Thinking Small

Although my outlook on life might be big, I’ve been thinking about small things lately:

1.  I just got back from the wonderful NAVSA conference in Montreal, Canada, where I presented on “Miniature Books” in the Victorian era.  You can read the abstract here.  The talk prompted a great discussion of the relationship between scale and portability in reading technologies (think iPad or Kindle) and made some great connections between Victorian and contemporary reading practices.  I also chaired a panel on “Print Contexts” and heard fascinating papers from Mia Chen, Jillian Hess, and Andrew Stauffer.  I was especially excited to meet Andrew who works on the NINES project at UVA –his presentation on the interaction with Felicia Hemans‘ poetry via readers’ marginalia was fascinating and made a compelling case for preserving hard copies of texts that might be destroyed in the wake of digitization.

2. I’m also thinking small when it comes to pedagogy.  I’m contributing a post this week to our Brittain FellowsTECHStyle blog” on the topic of using blogs in the classroom for short, low-stakes writing assignments.   These “mini” writing tasks help break down the intimidating process of writing an essay into small steps, and the blog format encourages free-writing and reader feedback.  Check back next week and I’ll cross-post my entry here.

3. I’m currently grading my English 1101’s’ “digital archiving projects” which are StoryCorps- style interviews that students conducted with important members of the Georgia Tech and Atlanta community.  The students edited their 20 minute interviews into 3-5 minute excerpts (small!) and we’re in the process of adding them to the SMARTech digital archives at the Georgia Tech library.  The end results are fascinating — I’ll post some samples under the “Sample Student Projects” link on my “teaching” page soon.

4.  And finally, I’m using the concept of less-is-more this week in my teaching.  Yesterday I turned my English 1101 class over to group presenters and let the students steer the direction of our discussion for the first 15 minutes (in the style of “the Zen Ten“). They all had plenty of interesting things to say about this article on the negative impact of texting and social media on the non-verbal communication skills of “digital natives.”  While they concurred that they spend “too much time” texting, they disagreed that this would impact their ability to communicate with the “silent language” of non-verbal communication.  It was a productive session– my own silence freed the students up to have a frank conversation with each other.

So, it’s been a big week with small things!

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