WritingwithMachines in Fall 2023

Tech innovators aspire to move fast and break things. Well, one of the things they’ve broken is my class. And there’s nothing I can do this semester (or the next) except enter into my broken class with my students and together dialogue over what processes, tools, and content still have value and then sharpen our techniques and deepen our knowledge in pursuit of the goals we set. 

WritingwithMachines is officially on hiatus in the Letters department at MiraCosta college in the fall of 2023 to focus on a program-wide portfolio project for our 100-level composition course. What I am excited about is the way this project centers process and reflection in the student’s writing-reading experiences. The constraints of the final essay draft are no longer enough to inspire an investment of time and labor in developing ideas for a considered audience by crafting effective forms. For most students, they never were enough. The portfolio project we’re engaging encourages students and professors to play within an array of processes and source materials; to interpret texts with an awareness of the ways our cultural and/or personal experiences inform our reading; and to strive to engage the attention of others by making our own audience-aware texts. In short, this semester, professors and students alike in ENGL 100 will emphasize the value of showing our work.

I am still active in conversations around campus about the ways we (continue to) read and write with machines, and from time to time I will post to this blog if for no other purpose than to organize helpful frameworks and perspectives for myself.

In all, I am holding a deep epistemological and pedagogical humility. And I am finding as I apply this in dialogue with my colleagues and with my students, I am discovering hope.

Have a great semester my friends 🙂

Writing with–and not by–Machines

This semester, WritingwithMachines will host a series of research inspired discussions to explore new writing technologies like generative AI. In these discussions, we will reexamine basic principles of composition and how we teach reading, writing, and thinking. Each meeting will invite participants to contribute sources, classroom experiences, and critical lenses. As such, our goal will be to curate research, debate emerging issues, and collaborate in our teaching practices as compositionists. Hope you will join us!

Feb 8th, Discussion: BYO article on ChatGPT

What article, podcast, or other source provides you with helpful insights?

Feb 22nd, Discussion: Surfaces, Tools, and Affordances

What other technologies in history have shifted the way writers process and produce texts?

March 8th, Discussion: Voice, Templates, and Bias

How does the writer’s voice, technique, and material encode values in a text? And which of these shapes expression?

April 12th, Discussion: Attention and Thing-about-Thinking 

How do experiences reading in different modalities form the brain and assist metacognition? 

April 26th, Discussion: Building Biliterate Brains 

What is literacy, and what does the teaching of literacy skills look like?

May 10th, Discussion: TBA (maybe grading/rubrics?)

What topics are on your mind with regards to writing, reading, and thinking? Assessment practices anyone? 🙂

May 24th, Discussion: One Clear Lens: Composition and Generative Tools

At the end of the semester, what source or experience supplies you with a clear lens with which to view new writing technologies and your teaching as a compositionist? 

The Contexts and Lived Experiences that Bear Upon the [spaces] Where Writing Happens

Right after I post this, I will open Canvas to read my students’ writing

I have some catching up to do. My onsite ENGL 100 students are posting Reading Journal responses this morning before we meet in class at 11am. Some of these will be minimal–75-word entries of ideas, quotes, and responses–and some of these will be lengthy. Some of them will also be missing. This group of students seems to be getting tired and many seem stressed lately. At one point, I thought we had some momentum, but since then, each week has felt like a restart. I know that a couple are experiencing some real challenges right now. They’ve told me. As a whole, the current paper we’re writing is proving to be a heavy lift, even though I had hoped it would feel more like a creative, edifying process. 

So, when I open Canvas to read, I will skim many and closely read a few, so my opening remarks in class today can feature a couple direct ideas and phrases from certain students’ writings, and in this way, I might offer those particular students an emotional boost or perhaps a reason to jump into our discussion. 

I know we all are experiencing similar realities in our classes. When we open Canvas to read our students’ writing, we’re thinking about them and what they are going through. As MiraCosta Faculty, we’re also thinking about what it means to be an HSI right now. As Letters department members, we’re thinking about Learning Outcomes, HyFlex, and what the spring semester might look like for our program and our teaching loads. As community members, care givers, and news-readers, we also have our own whole worlds to think about. 

So, you and I as teachers–when we open Canvas to read our students writing–we are bringing a lot into the spaces where writing happens, and practicing somehow a method to temporarily put on hold our worlds or simply concurrently thinking about our worlds to create space for thinking about our students at this midsemester moment: how to support them, their whole selves; how to support their growth, their reading and writing selves; and how to support their writing, the shapes and structures of their expressed selves.

