This semester, I’m teaching a “tech-enhanced” first year experience class at UW-Madison. Part of it will include collaborative work in Google Docs. But I’d like to make collaboration mean more than “let’s be nice and help each other by agreeing with each other” — so I’m going to try to facilitate mean-spirited arguments in Google Docs by having the students take on roles. Here’s how I’m explaining it in the syllabus.
For the four weeks when we have articles and handouts to read (other than the book), You will contribute to a whole-class collaborative Google Doc of passionate reactions to the readings — with a twist. For each reading, you will take on a different reactive role:
Protagonist: supports the author’s arguments with additional sources and citations
Antagonist: counters the author’s arguments with additional sources and citations
Mediator: tries to mediate the arguments on either side through a third way — with additional sources and citations
Troll: Insults everyone — with links to additional (not-too-offensive) memes
I hope it’s an interesting way to get you to think and communicate critically about the readings and as a way to help you
- hone your information literacy skills
- learn to argue academically, with support and citations
- thicken your skin in academic arguments, and
- discern between academic arguments and troll attacks
I also hope that you understand the playful performative spirit of this — one of you is supposed to be a jerk (Troll) each week. Dig deep. The others should take the comments of the troll with a huge grain of salt, and actually encourage them to be more trollish (it’s hard for nice people to insult others without good reason). By taking on each role each, I hope you will see both academic and non-academic discourse played out, and feel the frustration (even tho it’s fun) of trolls and out-of-context responses. Roles will shift each reading so everyone gets a chance to play each role. Please take this seriously, even though it’s playful. I expect thoughtful, well-researched responses (unless you’re a troll, but even then surprise me with your skills!) The best discussions will go back and forth for a bit.
For the first week, we will randomly assign roles, then rotate to the next in the list for each reading. So everyone will get a chance to play each role.