A Student’s Guide to Collaborative Writing Technologies
Dr. Gonzales has asked them to cite at least eight different sources and include a Works Cited page using MLA format. Unfortunately, Madison and Dakota are commuters from different towns, and their full-time job schedules prevent their meeting in person outside of class. However, both of them have computers at home with Internet access. When Dakota gets home late that evening, he logs into his Twitter account and begins to micro-blog on the topic. During the drive home he was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) and heard an interesting discussion about health care reform. His first post, or Tweet on the topic goes something like this: “All this talk about health care on the news—great topic for paper.” Since Dakota is using Twitter, his messages must be short—only 140 characters! However, he can Tweet as often as he likes, so just before bed he adds another post: “I work full time and go to school. I am uninsured.”
The next morning, Madison checks her email and finds an invitation from Dakota to join Twitter. Madison completes the registration process and selects the option to “follow” Dakota, so she will be notified when Dakota posts any more Tweets. She also notices the RSS logo on Dakota’s Twitter homepage, so she adds the feed to her Google Reader account. Now Dakota’s Tweets will show up alongside her daily dose of news and blog posts. Since she has to go to work soon, Madison downloads the Twitter application for her mobile phone so that she can respond to Dakota during her breaks. For now, though, she replies to Dakota’s Tweet with, “That sounds great! My mom has breast cancer and the family is really struggling.” Later that day Dakota sees Madison’s response to his Tweet and also several replies from his other friends. One of them is Brittney, a friend at another school who plans to apply to medical school next year. Brittney tells him that the topic is very controversial and sends him a link to her blog that discusses the pros and cons of the “public option.” Dakota logs into his Facebook account and updates his status to read, “I am doing a paper on health care reform. Please help!” One of his friends, Darrin, is also online at the moment and pages him through Facebook chat. “Try Google Scholar to find sources for it! Here’s a link.” Dakota clicks on the link and finds all sorts of articles from academic journals about health care reform—and also how many times each of them has been cited. There are over a million and a half links! He soon realizes that he will need to narrow his topic. However, Madison is one step ahead of him. She is now on break and finds time to send Dakota another Tweet: “Let’s do it on why the bill needs a public option.” Dakota tries another Google Scholar search using “public option” and finds fewer, yet more relevant articles. He replies, “Sounds good. I will work on finding articles.” Now Dakota needs a way to share articles with Madison. He could email the links or put them in his Tweets, but he wants a better way to organize them. He remembers Dr. Gonzales telling him about a Firefox extension called Zotero, which is designed for precisely that purpose. It will even generate a Works Cited page when they are done! Dakota installs the application. Now he is able to save the articles he finds on Google Scholar into Zotero and share them with whomever he wants. Dakota creates a public group on Zotero called “health care reform” and gives everyone permission to join it. This way, anyone on Zotero interested in the topic can add items to the group’s library of citations. Even though they’ve only talked face-to-face a few times, Dakota and Madison’s research into public options is going well. The sheer number of Tweets Dakota sends out is, unfortunately, starting to overwhelm Madison. Madison sends Dakota a Tweet that says, “Overwhelmed need to meet driving past your town thurs. U use doodle?” Dakota hasn’t used Doodle...
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