Introduction to Dialogica
Welcome to Dialogica: Thinking-Through Voyant (DTTV). This is a cross between a dialogue on computer-assisted text analysis and a hands-on guide to using Voyant http://voyant-tools.org. The idea is that reflection on questions and hands-on experimentation complement each other. We think they are the best way to learn how to use computer-assisted text analysis to interpret electronic texts. Playing with Voyant can be an occasion for reflecting back on both tools and questions about text analysis.
What are dialogica?
Dialogica are dialogical things. This web site grew out of conversations we had and it brings together learning materials designed around questions and conversations with others, software and texts. Dialogi.ca the web site has two types of things:
- We have pages like this one that are “meta” and talk about how to teach with the materials here, and
- We link to the walkthroughs.
What are the Walkthroughs?
The Walkthroughs are self study materials that you can use to learn on your own or adapt for students. They are Microsoft Word files so you can edit them as needed and we share them under a Creative Commons By Attribution license so you can adapt as needed.
What is Voyant?
Voyant (http://voyant-tools.org) is the collection of tools that evolved out of our experiments and these walkthroughs will show you how use Voyant for you own. Hermeneutica theorized computer-assisted text interpretation and included interludes where we showed the thinking-through of some experiments (see http://hermeneuti.ca for dynamic examples). DTTV takes the approach of weaving questions about electronic texts and text analysis together with hands-on walks that start with Voyant and then go beyond.
Why all this dialogical discourse?
In the spirit of encouraging you to think through the issue, this is a conversational set of walkthroughs. We alternate questions that encourage you to think about with activities to try and then discussions with more questions. We encourage students to pause and think through the questions before proceeding. Think of these walkthroughs as dialogue thingies with which to start conversations not end them.
Can I just play with the tools?
Of course! We hope you do get distracted by the tools. That’s a great way to learn. Stop and play with a tool or feature. Experiment on your own. We want you get to the point where you can use Voyant to talk about and through texts.
Our Teaching Philosophy
Our teaching philosophy is to start by showing tools and asking questions and then let students play with the tools. For this reason we start our workshops on Voyant by showing a simple Word Cloud and asking students what they think they are seeing. Then we let them loose to play with the simple panel. You can see the script that we use in introductory hands-on workshops here. In our in-classroom teaching we tend to:
- Ask general questions to orient students. These are not questions that have definite answers and students aren’t expected to know the answers they are to get them thinking before they read or play with anything.
- Show them a tool and how to use it. While showing the tool we might often ask questions to get students thinking about how to figure tools out for themselves.
- Let them play with the tool. It is in playing with the tool that students learn and as they play with it you can
- Provide follow up questions and exercises for the students who move quickly.
When teaching online we have followed a similar cycle of asking questions, showing something, letting students play, and then discussing how it worked. We have used technologies like Zoom where we can share our screen. For these we typically provide a script with the key links and explanations. The walkthroughs provided here can be the script, though they may be more verbose than needed. Some advice for those trying to provide a workshop online:
- You need to be more deliberate about what you do. Stop periodically and check that you can be heard and that they can see your screen when demoing. Regularly tell people what you are doing and what will happen next.
- You need to check in periodically with at least some students to make sure they have followed you.
- Show students how to use the Chat feature to raise their hands and to ask questions.
- Have a script so that they can go ahead or catch up. A script can also be used by students who felt left behind and need to review carefully.
- Prepare a set of tabs with what you want to demonstrate beforehand. Test that the technology works.
The Dialogica Walkthroughs have been written so that they could be used as self-study materials that students would work through on their own. Thus they can be used in a larger online course where you can’t check in live with students, but need them to work on their own. They could be used in the following model.
- Post a short lecture on the class site. The lecture might give a brief overview, ask questions and show what they should be able to do.
- Ask students to work through the Walkthrough on their own and complete an exercise that demonstrates mastery of the competencies.
- Have an online office hour(s) when you are available for people who are having trouble.
- Organize a discussion after students have finished the exercise to reinforce the ideas learned.
- Provide a short summary lecture that then links to the next unit.
Other sources of ideas
We have created a list of links to other ideas for teaching text analysis. See Other courses and useful links.
We thank all those who have worked with us on Voyant. The dialogical nature of this book comes from our conversations with each other, with others who have taught, and with our students. Alas Stéfan Sinclair passed in April of 2020 ending the dialogue that animated this collection. We maintain and add to this in his memory, especially the memory of all the work he put into developing usable tools like Voyant and teaching us to use them.
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© Stéfan Sinclair & Geoffrey Rockwell
All materials on this site shared under a Creative Commons By Attribution license.