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.
Hello all! I can’t wait to interact with everyone’s ideas this week!
Ever since I started teaching online, I began to change the way that I provide feedback to students in my onsite classes for the better. I truly believe that when you teach online you become a better onsite teacher! I used to provide feedback using Canvas or the Turnitin system in various learning management systems to leave notes in the margins of students’ papers and longer letters to them. Basically, you can leave track changes or comments just as you would in a Google Document in almost any LMS these days. I used to like the Turnitin system many years ago because it had many go-to templates saved that you could easily insert into students’ writing that would also provide them with additional reading, examples, and resources. However, my own beliefs about Turnitin have changed over the past few years that I have formally studied plagiarism, and I no longer use the system to provide feedback. However, I believe that technology has changed my feedback practices and philosophies for the better. Some tools that I have used include typed letters, screencasts, and audio feedback.
In my onsite classes, I mostly provide feedback to students in the form of a typed letter that I e-mail to them and ask them to print out along with the scoring rubric. I have a very fast typing speed (I am a pianist and played Mavis Beacon for hours upon hours as a child), and I can provide end or global comments very quickly by typing. As Warnock (2009) explained, students often like typed comments over hand written comments because they might be hard to read. Admittedly, my handwriting is not the best, especially when I am trying to limit the amount of time I spend responding to writing. Students also receive some hand written notes on their drafts, but for the most part I refer to paragraph numbers and pages in my global remarks to them.
In my onsite and online courses, I also make an effort at least once in a semester to provide voice comments or screencasts. I do find that leaving voice comments and screencasts takes me longer than typing comments, but I like to expose students to both types of feedback (typed and audio). Then I often let them try both types of feedback with classmates in an online peer review (in onsite and online courses). Voice comments and screencasts take me longer because I still need to think about what I am going to say before I start recording. When I write, I am more easily able to process my ideas. Writing to learn is a writing threshold concept that most everyone can relate to. However much I like typing my feedback, I understand that many students are both auditory and visual learners (as am I). Thus, screencasting is one of the most informative ways to provide feedback to students that I have found. The ability for students to listen to my commentary as they see my cursor moving across their writing mirrors what we would do together in person. I have found that students enjoy using screencasts in online peer reviews, and really value the detailed feedback that they receive. I typically have students use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic to record and upload their screencasts. I also provide a video tutorial about how they can use the free version, and they can see my face down in the corner as I am explaining the tool to them. I know that many of the colleges I teach at offer other screencasting programs in the library for free, but I like students to try out the free version of Screencast-O-Matic so that they might use it again as a resource in the future off campus. By the way, when you use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic and you save your video and try another one the program threatens you that your old video will be deleted if you use the free version again. However, it is a lie. Just click the yes button, and you can use the free version as many times as you like for up to 15-minute videos. There is a small watermark in the corner on the free version, but it in my opinion it is not distracting to students or wider audiences. I attached one of the tutorials I have made in the past at the end of this blog post.
When I first began teaching English language teaching certificate courses online, I sent each student a personalized e-mail with feedback on their discussion forum responses during week 2. What I realized from providing such feedback during week 2, was exactly what Warnock (2009) argued when he wrote about the importance of responding to students a lot in the beginning of the course. I find that when I spend plenty of time during the second week providing typed feedback to students I see higher quality writing throughout the course on discussion forums. The same holds true for onsite courses that I teach although I have different weights for discussion forums in online courses as compared to onsite courses. Like Warnock (2009) advocated, I also require much more weekly work on discussion forms in online courses than I do with onsite courses.
Finally, when I write feedback to students about their discussion forum responses via the form of an e-mail I am very careful to integrate my thoughts about the score by also referring to my scoring rubric. I might say something like the following: You are doing a great job talking about your personal teaching and learning experiences in relation to the question, which meets the criterion 4 and 5 on our scoring rubric. However, I would like you to carefully integrate quotes or paraphrases from our weekly readings and video lecture with page numbers or a time stamp (see my example responses in week 1) in order to meet criterion 2 and 3 on the discussion forum rubric. I’ll share that rubric below so you can see what I am talking about here in more detail. Then I go on to provide an example of what I mean for students so that they can actually see what I mean by connecting to their prior experiences or integrating a source. I most often have students write me back in the same day to ask further questions, or confirm that they have understood my suggestions to them and will try to implement them in the next week. As Warnock (2009) recommended, I then respond to students to always get the “last word” in e-mail conversations. I have found that always having the last word does help to develop a much more robust relationship with students in online and onsite courses.
