Sunday, July 12, 2015

Diigo for the Indian Epics UnTextbook: Smart browsing with tags

Okay, I had a HUGE BREAKTHROUGH this weekend about using Diigo for my new Indian Epics UnTextbook as a browsing/discovery tool. One of the things I've been worrying about is how to help students choose what to read in the new Indian Epics UnTextbook, and I didn't really have a solution until I saw how I could use Diigo to do this. The idea is that the students will basically be making their own textbook, based on what they choose to read... and the range of things they can choose from is really huge. So, a big challenge I have is how to structure the course week by week so that the students are not feeling overwhelmed, but also so that they will feel adventurous in their choices. Here is the strategy that I have come up with in terms of introducing the epics and expanding the range of student choices as the semester progresses.

As you'll see, the Diigo items do not all have annotations yet, but they will by the time the semester starts! Here is how the my Diigo tags work:

IELibrary. These are all the available reading options.

Weeks. The weekly organization is crucial; for details, see below.
Weeks2-3 - Week4 - Weeks5-6  - Week7 - Weeks9-14

Topics. Overall, the course is focused on the two epics, with Krishna literature being an important part of that, but I am also including other Indian story traditions, esp. Buddhist literature (this was something I tried last year, and the students were very eager). Just as I singled out women authors, I've also singled out women as a topic focus (the students in my classes are predominantly women!). Combinations are also possible here, like Ramayana with a focus on women or Mahabharata with a focus on women.
t:Ramayana - t:Mahabharata - t:Krishna
t:gods - t:legends - t:Buddhism t:women

Availability. Students do not need to buy any books for the class; everything is free — either free online or free on reserve in our school library (Bizzell). But for students who prefer to have a book in hand, the campus bookstore will have copies of the four books I traditionally used to teach the class, and I've also made an Amazon shopping list of books that are very affordable ($10 or less for either Kindle or printed book, and ultracheap for under $5).
free:online - free:Bizzell (along with links for specific Bizzell options)
buy:OUBookstore - buy:cheap (along with links for various cheap options)

Format/Style: Most of the materials are full-text books, but I am really excited that I have a couple of films to offer and a great selection of comic books and graphic novels:
f:film - f:graphic-novel

Also, I'm not sure how many students are interest in audio, but I love audiobooks myself, and I've marked the audio books that are available:
audio (along with links for specific audio options)

Another big issue for my students is the use of old-fashioned language, which predominates in the public domain materials. I've marked the items which use modern language, and also the children's books, along with the items that are poetry or plays.
s:modern - s:children - s:drama - s:poetry

Authors: Although the individual authors are probably not known to my students, I can imagine some students who might want to focus on women authors or on India authors... or Indian women authors!

Notes: For students who like to have my notes to help them as they read, I've marked the items with Reading Guides (and I'll be adding more of these Guides as I get a sense of which items are most popular and/or most in need of notes):

Here's how I will get the students used to Diigo:


Week 1: Orientation (I always have an orientation week in my online classes).

RAMAYANA Weeks 2-4

Weeks 2-3: Ramayana. As a first-time experience with the Ramayana, there are three reading options:
R. K. Narayan's modern retelling
PDE Ramayana anthology
two short versions: Monro and Gould
Because there are just three options to explain here, I don't need Diigo to help with that.

Week 4: More Ramayana. Here is where the range of choices widens up enough that I need Diigo to help. So, I can use this link for all the Week 4 options, which are one-week versions of the Ramayana to allow the students to experience the epic again but from a different angle:
Week 4

There are 11 items to choose from there as you can see. But I can also provide links to filter those choices based on the students' preferences:
Week 4 film
Week 4 graphic novels
Week 4 women as topic
Week 4 women authors
Week 4 Indian authors
Week 4 free online reading

Hopefully I can use Week 4 as a way to introduce them to Diigo and how it can be useful! Then, in the second half of the semester, when they will really need Diigo to navigate the options, it will already be somewhat familiar.


Weeks 5-6: Mahabharata. As a first-time experience with the Mahabharata, there are three reading options:
R. K. Narayan's modern retelling
PDE Mahabharata anthology
two short versions: Monro and Wilson
Because there are just three options to explain here, I don't need Diigo to help with that. These options parallel the types of options available for the Ramayana, so students can decide if they made a good choice the first time (and make that same choice again if they want), or if they should try to a different reading option.

Week 7: More Mahabharata. Just like in Week 4, the range of choices widens up enough that I need Diigo to help. So, I can use this link for all the Week 7 options, which are one-week versions of the Mahabharata to allow the students to experience the epic again but from a different angle:
Week 7

Again, there are 11 items to choose from there. But I can also provide links to filter those choices based on the students' preferences:
Week 7 graphic novels
Week 7 women as topic
Week 7 women authors
Week 7 Indian authors
Week 7 free online reading

Week 7 will reinforce the use of Diigo that students will have seen already in Week 4!

