Sunday, November 20, 2011

Non-Linear Arguments, A Hypertext Epiphany, and Revising Revision…

Bolter opens Chapter 6, “Refashioned Dialogues” by starting the conversation about writing technology’s role in defining the relationship between the time and space of texts (99); the readings for this week, as whole, further challenge us scholars, teachers and future teachers to consider that relationship and how it ties into making connections to reading, writing and also students’ revision processes. Though he goes into the varying relationships that develop through reading and writing in addition to the players involved – reader, writer, content, the paged book, the codex, the linear order itself, oral performances – he gets to the heart at what we’ve been exploring all the semester. He writes “What is true of all writing is something painfully obvious in a Platonic dialogue: the form invites the reader to participate in a conversation and then denies him or her full participation” (104). With collaborative projects like course wikis, hypertext and Wikipedia especially, writers’ and readers’ relationships become more reciprocal, and with tools that this week’s authors suggest, now even the writing and peer revision process can become an interactive conversation.

While yes, the tools and approaches from the readings can certainly be of assistance to writing instructors, I do question Bolter’s attempt to constantly delinearize argument and writing processes. I appreciate his attempt to “shoot again and again” past a question, “always from a closer position,” (107) however the question he poses here (which I assume by inviting us to postulate, he’s encouraging us to see his side): “Why should a writer be forced to produce a single, linear argument or an exclusive analysis and present several lines of thought at once?” (107). Well – because without the linear I think writing can get passed over or shunned, as we’ve done with Joyce’s afternoon. Are we capable of following non-linear argumentative paths? Also, while I’m certainly not against non-linear writing – what Sontag calls “inventive” (quoted in Bolter 107) – I’m just unsure of whether or not others will understand or appreciate the non-linearist's effort. Sure Derrida’s Glas (Bolter calls the “antibook”) challenged readers to find their own a paths (109), but what does the “rereading” that we must do “differently” look like? I’d like to see this in practice. In fact, I’d like to experience this myself (or did I with House of Leaves?…hmmm). I typically appreciate anything that goes against the proverbial grain, but I am curious: Why such great efforts to depart from the linear?… Should we, can we, or do we already teach the non-linear? I could certainly brainstorm both sides, but I’m wondering what you all think.

Confession: I am now a fan of developing hypertext.

The more I think about how it can be used by students in our classrooms, the more I’m keen on students developing their own hypertexts (as we did), and the more I hope to work with it in the future. Bolter ponders the Hypertextual Essay, though he also notes that they “remain uncommon” (111). I’m not entirely sure how I might teach a hypertexual essay assignment, although I do think there are benefits (and drawbacks). Bolter is sure to tell us, too, that “only the most consciously avant-garde” scholars produce hypertextual essays about their work with new media (which, I’m betting, involved hypertext). However – I bet someday, maybe even soon, the benefits in teaching students to work closely with hypertextual writing assignments will equal those of non-hypertextual assignments. While “hyperlinking could alter the form of the argument” (112) which scholars may not be too keen on, I do think hyperlinking could be used in some of Kajder’s projects. As I was thinking about hypertext and the problematic time constraints I might encounter with the Visual Read Aloud (Kadjer 44), I had thought: What if a hypertext project took the place of the visual read aloud? What if asking students to show a definition through their own eyes consisted of breaking down ideas into a series of hyperlinks to fine art pieces that represented how they saw the word? Karen Gallas claims, “to read a text with understanding and insight, we must move inside the text, pulling our life along with us and incorporating the text and our lives into a new understanding of the world” (quoted in Kadjer 51) – could this somehow be addressed by students’ building of hypertexts that may include hyperlinked photos, blog posts and perhaps accounts of current events that add to their understanding of a reading? (Or maybe this!) Pacey, Kajder's student, showed some signs of self-actualization having done his “Talking the Text” (36) – could we get this through a hypertext? With the right scaffolding, perhaps we could bring Kajder’s approaches into our classrooms more readily while guiding students on their journeys in keeping up with the digital age.

