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.
In our October WritingwithMachines discussion on equity-minded teaching, Jade offered an analogy of a tree to illustrate her approach to “being intrusive, relevant, race-conscious, community-centric, and relational”: first, she designs activities around a solid and reliable trunk that then leads students out onto diverging, pliable branches.
In my attempt to design engaging online courses, I rely on a different but related analogy: first I build narrow corridors that then lead students into wide-open yet enclosed spaces. When I’ve talked with Chad about course design, he offers a balanced abstraction: it is essential to design defined space and it is essential to design space to be explored.
In our November discussion, Tony, Jason, Chad, Jim, Donna, and I explored further analogies, philosophies, and practical approaches that allow us to design interesting spaces where students find compelling reasons to engage–even play–with reading, writing, and thinking.
Watch the archive of the discussion:
Questions we explore:
How do we design our online courses so they are navigable yet surprising?
How do we encourage participation that is compelling and not compulsory?
Topics we discuss:
Defined navigation and instruction | Undefined navigation and instruction
Linear modules | Explorable spaces
Prescriptive assignments | Open assignments
Isolated spaces | Community-centric spaces
Required participation | Provoked participation
Podcasts we reference:
Nicholas A. Holt’s emphasis on play suggests we should increase the dialogic interactivity of our course design and bring students into greater degrees of contact with each other (maybe) and ourselves (definitely).
Laura Gibbs‘ digital storytelling course design sends students into individualized blog spaces initially and then equips them to share, exchange, and collaborate as a group later.
The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:
writing/reading assignments, activities, instruction, and assessments that promote equity, diversity, and inclusiveness
modes of content delivery–tools and apps–that activate cultural capital, foster class community, establish teacher presence, facilitate non-cognitive skill building, and invite and support multilingual discourse
pedagogy and theory, such as Laura Rendon discusses in Sentipensante, that allow us to imagine and practice student centeredness within the fully online classroom
Thank you to Tony Burman, Nery Chapeton-Lamas, and Jade Hidle for contributing!
Things to Listen to
“Equity in Learning Design” with Christian Friedrich. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, December 7, 2017. http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/equity-learning-design/
Friedrich offers an assessment of course design based on three principles of autonomy, competency, and relatedness, which, she argues, activate ones natural curiosity and motivate students to not only persist but engage within instructional experiences online. Her theory culminates in the following advice: “Examine your courses. Take the answers out. Put the challenges in.”
Students extract main points from Partalo’s argument about the relationship between advertising/marketing and her identity as a first-generation immigrant, then apply that point to a current ad campaign that reflect topical issues of cultural, ethnic, and/or racial identity.
Although this book isn’t focused specifically on the online environment, Rendon’s focus on a feeling/thinking pedagogy is wonderful, and many of her examples and discussions of content can easily work in the online environment.
Why it’s cool: Tony chose this piece because of the points the authors make about online course design. Specifically, I appreciate the discussion they present in Chapter 5: Four Phases of a Course:Themes and Happenings. In this discussion they address course beginnings(where they discuss presence, community, and clear expectations), early middle(best practices and principles), late middle (letting go of power), and the end (pruning, reflecting and wrapping up). Constructivism…learners create knowledge
Tony contributed this article because the author (1) examines academic writing as a ‘discourse’ informed by ideology, a nice departure from academic writing as correct writing, and (2) provides a number of examples of how the online writing space can allow students to write in a variety of different discourses and thereby see the value in their own writing/voice/etc. LeCourt argues that the online space can actually allow us to repoliticize writing in ways that focus on giving students power even if they aren’t experts in academic discourse(s).
The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) has a lot and they also sponsor a podcast that’s great. You can sign up for their newsletter and check out there podcast on the ACUE community page.
curry created this collaborative activity last semester to facilitate a discussion about a dense article that was integral to a major writing assignment.The activity merges “fessing up” group strategies with equity techniques that pre-position every student to participate. By assigning roles, managing space, and validating all forms of contributions, this activity increases the opportunities for each individual student to contribute to and benefit from the discussions, from the quietest student to those who did not read before class. Feel free to make a copy of the linked google doc, and treat the topics and questions to fit your discipline and outcome goals.
