Create a Reading Journal in Canvas
curry mitchell

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.

Progress-monitoring and Intrusive Practices
curry mitchell

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

Engaging with Students in SpeedGrader
curry mitchell

The tools and features in Canvas’ SpeedGrader allow students to respond to instructor comments. This creates the possibility for one-on-one conversations with students about their writing and about our feedback on their writing.

Here is a simple, additional requirement I have added to the major essay assignments in my ENGL 100 class that promotes the potential for these conversations.

To meet this additional requirement, students must complete three steps. Here’s the language I use:


Respond to Instructor Feedback

After your essay has been graded, review the feedback you received and write or record a response that identifies 1) one comment you found helpful, 2) one comment you plan to work on or that you found unclear, and 3) please state if you plan to revise or move on to the next project.


The additional 10 point I assign to this requirement amounts to 3% of the total course grade, which means a student who chooses not to complete this additional step is not penalized and can still earn an ‘A’ in the course overall. 

I discuss the major benefits of this assignment in the video above. In addition to these, I also find that I am

  • leading students directly to my feedback in Canvas with instruction on how to use Canvas’ tools
  • dialoging with my students about their writing and my feedback in the same space their essay drafts reside
  • understanding who in the class is really benefiting from my feedback and who is not accessing my feedback, which helps me to be more effective in my intrusive practices and to use my time more efficiently

For tutorials on SpeedGrader, check out

Start Designing Your Online Class
curry mitchell

When I first started redesigning my ENGL 100 class for the online space, I found myself trying to mostly migrate my two-day per week lesson plans into an online, asynchronous rhythm. Instead of talking in class, we’d post to a discussion board. Instead of writing on the board, I’d create a slide-deck presentation and screencast it. Instead of modeling close reading with a doc cam, I’d snap a bunch of pics of my annotations, and set these in montage to some smooth Julian Casablancas tunes.

For the most part that worked, but after reading my first semester student evaluations, I found I was overwhelming my students with 2 lectures a week, 2 discussions a week, 2 workshops a week…in other words, the direct migration of my onsite curriculum into the online space needed tweaking. There’s something about the dynamic, synchronous class meeting that affords one set of active engagement with content and something about the interactive, asynchronous space that affords another.

One way to consider the redesign possibilities of your curriculum is to step back and consider the big picture and the minutia of your course: a backwards design approach.

I’ve created a worksheet–based on materials I received in an @One course on Course Design–which encourages this approach. Click the image above or access the worksheet to make a copy here.

This worksheet moves from the big picture of course curriculum to the particulars of how this curriculum scaffolds over the semester’s schedule. Next, this worksheet moves from thinking about the tools and practices developed for a scheduled, onsite class to thinking about what these tools and practices might look like in a mostly asynchronous, digital space.

I’ve started to use this worksheet to think about how I will redesign my ENGL 202 class as an online course with one scheduled meeting per week in Zoom. So far, I find myself moving back and forth from big picture to details as I think about the course as it currently exist. I also found the SLO’s for ENGL 202 very helpful as a source of orientation for designing a recursive reading, “arguing,” and writing experiences. I’m pretty sure I will use this pattern to organize and assign content week by week.

Finally, I’m starting to think about what Canvas will eventually look like when I build ENGL 202 online. I will take some elements from my current Canvas design for ENGL 202 onsite, some elements from this season of using Canvas, Zoom, and Google docs to teach ENGL 202 remotely, and some elements of my ENGL 40 course design, a sentence crafting class I’ve been teaching online for a couple years now.

My approach certainly is only one way to think about online course design. I hope we can all share our breakthroughs and work with one another to troubleshoot challenges. I’m looking forward to collaborating with you all!

Join WritingwithMachines and Post to our Blog
curry mitchell

WritingwithMachines is a community based on collaboration. If you would like to join us as a contributor to this blog, please email Jim Sullivan (jimsullivan@miracosta.edu) while curry is on sabbatical. Once you have been added as an Author, you will be able to share in our exchange of research and effective practices. We look forward to it!

Ready to post? Please follow these 3 steps.

1. Log in and use the “My Sites” drop down menu to hover over “WritingwithMachines” and then select “New Post”

2. Create your post using the editing tools and “+” button

You may want to review a guide on WordPress’ Block Editor. Also, to see what your post will look like once it is published, click the “Preview” button.

To embed videos from Youtube, use the “+” buttons and look for YouTube block. For embeding videos created in Canvas’ Studio, use the Custom HTML editor to add the published Studio embed code. For more guidance, check out this WordPress Tutorial page on embedding videos and how to create and publish videos using Canvas’ Studio.

