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Friday, April 19, 2013

New Kinds of Attention: Teaching with Writing in a Digital Age

"My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski."
—Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains,” the Atlantic, July/August, 2008

Like it or not, we have all become digital citizens—spending much of our days navigating the Internet, World Wide Web, text messages, e-mails, and tweets. But we’re still learning how to integrate this new flood of information into our lives. As teachers in the classroom, how should we think about the student who has five windows open on her screen while writing a paper? What kind of attention is this—and can it lead to the deep engagement we’d like our students to express through their work? When multiple streams of information are available at the click of a mouse, how does this change the way students write, think, and develop their own ideas? What kind of attention are we now dealing with as teachers and students?

Cognitive science has shown that we learn to pay attention differently depending on the world we’re exposed to; and that what we pay attention to actually changes our brains. Our use of the Internet has changed how we focus. At the click of a mouse we can immerse ourselves in completely different worlds—move from the latest research on an infectious disease, to the causes of World War I, and a YouTube video of a recently attended party. In this conference, we explore how teaching might respond to these new brains and modes of focusing. If we see students as distracted, how might we use writing to help them focus on the skills they’ll need beyond school? If these new modes are an opportunity, how can writing support students as they develop novel ways of thinking and being in the world? And what can we learn about this new world from our students, who are more likely to be born into it than their teachers?

The conference consists of small group workshops, led by Institute faculty associates, and a plenary session featuring a keynote speaker and discussion.
Olin Hall 
Friday, March 8, 2013

Curriculum Conversation: Homer's The Odyssey

In the spring of 2009, IWT offered the first in a series of Curriculum Conversations on cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching "canonical" texts through diverse writing-to-learn practices. IWT Curriculum Conversations focus on reinvigorating and developing innovative approaches to teaching these texts, but perhaps more importantly, they lead to new ways in which to help students understand their relevance. Classical literature is a case in point, and this year, we turn to the source of Western literature and the second of Homer’s epic poems, The Odyssey. How can The Odyssey shed light on our current circumstances? What does it reveal to us that other more contemporary texts don’t? How do we help students understand that it is full of human urgencies and stories that continue to be a part of our lives today—and are a part of their lives? Writing-to-learn practices are the starting point for a rigorous reading of the text and for multiple readings through the lens of other texts—fiction and nonfiction, contemporary and historical.

The day includes a plenary session with writer, critic, classicist, and translator Daniel Mendelsohn, Charles Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities at Bard College. Mendelsohn’s essays, reviews, and articles appear frequently in the New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, among other publications, and he is the author of award-winning books including The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million and How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken. He teaches both The Iliad and The Odyssey for first-year students at Bard. Olin Hall 
Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bard Center for Civic Engagement 2013 Essay Contest

Deadline: March 1, 2013
Bard Center for Civic Engagement announces the 2013 Essay Contest co-sponsored by the Institute for Writing and Thinking.

Submit a 1,500-word essay or a two- to four-minute multimedia piece that addresses "On Being Human: Freedom and Constraint in the Year 2013." Three first-place winners will be chosen along with honorable mentions from Bard’s network institutions.

Deadline: March 1, 2013
Submit essays electronically at:  https://www.bard.edu/civicengagement/opportunities/