Reading in the Digital Age
Reading in the Digital Age avatar

In Chapter 7, Warnock’s Guideline 19 talks about the “millions of Web readings and multimedia materials on the Web.” I think that everyone has discovered this and uses this approach to be able to include rich, up-to-date materials in our f2f or online courses. I know I spend hours every year updating my readings to include current, hot topics for discussion and as fodder for student writing. My opinion is that texts devoted to readings are out-of-date before they are printed and cause unnecessary expense for students.

I found the more important issues contained in this week’s videos and readings were getting students to learn to read deeply with the goal of being able to critically talk about the ideas, discern the important issues, and then to springboard to their own thinking and then ultimately to their own writing. This is truly a life-skill or survival skill for any serious student and actually for any mature adult.

This week’s readings further moved us from simply having students read online articles or online texts to looking at teaching reading strategies specific to digital environments. I have to say I wish more research was devoted to this practical aspect and focused on college courses both f2f and online because reading has changed. Although the research delves into showing the differences, I see the need for research that actually deals with the change and how to teach it.

As I pondered what to post this week, I kept coming up with questions rather than any answers, so I’ll include some here.

How do we teach students to read deeply on a device that has been seen as a great skimming device?

Will students really learn to read deeply on a device that includes links in every article to so many other locations or to so much other information?

Will deep reading take place on the same device that connects to social media or provides so much entertainment?

The Writing Process
The Writing Process avatar

I am not teaching online, so I used my ENG100 f2f assignments as examples of how I teach process.

Essay 3 starts with students doing preliminary research on their own, and then in class working in groups they create the overall organization and write an introduction. The group process continues for a couple of classes with them revising and continuing to research to build the essay. This group essay has worked well in the past with stronger students really teaching weaker ones how to put an essay together. It also relies on handouts and my PowerPoints that mirror the process.

Essay 4, the lens essay, has two parts. I use Maslow’s Hierarchy as the lens for both assignments. First they use Maslow to analyze their own lives and write a brief analysis essay. They then apply Maslow’s Hierarchy to the characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Bean Trees. This process requires several drafts with peer review and one review requires a one-on-one session with me.

Here is my video.



Student-centered avatar

I really enjoyed the concrete ideas presented in “Taking a Learner-Centered Approach in Online Courses” by Errol Craig Sull.

Be a constant presence for suggestions and insights. I find this true in my f2f courses, and so I’m sure it’s even more important online. When I design an activity for my groups, I try to mirror the activity using a different topic. I also include a PowerPoint that tells them what is expected at every step, plus I circulate between the groups only intervening if they ask a question or if they are way off track.

Post mini-lectures that translate into ultra important. I also find this important and now break all my content into smaller chunks on PowerPoints that I show in class and that remains on the Canvas site for their review. Personally I don’t have an hour to listen to a podcast even if I like the content, so how could I expect students to listen to something for some outrageously long period of time that they may not even be interested in.

Offer an engaging variety of assigned and supplemental readings. I now have  over 20 articles posted on my course Canvas site that range in topics from happiness to arguments on banning certain dog breeds to careers in the next 30 years and the list goes on. I use these to talk about argument, audience, etc. and sometimes just to make them aware of an issue.

Get students actively involved in the course. As I mentioned in my blog posting, I include a series of short writing assignments in the beginning of ENG100 which necessitates that they find videos, blogs, ads, etc. for analysis and class discussion.

Know that students have a variety of learning styles. I think that variety in readings and activities helps meet this basic need.

Canvas avatar

Canvas seems to contain all or most of the features needed to provide the environment necessary for my needs as an online instructor.

I like the way Curry embeds video introductions into the beginning of each unit, and I plan to do that also. My first question is: do we need to provide a transcript of these videos so that someone who can’t hear them (whether because of an impairment or equipment problems) can access their content?

A second question I have about video is that when I used Screencast-O-Matic for the blog in this course, I had to link to it, but Curry embeds the video in the lesson? Is this a feature of Canvas?

Curry also mentions using Zoom early in the semester to get to know students one-on-one. I like this idea, but I assume that this is outside Canvas and you simply send them a link.

Warnock’s lists include some of the following that are very important to me:

Quick interaction with a student: Course announcements and the built-in email currently meet my needs in my f2f class, but I think the addition of video from my end and an introductory video from the students will increase communication for an online course.

Readings and conversations around them:  I feel that the traditional discussion boards in Canvas have and will work well for that. This necessitates tracking who is participating and what is the quality of the postings/responses.

