Combining and Evaluating Ideas (Lesson B)

In this lesson, we continue the process of sorting through our research material to combine and make connections between several sources.

Once we have identified the main points of discussion for the research topic, our goal is to articulate the connections and relationships between the sources to demonstrate the range of ideas on each point of discussion.

We will begin, in Step 1, by developing a synthesis table, which we will populate with specific and detailed information from the source material. In Step 2, we will focus on one specific category or ‘point’ of discussion, and develop our ability to examine and illuminate the relationships between sources.

Note

This lesson draws on knowledge of three articles. If you haven’t already, you will want to read them now.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. An Occasional Paper on Digital Media and LearningJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536086.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved 5 October 2001, from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20 Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Wohlsen, M. (2016). Digital literacy is the key to the future, but we still don’t know what it meansWIRED. Retrieved 14 April 2016, from http://www.wired.com/2014/09/digital-literacy-key-future-still-don’t-know-means/

The lessons in Study Room 2 and Study Room 3 provide some summary work and comparison of these articles. You do not need to have completed these to enjoy this lesson. See the following resources if you would like some background information on the Prensky and Wohlsen readings:

Filtering Source Material

Once you have defined the points of discussion for a project, it’s time to work with specific content. This process can take some time; you need to go back over your research material, and review the summary and annotation notes that you have completed so far, to collect relevant content for each point of discussion.

The goal is to filter the mass of research information you have collected, and select information relevant for each point of discussion. A synthesis table is a helpful tool in this process as it makes it easier to highlight relationships between sources.

Note

If you haven’t completed Lesson A for this Study Room, view the following resources to see the points of discussion developed for our sample research question:

Have a look at the Synthesis Table template, but first take note of the following hints for using it:

  1. In the first column, list the main points of discussion. They become the main sections of the essay. Provide as much detail as you can about the kind of information you plan to put in this category and the kinds of questions this category will address.
    Remember, as you progress through this process, you may find that the points need to be revised; sometimes one point turns out to be too big and needs to be re-focused into several smaller categories of discussion.
  2. The next columns are for each source. The template has room for three sources, but you can have as many as you like. Just add columns!
    Fill in specific information from each source for each category, when relevant. Remember, not every source will be useful for every category.
    Include your own summary and paraphrase of ideas in the source as well as small quotations when useful. Remember to think not only about specific points the author makes, but also dig deeper to include the assumptions, evidence, and examples used.
    Note

    If you aren’t sure about how to draw out specific ideas, assumptions and evidence from the sources, you can review these in the Study Room 1 and Study Room 2 lessons.

  3. The final column is for notes to yourself about the research material and ideas you are working with. This information will help you to make connections and transitions between ideas in the essay, as well as insert your own position.
    For each category of discussion, make notes about the relationships between the ideas in different sources, noting any points of conflict or debate as well as agreement, and any comments and conclusions you might make about the issues under discussion.
Synthesis Table (Reference)
Synthesis Table Template
For each point of information:

  • Briefly describe what kind of question or information you are looking for.
For each source, indicate how it contributes to the category of information, including:

  • What does the source have to say about this topic (summary of the source’s position/idea)?
  • Indicate what kinds of assumptions the author makes about this topic.
  • Indicate what kinds of evidence and examples are provided.
For each category, reflect on the information from the sources and consider:

  • Interesting relationships between what the different sources say.
  • The nature of the connections between the sources. Is there debate or agreement?
  • Your own position on this idea and how it relates to the other sources.
Source A Source B Source C Comments/Conclusions
Points











Practice

Now it’s your turn to practice with the template. Notice that in this case, the template has the research question at the top and the points of discussion that have already been developed listed down the left hand columns.

Using the template, fill in the boxes for each category as best you can, drawing on the source articles by Prensky, Jenkins, and Wohlsen. If you can think of other relevant sources for this topic, go ahead and add them!

While answers will vary, you can click to reveal sample answers for each category. Based on the sample answer, see if you can improve your work for the next point.

Synthesis Table (Practice)
Research Question:

Digital technologies influence how we gain access to information and how we communicate with other people. In the 21st century, what skills will be essential?

