Opening up New Reading/ Writing Experiences Online
Opening up New Reading/ Writing Experiences Online avatar

In Chapter 7 of Warnock, he focuses on many different possibilities for incorporating reading into the online class. And while I do value his reassurance that it is still okay to use a book in an online course, the two sections that really got me excited about reading online were his sections on Multimodal Texts and Student Texts. As Warnock points out: “The array of audio and video materials on the Web can be used in conjunction with conventional texts to create a different kind of ‘reading’ experience for students” (62). What I like about his approach is it seems additive rather than a substitution, that is, he still values “traditional” texts while also opening up the possibilities of texts that we can point our students to in an online space.

This connects nicely to an interview with Laura Gibbs on the “How to Create Engaging Online Classes” episode of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. For Gibbs, the most important feature of an online course is its openness, and she urges us to design our online courses to be open-ended spaces. She suggests that the nature of the Internet is one of openness, and as teachers we should ask ourselves- is my course open or closed? One method she shares is to have students create their own blogs that belong to them, the students create blogs and then engage with each other’s blog posts, and she emphasizes the importance of building choices into the weekly workflow. Gibbs uses student blogs in place of discussion boards in hopes of motivating students to engage with ideas and share with each other while developing a place (the blog) that belongs to them- and everything they do takes place at the blog- her ideas are very compelling and links Warnock’s focus on multimodal approaches and his suggestion to make student writing a central text in the online space. 

I’ve also been super inspired by John Warner’s book The Writer’s Practice. Warner calls for us to create writing experiences that give students increased agency in the composition classroom while providing opportunities for the kind of multimodal readings that Warnock highlights. Next semester I plan to borrow Warner’s “What’s So Funny?” (Rhetorical Analysis of a Work of Humor) writing experience/ assignment in my ENGL 100 course. In the experience students first identify their audience as “a curious bunch of people who enjoy being shown aspects of [our] culture they may not have immediately grasped. Your goal is to have the audience exclaim, ‘I never would have thought of that,’ after reading your analysis”(91). The cool connection to both Warnock and Gibbs is Warner’s suggestion that students choose their own texts to analyze, they can choose a bit from a stand-up comedy routine, a sketch from SNL, Key and Peele, or other sketch show, they can analyze cartoons, comics, and even memes. This would increase both student agency and engagement while emphasizing the openness of the online space- I know that I consistently watch excerpts from Late Night with Seth Meyers on YouTube, and based on anecdotal observation, students engage with authentic texts in a similar way. Students then go on to process the text, they react to the text answering questions, “where did you laugh? what kind of laugh was it?”, students then observe, “look for details . . . who [else] would find it funny? what does the audience have to know to find it funny?” Next, students analyze, “start to shape some of the observations into a theory,” and then synthesize “[students] work from those observations and bits of analysis” (93). After this sustained engagement with the text, students move on to the drafting/ revision process. My goal in an online course would be for students to engage in blog posts/ discussion boards detailing their choice of texts, their process of analysis and synthesis while getting feedback – the student writing and engagement will be privileged while the students explore their choices and the analysis of their texts. 

Staying Student-Centered Online
Staying Student-Centered Online avatar

Many thanks to Tony Burman for his rendition of the classic Coca-Cola theme from my childhood- I remember Tony mentioning integrating these kinds of “commercial breaks” or pauses into both his onsite and online courses. I tried that this semester in my onsite class- I put up some memes about essay writing in my ENGL 100 class and students really got a kick out of them- so to keep it student centered, I had them work in groups to develop their own memes about the day’s reading which they then posted on a discussion thread on our course Canvas page. It was super fun and the students were definitely engaged, working to make decisions both about which meme template to use, and also about how to best represent core ideas from the text.

This also ties into Warnock’s focus on “chunking” in the OWS. In my nascent planning for my first online course, and admiring curry’s ability to parcel out information in an accessible and digestible manner, Warnock, in his citation of Smith, reinforces the importance of chunking in the online course: ” ‘Content presented in one long segment is much less effective for learning than the same content broken down into several smaller segments’ ” (31). As I consider this advice, I think I will keep a weekly schedule at the forefront of student’s access points to the course, that is, do it much like curry does for WwM- each week will be “live” as the week arrives- on Sundays or Mondays. Students will then access the week’s work as it comes up. For longer projects (essays), students will get reminders and can consult the syllabus for dates.

Also, Tony’s modeling of how to import onsite strategies for student-centered content really seemed to be a useful and viable path for getting students engaged with the daily/ weekly work. I could see using Google Docs and Discussion threads to start to activate their ideas about readings- using columns on the Google doc to chart connections between challenging texts- and then opening up a discussion thread for students to respond to one another and ask questions. 

