Culturally Responsive Digital Reading and Writing Practices
curry mitchell

The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:

  • writing/reading assignments, activities, instruction, and assessments that promote equity, diversity, and inclusiveness
  • modes of content delivery–tools and apps–that activate cultural capital, foster class community, establish teacher presence, facilitate non-cognitive skill building, and invite and support multilingual discourse
  • pedagogy and theory, such as Laura Rendon discusses in Sentipensante, that allow us to imagine and practice student centeredness within the fully online classroom

If you would like to contribute to this bibliography, please join our WritingwithMachines Canvas course and add your annotated resource to our Discussion on Culturally Responsive Digital Reading and Writing Practices before April 11th. Please join us April 12th from 7:00-8:00 in Zoom for a culminating discussion of pedagogy and a demonstration of tools and activites.

Thank you to Tony Burman, Nery Chapeton-Lamas, and Jade Hidle for contributing!


Things to Listen to

Equity in Learning Design” with Christian Friedrich. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, December 7, 2017.

Friedrich offers an assessment of course design based on three principles of autonomy, competency, and relatedness, which, she argues, activate ones natural curiosity and motivate students to not only persist but engage within instructional experiences online. Her theory culminates in the following advice: “Examine your courses. Take the answers out. Put the challenges in.”

Diversity and Inclusion – How Does Higher Ed Rate?” with Amer F. Ahmed. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, February 22, 2018.

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast episode that focuses on diversity/inclusion in higher ed.

Recommended by Nery Chapeton-Lamas

Something to Watch

Advertising and Cultural Complexity” with Veda Partalo.TED Talk, 2013.

Students extract main points from Partalo’s argument about the relationship between advertising/marketing and her identity as a first-generation immigrant, then apply that point to a current ad campaign that reflect topical issues of cultural, ethnic, and/or racial identity.

Recommended by Jade Hidle

Things to Read

Sentipensante (sensing/thinking) Pedagogy : Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation by Laura Rendon, 2009. (paywall: access through MCC Library)

Although this book isn’t focused specifically on the online environment, Rendon’s focus on a feeling/thinking pedagogy is wonderful, and many of her examples and discussions of content can easily work in the online environment.

Recommended by Tony Burman

The Online Teaching Survival Guide : Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith V. Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad, 2016. (paywall: access through MCC Library),

Why it’s cool:  Tony chose this piece because of the points the authors make about online course design. Specifically, I appreciate the discussion they present in Chapter 5: Four Phases of a Course:Themes and Happenings. In this discussion they address course beginnings(where they discuss presence, community, and clear expectations), early middle(best practices and principles), late middle (letting go of power), and the end (pruning, reflecting and wrapping up).  Constructivism…learners create knowledge

Recommended by Tony Burman

Critical Pedagogy in the Computer Classroom: Politicizing the Writing Space” by Donna LeCourt, Computers and Composition,1998. (paywall: access through MCC Library) EBSCOhost,

Tony contributed this article because the author (1) examines academic writing as a ‘discourse’ informed by ideology, a nice departure from academic writing as correct writing, and (2) provides a number of examples of how the online writing space can allow students to write in a variety of different discourses and thereby see the value in their own writing/voice/etc. LeCourt argues that the online space can actually allow us to repoliticize writing in ways that focus on giving students power even if they aren’t experts in academic discourse(s).

Recommended by Tony Burman

Classroom Diversity and Inclusive Pedagogy from the ACUE Newsletter. February 22, 2018,

The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) has a lot and they also sponsor a podcast that’s great. You can sign up for their newsletter and check out there podcast on the ACUE community page.

Recommended by Nery Chapeton-Lamas

Something to Try

In-class Collaborations

A Collaborative, Critical Reading Discussion Activity created by curry mitchell, fall 2017.

curry created this collaborative activity last semester to facilitate a discussion about a dense article that was integral to a major writing assignment.The activity merges “fessing up” group strategies with equity techniques that pre-position every student to participate. By assigning roles, managing space, and validating all forms of contributions, this activity increases the opportunities for each individual student to contribute to and benefit from the discussions, from the quietest student to those who did not read before class. Feel free to make a copy of the linked google doc, and treat the topics and questions to fit your discipline and outcome goals.

Chapters 4 & 5 Student Centered Learning
Chapters 4 & 5 Student Centered Learning avatar

Tony, I greatly enjoyed the commercial break and your old school Coke ditty:)


These two chapters made me ruminate on how we engage our peer writing consultants in training at the Writing Center (WC) and how we might re-envision how we engage in aspects of online training with our peer consultants. I love Freire’s writings, and I fully use his student centered approach both as a composition and literature instructor, but I think I can try to embody more of Freire’s problem posing with our peer consultants in a WC context.