I’m taking a moment to pause and mull all of this over. If you agree, I invite you to a space for writing we might do together as a kind of contemplative practice, a space where we can use writing to think. This is an HSE/Peter Adams activity I picked up at the HSE conference several years ago. Remember that? The activity asks: start with an 8-word sentence and then build up to an 80-word sentence. Maybe the process for writing this sentence will facilitate a mindfulness of the moments we’re experiencing right now. Maybe the process of crafting this sentence will lead you to insights about a particular class or a particular assignment or a particular student’s experience. Maybe the creative process of crafting your sentence will be a welcome distraction from reading your students’ writing 🙂 

Either way, here is a space for us to work with language to process this teacherly moment, right now (or whenever):

This is a [Padlet] Where Writing Can Happen

And here’s another space for us to collaborate in real-time tomorrow:

This is a [space] Where Writing Happens 

A Letters Community of Practice Workshop, facilitated by WritingwithMachines

Thursday, October 13th, 2:30-3:30pm in the Zooms

Attendees will be remunerated; participation in asynch activities eligible for remuneration or FLEX (up to 1.5 hours) 

More info, coming soon,

Language Affirming Practices in Spaces Where Writing Happens

In the last community of practice workshop lead by Zulema and Luke, many folks there–Aaron, JahB, Megen, Tyrone, and Jose–shared about teaching reading practices that start with texts and language “from everyday life,” that value linguistic diversity, and that even facilitate a healing process within one’s own literacy history. Cool bell hooks moves. If you missed the convo, catch the recording.  

At one point (right around 40:00), Tyrone shares an early semester assignment in which he asks students, “What’s the last thing you read?”Often, he receives the response, “Well, I don’t really read books.” At the ready, Tyrone replies in his awesome, encouraging, teacherly way, “That’s not what I asked you. What is the last anything you read.” In this, I see Tyrone intentionally and intrusively disrupting, demystifing, and destigmatizing the “Englishy” constraints his students are expecting in order to open space for students to reflect on the texts they decide have value. 

Listening to Tyrone and our colleagues talk about inclusive, equity-minded reading practices, makes me immediately think about my own classes and the Englishy constraints I intentionally and often unintentionally design there:

  • Does my rubric for a fun discussion activity also measure for “right” and “wrong” language”? 
  • Does my prompt for an activity that is intended for brainstorming and resource sharing also require paragraph structures? 
  • Do the expectations for replies to discussion posts actually make writing that reply feel intimidating? 

Of course, if those constraints are there, they are designs that come from good intentions: I want my asynch students to practice the conventions and processes of effective writing we’re studying. But should every space where writing happens in my class reinforce expectations on language and structure? 

Andrea Castellano in a recent Cult of Pedagogy begins her classes first by acknowledging, “we in this class speak many languages and think in many languages.” And she defines “multilingualism” as speaking many languages, dialects, discourses, and gestures, and code-switching as the agency/necessity to pivot within and across those languages. Her post, “Words Matter: Language Affirming Classrooms for Code-Switching Students,” has me thinking a lot about ways I can open space for writing: 

“We should want better for our students. The fact is, code-switching is not a sign of linguistic incompetence, but a normal occurrence for a multilingual brain. (Yuhas, 2021). Rather than attempt to micromanage how they use their language, we can guide students to the realization that they can decide for themselves when and how they code-switch.”

Below is a convenient info-graphic of her major points. Here is space for us to affirm or critique those ideas, today (or whenever):

This is a [Discussion] Where Writing Can Happen

And here’s another space for us to collaborate in real-time later this week:

This is a [space] Where Writing Happens

A Letters Community of Practice Workshop, facilitated by WritingwithMachines

Thursday, October 13th, 2:30-3:30pm in the Zooms

More info, coming soon

The Material Affordances of [spaces] Where Writing Happens

My asynch ENGL 202 students are submitting their final draft of their first major project today…well, this evening.

We’ve been working on it since Week 3. It started out as Journal Notes responding to articles and Ted Talks, writing that happened in individual spaces. Then it evolved in discussion posts, writing that happened in shared space. Then it merged into more rigorous structures and positions in drafts, writing that happened in formalized spaces.