The technology that supports active reading in digital environments is getting better. Common devices and freely available software make it possible to apply traditional, mindful reading practices to pdfs, digital textbooks, and Open Educational Resources. Still, these high-tech tools are not themselves enough to teach students how to meaningfully engage with text. Along with ever improving technologies and the exciting benefits of OER come a need to maximize the impact of classroom instruction, so students truly benefit from the reading/hearing/playing/watching/swiping they bring to new interactive modalities that are becoming ever more common in higher education.
The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:
How to support effective academic reading skills given the range of devices and apps present in our classrooms?
What new forms of effective reading are possible in networked, digital environments?
What digital practices best target comprehension and recall, critical reading and response, and/or active reading and intellectual engagement?
How to promote time management, preparedness, and accountability despite the distractions of digital access?
I have been working with several students who are frustrated with digital reading. Something I have been trying is both hand-written and digital mind-maps to interact with the text. When students mind-map, they slow down, process better, and their visual map of the information matches/ reflects some of their own cognitive processing. This video has some examples of hard copy and digital mapping and a few ways it can be used in a classroom setting. Here is the link to the Coggleit site.
MiraCosta’s Open Educational Lunch Extravaganza
Nicole Finkbeiner from OpenStax, Keynote
Things to Listen to
Assessing the Impact of Open Educational Resources hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest C. Edward Watson, the Associate VP for Quality, Advocacy, and LEAP Initiatives with AAC&U. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/assessing-impact-open-educational-resources/
A 30 minute podcast focused on the exciting impact of Open Education Resources on student success. The conversation offers compelling statistics and anecdotes, but it also arrives at one clear drawback stated by students about OER materials: digital content is harder to use than printed texts. Listen to this podcast to get excited about OER, and then explore the resources below that address the need to teach students how to succeed with digital resources.
Igniting Our Imagination in Digital Learning and Pedagogy hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor, Information and Learning Technologies at CU Denver. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/igniting-imagination-digital-learning-pedagogy/
A 30 minute podcast that focuses on play as an approach to learning and accessing digital annotation technologies like Hypothes.is. The conversation explores social reading as a mode for professional development for faculty, but also digs at the potential combination of digital annotation with classroom discussion as a powerful means of accessing texts.
Most of us who teach in reading-heavy disciplines have, ourselves, developed effective reading habits that combine highlighting, post-it notes, dog-eared pages, marked moments, coffee stained favorites, and kinetic flipping-across-pages with one’s own hands instead of clicks. O’Donnell’s source offers analog (nostalgic?) touch-stones that we might start to imagine transporting into digital environments.
Recommended by Megen O’Donnel
Welcome to the Post Text World. Multiple contributors: Farhad Manjoo, John Yuyi, Nellie Bowles, Mike Issac, Claire Cain Miller, Sapna Maheshwari, Amanda Hess. The New York Times, 14 February 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/the-rise-of-a-visual-internet.html
A mash-up of articles exploring current multi-modal mediums. While some articles offer angst, others, describe empowering modalities. The central question that threads these articles asks how traditional media consumption habits and routines will necessarily change. For us, that question might be: what shifts in classroom instruction should we adopt to facilitate more effective reading/playing/watching/listening/swiping?
An interactive tutorial. Bonilla weighs the pros and cons of using eReaders, focusing on the preferences, behaviors, and outcome goals a student or instructor might bring to an act of academic reading. This is a great source to start encounter early, to weigh the value of eReaders yourself.
Most of the devices and programs discussed here are outdated, but the theory that underpin this study still ignites the pedagogical imagination on fire. In fact, some of the tools linked at the bottom of this bibliography seem to have caught up with Wolfe’s ambition. This is definitely worth skimming to gain a framework for thinking about current technologies and programs.
A one year study of first year college students who were taught “think-aloud” strategies–screen-casting while reading and responding out-loud–as a means to actively read digital texts. The video-audio think-alouds allow insight into “the cognitive and affective processes” students employ while reading in digital environments when their goal is to write a source-based paper. What’s interesting: many of these students demonstrate they are reading at the sentence-level opposed to the level of concepts or ideas when reading on screens. This article essentially calls for instruction supporting “reading strategies specific to digital environments.”
A survey of tools and classroom activites that promote collaborative exploration of sources. This is a great source to pair with your own exploration of Perusall (linked below under Things to Try), which will also be demoed in our Zoom discussion.
