Print book need not fear, for new technology makes you better my dear!
Print book need not fear, for new technology makes you better my dear! avatar

I beg to argue that the print book is being re-enforced rather than murdered by new technology. According to this article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “more books are produced in print each year,” since the advent of digital formats. Whether you hold a physical book or an eBook the opportunities to engage with text has positively increased with the rise of technology. Rather than forcing students to choose the only option that many generations had before the end of the 90’s we should build classes that give students the opportunity to choose the kind of book that support their learning style. I personally, love highlighting and taking notes in an eBook and then being able to search for key words when I want to find a particular quote. I love the convenience of having my whole library on a tablet rather than in an extra suitcase.

As I design my future online classes I will keep in mind that our changing environment is not going to wait until we are comfortable, so it is better to embrace technology rather than run from it. I am very inspired by the inventions taking place at public and college libraries where you can rent books right from your smart phone with apps like OverDrive. I’ve recently gotten hooked to this app, which allows book rental in audio or eBook format. The down side is, I check out many more books than I can actually read. But at least I never have to worry about returning them since they expire automatically after a certain period of time and I always have the option of renting them again.

Is the Audiobook an appropriate class text?

I resisted audiobooks for a while but with the rise of programs like audible I couldn’t help being sucked into the experience. Although I was a late adapter to Audiobooks I now enjoy listening to them for pleasure because it is faster and more convenient on the go. I’m still deciding whether or not I would use audio books for Comp classes because it eliminates the interaction with words on a page, which is really important for critical reading.

I think I would use an audio book in conjunction with a physical or eBook, therefore the students can listen to the book and then annotate, take notes and create dialectic journals using the eBook or physical book version.

Social media and the written word

I prefer a text message over a phone call. I surveyed my class with this question last week and found out that 90% of my students prefer to text than talk. Some people might think this is bad,  but I think the popularity of text messaging helps our craft more than it hurts it ….if you’re not driving and texting that is lol. Even though texting is often shorthand, bad grammar and riddled with emojis it is still a form of written communication and the most effective form of communication with today’s generation. Text messages, social media and interactive apps on our phones have opened up a new avenue of communication. Nowadays everyone walks around with a keyboard in their pocket because they might need to write a response to something at any particular time. This just means that more people are writing and reading. I often ask my students to review their last social media post and think about the rhetorical strategies they used to convey their intended message. This is always interesting because they do not realize how deeply they consider their audience’s reactions, emotions and interests. I also ask them to review their time line and pick out the people who writes those “book chapter,” posts and bring in a sample to tell us what they like or don’t like about it while exploring the rhetorical strategy that this person used. We all have those annoying people who write “book chapter” posts ….hmmmm wait a minute….I might fall into that category on Instagram.

Videos, Podcasts, Audios

My class materials often consist of these three formats in concert with the written format. I use these formats as pre-reading exercises. I have the students listen to audio interviews and then read a transcript of the audio they just listened or read a chapter associated with the ideas. As they read the transcript or chapter they are instructed to practice a particular critical reading strategy. Each semester I share a list of critical reading strategies and each week we pick one to focus on.

Here’s an excerpt from the critical writing assignment sheet:

Directions: For every assigned reading, choose 1 reading strategy (you can vary them, or use the one or two you feel works best for you). You will turn this in every class for each assigned reading. Below are the strategies you may choose from, along with a detailed description of each.

1. Outline: Across the top of your paper, write down all of the bibliographic information about the source (author full name, title, where it was published, when it was published, etc.). Next, create an outline of the author’s work in which you use their main points as your Roman Numerals, and their supporting details as your letters and numbers. Below is an example of how you might visualize what this outline looks like. Please note, your outline will vary according to how an author organizes their work. Also, you may want to write down page numbers next to main ideas/quotes so you know where to find it later.

I. Introduction

a. Background Info

b. Background Info

c. Background Info

d. Author’s thesis

II. Body Paragraph 1 Main Idea

a. Supporting Reason/Detail

i. Evidence

1. Explanation

b. Supporting Reasons/Detail

2. Q & A (minimum of 8): Across the top of your paper, write down all of the bibliographic information about the source (author full name, title, where it was published, when it was published, etc.). Ask 8+ thoughtful questions about the text, and attempt to answer these questions based on the information contained within the text. For example, you might ask, “What is the author’s point in their article?” Your response to this question may be a short summary of the article/reading. You might also ask, “What reasons does the author give to support their ideas?” In this case, you might list some of the author’s main points that support their thesis.

3. Annotations: As you read, you will make notes in the margin, underline key points, and write down the dictionary definition of any words you do not know. Your marginal notes may consist of you marking areas you think are important, questions you may have as you read, or responses you have while reading. You will either turn in the reading on the day the reading strategy, show your book to your instructor, or photocopy the pages with your notes to turn in. Most reading strategy assignments are handed back within the same class period so they can be used with exercises.

4. Paraphrasing (minimum of 8): Across the top of your paper, write down all of the bibliographic information about the source (author full name, title, where it was published, when it was published, etc.). Next, you will choose 8+ passages from the reading and paraphrase those ideas in your own words. A paraphrase should be approximately the same length as the original passage, and will be the author’s idea(s) explained in your own words. Make sure you write down the page number with the quote so you know where to find it later.