So, I’m thinking about these different, asynchronous spaces, and I’d like to invite you to join me. Here’s one place my brain is this morning:

We make when we write. Our writing is thing-like. Ideas and voices become artifacts we can touch and pass around with others. Our material thoughts-on-surfaces gain a kind of gravity when we scatter them around the desk and post them online; they become magnets to more ideas, more voices, more structures…you know, the reading/thinking/collaboration/writing process. 

And so, of course, writing involves more than “the human brain and its internal processes” but also our “bodies, behaviors, spaces and tools” all of which are the “constitutive elements of [writing] activity.” 

Those quotes above are from Mathew Overstreet from a recent Computers and Composition article. Here’s another favorite passage:

…discursive forms (sentences, genres, etc.) are best conceived not “as abstractions, but as material vehicles” (Menary 629). As material vehicles, shared forms have generative power. When writing a poem, for instance, it is often the material properties of the words used, such as their structure and cadence, that help determine the poem’s content. Other elements within writing ecologies are similarly generative. Seen in this way, the content of a text is an emergent property of work in physical space. More specifically, writing is a process of integration and supplementation. Brain, text and tools all have different material affordances. Writing is the act of marshaling these disparate resources (and many others) to achieve wholes bigger than the sum of the parts.

So, how do we think about that materiality–of bodies, behaviors, brains, and tools–within asynchronous spaces where writing happens?

Here’s one space for us to jump in today (or whenever):

This is a [Doc] Where Writing Happens

And here’s another space for us to collaborate in real-time later this week:

This is a [space] Where Writing Happens 

A Letters Community of Practice Workshop, facilitated by WritingwithMachine

Thursday, October 7th, 2:30-3:30pm in the Zooms

More info, coming soon,

WritingwithMachines in Spring 2022

This semester, we continue our professional learning series focused on our Online Teaching Principle for Communicating with Students. At the center of this deep-dive project, we’re asking this question: how do our communication tools, spaces, and methodologies promote student growth and student agency?

Our Principle for Communication with students encourages many practices: from communicating effectively in weekly announcements to maintaining open, dynamic 3rd spaces. This semester, we explore:

Dialoging in End Comments: Feedback on Writing Can Be a Conversation, Monday March 14h 1:00-2:30pm in Zoom

Verbs, Voice, and Grammar (of Canvas): Speaking to Students Through Course Design Decisions, Monday April 11th 1:00-2:30pm in Zoom

First Impressions, Fourth Impressions: Communicating in Community Weeks 0-3, Thursday May 12th 3:30-5:00pm in Zoom

These discussions are interactive with opportunities to explore your own teaching, share ideas, and build plans in a collaborative space. We pause for quiet and deliberate hands-on application, so even if you interact with the video or podcast later, you can still access our Google Docs and contribute your communication practices (listening is FLEX eligible; Letters faculty who contribute to the Doc may claim remuneration).

Hope to see you there!

Explode the Weekly Announcement

How can simple weekly announcements be designed as effective expressions that engage students in discovery and decision making within the dynamics of our courses?

Watch or listen to Explode the Weekly Announcement, A WritingwithMachines Discussion

Then add your Exploded Announcement to our Google Doc

Your time listening/watching is eligible for FLEX.

This discussion is the first of a sustained series focused on our Online Teaching Principle for Communicating with Students. At the center of this deep-dive project, we’re asking this question: how do our communication tools, spaces, and methodologies promote student growth and student agency?

Our next discussion will take place December 1st, 12:30-2:00pm, in Zoom. We will review different 3rd spaces–platforms like Discord, Pronto, and cafe style office hours–that involve students in the culture of our courses: how cultivated 3rd spaces encourage students to lead, self-advocate, and shape a community of readers and writers.

Thanks for contributing, colleagues!

UBSC and OTC Highlights

Happy Juneteenth, Letters community!

Since my last post, have you checked out our Letters Department Online Teaching site? There, you’ll find our department’s principles for online teaching, as well as a wealth of resources, including the Writing with Machines blog where you can find the following info and so many more of our colleagues’ great pieces to inspire your online pedagogy and practice. 

This week, I’m bringing you Letters-relevant realness from our 10th annual United Black Student Conference (UBSC) and the California Community College’s Online Teaching Conference (OTC).

Adventure #1: Cooler than Radio

If you’re looking for a holistic centering of equity and empathy in your class, the OTC’s panel on “Becoming a Warm Demander” referenced Zaretta Hammond’s podcast that defines culturally responsive pedagogy as it is evolving into instructional equity. In it, Hammond calls us to question, “How are we making sure that all students, particularly the most vulnerable, historically marginalized kids, get the most powerful teaching that helps grow their brainpower, so not just the content […] I mean, the teaching to move through the content.”

