Draftback and Writing Visualization

FiveThirtyEight points to a neat little Chrome extension called Draftback that can “play back” any document composed in Google Docs.  As the author indicates, it does this by treating your writing as data, with each individual character entry or deletion (which are already tracked by Docs) being sequenced and played back by Draftback.

This could be a useful way to help students visualize the process of their writing.  What about a workshop session like this?

  • Students write drafts of their essays in Google Docs.
  • They share them with a partner or small group (or the professor) before class.
  • Their group watches each draftback animation and notes places where the author made specific structural, thematic, or grammatical choices that contributed significantly to the current draft, as well as speculate about other directions the draft could have taken if different choices had been made.
  • Then in class, groups conduct a mini-workshop with each essay, drawing on the specifics of the draftback animation for details in their constructive criticism.

This approach could help students understand more concretely the nature of writing as process in addition to product, which is something students often struggle with but that can help immensely in both improving their writing and increasing their confidence in their own writing ability.

Do I Really Need (to Manage My) Email? Follow-up

Thanks to those who were able to make it in to the Google Hangout version of my talk today.  Lots of good questions and comments about what works and what concerns you about using email as a tool for communicating with students (and others).

Here is the Prezi I used in the first half of the talk.  It’s fairly basic, but if you missed the talk entirely, it can give you some of the main points.

If you’re interested in learning more about GTD, Inbox Zero, or the Trusted Trio methods of email management, hit those links where you’ll find some short explanatory videos that lay out each method and their similarities. As always, there’s also plenty more out there that a little googling can help you unearth.

I also mentioned Boomerang, Better Gmail, and Gmail Meter, so if you’re interested in any of those, by all means, check them out.  Again, they’re aimed squarely at Gmail, but I do recommend working it into your routine if you can.

Speaking of that, I said I’d share with you my own routine, but time and my laptop battery life colluded against it, so it makes sense to share it here.  I operate day-to-day on a modified version of Inbox Zero, at least in principle: I shoot to clean out my inbox every time I open it, I do right now everything I can, I tend to write much shorter responses as I showed you, and I’m fairly ruthless about archiving old things.

A couple of things I also do that aren’t related Inbox Zero but are helpful to me:

  • I use the star function in Gmail (like flagging in Outlook) as a kind of “hold” folder, sloughing off emails that will take a while to deal with OR that I know I’ll need for reference in getting other work done that I can’t do right now.
  • I have my AC email forwarded to my gmail, so the two accounts are blended together seamlessly on my end.  This means I never have to use an app other than Gmail for my email.
  • I manage a few other Gmail accounts as well – one for the Johnson Center (acjohnsoncenter@gmail.com) and one for the Media Studies program (acmediastudies@gmail.com). This allows me to move files around, post things, and send out messages to folks using those different “voices.” I do not have these forwarded to my main account, as I use them relatively infrequently, but I could very easily do that as well.

There are probably other elements of my procedure that I’m not thinking of at the moment or that I intended to share in the talk today but did not.  Feel free to drop a note, question, or idea in the comments. 🙂

Several Points of Contact in the New NMC Horizon Report

nmc_itunesu.HR2015-170x170This year’s New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report just came out last week, and there are some intriguing points of intersection with the trends they identify and digital pedagogy practices and initiatives we’re interested in @AC.

For example, NMC identifies six trends accelerating higher ed tech adoption in the next few, including “Increased Use of Blended Learning,” “Redesigning Learning Spaces,” and “Increasing Cross-Institution Collaboration.” Each of these figures prominently either in the structure of the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant itself and as a topic of conversation at Johnson Center workshops and lunches, around campus, or both. Of the challenges impeding adoption, “Improving Digital Literacy” and “Teaching Complex Thinking” are both issues we have been dealing with for several years if not longer.

Among the other developments highlighted, flipped classrooms and makerspaces are both concepts that have been much discussed of late. Makerspaces, in particular, are an early focus of this blog, and chemistry professor Andy Carr’s flipped classroom experiments are supported directly by the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant.

I’ll have to agree with NMC that these issues will be prominent ones to watch at we move deeper into 2015.