The Writing Process
The Writing Process avatar

I am not teaching online, so I used my ENG100 f2f assignments as examples of how I teach process.

Essay 3 starts with students doing preliminary research on their own, and then in class working in groups they create the overall organization and write an introduction. The group process continues for a couple of classes with them revising and continuing to research to build the essay. This group essay has worked well in the past with stronger students really teaching weaker ones how to put an essay together. It also relies on handouts and my PowerPoints that mirror the process.

Essay 4, the lens essay, has two parts. I use Maslow’s Hierarchy as the lens for both assignments. First they use Maslow to analyze their own lives and write a brief analysis essay. They then apply Maslow’s Hierarchy to the characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Bean Trees. This process requires several drafts with peer review and one review requires a one-on-one session with me.

Here is my video.



Down the Rabbit Hole: A Pedagogical Twine Adventure
Down the Rabbit Hole: A Pedagogical Twine Adventure avatar

This week, rather than making a video, I decided to experiment a la what curry said in relation to his Prezi. I have made a Twine that explores, a little, Twine as an interface for learning but that most heavily focuses on my reinterpretation of an assignment I use in English 100, the “Writing Scrapbook.” 

Twine projects are not the easiest to share, but here is a Google doc link to it: You will need to download the file and open it on your computer. You then need to open the file using the “open with” a web browser option. If this doesn’t work well, I’ll host the link elsewhere. (Also, it’s opening fine via Firefox on my computer, but not Microsoft Edge).

Also, in the name of process, here is what the overview of the Twine game looks like from the meta-position:

Unit 3 – Developing Content
Unit 3 – Developing Content avatar

Full disclosure — I am wayyyyy behind. That being said, I am going to catch up because I love this class.

The reading this week (ch 4 and 5) got me thinking a lot about books. Wornock says to use books and being that this week is also all about being student centered, I am struggling with these two things as I design my online summer class. Here’s why…

In noncredit programs we cannot require students to purchase books. We provide everything, whether that is a loaned paper book while in class or free online resources. I love that, but it does take a little bit more creativity on my end if I want to use a book for an online class. Now, of course there are fully online books, but students cannot write in them and annotate and so on. Research shows that students comprehend more from printed books than they do reading online and, frankly, so do I. So, then I think about the free novel I could give them. We purchased many new books with a grant last year and we have the ability to give away books to students. Maybe I should do that. But the books are 300 pages and the class is 6 weeks long and online. Is that asking too much? It feels like it. I do not want my students to be completely overwhelmed and I don’t want to be overwhelmed by their overwhelm and I don’t want to be the one overwhelming them. You get my drift.

So, maybe articles. But, then it’s not books. Do I short-change them by not assigning a book? I don’t think so, at least in this particular scenario. If I am thinking about my average student who may not yet have strong digital literacy, and I am asking that person to complete an advanced English class online in 6 weeks…maybe I need to be okay with articles and recognize that will be the best for them in this particular case. And, maybe I let go of books for now. 

There was much more going on in the readings this week, but this is what I thought most about, and still feel like I need to consider more before making a final decision!

“Your People”
“Your People” avatar

When I look back at teachers and classrooms that I felt the most connected to, there are a few charateristics that they shared.  The intructor/teacher: never stood behind a desk or a podium, the desks were almost never in perfect rows, and student did more talking than the teachers.  I was very sure that I wanted to be the kind of instructor that had no barrriers. I struggled at first to find the balance of being a part of the learning environment and being the person assigning grades, but I seem to be more ocmfortable with the balance each semester.  I once had a review at another school and the report said, egaged, passionate instructor, but she should not wear converse because her students will not respect her position and they will think she is a student.  I was thrilled. 