Interestingly, in Chapter 4, Warnock brings up a lot of compelling options/ suggestions but then seems to kind of move on without developing the category much. In the Games and Simulations section, he suggests, “Part of our class ‘workshop’ could involve, at some point, offering and perhaps taking part in these kinds of games with our students” (35). I would’ve like to have him expand on this more, why would this be a useful or compelling modality for getting students more actively engaged. I guess it’s time for me to do further research. Also, I know a lot of the WwM peeps are using games as a way to initiate class activities and discussion- how would this look in an online course?

Course Managing my Pedagogical Philosophies
Course Managing my Pedagogical Philosophies avatar

Since I am still grappling with how to best use Canvas in my onsite classes and considering how to best plan my summer online course, I am going to stick with Canvas as the CMS I interrogate this week. Would Ayn Rand approve? Or argue that my free will has been overrun by zombies? 

But seriously, Warnock’s charge to keep it simple resonates. Paradoxically, sometimes I think I keep it too simple and not simple enough. I use Modules, Group Discussions, Attendance, SpeedGrader, Announcements as my main tools in Canvas. But students still see Files, Collaborations, Chat, Google Drive, and Name Coach as navigable options. One concrete step I need to take is to limit the options that I don’t actually ask students to engage with. The truth is that I still fell a bit overwhelmed by all of the options and I tend to fall back on what has worked sufficiently in the past. But I want to do better!

Warnock’s suggestion to chart out needs/tech/ availability / training seems especially useful. And I plan to implement this practice as I plan my online course. I like the idea of mapping out a table/ chart that I can look at and interact with in an analogue space- on a white board or bulletin board. 

One current frustration I have with Canvas is SpeedGrader, and in discussion with colleagues, we agreed that something that looks more like the comment function on Google docs would be helpful/ useful to include in a CMS. Which brings me to another spot on my to-do list which would be to investigate and learn how to use the Google Drive link on my Canvas courses. My ideal would be to incorporate plenty of videos to communicate with students, weekly missives from my desk to their inboxes, and I think these communications, as Warnock suggests, can go a long way in communicating important info to students. So I plan to keep getting more comfortable with Screencast-O-matic and Zoom, but perhaps my ideal CMS would have its own in-house video  recording program. 

Lastly, I thought Warnock’s suggestion to use a telephone, thought “it seems quaint,” to be an interesting take. I am currently doing coursework to get a Postsecondary Reading and Learning Certificate from CSU Fullerton. The courses are all online, but during the first course my instructor held office hours over the phone, and I have to say it was quite nice to be able to speak and interact with someone. Granted, the class only had 5 students, but I think if the schedule allows, maybe setting up a time to take phone calls from students might be a useful/ helpful way to build community and ease anxiety with our students. Or maybe working in more synchronous meetings/ office hours. Looking at the University of Central Florida’s seminars would be a good next step to get the ball rolling here. 

See you all soon!

 

Philosophical Musings: A series of principles
Philosophical Musings: A series of principles avatar

Greetings all! Great to be back thinking, writing, and discussing pedagogy.

When I think of my teaching philosophy, I tend to think of a series of principles or categories that are consistently overlapping to make some kind of cohesive whole, I hope. So I’ve attempted to outline these principles in a way that would be equally relevant in both an onsite and online course. 

Collaborative Interaction: For each course I have to say this is the core principle I work to make central to each stage of the semester’s work. I always think back to the classes I took in undergrad and grad school and remember how much I got out of group work, even if some days I wasn’t in the mood! In each class meeting I conduct, there is some form of interactive/ active learning for students to engage with. In my onsite classes, technology has been a useful tool to facilitate learning, especially with our access to chromebooks in specific classrooms. Students are able to weigh in on a prompt that I’ve posted on a shared Google doc, and then engage and interact with one another’s writing and ideas. Access points are developed and implemented, and technology helps to add variety and range. In terms of migrating this practice online, I appreciate Warnock’s suggestion that, ” . . . students can take over the conversation in a online environment perhaps even more effectively than they can with you [the instructor] present in the f2f room” (xvi). 

Relevance: Students engage more readily with class materials when they are able to connect it to their daily lived experiences in some way. For example,readings about technology can invite students into a topic that has direct relevance in their lives. Debates about dependency on technology invite students to engage in discussions that they have some degree of personal stake in. Warnock’s own discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of using online tools to teach writing provides a measured and thoughtful model for engaging with the topic of our use of and dependence on technology in our writing courses and beyond. In Charles Seife’s “The Loneliness of the Interconnected,” a reading I use in ENGL 100, he argues that “instead of exposing us to differences, the Internet actually encourages conformism and intolerance– and thus threatens basic principles that sustain a democratic society.” This would be an interesting discussion to jump into with students in an online course, especially with Warnock’s concern that so many of us have ” . . . sprinted headlong into the technological future [and] seem enthralled by digital technology to the point of risking being used by the tecnologies instead of the other way around,” echoing in our minds. 