Guideline 21: Message boards can create a powerful and effective writing and learning environment for your students.

I like the discussion boards but I find that sometimes it becomes a place of dread for many online students. They feel like they are required to talk about “bullshit” just to show that they are participating in class. Weekly discussions are great but they should tie into bigger projects so that if a student does not diligently participate in the small discussions they will be behind in composing their larger projects. Warnock advises that there be very clear guidelines for discussion boards because after a while it becomes repetitive (88)…but is that the students’ fault? I don’t think so. I think we should give them many different scenarios to respond to and that might eliminate the repetition and the empty posts that do not add to the conversation. I appreciate the useful advice shared on this topic and I will be using some of your ideas in my future class. I like Warnock’s idea of student led prompts. Has anyone done this? How did it go?


Do Online Students Learn? READ? WRITE? Yep!
S. Gutiérrez

Scott Warnock’s chapters, “Readings: Lots of Online Options, But the Book Is Not Dead!” and “Conversation: Online, Course ‘Talk’ Can Become Writing,” present approaches that produce positive results (and pitfalls) in online teaching.

This week’s material has allowed me to reflect on the issue I was attempting to grapple two weeks ago: Am I providing too much feedback? Again, the answer that online professors suggest is that too much feedback can muffle students’ voices, and it makes sense. If a student always gets too much criticism (feedback), then why would he or she want to write a response?  Hmm Shockingly, Gilly Salmon’s commenting guidelines are the following: “enough, but not to much, intervention” (qtd. in Warnock 76). Warnock then adds commenting “should be not more than one in four messages from you” (76). I do recognize now that I need to back off a bit since I assumed, prior to reading Warnock, that responding to all my students was part of the online teaching methodology.

I was surprised to learn Warnock provides extra credit to diligent and active members of conversations (81). I found that practice a bit troubling.

Shoudn’t all online students be treated equally? What message is being sent to students who do not meet Professor Warnock’s expectations?

On How to Produce Well-Crafted Responses

Warnock’s approach to grading in Teaching Writing Online will be morphing into my rubrics and prompts. I noticed the nonconducive pattern the author refers to occurred this last week in my online class. Warnock provides the following solution to avoid copycat posts: “My rules include posts should contribute to the overall conversation. If I post and opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by student seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way students are building on the conversation” (88). My guidelines state that students must present at least five sentences (Recent change). From now on, I will specify “critical” sentences that do not simply repeat their classmates’ comments. I will consider a word count since “Me too!!!”  (qut. in Warnock 80), of course, “does not qualify as an ‘official’ post” (80). And surprisingly, students do write these responses under time constraints. For instance, this this past we concluded Whole-class Workshops in my online class. A student wrote three sentences, and one of them was “Great work!” Sigh. (FYI: I overlapped the research paper due date with the last Whole-class Workshop. I will do my best not to replicate that issue.)

No-no in Online Teaching

My goal as an online instructor is for every activity to prepare students for their essays. I might even be crafting assignments that are to closely related to the class’s essay prompt. Because I want students to succeed, I include several application paragraphs for their last essay, since in my eyes, the material can be difficult to grasp. However, Warnock critiques this approach by warning, “If all posts are extended essays in response to my prompts, the message becomes a series of disconnected essays responding to the instructor’s questions than a conversation (82). I will revisit my online discussion forums and will see if my prompts need revisiting since I present rather complex prompts compared to Warnock’s message board one-sentence questions/prompts (86). To be honest, from a critical student’s perspective, I would expect a professor to write more than one sentence (As a student writer, I observed and appreciated my professors’ rhetorical approaches). As a college student, I never took online classes prior to teaching online, so unfortunately I do not know what most online English prompts look like.

Contemplating Synchronous Activities

Another topic Warnock shares in chapter 7 and 8 is an introduction to synchronous approaches even though he prefers asynchronous message boards, which I rely on in the online setting. In the next few weeks, before the start of my summer online class, I will be contemplating at least one synchronous activity I can repeat throughout the semester.

Lens Perspective Writing

For my online critical thinking and writing class for Mt. San Jacinto College, I have to teach five essays. For Essay #5, I present two prompts—one for students who are interested in analyzing a film and the other for students who are interested in writing about two texts. For Option I, students will apply WEB Du Bois’s the double consciousness/the veil to Jennifer Baszile’s The Black Girls Next Door. What follows is Option II lens perspective assignment:

NOTE: I will be returning to film in my f2f classes; that is why I selected this assignment.