Recommended by Rob Bond
Writing in Online Courses edited by Phoebe Jackson and Christopher Weaver. Myers Education Press, 2018.
This article motivated me to read Proust and the Squid (also another great reading resource) and think about how our brains are structured and that relationship to the act of reading. What I like about this New Yorker article is how it discusses what digital reading seems to do to us. When we digitally read we skim and scan, we flit through other content, and we exhaust faster than reading with a physical text we can hold in our hands. From a double consciousness perspective as both a teacher online and in f2f classrooms and as a coach doing writing center work, this article reveals the struggles our students face reading in the digital age. But this article can also be a jumping off point to possible inform how you will teach digital reading techniques and strategies in an f2f or online writing class.
Recommended by Anne Fleming
Things to Try
Google Play, iBooks, The Kindle app, The Canvas app…and other eReader apps
Common devices that most students bring to class everyday are equipped already with tools that facilitate close reading, highlighting, annotation, quick searches, and more. The benefit: every student can access a digital resource in class immediately. The detriment: instruction on how to use these annotation tools must differentiate because every device and software tool is just slightly different from student to student. The article above offers a nice overview: a starting place to develop a for-all-devices lesson on effective digital reading and annotation.
Jeremy Dean is the creator of Hypothes.is, an annotation program, but this isn’t an ad. They discuss the definition of annotating, different programs for doing it, and detailed ways to use it with students.
This article has been uploaded into Perusall, a collaborative annotation tool that can be added to a Canvas course. You can explore Perusall and annotate the above article on annotation using Perusall by first joining our WritingwithMachines course or you can enjoy a demonstration of this tool by Lisa Lane during our Zoom meeting on March 8th from 7:00-8:00 pm.
Full Disclosure – My apologies for the late post, folks. My fiancé and I just had a baby, which has left me learning how to balance work and fatherhood mid-semester. Good times.
Thanks for Waiting – Reading “OWI Principle 1” about inclusivity and accessibility brought back memories of classroom moments where students would give me that look that essentially said, “Seriously, Tsuyuki, I wish you would have given this to us earlier. Now we have to go back and change things.” As I made my way through the guidelines and eventually the effective practices for “OWI Principle 1,” it didn’t take long for me to feel like the topic, “Accessibility and Universal Design,” could have come earlier. There was definitely that initial thought: Dang, Curry and Jim, why didn’t you give this to us earlier? Why wasn’t this our first topic? Now I have to go back and change everything. But then I snapped out of it, remembered how I tend to teach bottom-up vs. top-down, and wondered where I would have been had I started with such an explicit framework. In other words, thanks for saving this topic for later. Doing so allowed me to design authentically and unfiltered, which I see as good and bad, but mostly good. But now, after taking in this week’s readings, I have a chance to revisit, rethink, and refine. While some of this is already happening, much will happen later.
Today – In terms of recent upgrades, I recently addressed “Effective Practice 1.4” by adding Zoom to my online course. What a great resource! I mean, I had some sense of it though the online Canvas workshops that were offered during Flex, but hosting an unscheduled Zoom session after receiving an email from a student who wasn’t making progress with an essay was an amazing experience. It was spontaneous—similar to an onsite student who drops in when you’re not holding hours—yet surprisingly productive—similar to that onsite student who drops in and isn’t expect much but leaves with printouts and promising direction. While there’s still a sense of regret for not using Zoom sooner, I’m far more excited about my next session.
Tomorrow – In terms of what’s ahead, I greatly appreciated the tips in Emily Moore’s Faculty Focus article, “Improve Accessibility in Tomorrow’s Online Courses by Leveraging Yesterday’s Techniques.” The recommendations made perfect sense, and I was glad to see her include examples throughout to illustrate her ideas. (In thinking about Warnock and some of my comments about his chapter on collaboration, I think his text would benefit at times from these types of concrete examples.) During the upcoming winter break, I look forward to revisiting my course and applying Moore’s ideas to my content—everything from succinct writing and annotated links, to pronoun usage and captioned videos. I’m also going to revisit Bill Pelz’s JALN article, “(My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy” (2004), which focuses on letting students do most of the work, interactivity, and types of presence. While I’m still making my way through it, the article seems like a nice supplement to Moore’s.