An example of a community based assignmnet we use is the sharing of resources.  When we work on a common theme or share a video and then discuss it together, I ask students to post a source on out blog.  Currently our 100 class is reading a memoir and I ask that each group post a discussion to the blog with a theme that stands out to them in the assigned pages.  Additinally, they are asked to loceate an outside source that might be helpful in supporting the assertions they make,  By the time we are finished with the memoir, our blog has dozens of posts with discssions, responses, possible outside sources, and really in depth conversations.   Warnock discusses this when he asserts, ” He would warm up with easy questions, building our confidence and creatiing a classroom energy before delving into the difficult issues that were the objective of the class lesson” (31).  I have not used this in my online classes, but I have employed it successfully in my hybrid classes because we can then discuss the results in a face to face group setting.  I am fearful of trying this in my fully online classes, and even Warnock discusses concerns, “Truth be told, group assignments in fully online classes can go aery” (33) The sharing of the information with low or nostakes assignments seems to be working well.  What I am eager to learn is how to help my students find “Their People”  (What I say in class when they have each other’s back during prep and research). Below is an example of a group that decided to write about police brutality. 

Police Brutality

Title One: Police shot and killed an unarmed black man in his own backyard. All he was holding was a cellphone.

P.R. Lockhart (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

            This particularly website will help us learn about the past cases where African Americans had been wrongly accused and then had been violated by white Policeman. This one case is one of many, and it help to shed light on multiple cases where African Americans were wrongly shot or wrongly accused to be holding “weapons”  and after, most were wrongly handled by white police  officers.


Title Two: The Root// All Black People Are Victims of Police Brutality

Michael Harriot (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

              This newspaper is very useful because this news’ article lets readers know that African Americans are the almost always the only ones affected when a case of police brutality is involved. Where does one see white people wrongly Affected by Police brutality? You don’t. One only sees on the news how many African Americans did something wrong, even if they were innocent. They wanna make it look like African Americans did do something, to mask over what was really done. They have put a bad name on them because of the past. There doings back then are not what it is now. Police should not carry those past details and past situations on to the future. Police should have an equal thinking about everyone.

How to Know and Intervene for Our Online Students
curry mitchell

On March 1st, WritingwithMachines hosted a workshop on how to know and intervene for online composition students. Our goal was to consider the agency we have as instructors to increase access and equity for our students, and then share experiences and strategies for getting to know and intervening for specific student groups and individuals in our online classes. 

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Some reflection from me:

In my own onsite classes, I set a goal to know every students’ name by the 3rd class meeting. Online, that’s harder (because sometimes, I never have a face to put with a name) or it’s way easier (because I always have a student’s name available and proximate to the work I’m responding to). To get a better sense of who my students are, I use an excel sheet to keep notes on names, pronunciation, pronouns, and personality traits. After attending the CUE Equity-minded Teaching Institute last summer, I added columns to track participation (engaged / distracted; talkative / quiet) based on gender and ethnicity. This allows me to really see who I’m responding to or calling on (or ignoring), who volunteers information (or doesn’t), and who participates differently based on small group dynamics. It’s been a game changer.

This excel sheet looks like this:

In my online composition classes, I use my first week, “introduce yourself to the class” assignment to collect information on each student. For students who describe themselves as busy or worried about English, or who submit a very short response, I set up a 10 minute Zoom meeting where I ask them about themselves, their past experiences online and in English, and their sense of the class so far. This is something Jim does with all his students in the first week. Again, a game changer.

After Week 1, I track the number of discussion responses each student contributes, and I track when I have featured a student’s work in a weekly announcement, lecture, or synchronous meeting. I try to feature every student at least once during the semester, and for students who seem less engaged or worried about the course, I try to feature their work early on.

When a student realizes their name is the answer to one of my announcement quiz questions about “whose amazing work is featured this week?” they’re stoked.

As I said, I’m stealing most of these practices from colleagues as well as from the institute with CUE. For a little more on the agency we have to increase access and equity for our students, please view the CUE Equity-minded Teaching Institute, follow-up webinar on “Areas Instructors Have Agency Over Equity,” starting at minute 3:29.

Questions and topics we explore:

What do you do to identify, track, and actively get to know each of your online (or onsite) students by name, personality, and circumstance?

Within your ability to affect mindsets and create equitable conditions, who in your online writing class, specifically, is on your radar? Which specific student, by name, whom you feel you have an opportunity to intervene for and support this semester?