This leads to the conversation having to do the relationships between student writer, the revision process, and the instructor (this is actually what I’d like to do my own empirical research with at some point). I now see through Eyman and Reilly’s collection of research and through Kirtley’s findings that perhaps there are more (and maybe better) ways to teach the revision process (and reflection there of) than on paper and by hand (although, that’s my method for this very blog post). While I love this method, I admit, I appreciate the points presented. Even with “thoughtful instruction” (Eyman and Reilly 104), I know my students only revise on the sentence and surface level at times. While I am very explicit about digging deeper, and while other students get to the re-thinking I ask for, others don’t – and they are the ones that need it the most, I’m sure. My gut reaction to the simplicity of the Cut and Paste ideas are ones of skepticism; in thinking about the practicality, though – I’m game. I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down. Building on how I currently ask students to write two separate introductions to their narratives, it might be helpful for students to use whatever conclusion they come to to then rewrite, say, the first page of their narrative. Also, I can see the value in the AutoSummarize tool as well as the passive voice tool, and the Track Changes options, but I have to also question whether or not this is skipping a crucial step in students being able to enter this process on their own (with our modeling). I’m not sure...(what about UMBs “buy a lot of pens” street cred?). Are any of you using these tools in peer revision process? I could brainstorm ways to build them in, but I’d love to hear what you are all doing, or what you think you could do. GoogleDocs, too, I know Kellie has mentioned her use of this tool but as with all technology, we encounter a few snares and snags.

Finally – just a few things about Kirtley’s study. This is the type of study I’ve been contemplating and building in my head for about a year and a half (somewhat). Interesting. Oddly, in thinking about the mindset of the college senior in 2001 – that was me. This gave me an interesting perspective – I both loved and loathed what she had to say. Shamefully, I found myself judging the nay-sayers and the “have-nots” (217). I would have been a have-not but my attitude about working with or on computers were nothing like that of Lulu. I’m certainly hoping that the “idea of listening to the students” (211) wasn’t a novel one, but more importantly I do think it’s interesting how Kirtley incorporated her students’ input on her study. And she took input from them and met them where they at in terms of her approach to “Writing and Technology.” Those things matter to me. I’m unsure, however, if the study holds weight considering she had only 11 students (at class’s end). I’m no statistician, and I certainly understand quality over quantity, but I’d love to see how a larger population study affects the outcome here (who’s up for collaboration?). One great idea I got from this is relates to her reference to teachers inviting their students to write letters at the start of the semester (223); I will have assigned three letters by the end of this semester, none dealing digital literacy. Perhaps in coming semesters I will assign a brief letter/autobio asking for not only reading and writing experiences, but also a sort of digital literacy component. We owe it to our future scholars to provide further experiences with digital literacies. We can meet them wherever they are at…

As I leave you with this lengthy account of this week – here are questions to ponder in starting the discussion of the non-linear, more hypertext, and the revision process:

1. What are your thoughts on written non-linear argument? Is there are place for it in our classrooms? (It even feels odd to ask this as though I made it up…but I didn’t, right? Maybe I missed something!)

2. Do you think hypertextual essay will eventually be valuable, or maybe even considered more of a mainstream type of writing assignment?

3. What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?

4. How might you use your own digital literacies to help your students overcome fears or hesitations about working with digital media and/or online tools?

Bolter, J.D. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Eyman, D. & Colleen Reilly. Revising with Word Processing/Technology/Document Design

Kajder, S. Brining the Outside In. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2006. Print.

Kirtley, S. Students View on Technology and Writing: The Power of Personal History. Computers and Composition 22 (2005): 209-230.


  1. Lindy, awesome post! You have clearly thought about the theories we read about and applied it to the real world of teaching. In regards to the revision process as a whole, I agree with Eyman and Reilly about a lot of things. They talk about how it’s hard to see the draft as a cohesive whole on the screen and that printing it out can make revising a lot easier. They say, “A printout will allow us to better see the connections between the major parts of our work and to judge the work’s unity and coherence” (104). When I revise my own papers, I have to have a printed version—I cannot think about my ideas or move things around until I can flip pages and see it printed in front of me so I can physically make notes on it. This makes it easier for me to then go on a word document and move things around, add, delete, tweak, or what not.