Films through a Lens Perspective Discussion Board Forum in Preparation for Essay #4

For this activity, using Seger, Hagedorn, Omi, and/or St. John’s as a critical framework, analyze the representation of a specific character in a film of your choice. Be sure to include detailed observations and an intellectual analysis. That is, based on Seger, Hagedorn, Omi and/or St. John’s lens perspective, how does the director depict the character? What is the director’s purpose? How does the director’s representation of the character affect the viewer? Add a screenshot of a scene that includes the character you selected, so your classmates can follow your keen observations. Post your semiotic analysis by Saturday, April 28, 2018, at 10:30 PM, and reply to two of your fellow classmates’ posts by Sunday, April 29, 2018, at 10:30 PM. (10%)

Length: One paragraph (AXES)

Check-Off List:

  • Does your assertion include the name of the film and your argument?
  • Have you presented a vivid description of the character to support your claim?
  • Did you include a lens perspective?
  • Have you provided your rationale?
  • Does the paragraph follow a logical spatial order using prepositional phrases and/or transitions?
  • Have you carefully proofread your work, including spelling?
  • Does your bring the paragraph to a satisfactory close?

Writer’s Tips:

NOTE: Summary is not critical thinking.

        Discussion Forum Post Rubric

Full credit

Presents a limited topic, a lens perspective, well organized central supported idea, an abundance of telling details, apt word choice, sophisticated sentence structure, and mastery of grammar and usage conventions of standard English.



Two replies made prior to the due date. Both replies demonstrate thoughtful feedback.


Partial credit 

Presents a limited topic, a lens perspective, some organization and inadequate development, a general word choice, and some distracting errors in grammar and usage.


Two replies are made prior to the due date that reflect little to no effort to provide thoughtful feedback.


Not passing

Missing an argument and a lens perspective, a lack of organization,  inadequate development, a vocabulary that is too general, sentences without much subordination or parallelism, and serious errors in grammar and usage.


0 points

No replies are posted.



Don’t Get Me Started on How Important Reading is in a Writing Class.
Don’t Get Me Started on How Important Reading is in a Writing Class. avatar

Unit 5 Reading and Discussion.

Reading is important. As much as I think of my classes as writing classes, they are, in fact, reading classes as well. When I first started teaching, I would assign four essays on a topic, and then expect my students to discuss it in class. Boy, that did not work. Students could give their opinion on the topic–say immigration or gun control, but discussing the readings didn’t really happen. Luckily, I was fortunate to be invited to the Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiatives (CAPI) Summer Institute in 2003, which morphed into Reading Institute for Academic Preparation (RIAP) Summer Institute in 2005. The basis of the work in both of these summer institutes was reading–more precisely working with texts. It really gave me some tools to help my students learn to read college-level texts well enough to write about them.

I learned to slow down and really work on one reading at a time helping students understand what they read. The big push was “Charting the Text.” This was used to help students (and ourselves!) understand what the text was saying and doing. Part active listening (saying) and part teaching the writer’s craft (doing). I was hooked. In my classes, students not only understood the readings better, we also got to talk about what the writer was doing–his or her craft Or as the RWS Department calls it, rhetorical strategies. Why does she begin her essay with this story? Why does he use this quote here? This gave students tools for thinking how to write their papers.

I went on to be a mentor teacher for the English Department at Santee High with English Curriculum Alignment Project (ECAP) from 2009 to 2012 through SDSU/Grossmont Union High School District project. The English teachers at Santee and I worked on Assignment Sequences that brought in an expository texts to work with their literature curriculum. For example, several teachers were using Romeo and Juliet in their classes. We found a fabulous essay about love versus infatuation (I wish I could remember the title!). We created an Assignment Sequence that worked through both the play and the essay leading up to a paper where students had to argue whether or not, Romeo and Juliet were in love or infatuation.

I digress. Back to Warnock and reading. Chapter 7 “Readings: Lots of Online Options, But the Book Is Not Dead.”

Guideline 18 & 19

For years I have put together a reader through the SDSU and MiraCosta bookstores. It’s less expensive ($20-$30) and we use all of it in class. AND, both bookstores take care of all the copy-writes. When I started teaching online at SDSU last summer, I had students all over the place, Germany, Seattle, …. How could they buy a reader that was only at the bookstore on campus?

I put my readings on Blackboard– Some were online, so I put the links. I also made printable PDFs of each (took out the pics, numbered the paragraphs).  While I liked the online version so they could see the essays in their original forms,  I wanted them to be able to print them up easily. I agree with Bentley! I read much better with the reading on paper in my hand. I also put all my handouts online.

“How do We Know They Have Read” (63)?

Roll questions (f2f classes) I use roll questions for attendance. Sometime it’s something general, “Favorite place to eat.” When readings are due, I ask a roll question like, “What is your favorite quote from the reading and why?”

Not only do they know they will be accountable, but reading quotes from the reading at the beginning of class allows us to listen and think about the  reading before we start. (Thank you Marla Williams for sharing your great idea of Roll Questions!) Now–how to do this in an online class? I don’t know and I am open to suggestions.

Quizzes Yep. Online. Like my friend in the Art Department at MCC, Gracie Adams, quizzes are leaning tools. So I give them multiple attempts. I want them to learn the material.

Discussion Board Homework. More on this later.

Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations/Charting the text (f2f).

Honestly, I got bored and frustrated with the traditional charting that I learned in the CAPI and RIAP Summer Institutes. I had to make it work for my class, teaching, most importantly, my students. I started Student Led Class Discussions which is a form of charting done in small groups and are presented to the class (the group leads the discussion of their section of the reading). So for example, for reading Mark Slouka’s “Quitting the Paint Factory,” students were assigned groups and each group was assigned 3-6 paragraphs. Then they had to do the following first individually as homework, and then together in class with their group:

Instructions for Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations

Student Led Class Discussion/Reading Presentations: You will be put in a group and will create a reading presentation for the class and lead the discussion on your assigned paragraphs.

