A Practical Prism Pedagogy Proposal

Everyone’s been writing up proposals of new ways to use Prism and new functionality that can be implemented. One of the really exciting ideas (for me at least) that we’ve been tossing around collectively has been the idea of linking arguments to supporting evidence. In speaking with my fellow history department TAs, we’ve noticed that many of our students are doing poorly at uncovering how history literature connects these two things and some are not even sufficiently aware of what constitute evidence. Prism, used for pedagogy, could force a direct and individual engagement with these concepts.

Instead of marking up documents along predetermined themes or to arbitrarily choose new ones, students could be asked to mark particular passages as arguments.Then, they can mark up passages within the document that act as support for the argument. Other students can choose to contribute additional evidence markup for an existing argument or to contribute their own. Instructors can monitor similar theses and marge them dynamically in order to prevent duplication.

In the end, students can compare what they’ve highlighted as arguments and evidence against what others have chosen. The resulting aggregate set of arguments and evidence can also readily serve as review materials.

This scenario diverges from the current implementation of Prism in a few ways. Central to this excercise is the ability to more nimbly compare one’s own selections versus that of the group aggregate, but also with other individual selections. Some mechanism to  To help gamify Prism, we can offer statistics on the distance from the mean and the closest and furthest members from a user’s selections. This data could then be used to group people with discordant views together for in-class discussion.

Analysis of these relationships would also be helpful to tease out connections between arguments and between evidence. For example, highlights might help uncover which arguments are tightly connected or else have little to do with each other because of a lack of overlap in evidence. Different types of evidence might also be marked differently, perhaps based on predetermined categories – by its primary or secondary nature, its position in different historiography schools, its type, or the class or gender of its author. Analysis could then show which arguments are most strongly supported by evidence of each type.

Shane works on the history of computing and the impact of digital technology on culture and politics. His dissertation, "Kingdom of Code: Cryptography and the New Privacy" tracks the development of civilian encryption technology and the emergence of cryptography as an academic field of study, the debates over crypto regulation, and the concomitant construction of a new, far more expansive…

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