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?
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?
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.
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:
I have to start by telling a story about one of the biggest challenges I have had teaching online thus far in my career. During my second year of teaching online coursework, I was notified that I had a student in my online class that was blind. I had a lot of support available to me to help this student such as getting him Microsoft Word Documents of all of our readings from our text-book and additional readings (his screen reader could only read from black and white MS Word Documents). I eventually solved a huge problem that was preventing him from joining our online discussion forums (I have pictures of modules for students to click on and while the picture was linked the text was not linked and so his screen reader could not pick up the link from the image. Screen readers need to read a text that is linked in order to pick it up and announce to the listener that there is indeed a link.) I e-mailed him MS Word files for the quizzes that were on our LMS Moodle.
Each week I had to carefully review all of my materials and make sure that he had access to everything in a format where he could listen to the lecture, have the reading in a Microsoft Word File, and access other student’s discussion forum responses in a timely manner in order to respond to them.
I e-mailed this student almost every day in the first 2 weeks of the course. An e-mail was one of the best sources of communication for us at that time since the student reported to me that he was having trouble with a phone line and Internet access at the time. I believe by week 5-6 the student dropped the course. I’d like to say that I did everything that I could have, but I’m sure I could have done more.
Long story short, that student got me thinking about how my online courses in English composition would need to get more simplistic looking in nature so that students are not navigating through modules with long lists of files, etc. I currently use texts from a variety of resources and books and the documents can really start to clutter each module. I have a very different looking online course in my teacher education program with Moodle, and each module has just four images to click on with tasks for each week. For my two sections of English 100 this semester, I definitely need to find a way to get rid of all the clutter. I do like how Curry has this course set up with just four pages on the left-hand side, and all of the materials needed for each with stored within the discussion post. What a great way to de-clutter any course in an LMS! Someone with a screen-reader would be able to navigate Curry’s course much more quickly than mine right now!
Ok, my response is getting long. I just want to talk about one more aspect from Wood’s presentation that I have been working on in my ENGL 100 courses this semester. Wood’s point about racially salient images was something that I have typically stayed away from. However, I have just recently noticed how many different racially and equitable images and materials I am utilizing in my coursework. To name a few, I use a short activity from Borcher’s Rhetorical Theory: An Introduction where students analyze part of Christopher Reeves speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. I have used this speech to help students get more comfortable with the task of analyzing the rhetorical situation in many different workshops and courses I have taught. But I was hesitant this semester to use it because I have one student who uses a wheelchair in my class. I wasn’t sure how this student would react to the short clip of the speech that we watched and the entire speech, which argued for more financial support for disabilities. Anyway, everything went over smoothly. It is always interesting to see who knows Christopher Reeves among my students, and who has ever listened to national convention speeches.
I also just recently brought in the Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick and demonstrated my own rhetorical analysis of the ad for students before they worked on a practice activity with their own ads they brought in. Curry, since we were talking about that advertisement during the Accelerated Learning Program Conference a few weeks ago you sparked my interest! Racially salient images are more important than ever to utilize in our classes.
I’ll end here with one final anecdote. I recently had a student who came to me and said something like, “I just don’t feel like I am smart enough to be here. I’m ______ (race), and I have so much fear and anxiety every time I open my mouth in class. I just get so nervous when I have to talk to other people in class.” This student of mine has been having tremendous attendance issues to say the least, but I have been accommodating him after our chat this semester about his anxiety. What is so devastating to me is that I had no idea that this student was feeling so much anxiety about his race in the classroom. I have a very diverse class. He is in my ENGL 100 ML (Multilingual) section this semester. I never would have expected one of my students to come to me and say something to me about their race making them feel inferior to other students. I am so glad that he did come to me, and I was able to help set up a plan with him so that he is feeling more comfortable in the class. This recent experience has taught me how important it is for me to address my whiteness among my students, and how to talk about inadequacies that students might be feeling in my classes so that they feel more comfortable reaching out for support to me or other resources on campus.
