How to Make Your Writing Pedagogy in Line with FERPA Law

Since the ways we teach writing especially nowadays may inherently involve digital literacies and public-facing writing media, we’d like you to be cognizant of ensuring your classroom practices comply with the FERPA law. Here are some things to keep in mind for assignment design and assessment, and some resources for more info.


FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) says that educational records (which include not only students’ grades, but also records that identify students’ course numbers/titles/times/instructors) cannot be revealed to a third party without the written consent of the students. Because UW cannot guarantee the security of internet-based resources outside the UW NetID, keeping student records anywhere else is a risk (and UW can’t help us legally if there’s a data breach outside their NetID protection).

Just for the sake of clarification, we should NOT:

  • post student grades in public or leave boxes out for student paper drop-off or pick-up;
  • discuss student grades over email except Canvas messaging;
  • store electronic copies of student papers or grades in your personal Google Drive, Dropbox or other cloud service.

Check out here for a detailed overview of FERPA from the UW registrar office.

When you use course assignments that ask students to use non-UW protected, publicly available digital tools or media, it’s important to do the following:

  1. Obtain students’ written consent whenever you ask them to use a non-UW-protected digital tool (I’ve included a sample consent form below). Note that if students create anonymous user names, you do not have to get their written consent, but you do need to be prepared to provide an alternative for students who have legitimate concerns about putting their work online.
  2. Give students a viable alternative to using the non-UW-protected digital tool: they should not be penalized in any way for not using the non-UW-protected tool.

Taking these simple steps allows you to safely and conscientiously use great digital tools and resources in your class. Please view here for details on EWP instructor policies regarding using UW-sponsored software, publicly available open software, and public writing for the context of service learning composition such as ENGL 121. Go to section 15: use of blogs and other forms of public writing in teaching.

If you’re using a non-UW protected digital tool for a course assignment, or if your course theme is about public writing, we recommend that you include a “public writing and student privacy policy” clause in your assignment prompt or course syllabus. Here’s a sample you can use:

This assignment/course may involve using a non-UW-protected digital tool or writing on the public web. In accordance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it is your right as a student to sign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the consent form regarding your privacy and making your writing potentially publicly accessible. If you don’t give consent or want to make your writing private or restricted-access such as password protection or giving access only to our class members, I will work with you to implement these accommodations which will have no effect on your assignment/course grade.

And here’s an example consent form (credits to Ann Shivers-McNair, a former CIC AD) for using a non-UW protected peer-review program that informs students of their rights, the security specifications of the platform, and their right to opt out:

All the work you do in this course, including your peer review work, is your property, and you have legal control over who has access to it.  Eli Review is a platform for conducting peer review and revisions on your projects in this class; it is password protected, and peer review projects will be restricted to members of our class.  Your work will be stored in a secure database accessible only to Eli developers for the purposes of site-wide, de-identified statistics or system diagnostics. Your name will be attached to the work stored in the program database, because you will create a profile in the system in order for the system to generate the individual reports you will see after you complete a peer review task.  You do retain legal rights to your work.

By agreeing to use Eli Review in this class, you are consenting to allowing your work to be non-anonymously stored on the Eli database.  If you are not comfortable with this, you can use Canvas for peer review instead, and you will not be penalized in any way.

I hereby DO/DO NOT consent to use Eli Review for course-related review and revision work in ENGL 131 during Spring 2014 quarter.

I understand that consenting or not consenting to use Eli Review will not affect my grade in the course.

Let’s say, you create a class blog or a collaborative website where students write for and interact with the public in some ways, you may be able to use a Creative Commons license with the consent of the students, specifically a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This blog post by Jack Dougherty, an associate professor of educational studies at Trinity College, includes a sample clause you can adapt and explains how he asks students to do public writing without violating the FERPA.

Also, when you add guest teachers, librarians, or observers to your Canvas course, it’s important to give appropriate access level that stays safe within FERPA. Please refer to this cheat sheet from UW Tacoma’s FERPA & Canvas guidelines page:

table of canvas roles

If you’d like to learn more about FERPA in general, there’s an online UW FERPA Training that you can complete in 15-20 minutes to help you equip with recommendations and a reference guide.

And as always, feel free to send us any specific questions to Sumyat or Kimberlee.

