At the end of Week 2, as I finalize my rosters and settle into the emerging rhythms of another weird but promising semester, I’m thinking about how an asynchronous, classroom culture is forming and what I and my students are doing to shape it.
I’ve spent much of my time this week communicating with students. I’m messaging students who have missed a routine deadline or an important assignment with a quick, “Hey Susana. Did you intend to submit this assignment? Would you reply to this comment or email me to chat about how the class is going?” I’m using Canvas’ Rubric tool to grade early assignments quickly. I like to change the title of that 0 column from “No Marks” to “Please Resubmit” and sometimes “Please Email curry.” That way, there’s an invitation to a positive action communicated along with that low grade.
I’m also taking 15 minutes per class to identify student generated content from the week to showcase in my next Weekly Announcement. I’ve created an equity-minded roster that lets me promote students who are already showing signs of feeling overwhelmed or who may seem intimidated by writing or whom I identify as a student in a disproportionately impacted group. I begin the announcement celebrating an idea, a phrase, a structure, or connection to what we’re studying to honor that student’s knowledge and language and value their contributions. I keep a record of students whose work I have not yet promoted, so by mid-semester, everyone gets that spotlight.
Many of us do these sorts of things already; here’s a few great ideas from Mary, Chad, and Jade! These early interventions help us to cultivate a class culture and establish the routines we and our students will respond to going forward. Below are a few ideas to consider, and if you would like, please share more tips and tricks here.
Assignments You Value = Assignments Your Students Value
We all have certain assignments and policies that we tell students are important, and then we have certain assignments and policies that we show students are important. This is the week when students start to realize what they need to prioritize and what they can let slide based on what we grade, call out, ignore, put off, and simply forget. So which assignment or policy has the greatest potential value to your student writers and readers? What can you do at the beginning of next week to show students this value?
Resubmitting revised work
Visiting office hours
Seeking Campus Resources
Low-stakes Reading Responses/Quizes
Discussion Posts and Replies
Active Participation in Zoom
Spotlight Student Work
We know the most powerful ways we can increase retention is to foster real, meaningful connections with our students. We have the chance this week and next to do that proactively and with equity. Who in your class right now could use a boost? For whom would a simple positive message or shout-out of their work make the difference? We know there is something to celebrate in every students’ work–an idea, a phrase, a structure, a reflection, a triumph. Let’s get into a routine for doing that this week and next.
Shout-out students by name or by their work in your weekly announcements
Start Zooms session with “What’s Great from Last Week”
Integrate student generated content into your assignments and instruction
Turn Around Time
Quick, encouraging communication with students this week and next can be the thing that alerts them to take action within their abilities to meet your expectations and succeed in your assignments. We all want to provide comprehensive, formative feedback, but maybe what students need this week and next is a simple encouraging check-in. How can we be more efficient and timely in our communication with individual students?
Short responses to email with a template of links to office hours and campus resources
Spare feedback on assignments with an invitation to reply with more questions or meet to talk
If you missed the Writing with Machines professional development workshop on culturally sustaining and equitable feedback and grading of student work, check out the following Google slideshow with embedded readings, videos, and other resources, as well as the recording of the Zoom session. Add your own ideas and questions to the comments!
Inspired by the Zulu greeting, Sawubona (I see you), and this week’s Black Lives Matter Training by awesome professors Bruce Hoskins, Shawntae Mitchum, and Edwina Williams, I have been reflecting on what I’ve done and what more I can do to make research projects more inclusive of diverse epistemologies, voices, and histories. Check out my video for more, and please let me know if you have recommendations or want to share any of your research practices, especially in online classes. Thanks!
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.
If you’re looking for readings or multimedia thatintroduce 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!
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.
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: email@example.com.
Inspired by the activism in the worldwide George Floyd protests, I used an image from the peaceful demonstrations as a culturally relevant text for students to practice critical reading skills. In this short video, I’ll show you how I use Google docs and Zoom breakout rooms to create a collaborative communication, reading, and writing group activity centered on a culturally relevant text. I’ve found that this strategy gets all students involved and creates a useful scaffolding exercise/document for bigger papers and projects.
Since attending the Center for Urban Education Equity-minded Teaching Institute in 2018, I have explored methods for monitoring student progress and invested in high-touch, just-in-time interventions during the first 3 Weeks of the semester.
There are pros and cons to using Canvas’ analytics and progress monitoring tools, like the Notes and “Message Students Who…” features, just as there are pros and cons for developing your own informal techniques for monitoring your students’ engagement with the course. I share 3 approaches I have explored in the video above.
The following questions frame my evaluation of how I monitor student progress:
What system fits best with my workflow for preparation, interaction, and assessment?
Do these systems allow for a macro and micro-level view of individual student progress and the emerging class community we are forming?
How am I able to observe and document affective elements?
How am I able to apply race-conscious, gender-conscious, and other intersectional lenses to my students’ engagement with the course?
By documenting this information, I am finding more opportunities to intervene in my students’ learning experiences, especially during the first 3 weeks of the semester.
CUE places a significant emphasis on the first 3 weeks of a semester as the time in which habits for learning are formed, relationships are established, and a class culture takes shape. During these first three weeks,
I invite students to consider and then commit to the class
I target and equip reading and writing processes
I schedule synchronous/asynchronous opportunities for collaboration
I describe my progress-monitoring techniques and intrusive practices during this time in the video above.
As I continue to reflect on and evaluate these practices, I find I’m returning to these considerations:
Once I have the information about a students’ progress, what will I do? For whom? Why?
Do these intervention practices increase confidence, a sense of belonging, and agency in my classes?
Which students or student groups emerge as active contributors and community leaders because of these practices?