WEEKS 9-14

Then, in the second half of the semester, Diigo becomes essential. For weeks 9-14, students have over 90 reading options, and it is free choice based on what each student is most interested in! Luckily, that all displays on one page of Diigo if you set to display 100 results per page.
Weeks 9-14 Ramayana

But of course that is overwhelming, so the key here will be to help students navigate with links that I provide OR with their own search results if they learn to use the powerful Diigo filters (which allow for Boolean combinations!) on their own. Here are some of the links I will provide:

Weeks 9-14 Ramayana

Weeks 9-14 Mahabharata

Weeks 9-14 Krisha

Weeks 9-14 free online AND modern style

Weeks 9-14 graphic novels

Weeks 9-14 focus on women

Weeks 9-14 Indian authors

Weeks 9-14 film

Weeks 9-14 free online

Weeks 9-14 ultracheap books to buy

And of course there are many more combinations as mentioned above. If I can get the students used to building their own Diigo filters, they should be able to search very effectively!

Some Diigo tricks: You may have noticed some oddities in the way I do the Diigo tags so I thought I would explain here the strategies I'm using.

category term and colon. Diigo is very good about prompting you to autocomplete a tag once you start typing, so by grouping my tags into categories like topics (all the t: tags for example, and all the free: tags), Diigo provides good autocompletion.

compound terms. If it were just me using these items, I wouldn't do any of these compound tags (like buy:cheap-Kindle and buy:cheap-book); I would do those as separate data items (buy:cheap AND Kindle). Since my students are probably less likely to learn the taxonomy to create their own searches, it is a big advantage to have individual tag links which are clickable on the Diigo screen. So, for example, if they are looking at an entry and see that it has a single tag which is buy:cheap-Kindle, they can just click on that tag and see the results of that search.

camel case. I use camel case for a tag like ReadingGuide because, while Diigo does allow for spaces in tags, it requires quotation marks around tags with spaces in them, which always turns into a big headache if you forget the quotation marks.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Growth Mindset Memes: a guest post for Larry Ferlazzo

Below is a guest post I am writing for Larry Ferlazzo; he is one of my favorite bloggers, so I am really excited to be able to do this! You can find him at his Websites of the Day blog, and I know him from his participation at Google+. Thank you, Larry!

About the author: Laura Gibbs is an online instructor who teaches mythology and folklore at the University of Oklahoma; find out more at

~ ~ ~

Growth mindset: this a term familiar to many teachers, but it's even more important for students to learn what the growth mindset can mean for them. You can tell students about Carol Dweck's research that shows how learning results from effort over time, not simply from "brains" or raw talent. You can provide details about neurobiology, and you can talk about potential, persistence, and other abstract notions. But how can you really reach students, especially younger students, with these ideas? Here's a possibility: growth mindset memes!

By combining text and images, memes are able to make a powerful impression, often conveying complex ideas in just a few words. The brevity of memes makes them a great option for student composition, and free online tools like Cheezburger and Automotivator (to name just two) make it easy for everyone — students and teachers alike — to create memes and share them on the Internet.

So, after a great presentation on growth mindset by Laura Slade at the Upgrading Online conference on June 24, 2015, I decided to create a blog where I could publish and collect growth mindset memes while also inviting others to share and contribute. You can see the blog here: Growth Mindset Memes.

Another teacher has joined in, too: Susan Strickland has started her own Cheezburger Board of Latin LOLCat memes to promote the growth mindset with her Latin students.

We hope that others will want to contribute either by creating your own blog of growth mindset memes, or perhaps a Cheezburger Board like the one by Magistra Susan — or even just by sharing your memes with the #growthmindset hashtag at Twitter. There are lots of possibilities; here are some ideas about How to Contribute.

And to give you an idea of what the memes can do, see what you think of these LOLCats with a growth mindset (made with Cheezburger):

I love a challenge!

The bigger the challenge, the more you stretch.

You can even make animated gifs for multilingual memes like this Spanish-Latin-English LOLcat (animation done with GIMP):

Si puedes soƱarlo, puedes hacerlo.
Si potes somniare, facere potes.
If you can dream it, you can do it.

Any type of meme can work, of course — it's not just about cats. For example, here are some motivational poster memes (made with Automotivator):

They wouldn’t make erasers if we didn’t make mistakes.

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

So, if you are a teacher with an interest in growth mindset (and it's valuable for teachers of all subjects at all ages), see what kinds of memes you can invent, and then set your memes in motion by sharing them online. To learn more about growth mindset and what it can offer both students and teachers, be sure to check out Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and you can also follow the #growthmindset hashtag at Twitter.

Bring on the memes, and let's keep on sharing, learning, and growing together!