Candy Contributions – That being said, while I found Moore to be helpful overall, for new and experienced online instructors, I had a hard time getting on board with her thoughts on cutting extraneous material. According to Moore, “Sighted students can learn to ignore extraneous ‘eye candy’ and text. That’s not the case for students relying on screen readers, which give the same presentational weight to long-winded, repetitious material and critical course concepts. Make sure every paragraph, image, activity, and video clip you add to an online course contributes directly to your course’s stated learning objectives.” Really? Every element? Everything has to tie back to an objective? Personally, that sounds awful. I mean, I’d probably have to scrap my class photo! I understand the concern in terms of those students relying on screen readers, but I can’t imagine a course that’s “all business, all the time.” Community is often rooted in that which doesn’t tie back to objectives. I won’t get into specific examples that are meaningful to the course experience yet don’t tie back to objectives, but if the concern is screen readers being unable to ignore optional/extraneous content like a sighted student, couldn’t we simply add a brief disclaimer to non-objective-based moments in the course? What am I not seeing? Help me, Jim J!
Rethink Culture – Ultimately, what I like about this week’s topic is how it feels familiar. It reminds me of some of the subcommittee work we’ve done in PG&E. It calls to mind how MCC has evolved since I was hired back in 2010. By evolve, I’m referring to what we now offer, who we now represent, those we now celebrate through PDP, for instance, and opportunities like the Cultural Competency Conference. Consider this month and how we’re experiencing this evolution via a robust number of events dedicated to celebrating distinct heritages and histories: Pilipinx, LGBTQIA+, Latinx and Chicanx. In my mind, when I think of how we’ve evolved and where we are today, I can’t help but place ideas like “inclusivity” and “accessibility” in the same space as, or maybe under the umbrella of, cultural competency. Am I alone in thinking WwM is enabling us to become increasingly competent in the dynamic culture that is OWI?
Larger Context – The other day I received the latest issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College (TETYC). This particular issue is a special issue dedicated to preparing two-year college English teachers. In the feature article, “TYCA Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College,” the task force makes one explicit reference to online pedagogy. It’s included toward the end of a curriculum bullet point: “Expand graduate course offerings to include topics valuable to faculty teaching in open admissions and teaching-intensive colleges and universities, including two-year colleges. Such topics include basic writing, literacy education for culturally and linguistically diverse students populations, writing assessment, writing program administration, writing center theory, online pedagogy, and multimodal composition (Calhoon-Dillahunt et al. 15). As someone who hasn’t been subscribing to TETYC for all that long, I was wondering: “To what extent are WwM-ish conversations being addressed by TETYC and TYCA?” This year’s TYCA Pacific Coast conference at Miramar was dedicated to “Inspiration, Innovation, Inclusion,” for instance, but I’m not sure what it looked like or to what extent OWI was represented because the ECCTYC link is broken 🙁
Still, I do wonder how two-year college scholarship has addressed this world in which we find ourselves so immersed these days. If the answer is that it really hasn’t, perhaps our posts are at the beginnig stages of something bigger.
I, as well, felt a bit befuddled by the scope of the accommodation discussion. There is a lot that needs doing. I am happy to see that I have many successes, according to the best practices we have been introduced to in the reading, in addition to the improvements I am committed to making. I do well with making my course easy to navigate and the information easy to consume for many kinds of readers. I don’t hide information behind a cascade of clicks, I don’t wall it off in ways that might confuse a screen reader, and I label links in descriptive ways. I need to be better at communicating feedback in multiple modalities.
Reading through the first two articles we have been presented with for this week’s thinking, I was reminded, again, of a topic that came up in our last session of Writing with Machines: In the online classroom, everything must be manufactured. One way to consider this is in terms of our online persona. As instructors in a traditional classroom, our persona emits as a function of our presence. We don’t really have to consciously create it. We are who we are. Mannerisms, tone of voice, the way we walk a room, our handwriting — these all communicate something about us. In the online environment, these cues don’t exist, for the most part. If we want to have a personality when teaching online (and all of the literature suggests we do), then we have to manufacture it, quite consciously, in addition to teaching, rather than as a byproduct of teaching. Community was another element that required manufacturing. Whereas in the classroom there are opportunities for community building that just happen because we all inhabit the same space once or twice a week, in the online environment, neither the space nor the inhabiting exist unless they are manufactured by the instructor.
