Equity in a Virtual Space
Equity in a Virtual Space avatar

This week’s materials really spoke to concerns that continue to be important when considering the intersections (or lack thereof) between online learning and equity. In both postsecondary and K-12 education, it often seems that “technology” is used as a band-aid or cure all for issues that have deeper causes. As danah boyd suggests, “. . . just because people have access to the Internet does not mean that they have equal access to information. Information literacy is not simply about the structural means of access but also about the experience to know where to look, the skills to interpret what’s available, and the knowledge to put new pieces of information into context” (317).

One approach that I take to address this, especially as I work to integrate Canvas more and more into my f2f classes, is to “become [more] accepting of students as cocreators of content and knowledge” (Chen & Bryer 2012) in the hopes of building community and creating a classroom (both f2f and online) where I become “a learner along with students” (Chen & Bryer 2012). This also helps in addressing some of the concerns I have about Canvas- my first experiences with it led me to think it was very intuitive, but I’m finding opportunities to continue to return to my course pages during class to assure that my students know where to find important information such as prompts, and unit-specific information that I post under the modules tab. Sometimes it’s as simple as demonstrating the need to scroll down further on a page where I’ve posted an important question or reading.

Far too often, in my assumption that students are more familiar with the ins & outs of technology, I don’t account for how students access information online. Often students’ main access point is the smart phone. The Canvas app behaves much differently than the computer version. In my English 52 class, we have the luxury of using chromebooks and there is one for each student and when I teach in 4611 each student has a computer to use, so we can make use of these resources to troubleshoot any issues we might be having with Canvas literacy.

Having taken J. Luke Woods’s Teaching Men of Color certification program, it was really compelling to see how his methods can translate into teaching online courses.

Considering, the self-paced nature of online classes, his push to “be intrusive long before it’s too late” seems especially relevant. This is something I do in my f2f classes. I often feel that I start out strong with this practice, but as the semester progresses and the work mounts, it becomes more difficult to keep up with regular emails to students who may be in need of increased contact.

But I do think there is value in working in “mandatory interactions” – adding credit or points to office hours, finding more opportunities to learn about our students (especially in an online setting). Many of the suggestions seem to be in line with Warnock, -live office hours, personalized feedback and generally making students aware of our humanity.

Most useful are Woods’s suggestions for making online courses culturally relevant to counter the deficit mentality that is often assigned to students of color. I especially appreciated his mention of “mirror books” that are reflective of our students’ lives and experiences. However, in my focus on social justice issues in past semesters, I worry that I included too many texts where African Americans were portrayed in positions of disempowerment and desperation-Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy being a prime example. It’s a powerful book and, in my opinion, a very important one, but I think students were often put off by the harrowing nature of the vignettes about people of color on death row/ serving life sentences. So I’ve shifted to developing units on education, technology, success, and gender- I’ve found these to be much better for developing a climate of openness and accessibility.

Finally, one of the most eye-opening suggestions from Wood was to monitor our virtual discussions for microaggressions. Part of being race-conscious is being aware of students’, perhaps unintended, racially insensitive remarks. This is something I need to be aware of in the f2f classroom- and I think attention needs to be given to acknowledging and addressing microaggressions even when it’s uncomfortable for both teachers and students.Insensitive remarks about gender, disabilities, and mental health issues can’t be ignored- openness and directness are, as far as I can see, the best approach to addressing this. Opening up a class discussion (either in a discussion thread or in a class meeting), and one-on-one interactions with the student who makes the remark are two steps I plan to take in addressing microaggressions.

Many questions and much to ponder still.

Thanks!

Online Collaboration Migration
Online Collaboration Migration avatar

Greetings! Here are my thoughts for this week:

This week I decided to go back and read Warnock’s introduction, and his emphasis on how an OWcourse can actually put the focus on more intensive writing while revealing the intricacies of the rhetorical situation, “students are writing to you and to each other in virtually all of their course communications, expanding ideas of audience, purpose, and context each time they contribute to a message board, create a blog entry, or engage in an email-based peer review” (xi). So for this week, I want to focus on thinking about how the OWcourse may strengthen collaborative work and the ways in which I present and scaffold an end-of-semester group project. Although, I think Janette’s point about the potential drawbacks (less autonomy for students who want an “anytime, anyplace” set up for their online classes) of extended group projects, I have been considering the possibilities of migrating a group project from an f2f course to an OWcourse

In my ENG 100 and HSE courses, much of the semester is devoted to different modes of rhetorical analysis (though I have become increasingly less jargon-heavy in my prompts and scaffolding). We start with the analysis of one text, next we move on to the lens assignment, then we incorporate research, and end the semester with the analysis of a visual artifact. The final unit is focused around ideas/ questions about gender identity, After analyzing 3-5 written arguments, we move into an analysis of a documentary called Miss Representation- I have students work in small groups for multiple class meetings- identifying rhetorical strategies the filmmakers use (editing, music, shot type, sequence, structure) and analyzing why they use them. This culminates in a group project where each group is assigned specific strategies to identify and analyze how these strategies work and why they’re used. Students can use PP, Google Slides or any other platform to develop a multimedia presentation for the class.

Some thoughts on why an OWcourse would benefit and might even strengthen this project

The visual aspect won’t get lost – here I’m thinking I would provide a model of analysis using clips from the film with recorded commentary that students could access when needed then after being set up in groups, students could asynchronously practice their own analysis of whichever strategies they feel compelled to pay attention to, recording their findings on a Google doc, including screenshots, or links to short clips of the documentary to give examples.

