Collaborative Pedagogy: The Annotated Bibliography
In 2014, a group of HASTAC scholars collaboratively created The Pedagogy Project, a series of blog posts, which offer examples of digital or collaborative projects that instructors can implement into their courses. These projects vary in length and complexity, so instructors can browse by category to find ideas for single lessons, collaborative writing assignments, or long-term projects.
In an effort to revive this pedagogical conversation, I am offering a series of blog posts this semester to share some of my own digital and collaborative projects. The first, “Reimagining Revision: The Digital Essay,” offered a suggestion for a different type of revision exercise. This one, details an exercise that asks students to collaboratively create a class annotated bibliography that can continue to grow over the course of the semester. I have also created a video explanation of this particular assignment.
I often struggle to balance writing instruction with discussion of assigned reading in my 50-min class meetings. In order to help with this problem, I have tried to create exercises that allow me to integrate writing instruction into other classroom activities and/or discussion topics. For this particular assignment, I wanted to expose students to a number of secondary sources while at the same time teaching them how to cite in MLA format. Thus, I decided to have them create a collaborative annotated bibliography. This activity can be done in 30 minutes or less and it accomplishes many of my learning objectives.
This is an incredibly easy activity to replicate in your classroom if you have access to several laptop computers. Each group of students needs access to at least one laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. Then, you complete the following:
- Create a new document on Google Drive and share it with you students (You can do this by sending them a link to the document via email--just make sure the “Share” settings are set to allow anyone with the link to edit.).
- Split your students into groups making sure that each group has access to technology.
- Assign each group an article to read/annotate.
- Let them work!
- Once all the groups have finished, have each group talk about their article and share their annotation with the rest of the class.
*The image above shows the dialogue box that is used to share the document with students. Be sure that the option selected reads, "Anyone with the link can edit," otherwise the document will appear as a read-only file.
While the students are working
Once the students get started, they work autonomously, so you are able to walk around and help individual students with their annotations and citations. The collaborative nature of this assignment keeps the groups on task. I usually put the document up on the overhead projector so that the class can watch the bibliography begin to appear in real-time, and this often motivates the groups to work quickly. This also enables the students to learn from each other.
Another beneficial aspect of using Google Drive in this way is that it allows me to see who is contributing to the document in real-time and after class. Once class is over, I can revert to different versions and obtain a more detailed picture of how each group was understanding the task. This information can also be used to pinpoint those who might have been struggling. This features offers a form of informal assessment feedback that I might not otherwise have been able to get from my students.
*The image above shows the revision history of a completed class annotated bibliography.
Why this collaborative project works
This project works for a number of reasons. It gets students actively involved in the desired writing task during class, which allows them to get immediate help or feedback if they come across something that they do not understand. The assignment also works because the students become invested in the final product. They create a document that all of their classmates will see and use throughout the semester. Indeed, this assignment becomes a living document that can be used extensively over the course of the semester. For example, the week after we completed this assignment in class, I had my students find a scholarly source on the novel we were reading, and each person had to then add an annotation to our already existing class bibliography. This allowed students to continue practicing the skill set, but it also formed a living document that all students in the class could use to help them find reliable sources for their writing.
Because this is an in-class assignment, it is ungraded. Instead, successful completion of the assignment just becomes part of each student's participation grade for the day.
Annotated Bibliography: A Short Reflection
As a pedagogical tool, Google Drive, is incredibly useful for collaborative writing. I have found that in creating assignments like this one, I can develop lessons that keep my students both active and engaged in the course material. Perhaps more importantly, these assignments help me to foster a classroom atmosphere that is collaborative in nature. My students quickly see that they can just as easily learn from each other as they can from me, and this goes a long way towards developing the type of educational environment that I wish to build in my classroom. If I can get my students invested both in the course material and in each other’s ideas, then we tend to have richer conversations and more productive writing workshops. Along the way, this assignment has helped me to make the little time that I have in class with my students as productive as possible.