    This brings me to the features of word processing that Eyman and Reilly also discuss. I never really thought about how the cut and paste options can help students in revision. They state, “Many early adopters of word-processing applications in writing classes pointed to this feature as an indicator of the possibilities for deep revision as opposed to surface revision because the actual work of moving text had become both simple and immediate” (105). I haven’t thought about the idea of cutting and pasting as an integral part of revising; however, in the tutoring seminar, we learned about salvaging and how important it is for students to know that their work is valued and that something they wrote in their first draft can be carried over or elaborated on for deeper analysis. When I am tutoring, I notice the relief on their faces when we do salvage what they have especially when we talk about how they can expand it to make it clearer or have a deeper meaning. Students should also see this connection with the cut and paste since it’s such a widely used option in word processing—maybe if they were more aware of what this option actually allows them to do, they could think about revision in a new way.

    One other aspect of word processing that stuck out to me was the highlighting and commenting features. I know this is fairly new especially for some teachers who use it, but I think it can do great things. In your post, you write, “I know my students only revise on the sentence and surface level at times” and I think the highlighting and commenting feature could help with this. When I was an undergrad, my Issues in Teaching Writing professor would send us a one page single spaced typed narrative for comments on everything we handed in. I cannot imagine the time she put into doing this, but it was extremely beneficial! I was never confused about what she meant here or what was unclear there because she pulled examples from my writing and explained how it was strong or weak. I know it’s hard to find the time to do something like this especially in high school when you have over 100 students, but I think adapting something similar to this would be very helpful for students and make them feel more comfortable or rather less confused about revising.

    Going off this, I wonder if students would “dig deeper” if we had them comment or rather respond to teacher comments. Ask them what they think it means, how they think they could enhance or elaborate on this, what this means for the larger picture in their writing. I think this would give students a better opportunity to understand teacher comments and think about how to revise in a meaningful, rich way.

  2. 1. What are your thoughts on written non-linear argument? Is there are place for it in our classrooms?

    My concern with non-linear argument is that I think it becomes hard to follow. The point of a linear argument or any argument is that it follows logically. Theoretically, any reader could pick it up and regardless if they agreed or disagreed, they would be able to trace the idea from one logical step to the next. This raises the question if a non-linear argument can still be logical? My first answer is no, but I am more than willing to be proven wrong on this one.

    I actually find that my students are composing non-linearly, which is part of the problem with their writing. They have one idea after another that all connect to the topic and don’t connect to each other. They allow their fingers to type anything that may be even remotely related and then hand it in. I suppose eventually if they kept going on each tangent everything would end in the same place, but the problem with my students is they stop writing long before they get there.

    3. What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?

    In my classroom I have only used Track Changes. In some ways it is easier to make comments on papers this way because I can locate the exact point where I want to make my comment or identify an error. Sometimes correcting the mistake provides a visual on how their paper is supposed to look, like with format or something. I don’t think it is any more or less useful than handwriting notes other than the fact that it’s faster. I can comment on an electronically submitted paper much faster than I can a paper copy, simply because I type faster than I write. I also think it’s quicker for students too. They seem to not have the time nor the patience to sit and discuss their papers and would much rather just receive my notes and do it on their own time. In this way Track Changes has allowed me to accomplish my goals in their time span.

    4. How might you use your own digital literacies to help your students overcome fears or hesitations about working with digital media and/or online tools?

    I realize I have to admit that digital fears or hesitations may be a real problem in regards to my students’ ability to learn. However there is a part of me that struggles with the idea that this is entirely the teacher’s problem. I’m sure digital technology is not the only area in which students have hesitations, in fact I bet they have fears about any subject that they are not ‘good at’. But, as a student when you come across something that is new or somewhat confusing do you simply refuse to do the project? Just like any new concept, teachers must slowly ease students in, providing support and building off what they already know. How is using technology any different? And why are we so surprised that a few students have hesitations? I think it keeps coming back to the idea that students need to take responsibility for their own learning. When that happens they will have a desire to master the new material, conquer their fears and demonstrate their new abilities and knowledge.