Works Consulted:

EWP Instructor Policies

Jack Dougherty, “Public Writing and Student Privacy,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014),

How to Schedule a Computer Classroom for On-Demand Use

Even if you’re not teaching in the CIC’s computer lab classrooms, you probably do some form of tech-embedded multimodal assignment or pedagogy in your courses. We’ve found that, especially this quarter, it’s been a bit more difficult for instructors to get access to a computer classroom for their occasional pedagogical purposes. So we’d like to highlight options for reserving a computer classroom either for a one-time request or several days of a quarter.

For some context: CIC has access to two computer classrooms in Mary Gates Hall, 076 and 082, in partnership with the iSchool. Our regularly reserved times for these classrooms are Monday thru Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., while the iSchool gets access to these spaces after 1:30 p.m. On Fridays, we have access to Mary Gates 082 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The iSchool has 082 after 1:30 p.m. and 076 all day. A good portion of our reserved times are filled with regularly scheduled CIC courses.

When you need a computer classroom for specific times during a quarter, the first thing you should do is email the current CIC AD or Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges (CIC director) the dates/times you’d like to book a room. If your course meets during CIC’s reserved hours and no other course is scheduled, we can book you into Mary Gates 082 or 076. If your course meets outside our reserved hours, we can check with the iSchool coordinator to see if the iSchool is indeed using the CIC rooms for the times you’ve requested. If they are, we will forward your request to EWP program coordinator, Jake Huebsch, who can request the Mary Gates 033 or 044 computer classrooms.

If you’re helping students learn a particular program or technical skill, you may not need to book lab space for in-class instruction. UW Learning Technologies provides free technology workshops and one-on-one consultations in Odegaard Learning Studio 102 throughout the year.

If the above options don’t work out, you may request an Active Learning Classroom (ALC) in Mary Gates or Odegaard, or a Research Commons space in the Allen Library. In this case, you’ll have to ask students to bring a laptop/tablet or check one out through the UW Student Technology Loan program. Mary Gates has two ALCs (with no computers): MGH 058 and 295. If you’d like to reserve one of these rooms, contact Jake Huebsch, who can then process your request. The Research Commons in Allen Library South has three spaces that my work for your class: Green A, which seats 25, Red A, which seats a maximum of 16, and Red C, which seats a maximum of 18. You may check Research Commons availability and reserve a space here, and the Odegaard ALC schedule and one-time use request form is available here. Note that the Odegaard ALCs are general assignment classrooms. One-time use requests are considered after all classes that regularly meet in the ALC have been scheduled.

We’ll continue to monitor how the use of computer classrooms increases or changes among our EWP instructors in the upcoming quarters and will advocate for more computer-integrated instructional spaces if we see an increasing need. Feel free to let us know your concerns or inquiries.

Self-intro: New CIC Assistant Director – Sumyat Thu

Happy spring 2018, everyone! I’m introducing myself here as the new CIC assistant director serving from spring 2018 to the end of winter 2019. I’m Sumyat, a PhD student in English composition and rhetoric who’s taking her qualifying exams very soon (!) and does research in transnational, translingual literacies, anti-racist theory and pedagogy, and public scholarship. I have also worked in writing center space for a long time as an undergrad and grad student. Outside of CIC duties, I’m also serving as the chair for Praxis conference 2019.

CIC AD Sumyat Thu

As far as how I can be a resource for those of you who are teaching a CIC course or a multimodal composition like ENGL 182, you can contact me for pedagogical discussions to practical concerns like reserving a CIC lab or visiting your class to do a Canvas e-portfolio workshop. As CIC ADs before me have consistently mentioned to the teachers, we don’t want CIC instructors to think that just because they’re teaching in CIC now, technology has to be a central issue in their pedagogy. Our suggestion is always to think of technology available in CIC rooms as a resource and not as a mandate. The level of tech engagement you do in class should depend on your pedagogical intentions and comfort level with the tech. For example, some instructors do peer-reviews electronically on Canvas, but some just prefer low use of technology such as having students read an article on the screen instead of distributing hard copies.

During my CIC AD term, I’ll be posting periodically blog posts that detail CIC workshop events we’ll have had or discuss some kind of pedagogical issues that involve technology and multimodality. Kimberlee and I will also continue to add teaching resources to our CIC website. And stay tuned for the quarterly CIC workshop events! In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at to discuss any CIC related issue. My office hours this quarter are: Mon 10-noon (Padelford A-11), Tue 10-noon (MGH 088), and Wed 10-noon (Padelford A-11).

