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

 

Active Learning with Technology
curry mitchell

On two separate days in February 2019, faculty from Letters as well as disciplines across the college collaborated to explore different ways technology can enhance knowledge building activities and active learning experiences. Starting with pedagogy (as Lisa Lane and all Program for Online Teaching veterans would insist), we look specifically at models for using devices in the classroom, wall monitors that facilitate small group collaboration, and Zoom for simulcasting (which turned into an adventure for us–by the way, sorry for the pops in the audio; I’ll figure this out one day).

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Questions and topics we explore:

What types of activities (in general) encourage students to generate knowledge in classroom settings?

How would technology enhance the active learning experience?

  • google docs?
  • laptops/devices in the classroom?
  • active learning stations?

What other benefits or utility do google docs, access to devices, and active learning stations offer?

Review our notes from the meeting

WritingwithMachines Discussion: Unpacking the Semester & Designing Week 1 Experiences
curry mitchell

Our final meeting of the fall semester was mellow. Nothing to read or prepare beforehand. We simply used the first half of the meeting to share the highs and the lows of our experiences teaching online this semester, and then we dedicated the second half to looking ahead at the next semester, specifically on how to design community-oriented and relational activities during early on.

We enjoyed a rich exchange of cool ways to facilitate first week experiences.

Watch an archive of the discussion:

Questions and topics we explore:

Which of your core pedagogical values are expressed in Week 1 activities?

How do your Week 1 activities reach out to and equip

  • new online students?
  • new college students?
  • students of color?
  • working students?
  • students who might feel intimidated by English coursework?

How do your Week 1 activities introduce students to experiences with skills, concepts, technologies, routines, etc. that are important to your course?

Can you draw a direct line from the experiences your Week 1 activities offer to the outcomes you hope to see performed in your mid- to end-semester assignments?

Review our notes from the meeting and more resources from our S2019 FLEX Week Workshop on Early Semester Assignments

WritingwithMachines Discussion: Design Engaging Experiences in the Online Writing Class
curry mitchell

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.

Listen to the audio of the meeting only:

Review our notes from the discussion and more resources from our S2019 FLEX Workshop on Course Design with Billy Gunn

 

WritingwithMachines Discussion: Equity-minded Teaching in the Online Comp Class
curry mitchell

Early in the 2018 fall semester, I invited my colleagues who teach online composition courses at MiraCosta College to collaborate with me in a series of 4 discussions focused on pedagogy and practice. Our first discussion (which sadly, I did not record) focused on the learning experiences we design specifically for the 4th week of the semester, a week when it is important to infuse a little disruptive enthusiasm to encourage and motivate students who are starting to fade a little in the discussions and activities.

During that discussion, my colleagues raised several perennial topics: how to increase retention and foster an inclusive online community, how to re-imagine course design and student experiences with navigation, and how to build more interactive presentations and lectures. While I felt each of these topics deserved their own space to unpack, I initially saw a clear and intriguing intersection with Dr. J. Luke Wood’s keynote address to the 2018 Online Teaching Conference.

So, for our second WritingwithMachines Discussion (archived below), we focused on equity-minded practices. The arc of our discussion followed Dr. Luke Wood’s description of 5 equity-minded practices for reaching, retaining, and supporting underserved students and specifically students of color. After a quick discussion of how “equity” is defined, we responded by sharing what we currently do, what we felt inspired to do differently, and what questions about online course design or assignments are raised by each practice.

Here’s how Jade, Shelli, Jim, and I related each equity-minded practices to our online course design, communication with students, and composition assignments:

Watch an archive of our discussion

Listen to the audio only

Review our notes from the discussion

Be present in first-week activities