“My concern is that, even in courses that deliberately design collaborative activities, like Alex’s group project, there appears to be a disconnect between instructor intentions and student experiences. One way to resolve that disconnect is to make collaborative learning an explicit goal that we discuss with our students in OWCs, and an explicit element of our scholarly discussions of Principle 11.”
This is a challenging topic for me, so I am really looking forward to hearing about some of your own examples with collaborative assignments in your writing courses.
Outside of the one example that Warnock shared about his students working on a team project to develop an argument website, he did not share any other group projects in the online classroom. I definitely believe in collaborative learning, but I have become much more wary about developing high-stakes collaborative writing assignments. I have colleagues who do awesome collaborative projects with Wikipedia Editing, and who have their students go through the online student training platform. I have even participated in such a collaborative writing endeavor on Wikipedia with colleagues. However, I am just not brave enough to go there yet in my classes! I largely remain skeptical about high-stakes group writing assignments because of the many students who often complain that one person does most of the work.
What I have encountered in the past with group papers or assignments is that students are not truly collaborating, and just end up dividing up their work. I am guilty of “the divide and conquer” phenomenon myself when writing with colleagues. I have more recently convinced my co-author of a few articles to start writing individual paragraphs and sentences alongside me in a Google Document instead of our old way of dividing and conquering (she took the lit review and I took the methodology section on some of our quantitative studies because I was the math person). What I found was that the pieces that we “divided and conquered” were not as powerful as compared to when we truly wrote more collaboratively. We worked much better discussing our writing more intimately in a face-to-face setting when we were sitting next to one another typing away and bouncing ideas off one another. I flew back to Macau one summer so that we could finish writing a project together in-person.
Developing collaborative assignments is a complex process. It requires much more than just asking students to jump on a Google Doc and write collaboratively or to respond to their classmates’ ideas in a peer review or discussion forum response. Research supports collaborative learning, but applying it in practice is a challenge!
It’s not surprising that I have been influenced by one of my graduate professor’s research on “Cognitive Presence in FYC: Collaborative Learning that Supports Individual Authoring.” Stewart (2018) found that knowledge construction that resulted from collaborative activities in online FYC courses only took place when the instructor emphasized the value of engaging with multiple perspectives. I continue to value Stewart’s recommendations that group cohesion can be better facilitated when instructors “create activities that invite students to work together toward a common goal instead of co-existing in an online space where they work toward individual goals” (Community Building and Collaborative Learning in OWI). Again, creating that activity with the concept of a “common goal” and “engaging with multiple perspectives” is much easier said than done!
Thus, I would like to second Stewart’s recommendation that students in OW courses and all online courses for that matter discuss the topic of collaborative learning as part of a specific course goal.
Ok, so now I’ll get into the application part of this response! Something that I always do in my on-site courses is a debate related to a reading or topic we are discussing or analyzing. I typically keep the debate as an informal class activity, and I give students plenty of time to prepare for it in class. Students take a position on a topic and move to one side of the classroom to collaborate pieces of evidence from our readings or outside readings that support that position. I typically divide the classroom up into smaller groups of two or three within their position side so that they can have more intimate discussions. Then I ask everyone to stand up and move to opposite sides of the classroom to defend that position. Students can only speak once for their group, and I typically only allow them to speak for thirty seconds to one minute. This goes on for about ten minutes back and forth from each group. Typically, I have students write a response directly after the debate addressing a counterclaim that they heard about during the debate. That piece of writing serves as some type of initial scaffolding for their larger writing assignment (depending on the assignment that they are working on, I’m speaking broadly here—I do this kind of activity in most all of my writing courses regardless of level).
If I were to put this in-class activity online, I think it would work nicely as a low-stakes writing assignment for students. I could ask students to present their initial position or analysis via small groups of 4-5 on one side and 4-5 on another side. That way the discussion forum becomes more manageable. Then I can create a second task where students are required to explicitly use another student’s piece of writing within their response. Warnock suggests that if students are working on a critique that they “account for previous posts in their critiques” (p. 149). The same idea holds true for discussion forum responses in my proposed debate task. Students should build on previous posts by actually acknowledging other classmate’s propositions by writing their classmate’s names, and then building upon their ideas.
