Sometimes I feel so uncool.
I am still sorting out a lesson I either taught or learned late last week.
One of my colleagues was out sick for the beginning of a project that involved students assessing the accuracy of a feature film relating to American history. In addition to a presentation discussing their findings, students were responsible for an annotated bibliography.
An English teacher who jumped in with me to help cover the class, suggested I start the lesson. I (re)introduced NoodleBib, pointing specifically to the space for annotations. I reminded the students how the program would manage all those icky formatting issues and make documenting easier.
When I finished, my colleague introduced Del.icio.us as an alternate strategy for recording sources. She suggested students use tags to organize their documents and use the notes field for their annotations. She demonstrated that students could use the Del.icio.us browser button to easily grab sources, including individual articles in databases.
Then she suggested, as an English teacher, that they might as well just use Del.icio.us instead of NoodleBib for this assignment. After all, the purpose of citation is to lead the reader back to the original sources. The students’ shared Del.icio.us lists would do just that.
A few things continue to bug me.
Number one, though I love NoodleBib, I kinda felt I was outcooled by my colleague. (Okay, this may be a maturity issue.)
Number two, however handy Del.icio.us is, it doesn’t do books, and books really work for this project. In fact, use of Del.icio.us as a source list for this project, became a serious disincentive for using books.
Number three, what is the real purpose of students’ carefully documentation? One reason is to attribute credit for specific ideas whether quoted or paraphrased. In this particular case, students weren’t required to do direct in-project citations. But I still think they’re likely to need to point to specific quotes in their presentations.
Number four, the kids opted out of some of the bibliographic learning we counted on. It was simply easier not to worry about what type of source you were holding or to have to fill in all of those fields.
Maybe I need to get over it. In my own blogging, I link. I seldom create formal MLA or APA.
As I watched my friend and colleague share her excitement for Del.icio.us, I got excited too. But, for the first time in a long time, I felt paradigmed out.
Remember that classic Indiana Jones scene? A robed and turbaned assassin elegantly, confidently flourishes his splendid scimitars as he readies himself to do away with our hero. And then, without much skill at all, Indy draws his pistol and casually blows his assailant away.
I don’t want you to think these students won’t have ample opportunity to learn to use their scimitars. We’ve put in place lots of opportunities for formal documentation. But do they need to do it all the time? Will links, tags, and annotations sometimes do? Should I sometimes give up on books even when I know they might be very solid sources for a project?
Is it time to trade in a few scimitars?