I particularly like what Tony said about focusing on how we present ideas over presenting course content. That notion is resonating with me as I type this. One of the challenges the WC faces in some of the online training is getting that rich and deep level of discussion from our consultants. In chapter four, Warnock reminisces about his professor from grad school, and he describes how the professor used the Socratic method building out from an easy to more complex scaffold: “He [Timothy Martin] would warm us up with easy questions, building our confidence and creating classroom energy before delving into more difficulty issues that were the objective of that class lesson”(31). This idea of building and scaffolding the critical thinking flow with students is compelling in an online space. I could see the Writing Center coaches doing a similar thing online, essentially using Tony’s suggestion from the video: we pose a simple question on a google doc about a concept and see where it goes on the document. Then we look for interesting patterns in their comments, and based on those patterns, we next offer up a theory reading that has been shortened or modified in some way, and our peer consultants can then go off and think about the topic, ruminate and do more discussion based upon the original post and the WC theory reading. I think this would build confidence with our peer consultants in the work they do, as they would get more time to think and chew on concepts and ideas. I know in the WC we have a big learning curve, and confidence can be an issue for this reason; consequently, scaffolding discussions  online in this way would potentially help to build their confidence and really let them work with a concept/ idea. I see us doing the application aspect that Tony suggests later on after some rich discussion. They can try that concept for several weeks in their feedback sessions, and then post or modify that original google doc with their findings, reflections, experiences.

I am also struck by his idea that smaller groups might work better to curb unwieldy chat in a synchronous chat session (33). But I wonder if that idea maybe also applies to discussion board posts, asynchronous discussions, or google docs too. For example, when in a f2f class, I always liked to do no more than 3 people in a group, so everyone would contribute and talk. I wonder if smaller cohorts for the online discussions would change dynamics and sort of force everyone to contribute. I am not sure how much that complicates managing students, but I am intrigued by the possibility.

I am also thinking that I can grow in how I interact with online training of our peer consultants by creating some room for synchronous discussions. As far as the discussion in chapter five, the syllabus in an online class, I imagine we can actually create a syllabus for our peer consultants training. Perhaps having that contract and list of due dates will help them see the overall objectives of the semester’s training. We do that planting the objectives and the due dates of reflections verbally and on our website section for our consultants, but a syllabus or a modified type of syllabus might be a good possibility for the future.

Level up; You Get a Badge!
Level up; You Get a Badge! avatar

Thoughts on Translating Teaching Styles and Preparing for Online Instruction…

Once again, this week we are presented with many good ideas, thoughts, and caveats for consideration as we work on translating our teaching styles into the online environment. Beyond the tools at our disposal in this digital environment, S. Warnock goes on to help us understand some of the intricacies to be carefully measured in preparing our class syllabus to make the online teaching experience a good experience for both student and teacher.

 Thoughts on Chapter 5: “Make sure that your electronic self’s availability is in accord with the schedule your atom self wants to keep” (Warnock, p.41) For me this not only speaks to how we respond to students electronically, but to how we set the parameters Warnock outlines in Chapter 5. Although I do love technology, I am not a fan of social media or the chat function for communicating with students. So, email remains my primary form of student communication (still better than carrier pigeons – although that might be more fun.) For me, I’ve always used a special account for all student communications as to not get messages lost in the barrage of general emails. Whenever possible, I tend to like the internal email accounts associated with the schools where I teach. Yes, I check multiple accounts, but I look at it like different filing cabinets keeping everything organized. I like Warnock’s note on message rules, and have started to spend some time at the start of class to discuss email etiquette as it already has become a lost art; no subjects in the subject line, no class names, even at times no student names associated with their communications. Then there is the expectation of immediate responses. “Yah, but I sent it to you at 2:30am!” So, I have a 24h response window and I make it clear that I will not respond after 7:00pm on weekdays.

Thoughts on Chapter 4:  I have read Paulo Freire’s work and certainly believe that individuals, through learning, can empower and remake themselves. Many of you have cited the use of Socratic Seminar discussion as one way for us to challenge our learners to engage with material in a critical manner and to reflect and judge the assumptions underlying ideas and actions. But, as also mentioned “participants carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion” and at times it just does not play out the way we had envisioned. Megan mentioned literature circles, which I’ve also enjoyed implementing. I will continue reading your posts as I’d like to learn more about all the ways to expand on these interactions.

As I read Chapter 4 in Warnock’s book, one topic peaked my interest above all else. I noticed the same curiosity in Heather’s and Megan’s posts, even though Warnock barely touches the surface of this subject. So, what better way to open my discussion than with a quote from Ready Player One (opening this week):

“I’d renamed my avatar Parzival, after the knight of Arthurian legend who had found the Holy Grail.”                                                  ― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Yes, I would like to explore Games and Simulations with all of you in this week and get your input and feedback on what your experiences have been with this.