Hope to see you around!

Digital Storytelling

group photo of workshop participants in front of a white board

Workshop participants from UW Libraries, EWP, IWP, and CIC.

CIC recently partnered with UW Libraries Research Commons to offer a workshop on digital storytelling for instructors to learn more about representing research in video form. The Research Commons typically offers a Digital Storytelling Fellowship (DSF) for ten graduate students on a quarterly basis, and many instructors in the English Department and beyond have expressed interest in these projects.  There are natural connections to public scholarship and the recently updated Expository Writing Program (EWP) course outcomes for 100-level composition courses that include a multimodal approach.  Some instructors who attended from the Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) specifically wanted to make their research findings on disciplinary topics more accessible to communities they work with and research such as health topics in east Africa and fisheries.

Matt Howard, an EWP instructor who had previously participated in the more extended DSF, was originally interested in “platforms for conveying research in a fast, efficient, and memorable way” and feels that he gained “a good grasp on building narratives with imagery, sound, and purpose.”  He is now building a sizable portion of his own research upon technological composition practices, and he’d like the broader strokes of the project to be more publicly accessible.  He intends for his students to create their own digital storytelling projects this quarter.  For other instructors interested in digital storytelling, he advises thorough scaffolding and explaining the necessary elements of creating such a project.

Zhenzhen He-Weatherford, another EWP instructor, is attracted to digital storytelling because of her interest in multimodal composition, which she has taught at three different levels within the past year. She offers digital storytelling as one option for students and came for the workshop to better support her students in the future by designing her course to meet their needs as they negotiate the challenges and opportunities of working with technology. She is also personally committed to “destabilizing some privileged ways of composing texts, thinking, making meanings, and communicating meanings” and adds that “digital storytelling is a great way to communicate in nontraditional ways.”

The recent CIC workshop focused on how to use digital storytelling in a classroom.  As an initial activity before meeting, participants were asked to create a short introduction video and post it to a group chat.  For this particular workshop, the Research commons used WeVideo for editing and Slack for group chat.  The prompt itself was given as a video that used screencasting to show the basic editing functions of WeVideo.  It also asked participants to write a script to introduce three things into a short digital story: name, favorite food or hobby, and why they were excited about research.  They should include images that connected with the information in this introduction.  The finished videos were posted onto Slack so that the other workshop participants could view them and respond before meeting.

During the workshop, the librarians played several of the introductory videos as a way of prompting discussion about different editing tools and features participants had discovered and used in various ways (like subtitles or audio) as well as different rhetorical strategies and new kinds of meaning that came from combining words, images, and other resources.  Elliott Stevens and Perry Yee explained that there are several reasons for this activity.  First, participants who are intimidated by technology have time and space to learn how to navigate features of the video editing program.  Second, fostering community and communication around these video research projects is one of the biggest draws for most DSF participants.

Stevens and Yee typically use a process approach when introducing digital storytelling to students based on the work of Samantha Mora.

a cyclical graphic depicting stages of the digital storytelling process

A graphic with composition stages from Samantha Morra shared during the workshop.

Materials for further explaining elements of digital storytelling can be found on the UW Libraries in Tacoma website.  Instructors can use these topics and resources to develop activities and short assignment prompts that scaffold and build to a major digital storytelling assignment:

The section on “Getting Started” includes topics like conceptualizing your story; finding audio, video, and images for use; considering ethics and participation; and storyboarding and scripting your story.  There are also some example projects that can be used as models.

On the technological support side, UW Information Technology offers regularly scheduled workshops for students and instructors on the Seattle campus that cover how to use particular technology and software resources, especially audio and video editing programs and platforms. Instructors can gain familiarity with programs students may be using, and/or students can be asked to attend a session of their choice on a program that will help them complete their intended project.  The UW-IT calendar with upcoming events is available here:  They can also be contacted to request a classroom instruction session if there is a particular program all students will be using.

As an interface with other kinds of writing, the process approach to digital storytelling can be combined with more traditional written project proposals, submitting other formats of research that are then translated to a digital project (or vice versa), incorporating writers’ memos or reflection statements to identify rhetorical choices and intended effects.

For composition classes specifically, issues related to drafting and feedback are also important.  Some free program options for providing video feedback include Panopto and Screencast-o-matic for recording screen casts.  This would allow an instructor or fellow students to watch, pause, and respond to a video at specific points and provide audio commentary feedback on an individual basis.  As a web-based alternative through the University of Minnesota, VideoAnt provides a way of annotating a video with written comments connected to certain time points in a video.  It also makes collaborative feedback available since anyone with a link to the same video annotation project can add more written comments.

