Opening up New Reading/ Writing Experiences Online
Opening up New Reading/ Writing Experiences Online avatar

In Chapter 7 of Warnock, he focuses on many different possibilities for incorporating reading into the online class. And while I do value his reassurance that it is still okay to use a book in an online course, the two sections that really got me excited about reading online were his sections on Multimodal Texts and Student Texts. As Warnock points out: “The array of audio and video materials on the Web can be used in conjunction with conventional texts to create a different kind of ‘reading’ experience for students” (62). What I like about his approach is it seems additive rather than a substitution, that is, he still values “traditional” texts while also opening up the possibilities of texts that we can point our students to in an online space.

This connects nicely to an interview with Laura Gibbs on the “How to Create Engaging Online Classes” episode of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. For Gibbs, the most important feature of an online course is its openness, and she urges us to design our online courses to be open-ended spaces. She suggests that the nature of the Internet is one of openness, and as teachers we should ask ourselves- is my course open or closed? One method she shares is to have students create their own blogs that belong to them, the students create blogs and then engage with each other’s blog posts, and she emphasizes the importance of building choices into the weekly workflow. Gibbs uses student blogs in place of discussion boards in hopes of motivating students to engage with ideas and share with each other while developing a place (the blog) that belongs to them- and everything they do takes place at the blog- her ideas are very compelling and links Warnock’s focus on multimodal approaches and his suggestion to make student writing a central text in the online space. 

I’ve also been super inspired by John Warner’s book The Writer’s Practice. Warner calls for us to create writing experiences that give students increased agency in the composition classroom while providing opportunities for the kind of multimodal readings that Warnock highlights. Next semester I plan to borrow Warner’s “What’s So Funny?” (Rhetorical Analysis of a Work of Humor) writing experience/ assignment in my ENGL 100 course. In the experience students first identify their audience as “a curious bunch of people who enjoy being shown aspects of [our] culture they may not have immediately grasped. Your goal is to have the audience exclaim, ‘I never would have thought of that,’ after reading your analysis”(91). The cool connection to both Warnock and Gibbs is Warner’s suggestion that students choose their own texts to analyze, they can choose a bit from a stand-up comedy routine, a sketch from SNL, Key and Peele, or other sketch show, they can analyze cartoons, comics, and even memes. This would increase both student agency and engagement while emphasizing the openness of the online space- I know that I consistently watch excerpts from Late Night with Seth Meyers on YouTube, and based on anecdotal observation, students engage with authentic texts in a similar way. Students then go on to process the text, they react to the text answering questions, “where did you laugh? what kind of laugh was it?”, students then observe, “look for details . . . who [else] would find it funny? what does the audience have to know to find it funny?” Next, students analyze, “start to shape some of the observations into a theory,” and then synthesize “[students] work from those observations and bits of analysis” (93). After this sustained engagement with the text, students move on to the drafting/ revision process. My goal in an online course would be for students to engage in blog posts/ discussion boards detailing their choice of texts, their process of analysis and synthesis while getting feedback – the student writing and engagement will be privileged while the students explore their choices and the analysis of their texts.