In the lesson, our professor Rebekah Hendershot goes through an introduction on the synthesis walkthrough. She starts by analyzing the prompt and reading the texts. Then she discusses some possible approaches, scoring guidelines, the sample essays and tips for the synthesis essays.
The prompt provides background information (a summary of the pros and cons of technology).
The prompt offers a hypothetical situation (a school considering the implementation of a new technology).
The prompt makes demands:
Use at least three sources
Create a coherent, well-written essay
Evaluate the most important factors in the decision
Cite your sources, but don’t merely summarize them—use them to support your point.
Reading the Texts
Source A (Rotstein) is a local newspaper article about a high school using Apple iBooks instead of textbooks. It quotes an administrator who contrasts using technology as “frosting on the cake” to making it “the key ingredient of the cake.”
Source B (Delaney) is a national newspaper article that describes the use of new technologies in the classroom. It quotes an administrator who talks about the difficulty of communicating with kids who have “grown up with technology from the beginning”.
Source C (Dyson) is an excerpt from a book about science and technology. Its author argues that increased productivity has made humans think short-term, and that this creates “mental diabetes.”
Source D (Johnson) is an excerpt from a book in which the author describes his early experience with a computer. The author talks about how his sense of identity, once wrapped up in his handwriting, is now associated with the writing he does at a keyboard.
Source E (Gelernter) is an excerpt from an article by a computer scientist. In it, the author bemoans the information overload that is shrinking users’ attention spans and promotes the worst kind of thought and behavior: “There is no quality control on the Internet.”
Source F (Boligan) is a cartoon showing a child in a cell-like room, watching a televised image of a bird while the same bird flies past his window, ignored.
Some Possible Approaches
The sources provide a variety of arguments for the use of technology in the classroom—A and B are openly in favor of it, talking about the ease of communicating with students, and D is neutral to positive, talking about the transition to a “digital identity”.
Other sources (C and E) take a more negative view of technology in the classroom, pointing to shrinking attention spans and a lack of critical-thinking skills.
Because the sources present a wide variety of arguments, you may choose to address all the areas of debate or only a few.
Remember, however, that you must use at least three sources.
Note that a score of 9 is reserved for essays that meet the 8 criteria but are unusually good—and that a good essay, in this case, “effectively develop[s] a position that evaluates the most important factors that schools should consider before deciding to use particular technologies in curriculum and instruction.”
The descending scores of 8, 7, and 6 are allotted according to:
This essay began with an overview of the topic followed by a strong thesis statement—“its negatives still outweigh its positives.”
The student supports his or her thesis with strong examples from the text, and piquant explanations of those examples. The paragraphs build on one another, creating a strong structure.
The reader praises this student’s “perceptive commentary” in the last paragraph.
Note the masterful use of language in this essay.
Let’s look at Sample 1B, which earned a 6.
This essay has a strong thesis and an adequate command of language, but it wavers in its use of support.
While this writer name-checks issues like short attention spans or teachers’ need to relate to their students, it connects these ideas only loosely to the texts—and remember, the texts are what this assignment is all about.
The reader does mention a “generally clear” prose style, which probably saved this essay from getting a 5.
Let’s look at Sample 1C, which earned a 3.
This essay fell down on the job right away—the thesis is not clearly stated.
Once again, we see a writer trying to take several positions at once—technology is “a driving force” and “beneficial”, but “comes at a cost.”
The command of language is erratic—nobody says that a technology’s downside is “its blunder.” There are persistent errors in this student’s English mechanics.
Finally, this essay doesn’t go deep enough into the factors that would affect the school’s decision—and that’s what the prompt asked for.
Tips for the Synthesis Essay
Language still matters.
Read the prompt carefully! Because you will encounter many sources with wildly different opinions, remember that you only have to answer the question you’ve been asked—not fix the ozone layer.
Don’t try to take more than one position at a time.
Using a lot of sources is better than using only a few sources, as long as you use them all well.
Don’t use long quotations or summaries unless it’s necessary. Readers know filler when they see it.
Once again, this question doesn’t have a right or wrong answer—the right answer is the thorough, well-supported, and well-expressed one.
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
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