Tiny Social Reading Activities

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Brief Abstract

Collaborate with other participants to create and try out tiny social reading activities — micro assignments where people read together and attach their own contributions to texts around common themes. A fun and easy activity to build and test small ways to make reading engaging!


Nate is an evangelist who connects people, ideas, and technologies to make things better, currently working with Hypothesis (https://web.hypothes.is), the nonprofit organization that stewards open, standards-based annotation technologies and practices. He has worked across a wide variety of public and private institutions, focusing on community development, digital communications, meaningful education, open technologies, and sustainable growth. Nate lives in Portland, Oregon USA with some other cats and humans. Learn more about Nate on his blog (http://xolotl.org) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/xolotl).

Extended Abstract

Reading is still the foundation of scholarship and learning, but in the age of TikTok and binge watching, getting anyone to connect deeply with written words can be a challenge. How can we make reading engaging? Join with other participants to experiment with creating the smallest possible reading assignments, enriched with collaborative annotation: make your own and try out others.

Assigning a book, or even an article or news story in a syllabus doesn't automatically generate vibrant discussion and learning. We try different ways to bring the solitary activity of reading back into the life of the course: we expand on readings in lectures, we break out in small groups, we foster in-class conversations, we grade specific numbers of discussion forum posts and replies, we assign book reports, and we pop quizzes to check reading comprehension. But what makes reading valuable?

Reimagine how readers connect with texts by inventing your own tiny social reading activities: imagine a small idea you want people to explore, pick a reading to ground it in, and describe a simple thing they can add to that text to expand their reading using annotation. For example, say you want people to practice reading more slowly and savor the words. Together you could have them read a poem like John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning“, and then share their annotations on nouns in the poem, including images/animated GIFs/videos inspired by the nouns they read. Quickly they would build a portfolio of images inspired by and embedded directly in the poem, creating a rich ground for further discussion and exploration. Similar activities can be imagined in any discipline.

You'll leave the session having invented your own tiny social reading activity and with your experience trying out others, ready to imagine how such micro assignments can be added to any learning experience to spark deep reading and discussion.