  3. Lindy,
    You raise some interesting questions regarding the nature of student writing and technology. I particularly like question 3, “What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?” I can speak to this question easily because I’ve experimented with some of these tools in various ways.

    As a teacher, I’ve used Track Changes to edit research paper assignments. I can’t say it made the process of correcting less painful or more fruitful. Making the corrections myself was the major drawback. Instead of simply underlining a phrase and giving some vague advise, I had to rewrite everyone’s research paper. This took quite some time. The real shocker came when many students didn’t even take the time to respond, revise, or accept my changes. At that point I decided to pick up the red pen and join the ranks of my colleagues. So much for going against the grain!

    However, these recently developed writing tools have opened new doors in a professional capacity. More often than not, I use Track Changes to revise, edit, or augment a course curriculum. The English Department at my school uses common assessments and common curriculum maps. This supposedly creates an environment where all teachers are responsible for teaching the same skills. These curriculum maps also include resources, texts, and timelines. Having a common curriculum levels the playing field for all teachers and cuts down on students ‘teacher shopping’ in Guidance.

    To make a long story short, Track Changes helps make the editing process slightly more bearable. Instead of having a few different printed copies of a curriculum map, we can make edits and submit them to the Curriculum Coordinator. From there, she can assess what changes are necessary and adjust accordingly. Without a tool like Track Changes, this task would be less democratic and profoundly arduous. At one point, we even incorporated Google Docs into the process. Since we don’t have as much time to develop curriculum, some of these ideas have been nixed.

  4. I love the responses thus far. I have zero experience teaching the revision process with technological tools, nor have I ever really used them for my own work.

    Nicole: Thanks for sharing your experiences being on the student end of class where a teacher uses the highlighting for pointing to comments (I actually just got a paper back from Cheryl - SHE used it in the same way). I'm sure it helps students see exactly where they need to give attention to their writing. I'm definitely going to try that at some point. (Although I think this means that I am responsible for printing, say, 20 papers. Hmmmm...)

    Melody: RE: your response to question 4 - I know exactly what you mean about not quite knowing if it's the teacher's responsibility to get students over the hump in working with technology. You're right in that teachers should definitely ease the students who are hesitant in to working with new tools, but in the end they are responsible for their learning. You hit the nail on the head there, for sure. Some of them, no matter how apprehensive, will push forward through their fears no matter the challenge. (I assume that's exactly what we've all done to get to where we're at, right?) Interesting.

    Jay: I'm psyched that you spoke about the positives in your experiences with the Track Changes (and how it alleviates what could be a continually tedious task). Thank you! I didn't even know it existed and couldn't quite imagine how I might use it yet. I'm surprised though that students didn't jump on the tech-train and even look at your changes with you used the Track Changes. Maybe not having a tangible paper with comments to hold in front of their eyes kept them from engaging in your changes? Hmmmm. At some point maybe you can turn around for a second try and show students its benefits - maybe tell your own story (perhaps you have). Maybe it's not worth the time, though...? I would think that modeling to show what using the tool "looks like" might add to their buy-in. Apparently though...maybe not. Thanks for sharing both sides.

  5. What a comprehensive post, Lindy! You really do an excellent job of addressing ALL of the readings (not required, but appreciated) and linking to relevant sites.

    There's much I would like to say, but I'll limit it to two points/questions you raise:

    1. Non-linear argument: I agree that Bolter pushes this too hard. In fact, I don't think he's precise enough in defining what "non-linear" is. For example, in which way is Joyce's afternoon non-linear? I would argue that it forces readers to follow a more oppressively linear path than a printed book does. As a reader in Joyce's hypertext, we cannot stray from a path. Most hypertexts do encourage alternatives, but they are still fundamentally linear. I think "multilinear" is a better term. That said, I do agree that the hegemony of the traditional "linear argument" needs to be questioned. I often allow students to write what I call "commentaries" which are disconnected analyses of a literary text we are reading (particularly if it is a difficult one.) I've found that this encourages close reading as exploration rather than argumentation, which frees students to explore all possibilities rather than just arbitrarily choosing one and sticking to it.

