My Dreamy Dream Course; Or, I Can Be Super Impatient
My Dreamy Dream Course; Or, I Can Be Super Impatient avatar

I am not ready to dream about an online course. Mainly, I need to spend some time teaching online before I can really understand what works and what doesn’t in order to have the dream.

I do, however, often dream about onsite writing courses. My students are currently spending a lot of class time in the computer lab for our Media Literacy Group Project. I’m not sure if my dream is necessarily a flipped classroom model, maybe some sort of blend? The dream is that my composition course is very tech-enhanced. I want to teach it in a computer lab space.

Pedagogically, I want to spend class time moving back and forth between discussion and application of those discussions in the form of writing. Shocking! I know. It is a writing class after all. I already do this with a lot of in class writing because it is important to me that students practice whatever it is we are discussing related to writing in that moment, so we both figure out what they need more time with. We have discussed various forms of accessibility, but what practices will make the writing process more accessible to students? For me, it is engaging in it with them, teaching them how to keep moving forward.

I already do a lot of in class writing, but handwritten in class writing is limiting. It is limiting for purposes of practical revision. It is limiting for them turning it in and me returning it the next class period. They scribble to me, normally really great ideas. Then the moment is over. I scribble back. We are already in a different place; they are already thinking about it differently. It limits me engaging with students while they are actually writing. It is limiting for how we can use it during that class period; sometimes I really long for the days of the doc cam or a classroom that still has one.

The technology and its uses we have considered in this sequence have really pushed me more towards what technology provides for the experience of writing. I would prefer to use the technology to implement a lot more student drafting during class time, and by drafting, I mean the actual writing, not just the brainstorming, idea development, or handwritten introduction they can take home and type up later. I think about all the tools available through the internet that can change the purpose of student writing and how students understand themselves as writers, which also supports my anti-rubric world.

As shown in my course design video, I value a lot of transparency and being in tune with their actual experiences writing, not just the products of that writing. Since my pedagogy focuses on student writing over any other content, the lag of waiting for drafts slows down the momentum of the way I want the class to function. In many ways, some of the issues that have come up here with the delay of the discussion board for class discussion is an issue I have with delays created by students doing a lot of the actual writing outside of the classroom space.

Part of this computer and drafting in the classroom dominated approach also connects to how I function in the classroom space. I am a collaborator. When left on my own, I need a lot of time to work through my thoughts and ideas; I think and write very slowly. When interacting with my students and their work, my thoughts move really fast. I can show them in the moment how rethink nearly anything they produce for their purposes, not mine. For how hands-on I am, I am also oddly hands-off.

I had a glimpse of this once when I taught a M/W/F class. Fridays were drafting days, and I fought hard to get the coveted computer lab space. Even though we were sitting in the same room, we had an open chat through the WebCT LMS (was that early Blackboard? They looked a lot alike). Students would ask me questions through the chat or invite me into their document or I would just come into their doc to check on them and leave a piece of feedback. It is like a mass of individual mini-conferences happening every week and pushes students writing further.


Accessibility and Information Overload
Accessibility and Information Overload avatar

I experienced information overload with this week’s readings. There are so many elements to take into consideration. I am very thankful that technology and free technology keeps advancing because stuff is available now that wasn’t available when I taught online in the past.

I have dealt with a variety of student needs in the face2face classroom. One thing that was really big for me was meeting with Disability Services counselors to discuss what works best for the different needs of my students. This was fabulous because, for instance, they explained why certain file types were preferred. From these experiences, I already convert everything to .pdf for my students, even readings from websites, and with Canvas I am working on using the correct headings options instead of the general paragraphs. I also switched from a non-cc documentary where 50% was captioned to a cc one; I was a little sad, but it was getting way too dated anyways.

My own learning preferences make me really interested in some of this. I always click away from the main screen when “watching” online videos, including the ones for this course and just listen, or the other side to that is when I watch videos with my computer on mute which is 90% of the time, so it is all about the cc. I also read magazines from back to front, so in general I have a variety of practices that are not intended by the creators of the materials.

When I taught online before, one of my struggles turned out to be an asset. I cannot record improv videos for my classes. It is always disastrous. Some may assume it is a time issue and I go on and on which is a problem I know others struggle with. For me it is the opposite. My mind goes blank without a script. I guess I don’t talk to myself well enough, but I really need an interactive audience to do my natural thing. So for online teaching, I embrace the unnatural and script everything which means I have a transcript for every video. The video service I had to use through my previous college did not do the cc, and I had an international student who requested the video transcripts because it went too fast for him, and lucky for me, I had them all ready to go! With youtube’s cc service now, there is a lot of support for that area.

