Having students summarize readings for someone else is one of the great teaching techniques. We see it in Peer Instruction, we see it in the effects of team-based learning, we see it in the beneficial effects of tutoring on a tutor’s understanding.
At the same time, such activities are often inauthentic. WaterFeed is a part of the Water106 project I am working on that tries to remake student summary into a meaningful endeavor. The way WaterFeed works is the backend of the site pulls stories on water policy, technology, and science from more than 80 feeds daily. These are stored as drafts. Students are then encouraged to go in and find stories in the drafts they would like to summarize. Those summaries, when done, are pushed out to the WaterFeed blog where they can be used by both professionals and students to stay up on the latest news and research findings. When these summaries are published, they move out of drafts, ensuring that students are not all covering the same few stories.
I can’t embed a Jing Screencast on this blog, but a five minute presentation of how it works is here. I’m particularly excited because it seems to me that this is the sort of activity that could be directly applied to any number of courses from many different disciplines.