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)

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

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

WritingwithMachines Prepares to Sound Off in Week 10

Happy Week 9, Colleagues!!
 
It’s almost time for another round of WritingwithMachines Sound Offs!
WritignwithMachines Sound Off! logo
Here is a quick recap of the Sound Offs posted by your colleagues during Week 5.
 
Donna Potratz , Linda Ericksen, and Daniel Ante-Contreras shared how they use classroom technologies to create social, collaborative learning environments.
Donna relies on the huddle boards and structured, digital spaces–like Canvas Discussions and Google Docs–to create a culture of curiosity and social accountability for her ENGL 100 readers. Linda leads her ENGL 100 students in collaborative writing, also using huddle boards and Canvas discussions. Daniel asks his ENGL 100 students to play with the technology of Google Docs–copying and pasting and rearranging and re-purposing and linking and editing–in order to actually play with the concepts and conventions of grammar and rhetoric.
 
Donna Fazio-DiBenedetto and Tony Burman used their Sound Off to experiment with Docs and Studio as well as explore analogies.
 
Donna explores how Google Docs could allow her ENGL 100 students to identify, share, and close read passages from Siddhartha. Tony talks about (what he could talk about but doesn’t want to talk about because what he wants to talk about is) an analogy of sports. In Tony’s hybrid ENGL 100, the online classroom offers “practice”–individualized work, like throwing free throws, with lots of failing and lots of succeeding–and “scrimmage”–something that isn’t ‘practice’ but that ensure the skills of practice happen–so that students arrive to the onsite classroom ready for “game day.”
Linda Ericksen and Mary Gross are engaged in a fascinating exploration of the value of anonymity.
Linda uses anonymous posts of essay drafts to “protect the writer” as she guides her ENGL 100 onsite students to investigate possibilities: “What’s working?” and “What needs work?” Mary also uses Canvas to lead her ENGL 100 online students through similar investigations, but for Mary the goal is to create “asynchronous conversation which entailed seeing their faces, making eye contact etc…” i.e. socially rewarding experiences while responding to writing.
 
If I were to pick out themes and salient take-aways, I would highlight the importance of individualized play and experimentation along with the value of social experiences and collaborative teamwork, all of which are facilitated with technology and all of which serve ENGL 100 students who are growing in confidence as readers, writers, and thinkers.
 
Next week, Week 10, will be another opportunity to contribute your own “Sound Off!” about
  1. what modalities you are using in your online, hybrid, or tech-heavy onsite ENGL 100
  2. how students are benefiting in access and engagement because of those modalities
  3. why you might make adjustments the next time you teach with those modalities
Look for invitation at the beginning of next week tempting your participation. In the meantime, I hope you are compelled to mull over your teaching and student experiences. I also hope you have an excellent week!

ReadingwithMachines: A Dialogue with the Spring ’19 Certificate Cohort

As digital, multi-modal texts become more and more pervasive–not just in higher ed but across our daily discourse communities–the need to shift the focus of our teaching of reading processes to include the digital is real. While Scott Warnock, author of Teaching Writing Online, might be right that the book-length modality “is not dead,” it is likely that, for more and more of our students, the analog page could be (58).

My colleagues in the WritingwithMachines Certification Sequence at MiraCosta College posted to this blog in response to a bibliography of sources on mindful, digital reading habits. We then met in Zoom to exchange ideas about how to teach and support digital reading and discussions activities more effectively in the online and onsite classroom.

The format of our meeting is a model of one such social-annotation and inquiry-based reading activity. Enjoy.

Access our Google Doc and Annotations

Active Learning with Technology

On two separate days in February 2019, faculty from Letters as well as disciplines across the college collaborated to explore different ways technology can enhance knowledge building activities and active learning experiences. Starting with pedagogy (as Lisa Lane and all Program for Online Teaching veterans would insist), we look specifically at models for using devices in the classroom, wall monitors that facilitate small group collaboration, and Zoom for simulcasting (which turned into an adventure for us–by the way, sorry for the pops in the audio; I’ll figure this out one day).

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Questions and topics we explore:

What types of activities (in general) encourage students to generate knowledge in classroom settings?

How would technology enhance the active learning experience?

  • google docs?
  • laptops/devices in the classroom?
  • active learning stations?

What other benefits or utility do google docs, access to devices, and active learning stations offer?

Review our notes from the meeting

WritingwithMachines Discussion: Design Engaging Experiences in the Online Writing Class

In our October WritingwithMachines discussion on equity-minded teaching, Jade offered an analogy of a tree to illustrate her approach to “being intrusive, relevant, race-conscious, community-centric, and relational”: first, she designs activities around a solid and reliable trunk that then leads students out onto diverging, pliable branches.

In my attempt to design engaging online courses, I rely on a different but related analogy: first I build narrow corridors that then lead students into wide-open yet enclosed spaces. When I’ve talked with Chad about course design, he offers a balanced abstraction: it is essential to design defined space and it is essential to design space to be explored.

In our November discussion, Tony, Jason, Chad, Jim, Donna, and I explored further analogies, philosophies, and practical approaches that allow us to design interesting spaces where students find compelling reasons to engage–even play–with reading, writing, and thinking.

Watch the archive of the discussion:

Questions we explore:

How do we design our online courses so they are navigable yet surprising?

How do we encourage participation that is compelling and not compulsory?

Topics we discuss:

Defined navigation and instruction | Undefined navigation and instruction

Linear modules | Explorable spaces

Prescriptive assignments | Open assignments

Isolated spaces | Community-centric spaces

Required participation | Provoked participation

Podcasts we reference:

Nicholas A. Holt’s emphasis on play suggests we should increase the dialogic interactivity of our course design and bring students into greater degrees of contact with each other (maybe) and ourselves (definitely).