Emphasis of connection between reading and writing: As the poet Willie Perdomo said: “There is no writing without reading. It’s the ultimate dialogue.” This goes back to my training in rhetoric and writing at SDSU, all writing is in dialogue with a larger conversation, and in response to ideas that are situated in textual artifacts of some kind. So, each writing assignment, whether low-stakes or a longer, more sustained essay is in response to some kind of text. The text can vary in type/ form, but our ideas/ writing are then in conversation with the discourse, and contextualized to make sense of audience and purpose. This can be migrated into an online situation as evidenced by Jim Sullivan’s comments on using writing prompts that favor developing an authentic audience. 

Develop connection and authentic interaction with students: I enjoy being in the classroom! I think I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I’m comfortable being myself with students, and I think this manifests well when they can see that I really do want them to do well and be successful. When students feel authentic care from teachers, it helps them feel supported and capable. Of course, this is coupled with high expectations, and academic rigor- I’m not suggesting the classroom should be devoid of formality. The idea of transitioning this online is an interesting puzzle for me. Warnock’s focus on developing an “online voice” seems especially relevant, and I appreciated his call to think about the importance of framing ourselves as an audience. Also, I really liked his suggestions of voices and roles to avoid: Unapproachable sage, apathetic drone, chum, fool, and harsh critic. 

 

Thanks for reading and here is a short video of my tour of CCS sample course:

https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cqnXYE3stJ

Dreams of tomorrow . . . today!
Dreams of tomorrow . . . today! avatar

Goodbye but not farewell:
Thank you all for being part of the Writing with Machines Fall 2018 certificate course, what a great mix of ideas and information we’ve covered in our time together! I am super charged up to interrogate my teaching practice and the choices I make both in my onsite classes and my future online courses—and I am inspired by the possibility of overlap and hybridity that is promised by so many of the materials we’ve worked with. But for my final entry I want to focus on the future- my vision for my ideal online course/

Clarity: As a new Canvas adherent, I am consistently coming up against questions and challenges as to how to best use the platform to communicate with my students in the clearest manner possible. I plan to migrate from modules to pages as the primary organizational framework- pages seems more manageable and systematic in communicating important weekly information that students will be able to navigate when prompted and required. Also, they will be able to navigate and revisit at their discretion, reinforcing their initial visit- I will work in some way of requiring them to interface with the weekly requirements more than one time only—weekly quizzes, short written responses, basically a series of recursive assignments that will facilitate consistent engagement with the class/ class materials as we build up to the longer written assignments.

Equity:
This focus on clarity dovetails nicely with an increased focus on equity. One thing I want to focus on more in both my online and f2f classes is a de-emphasis on the sword of Damocles aspect of the larger paper/ essay and zero in more on the process and informal writing/ process work. In Warnock’s conception of a point system he attributes 35 points to Informal writing/ message boards whereas he gives 30 points to his three longer writing projects including a final writing portfolio. A focus on more informal/ low-stakes assignments will give students more opportunities to accumulate points and hopefully be able to demonstrate/ develop their strengths in a wider variety of writing contexts, thus providing a more equitable grading system that maintains standards.

Race-consciousness/ intersectionality: Dr. Wood’s ideas and approaches have been a source of inspiration and enlightenment since I took his “Teaching Men of Color” course two years ago. However, as many of my colleagues have suggested, let’s keep the conversation going—just as we focus on the importance of being race-conscious as we develop our curriculum and use of stock images (especially important in an online environment with such an emphasis on ocular engagement), we can also be aware and inclusive of all marginalized communities. Importantly, we can provide materials that are empowering and celebratory which invite participation and sharing of our varied experiences.

Fun/ flexibility/ risk-taking: Lastly, I want to challenge myself to have fun with the new challenges of teaching an online course. Flexibility will be important as I adopt new strategies and allow myself to take risks—to fail at times. For example, many of my colleagues have discussed/ mentioned gamification have sparked my interest/ fascination. But at the same time I have a certain amount of hesitancy and intimidation since I am so unfamiliar with what this might look like in practice. But in my ideal course, I will challenge myself to try the things that I am most nervous about with the hopes that they will best help my students make the most of the course.

Thanks curry and all my colleagues for a lively session of contemplation and collaboration -it’s been useful, inspiring, and challenging- looking forward to the next sequence.

Links to my previous posts:
https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2018/09/10/the-futures-so-bright/

https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2018/09/23/online-collaboration-migration/

https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2018/10/08/equity-in-a-virtual-space/

https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2018/10/29/department-of-redundancy-department/

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.