Workshop Participants in the CIC computer lab

Workshop participants converse about their introductory video projects and research.

Notifications for upcoming DSF workshops and registration can be found on the Research Commons Facebook page.  For further questions on more specific digital storytelling issues, the following librarians can be contacted:

  • Elliott Stevens, Research Commons Librarian
  • Perry Yee, Online Learning Support Manager


Gaming & Gamification in Composition

A few weeks ago, we had a CIC workshop on gaming & gamification in composition.  This post will be a summary, follow-up, expansion, and resource bank of some of the key take-aways for teachers and researchers interested in the potential for gaming and play in teaching composition.

Workshop Participants with Meeple Avatars

Workshop participants show off their meeples from one of the workshop activities.

First of all, here is an introduction to some shared vocabulary that informs our conversation (from Deterding et al & Envato):

  • Play: a free-form, expressive, improvisational recombination of behaviors & meanings
  • Game: playing structured by rules and competitive strife toward goals
  • Gamification: the use of game design elements in non-game contexts
  • Gamefulness: the experiential & behavioral quality of gaming
  • Game Design Elements: Challenge, Choice, Change, Chance

Example Gamification Books

We can think about gaming as literacy practices, which are tied to composition (see Kurt Squire & the New London Group in particular for connections with multimodality).  We should also recognize gaming practices to be embedded and emerging from within social and cultural practices, especially as they move into economic and educational systems and contexts.  As critical educators, we need to be careful of adopting “gamification” concepts wholesale.  Consider the source and purpose of tips and strategies you may find to “gamify your class.”  In the ethics of argumentation, we don’t want students to just “crush the competition!”

Multimodal & Gaming Literacy Excerpts

Multimodal resources excerpted include Writer/Designer by Kristen Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” from the New London Group, and “Video Game Literacy” by Kurt Squire.

Since many CIC instructors hold a variety of teaching philosophies and approaches to the level of technology integration in their classes, we also find it useful to identify ways that gaming and play can be used along an integration spectrum.  As a caveat, there are many additional ways that gaming can take place in classes, so this is not an exhaustive set of examples, but rather a starting point.

  • Minimum integration: Game as text used to analyze course theme(s); gamefulness in class activities (example prompt)
  • Medium integration: Game/game element as assignment or class activity in addition to game as text (example prompt)
  • Maximum integration: Game as text to investigate multimodal literacy practices and games as texts/integration points for related compositions in multiple genres (example prompt)

One example of a student-composed game for a multimodal composition class at UW that was later published is now publicly available via the following link (excluding accompanying reflection writing):

Scratch – STEM Curator: Women in STEM

In this game you will play as a museum intern tasked to design a museum to help girls stay interested in STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math. The purpose of this project is to educate people that the discouragement women face when entering STEM fields is entirely cultural. We as …

This game was featured on Scratch and received positive reviews.  Reflection writing revealed the students’ composition process and intentions.

Students can also interact with and analyze games as texts.  In role-playing games, students can choose an avatar to play, which allows them choices for playing a character that seems closest to who they are in real life or to experiment with an identity at a greater distance.  Because of this, they have opportunities to conduct inquiry into issues of identity and representation without being obligated to reveal vulnerabilities in class.  They can draw on primary sources from their play experience and secondary sources like online forums to explore and research their position within the game world (as well as how this connects to real-world issues of identity and representation).  For example, imperialism, nativism, and racism all appear in the game Skyrim with different material impacts and choices for different characters’ play experiences.  The available (and customizable) races in Skyrim are included below:

Avatars for Exploring Identity Issues

Skyrim character images subject to creative commons license from Wikia.

In the following class activity, various students’ experiences and responses were used to refine the conception of inquiry in research.  Students responded to a set of questions using Survey Monkey, and the class moved from a basic binary question like, “Which side did you choose?” to identifying better non-binary questions and then moving to more nuanced research questions like, “To what extent are the Stormcloaks justified in the civil war?”  The choices players were given from the game designers on any issue in time remained open for investigation and connection to real-world issues.  Students also practiced framing evidence for their own purposes with the graphs produced from class responses.  These were also issues they were invested in through play experience, rather than an abstract research topic that they might not feel authorized to write about yet.