I’ve been fascinated with this for some time as I too, like Jade, continue to hone my ability to create a better “student-centered approach by designing lessons that try to create a sense of discovery.” I have found that game-like environments for learning are well suited to help support the student-centered model. Gamification can not only enhance the online experience but allows us the ability to design lessons that are focused on student choice and discovery through game elements like quests. In one of our previous posts, we were discussing learning styles and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences as we design our lessons. I feel that applying game elements to non-game environments can encourage higher participation and motivation due to their ability to allow for self-discovery. So, I’ve tried to incorporate aspects of gamification into my curriculum (note: as part of the curriculum and not necessarily exclusively). Granted, my experience using this has been at the advanced IEP levels that are mostly filled with what Prensky (2001) defines as ”digital natives” so I experienced little resistance to the format as learners were already quite familiar with the interface.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about expansive MMORPG’s (World of Warcraft or Minecraft) but rather online gaming environments that are limited to the class and a “room” environment created by the teacher. A good example here is Classcraft (

Now I certainly understand that the online gaming platform might not be attractive to all teachers, but soon we will be talking about augmented reality that will afford us the opportunity to superimpose computer-generated content and have our students interact with it in the real world, either in the classroom or in an online environment. So I believe that gamifying a lesson or curriculum (whether using a digital game or old-fashioned game) can provide powerful differentiation opportunities to support student learning.

Now, in all fairness, it is very time intensive for the teacher to start this type of project at first. So, the same message holds true that Warnock and Curry have asked us to consider for online teaching, start small and don’t let the technology overwhelm you. I started with one or two small elements, and now am moving into slightly more complicated games like Classcraft to expand my online class activities. But gamification does not necessitate a gaming environment. You can create your own “gamified” lesson or curriculum without all the fancy stuff. If you are interested in what gamification is, Gabe Zichermann is a great resource. He’s got some TED Talks, many books, and online information that can provide a good overview of what it is and how it can be implemented.

I have rambled on way too long, so with that I conclude. Look forward to your thoughts on the subject.


So You Do Not Understand the Directions . . . Hmm
S. Gutiérrez

Professor Tony Burman models a student-centered approach that will allow professors to design an engaging course content that allows students to develop critical thinking skills they can apply instead of regurgitating information. In Warnock’s “Chapter 4: Course Lessons and Content: Translating Teaching Styles to the OWCourse” and “Chapter 5: The Writing Course Syllabus: What’s Different in Online Instruction” allows potential and OWCourses instructors to reflect and rethink approaches to online learning from the student’s perspective.

The Syllabus and Other Critical Information

In previous WritingwithMachines, I expressed my dislike for Blackboard. However, after reading Warnock, I wonder how much could have been prevented, by following essential steps and providing detailed instructions in order for the professor, me, and students to have a fruitful online experience in those early years of learning to teach online.

As I mentioned before, I have, surprisingly, only had one Q&A post this semester. And it was for a PDF document that would not open for a student, but the document would open on my end. Even that minor discrepancy on the student’s end could have been prevented if I would have included as Warnock suggests the specific software, technology, students will need to use in the online setting.

I found myself smiling while reading Warnock since I practice what Warnock writes about the syllabus in Chapter 5. During the first week of class, my students read their syllabus, “Class Philosophy,” “Course Communication Policies,” “English 103 Glossary of Terms,” and “Required Books for English 103” (These are all Pages I create, using Canvas). In addition, by quizzing students on the week’s material, students will see that I am serious about the subject matter and that they cannot skip material. 

Chunking—An Online Necessity to Teach Online  

I have found that teaching online has improved my in-class activities because online assignments must be clear for students to follow directions without them feeling confused and/or getting lost. In online classes, chunking allows students to grasp difficult course content or rhetorical approaches. I was part of the generation that was thrown into essays; I do not recall doing specific activities that I could use or expand on in an essay. For this reason, any assignment that prepares my students for essay writing I title “X Application Paragraph in Preparation for Essay #2” . . . . I learned this approach from teaching online classes since I noticed that some students were trying to figure out shortcuts and/ or what to skip and still maintain a good grade. Not surprisingly, when students skipped these critical assignments, they do not do well on their essays. Such was the case of a student I will refer to as Carolina. Students were supposed to analyze a package, using the skills we reviewed in class in an Discussion Board Forum in addition to completing a Working Thesis Workshop, among other activities. When I noticed Carolina did not do well, in her feedback I wrote that we could discuss a revision. I revisited her work and noticed that Carolina had not completed assignments that would have helped her begin analyzing her package’s semiotic symbols. (I allowed Carolina to submit her work, and she did great.) I, of course, know that writing about a package, using a lens perspective is not easy, and I had to craft assignments that would allow students to practice their critical thinking skills and not become receptacles as Freire points out in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Students had to interpret colors, identify fallacies, advertising techniques, and rhetorical approaches instead of summarizing.