What you need to do for your Group Reading Presentation:

    1. Explain each key term in your section (for example materialism, narcissism, etc…)
    2. Explain each person mentioned and/or quoted in your section. (for example Maslow, Ryan, etc…)
    3. Explain the key ideas of each paragraph assigned to your group.
    4. Indentify claims and  sub-claims (if any).
    5. Come up with two things Kasser is doing as a writer (strategies/rhetorical strategies).
    6. Answer any questions other students may have about your section.
    7. You can organize your presentation in a way that makes sense for your your group. Each person in the group my speak during the presentation.

Group 1–>Paragraphs 3-7

Group 2–>Paragraphs 8-12

Group 3–>Paragraphs 13-16

Group 4–> Paragraphs 17-20

Group 5–> Paragraphs 21-23

Group 6–> Paragraphs 24-29

I have yet to translate this to my online classes, but I have a few ideas. I know a friend who has students write a wiki entry (on Bb following the guidelines of the wiki genre). That way, students from the class can access them. I am open to suggestions!


This is a nice segue to Warnock’s Chapter 8 “Conversation Online Course ‘Talk’ Can Become Writing.”

You probably know by now that I love using Discussion Board. in my I’ve used discussion boards with my f2f classes for years, but in my f2f classes, we also had class time for discussing ideas as a class or in small groups, time to write, ask questions, etc….This is what I feel is missing in my current online class. There is a gap here that I need to think about.

Guideline 24: “To get the most out of your message boards, make sure your instructions and expectations are clear and detailed.”

Warnock is correct that this is extremely important. Not only is it on my syllabus, but I remind them in each discussion board. I also found that I explain the purpose of the discussion board–the purpose of this discussion board is to make sure students understand key ideas from the reading before moving on o writing the essay, or the purpose of this discussion board is to help you come up with a topic/write your rough draft, etc…

DB HW #9 “Brainstorming topics for Paper 3: The Lens Paper” (Eng 101 f2f MiraCosta Sp 2018)
The purpose of this homework is to help you work through a topic or two to see if it works. It also gives you the opportunity to read other student topics and get feedback on your (if you post early).Post a pic of your artifact.1. Explain in a paragraph your artifact (what you are going to look at and analyze). Be specific.2. Explain briefly how you would apply the lens to your artifact. Does your artifact encourage narcissism? How or how not?

2. List three-five quotes from Kasser that you are thinking to use.

4. Explain what you want to get across to your audience. What are the main points you want to make?

As always, you need to read and respond to three student posts for credit.

Students are drafting parts of their papers on discussion board as well as giving and receiving feedback in the process. I leave all discussion boards up during the for the full semester so students can go back if they want to use something from discussion board in their papers.

I post exemplary student posts for others to see (even though they can see it on DB). I did this at the beginning of the semester, and the student whose work it was emailed me, “Wow! This just made my day. Thank you!! Stephanie”

She later told me during office hours that she has never felt she was a good writer, and that my posting her work made her feel like she could write. That made my day, too.

Bye for now. I look forward to reading your posts.


The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post
The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post avatar

There was a lot to respond to in the readings. I’ll discuss some ideas that resonated with me.

As far as the choice of book, online readings obviously. Why would you do it any other way? We can’t assume students are able to get to the bookstore (although they mostly buy their books online anyway). It would just be easiest for them to get the readings from Canvas like everything else. I also love what Megen did last week, opening the text as a google doc and having students interact with the text that way. One question I have about the readings is about Warnock’s point that we should make a solid choice about using a link or a file format like word or pdf (61). Has either proven more foolproof than the others for you all? I realize that sometimes links disappear, and I wouldn’t want that to happen when students need to access the reading. But can all computers open all file formats?

Warnock  ensures students read by giving them a quiz (64), which sounds like a good idea to me. One thing I hadn’t thought of, but seems necessary, is making the quiz timed, like for 5 minutes, to be sure they aren’t looking up the answers in the reading. Has anyone done this before? Can you time a quiz in Canvas?

One aspect of teaching online I’m interested in is informal posting in place of f2f discussion, the former allowing ALL students to participate. Even in my onsite classes with the most participation, there are students who tend to dominate, and some who never say anything at all. When I taught at Southwestern, very few students would talk during class (I would be lucky to have 2 that would answer questions), and I instituted calling on students. I never wanted to do it, but it was that or no conversation at all. It seems that all of those worries would be eliminated in an online class. Often the shyest students have the best comments to contribute, and this would allow them to get those ideas out in the open.

Warnock loves the “message board,” which I’m assuming is akin to what we’ve been calling the discussion board. He mentions a lot of the same benefits that we’ve talked about these past weeks, and gives us some ideas about how to “run” the board. I like the reminder that their posts are “short, mini-arguments to a diverse audience,” which is closer to what they will do in the real world after their education (72), a point I feel really strongly about. Most employees do not write essays for work, but they respond to each other’s emails or write a memo to their colleagues, and they do this under a deadline (in hours, not days). We should encourage this type of writing and I’m glad that the online space makes it easier to do so. In my f2f classes, students write lots of little things on the fly, but we don’t always make them public – rather, they are for them to gather their thoughts before a discussion. Online, everything is public and critiqued by their peers. A nice addition of pressure and criticism, whether anyone critiques them or not.

