More than three quarters;"
Page 2 and page 3

Track 3; Writing Center

Student comes into writing center with report primarily a string of quotations.

She tries to paraphrase some of them but as she talks it out, she continues to rely too closely on vocabulary and syntax of the source sentence.

I turn it face down and ask her to say what she learned.

She tells me, and I say 'write that down."

OH, so that's how you can write a paraphrase.

Students trying to articulate what they’ve learned, they cannot move away from source.


Unlearning for students and teachers.
Attention: focused and unfocused.
Crowd sourcing and collaboration
Summary and paraphrase are important.


Assignment idea:

Selective attention and crowdsourcing summary

Skim and read the article….locate all the instances where your assigned word is used in the article. How often it is used/ What section of the article does the word appear in most frequently? How is it being used in various instances? How does the development of that term promote the larger argument? Re there sources cited when that term is used/ How does the source seem to be used to assist the author in saying something interesting or useful about that term/concept or about her larger argument?

Talk amongst themselves about what they've found -- same term.

Distribute groups: economy and cultural person.
How do all the different terms relate together, and then we reflect the end of the class about what does it mean to do this kind of approach.

Iterative reading: reading differently, talking with people. Read a text for different purposes at different moments.

What does the promotion f humanity value (engaged reading and whole source understanding) look like at this historical moment.

How do we work with the cultural changes and technological affordances to promote students learning.

Jennifer Pooler Gray

Carr and other social commenters lac the young users and learners' perspective - they deal with their own experience--but how interesting though that such concern and worry is shown to the young uses of the digital culture, but these voices are missing or marginalized.

Users are contaminated by immersion in the medium, and excluded from the social commentary.

Many students are asking students and faculty to read into the discussion of these issues (mandated reading). Carr's commentary is receiving national attention and value; however, the specific voices of those subjects he worries over the most are missing.

Study highlights omission, brings student voices into this discussion.

During this study, I shared the work of some commentators on digital culture, and asked them to weight in on their understanding. Age 18-22 Students had not lived in the world without the digital daily influences. Read and watched 2001 movie (most of them had not).

Carr references the works out panel has discussed already. Students provided optional feedback and response, I'll be providing a close reading on the main methods of analysis on the student's response.

Paying attention to what the student does can provide insight…James Paul Gee linguist explains function of this kind of analysis.

Gee: language exists so we can say things. Information not only one. Language does allow us to inform each other, but to do things and be things. In fact, saying things in language never goes without doing or being things.

Looking at student language not only tells us what the student is communicating, but the position and relationship with the topic. The writer designs the method.

138 piece of student witting.

Small piece of paper.

19 year old student. This is his reflective thoughts.

Technology presented as a companionship: WITH (technology)
Books not With him

Past vs. present: reads books/with technology

Word count: when dean recalls past experience as a child, 43 words long, punctuated his writing on his own. These choices, not my busses. Image re-created from memory.

Rest of his sentences come to an average of 13.5 words: declarative statement, state his experience, do not recreate any mental pictures. Longer more detailed description of his past, shorter in current situation.

Next slide is most alarming: shifting perspective between the past ad present.

NOW underlined on slide three times.

The dangerous aspect is how Dean positions himself revealed in his language choice: subject of sentence to object of sentence.


Objectified by technology, acted upon by technology.


No more I

"little chunks of work" adapt

Brief study: light it can exist on possibilities of opening up research to more student users.

Another student's work on Carr's work: "Jake says in his reflection I think that we the students are the most essential part of Carr's argument though somehow he forgot to mention us. Maybe the internet really is disturbing his thought patterns"


Teaching Deep reading in the Age of distraction

Deep active reading read the Shallows on IPAD using Kindle app. Never seen a paper copy. Re-reading the Shallows now, it already seems a bit dated to me because Carr tends to equate the demise of the printed book wit the supremacy of the web, and I think eReaders call this into question.

They raise the question of how our devices and apps develop to allow us to read in a variety of ways.

Orality of literacies, the need to convey analyze and respond to complex arguments.

The way we talk about reading in rhet comp circles is undifferentiated--title suggest continuum from shallow to deep.

Four premises or propositions:

Cartoon: on phone, I'm sitting here reading a book just to see if I can still do it. Need for deep reading is not going to go away for some segment of the population rapid silent reading is a skills critical in shaping the modern world--emerged in 111th century). SPACES BETWEEN WORDS evolution in the printed text from something that is difficult to read (no spaces) to something more like the text we're familiar with. Another development is conventional word order in Latin texts, and the rudiments of punctuation.