Review our notes from our meeting


Staying Student-Centered Online
Staying Student-Centered Online avatar

Many thanks to Tony Burman for his rendition of the classic Coca-Cola theme from my childhood- I remember Tony mentioning integrating these kinds of “commercial breaks” or pauses into both his onsite and online courses. I tried that this semester in my onsite class- I put up some memes about essay writing in my ENGL 100 class and students really got a kick out of them- so to keep it student centered, I had them work in groups to develop their own memes about the day’s reading which they then posted on a discussion thread on our course Canvas page. It was super fun and the students were definitely engaged, working to make decisions both about which meme template to use, and also about how to best represent core ideas from the text.

This also ties into Warnock’s focus on “chunking” in the OWS. In my nascent planning for my first online course, and admiring curry’s ability to parcel out information in an accessible and digestible manner, Warnock, in his citation of Smith, reinforces the importance of chunking in the online course: ” ‘Content presented in one long segment is much less effective for learning than the same content broken down into several smaller segments’ ” (31). As I consider this advice, I think I will keep a weekly schedule at the forefront of student’s access points to the course, that is, do it much like curry does for WwM- each week will be “live” as the week arrives- on Sundays or Mondays. Students will then access the week’s work as it comes up. For longer projects (essays), students will get reminders and can consult the syllabus for dates.

Also, Tony’s modeling of how to import onsite strategies for student-centered content really seemed to be a useful and viable path for getting students engaged with the daily/ weekly work. I could see using Google Docs and Discussion threads to start to activate their ideas about readings- using columns on the Google doc to chart connections between challenging texts- and then opening up a discussion thread for students to respond to one another and ask questions. 

Interestingly, in Chapter 4, Warnock brings up a lot of compelling options/ suggestions but then seems to kind of move on without developing the category much. In the Games and Simulations section, he suggests, “Part of our class ‘workshop’ could involve, at some point, offering and perhaps taking part in these kinds of games with our students” (35). I would’ve like to have him expand on this more, why would this be a useful or compelling modality for getting students more actively engaged. I guess it’s time for me to do further research. Also, I know a lot of the WwM peeps are using games as a way to initiate class activities and discussion- how would this look in an online course?

How Can I Use Technology to Enhance/ Enact the Principles of My Teaching Philosophy?
How Can I Use Technology to Enhance/ Enact the Principles of My Teaching Philosophy? avatar


In Tony’s video, I really appreciate the way he defines student-centered teaching using Frerian concepts.  More specifically, Freire in “The Banking Concept of Education” says that in traditional educational settings “Education …becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.  Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filling, and storing the deposits.” Instead, Tony argues, we should think about ways to deliver course content so that it is student-centered and students are involved in the production of knowledge and development of critical consciousness.  The question then is how do we do that in an online course? How do we use the technologies and modalities available to us in an online environment in ways that are student-centered, so that “when I enter the classroom I should be someone who is open to new ideas, open to questions, and open to the curiosities of the students as well as their inhibitions. In other words, I ought to be aware of being a critical and inquiring subject in regard to the task entrusted to me, the task of teaching and not that of transferring knowledge” (Pedagogy of Freedom, 49).  

Some of what was most important for me from Tony’s video:

  1. The question of how to use the technologies and modalities that are available in online teaching in ways that are student-centered?
  2. Don’t let technology dictate pedagogy: Instead think of how you can use technology to enhance the ways your teaching enacts your teaching philosophy
  3. Certain modalities are not necessarily more/less student-centered: it’s more about what you do with each tool; developing a student-centered habit of thought around your use of technology in the class
  4. Don’t Lecture too much, provide short mini lectures about a single topic and provide opportunities for students to practice, question, and apply
  5. Don’t design your entire course, design your materials then teach the course so that each week is dynamic
  6. Most importantly: enjoy the experience and give yourself permission to play: be silly, sing, wear a funny hat, read a good poem, include a video of you dropping into the biggest bomb of the winter…

In response to Warnock’s Chapter 5, I really appreciate the way this chapter is structured: He boils down “teaching strategies to several basic approaches” (28) and then dedicates a chunk of this chapter to a discussion of how you would migrate each approach from a f2f course to an online environment.  This is supper practical as I can see myself, reaching for the book as I am trying to figure out how to migrate x online:)