I find this discussion relevant when considering accommodation, as well. In the traditional classroom, there are elements of accommodation that are, in essence, automatic, either through institutional support or the ease with which the accommodation can be met in person. I recall a student I had my first semester as a teacher … er, some number of years ago. She was, essentially, deaf, though she could make out some sounds. She stopped me after class one day and told me that she could do without an interpreter if I would make sure to face the class, rather than the white board, when lecturing. I, at times, like to scribble while I talk. Turns out she was a top-rate lip reader. In the span of time it took to have the conversation, the accommodation had been made. Now, in an online environment, if I post a PowerPoint, for example, with a voice over lecture, I need to manufacture the accommodation by captioning the presentation. And, when I read through the list of effective practices in this week’s reading, I see that, for the most part, accommodation requires manufacturing, and the manufacturing is largely left to the instructor.
Accessibility is a compelling topic. We have moral and legal obligations to meet the accessibility needs of our students, and I believe that, as educators, this is something we are committed to doing. However, the online environment creates both opportunities and perils for students in need of accommodation — and for instructors trying to meet those needs.
Our reading appropriately acknowledges this, and acknowledges the strange situation that most online instructors face when moving from on-the-ground teaching to online: that when they leave the comfort of the classroom, they also leave behind a suite of institutional support for ensuring that students get the accommodations they need. Such inequities exist across numerous forms of needed accommodation in the online environment, and in most cases sorting them out falls to the instructor, where the same wouldn’t be true in a traditional, on campus teaching assignment.
I’m going to open with — I like my illegible handwriting in the margins of student papers. I find it difficult to capture the same kind of flourish in the online environment. And, I have, through years of repetitive thinking, convinced myself that my students find the scribbles endearing.
That said, I really do prefer to scratch it out on a physical surface. I find that I can leave a more dynamic comment that way, literally drawing connections between disparate parts of a paper by … drawing. I am also faster at leaving feedback in this format — at least, at this time I am — which our author brought up as a legitimate concern just in case some of us have a hundred or more students making similar mistakes in their writing.
To this end, I have been eyeing the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, thinking that I might be able to approximate the physical grading in the electronic environment by using a stylus to write on the electronic copies students send. I have been teaching online for 10 years, and I have spent a lot of time waiting for this moment when technology would finally catch up and allow me to return to a pre-technology form of grading. Yet, last spring, during the first leg of this prep, we spent some time considering whether we should be trying to force our on-the-ground practices into the online environment unchanged or whether what we are really talking about is a translation of those practices. In other words, we should be taking our best practices from our years of on-the-ground teaching and re-imagining them in the online environment.
So, I should be asking myself, How does my handwritten feedback translate to the electronic grading environment?
And, I think the answer is — it doesn’t. What does translate is my commitment to substantive feedback. So, what tools are available in the online environment that might not only facilitate the communication of feedback to students but enhance it?
One strategy I will use will be to reduce the amount of time I spend on low-end, repeated comments through macros. If I can auto-fill the comments I make a million times across student papers, like those associated with punctuation and in-text citation formatting, I can spend more time on high-end feedback. I have resisted this move because it has always felt like, well, cheating. However, if I am writing the same comment fifty times in a single grading session, what’s the difference between my repeated handwritten note and the one that the computer fills in automatically?
Another tool that I plan to make use of is combining typed comments with voice comments. The opportunity for this has existed for a while, but not the ease of it. I trained in Canvas in the spring, and I am teaching my first two courses in this CMS this fall, and including voice comments while grading is integrated into this system and easy to use. I like the opportunity to explain a comment I make with a quick verbal elaboration, rather than getting into typing out a lengthy response. It’s what I would do if a student approached me in class to go over a bit of feedback he or she received. I can also see using this feature for my global, end comments on papers. Video feedback is also pretty easy to use through Canvas, but I am not convinced that it will provide something essential that I can’t accomplish with a combination of typed and voice feedback.
I don’t know that these strategies really affect my philosophy about providing feedback so much as begin to satisfy my concerns that feedback in the online environment has the potential to be less than the student needs.