As far as my role as facilitator of these discussions, the way Warnock breaks up our responses seems overly confusing. I’m hoping and assuming that when I’m needed I’ll know.

I feel similarly to Warnock about chats. I haven’t used them in class, but I personally feel rushed to respond, and end up often skimming what the other person wrote in order to keep the conversation flowing or avoid having them thinking I’m not there and asking me more questions. And that’s when there are only two participants! I don’t think I could possibly be responsible for mediating a chat with 5 or so students. It all just flies by! And I’ve seen curry or Jim ALSO juggling a Zoom video conference (whew! No way).

Warnock’s discussion of his grading made sense to me, where a decent post gets 8/10, and it can go up or down from there. The other thing I thought was interesting is when he says, “If I post an opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by students seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way to check that students are building on the conversation” (88). I like this for two reasons: 1. It encourages students to read the posts that came before them and add something to it, and 2. It rewards students who post first, since they don’t have to read the students who posted before, and they aren’t held to as high a standard.  

Some thoughts on Anna’s videos: Yes, students read! Even if young people aren’t reading the newspaper or a novel, they read in ways lots of older people just don’t understand and consider silly. Thinking back to when I was a kid, my mom talked on the phone all the time, and that was the only way to communicate with your friends. There was no social media, texting or emailing as a way of communication. We read and write almost exclusively in social life and at work. What we should be worried about is people’s face-to-face or telephone skills. Also, the progression Anna took us through to show us students read is almost the exact one I do with my students in class to show them that they read, but they might not be accustomed to reading the exact types of things that we assign, therefore: boom! Active Reading.

Anna’s note that she uses groups of 7-8 makes sense to me. The amount of primary posts to read is overwhelming, especially if they are as long as Warnock requires (basically mini-essays).  

One activity I do in my onsite class is to have students read a fairly long and complicated article, and when we come to class they get into groups (of say 3-4), and each group is assigned a section they will be responsible for. Their job is to summarize the section and add it to the google doc I’ve created, which is just a table dividing the sections. This activity would translate nicely online. I would worry that one student would do all the work, though, since there isn’t a ton to write for a summary, and it’s hard to collaborate asynchronously for some thing so small. Perhaps the groups could “meet” somewhere different online to work out their summary together before posting it to the whole-class, more formal space. Or maybe each group member could post one summary and they could decide which to use or meld them together to make a great one. Still thinking on this one…

Thanks for reading!

Lego Ergo Sum: I Read, Therefore I Am

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss

To Dr. Seuss I offer this rejoinder: in the digital age (think eBooks and audiobooks), the more places we go, the more we can read. The more we can read, the more we know. The more we travel, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more grow!

Seriously though, every time I board an airplane and witness the sea of readers perusing paperbacks, kindles, newspapers, and magazines, my heart brims with joy. Clearly, travel—even if it’s just for the purpose of commuting—is conducive to learning. After all, what better way to fill those spaces in-between than with thought exploration?

On the note of reading in the online realm, I would like to humbly bring forth two excellent resources I use: Project Gutenberg and Librivox.

Project Gutenberg

Warnock advises we use books students can easily procure or access; at MiraCosta I do not consider this an issue, but I agree distance learners may have more trouble acquiring needed texts. Still, while half of my confused mind responded with “well what about Amazon? Ebay?”—those places deliver everywhere, it seems!—the other half tuned in to what he said about publishers and quality e-learning materials (Warnock 60).

Project Gutenberg is in their own words, “the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks,” and the name suggests an homage to Johannes Gutenberg of the original printing press. What Project Gutenberg contains more specifically is a fantastic database of over 56,000 free eBooks, most or all with an expired copyright. Very exciting is this tidbit: ” On January 1, 2019, items published in 1923 will enter the public domain in the US.”

Anyway, there are a lot of wonderful books anyone can access or download for free. My students enjoy browsing the site, and I certainly frequented it many times as a student myself. I’m still a proponent of the traditional paperback, but our online students might really appreciate Gutenberg’s accessibility.

Here’s the link to Project Gutenberg.


As someone who spends a lot of time driving, I’m always looking for interesting podcasts, music, and audiobooks to listen to. Librivox in this sense is a commuter’s oasis: It is an organization that offers free public domain audiobooks. And let me say, there are lot of offerings! Have you ever wanted to listen to all the Sherlock Holmes tales? Or perhaps you’d rather brush up on the classics? No matter your taste in literature, I can promise Librivox has something for you! (/endcommercial) The best part is they have a spiffy app which makes listening on-the-go a breeze. Alternately, you can download their audiobooks onto your computer and transfer them to a flash drive or smartphone that way.