Workshop-like peer evaluation: I followed the link in this unit to Peer Mark, and it seems to be a tool that I would use in an online course because it allows for a guided peer review with I think is important.

Interaction with students about their writing: Besides the traditional written comments, Canvas’s built-in SpeedGrader provides audio and video capabilities for interacting with the student about their writing assignment, which would help students tremendously to improve their writing and feel committed to an online course.

Presentations: I use PowerPoints in my f2f class often since it provides a record of what’s been presented and allows students to go back and review the content. I checked out Prezi this week and could see how migrating to that might be useful.

Group projects: I use group projects for small in-class exercise’s and also for a collaborative writing assignment. Canvas also provides the ability to use Google docs that would work well in an online course.

Framework for an online course
Framework for an online course avatar

The seven principles for undergraduate teaching by Chickering and Gamson are “contact between students and faculty, reciprocity and cooperation among students, active learning, time on task, feedback, communicating high expectations, and respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.” These principles are probably already core values in our f2f courses from day one by defining clear expectations in the syllabus and carefully crafting clear, meaningful assignments, to providing class time with active learning and group participation which respects diverse populations and fosters cooperation among students, to communication and feedback both in person and in writing both verbally and as part of the grading process. Therefore, a well-designed online course would continue to incorporate these fundamental concepts into an online environment.

Some of the key principles of teaching composition that I hope to incorporate into an online composition course are defined by the checklist on page xvi. The importance of readings in my course that spark thought and student-centered conversation are very important to me, so I spend many hours finding up-to-date articles that are thought provoking and sometimes controversial.  Making these student-led discussions is also important in my course so that they really take something away in the end, learning to think critically and evaluate for themselves. I also highly value the use of workshop-like peer reviews which provide in-depth feedback that help students improve their writing. I have found that having clear questions or guidelines for the reviewer to answer about a student’s piece has increased the value of these.  I also feel that positive reinforcement and personalized feedback that helps them grow as a writer (and as a person) is an important aspect of my courses. To a lesser extent, I do use quizzes and presentations, but I see those as vehicles not really values.

Here is my video

My Dream Course
My Dream Course avatar

My dream online ENG 100 course would be organized in Canvas using the pages feature in a week-by-week structure. I would either make each week’s main page available one at a time, or I would make the current week’s page the home page. I like the idea presented in our discussion that suggested using the same icons consistently to help students easily identify the type of materials (discussions, assignments…), so I would incorporate these on my pages. The weekly content would also be consistent in its approach; that is, the week would start with a short video lecture establishing that week’s goals. It would then be followed by a reading assignment, a short quiz, and an initial post to a discussion, which would all carry a Wednesday evening deadline.  By Sunday evening, the students would need to respond the required number of times to the discussion and submit the week’s writing assignment (or revision of a writing assignment or peer review if that was the assignment).  Exceptions to this scheme would be for the incorporation of group assignments that might necessarily work differently. The only new tools I would need are ScreencastOmatic to create the video lectures and Zoom to enable a synchronous discussion or for use with a group project. I would hope that the students would experience this linear structure as easy to use and clear to navigate, helping them successfully complete ENG 100.

Equity and Accessibility Issues
Equity and Accessibility Issues avatar

I don’t currently teach online for Miracosta, so I will address the issues from the standpoint of what I currently do in my f2f ENG 100 course that I would try to implement online.

I find up-to-date articles and assign one or two every week which provide food for discussions and for short reflective personal essays. Some other of these weekly articles are used to exemplify rhetorical patterns such as argument and cause/effect and are used not only for their content but for analysis. To supplement the readings and spark discussion, I also include videos such as TED talks.

I have grouped examples below of some of the articles and how I use them.

Race Issues:

“Why are people still racist? What science says about America’s race problem” This article is used for background and a whole class discussion, and I could easily see this being used in an online discussion. It is also paired with the next article below which leads to the writing assignment.

“Unconscious Prejudice Worksheet” This is an anonymous online quiz that students need to complete before the writing assignment.  Many students have commented that they never realized their own prejudices before taking the quiz because the survey goes beyond race to looking at their feelings about many groups such as people with various abilities and body types.  This self-analysis writing assignment could easily be used online.

“Four Perspectives on Removing Confederate Monuments” This article is an example of an argument that is used in groups—each group has to take a perspective from the article and present an oral argument from that perspective to the rest of the class. This activity could be used the same way in an online group discussion.

Immigration Issues:

“Why Your Economic Argument against Immigration Is Probably Wrong” This article is  used in groups which need to provide an analysis of the argument using the model of analysis from our text, So What? The Writer’s Argument, and could be used the same way online. I have found it interesting to listen in on how the various groups see this particular argument.

