Sunday, March 4, 2012

DML2012 – Twitter & Remixing

I spent the last three days at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in San Francisco. The nearly 1000 attendees represented myriad fields: computer science academics, programmers, designers, K-12 teachers, librarians, school administrators, and graduate students like me.

Of all the ideas and impressions still buzzing around in my head, there are two things that are really sticking: Twitter & Remixing.

TWITTER. While I have been using twitter via The Wheel, this was only my second foray into twitter as myself - @MaryStewart13. My first was at the academic literacy summit, and it was a bit of bust. I was uncertain of what to tweet, largely because I couldn’t figure out who my audience was, and I found the process incredibly distracting. At the DML conference, it was the complete opposite. I had twitter open at all times, and was constantly reading the incoming tweets as I listened to the speakers – it was like the lecture had turned into a class discussion. People were summarizing and clarifying the speakers’ points, raising questions, and occasionally making jokes.

Reading the tweets helped me understand the group’s general feeling about the presentations, which helped me understand how I felt about them. When I was tweeting, it was like a heightened form of note taking – I was writing notes in a Word doc, and when I found myself particularly enthusiastic about a point, I would tweet it. I was thus contributing to the community’s collective reflection on what we were hearing, and passing a few nuggets of wisdom back to the people at home. 

Check out the full DML feed - #dml2012.
 My immediate reaction to this was, wow, can this transfer to a 300-student lecture class? Of course, I realize that forced interaction is never the same and it would be difficult to keep students on task, but maybe a compromise would be looking at twitter feeds from a conference, talking with students about the unique community of collaboration twitter can invoke, and then asking them to think about how this can be applied in academic or professional settings.

My second reaction is similar to what my friend Jenae talks about on her blog - there was so much writing going on, but no one was talking about it. Just like we can’t allow technology to be transparent background noise, we can’t let writing fade, either. Let’s talk about technology and how it helps us learn, but let’s also talk about the crucial role writing plays in most technological experiences.

REMIXING. One of the big focuses was the way we “tinker” and learn through exploration (e.g., Tinkering School, Scratch, App Inventor), and how remixing (altering or building off of others’ work) is a crucial part of the tinkering process. Most people who learn to program start by copying-and-pasting others’ code and then playing around with it, changing one thing here or there to see what happens. Eventually, I’m led to understand, programmers start creating their own codes, but they often will still refer to and borrow others’ work. Beyond programming, we see this idea of remixing all over the place, the most obvious example being memes (mom, that’s when people take a popular idea and add something new to it – like A writer is… or A salesperson is… or I can has cheezburger). 

This is a meme - they have tons of adorable cats saying different things, always with poor spelling. Google it, mom!
The DML conference was littered with conversations about this, but what I didn’t hear were connections to the writing process. As we develop ideas for a paper, we tinker, and then we remix. We find primary and secondary sources and we meld those ideas together create our argument. New writer’s tend to remix a bit more, using more direct quotes, whereas more advanced writers will paraphrase and nod to their sources rather than directly copy their words. And just as the programming world has to deal with issues of attribution, understanding citation is a huge part of writing a research paper.

Why not draw these parallels in the classroom and simultaneously teach students about academic writing and digital composition?

1 comment:

  1. So glad you shared the notes from DML. I have been wondering about the affordances of a technology like Twitter and how well they transfer into an educational setting. I agree with you that we can't force interaction. Probably even more fundamentally, we can't generate authenticity. Seems like the minute we "assign" any level of participation we are going to lose the exigence that makes Twitter so intriguing. Your idea for looking a tweets as texts is really sharp. That may be, at this current time, a much more productive use of Twitter in the classroom.