I’m in the beginning phases of working on a research paper with my junior/senior English class. This one goes along with our Dystopia unit and asks students to find a problem in society they would like to see fixed. I have introduced them to RSS including news aggregation through Bloglines, and search engine feeds put out by GoogleNews, YahooNews, and Topix. Next week, I will sign them up for Furl accounts (which saves electronic versions of their articles) and put RSS boxes on their weblogs that will automatically show the articles they are saving.
One aspect of the research process I’ve never been happy teaching is note taking. I’ve tried a number of different methods from elaborately organized note cards to highlighted photocopies with annotations. The methods either didn’t seem genuine (I don’t know anyone who uses note cards once they leave high school), or were difficult to evaluate. This year I’m going to try using each student’s weblog and RSS box to facilitate this. After they have accumulated research on background, opposition, proponents, major figures and events, I will require them to cover these major categories through blog entries.
I’m hoping that by forcing them to read, think, link and write about the articles that they will use (and how it fits into their own ideas) the note taking process will become more of a research paper pre-write. For what is blogging other than an extended research conversation? The most difficult part will be making clear what a good blog post of this type should include. I hope to find good models of this type for them to read and respond to. I’d also like to find a way to encourage conversation within the class and possibly from outside it as well. I welcome feedback or offers for collaboration.