But Sometimes Whether I Chunk or Not 

What I find fascinating about OWCourses is that similar to f2f classes, every class has a personality. When I first started teaching critical thinking and writing, I was impressed with my MSJC online classes’ critical thinking skills and high caliber writing. However, this is the second critical thinking and writing class, where my students write as if they were in a freshman composition. It is rather shocking when instructions are clear and to the point, and students submit work that does not address the prompt, (which is demoralizing for me as an online instructor) since I take writing very seriously. And do wonder if a small percentage of students believe that online classes are “easier.” Sigh. What do you think? Do students have a faulty perception of online classes? (Write whatever, and you’ll get a good grade. Not going to happen.)

E-mail Guidelines Can Make the Haystack of E-mails Go Away

Unlike Warnock, I only encourage students to communicate via email if it is a private matter. I appreciated how the author requests his students to include specific details in order to identify and organize students’ incoming emails. These minor changes make teaching online a pleasant experience.

At MSJC, professors must open their course shell a week in advance. Before, I would feel overwhelmed as a digital immigrant; however, now I am grateful that my online class is ready to go before the start of the semester, so I can focus my energy on other classes. Several times, I have been on family trips when the semester has started, and it feels great to experience the freedom that comes with online teaching. This semester I  answered student questions via email all the way from Puebla. (Had I been teaching a f2f class, our family trips would be shorter.)

How Do I Continue Growing as an Online Instructor—Synchronous Conversations

I am looking forward to seeing how I can add synchronous activities in my online course, since even though I teach online, I have not explored this modern way of communicating with a small group of people. I found Warnock’s practice of opening a chat room before an assignment is due worth exploring (41). I can see myself setting a time for questions, and hopefully a student, such as Carolina, would ask questions and avoid writing essay that lacks an intellectual analysis.

Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions!
Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions! avatar

This week’s readings prompted a lot of thought about the logistics of the online discussion, syllabus, and organization of an online class in general. I realize all my questions don’t need to be answered right now, but I appreciate any insights you all have!

Warnock’s Chapter 4 (and also Tony’s video) made me realize the #1 thing I should be looking for when setting up my class in a LMS are the collaborative spaces. The areas in which students can “talk” and see their classmates’ ideas are going to be key in designing an online course. These are areas of Canvas I haven’t used much at all teaching on-site (except Google docs). The discussion board section, the place that will replace the in class whiteboard will the of utmost importance in an online class. This leads me to wonder: what are those spaces in Canvas? And how many different spaces like that do you utilize to keep the class interesting and dynamic, but not so many to make it annoying or gimmicky?

Also, Warnock recommends using chat features for synchronous textual conversations (32).  I understand how chat works when you’re signed in to Google, but what about Canvas? There isn’t chat there, right? I think Zoom has the chat option, but could you or would you use it without also using video? Warnock also mentions “whiteboard” technologies (34). What would be an example of that (besides Anna’s imagined LMS). Maybe when he wrote the book the tools were going in a different direction…?

When thinking about planning a lesson or series of idea-generating elements (like Tony demonstrated in his video) the stages or steps become really important, since the instructor has to wait for everyone to get a chance to respond asynchronously. Warnock recommends to “pose simple, direct questions to students initially, and then during the week, work toward a more complex learning goal” (31-2).  I’m wondering about the logistics of this type of back-and-forth. How many due dates per week do you all give students? (I haven’t taught more than a two-day-a-week class, so I’m unsure if it’s appropriate to assign more items due in a week than that.) In an onsite class, a few steps can be worked through in one class period, since you’re all together. 

In Warnock’s blog, in his “Online peer review writing groups” entry, he discusses some of the challenges with f2f peer review (similar to the issues Anna mentioned last week), and how much better peer review is in an online class. He says the reviews are cumulative, so each new peer reviewer needs to account for and comment on the previous reviewers’ comments, whether they are agreeing with them or contradicting them, and the student writer could then check with the writing center or the instructor to feel more confident in the “right” answer. He also mentions student are more apt to trust each other’s comments when they’ve been reading their writing all semester as a way of communicating online. I can’t imagine that cumulative reviewing will solve all/any problems Anna mentioned, like peers not trusting each other’s feedback, and not having the skills or confidence to do a helpful review, but I appreciate his optimism.  Making a consultation with the instructor or writing center a final step of the peer review process seems like a good idea to me. I always encourage students to do this, but very few of them take advantage of the additional help.

In Chapter 5, about the syllabus, the one note that struck me was accessibility. For my f2f students, I answer emails as long as I’m awake, pretty much immediately because they email me so infrequently. In an online class, I am afraid I would feel the same urgency to answer and then it would feel like I was always working. I relate to Warnock’s point (somewhere in there) that student availability might be very different from mine, since I wake up early and go to bed early. Most of my student’s work comes in when I’m asleep. So do I give them hours I’m available to answer emails like 9-5? Or should it be a few hours a day? And of course if I’m working from home (which means also parenting) my actual hours I’m answering emails will vary daily and are quite unpredictable (try telling a 3 year old you can’t find her lovey because you are working). What do other instructors do about their hours of availability?