For each point of information:

  1. Briefly describe what kind of question or information you are looking for.
For each source, indicate how it contributes to the category of information, including:

  1. What does the source have to say about this topic (summary of the source’s position or idea)?
  2. Indicate what kinds of assumptions the author makes about this topic.
  3. Indicate what kinds of evidence and examples are provided.
For each category, reflect on the information from the sources and consider:

  1. Interesting relationships between what the different sources say.
  2. The nature of the connections between the sources. Is there debate or agreement?
  3. Your own position on this idea and how it relates to the other sources.

Synthesis Table: Point 1 (Sample Answers)
Source A Source B Source C
Points Prensky Wohlsen Jenkins  Comments/ Conclusions
Point 1 – Access to Information

What does the research have to say about how digital technology affects the way we access information?

Prensky focuses on how the “digital natives” access information in fundamentally different ways because of exposure to digital tech: “as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (p. 1). Point is Prensky’s fundamental assumption that allows him to make his argument about changing curriculum;

Interesting note: Wohlsen and Jenkins try to expose places where they need more skills to work with information, assuming, unlike Prensky, that they have significant skill gaps.

For Wohlsen, key skills in coding and algorithmic thinking are necessary primarily as they will enable the younger generation to be able to interpret and use the mass of information that is generated in a digital culture. Kids, he argues, need to be “skilled in the ways of information technology” because most career paths are “data-driven.” For Jenkins the emphasis is on the skills necessary for participatory culture – in which participation in culture means the ability to produce and share information. With the skills to do so, individuals will be fully participating in culture as citizens. Prensky focuses on a preference for how to consume or engage information, but Wohlsen and Jenkins are more focused on how digital literacy skills will enable the ability to produce and share information within society.

For Prensky, digital technology has changed the way young people consume information.

While this may be true, this view, perhaps because he writes in 2001, is only a small part of the issue. In the digital age, information and data are key, and Wohlsen and Jenkins emphasize the skills in interpreting, producing and sharing information as the cornerstone of digital literacy.

In section – emphasize writers’ concern for this issue ranges from consumption, to production and sharing of information.

Download Sample Answers

Synthesis Table: Point 2 (Sample Answers)
Points Prensky Wohlsen Jenkins
Source A Source B Source C Comments/Conclusions
Point 2 – Effects on Communication

What does the research have to say about how digital technology affects the way we communicate?

Prensky’s notes that the “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” communicate and so learn in fundamentally different ways, causing friction. Wohlsen’s focus is on coding skills to be able to participate in new ways in which information is produced and circulated.

Download Sample Answers

Synthesis Table: Point 3 (Sample Answers)
Points Prensky Wohlsen Jenkins
Source A Source B Source C Comments/Conclusions
Point 3 – 21st Century Skills

What does the research say about what skills we need to ensure we can continue to access information and communicate effectively in the 21st century?

Wohlsen emphasis for skills is the ability to make a computer do what you want it to do – coding and “logarithmic” thinking

The rationale is to ensure success in “data-driven” environment.

Jenkins argues that in the era of “participatory culture” characterized by more integrated affiliations through social media and more collaboration, we need new skills; they list and explain these new skills which include problem-solving through “play”, “networking, collaboration or “collective intelligence” and “appropriation” or the ability to remix media content.

All these skills are defined as necessary to help participate in the creation and sharing of information and communication in new participatory culture.

Wohlsen’s arguments are really smaller version of what Jenkins encapsulates in his major study of 21st century skills – the dominant features, if take all authors’ works together – collaboration, mixing and remixing, multi-media productions and distribution of media to share information and communicate.

Download Sample Answers

Remember that these sample answers are offered as demonstration only and reflect the idea of how to approach this task.

Exploring and Evaluating Relationships

Now, let’s practice how to go from the notes in our synthesis table to writing paragraphs that combine and evaluate the relationships among this source material. You might think about all the ideas and examples in the table as building blocks. You should have a good idea now of what you want to build and how each point will fit in; it’s time to build!

When we move to writing paragraphs, we must remember that our goal is to highlight the relationships between ideas. As you build a paragraph using ideas from multiple sources, consider:

  • Does the information you bring in suggest agreement or debate?
  • Does the information provide arguments, assumptions, or evidence about an idea?
  • How does the information link to the paragraph before it? After it?