MiraCosta’s transition to Canvas should hopefully take care of compatibility issue with it being a phone friendly LMS; Blackboard most definitely was not. I am very selective of other supplemental sites that I incorporate into my classes, but How To videos would be appropriate. I recently made a How To video to teach some colleagues how to use google Calendar; it is surprisingly more complicated than it seems, mostly when it is trying to be smarter than us and messes things up. There were lots of them already posted on youtube, but they were way too involved when I just needed some very specific basics. It was super simple to do, 60 sec long, and I actually succeeded with it as improv!

There are some basics to hit like making a site that is compatible with audio and visual needs students my have. Also, having different types of activities that take into account different strengths and learning styles would be a way to plan ahead with course design. But it could also be effective to do some sort of needs assessment the first week of the class. This would involve having students reflect on how they use the internet to get a sense of the varying abilities and practices that we could consider incorporating into the course for that semester.

Here is a resource I recently came across that provides videos, orgs, articles, and books about Inclusive Pedagogy for those who are interested:

Anti-Rubrics and Purpose Driven Writing (1st week catching up post)
Anti-Rubrics and Purpose Driven Writing (1st week catching up post) avatar

I know rubrics are quite popular for writing assignments. Warnock supports with with his several subtle reassurances that rubrics are easy to move to the online space. I have tried different forms of traditional rubrics but I have not found them helpful to me as a grader. I also don’t find them helpful to students as writers, when students write to rubrics as opposed to identifying a purpose and writing to that.

All that said, I am interested in a different kind of rubric. Maybe a rubric that I wouldn’t necessarily call a rubric. But then, I don’t really know what that looks like. One of my biggest forms of feedback to the entire class through alternating student papers. I have students all look at one or two paragraphs from the same draft and offer one piece of feedback for each paragraph. Using track changes, I go through and comment or cut, paste, add, delete those suggestions on the screen. This gives them elements to think about in their own drafts. Using discussion board followed by some sort of screen capture technology, I think this could be recreated in the online classroom.

Since we go through 4-5 drafts of the paper, I am only committing fully commenting on the next to last draft. We look at one to two paragraphs as a class and then they are tasked with assessing and coming up with a plan for their own revision based on peer responses and much of what their peers are saying comes from the modeling from the different student papers as a class. For me, this is an effective way of managing the amount of grading and feedback in face-to-face classes and would just be one piece of managing it in the online classroom.

Another thing I have really liked in the online classroom was group papers because I could give continuous feedback as they worked because I was only responding to 8-9 papers. This allowed the amount of feedback to go up while keeping it manageable and teaching a group of students individually.

Media Literacy Group Project
Media Literacy Group Project avatar

In addition to group work and peer  groups for various activities, I do a lot of group projects in all of my classes that have included any or all of the following: papers, online essays, videos, and presentations. Since I set up google docs for my students as one collaborative space to support students with very different schedules to meet asynchronously. For collaborative papers, students’ common issue is failure to communicate effectively. My most successful groups are in contact through multiple media at once from texting to DM to email to the google doc. Others find at least a hour when they can all be logged onto the computer working on the project together at the same time in addition to the work they do on it solo. My groups that struggle, do not do either of the above. But lucky for them, they have multiple opportunities to improve their collaboration practices.

One collaborative project I would definitely want to work on adapting to the online class is my media literacy unit. There are 3-4 formal group writing elements connected to it. Here is the gist of the project and its parts:

Step 1: Choose a news site to explore and from which to pick an article to be the focus of the project. I use Vanessa Otero’s chart and methodology for creating it to help students think about how to identify political slants to the representation of news stories. (Note: This is the 4th or 5th version of the chart. She has incorporated feedback a few times; I actually prefer the earlier versions. She didn’t know it would get traction when she originally created it and posted it to social media.)

Students choose one of the sites from the bottom two corners for their main text.

Step #2: Groups write a two page evaluative essay, assessing all the questionable elements of their chosen article.

Step #3: Groups create an annotated bibliography, two entries per group member. The purpose of this is for them to find sources that provide more in depth and even reporting on the same issue as their main article.

Step #4: Groups compose an online essay (images, hyperlinks, videos, etc.) of 1,500 words challenging their main article. As a part of this, they also compose a peer response letter to two other groups to give feedback on their drafts.

Step #5: We compose an introduction as a class that addresses the content of all their online essays and link them.

This online essay puts a lot of pressure on successful group work because it is really a full project, not just one assignment. Students do get a lot out of it both for their own writing and for their ability to assess online sources. We spend most of our class periods in the computer lab while working on this article, which is good for transitioning it to the online classroom, but there is still the big issue of students communicating effectively enough to complete the project.