I love Librivox. Students who find reading a challenge can read along with the speaker or use Librivox as an auditory comprehension aid. One last thing I wanted to mention on Librivox’s behalf is the books are all read by volunteers; for popular texts, there are often several different recordings. This means that if you don’t fancy one reader’s voice, sometimes there are other uploads read by different volunteers.

Here’s the link to Librivox.

Chapter 7 Notes and Responses

Warnock advises bundling readings and materials together. I think this is only natural, and paired with keeping some units hidden, is something I do for all my CMS pages. One of the trickiest parts of an online class is minimizing student confusion. But, bundling units and modules together and limiting which ones are visible can control and neutralize a lot of that chaos.

I am constantly trying to think of new ways to include the seven major learning styles. To that end, multimodal materials are great ways of bringing the readings to life. I often try to build units that include a dynamic array of “texts”: including not just articles but short-readings, videos, documentaries, prezis, art, comics, film clips, and/or recordings to offer a diversity of texts encourages student interest in class lessons (Warnock 63). Students who find one type of media dry will often meet one of the others with a bit more excitement and attendance. (Warnock also suggests checking out our school library. MiraCosta’s library has so. many. resources! I schedule an orientation for all my classes at the beginning of each semester in hopes my students take advantage of our vast subscriptions.)

As far as how we make sure our students do the readings, I hate to admit it, but quizzes are effective. I’ve tried out several scenarios for my f2f courses: last semester, I didn’t assign reading quizzes, but rather asked my students to journal and write informal responses (65). Discussion fell flat, and participation was low. So now I assign reading quizzes, and the result is lots of great discussion and surprisingly high participation. However, as with low-stakes writing, I do like my quizzes to be low-stakes as well. I set mine up the same way Warnock does: in short, they are easy-A obvious quizzes that take very little time to complete. They are basically rewards for students who do the reading, and “doh! I should have read!” moments for students who don’t. They are very easy, and I usually like to add in a silly “don’t mark this one!” answers occasionally to negate some of the possible test-taking anxiety. (Btw, here’s a good study on humor and test-taking). I still have my students journal—I love journaling—but the quizzes ensure students actually read.

Chapter 8 Notes and Responses

The most “of course” chapter of them all! If we teach online, effective communication is absolutely vital. Warnock gives us quite an overview.

Message Boards: Discussion boards are critical ways students share their thoughts, but also present methods for us to assign (not so) secret process work. In both formal and informal responses, they explore their ideas. By sharing feedback and responding to one another—and establishing clear parameters defining how they should be replying—students become renewable unending fountains of knowledge by which they enhance their critical thinking and broaden their world views! Conceivably, at least, with some degree of optimism and encouragement. 🙂

I agree that being involved means not just as the professor giving directions, but also as a participant who asks the students questions and moderates the responses. Warnock gives a lovely overview on the plethora of response-types we use and the hats we wear. But, as the professor giving directions, being as detailed as possible and providing a model (77) is much appreciated by students. As a kinesthetic learner myself, there is very real value in learning through emulation. (Exploratory learning is equally important!) As previously mentioned, asking my students not just to post primary responses but to respond to each other as well—I usually ask them to do this a minimum of twice—encourages in-depth conversation which in turn can work well towards unpacking the assigned readings (81).

Grading: As far as grading posts go, I like to use a check, check minus, and check plus system: If the student’s post met all the requirements but was not overly-elaborate or outstanding, it receives a check. This is good! Checks, plain and simple, are good! They are equivalent to a score of 90/100.  If the post needed some work or was missing requirements, it receives a check minus. This is not bad! Check minuses are basically, I use the same scale, the same as 80/100. Finally, if the post went above and beyond, it is given a check plus—the laurel leaves of online response. If there was no post at all, then the work is marked as a zero. These checks are eventually graded cumulatively for an overall Discussions Grade.

Accessibility: As far as this goes, I am still a fan of offering a multitude of ways students can reach me. I think this process becomes challenging in the online realm but is still very workable. Using e-mail is the norm, but also having assigned “virtual office hours” is a nice way to be present synchronously. My idea would be to be available on chat at certain hours—that would give students the chance every week to ask questions real time. I like fireside chats, so perhaps I could have two types of virtual office hours: formal (for Q&A sessions) and informal. However, if students would rather talk with me individually, I’d set up a private chat session instead. Zoom and Skype are also, of course, promising ways of establishing f2f sessions for my online students. The possibilities really are endless.

The Book is Not Dead!
The Book is Not Dead! avatar

“It’s Alive!”  – Mary Shelley, 1818

As I share my thoughts on these two chapters, I reiterate here that I have taught hybrid and onsite classes but not an exclusively online-only class as of yet. To service my classes, I’ve used a number of CMSs including Blackboard and Canvas. However, since I began to discuss the Google suite of digital classroom products, I will continue to share those experiences with the group. Also, I embrace Warnock’s recognition of the value and importance of digression in responses on message boards as they further conversation.