Discussion Form Rubric Example
Tutorial of Online Peer Review Using Screencast-O-Matic
Warnock, S. (2009). Teaching writing online. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
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.
Boy, this week was a doozy! All I could think about was how much set-up an online class requires, and hoping that when I teach my first one I’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Warnock makes it seem simple and straightforward, but when I looked at all the possibilities for cool tools out there, it was nothing like simple. How is one to master even a few of these? And how, as Conrad and Donaldson insist, is one to ensure “all participants have the necessary skill level with the communication tools” used in the course (qtd in Warnock 19)? I guess it means I’ll have to make lots of handy teaching videos like curry, which will require me to have even more mastery of the tools than my students.
In my onsite class, I don’t use a ton of technology. I have been using Canvas for a few semesters and love the ease of setting up the course, the possibilities for altering the look of the class, and the course copy option (which I used very effectively this semester for the first time). I use Speedgrader, and I like the options available for grading. It looks so much cleaner than my handwritten scribbles that students had to decipher, and I like that I can mute the comments and work on all the papers together, giving me freedom to revise my comments. When I’m done grading, I unmute so students can see them. As far as wondering if grading online is effective, I have no guarantee that students are looking at my comments. I could assign a response paper about the comments, but I have yet to do that. I figure if students aren’t doing well and are looking to improve, they will look at the comments (Ha! Fingers crossed). To simplify my online course, I plan to use Canvas’ peer editing tool so students don’t have to learn a separate technology from the one they get from me. Plus, Turnitin’s peermark link we looked at this week was insanely overwhelming and caused many of my brain’s synapses to shut down. On the plus side, it made me really appreciate curry’s video on using Canvas’ PeerReview as a much more effective way for students to learn the system. That is, until I started thinking that I would have to make my own video for my own students, and down the rabbit-hole of worry I went: how will I ever make a video like this? I know how to log in as my student self, but that’s the extent of it. How will I get a sample paper to open? How will I assign that person as my student-self’s peer? Okay, deep breaths…
In my f2f classroom I use Google docs to collaboratively add to summaries of difficult texts, quote notes and other items that students can access at home through Canvas. The Google docs info link provided in this week’s bibliography reminded me of two other features that appeal to me: presentation sign-ups and student groups’ chat option alongside the groups’ shared document. Those are two items I haven’t taken advantage of yet, and I plan to implement immediately in my onsite course! I think Google docs could also be used like a big open discussion board, where students can workshop thesis statements or add information about the readings. And there might be some visual appeal to having everyone in one document rather than everyone’s separate threads/posts in a discussion board.
For online class lessons, I’m comfortable with Powerpoint and Prezi for info-heavy material. I appreciate curry’s notion of Prezi as “interactive, self-pacing, and non-linear,” some traits I think can be effective for our wide range of learners. I haven’t used Prezi much myself, but I like the way the presentations look, apart from making me feel nauseous. I plan to use Screencast-o-matic for mini-lessons showing students how to use an area of our course (like curry has done), or as an addition to a Powerpoint or Prezi. Voice thread was new to me, and seemed cool. I could see starting a discussion of a text this way. I’m just wondering if some of these technologies are tech just to be tech, and not useful enough to warrant using them in a class. I really have to ask myself: does this tool warrant the learning curve? Does it do its job better than anything else? Is it overly complicated? Will we use it often? If any of those answers are “no,” I should probably pass.
I found it interesting/strange that Warnock relied on email for so many of the tasks in his online course. The last thing I want is to have hundreds of emails in my inbox to sort through, and which could very easily get lost in the fray. I’m assuming his heavy reliance on email stems from the book being almost 10 years old. Get revising, Warnock!