Survey Monkey Results for Class Inquiry

Graphs generated by student participants using Survey Monkey.

In the game Skyrim – like many others – players also choose to develop “skill tree” items as they level up depending on their play style.  For example, they may choose skills to develop related to a warrior (heavy armor, archery, smithing, etc.), mage (illusion, conjuration, destruction, etc.), or thief (light armor, lock-picking, sneak, etc.).  In order to start owning the language of the outcomes and create a revision plan during the portfolio sequence, students created analogies between the available Skyrim skill tree items and EWP course outcomes.  This also modeled the way students could enter the discourse communities of their majors beyond the game and the composition class.

For assessing assignments that deal with gaming and play, we need to consider the following elements:

What are we assessing?

  • Game design
  • Statement of purpose, reflection
  • Achievement of statement goals
  • Fulfillment of assignment goals

Who is involved in developing assessment criteria and how are students internalizing criteria?

  • Creating or co-creating criteria
  • Practicing assessment
  • Revising criteria

Here are some resources available on and beyond campus to explore how you might implement some of these ideas or some of your own.

For Accessing/Analyzing Games:

For Designing Games:

CIC Sample Prompts and Activities:

While many of these examples and resources tend to follow digital medium games, it is important to note that the same play and gaming principles can be available through table top gaming as well.  The UW library system is currently acquiring table top gaming resources that should be available for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Please check with the UW English Studies Librarian Faye Christenberry for questions or updates.

New CIC Assistant Director: Holly Shelton

Hi everyone, welcome to Spring 2017 in the CIC!  This post is to briefly introduce myself and ways I might be a resource for your computer integrated teaching, learning, and research this year.

CIC AD Holly Shelton

If you start teaching in CIC or ENGL 182 this year, you’ll definitely meet me during your orientation.  I’m currently a PhD student in the English department’s language and rhetoric program and chair of the annual UW Praxis Conference.  I have a background in TESOL and applied linguistics, and my research interests focus on how and why people move across language and modalities in their literacy and composition practices.  I’m also interested in gaming and critical pedagogies.

CIC supports many levels of technology integration in our classes and spaces, from minimally to fully integrated.  You don’t have to fundamentally change your teaching philosophy for CIC, but can adapt your teaching to the available technology.  If you don’t have a regularly scheduled class in one of the CIC computer labs, but want to reserve a space for a specific class activity like peer review, research, an eportfolio session, or anything else, I’m the one to contact.  If you’re not sure what you would use a CIC computer lab for, let’s talk about the possibilities!

Here are some things to keep on your radar this year:

  • CIC blog posts – check back periodically for tips from me or your colleagues
  • CIC workshops – invitations will be circulating through department emails
  • CIC teaching resources – we continue to add content to the website

You can reach me at hshelton [at] and my office hours for each quarter are posted here.  If you have an emergency with technology in the CIC rooms, check with the ischool first, but I can also help troubleshoot in a pinch.  I look forward to working with you this year!

Teaching the Technology of the ePortfolio

A couple of weeks ago, we held a workshop for all teachers in the English Department, focusing on how to teach the ePortfolio technology to students. Because faculty found it so helpful, we wanted to follow up with a blog post overviewing how to introduce the technology to students, particularly to provide resources for how to teach the technology for EWP ePortfolios.

Before you explain the technology, we recommend that you spend a class period (at least 50 minutes) to introduce the concept of the ePortfolio to your students and detail the assignment requirements. Here is a sample powerpoint, prompt and checklist for EWP students.

To introduce the technology of the ePortfolio, you can follow this sample lesson plan. I have also created a screencast of how I explain the technology to EWP students, which you can watch to prepare for your own explanation or share with students. This would be particularly helpful to share with any absent students.

Some general tips for introducing the technology:

  1. Budget at least 50 minutes.
  2. Be sure to have a projector available so you can model the technology as you set up.
  3. Ask your students to bring laptops or tablets to class. Phones are not the best for this kind of work. For those that need access to a laptop, refer them to rental availability through the UW-IT Classroom Technology’s Student Technology Loan Program.
  4. Before the introduction to the technology, be sure to set up the portfolio assignment, publish it, make it available for students to submit, and select URL submission only.
  5. Share these links with your students (via a Canvas announcement to ensure easy access during the workshop):

We hope this information helps! Please let us know if you have any questions, or contact one of the EWP Assistant Directors.

