My student-researchers and I tried something a little different to kick off our semester. Instead of the standard syllabus that requires everybody to read a few articles to discuss, we decided instead to organize ourselves into a Smart Mob that would try to read a good hunk of the literature on a single topic in one go. We chose to explore the implications of anonymity online, which is the centerpiece of our project this year.
Each student was required to find 5 articles, read them, and summarize them; uploading their summaries (or the author’s own abstract) into a ZohoCreator form. ZohoCreator is a free service that allows you to create database input forms.
As the students entered their summaries, they were made instantly available to the other students as an online database. One member of the research team, Kevin Champion, then created a page that took all of the data from the database and formatted it into this very slick and readable presentation:
All summaries were due 36 hours before the next class period, leaving those final 36 hours for all students to read all the summaries posted by their fellow team-members.
By the time of our next class, all 16 students had read 5 articles and been exposed to the main ideas of 94 articles. This created an amazing foundation for deep conversation. I think all of us were literally on the edge of our seats, finding connections and debates across the literature at a level I have *never* experienced in an undergraduate setting. I count it as a huge success, and I would highly recommend it to any other faculty out there looking to spark an engaging conversation with your students.