Meaningful Collaboration

My Hallway Conversation group met for the final time today, and we ended the meeting by making plans to stay in touch and continue collaborating. For me, this has been a refreshing experience connecting with colleagues. We shared our experiences teaching in this time-warp where some of us actually feel more connected to our classes because we’re spending less time driving on the freeway and more time texting and meeting with students. We discussed what the new normal might look like–what it should look like–when we return to campuses. And we focused on how to make collaboration meaningful and not simply requisite in our courses. 

One salient take-away I’m mulling is the importance of being present and not just productive in collaborative spaces. My colleagues reminded me of the importance of allowing students time and space to establish rapport with one another and to honor them as decision-makers in the process of project-based, group-oriented learning. The question remains, how do we do collaboration like this online, asynchronously? 

My group and I talked a lot about open, optional spaces, like Pronto in Canvas–or Discord–as well as student hour Zoom sessions, which may or may not be recorded and shared later. We talked about the value of affective assignments, like those collected by the Equity Unbound and OneHE group and like those my colleagues in Letters ->ahem-Jade<- ->ahem-Chad<- ->ahem-Tyrone<- have modeled for me for years now. 

The open space I’m tinkering with in my asynchronous class isn’t optional, but it is flexible. I call this space a Discussion Lead assignment.

Students have two weeks to contribute to this space before we workshop a major project. I ask students to 1) start something interesting, 2) share something interesting, and 3) respond to something interesting. Maybe they ask a question about the prompt. Maybe they ask a question about a concept. Maybe they share their thesis. Maybe they share their edgy title and a risky source. Participation here feels meaningful here, I think, because we all share a common feeling (of dread or joy, not sure sometimes) about our current drafts and the upcoming workshop, there’s intrinsic value posting in this space, reading in this space, and responding in this space. At least, I think so.

There is room to tweak and to think about how to fine-tune the context for each unique project and moment in the semester. The this-class-is-rad honeymoon period of Week 5 is way different than the what?-ENGL-is-still-happening? mindset of week 12, which is also way different from the we’re-in-this-together!!!! feelings of week 16. Thanks to my amazing colleagues, I have lots of ideas to think about, and a group I can reach out to share and hear feedback going forward. Thanks Scott, Dailyn, Liza, and Jose!

Hearing From Our Students

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the 17-week semester and the middle of the 8-week semester (yikes!), I’m thinking a lot about how my students are doing and how they’re engaging with the reading and their writing.
 
A couple weeks ago in my asynchronous ENGL 202, I posted a short video of me talking about “critical thinking,” and below, I embedded this google doc asking students to share what comes to mind when they think about “arguments.” At the end of the week, I embedded a wordcloud generator that asked students to share “where you’re at” as they wrapped up the week.
 
This week, I’m reading and responding to the first set of essays submitted in my asynchronous ENGL 100. One category in the rubric asks students to respond to my comments after I’ve graded their essay. I don’t mark that category until they respond. When they do, they get 10 more points, and I get a chance to have an asynchronous conversation with them about their writing.
Hearing from my students in these different ways–sharing their knowledge as I introduce a new topic, sharing their confidence and uncertainty at the end of a busy week, and sharing their questions and goals about their own writing in response to my feedback–not only fosters a sense of comradery and belonging in the class, it allows me to value my students as collaborators and leaders in our shared learning experiences and writing processes.
 
So, how are you hearing from your students right now in Canvas, in Zoom, and in other ways? Below are a few ideas to consider, and if you would like, please share more tips and tricks here.
 

Hear from your students

This is a great moment in the semester to check-in with our students to get the pulse of the class. How easily are students finding things? Is the pace of assignments nuts, too easy, or intriguingly steady? Is there anything are students feel we could be doing that we aren’t doing yet to make participation more accessible and engaging?

Share the results

Hearing from our students is so valuable to our teaching. Sharing back what we hear from them with the class can be equally valuable to their learning.
 
Embed Stuff
Most tools offer an embed code option with the < > symbol. If they don’t, you can use this html code to embed just about anything, even editible Google Docs! To embed the results of Google Forms, you can follow this dorkey tutorial.
 
Curate Stuff
Many of us create class playlists from the content students share. Make a regular place to spotlight student generated conctent in your weekly announcements, your instructional content, and your Zoom meeting activities.
 

Listen, lighten, and illuminate

Creating and managing formative feedback loops in my composition classes is THE ultimate goal. Sometimes these channels of communication are critical to the work of revision, and some time they are just plain necessary to helping each other get through challenging moments.
 
Incentivize Responses to Your Feedback
Create Ticket-out Activities (totally stole this from Chad)

We’re Establishing Routines

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?
 
Policies
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Resubmitting revised work
  • Visiting office hours
  • Seeking Campus Resources
Assignments
  • Low-stakes Reading Responses/Quizes
  • Discussion Posts and Replies
  • Active Participation in Zoom
  • Essay Drafts
  • Metacognitive Reflections

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?

Sawubona (I See You) – Decolonizing Research Methods and Practices

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!

Create a Reading Journal in Canvas

In my English composition classes, I really, really hope to promote reading as an essential step in the writing process. Since I started teaching, I’ve relied on low-stakes writing assignments–journaling, in-class writing, annotations, etc–to promote mindful reading habits linked to larger writerly tasks. When I started teaching online, I simply adopted a digital journal inside the LMS, that is, until we switched to Canvas, which does not have a journal tool. Time once again to bend Canvas to my pedagogical will.

In this video I share two approaches that provide students with a space to explore texts and experiment with ways to value the act of reading; space that also provides me an opportunity to intervene, celebrate, and nudge students as their develop their own unique reading process.

Here’s a guide for how to highjack Canvas’ Discussion tool to create a reading journal:

1. Navigate to the People tab and create a new Group Set

2. Title the Group Set, select the “I’ll create groups manually option,” and click Save.

3. Find the tab for the group you just created and then click the +Group button. Create a group for every student in your course. Once you have a group for each student, drag their name into their group. This may take a little while…

When your students log in, they will see they have access to a link under Course Groups. When they click on this link, they will have access to their own space in your Canvas course where they can upload files, create pages, etc.

Here’s what that looks like on a desktop

Here’s the view using Canvas’ mobile app

I find it a little hard to find everything students include in this space, so to make things a little more simple, I create a Discussion board and set it up as a group assignment.

I place the link to this discussion on the home page, and when students click into the discussion, they only have access to their own contributions.

Once they access the Discussion link, they simply click the “Reply” button and add their latest journal notes and reflections. This space becomes a repository for their ideas throughout the semester. Check out minute 2:06 in the video above for what this journal-discussion-Canvas-thing looks like for students.

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

Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms

Colleagues,

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.

Progress-monitoring and Intrusive Practices

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?

Here are a few resources to explore further