    2. Track changes and comment features: As some of you know from previous courses with me, I use these regularly. It's funny - I'm realizing just now that you have not submitted one traditional word-processed paper to me this semester in which you would have witnessed this! In particular, the comment feature in Word is my bread and butter for response, mainly for the reason that Melody uses it: it's fast and efficient. Based on student feedback, students appreciate this method because it allows me to clarify comments that are often mystifying in handwritten form (my poor penmanship doesn't help). I've also found that students respond better in revision. As for Track Changes, the results for me have been mixed, I think for the reasons Jay suggests. The biggest obstacle is one that Eyman and Reilly address: it requires precise attention by the writer. If they don't click the button before making changes, you can't see them all. Also, many of them don't know they have to accept changes. And finally, many students are annoyed by the visual (red/blue) on the screen because they don't know how to "hide" the changes during revision. I actually think that as more and more teachers and writers use this feature, it will become a more naturalized part of the writing process. Right now, its use is sporadic, so it has not become normalized for our students yet. I am curious to hear from others of you about your opinions of these features.

  6. Lindy, I was really excited to see the revision topic for this week and enjoyed reading your posting that raises the questions, “Should we integrate new writing practices such as the hypertext essay into teaching the revision process?.” and “How should we teach the revision process in order to allow students the best opportunity for writing success?.” Similar to you, I’ve always been more of a print the essay out and revise it by hand type of person, but I see that more and more students are editing as they type in Microsoft Word. When I ask for my students’ drafts to their final essay, they will either turn in a copy that looks identical to the original or not turn one in at all, telling me that they revise as they write.

    Eyman and Reilly, in “Revising with Word Processing/Technology/Document Design” quote Daniel Kies who states that “Printing a draft, often and regularly, is the only way to see the work holistically. A printout will allow us to better see the connections between the major parts of our work and to judge the work’s unity and coherence” (104). Kies’s opinion on the printed copy versus the digital version seems comparable to some people’s opinions about the effectiveness of reading the printed text over the digital text. When it comes down to it, I think that a good amount of this has to deal with a matter of opinion as well as student’s individual learning styles.

    I have one student in my class who has not submitted a writing assignment for me all quarter and for the little that he does in class and I ask him to revise, he shows no signs of revision. However, when we went to the computer lab last week to experiment with our class’ new wiki, he was eagerly and actively typing. He even responded to his peer’s responses and corrected words that he saw as misspelled. He reminds me of Pacey, who Kajder discusses, in his lack of connection with reading and doing it to get it done, but once my student was in his element—writing online and communicating with others—he was not only responding but showing thoughtfulness in his responses to his peers. Although this is only one example, I do see how non-linear ways of revising and writing in a digital context can help students. I do believe though that traditional writing practices must still be valued just like reading from printed texts.

  7. Lindy, I had a real ah-ha moment while reading your post. But before I get into that, I need to hop briefly onto a soap box:

    The more I think about it, the more I dislike the term “linear” when applied to writing philosophies. Unless we continually write about the same thing in the same way, which we don’t, we’re just not moving our writing in a linear way. If we were to graph a linear writing, the line representing our ideas would be straight, flatlined; a true linear writing would be lifeless.

    What we consider to be a linear essay, writing process, or pre-writing technique actually unfolds and develops--and if we connote linearity to include development, we must account for a nearly exponential amount of ideas, which would depart us from reason. To think in a linear way, in the literal sense, would mean to think in a circular way. And not in the sense of recursion. Recursion brings us back to something old in light of something new. Circularity in the form of linear thinking is revisiting something old in light of that same something old. To escape the threat of linear exponentiality, we have to form relationships, and know why we are forming those relationships. We do this by touching base with what we already know to be rational, through recursion. OK, rant over.