Adventure #2: Love a Nerd, Be a Nerd

If you’re looking for readings or multimedia that introduce students to stereotype-breaking works created by self-identified Black Nerds, dabble in these works shared by Student Equity’s JD Banks’ UBSC presentation titled  “Black Nerds are more than Black Hobbyists.”

Adventure #3: “That’s what I look like? Where’re the filters?”

So, you want to create your own content for your classes? I just got hip (a phrase that shows how painfully unhip I am) to an app called “Clips,” which allows you to record and edit videos with live captioning–a major plus for keeping your online classes accessible! This would be a useful app if you’re having students create videos for discussion boards or assignments too. 

Adventure #4: Peace through Poetry

If you’re working on revising or creating new writing assignments, turn to Soultry Sisters, a North County-based empowerment collective for women of color. During their Juneteenth UBSC presentation, the Soultry Sisters presented creative writing as a method of healing soul care to embrace, embody, and empower. Featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, the Soultry Sisters’ workbook leads our students–and ourselves–through self-caring reading and writing process. 

****Note that the last two pages of the workbook indexes community resources such as Black-owned businesses, educational organizations, and healers. How might you work these community partners into a Service Learning project? Or a reflective writing assignment that centers students’ self-care? Or just as an extension of the MCC family that takes care of our students?

Finally, one of the OTC panels briefly mentioned the Open Pedagogy Notebook. Click on “Examples” for great–you guessed it–examples of every aspect of an open classroom, from student-generated syllabi to activist zines, the latter of which I have witnessed to be beautifully, powerfully incorporated into curriculum by our fearless leader Maria Figueroa. 

Until next time, enjoy a safe and healthy summer with your loved ones!

Your interim Technology Coordinator,

Jade Hidle

PROJECT Online Teaching Institute Highlights


Hello, Letters colleagues!

I’d like to introduce myself as curry’s humble substitute for our department’s Technology Coordinator as he goes on sabbatical for the fall. If you’re like me, you’re spending a lot of your summer prepping for an online fall semester in our COVID-19 world, so I wanted to reach out to you now with some Letters-relevant highlights from this week’s PROJECT Online Teaching Institute. You can self-enroll in the PROJECT Canvas course for extensive resources, including recordings of all the Zoom sessions. 

The worldwide protests seeking justice in the names of George Floyd and countless other people of color have no doubt been at the forefront of our hearts and minds, and this ongoing conversation will inevitably enrich what, how, and why we teach. In that spirit, social justice, equity, and our community college system-wide call to action were the center of PROJECT’s institute. 

As Ibram X. Kendi writes in How to Be An Antiracist,  “What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what–not who–we are. […] [B]eing an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination” (10, 23). 

So let’s get to work.

If you learn best through audio/video, enjoy my quarantine hair in this recap. If you’re a reader and hyperlink clicker, keep reading!

Choose the adventure that meets you where you’re at:

  • If you’re still feeling fledgling in online education and issues of equity, start by exploring…
    • Unit 0 in PROJECT’s Canvas course for the basics of online instruction. For composition instructors in particular, the embedded videos about Zoom annotations are useful for critical reading exercises and peer review activities, and the breakout rooms are also great for group discussions and activities.
  • How the institute suspended synchronous sessions on June 10th to demonstrate solidarity with the #shutdownacademia movement. Click the hashtag for necessary reading. 
  • If you’re already writing/revising syllabi and assignments centered on social justice and equity, work with…
    • Five Tips for Equitable Syllabus (Unit 1.B4 in the Canvas course)
  • Religious Studies colleague Chase Way’s talk on active learning strategies in the context of social justice and equity, inspired by the work of Paulo Freire and Civil Rights activist Septima Clark, both of whom championed treating students with love and support so they could see themselves as capable. Chase provides concrete examples of how to design discussion boards, quizzes embedded within Canvas Studio videos, Work-Based Learning assignments, and ePortfolios.  

Lastly, check out our Letters Department online resources page that will go live on Monday, the 15th. Here, you will find tons of resources to help you (re)shape your online courses to best support our wonderful students through these challenging times. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions:  jhidle@miracosta.edu

In solidarity,

Jade Hidle