Full Disclosure – I started working on this post and generating ideas for a collaborative assignment before reading Chapter 14. There were two simple reasons behind this approach: I had a few ideas that I didn’t want to lose, so I started writing before they had a chance to escape. The second reason is about influence: I wanted to get me on the page first and then see if Warnock and I shared some of the same ideas. This resulted in a section that encourages students to consider collaboration approaches and a system that works for the group, which speaks to Warnock’s point about student roles (149). I found this section to be particularly helpful and assuring. That being said, while I’m definitely an online newbie, at this point I’m not sure I agree with Warnock’s idea of “identifying a clear leader” (149) in each group that instructors can check in with. It makes sense in terms of instructors being able to check in with designated students, but I don’t like the idea of establishing, at least early on, roles with obvious connotations. I’d prefer to let these roles surface gradually, organically, and ideally remain title-free. However, as you’ll read below, I do emphasize the importance of developing a system and setting “reasonable goals and deadlines early on that can be adjusted based on the needs of the project and group.”
Finally, perhaps this was just me, but I was really hoping Warnock would share actual content—i.e., the instructions and guidelines he gives his students for the argument website project he mentions (148). I wanted to see what the students were seeing to get a better sense of how he actually delivers ideas. To what extent is his language bound/closed vs. unbound/open? Where and when, if at all, does he offer clear “must/should” requirements? How does he go about inviting his students to explore exactly? For this reason in particular, I’m including actual steps/content that I’m planning to share with my own students later this semester. But it’s just a draft. I look forward to hearing any thoughts on how I’m delivering the assignment to students. Is there too much at times? Too little? Am I too prescriptive? Room for clarification? Where are the holes or gaps? Potential issues down the road? Is the reflection letter too short? Too long? Is the project too complicated and ambitious? Grading thoughts? Do I need additional layers? How might you rethink parts? Should I scrap the whole thing?
Context – In a few weeks, my students will wrap up Unit 2 and begin Unit 3. This third unit will focus on food production and ultimately result in essays based on John Robbins’s No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Food Revolution. After reading the book and getting a sense of the various topics—pork, chicken, beef, soy, chocolate, coffee and more—students will consider what’s not in the book and eventually argue how a new chapter on a specific topic would strengthen it. In other words, they get to join the conversation. What’s particularly challenging for students is making clear, meaningful connections. They have to know the book well in order to argue why a new chapter idea is a good fit; they have to be able to articulate, for instance, how a new chapter would build upon or set up existing chapters and ideas. It’s kind of like a book review. Kind of.
In addition to reading the book and thinking about new chapter ideas, students will also take part in a collaborative group project related to the topic of food. Essentially, they’ll be creating brochures that spotlight human rights issues tied to food. This emphasis compliments the third section of the book, “Industrial Food Production—and Other Dirty Dealings,” which examines human rights issues in the chocolate and coffee industries.
Below are some of the instructions I’m planning to share with students. I’m still developing content, and I’m even thinking about delivering the content through a Canva brochure like the kind they’ll be creating:
The Group Project
The Challenge – This assignment includes two parts, the brochure and the reflection letter.
The Brochure & Audience – Together with your group, you’ll create a stunning brochure designed specifically for English 100 students. This will be your specific audience. Building on some of the ideas from Unit 3 and No Happy Cows, your brochure will spotlight a specific human rights issue tied to food production and include the following elements:
- Visuals – Since it’s going to be a stunning brochure, you’re probably going to need at least two relevant visuals.
- Words – You’ll contextualize your visuals by addressing current status, causes, impacts, previously attempted/proposed solutions, and your group’s new proposed solution. What’s taking place today? How might you introduce and show the issue? What are some of the causes behind this issue? How did we get here? How does the issue impact people (physically, mentally, etc.), specific communities, industries, the environment and more? What has been done to address the issue? What new solution has your group created?
- Works Cited – Of course you have to use one of your panels to cite your sources, which include your visuals.
Ultimately, to create a memorable brochure, you’ll need to utilize the tools you acquired from our second unit on communication and rhetoric. In other words, you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to use visual and textual rhetoric based on a specific audience. It’s not just about generating awesome content. It’s also about how you deliver this awesome content.
The Reflection Letter – After you complete your brochure with your group, you’ll develop your own reflection letter (500 words minimum), based on your unique experience, for future English 100 students. Essentially, you’ll reflect on the collaboration experience—your system, the process of creating the brochure, how you thought about the audience, your role in the group, what worked, what didn’t, what you would do differently and more. In addition to explaining the experience, you’ll also need to provide specific (showing vs. telling) advice to future English 100 students about how they should approach the assignment. You’ll submit your reflections through Turnitin, which is to say, I’m the only one who will be reading these reflections.
The System & Getting Started – Figuring out the best way to collaborate will be essential to your success. What works for one group, might not work for another, so try to develop a system that works for your group. Some of you might begin with a Google Doc (set to “edit”) to brainstorm ideas. Others might start by adding initial thoughts to the DBQ 10 post. There are also options like email, FaceTime, Google Duo, and video conferencing sites like Zoom. Finally, if you’re in the same area, some of you might even find that meeting in person at a coffee shop or MCC is the most efficient way to get started. Overall, it’s probably a good idea to get a sense of schedules and see when folks have time to work on the project. Even if you can’t meet in person or chat via video call, you’ll probably be more productive if you set reasonable goals and deadlines early on that can be adjusted based on the needs of the project and group. Without a sense of schedules and some kind of system, you could easily grow frustrated waiting around for a response or for someone to submit a portion of the project. Seriously: Get organized early to avoid headaches later.
The Issue – After you chat with your classmates and establish a system that works for your group, you should start researching various human rights issues tied to food production. Where should you start? Excellent question! Personally, I think Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are great places to locate current issues and legit articles, but there are plenty of others just a few clicks away. Don’t forget our wonderful library and librarians—they’re excellent resources—and don’t forget about moving beyond Google. There’s Google Scholar, for instance, as well as MiraCosta’s Databases. Once you’ve had a chance to share your research with your group, you’ll need to select a human rights issue to feature in your brochure.
The Template – Head over to Canva, which you already used for DBQ 8, and check out the “Brochure” templates. You and your group will need to decide on a template. Don’t forget your audience.
The Grading – Half of your grade will be based on your group’s brochure and half will be based on your reflection letter to future English 100 students.
The Groups – Open DBQ 10 to discover the magic that is your unique group.