Perusall, the Reading Process, and Engaged Difficulty
Perusall, the Reading Process, and Engaged Difficulty avatar

         I was inspired by the video of Lisa Lane’s demonstration of Hypothesis and Perusall and immediately began to think of ways I could use Hypothesis and Perusall in my Integrated Reading and Writing ENG 100 class. Last night we were in the library working with our librarian to understand how to evaluate online sources. As I watched Lisa’s video, I thought that part of that library session next time might include students using Hypothesis to run the CRAP test on a website and annotate their work then share their evaluation work with the class. We did some practice last night, yet I can see how Hypothesis would make it so much more engaging. The other idea is to use Perusall instead of or as part of the Funds of Knowledge (FoK) dialectical reading journal assignment. The way it works now, students complete a FoK dialectical reading journal as part of an at-home reading activity. This particular journal is asking students to record or monitor how what they are bringing to the text (both their general and literary repertoires) are shaping their meaning-making process. Usually students share what they wrote in their reading journals in groups of four using the active learning stations—yet what if instead of sharing their journals—they used Perusall to annotate some of what they captured in their journals, say three to five places (annotations) per student in different colors. In the end, each group would have a map that would graphically represent the core principle in the class of reading as a social interaction in which the student is responsible for speaking back to the text, saying something of their own, constructing their own meaning and leaning to see reading as “a struggle within and against the languages of academic life” (Bartholomae and Petrosky, “Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts”).

       The other idea I drew from both Lisa’s demonstration and from “Beyond Highlighting: How to Get the Most From Your Annotations” is to use Perusall as a way to work with the “Difficulty Essay” assignments.   In the “difficulty essay” IRW teachers ask students to approach moments in the text that are striking in their complexity and begin to work through them in order to get a better idea of their purposes and work. The Difficulty Essay divides the reading process into four steps: initial observations, question (s), + Plan of action, new insights, and reflection. This sequence makes thinking visible and allows students to approach the reading process more strategically. Assignments like allow students to learn what types of things are difficult for them to understand and to begin to develop a methodology for figuring them out, as well as to practice supporting the conclusions they come to at the end of the process with evidence from the text. On the day students complete their difficulty essay, we could use Perusall to annotate and share the specific part of the text they zeroed in on for their difficulty essay, their plan of action, and what new insights they gained from the process. Since each student developed a strategy, a plan of action, to overcome their difficulty, we could use Perusall to assemble a map of the meaning construction strategies each person in a group used. Super cool right? I found the video and the annotated bibliography really helpful in thinking about how technology is changing the way we read and how to use it to teach integrated reading and writing and look forward to our Zoom session.

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