Take a cue from the hipsters out there; if you are struggling to stay relevant in today’s emerging media landscape—desperately Googling discussion materials before class—you’re trying too hard. StumbleUpon is a free research tool which functions much like the Yellow Pages, providing resources for users to browse and keep track of interesting/useful websites. Like other popular social utilities, StumbleUpon aggregates material based on user interest, showcasing popular websites, media art, teaching tools and a wide range of other resources.
Create an account, select from a list of available interests, and (much like Delicious) you can quickly catalogue materials for future reference. Interested in having students perform rhetorical analysis of websites? Use StumbleUpon to find materials in class, in real time. In addition to the Library’s various journal and database offerings, I often encourage students to use StumbleUpon as a component of larger research projects. I have them use StumbleUpon not only as a material database by which they can locate articles and topics to discuss, but as a tool for finding new and interesting presentation resources (i.e Prezi). Simply have students chose “Internet Tools” from the list of interests, and have them spend some time searching in class. I’m often surprised at the materials they manage to find and how they incorporate and account for these materials in their own work.
You might spend some class time talking about how StumbleUpon functions rhetorically: How do we establish ethos online? Why do users find a particular resource helpful/interesting? Which sites can be trusted and which cannot? How does StumbleUpon facilitate a particular kind of writing process or research project?
In addition to all of these features, StumbleUpon provides an opportunity for students to understand the benefits of research collaboration. Find and link up with other users, colleagues or students. Their interests will appear on the main page, helping the user to keep track of what others in the field or in-class find useful. StumbleUpon is as interesting for how it functions as for the material resources that it provides students.
Derek Risse is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric & Composition at WSU with research interests in Animal and New Media. He has taught ENG 1020 in the department for several years and is teaching ENG 3010 this Fall.