    About digital revision:

    This is something I have been thinking about for three weeks, because I need to find some real solutions for digital revision techniques to include into my MA final project. So far, this week’s readings gave me no new ideas. But your post opened the flood gates.

    Your point about “skipping a the [revision] process” is valid. We need to develop the intellectual kickstart that gets us into our revision projects. This initiative must come from dialectic engagement no matter what the tool for revision we use. So whether we use MS Word’s track change feature, or type our work into a miraculous digital grammar-fixer, it’s about the questions we generate and answer about our work that leads to good rewriting.

    If digital revision techniques do somehow make us miss a step, perhaps some proactivity is the answer. I had originally planned to comment on my next batch of student essays through MS Word’s track changes. But I did not account for a way the student could predicate my evaluation of the work. If we ask students to use the highlighting and comment features of work they pass in, we encourage them to think about their thinking, write about their writing. This is important work to do while revising.

  8. Part II

    When I assign this upcoming essay, I am going to ask students to highlight key terms they develop in their essay, and to make comments about their own writing they want me to consider. Or to comment on a sentence or paragraph they had rewritten on their own in light of past comments. Proactive comments have the potential for great exercises in metacognition.

  9. Lindy, in appreciation for your enjoyment of hypertext and the our discussion of non-linearity, I'm going to approach responding to your questions in a non-linear method. HIGH-CONCEPT, HIGH-CONCEPT. (Just go away Ian, I know, I know.)

    3. What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?

    I haven't used anything in the high school setting, but I've used Google Documents and Track Changes on the collegiate level. I've found Google Documents to be useful as a means for collaborating, but I've never used it as part of a revision process.

    I wrote for an online magazine at Salem State, and we lived and died by Track Changes. There'd be a whole plethora of Track Changes across a Word Document as it made its way from editor to editor. It was useful - for me - as a writer to not only see where the problem areas were, but also get an in-depth amount of comments.

    I have a hard time imagining seeing this on a high school level, if only because despite being a technology idealist, I can't imagine interacting via email so heavily with students at that level. Does any of our current teachers think it's realistic? It't not that I don't think it won't be, I just don't see it yet.

    1. What are your thoughts on written non-linear argument? Is there are place for it in our classrooms? (It even feels odd to ask this as though I made it up…but I didn’t, right? Maybe I missed something!)

    I didn't really grasp the concept of written non-linear argument, in fact, until I read Alex's comment. Maybe I'm getting a bit static at this point in the semester, but I had a hard time imagining an argument that wasn't linear.It's the way it's always been done! Dang it.

    Then I checked out the concept of a commentary such as what Alex has done, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It's amazing that I'm always so irritated when people are uncomfortable stepping outside of their old ways, and I'm all "Oh god how can we abandon the linear argument?"

    Apparently that's how!

    4. How might you use your own digital literacies to help your students overcome fears or hesitations about working with digital media and/or online tools?

    I imagine my own comfort would be leveraged into a more easy scaffolding of the content for my students. The more adept I am at using the technologies and integrating the mediums into our classroom, the more able I will be to assuage student anxieties and help them with any sort of difficulties they may have.

    As well, rampant enthusiasm never hurts. Does it? I imagine if I'm very gung ho about new technologies or creations then maybe it'll bleed over into the classroom's vibe. Or maybe they'll think I'm a wonky guy who gets way too excited about digital storytelling.

    Great post, have a great Thanksgiving!

  10. I like the idea of a non-linear argument, but not as a replacement for other activities. I think there are places for it in our classrooms, but again, time will need to be reshuffled to do this. I see these non-linear arguments, and I’ve said this before, as a really useful manner of incorporating summer reading into student lives. I think this time of year provides such an opportunity for students to read, but also for them to explore and further their own ideas about reading. This works perfect for a non-linear text.
    Hypertext could become really valuable, if proper education is given to determine what websites are valuable. I think it could be considered a wonderful writing assignment if backed by proper research and effective websites. I don’t see it as a replacement for a thesis driven argument however, as these essays typically require the writer to make the argument for the reader. If the job is for the reader to develop an understanding and to guess at the argument of the writer, this could be valuable.
    Because I teach early grades, our revision process focuses strictly on grammar, usage, and mechanics. We also work a great deal on analyzing and ensuring that enough referential ideas are presented within the writing. For this, I have used GoogleDocs, but discontinued due to the challenges presented with technology.
    Personally, I think I had a great deal of digital fear about my knowledge of digital literacies. As I’ve learned more, I realize the opportunities to extend learning through these media. I would use my own inexperience and my subsequent discoveries to help my students see the different possibilities for their writing through technology.

