Curating your Media intake

I teach English writing to college freshmen.  It has always been important to me to make sure that my students are being challenged in what they read, and that I don’t bore the more advanced students by teaching down to those with less experience in writing.  The great thing about teaching writing is that no matter how smart your 18-30 year old students are, no matter how good they think they are at writing, they still need to learn how to think.  Now before you chide me for being condescending to my students, let me explain what I mean.  Most high school English classes teach us a combination of summary and some, but very limited analysis.

Some of us were lucky enough to have teachers who taught how to delve into symbolism of art and fiction, how to triangulate sources so that we are not just looking for information that supports our assumptions, and how to gracefully include a counter argument without losing ourselves down the path of other possibilities. SOME of us.  But most of us read English literature–some with more pleasure than others–and slogged our way through papers in which we talked about how many times Shakespeare used a rose as an analogy and why it is important for his protagonist or what it foreshadows.  Ok lit heads out there, don’t get it twisted, I like literature as much as the next guy, and this kind of analysis is helpful in some ways, but most students don’t get the point of it.  They often do it just to do it and learn the very important skill of bullshitting in the process. I was lucky enough to have an English teacher in high school who not only taught us to see the amazing symbolism in a Flannery O’Connor story, but also taught us to think critically about art, and life, and politics and the things we said in class. Critical thinking and the resultant conversations that can happen in a college (perhaps even high school classroom) are the building blocks for reading and writing.  But it’s not just for the classroom.  The world is now a classroom.  Information is more available than it has ever been — and with bills like SOPA and PIPA looming it may be more available than it will ever be in the future.  That’s why I wanted my students to think about the sources of the media they were taking in, and to be more deliberate about the curation of said media.  What I realized when the class was done, was that triangulating sources, and curating media input is something all of us could use a class on.

I have been working on this myself in various ways–trimming twitter followings, using tools such at Pulse and Pearltrees.  It’s all an experiment now, but I hope I can share some of what I learn as I go.  Stay tuned…

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