5 ways to teach critical reading and analysis in the laptop classroom

1) Give students a group activity in which they must formulate an analytical argument about a text or conduct web research about the historical contexts of a work. Require that students present their argument/research in the form of an alphabetic text or a Powerpoint Slideshow uploaded to the course website. Make sure to give specific parameters (questions to be addressed, evidence to be included).

2) Assign students to collaboratively create a contextual reader’s guide on a wiki or google site. Each student (or pair of students) is responsible for writing a page of the wiki. You could divide the wiki by chapters or by topics. Check out this wiki guide to Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 for inspiration.

3) Ask students to paste selections of digital text (many older literary texts are now online!) into wordle to make a tag cloud of the most common words in the text. Have a discussion about which words in the cloud were expected and which were a suprise. Consider ways that the quantitative analysis of wordle could be a springboard for close reading of how a particular word is used in the text. Check out the new york times tag clouds of inauguration speeches to get a sense of the power of this visualization methodology.

4) Have students create a digital annotated map (with images and text) of a novel using google maps. This kind of activity can be a great way to get students thinking about the ways that setting and travel function in narrative. Check out some examples of student created literary maps here. And, for information on how to make a customized google map, check out the google map user guide.

5) Consider having students conduct comparative analyses of the ways in which diverse media (print, digital, international) represent a particular place or event.

(I hope to add more ways to this list based on the conversation we have at the tea)

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