  11. Lindy, really great post! I want to respond to the question you asked about using technology in the revision process, "What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?" Since I have not taught yet I can only relate this to my own experiences as a student and as a tutor. For my own writing process I always revise electronically. I find that it is so much easier to do major revisions on a computer than with a pen and paper. I usually have two word documents open, and I cut and paste back and forth between the two windows. I do this in revision and in my initial writing process. I try to ignore the passive voice tool, but I do sometimes use track changes to comment on my own writing so I can go back and revise later. When I'm finished revising I do print out my paper and edit it with a pen for punctuation errors, but otherwise all of my revising is done on the computer. When I post on Blogger I write my post out in Word first so I can revise as I go. I was never taught to write or revise this way, but it is how I have always done it.

    I tutor for the Continuing Ed. program and when I am working with a student a lot on one paper I will use track changes or Google docs so we can work online and we do not always have to meet in person. I find that I need to meet with the students in person for the first session, but after that I can use the comment feature and send the student questions or comments about his or her writing and it makes for a much faster process. I don't do this for my English department tutoring because it is not part of our "toolbox" or recommended methods, but I find it works really well with the other students I tutor. The students I have done this with love it, and they have said that it is really helpful to have the comments right on their computer screen so they can address them.

    Also, I find for my own writing that I prefer when professors comment electronically because it negates any possible misinterpretations. When a professor comments in the margin "awk" or "aha!" it can often be misunderstood, but when a professor has the space to explain their comment I find them a lot more useful, and I am more likely to read them. (It also helps because some professors have terrible handwriting :)

    I think when I am a teacher that I will definitely use these tools and recommend them to my students. (This is of course assuming that my students will have access to computers...)

  12. Alex M: Great points about the meaning of non-linear. I see your point about ‘afternoon’ and perhaps you’re right. We do not stray from a path, maybe it’s the interruption of having to make a decision on what to click next that makes it feel less linear. I love the use of your term multilinear…even the connotation is different without using “non”. The addition of “multi” sounds like less of a departure from the norm, and more of an inclusion of all possibilities of paths. Worthy of further thinking, for sure.

    Nicole S: I’m glad you brought up learning styles. I think something that determines the success of many of these methods might have to do with both learning and teaching styles. Granted, it’s possible that everyone can gain from them, but perhaps not all (teachers and students) are comfortable with the platform or method. And I’m fascinated by the student of yours who seems much more engaged in his digital world. It would be interesting to learn about his previous experiences with computers and/or technology.

    Brendan: I’m digging your deconstruction of “linear.” You’re right – constant linear writing would be lifeless. And at some point it would be great to chat more about the circularity of learning process. Blending a foundation of previous knowledge with new pieces of knowledge and what that looks like – is it linear? Super fascinating and full of various learning theories (which I always love to bring into my writing classroom). Recursion, though…would love to learn more about this conceptually (aside from where it exists in computer programming…). I agree with you, too, that the digital revision techniques alter the steps we bring students through – but, yes, teachers need to be proactive in new ways to address, somehow, whatever gaps are left. Hopefully you can let us know how your ideas pan out!

    Ian: I love the HIGH CONCEPT stuff. No, please stay! I felt the same way you did about non-linear argument, but I wanted to toss it out there. I find that some of the things I can barely wrap my head around start to make sense once I write or talk about it even my thoughts are disjointed (or multilinear!)…hence the reason why I thought I’d include it. Alex’s post helped my thinking out, too. And yeah – huge amounts of enthusiasm typically works on me as a student and I think (and hope) that it bleeds (to borrow your term) into the vibe. I’m sure that’ll make a difference

  13. Lindy,

    Super awesome post, of course to be expected!