Group roles: One thing I need to strengthen in my f2f classes in the context of group work is careful attention to who does what. Warnock acknowledges the challenges of staying on task, and advocates for the assignment of group roles-“leader, meeting organizer, secretary, head researcher, chief editor” (149). I think an online space could end up making these roles more concrete and effective since many students might appreciate the dynamics of more clearly defined roles that need to be clearly laid out for the online context.

One idea that I heard on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast that seemed to lend itself well to an online class while addressing many of the potential issues in Warnock’s section on Team Projects was the idea of the Scrum Board. Rebecca Pope Ruark, author of Agile Faculty, promotes the idea of using a Scrum Board to help students work collaboratively and track progress. In her explanation, a Scrum Board has three separate columns-To Do, In Progress, and Completed. Once groups are underway, they could track their progress on a virtual Scum Board-this could be a Google doc or some other virtual space -I’m open to suggestions! This would be specific to each group- with smaller sections for the responsibilities of each individual group member and the corresponding tasks. I imagine this would be a good space for groups to monitor their progress and I could track who is assigned which task and how each group member is contributing.

 

Finally, each group could come together to craft their final presentations- they may need to do a few synchronous planning sessions to develop the presentation, but they could break it up into individual components that each member could work on individually and then bring back to the group. One question I have is for the presentation itself- would we have synchronous sessions where the groups could present “live” or would we have a discussion space where students could view the presentations on their own time? I would have to work this out.

Feedback: This is another area where I feel like the possibilities of technology would benefit strong feedback. I would record an asynchronous response to their presentations- giving them feedback and assessment- attending to how effectively they worked as a group.Afterwards they could assess their own work both individually and collaboratively in a discussion thread specific to their group (though I’m hoping the Scrum Board will help recursively do much of this work).

I still have lots of questions and concerns about how this will translate/ transition but I am excited by the possibilities.

Thanks!
 

The Future’s so bright . . .
The Future’s so bright . . . avatar

 

 

Greetings! Great to be a new member of the Writing with Machines crew!

Now

Reading through Warnock’s text, it’s really got my neurons and synapses firing thinking about the overlap and inherent hybridity that is happening more and more as I integrate Canvas into the daily/ weekly work in my onsite classes. Though I’ve never taught an online course, since adopting Canvas over the summer, it (Canvas) has become an integral component of my teaching practicum. Specifically, in terms of assessment, SpeedGrader on Canvas is much more conducive to comment on drafts early on in the writing process. During workshop/ peer review over the summer, I started to reviewing and making short, targeted comments on student drafts while they are working in groups with peer drafts, I could then check in with each of them individually to discuss the comments I made. Granted, this was for a summer course and we had three hours to work on this, so adjustments would need to be made for a shorter class period. But with an online course, the highlighting and commenting functions in Canvas introduce many opportunities to engage in directed comments while mitigating the issue of illegibility that Warnock brings up in chapter eleven—something I have struggled with for so long.

Another exciting proposition that Warnock addresses in his section on grading in chapter twelve is the possibility of “generating an ongoing conversation with students about their progress . . . grading is too often a one-way announcement form the instructor” (137). One method I’ve employed in my f2f classes, and will continue in online courses, is the use of a Google doc to get a sense of where students are at with their thinking/ feeling about their essay drafts. I ask what they’re excited about, concerned about, or still have questions about- they respond onsite using laptops, phones, or ChromeBooks, and I also give them the choice to answer anonymously. This practice has given me valuable insights into student thinking – and better understanding of what I need to address/ adjust in the lead up to assessment. Students have a chance to comment on what I can do to better clarify or improve my expectations for an assignment and we can then work as a class to address concerns before a grade is assigned.

 

Future Possibilities

If I could sum up my thoughts about the future in teaching online courses, I would use one word—more! More comments from me, more low-stakes writing with responses from me, more quizzes to fire up thinking about the readings. Warnock has given me much to consider and to be excited about—some specifics.

Macros—I appreciate Warnock’s cautious endorsement of macros-having a bank of auto-fill comments would help mitigate or prevent “repetitive stress injuries.” I also take to heart Warnock’s privileging of student agency and awareness of student engagement when he cautions against an over reliance on macros that would lead to “boring mechanical routine, “ while “students most likely would sniff out the inauthentic nature of your comments” (126). Macros are definitely a strategy that I would like to cautiously attempt when teaching my first online course.

But the strategy that most excited me was Warnock’s section on AudioVisual Responses to student work. Warnock admits that “[u]sing AV feedback to respond to student writing in the composition classroom is trill a fairly novel application, but the technologies to support this are improving at a rapid pace” (131). I was holding office hours in the Writing Center on Thursday and I notice they had a separate room for synchronous online appointments and it seemed like a very effective use of AV feedback—both the tutor and tutee were discussing in real time the tutee’s paper. In a class of twenty-five plus students the dynamic would have to be adjusted, and one would have to account for the largely asynchronous nature of online teaching, but as Warnock mentions, “AV feedback cranks up the response process considerably from the simple tape recorder by including video of the paper . . .This [AV feedback] is much faster than evaluating papers conventionally, and I give the students more extensive feedback—saying nearly twice as much as I do in a typical written response” (131). Very exciting prospect here—and I hope to learn more about where we are with the technology now, as I imagine we’ve come a long way since 2009 when Warnock’s text was published.