“What happens during a deportation raid in the US? Activists and undocumented people describe the chaos and terror of predawn deportation raids taking place across the US” This article personalizes the topic and provides an example of pathos in a way that leads to much discussion and could also be used for an online discussion.

Beyond first day introductions and other cursory interactions, I now have one-on-one meetings with students that carry points for attendance. In this meeting I not only go over essays in a way not possible with mere written comments, but I also engage them in talking about their lives by noting issues they have raised in their writings. I know some students only do it for the points, but I feel it is important to engage them personally.

From a previous week in this course, I found Curry’s short film clip analyzing a student essay on video most helpful, and I would definitely use that approach for the longer essays in an online course.

I also found Dr. Wood’s address very valuable because it contained suggestions to implement in classes that benefit not only undeserved students but all students. His recommendation of virtual office hours seems to be a way to carry on my meetings with my f2f students into the online environment to provide the support he was advocating.

From the article “Examples of Effective Practices” the ideas of developing online courses with accessibility and inclusion in mind along with the suggestion to offer instructional materials in more than one medium seem important to plan for and  implement. Also I have found that considering that students may use mobile devices to access the course materials impacts both online and f2f class sites.

Collaboration avatar

Thanks Janette for your great video.

I thought you stated what many of the scholarly articles stated, but your explanations were clear and provided a good framework and advice, so thanks.

  1. Buy-in

It seemed to me that your advice of getting students’ buy-in was an important thread throughout all the literature since many online students might expect and prefer to work alone. It may even be the sole reason they have chosen to attend online classes, so I think your ideas of preparing them right away from the course description and syllabus would be important for everyone but especially for the loner.

  1. Clear expectations

I must confess that that when things fall flat in my classes, I have to take responsibility for not having clear expectations of not only the outcomes but how they will reach them. Also having clear expectations for students you won’t see f2f becomes crucial since you won’t be able to do a spur of the moment correction. I would think that this step might take quite a bit of time to prepare and might get better over time when the pitfalls become clearer.

  1. Start small

I felt more reassured by your advice to start small and build up from peer reviews and discussions which are a part of every course to larger types of group work.

A f2f group assignment that I would consider migrating to an online composition course is actually a pre-writing activity. I have come to feel that preliminary research and pre-writing activities can help students organize and write better essays, so I would carry this philosophy online.

I prepare the students by mirroring the following process in class on a different topic. Their assignment is to do general research on the assigned topic with the end product being a random list of 25 phrases or terms they jot down while reading and bring to the next class.

The in-class groups of about 4 students then take the random lists and cluster like items together into two shorter lists, leaving out what doesn’t fit. They then create a general category name for each of the two clusters.  The topic I’ve used for this is an essay on the effects of school bullying, and after the clustering of ideas, the student groups have come up with such organizational patterns as short term/long term effects, physical/psychological, victim/bully, or others. Their group work continues with organizing the sub- items in the two clusters in order to group ideas together and create a logical flow—they have actually roughly outlined the body paragraphs. The group then comes up with a working thesis sentence that works for their organizational pattern, and together they draft an introductory paragraph. Their assignment for the week is to write the body paragraphs using the organized list of ideas, adding what is needed, and backing up their ideas with research.

The following week, the same groups do a peer review of each member’s resulting essay.

I think that the changes that would need to occur to move this to an online course would be a video of my initial mirroring demonstration. The preliminary research and creating the random lists would remain the same, but the lists would simply need to be shared in the groups I create.

It seems that what I can do in a 4 hour f2f class would need to be broken down into pieces so that each student in the group can contribute to the process through Google docs and small group discussion.

Tools to assess student writing
Tools to assess student writing avatar

In the past, I have tried using macros for electronically submitted essays. However, for the most part, I found the text in macros felt too generic or repetitive, and managing the macros more difficult than simply typing individual responses to students. I am excited to learn about new tools for use in future online sections of composition courses that others share in this blog that offer a better way to provide feedback improving the quality and perhaps the number of responses to student writing.

Because I just started using Canvas this semester, I was happy to learn about tools provided in Canvas that were included here in the bibliography. Specifically being able to email a student directly from the grade book is something I will use in my campus course, but I can see how important it would be online for immediate feedback with ease of use for the instructor.

I currently use rubrics for assignments, but I’m not sure how much students actually review them before submitting an assignment, so I think Warnock’s suggestion of electronic rubrics would also help students realize what’s expected and then how that resulted in the grade they received.