Before 11th century, reading is mostly oral, people read for other people.

Once silent deep reading became possible, it made possible that sustained internal dialogue between the reader and text whose fae in the digital age Carr is so concerned about. Development produced the modern world: first and important of developments like Guttenberg's Press that led to literate world, and made literacy necessary. It's the most efficient and productive way to generate, circulate and receive complicated ideas. That's why literacy spread so steadily and widely from the 13th to the 19th century in order to participate in this increasingly complex world, you needed to be able to read this way. And the rising middle class in 18th century Europe and America, this type of literacy became synonymous with literacy.

Now in the 21st century the capacity may be only one type of literacy necessary amongst plurality of literacies--it's still necessary.

Complex argument involving complex arguments are not going to go away.

Technology doesn't matter as long as comprehension is equal to demands. Not just casual browsing and hyperlinking--have to comprehend and responds to complex reasoning.

Particular kind of deep reading (different from aesthetic reading, devotional reading, close reading which involves analysis). Scholarly reading: I need to teach my students as current academics in an academic world, future professionals, and world, I need to teach them how to do this kind of reading.

Specific sub-skill: comparing texts, annotated texts, first stage in a writing process. Purpose is to contribute something new to a scholarly conversation.

Not just academics,

Jardine (?) and somebody else.

In-class work that extends attention span
Required re-reading
Note-taking strategies
Reading €portfolio

Brains can adapt.

This kind of reading has to be taught--the need will not go away.

First year comp, college writers.

Four techniques:

In class work
Read 3-4 pages silently
Answer assigned questions in notebooks
Re-read passage silently
Respond (freewriting) discuss

Required rereading: assign challenging texts and assignments that necessitate re-reading
Build time into the syllabus for required re-reading
Discuss the value of re-reading

Dialectical netbook
Quotation exegesis commentary Free form reflective notes/reading journal
Outlines, diagrams, or maps of an argument's structure.

Marked up text

Reading Portfolio
Complies evidence of a student's work as a reader
Makes reading "visible"
Enables reflection on student's practices as a reader
Holds students accountable as readers


Use pones to take pictures and post them -- reflect wok as readers.

Chase Sanchez

I stat off with a couple of quotes from Carr's book:

Page 111 people feel deep reading is worthless
Chapter 5: could not get quote.

World lit class

He was part of IPAC: books had the books.
All readings read through IPAD
1/3 would print off notes
World Lit survey Cour129se: how to promise deep reading and understanding in classroom.
Consciously thought of that during the summer--how to promote deep reading.

Quizzes/tests how to promote deep reading and critical thinking.
Move from summary to difficult questions
Reading and discussing literature
Gain something from class time.


IPAD had an effect on how I came o promote tee ideas through the quizzes and reading.

How did IPAD contribute

Enhance discussion of deep reading/critical thinking as COLLECTIVE

Convergence Culture
We have a combined experience

Can look p words by just clicking on them
Allowed them to look up information on author or subjects they did not know about in group discussion.

Discussion wise: it seemed to really enhance classroom participation and the relationship to the text.

Progression of quizzes--promoted deeper reading better critical thinking even when using IPAD.

Deep reading typically isn't a problem.

Ina actual classroom setting, technology can actually benefit the teacher rather than hinder student performance.


Deep reading is another way to talk about Collective critical thinking as opposed to individual deep reading.

Examples of collective internet learning:

1. Tolstoy's What Men Live by, explored religious figures and motifs in the stories, biographies and hyperlinks,

Nam Le Vietnamese migration to Australia: using Ipads in groups looked up historical accounts of he travel, ad found pictures of what many of these books would look like.

Conclusion: In understanding the difference between collective and individual learning, we need to distinguish between different forms of learning o promote deep reading and thinking in classroom. In actively pursuing these skills in group settings, one can safely assume that these skills can also help the individual in their own personal reading. The best thing a teacher can do in a literature classroom is take advantage of the internet in any aspect to butter utilize the tool as a way to support education and reading in a positive light.

POST PANEL: This session was one of the very best of the conference! I got lots of great ideas to use in my teaching, and I loved the overall attitude (at the end, I commented saying that I was teaching comp way before the internet, and the traditional college age students then were not more able to "deep read" and "think critically" and "write well" than now--AND the pedagogy was much lacking (no revision, all lecture). Golden Age nostalgia is junk thinking, and even worse in academic settings.