November 1, 2007

Social annotation for teaching how to read difficult material

A few days ago, I raved about the possibilities of social annotation. What I barely touched were the teaching purposes of social annotation. Let me provide an example from my masters course in social foundations of education. Below is the root to a discussion thread over the past week on the Seattle and Louisville desegregation cases that the Supreme Court ruled on this spring. The following contains my comments to students, links to the opinions that have my annotations (hold your cursor over the underlined passages to see the annotations), and a few starting questions.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007) was as fragmented as the Gratz and Grutter cases. Below are links to the annotated pages of the opinions.

Roberts's opinion is called a plurality because a majority of justices agreed to the decision but only four agreed (Roberts and three others) agreed on the same reasoning; Kennedy agreed with the decision but for his own reasons. This is a particularly difficult set of opinions to read -- in this case, it is Breyer's dissent that is long-winded (not Thomas's), and then the plurality opinion and the concurrences both refer to the dissent.

A few questions:

  • Does this case shut the door on voluntary desegregation? If not, what other options are available?
  • Regardless of whether there are options available in the future, the decision will make districts think three or four times before including racial classifications in formal plans to create more diversity in schools. Is that a good or bad outcome?

In my during-semester survey, a few students offered the following comments about Diigo when asked what had helped them learn in the course:

  • The Diigo annotation technology has made reading the court cases far more enriching. It as though you are in the room while I am reading the cases.... I wish there were a way you could do the same for all the other readings.
  • It really helps to bring clarity to the court cases by reading your comments. I would be confu[s]ed on some judgements or miss important points without the comments. It is the next best thing than [to] sitting in a lecture and discussing interpretations.

Let me be honest: providing this annotation requires a lot of time, and that is time sucked away from other activities (being more proactive on the discussion board, or creating more formal presentations). But I know from prior experience that some readings such as court opinions desperately require some assistance for students, and I was gratified to have my judgment confirmed by students who felt the effort helped them.

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Posted in Education policy on November 1, 2007 12:07 AM |