Given all the above, Warnock’s “Guideline 9: Don’t be any more complicated technologically than you have to be” (19) is becoming my new motto with the overwhelming amount of information and options this week. If/when I teach online, I’d like to find a few tools to use, mix them up, and use them throughout. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (or my students) with too many programs that all have a learning curve and bugs to work out. My experience with tech is that something always goes wrong with every technology at the beginning. When I first started this online certification, I couldn’t post on wordpress, then saving my screencast to youtube didn’t work, then I couldn’t embed my screencast in wordpress, and so on… Just posting and linking my first blog/video took close to an hour! The more outside websites students have to log in to and get to know is host to at least one student having a problem every time, and I don’t want time taken up with problem solving when I’d rather be teaching.
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.
I am looking for the third thing. It’s the transition quest. Going online and looking for your on-the-ground class is a fool’s errand. Leaving behind everything that worked face-to-face is foolish. So — the third thing. It’s not a marriage or an offspring or an evolution. In my experience teaching online, it’s something that hasn’t yet been built.
My ideas are still steeping. However, I want to develop a classroom online that has qualities like a one-click environment, which is one where a single click will take a student where he or she needs to go; a human environment, which is one where students can see and hear the human in their peers and professor (This would require better integration of audio and video.); and an all-inclusive environment, which is one that does not limit participation or create unnecessary hierarchies of learning through the overuse of fixed synchronous participation. My course currently is, and for the near-future will remain, a module-based course. The emphasis in my course will be reading, research, and writing, so tools that facilitate development of these skills will be prominent, like forums that allow discussion of the reading and collaboration through writing workshops. I would hope, if well built, students will want to be present and that they will be able to present.
I definitely want my students to collaborate. Two reasons, primarily: 1) I see this kind of interaction as a fundamental remedy for the distance in distance education, and 2) it’s also a key component of my on-the-ground courses.
In the spring I often inserted a caution into my discussions of online learning whenever the conversation drifted toward synchronous tasks/learning, and I think that the topic of collaboration certainly knocks on this door. The text, in part, discusses the topic with this in mind. And, my first reason above for wanting to integrate collaborative learning into the online environment — drawing down the distance between online learners — would certainly benefit from a little synchronicity. Yet, I feel like students sign up for online course to take advantage of the flexibility the courses offer, and that contract begins to erode when instructors establish time, day, and place requirements. I often have students in the military taking my online courses from distant time zones or on submarines, which really limits their ability to participate synchronously.
I like my on-the-ground group assignments. They rock the course outcomes. And they definitely need synchronicity — in their current form — to maximize their benefits. Small groups that can set their own schedule for synchronicity begin to address the issue I mention above, but they, too, make impossible demands on some of my online learners, which is why, in the past 10 years, I have assigned no synchronous work in my online courses. I have made some on-the-ground group assignments into individual assignments, but I have mostly scrapped the collaborative work that needs synchronicity in favor of other methods.
The collaborative assignment I’d most like to migrate is a group quiz I offer in my on-the-ground English 100 courses. The quiz is assigned to groups of three to four students and takes a full meeting to complete (1:50) if the students are diligent, know their stuff — and collaborate effectively. The students are presented with an article to read that articulates a position on an issue of the day, then the quiz requires that they demonstrate competence in critical reading, writing, researching, and MLA Style.
I know that in Canvas you can create quizzes and assign them to particular cohorts of students, so that is not difficult. However, in class (I just administered one of these today) the students delegate, huddle in pairs or triplets over computer screens then jump to another computer and compare, check each others work, teach each other, separate the pages on the quiz and pass them around, scribble, cross out, use scratch paper, reference multiple web sites — in other words, they collaborate, and they do it in a messy, real-world way that is hard to translate to the online environment. (I would say this parallels the issue I discussed two weeks ago with translating my written feedback to the online environment.)
To approximate this on-the-ground experience, I think they’d need a live video chat/conference, to be able to see each other’s screens, and to be able to all work off of the same live document (the quiz) — to start.
Oh, and they all need to be able to schedule a time to collaborate.
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.