Lastly, and this is a bit of a tangent, but Warnock mentions video games as a new space for teaching. I’m not into video games, but I am into art, and the game element got me thinking about an immersive art experience my friend just visited in Santa Fe called Meow Wolf. It’s a house you can walk through and interact with, and there’s a mystery to solve of some missing children and a devilish uncle, and some magical elements like portals and afterlives. The house is full of clues to put the puzzle together, in the form of letters, newspaper articles, family photos, websites, articles about portals, etc. There’s a lot of texts to “read” along with the physical interaction. I started to wonder if there was a way to make a class like this. It would be almost like a game, with a problem to solve at the beginning, and clues provided throughout. Each unit gets you deeper into the puzzle and readings are about various aspects of the puzzle. Student essay assignments could be themed around some element they’ve figured out, or a theory they’re responding to. An online class seems to be the most natural way to go about it. The only challenge is that I’m not a writer or an artist! I also realize the topic would have to be expansive enough to keep everyone interested the whole semester, but my friend spent 8.5 hours in Meow Wolf, so it’s definitely possible. If only I could “borrow” all the materials they’ve already prepared 😉 Perhaps choosing a real-life topic, like that podcast “Serial” that built a story over the course of many weeks with research and talking to witnesses and so on. What do you guys think?! 

Thanks for reading!

Concerning the Case of Content Creation

A lot of Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 had me thinking “well, of course”. I think, in general, my favorite aspect of Warnock’s text is his common-sense approach; his recommendations are well-explained, and he comes from a surprisingly conservative position in explaining why he sets up his courses the way he does. He has the feel of an old-school writing professor who has moved to the online realm in order to keep proficient, efficient, and up-to-date. I like it. On those notes:

Socratic Seminars: Warnock makes an excellent point when he mentions we often see more success in online Socratic-style discussions than onsite. I’m willing to wager a good majority of English professors use Socratic Seminar discussion; I certainly do, as it is an effective and fun way to have students interact with course material. (There are, of course, always ground rules laid down beforehand.) One of the possible dangers during onsite Socratic-seminars is students “waiting for their turn to speak”—in other words, the inclination to forgo active listening, especially in regard to their peers’ comments and ideas.

For an OWcourse, students could be required to read and actually respond to their colleagues’ posts. Many of my experiences with online classes asked that I use my classmates’ actual words in my response-posts which made for better interaction and learning. This would lead to a better dialogue and actual conversation. Socratic Seminars are definitely activities I would use in my OWcourses.

Literature Circles
: The discussion of Socratic seminar made me think of literature circles, an assignment I use in several classes. Online, students can be broken up into groups of five. Each person would be assigned a specific role to complete alongside the reading for the week. Then, on the designated discussion board, each student would post their role and be asked to respond to the other four posts in turn. After the task has been completed, their roles would then switch, and the process repeat for the next week.

Peer-Review Groups
: One of Warnock’s suggestions for synchronous conversation that made me go “oh, duh!” was his recommendation to keep synchronous chat groups at five or fewer students. (As a quick side note, his exasperation with student lingo made me laugh; I had a class where I asked my students to each list and explain one colloquial slang-term they use nowadays, which made for a fun class. It led to fascinating dialogue on globalization’s effect on how we communicate and why.)

All of my onsite peer review sessions are conducted by breaking students up into groups of four; OWcourses take this method and improve upon it. My idea would be to have students spend several hours reading the other three student papers beforehand and write up responses via previously assigned guided questions. Then, with myself as a moderator, each group would meet up synchronously for one to two hours at a specific time. Each student’s paper would take a turn being the focus piece as the other three students give their feedback and comments. At the end, students would send or link their responses to each other.

I like this idea a little more than PeerMark due to the interactive nature and the ability for students to chat with each other real time. They could still copy and paste a lot of their comments—and I’d still certainly be asking them to look for and respond to specific concepts—but it gives them the space to ask questions and collaborate, reducing confusion and leaving each with a strong set of revision suggestions.

Chunking: Warnock paraphrases Smith and explains “online course content should include several components: it should be chunked into short learning segments; allow students to review the material; let students pause at any point without going back to the beginning and provide clear instructions” (30-31). Smith’s idea of chunking is invaluable. I think a lot of us already use it, but I can see OWcourses as needing a greater degree of space between ideas. Onsite, we have the advantage of witnessing confusion, answering questions right away, and slowing down the presentation of information when needed. Online, it’s very difficult if not impossible to know when students aren’t “getting it”. Therefore, breaking up a lesson into chunks is vital.