I can’t tell you how many teachers (novice and experienced) struggle with responding to their peer’s ideas my online TESOL education courses. In the first weeks of class, I provide heavy attention and examples of how to integrate a classmate’s ideas into a discussion forum response where students are replying directly to one another. If a student is not using their peer’s names in their response, I almost always send them an e-mail to discuss with them why it is important to include names and why it is important that we collaborate and build on one another’s ideas. I will get students who reply to another peer without writing their classmates name, and who just go on to write about whatever they want to without acknowledging the ideas they are actually responding to. Responding to classmates’ ideas on a forum and extending or adding novel ideas is a process that needs to be taught, modeled, and emphasized within any online course.
What I am learning from my reading adventures this week is that collaborative learning is a topic that should be explicitly addressed with students in any online course, and is a concept that should be addressed early on in a course.
Finally, I’m a musician, and so much about OWI reminds me of the community of practice that most all musicians are exposed to in some form or another. In my own training, I had to regularly attend and perform in masterclasses. I think the masterclass is a great way to envision the community of practice that I imagine my students interacting in.
As a class this semester, we explored various topics including tools for online teaching, the gamification of online classes, the migration process and modalities, best practices for discussion forums and grading, and even shared lens perspective assignments and approaches to keeping students engaged and learning/reading in the online setting. English Professors, John Warnock, curry mitchell, Jim Sullivan, and Tony Burman, facilitated these discussions, laying the groundwork for future online teaching. After completing this Spring 2016 sequence, I am inspired us to explore synchronous activities and, perhaps, to resuscitate my online avatar (I used a couple years when I was teaching online introductory composition). Most importantly, I discovered I did not have to comment on ALL my students posts and replies. (I am still feeling nervous about the latter one.)
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.
Warnock’s recommendation in the introduction to organize the class around “your teaching style and strategies (ix) resonated with me, and made the daunting task of setting up an online course seem more approachable. I started thinking about a few parts of my onsite classes that I like the best and I think are most helpful to students. They include:
Student-generated information on the elements of writing. Usually a few (or a lot) of students have prior knowledge about how an essay is organized, what goes into the intro, how to do an MLA in-text citation, etc. In my onsite classes I acknowledge this and have the students fill in the blanks during these discussions. For an online course, perhaps I could have a blank google doc that students can edit, filling in the info and providing suggestions to each other about some useful writing tools. We could have a day or so to fill in a bunch of information, and everyone could contribute at least one idea. Ideally it would help students gain confidence before they begin writing.
“Conversations” about the readings. This is my favorite part of the onsite course, and I’m not sure exactly how it would work online. In a f2f class, the initial questions I ask to generate discussions are merely a jumping off point, and students go off on tangents, relate it to themselves, and explore unanticipated areas of the text. I’d like to keep some of that flexibility, and some possible ways to do that might be to have students come up with these discussion questions, or different groups work on different questions, or lots of students responding their peers’ posts.
Feedback at all stages of writing process. In my class, we break the essay down into small chunks, and peers and I provide some type of feedback at every stage. In my onsite course we are limited by the number of times we meet each week, but online I could play with the due dates in a more effective way. I would like students to write about or submit some sort of brainstorm initially to get ideas flowing. Perhaps they could be in groups determined by the prompt they wish to answer. Then submitting and getting comments on an outline, a paragraph or two of the essay, then full rough draft. Perhaps the course could be organized by modules, then week 1-4 or whatever within each module. Each unit’s activities will follow a similar trajectory so the expectations and workload are consistent, as curry mentioned in his video.
I’m sure I could think of more, but perhaps it’s best to start small so I’M not overwhelmed, never mind the students!
Additionally, something that struck me in this week’s reading was the reminder that an online class, as Warnock points out, “by its very nature – requires students to learn to use writing to interact with others” as well as EVERY SINGLE OTHER TASK (xi) in order to complete the course. At the very least, students will get tons of writing practice in different venues online, whether casual or formal, with the instructor or other students.
Lastly, here is my video tour, and here’s the link to the original video I reference.
(After posting 5 times with the video embedded in my preview but not on the blog, I’ve used a hyperlink instead…I only have so much patience.)