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We will use the “categories” feature to push content from our blog to other websites. Please choose all of the categories that apply to your blog, but be sure to choose at least one of the categories organized under “Principles for Teaching Composition”

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We are looking forward to your awesome posts!!

WritingwithMachines Prepares to Sound Off in Week 10
curry mitchell

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!

WritingwithMachine in Fall 2019
curry mitchell

Inspired by the department workshop that Kelly, Jake, Jade, and Tyrone–our HSE colleagues–led in September, those of you who teach composition with technology–either online, hybrid, or onsite classes–within the WritingwithMachines community of practice will develop our own lens on ENGL 100, which we might use to support Project Voltron this semester.

Here’s the plan:

Writing with machines, Sound Off!
  1. Choose a specific composition class you are currently teaching (online, hyrbid, or tech-heavy onsite). Consider the modalities of your course design, texts, and assignments. Think about specific students and their experiences. Reflect on your instructional goals at this moment in the semester. Jot down a few thoughts.

  2. Record your thoughts using Canvas Studio and post the video to a discussion board in our WritingwithMachiness Canvas course (see links below).

  3. Finally, using Studio’s Comment feature, highlight a moment in your video you’d like your colleagues to listen to and respond.

Participating will require about an hour of work, enough time to organize your thoughts and play around with with one of Canvas’ newest toys: Studio.

There will be three opportunities to participate this semester:

Each time you participate, you can choose which discussion you’d like to join:

  • Online,
  • Hyrbid
  • Tech-heavy Onsite

Since we will collaborate asynchronously in a Canvas, you can participate whenever you have time. Time spent creating, commenting on, and responding to Sound Offs is FLEX eligible. Ultimately, we will use the insights we glean from our Sound Offs to support each other and our students this semester as well as prepare a lens we might bring to Project Voltron when we lead our department meeting next spring.

Thank you again to Tyrone, Jade, Jake, and Kelly for a great September workshop!

ReadingwithMachines: A Dialogue with the Spring ’19 Certificate Cohort
curry mitchell

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

How to Know and Intervene for Our Online Students
curry mitchell

On March 1st, WritingwithMachines hosted a workshop on how to know and intervene for online composition students. Our goal was to consider the agency we have as instructors to increase access and equity for our students, and then share experiences and strategies for getting to know and intervening for specific student groups and individuals in our online classes. 

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Some reflection from me:

In my own onsite classes, I set a goal to know every students’ name by the 3rd class meeting. Online, that’s harder (because sometimes, I never have a face to put with a name) or it’s way easier (because I always have a student’s name available and proximate to the work I’m responding to). To get a better sense of who my students are, I use an excel sheet to keep notes on names, pronunciation, pronouns, and personality traits. After attending the CUE Equity-minded Teaching Institute last summer, I added columns to track participation (engaged / distracted; talkative / quiet) based on gender and ethnicity. This allows me to really see who I’m responding to or calling on (or ignoring), who volunteers information (or doesn’t), and who participates differently based on small group dynamics. It’s been a game changer.

This excel sheet looks like this:

In my online composition classes, I use my first week, “introduce yourself to the class” assignment to collect information on each student. For students who describe themselves as busy or worried about English, or who submit a very short response, I set up a 10 minute Zoom meeting where I ask them about themselves, their past experiences online and in English, and their sense of the class so far. This is something Jim does with all his students in the first week. Again, a game changer.

After Week 1, I track the number of discussion responses each student contributes, and I track when I have featured a student’s work in a weekly announcement, lecture, or synchronous meeting. I try to feature every student at least once during the semester, and for students who seem less engaged or worried about the course, I try to feature their work early on.

When a student realizes their name is the answer to one of my announcement quiz questions about “whose amazing work is featured this week?” they’re stoked.

As I said, I’m stealing most of these practices from colleagues as well as from the institute with CUE. For a little more on the agency we have to increase access and equity for our students, please view the CUE Equity-minded Teaching Institute, follow-up webinar on “Areas Instructors Have Agency Over Equity,” starting at minute 3:29.

Questions and topics we explore:

What do you do to identify, track, and actively get to know each of your online (or onsite) students by name, personality, and circumstance?

Within your ability to affect mindsets and create equitable conditions, who in your online writing class, specifically, is on your radar? Which specific student, by name, whom you feel you have an opportunity to intervene for and support this semester?

Review our notes from our meeting