This quarter, my Networked Rhetorics class here at Stanford was fortunate to be able to collaborate with Noel Radley’s Critical Thinking and Persuasive Writing class from University of Texas, Austin’s Department of Rhetoric. We visited her class blog to offer feedback on her students’ research ideas, and her students did likewise here on the CCR blog.
The response from my class was quite interesting. On the one hand, they very much appreciated the great feedback they received on their research ideas from the UT students. As one student put it, “knowing you’re writing for a real audience makes a big difference.” Another mentioned, “the ideas I got in comments really helped me figure out a better direction for my research.” However, a few mentioned to me that it would have been even better had the themes of the courses overlapped more — they felt that there would have been a richer and more complex exchange of ideas if the two classes had been studying similar topics. That’s an insight that we seen echoed in our video conferences as well; the strongest exchanges seem to be those where the course goals and themes align, despite differences in institutions or geography.
I’m hoping that we can work with Noel and her students again — it was a great experience in real writing for real audiences and in participating in a larger learning community. I’m also hoping to work with Noel again because I was just plain impressed by her assignment — as the final part of their project, her students were asked to literally map (and I really do mean “map”) their works geographically, using Google Maps. I had heard of assignments that asked students to do this, but had never really seen how it worked over the process of brainstorming to final product — and it made sense that someone like Noel would be at the forefront such innovation since she and her class are affiliated with UT Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab. Here are some examples of the work her students produced:
For my particular class, talking about using Google Maps, geolocation, and social media in this way was an added perk to what we gained from our intellectual exchange about research projects. Perhaps some of my students might even end up incorporating a customized map such as these into their final research presentations … we’ll see.