Updating Preferred Names on Canvas

Last week, the UW responded to concerns about name representation on institutional interfaces. Both staff and students have long wanted the freedom to represent their preferred names on UW information systems and directories.

According to a recent email from Phillip J. Reid (Vice Provost, Academic and Student Affairs), students can update their preferred names by going to This website allows students to update their preferred name, which will then appear on select institutional systems. The following interfaces are available for the Autumn 2016 Quarter:

  • Class photos
  • Rosters
  • UW Directory
  • Grade Page

There will be additional interfaces made available in the Winter 2017 Quarter, which include:

  • Canvas
  • MyPlan
  • MyGradPlan
  • Electronic Academic Records (EARS)
  • Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS)
  • Panopto

To get more information about these changes, see the Office of the University Registrar’s Preferred Names page.

Because Canvas is not an available selection until Winter Quarter, we wanted to take a moment to share how Canvas users can have their preferred name represented.

1. Go to Canvas.

2. Click on “Account.”

3. Click on “Profile.”

4. Click on “Edit Profile.”

5. Enter the name that you would like to appear on Canvas.

6. Click “Save Profile.”

As always, please let us know if you have any questions!




Digital Teaching Tools

Earlier this summer, the CIC staff (Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges, Jacki Fiscus, and Ann Shivers-McNair) attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, B.C. (thanks to the UW Simpson Center for sponsoring us!). We came back with lots of ideas and resources that we’re excited to share with you, including a bevy of digital teaching tools for you to consider as the summer winds down and we’re turning our thoughts to the fall. They’re categorized by what you could do with them, but many of these tools exceed their categories, so we encourage you to explore and invent new possibilities (and then share them with us!).

Digital Publishing: Curation and Storytelling

A screenshot from the Scalar trailer video that demonstrates non-linear composing process.

A demonstration of Scalar’s non-linear composing capabilities.

  • Scalar – Beloved of the digital humanities, Scalar is “a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online. Scalar enables users to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose them with their own writing in a variety of ways, with minimal technical expertise required” (Overview).
  • Omeka – Like Scalar, Omeka is a publishing platform. Think of it as a virtual museum, where individual items belong to collections and can be placed within exhibits that tell stories around particular themes. Students can team up on collection and curation, but tell individual stories about the items in their own exhibits.
  • The Cookbook: How to Create Your Own Digital Story – As the name suggests, this is a set of detailed recipes for digital storytelling (rather than a platform for digital storytelling). Especially helpful is the recipe for digital storyboarding, which could be a great way to support students’ invention and drafting process.
  • Storify – You may be familiar with Storify as a tool for creating stories from Twitter hashtags, but its story-gathering and storytelling capabilities also include news and blogging. Storify is easy to use and doesn’t require much expertise.

Data Visualization

A screen shot from Carnegie Mellon's guide to information visualization tools. A man stands with his arms stretched out above his head, reaching toward a series of maps, charts, and other visualizations.

From Carnegie Mellon’s useful guide.

  • Palladio – This is a powerful tool for visualizing historical data in a variety ways: geographic maps, lists, and grids. While we tend to think of visualization tools in terms of representing our analyzed data sets (at the end of the process), visualization tools can also help students invent and analyze early in the process.
  • Poemage – This tool visualizes the sonic topology of poems: “We define sonic topology as the complex structures formed via the interaction of sonic patterns — words connected through some sonic or linguistic resemblance — across the space of the poem.” This could be great for modeling literary analysis.

For even more data visualization tools and a discussion of how to evaluate and use them, check out Carnegie Mellon’s helpful guide.

Text and Video Annotation

An annotation comment is being entered in a box on the Annotation Studio's interface; the annotation box is over a sample text that is being annotated.

An image from Annotation Studio’s site demonstrating the interface.

  • Annotation Studio – This digital text annotation tool has many potential uses not only for reading and annotating but also for composing. One of our colleagues at the DHSI used it to have her students collaboratively create a digital critical edition. Note: The tool is not in stasis, but the MIT team may not be as responsive as they may have been in past.
  • Also a digital text annotation tool, Hypothesis was designed to “leverage annotation to enable sentence-level critique or note-taking on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and more” (About). This could be an effective tool for teaching rhetorical analysis of public texts. Also: see below for a plug-in that allows students to aggregate their annotations.

Check out Teaching Media’s great list of video annotation tools, with detailed discussions of how to use them.