Warnock includes a quote by Elizabeth Ashburn, that is worth repeating here “teaching content that is central to the discipline and also relevant to student’s lives is a …fundamental attribute for designing meaningful learning experiences.”  When I read this I immediately thought of a conversation I am totally immersed in within Writing Studies around the theme of our writing courses and more specifically, the movement towards Writing About Writing themed courses. When I first read about the idea of having the “theme” of the writing class be writing knowledge, an introduction to Writing Studies, I was very unsure–because it would mean, for me, doing away with the culturally responsive themes I use in my courses–yet the more I read and the more I listen to what Douglas Down, Elizabeth Wardle, and Howard Tinberg have to say the more I see how I can do both,  teach culturally responsive Writing About Writing courses in which, for example, rhetoric is a threshold concept, yet my introduction to the concept includes both its Greco-Roman roots and what Damian Baca calls Rhetorics of the Americas. While this may seem like a tangent,  I am reading Warnock at the same time that I am rethinking my courses, so that everything Warnock is teaching me about teaching writing online is through this filter of the really exciting conversations about Writing About Writing and Teaching For Transfer I am sort of caught up in.


Here is the idea I included in the google doc asking us to write about one student-centered activity: Students in my class complete a “funds of Knowledge” (FoK) double-entry reading journal in which they keep track of how their home “funds of knowledge” are informing their reading of a particular text.  On the day we are to discuss or work with the reading in class, we begin that discussion by sharing in groups, using the active learning stations, what we recorded in our FoK double-entry reading journal. This way the discussion begins with us thinking about reading as an interaction between literary and general repertoires.

Here is how I might migrate this activity online:

  1. I would have students watch a YouTube video by one of the folks in multicultural/bilingual education who coined the term
  2. Then I would do a mini video lecture taking students through handout I have that explains what a dialectical reading journal is and how this particular journal is asking them to include their response and emphasize their funds of knowledge i.e. how what you are bringing from “home” is informing your reading
  3. Students would then read the text on their own and complete/submit their dialectical reading journal assignment on Canvas
  4. Students would then get into groups of 3 or 4 and respond to the reading journals using the collaborations tool on Canvas
  5. The activity would end with a short paragraph where each student responds to a discussion asking them to reflect on how this assignment and the conversations they had with their peers changed or shifted the way they think about reading

Just because I loved Tony’s Frerian description of online student-centered learning, I am ending with my favorite Freire quote: “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation”

Just because I loved the singing in Tony’s video





Innovating the Classroom: Content in Online Teaching
Innovating the Classroom: Content in Online Teaching avatar

I appreciate Warnock’s focus, in these chapters, on translating student-centered learning (which is, as he says, central to the discipline and relevant to student lives (28)) into the online space using methods we usually already utilize within the composition classroom, such as the Socratic method. I also am excited that he does, though very briefly, acknowledge what we might call emerging methods (such as video games (35))–since otherwise his methods of content development seem very old school and based in traditional understandings of textuality.

(This is reflected to me in his chapter on syllabus development, which, while useful in places, and claiming to be about rethinking the syllabus of an online class, is essentially the type of syllabus already being produced by composition instructors for f2f classes, at least in our department. I was really into, though, the idea of a syllabus as a “working relationship” (46).)

Moving in these more multimodal directions would be my interest in online teaching–not necessarily using a game like Second Life to mediate class connections (which I’m very skeptical about), but finding ways to bridge the synchronous and asynchronous in spaces that already combine those two methods of content delivery. I want to find some way to create a space that would be fun for everyone, including me, and would minimize work while still being a rigorous environment; this follows along the lines of Warnock’s idea that “[b]y using electronic tools intelligently, you can look past the simple and spend your precious teacher preparation time innovating and thinking of big-picture problems that you want to solve in your courses” (37). This is what I am more interested in doing: innovating and getting me and my students to think big picture, instead of being bogged down in minutiae, which is what I am worried about the most in terms of teaching on online class. Delivery methods like email, for instance, seem better suited for and to encourage that minutiae and small things that are often not incredibly important. (We talk about the importance of email in online teaching, but I imagine an electronic space where we can bypass email altogether – and the terribleness of the Canvas “inbox”).