    I think hypertexts are great for research projects / papers because it helps the student, and teacher, track the research. It's similar to this "footsteps project" some us did our first semester as grad students. Hypertexts also work better than footnotes because you can just click and there's the footnote. I hate footnotes that start at the bottom of one page and then spills over another. With links you have a separate place for all the footnotes and relevant material. Do we need hpertexts in this society? In the beginning of the semester we read the article about our incapability to stay focused for more than a few minutes on a specific webpage (for some reason I can't find the article on blackboard or in my files). Are hypertexts essential to engage students, or perhaps even teachers, into reading/writing a document?

    I prefer the wiki for the revision process than the "track changes" function. The "track changes" function can be so distracting, especially to anyone besides the writer. In the wiki, you can print different versions of your document and then compare them. It helps the writer see how they revise, and think about innovative approaches to improve revision. The wiki also can be shared, like google docs, so that you could do peer reviews online. Google docs is helpful because you can share documents with anyone with a gmail account. One time I was on the phone with a friend I was tutoring, and we both tackled her paper by opening it in google docs. It was easier than trying to grope around and understand what we meant, and what area we wanted to address.

    The non-linear argument can be very beneficial and insightful, but it can also be very incoherent. The question is whether or not they should learn a non-linear argument schema before they learn a linear thesis argument paper. Would that be more beneficial? I'm not really sure because I've never really thought about it.

  14. Kellie: I love your term for how teachers need to manage time given the introduction of some new activities. Reshuffling is sort of what we need to do with time, with students, with instruction…with many aspects of the ins and outs of our classrooms and planning. I agree with you, also, that the technological experiments cannot replace the typical scaffolding we’d use to teach the foundation of each lesson. (What am I – a carpenter, suddenly?)

    Sam: Thank you so much for telling the story of your revision process. Mine is the extreme opposite of yours; I very much appreciate hearing how others do their thang, so to speak. Had I not been writing the post this week, I might not have pondered the different methods to revise quite as closely. No, really. What I’m even more intrigued about is how you were not taught to revise via the computer screen, but you do. What an analysis that would be because it would have to come from somewhere, right?

    Alem: I like how you framed the use of hypertext in the research process. It would make the students’ steps and ideas explicit. I’m super big on that concept with nearly everything I teach!! I don’t know if we need hypertexts in our society…but I do know that we can’t ignore their usefulness to bring to light more external connections (or their existence, or the fact that we, teachers, probably use them in our daily lives). Our shrinking attention spans probably shouldn’t be entirely ignored either. Perhaps hypertexts are a way to keep students engaged with multilinear (to borrow Alex’s term) ideas and arguments. It’s like strategic interruption in a way. Or strategic tangential directioning. (I’m getting carried away.) I’m sure we could play with the idea for hours!

  15. Sorry for posting so late, guys. I made the mistake of counting on a fully functional Internet connection when I got home from campus today. Much to my chagrin, I'm connected an hour or so later.

    What are your thoughts on written non-linear argument? Is there are place for it in our classrooms?

    I really don't think there's much room for non-linear text in classrooms that are trying to teach how to write an essay and how to read critically. It's a cool idea in theory, but it lends itself to chaos, and I don't think it would be very effective in the long run.

    Do you think hypertextual essay will eventually be valuable, or maybe even considered more of a mainstream type of writing assignment?

    I'm on the fence with this one. On the one hand, technology is changing how we view every asset of our lives, but on the other, we're not to the point yet where students at the high school level (or younger) *need* to learn how to do hypertext essays. There are so many gaps in the public education system as it is right now—I would be afraid that trying to shoe-horn hypertext essays in would push something else out (and as we all know, our semesters are usually bursting at the seams when it comes to work anyway). Unless everything becomes completely digitized within the next half-century (meaning no such thing as printed papers anymore, which it very well may come to that), I don't think it's necessary, and I don't think hypertext essays will be mainstream in our careers.


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