Guideline 18:

Warnock starts his conversation in Chapter 7 by examining the hard copy book, old-fashioned, perhaps, but a surprisingly resilient medium. There is just something magical about being able to turn a page without concerns over the rapidly dropping power bar in the upper left corner of your e-reader (requiring a $50 cable to function). This must sound strange from someone who claimed to be a technology person in previous posts. Let me explain: imagine if you will this true scenario.  I was all about e-readers when they first hit the scene, but experience is the teacher and I did not enjoy this particular experience. We purchased a number of the classics including Orwell’s 1984 only to get a notification from Amazon shortly after downloading, notifying us that our copy had been removed and that it would be replaced with an updated version.  Unfortunately, the updated version had some text revisions not in the original—a bit ironic given the subject of that particular book. Needless to say, I do enjoy printed text on paper to capture the authors’ original intended meaning.  But I digress, so my point is, for my onsite and hybrid classes I do enjoy being able to provide students with at least one tangible experience.  I usually provide information to students about the books in my initial email communication prior to the start of the class.  For IEP classes, the schools will generally provide the books and make them available to the students in advance.

Guideline 19:

We’ve established my admiration for books, but I equally enjoy the cornucopia of materials I can bring in from the web to augment my class reading assignments and in doing so “create a different kind of ‘reading’ experience for students.” (Warnock, p.62)  Multimodal texts, including but not limited to Anna Marie Alessie’s list of Facebook, snapchats, youtube videos, podcasts, blogs, wikies, NPR articles, NYT articles, cartoons, magazine articles, and Ted Ed clips, all have found their way into my classroom as source material. For example, for one assignment I wanted to have my international ESL students better understand the environments in which the story was occurring. I assigned groups to set out on a quest of discovery as they explored, using 360-degree VR videos, these locations: Andalusia, Tarifa, Tangier, the Sahara Desert, and the pyramids of Giza.  These types of videos allow you to move through an environment and explore it. Some move with you, others you can simply move around in. Through my CMS Google Classroom, students linked to Google Cardboard, an application for a cost-effective VR experience, which utilizes students’ cell phones. I provided all the 360-degree videos and organized them on the CMS.  If you do not wish to make these VR glasses, you can also use an iPad with similar results.

Students then were assigned a descriptive writing assignment shared with other groups via message board. It was a fun experience and it brought the settings of the story to life as additional characters.

Google Cardboard

Side note: Google Cardboard viewers can either be purchased relatively cheaply, or they can be made by the students using a downloadable kit ( option still requires the purchase of lenses which you find out once you’ve made the first box!

Warnock also provides us with some considerations and recommendations when using digital materials including the durability of digital links.  I have made it a practice to try, whenever possible, to capture the videos I wish to use and transfer articles into PDFs so that I have them archived in case web links go bad or disappear.

Guideline 20:

Warnok outlines a number of suggestions to help us ensure that our students are actually participating in the assigned readings and discussions. I have certainly used quizzes, usually in the form of a Google Form document using multiple choice or short answer formats. I can control the time that the quiz is published and accessible as well as time that they have to complete the assessment. Since it is digital, they use their phones or iPads to take the quiz and they receive their results immediately following the quiz.  I also use Google docs for my group ESL vocabulary activities, i.e., each student is responsible to identify, for example, 5-8 words that they are not familiar with and provide a definition, the POS, as well as use it in an original sentence. Then, they also have to go through the document and write an original sentence for each of the words their peers chose and defined.

Sample of Google Docs and Google Forms

Sample of Google Docs and Google Forms

Sample of a Goolge Classroom Reading and Vocabulary Quiz Assignment

Another way that I measure how engaged they are in reading is to evaluate their responses to their peers on our Google Group message board. I often will take the conversation further by asking a secondary or tertiary question from a response that I ask all students to respond to.  I have used student-made videos for projects but have not done much with voice threads and chats. I’m looking forward to reading about your creative uses of those technologies!

Guideline 21:

Chapter 8 has been one of the more insightful chapters for me as I consider best practices to capitalize on the medium of message boards as a tool to facilitate class communication.  Back in the day, I was a bit skeptical of on-line message boards, particularly in comparison to a discussion in my f2f classes. However, the more I worked with it, both as a student and teacher, I the more I came to realize the treasure trove of opportunities that it afforded its users.

Warnok draws on the works of social constructionists to emphasize that “the dialogue between him and his students “builds the knowledge of (his) writing course most effectively” (pg. 68).  I have come to understand this in time through my own experiences with this medium of communication.

These asynchronous message boards provide participants not only more time to reflect and analyze their thoughts and those of their peers, but afford all members an opportunity to contribute and communally find and share their voices.  As a teacher, I find that I get to observe something truly unique as I observe the group engaged in constructing their own perceived social reality through language and discourse. As an ESL educator, my classrooms are filled with a wide range of nationalities, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds and it makes me proud to see students who tend to be quiet in class take a risk and break the willingness to communicate (WTC) threshold as they share their voice and views through the medium of a community message board.

So, I have come to believe in M.M. Bakhtin notion that the activating principle of engagement resides in the response between individuals as “it creates the ground for understanding, it prepares the ground for an active and engaged understanding” (pg.68).