Laura Gibbs‘ digital storytelling course design sends students into individualized blog spaces initially and then equips them to share, exchange, and collaborate as a group later.

Listen to the audio of the meeting only:

Review our notes from the discussion and more resources from our S2019 FLEX Workshop on Course Design with Billy Gunn

Tools, Tricks, and Transitions: Teaching Online Made Me a Better On-site Teacher!

Hello all! I can’t wait to interact with everyone’s ideas this week!

Ever since I started teaching online, I began to change the way that I provide feedback to students in my onsite classes for the better. I truly believe that when you teach online you become a better onsite teacher! I used to provide feedback using Canvas or the Turnitin system in various learning management systems to leave notes in the margins of students’ papers and longer letters to them. Basically, you can leave track changes or comments just as you would in a Google Document in almost any LMS these days. I used to like the Turnitin system many years ago because it had many go-to templates saved that you could easily insert into students’ writing that would also provide them with additional reading, examples, and resources. However, my own beliefs about Turnitin have changed over the past few years that I have formally studied plagiarism, and I no longer use the system to provide feedback. However, I believe that technology has changed my feedback practices and philosophies for the better. Some tools that I have used include typed letters, screencasts, and audio feedback.

In my onsite classes, I mostly provide feedback to students in the form of a typed letter that I e-mail to them and ask them to print out along with the scoring rubric. I have a very fast typing speed (I am a pianist and played Mavis Beacon for hours upon hours as a child), and I can provide end or global comments very quickly by typing. As Warnock (2009) explained, students often like typed comments over hand written comments because they might be hard to read. Admittedly, my handwriting is not the best, especially when I am trying to limit the amount of time I spend responding to writing. Students also receive some hand written notes on their drafts, but for the most part I refer to paragraph numbers and pages in my global remarks to them.

In my onsite and online courses, I also make an effort at least once in a semester to provide voice comments or screencasts. I do find that leaving voice comments and screencasts takes me longer than typing comments, but I like to expose students to both types of feedback (typed and audio). Then I often let them try both types of feedback with classmates in an online peer review (in onsite and online courses). Voice comments and screencasts take me longer because I still need to think about what I am going to say before I start recording. When I write, I am more easily able to process my ideas. Writing to learn is a writing threshold concept that most everyone can relate to. However much I like typing my feedback, I understand that many students are both auditory and visual learners (as am I). Thus, screencasting is one of the most informative ways to provide feedback to students that I have found. The ability for students to listen to my commentary as they see my cursor moving across their writing mirrors what we would do together in person. I have found that students enjoy using screencasts in online peer reviews, and really value the detailed feedback that they receive. I typically have students use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic to record and upload their screencasts. I also provide a video tutorial about how they can use the free version, and they can see my face down in the corner as I am explaining the tool to them. I know that many of the colleges I teach at offer other screencasting programs in the library for free, but I like students to try out the free version of Screencast-O-Matic so that they might use it again as a resource in the future off campus. By the way, when you use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic and you save your video and try another one the program threatens you that your old video will be deleted if you use the free version again. However, it is a lie. Just click the yes button, and you can use the free version as many times as you like for up to 15-minute videos. There is a small watermark in the corner on the free version, but it in my opinion it is not distracting to students or wider audiences. I attached one of the tutorials I have made in the past at the end of this blog post.

When I first began teaching English language teaching certificate courses online, I sent each student a personalized e-mail with feedback on their discussion forum responses during week 2. What I realized from providing such feedback during week 2, was exactly what Warnock (2009) argued when he wrote about the importance of responding to students a lot in the beginning of the course. I find that when I spend plenty of time during the second week providing typed feedback to students I see higher quality writing throughout the course on discussion forums. The same holds true for onsite courses that I teach although I have different weights for discussion forums in online courses as compared to onsite courses. Like Warnock (2009) advocated, I also require much more weekly work on discussion forms in online courses than I do with onsite courses.

Finally, when I write feedback to students about their discussion forum responses via the form of an e-mail I am very careful to integrate my thoughts about the score by also referring to my scoring rubric. I might say something like the following: You are doing a great job talking about your personal teaching and learning experiences in relation to the question, which meets the criterion 4 and 5 on our scoring rubric. However, I would like you to carefully integrate quotes or paraphrases from our weekly readings and video lecture with page numbers or a time stamp (see my example responses in week 1) in order to meet criterion 2 and 3 on the discussion forum rubric. I’ll share that rubric below so you can see what I am talking about here in more detail. Then I go on to provide an example of what I mean for students so that they can actually see what I mean by connecting to their prior experiences or integrating a source. I most often have students write me back in the same day to ask further questions, or confirm that they have understood my suggestions to them and will try to implement them in the next week. As Warnock (2009) recommended, I then respond to students to always get the “last word” in e-mail conversations. I have found that always having the last word does help to develop a much more robust relationship with students in online and onsite courses.

Discussion Form Rubric Example

Assessment –Online Discussion Forum There are grading criteria for your responses(both types). The criteria for your responses are: 1.Actively contributes to the Online Discussion Forum discussions 2.Provides evidence of having completed the required reading 3.Understands key concepts and ideas introduced in the course 4.Relates ideas to own experience 5.Demonstrates originality of thought Please ensure you are meeting all criteria with each response. For more information,see the rubric below.

Tutorial of Online Peer Review Using Screencast-O-Matic

 

Resources

Warnock, S. (2009). Teaching writing online. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.