Syllabi: At the end of our certification process, I’ll probably realize I agree with around 98% of everything Warnock has to say. Yet another point of solidarity was his advice a syllabus be detailed and elaborate (38). For years and for every syllabus I’ve ever seen, the divide between the two mindsets seems to solidify: there are professors who like their syllabi to be as short and to the point as possible, and then there are professors who treat their syllabi as the keys to class success. I fall in the second camp, and strongly advocate having syllabi that are both easy to understand and thorough. In my experience, having a detailed syllabus has really helped my students greatly; I receive very few e-mails asking “obvious” questions, and students save time recalling basic class policies, assignments, and other information.

A few points Warnock makes that are invaluable to OWcourse syllabi are accessibility, message rules, and chat/IM/synchronous contact, accountability, and the schedule:

1) Accessibility (and on that note, chat/IM/synchronous contact): Letting students know—nay, ensuring students know exactly how to reach me will prevent many, many headaches. Aside from specifying how long it will take me to respond to e-mails, having a designated time each day or week in which I’ll be online in the chatroom will allow students to ask questions real time. I will aim to do this twice a week, but that’s just my as of yet inexperienced prediction. It could be that it’s only viable to conduct such Q&A sessions once a week. (Udemy does this, by the way, and it’s a fun and interactive way to learn about new subjects. I’m currently casually partaking of their free astronomy course.)

2) Message rules: This was a cool concept! Asking students to label their e-mails is a great way to organize the avalanche of messages I already receive. I’m going to try this out for my onsite classes, too.

3) Accountability: I have a clause in each of my syllabi detailing to students the workload and expectations for each class. (To be completely honest, this is yet another idea I’ve borrowed [with permission!] from Kelly Hagen.) I’ve copied and pasted it below:

Committing to being a college student is just like committing to a job: you have responsibilities and obligations as a student to be present, do your work to the best of your ability, and develop academically. For every unit you are taking, you should expect to spend approximately 2-3 hours outside of class per week working on assignments, projects, readings, etc. If you are a full-time student (a student taking 12 units in one semester), you have taken on the equivalent of a full-time job. Therefore, English 50 is comparable to a semester-long part-time job.

As severe as it sounds—and I do “lighten up” the tone while explaining it to them—having this clause really helps. Sometimes it seems that students treat their classes like clubs: they can participate when they want to, and they can ignore the work if it interferes with their jobs, hobbies, etc. Not only does this thought perplex me, it’s something I have a hard time not taking to heart. Letting them know these expectations helps mitigate the aforementioned potential issues.

4) Schedule: Of course, students need to know what they need to complete and when to complete it. Having as detailed a schedule as possible for my onsite classes has been indispensable; even when students miss several classes in a row, they can keep up with the work and stay on-track to pass. OWcourses need to have as much information as possible for the very same reasons. As there isn’t an in-person onsite class, guiding students with specific details on what to accomplish each day is essential.

Games!!!!!!!!: Finally, Warnock barely touches on the concept, but I immediately zeroed in on his idea to use video games and simulations. It reminds me of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline—a fascinating novel I highly recommend everyone read. I won’t spoil anything, but in the book, all students go to school via virtual reality. They literally put on a headset and tactile gloves to enter an online classroom and learn by being plugged into these simulations. While this possibility seems closer to reality than it did even three years ago, it’s still a bit of a jump from what I’ve been considering. I would love to somehow conduct a class session or two (or even an entire course) via an MMORPG. To be honest, I don’t know how I would do that, it’s just a desire at the edge of my mind. I think video games are vastly overlooked in the academic realm which is a real shame. There’s some excellent potential to teach a whole slew of subjects. Just think about games with co-op modes (Portal, for example) and problem-solving puzzles (any game with quests). These aside, there are lots of action-adventure games that contain well thought-out stories. All of these could serve as the basis for a whole bunch of assignment types and activities. …All I need is a grant to do some research, and I can provide both results and hard proof! 😉

As a side note, thank you for sharing Warnock’s blog with us, Curry—it made me chuckle to see our esteemed orator of online orientation has a BlogSpot. I had a BlogSpot back in the day. It’s lovely scholars such as Warnock are so free and open with their knowledge and resources; the generosity and teamwork expressed by so many of our notable instructors truly makes me proud of the teaching profession. There are so many wonderful people in our vocational sphere!

Random Thoughts on Tony’s Video
I loved the quip on Nixon discussing blogs and wikis. I’ve used Charlie Chaplin as a “guest-lecturer” to illustrate rhetorical devices and effective argumentation. 🙂

Two lovely comments from Tony: “I haven’t lectured at them…I’ve let them explore.” Yes. Exploratory learning has been proven time and again as highly successful and engages all seven learning styles.
“Individual students making individual decisions for themselves about sophisticated writing.” I think in OWcourses it will always come down to this point, which highlights the importance of students reaching conclusions themselves, rather than “banking” the info into them.

You know, I always thought that Coca-Cola commercial was pretty effective. And now that song will be stuck in my head for the rest of the week…

Warnock Chapters 4 & 5
Warnock Chapters 4 & 5 avatar

Hi All,

Well, I was rushing to get this done and realized that we have until March 26th. But I have the readings fresh in my head, and even made a video showing how I use discussion board as well as, how, with the help of Katie Hughes (SDSU) and Marla Williams (SDSU & MiraCosta), I have revised my syllabus and calendar for my online classes.