Guideline 22: assume different voices and roles
Guideline 23: stay involved

Guideline 26: future technologies

Summing up the last three guidelines I’ll address, I found the discussion on the different roles/voices interesting and will certainly expand on the roles I feel I am actively using. As for guideline 26, I could digress further but will spare you and save that for another time. I am very interested in what virtual and augmented reality holds for language learning and am actively exploring these worlds for use in my classroom!  🙂

Unit 4 -Process, feedback, teaching writing online
Unit 4 -Process, feedback, teaching writing online avatar

I want to focus on two things that resonate with me. First, I was struck by a series of questions that Warnock asks the reader in chapter four: ” Teachers have to consider the use of stylistic approaches such as rhetorical questions, idioms, and metaphorical/figurative language. Will they work? In many cases, Hewett thinks they will not (2010, 2015b), advocating linguistically direct (not necessarily directive) response instead. Is it better to be as direct as possible? How much does a teacher balance prescriptive advice with Socratic teaching the OWI Course
questions?” (159). In terms of revision and that part of the writing process, I think what spurs students to revise is when we are clear in our comments and feedback. If they can see that you are advocating they do X in a revision, students will revise. Writing Centers have always advocated non-directive feedback, and yet, asynchronous online feedback is by nature more direct and directive, and I think it should be. I would advocate to be both linguistically direct and at times even directive, because I think that is what students need. In my discipline there is a new-ish conversation happening over the question of if non-directive is the best approach for students. If I take the position that my job is to help students de-mystify writing and the writing process, perhaps directiveness is needed at times. It makes me wonder in the revision process if we all should be more directive about how to go about revisions and what choices to make in revising. Part of me thinks students would really appreciate a heaping dose of directiveness.But then I go to how do we balance it with the non-directive needed to help them explore and make big decisions as writers and learners?

The second idea that resonates with me is from the blogpost by Christopher Syrnyk. He writes,

“I asked the staff to consider how we treat the writer as a person during this encounter where we engage in Online Writing Instruction (OWI) in cyberspace.

Cyberspace—Like City Lights, Receding

Or, The Online Writing Center Experience

Allow me to clarify what I mean by treating the writer-as-a-person in cyberspace and how this relates to OWI. In this blog post, I’m thinking mainly about the live “chat” work we do with student writers. It’s worth noting that some students come to the UW Writing Center for their first appointment via Synchronous instruction. Presumably, their first encounter with a writing center is via an electronic interface.”

It made me think how the Writing Center or WC treats the writer as person in a cyber space environment, and also how some of WC work could impact feedback and giving revision feedback to the whole person/ student writer. In so much of composition, the WC pulls and adapts from f2f and online writing classes, but I think online writing classes can also pull from pedagogy of online WCs. So it made me wonder how explicit engagement of writing process in an online writing class can be born out of asynchronous feedback we do in the Writing Center. I think that building relationships with students in online feedback is something we do so well here at MiraCosta. It seems like students feel a connection and feel heard by the coaches responding to their writing online. What if several times a semester the feedback writing instructors give was a video? What would happen if in that video you narrated what you see them doing in their process? or we could narrate what seems to be working in their writing process. How would that help to both use technology, connect with the whole person as a writer, and also help develop building those linguistically direct feedback skills that help propel student writers into thorough and quality revision during that phase of the process?

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Feedback!
S. Gutiérrez

In Warnock’s “CHAPTER 4: TEACHING THE OWI COURSE,” he presents a critical comment that I needed to read as I continue to teach online classes. Warnock quotes  CCCC OWI Committee Expert/Stakeholder, Rich Rice: “‘A best practice would also be realizing as an instructor you do not have to read every single post or grade every single thing to be effective.'” As an online English professor, I comment on all my students’ work, and I cannot seem to restrain from doing so.

Hmm What to do? HELP!

Christopher Syrnyk, in “Is There a Person in This Text? Synchronous Online Writing Instruction and Personhood as a Collaborative Gesture,” he presents an excerpt that presents an example of a chat exchange with UW-Madison’s Online Writing Center TA, Timothy Johnson. What I found surprising is that Syrnyk does not capitalize the beginning of sentences and even includes fragments. If I am horrified at Syrnyk’s chatting, I clearly take writing too seriously.

Hmm What to do? HELP!

To watch a silly video I produced at the wee hours of the night, follow the link.  

Writing Process/Assignment Sequence Unit 4
Writing Process/Assignment Sequence Unit 4 avatar

Hi Everyone,

The quote from Warnock’s “Teaching the OWI Course” that resonates most with me at the moment is from Joanna Paul “I think it’s important not to overload ourselves with graded writing to review” (166). Right now, I am swamped and behind in grading! And I am going home next weekend for a family friend’s memorial so this week is crunch time.

I am also a huge fan of low-stakes writing and meta learning as Warnock asks “Why is low-stakes writing important in encouraging students to work on meta aspects of writing” (166)? You will see how I build in low-stakes writing for students to reflect on their learning and writing in my assignments in the video below.

Luckily, I have been using the writing process as a way to scaffold my writing assignments, or as I call them, assignment sequences. So I have been able to migrate what I have done in my f2f classrooms over to my online classrooms for the most part. There are still parts of the f2f group and whole-class discussions that I don’t feel I have been able to replicate in my online courses.


Here is my video–I tried to keep it to 3 minutes!

Here is my google doc with more details of my assignment sequence I discuss in my video.