In a synthesis essay, much of the information will be paraphrased and quoted from other sources. Your voice comes across when you explain the relationships between all the other information.

This is the work that you do – your unique contribution; no one else will bring all the research material together in exactly the same way to illuminate exactly the same ideas.

Let’s practice by looking at the information for Point 1 from the synthesis table.

Practice

The task is to put together a paragraph based on the information from the synthesis table.

All the ideas from Point 1 are provided here. Review these notes, then follow the instructions below.

Information for Point 1 (Reference)
Prensky Wohlsen Jenkins
Point 1 – Access to Information

What does the research have to say about how digital technology affects the way we access information?

Prensky focuses on how the “digital natives” access information in fundamentally different ways because of exposure to digital tech: “as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” (p. 1). Point is Prensky’s fundamental assumption that allows him to make his argument about changing curriculum. For Wohlsen, key skills in coding and algorithmic thinking are necessary primarily as they will enable the younger generation to be able to interpret and use the mass of information that is generated in a digital culture. Kids, he argues, need to be “skilled in the ways of information technology” because most career paths are “data-driven.” For Jenkins the emphasis is on the skills necessary for participatory culture – in which participation in culture means the ability to produce and share information. With the skills to do so, individuals will be fully participating in culture as citizens. Prensky focuses on a preference for how to consume or engage information, but Wohlsen and Jenkins are more focused on how digital literacy skills will enable the ability to produce and share information within society.

For Prensky, digital technology has changed the way young people consume information.

While this may be true, this view, perhaps because he writes in 2001, is only a small part of the issue. In the digital age, information and data are key, and Wohlsen and Jenkins emphasize the skills in interpreting, producing and sharing information as the cornerstone of digital literacy.

Now it’s your turn.

Sample Paragraph (Practice)

Part 1 – Instructions:

Below you will find five pieces of a paragraph. These pieces are all mixed up, and your task it to drag them into a logical order to make an effective paragraph. Think about the topic sentence – what is the main idea of the paragraph? And then consider the logical development of information.

Drag the sections into a logical order.

 

Part 2 Instructions

Read over the completed paragraph, and click on all the transition language and key words and phrases that are repeated. Click on any words or phrases that help you to understand the relationships between the different ideas.

Sample Paragraph (Sample Answers)

Part 1

Use of digital technology effects not only how we access information, but also our ability to produce and interpret the information around us. Writing in 2001, Marc Prensky argues that “digital natives” “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (p. 1) as a result of experience with digital technology. This assumption allows Prensky to make his argument about changing the curriculum to include game-focused learning. However, writing years after Prensky, Wohlsen and Jenkins tackle his early assumption that “digital natives” know more about how to use technologies than they actually do, and argue that education should be designed with this in mind. The need to close skill gaps in digital technology is supported by both Wohlsen, in the field of computer programming, and Jenkins’ arguments on 21st century literacy. Wohlsen argues kids need to be “skilled in the ways of information technology” because most career paths are “data-driven.” And Jenkins argues that skills to produce and share digital information are necessary to fully participate in culture as citizens.

Part 2

Use of digital technology effects not only how we access information, but also our ability to produce and share the information around us. Writing in 2001, Marc Prensky argues that “Digital natives” “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (p. 1) as a result of experience with digital technology. This assumption allows Prensky to make his argument about changing the curriculum to account for this shift in information access, and include game-focused learning. However, writing years after Prensky, Wohlsen and Jenkins tackle his early assumption that “digital natives” know more about how to use technologies than they actually do, and argue that education should be designed with this in mind. The need to close skill gaps in digital technology is supported by both Wohlsen, in the field of computer programming, and Jenkins’ arguments on 21st C literacy. Wohlsen argues kids need to be “skilled in the ways of information technology” because most career paths are “data-driven” (2014). More generally, Jenkins (2009) argues that skills to produce and share digital information are necessary to fully participate in culture as citizens.

Explanation:

Notice that the bolded words and phrases help guide the reader by linking ideas in repeating words and phrases, as well as indicating a relationship between the ideas. In the sample paragraph, the reader can follow a progression of thought about the main topic from 2001 to 2015. The reader understands there was a shift in assuming how much young people really knew about how to use digital technology during this time period.

Download Sample Answers

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