Sawubona (I See You) – Decolonizing Research Methods and Practices
Sawubona (I See You) – Decolonizing Research Methods and Practices avatar

Inspired by the Zulu greeting, Sawubona (I see you), and this week’s Black Lives Matter Training by awesome professors Bruce Hoskins, Shawntae Mitchum, and Edwina Williams, I have been reflecting on what I’ve done and what more I can do to make research projects more inclusive of diverse epistemologies, voices, and histories. Check out my video for more, and please let me know if you have recommendations or want to share any of your research practices, especially in online classes. Thanks!

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.

UBSC and OTC Highlights
UBSC and OTC Highlights avatar

Happy Juneteenth, Letters community!

Since my last post, have you checked out our Letters Department Online Teaching site? There, you’ll find our department’s principles for online teaching, as well as a wealth of resources, including the Writing with Machines blog where you can find the following info and so many more of our colleagues’ great pieces to inspire your online pedagogy and practice. 


This week, I’m bringing you Letters-relevant realness from our 10th annual United Black Student Conference (UBSC) and the California Community College’s Online Teaching Conference (OTC).

Adventure #1: Cooler than Radio

If you’re looking for a holistic centering of equity and empathy in your class, the OTC’s panel on “Becoming a Warm Demander” referenced Zaretta Hammond’s podcast that defines culturally responsive pedagogy as it is evolving into instructional equity. In it, Hammond calls us to question, “How are we making sure that all students, particularly the most vulnerable, historically marginalized kids, get the most powerful teaching that helps grow their brainpower, so not just the content […] I mean, the teaching to move through the content.”

Adventure #2: Love a Nerd, Be a Nerd

If you’re looking for readings or multimedia that introduce students to stereotype-breaking works created by self-identified Black Nerds, dabble in these works shared by Student Equity’s JD Banks’ UBSC presentation titled  “Black Nerds are more than Black Hobbyists.”

Adventure #3: “That’s what I look like? Where’re the filters?”

So, you want to create your own content for your classes? I just got hip (a phrase that shows how painfully unhip I am) to an app called “Clips,” which allows you to record and edit videos with live captioning–a major plus for keeping your online classes accessible! This would be a useful app if you’re having students create videos for discussion boards or assignments too. 

Adventure #4: Peace through Poetry

If you’re working on revising or creating new writing assignments, turn to Soultry Sisters, a North County-based empowerment collective for women of color. During their Juneteenth UBSC presentation, the Soultry Sisters presented creative writing as a method of healing soul care to embrace, embody, and empower. Featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, the Soultry Sisters’ workbook leads our students–and ourselves–through self-caring reading and writing process. 

****Note that the last two pages of the workbook indexes community resources such as Black-owned businesses, educational organizations, and healers. How might you work these community partners into a Service Learning project? Or a reflective writing assignment that centers students’ self-care? Or just as an extension of the MCC family that takes care of our students?

Finally, one of the OTC panels briefly mentioned the Open Pedagogy Notebook. Click on “Examples” for great–you guessed it–examples of every aspect of an open classroom, from student-generated syllabi to activist zines, the latter of which I have witnessed to be beautifully, powerfully incorporated into curriculum by our fearless leader Maria Figueroa. 

Until next time, enjoy a safe and healthy summer with your loved ones!

Your interim Technology Coordinator,

Jade Hidle

Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms
Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms avatar

Colleagues,

Inspired by the activism in the worldwide George Floyd protests, I used an image from the peaceful demonstrations as a culturally relevant text for students to practice critical reading skills. In this short video, I’ll show you how I use Google docs and Zoom breakout rooms to create a collaborative communication, reading, and writing group activity centered on a culturally relevant text. I’ve found that this strategy gets all students involved and creates a useful scaffolding exercise/document for bigger papers and projects.

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

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy Online: 3 Examples
Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy Online:  3 Examples avatar

Hi, colleagues!

As you consider how to develop Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP) on top of (re)building your online classes, remember that the internet can be a helper rather than a hindrance. What students use the internet for reveals a lot about their multifaceted, intersectional cultural identities; as such, it can be a great inspiration of assignments and activities that engage and empower student voices. Check out my video about three examples of my ongoing work with CSP.

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!