Here’s the Link

Best, Cara Owens


My Teaching/ Facilitation Framework
My Teaching/ Facilitation Framework avatar

Hi Everyone,

I am joining a bit late. But I want to thank Curry for encouraging me to join in on this fantastic journey with you all.

About me: I work as a full time writing coach in the Writing Center. This semester I am on all 3 campuses: CLC, San Elijo, and Oceanside. I am a happy and incredibly grateful graduate of the CSU system where I did my B.A. at CSU Fullerton and my M.A. at Sacramento State. I have additional teaching certificates in Teaching Composition and in Teaching Reading to Adults. I am passionate about literacy and developing better reading/ metacognitive skills with students. I taught English 100, Basic Writing (when it was called that at Sac State), and a hybrid online model of English 100. I taught reading classes at Sacramento City College, and I spent a year at Montana State University teaching American Literature, FYC, and an advanced composition course.   Then I had my twins and put work on the back burner for the wonderful and crazed work of raising my twin girls. While I did not anticipate doing writing center work, I started working in the Writing Center here at MCC in 2014, and I feel like I am following my bliss every day I come to campus. Right now I am right in the middle of my Orton-Gillingham certification training classes. I hope to be able to better serve our students with dyslexia after I complete my OG training.

My Framework for working with students online:

So I am hesitant to use the word “teaching” here, since I am coming from the perspective of writing center work—we facilitate- right?! But when I work with students online in a feedback session, I feel like we have to be more directive because we use a non-synchronous platform for our feedback. At times that lends itself to conversations and interactions that push that facilitator line to more directive type teaching. Because I have online connections with students in much shorter bursts than a 15 week class (I create a 5-8 minute personalized video with feedback), I have had to adapt my in class teaching pedagogy a bit for writing center work. Here is what I value in teaching:

I want to have deep connections with my students: I want them to know I value them, their unique experiences, their life and academic contexts and histories, and I want them to know that I am here for them as both writers and as people living in the world. To do this, I believe in a “call you in” type relationship where I invite them in and hope they will invite me in too. This means I create as safe a space as possible for them to express their ideas. I see students as my teachers in many ways. I learn something new from the students I work with every day.

“Because the students don’t actually see me, I try to create links between us, not just to develop a sense of camaraderie, but to create an audience for them” (8).

I want to push past this limitation of seeing or not seeing by using technology like screencast to record my face and voice in a webcam introduction to their feedback video. But I also try to create more personal links when their paper is on the screen, and I talk through a revision idea. I try to do this with specific compliments on what they have done well or a brief mention of my own writing experiences, if my experiences relate to what the student is doing in their writing. I do try to record a brief intro to my video using the webcam, so students can place a face with my name and voice. I hope this makes them feel more connected to me- the person giving them feedback. I almost always thank them for using our services and compliment something concrete they did in their writing.


Writing is a Process: I want them to learn something epic and life altering-ly big or to them seemingly small (I don’t ever think these realizations are small at all) about their process in each interaction I have with them both in person or online. In feedback, I use lots of open ended questions. I ask them to experiment with moving ideas around on the page. But I also want students to be metacognitive about their process. How did mind-mapping the reading help you? Why did mind-mapping work better for you than traditional note-taking? OR Why did moving that mention of the author’s credibility work better as the second sentence in your intro over where it was before? How/ why did you decide to move it there? If they walk away knowing they have a process and could draw me a map/ picture or narrate their writing process and why it works for them- I have succeeded in some way!

“The continuous writing environment makes it ever possible for students to learn through their own work in a studio-like environment (Grego and Thompson 8)” (xii)

This resonates with me because we use studio style at San Elijo. In fact the Greco and Thompson article was our jumping off point to shift to studio in the center. Students don’t need an appointment; they drop in. The time with students then becomes less about the product and more about their process and identity as a writer. With studio, I facilitate more active learning because we can talk out what they want to do in our time together and then after we have discussed an idea or concept have them practice and apply a concept while I either physically pull back to give them space to apply what they learned. But I get to check in on them again and read again what they just practiced on their own and validate it or get all meta with them on how it worked for them. I would love to find ways to do this online using our a-synchronous model, but obviously there are challenges there.

De-mystify Reading and Writing in a Safe Space: I try to be as explicit as possible about academic writing. I believe in models. I believe in explicit instruction. I want to break myths (elementary to high school) they have been told about writing or what makes a good writer. I think students want to be able to practice their skills in a safe space and have us there as that back up support to talk out what they just tried or experimented with in their writing.

Finally, one goal I have is to extend how we work with students online beyond the online writing feedback videos we create.  This may mean online workshops, discussions, content pages, online videos on how to critically read for various disciplines… I am not sure yet what, but I hope to learn how to do that with the most sound online pedagogy.