I do have one point of disagreement with Warnock’s ideas in these chapters. He claims that students are not used to being passive in a Web 2.0 environment, which goes against my experience, though it’s funny because in my ENGL 100 I have students read both sides of this debate – on one hand, Henry Jenkins, who sees new media tools and convergence culture as transforming consumers into agents and giving people the tools to be more active in their engagement with content, and on the other hand people like Clay Shirky and Sherry Turkle, who see new media as ruining our minds and relationships be giving us more passive ways of relating to content and to others. I probably, personally, agree more with Jenkins ultimately, but in classroom contexts Web 2.0 does encourage passivity that has to be actively countered with the type of agency Jenkins suggests. In other words, students don’t see agency immediately, so things have to be done deliberately and not with so much of the optimism Warnock seems to have.

Well-Contented Students

Hello comrades!

So aside from come punny wordplay in the title, I wanna get all simulacrum today by first quoting the quote that Tony quoted from Jim:

“We will not be defined by our online learning spaces. We are shapers of space, the masters of innovation. And whatever damn system the American higher education consumer market imposes upon us—we shall rise above and create something engaging and empowering for students.”


Broad City Crying GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Given the theme of this week’s lesson, I couldn’t help thinking about the pronoun “we” and its relationship to students. While I love being the shaper of space and the master of innovation, this unit has me wondering how I can help students shape their own intellectual space while mastering innovative learning environments (or compositional environments). How do we (teachers and students) collectively create something engaging and empowering for everyone? How do we make sure that students define their online learning spaces rather than letting these spaces define them?

Warnock provides a lot of solid suggestions that allow us to leverage online technologies with student-created content, and we’ve proposed many excellent ones. Canvas, Google Docs, WordPress, Instagram, and other platforms all provide outlets for us to encourage students to create and share content in online spaces. Honestly, the idea of student generating content feels a bit easier in OWcourses than f2f—BUT I stand to be proven wrong! When it comes to student-created content in an OWcourse, I’ve been thinking about doing the exact reverse of what we do here.

Spongebob Squarepants Internet GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


(Big shout-out to Yolanda’s post from last week that kind inspired what follows): Rather than posting a blog and then sharing it on a discussion board where we chat about it, I am thinking about using Canvas Discussions as a place to brainstorm and WordPress as a place to publish. Discussion boards will act as a semi-private space where students can explore and revise ideas while being in conversation with their peers. The WordPress is a student-shaped space where they are free to demonstrate their mastery over innovative digital technologies. Students can create and cultivate their own unique blogs where they can post polished writing in public venues. This enables them not only to share their work with broader audiences, but it also allows them to think about the transformation of learning material into live content. Moreover, these blogs can act as digital portfolios that highlight the evolution of a students’ work over the course. Students can also freely personalize their blogs to reflect their own goals for their site.


To be sure, while Google Docs and Course Discussions are vital tools in an OWCourse, I want to find outlets that encourage “individual students to make individual decisions” that enhance their composition (quote from Tony), and I feel like having them design an online writing presence can facilitate that. All together, I want students to recognize that they too are shapers of space and masters of innovation who can also learn to create something engaging and empowering for themselves and others.

Student-centered avatar

I really enjoyed the concrete ideas presented in “Taking a Learner-Centered Approach in Online Courses” by Errol Craig Sull.

Be a constant presence for suggestions and insights. I find this true in my f2f courses, and so I’m sure it’s even more important online. When I design an activity for my groups, I try to mirror the activity using a different topic. I also include a PowerPoint that tells them what is expected at every step, plus I circulate between the groups only intervening if they ask a question or if they are way off track.

Post mini-lectures that translate into ultra important. I also find this important and now break all my content into smaller chunks on PowerPoints that I show in class and that remains on the Canvas site for their review. Personally I don’t have an hour to listen to a podcast even if I like the content, so how could I expect students to listen to something for some outrageously long period of time that they may not even be interested in.

Offer an engaging variety of assigned and supplemental readings. I now have  over 20 articles posted on my course Canvas site that range in topics from happiness to arguments on banning certain dog breeds to careers in the next 30 years and the list goes on. I use these to talk about argument, audience, etc. and sometimes just to make them aware of an issue.

Get students actively involved in the course. As I mentioned in my blog posting, I include a series of short writing assignments in the beginning of ENG100 which necessitates that they find videos, blogs, ads, etc. for analysis and class discussion.

Know that students have a variety of learning styles. I think that variety in readings and activities helps meet this basic need.