Facilitating Collaboration and Invention

A screenshot of SpiderScribe's mapping interface, with images, maps, and text items linked by lines and arrows.

SpiderScribe’s mapping interface.

  • SpiderScribe – This tool is for online mapping, brainstorming, and collaboration. It could support students’ in-process data visualizations and invention processes, as well as collaborative authoring.

See also Carnegie Mellon’s expertly curated list of collaboration tools, with discussions of affordances and applications.

Studying and Visualizing Twitter Activity

Archiving and Analyzing

A screenshot of a keyword search for

A sample keyword search and visualization from Tweetchup.

  • Tweetchup – offers analytics and visualizations
  • Hashtracking – offers analytics and reporting features
  • TAGS – archives tweets from a customizable search into a Google spreadsheet
  • Sentiment Viz – tracks the affect of a Twitter feed


Location-Based Mapping

An image of a map of the Pacific Northwest overlaid with trending hashtags based on location.

From Trendsmap

Also useful for any location-based mapping or visualizing: Geonames, a geographical names database.

Aggregation and Corpus Tools

A screenshot from Google Books Ngram Viewer, charting the occurrence of the phrases

Google Books Ngrams

  • Google Books Ngrams – Chart the occurrences of multiple phrases in the Google Books corpus, but also keep in mind that there are significant limitations to this tool that limit the kinds of questions we can answer and claims we can make.
  • Hypothesis Aggregator – “ Aggregator makes it easy to assign a topic, rather than a reading, and ask students to find their own readings on the web, annotate them, and tag them with the course tag. Then Aggregator can collect all the annotations with the class tag in one place, so students and instructors can see and follow-up on each other’s annotations. Similar activities can be done by a collaborative research group or in an unconference session.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Let us know what tools you’re using or interested in learning more about!


MLA Handbook 8th Edition: A Change in Focus of Teaching Citation

The 8th edition of the MLA handbook came out recently, and the edition is very different from the 7th edition that we know so well.  Although it appears that there is not a free online guide to the 8th edition just yet, you can order the new version and/or you can check out the Purdue OWL’s list of the major changes between the 7th edition and the 8th edition.  The Purdue OWL will be updating all of its resources by June 2016.

From looking at the Purdue OWL, along with this Pearson blog post, it seems like the biggest change between the 7th and 8th edition is the shift from a prescriptive approach for specific types of sources to providing a heuristic to use for any type of source.  According to MLA, the shift occurred because “Works are published today in a dizzying range of formats.”  The authors of MLA have stepped away from trying to name each type of source and providing a citation formula, and instead have suggested that authors use the information that they know about the source (author(s), title, version, publisher, publication date, location, etc.).  Upon gathering the necessary information, the 8th edition suggests that writers order source information consistently throughout the works cited/referenced page.

In fact, this shift away from prescriptive guidelines has been adopted by various text books before the 8th edition was released.  Writer/Designer: A Guide to Multimodal Projects (Arola et al, 2014), for instance, provides a comprehensive heuristic for students to make their citations rather than attempting to create a format for specific types of sources.

The Purdue OWL gives the following as an example of the difference between the 7th and 8th edition style guides:

Difference between 7th and 8th editions

In terms of pedagogy, (I think) it is supremely helpful that MLA has adopted this heuristic approach in its latest style guide. Many students see citation, particularly in the rigid forms we have traditionally mandated, as an arbitrary convention that must be done.  Given the nature of the 8th edition, and just to unpack this genre convention of citation, we can use this opportunity to ask students: Why do we cite our work?  For what purpose?  This can lead to a discussion about intellectual property, credibility of sources, and the audience of a text having access to its references.  Students can begin to consider: Who is my audience?  What does my audience need to know in this citation?  What genre am I writing in?  What are the affordances and expectations of that genre for citation representation? These types of questions could lead students to consider their citation practices with an attention to audience and genre considerations.  For example, a student might intend to write an academic blog and decide upon using hyperlinks within the text (just like I did here) rather than parenthetical citations. She might still put a works referenced note at the end of the blog entry if it was for an academic audience (just like Ann Shiver-McNair’s recent post for the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative).   This kind of attention to audience, genre, and the ideologies embedded within our citation systems will (I hope) be helpful for student learning.

If you have more information or would like to give your opinions about MLA’s most recent style guide, post to the comments.

By Jacki Fiscus