Here is my video:


Mobilis in Mobile
Mobilis in Mobile avatar

Hello Fellow Colleagues,

As all of you have also experienced, I’ve had my share of adventures through the labyrinths of educational technologies, all promising new bells and whistles to serve our learners and us better. Initially, to help me provide digital content to my learners, I created my own websites, eventually moving over to institutionally supported CMS systems. Here I’ve dabbled with Blackboard, Moodle, Edmodo, Google Classroom and now have set a new course for adventures in Canvas. Collectively, they remind me of the motto on the Nautilus, Mobilis in Mobile, technology moving amidst constant change. Just when you think you might have learned the ins and outs of a system, a better one arrives. I like technology so I’m always exploring new tools, but it does get a bit overwhelming at times to determine what will actually work and what just looks interesting but will be too difficult to evaluate the educational impact. So I’ve come to embrace the “less is more” notion expressed in Warlocks’s ninth guideline to “keep it simple and effective.”

I wish to share with you some of my experiences as they pertain to how I approach building my online-hybrid classrooms. I usually try to evaluate them by looking at design tools, content creation tools, and content management systems (CMS) available to me.

  1. Design tools:
    These include tools that allow you to create your own interface either through direct HTML5 coding, or through the use of digital composers, i.e., website builders (WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace) that offer users a variety of templates and a friendly interface with easy drag and drop features. These allow you to effortlessly link/post content to a variety of sources including social media applications. I’ve enjoyed using these design tools for hybrid classes as I feel they allow me the greatest amount of creative control; however, there are limitations with content privacy.
  2. Content creation tools:
    Whether using web builders or an existing CMS infrastructure, I use lots of different tools to help build and design my content for classes. Since many of you use these I won’t go into much detail on them other than to list them. I use Keynote, PowerPoint and Prezi for in-class content presentation. I usually use the first two and then convert them to PDF and upload/link to the virtual classroom, blog or CMS. I try to have students also use these tools for their presentations, or choose a number of other programs that are better suited for social media integration.

    1. Smore and Pinterest: Great for brainstorming ideas and creating digital flyers/posters and/or image archives. Smore allows you or students to create great flyers without requiring much in the way of design skills.
    2. YouTube: I create class channels in which I can link content into my HTML/CMS sites or have students upload video projects to the account.
    3. Storybird: As an ESL educator, I’ve enjoyed using this tool that allows students to create their own digital picture books. I usually have two members in each team, as they search through the extensive art archive to find images that work for their creative story development. Stories can be long or short based on story design and then they can easily be converted to an eBook format for presentations. Additionally, they provide a classroom interface allowing you to easily review projects, set assignments, have students respond to stories via blog, and story publishing tools. I’ve used it for teaching intermediate ESL writing classes as well as intermediate German.
    4. Easelly: This application is ideally suited for creating infographics that I’ve used for students to graphically represent their essays. They visually demonstrate the flow of ideas and overall structural cohesion of the writing.
  3. Content management systems CMS): As mentioned earlier, I am relatively new to CANVAS. What I’ve seen so far I’ve liked and find that the benefits outweigh the weaknesses. Most of my experience has been with other CMSs. One of the schools I teach at uses Google Classroom exclusively (for hybrid classes):

    Google Classroom: The interface is straight forward and simple to use. The teacher interface allows you an overview of all of your online classes. Each class consists of three essential pages:

  1. Stream page: used for all communication of assignments, questions, or announcements (not email).
  2. Student page: Allows for teacher/ student interaction and discussion.
  3. Class resource page: Presentations and additional information can be posted for students to access.
  4. Additionally, there are email and calendar features integrated into the site.

The true benefit of using Google Classroom has been the ease of use of all the Google Suite applications because they integrate seamlessly into the site. I’ve listed the ones that I use regularly:

  1. Google Docs: Great for individual or collaborative writing assignments. Allows synchronous user editing.
  2. Google Forms: Create multiple choice or limited response questions that are helpful as a digital study guide. Students get instant feedback and can access forms on any platform.
  3. Google Drive: Google’s version of Dropbox. A place that holds all Google-created documents and allows you to share those documents by placing them into student folders.
  4. Google Slides: Another alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi, seamlessly integrated into the Google platform. Students can easily create and share their presentations. They can play on any device at any time (given a good WIFI connection).
  5. Google Hangouts: Platform for creating video or text discussion groups linked to the Google Classroom site.

I have enjoyed using the system because it is quite flexible and adaptive. The price for accessing all of these systems is setting up a Google email account. As most students already have such an account, they can access all of these applications at no cost. There are video and photo applications and many more that can be integrated to expand on lesson content creation. Above all, unlike other CMS systems, I’ve been able to use this with students from around the world as it requires only an internet connection and a PC.

See you next week!
Bentley  🙂