To Collaborate, or not to Collaborate–What was the question?
To Collaborate, or not to Collaborate–What was the question? avatar

Excuse my goofy title, Megen’s was so clever I tried to compete

Group work has become increasingly important to my courses and, like Janette (thanks for the great video!), the day where I don’t implement a group component to my course is becoming rare. (I used to teach under the quarter system, where class periods were about an hour each time, so group work was a less frequent aspect of my pedagogical training–so the function of it within my classroom is evolving).

Collaborating Digitally – Some BImage result for group work memeenefits

Before getting into specifics about a collaborative assignment I do, I want to throw in a few thoughts I’ve been having that sort of reverses the conversation present in the bibliography for this week. The bibliography, and even Warnock to some degree, seems to focus on how online collaboration creates unique challenges not present in the class and that, really, in-class collaboration is potentially easier. I’m not sure how I feel about that overall, having not taught online, but I do think there are two points where online collaboration creates unique opportunities that rectify some of the difficulties of in-class groups.

  1. Group work is often difficult in classes because student friend-groups have already been established, are often brought into the class, and often make students reluctant to work with others. I’m experimenting in my f2f classes with how to work around this, but online group assignments really don’t need to take this into consideration as much. Of course, I’m sure certain people won’t work well with each other, but that’s something that evolves over time rather than, usually, something brought in on the first day. (I find it interesting, though, that Janette actually cites issues of personality online as a difficulty–I’m perhaps just dealing with an especially difficult set of f2f personalities right now!).
  2. Based on what Warnock says about the textual basis of online teaching, group work online allows for students themselves to create a conversation and introduce texts–rather than me introducing an object of analysis, students could post something to their group, and then have the group respond. This is of course possible f2f as well, but then the student introducing the text needs a new task. The asynchronous nature of online classes eliminates that problem.
  3. Online group work is meditative, rather than temporally bound. What I mean by this is, rather than having a task to accomplish within a set boundary, class, online discussion boards or google docs allow students to put ideas and images, walk away and think, and come back later after reflection.

Collaborative Assignments in my ENGL 100s

Before I get into specifics, here’s a sampling of group-based activities I have done f2f:

  • Have groups create, on paper, a game together that makes an argument about a topic
  • Have groups do the same as above, but use Twine to actualize the game
  • Have groups create an advertisement for a product using magazine clippings
  • Have groups analyze a website together (I often use the NRA and BlackLivesMatter websites)
  • The common activity of having students move around the room together answering questions on topics (last semester I taught on ENGL 100 based on gender that included questions like “Should all genders be integrated in sports?”)
  • Have students create short presentations about book chapters

I’ll focus the rest of the past on the first in my sampler platter: having students create games together.

I do this usually in a section of my class dedicated to rhetoric. We go through multiple forms of rhetoric and eventually end with procedural rhetoric, definitions below.

Image result for procedural rhetoric

We play a variety of games in class (this is also done as collaborative activities), on a variety of topics: immigration (Papers, Please), gender transition (dys4ia and Mainichi), bullying (Lim), economic inequality (Spent and Cart Life). (Usually I teach two or three of Image result for dys4iathese games per semester). Then, at the end of this unit, I have students work together to design a game, in writing, which does one of the following: 1) Makes an argument about some important topic to them or 2) Addresses a group that is usually underrepresented in the gaming community (we brainstorm about who is underrepresented.

The activity usually goes well: students tend to like it; they find it creative and interesting and thought provoking. I am often not as satisfied with it, though, because it always seems rushed. It always seemed like something that, in the bounded space of the classroom, had to be quick and simple rather than something that spanned more time. I feel like all of that would potentially change if I brought this activity online.

Through the asynchronous, unbounded, and meditative possibilities of online communication, I could turn this activity into a longer project.

  • A google doc could transform into a place not to just put thoughts, but also to draw and put images of characters, to find conceptual images, to link to potential music etc. I feel like this is all possible in-class, but that the urgency to do this now may siphon some of the creativity and exploration that less rigid time constraints will allow.
  • I could help groups use the polling features on Canvas to get marketing data, essentially, from the rest of the class: what type of character would you prefer? How should our game end? Etc.
  • I could have students record their own thoughts on their games and designs, explaining how they contributed to the group, as a way of assessing the activity.
  • Discussion boards could operate as spaces to test ideas, to see what other groups or doing, to collaborate between groups, to share existing games that students think might be good models.

There are a lot of possibilities here with an online class. All of this, again, could be done in a f2f class (and now that I’ve written it all, I am excited to potentially try it next semester–I like this idea now much better for a f2f class than I did when I originally thought of it, so think you blog sounding board), but online it seems like it would be so much more fluid and experimental.

I am realizing this post is becoming a monster, so I am going to end there (I want to jump away and start designing a prompt for this collaborative project now).

I hope the semester is going well for everyone and not like the meme below–

Image result for group work meme

Come Together, Write Now, (A)Synchronously!

Collaboration is something I never thought about when I was a student taking online courses—the classes I took over Blackboard were always very cut-and-dry: watch a PowerPoint, take some notes, respond to several posts, write a paper. While I understand that Blackboard ITSELF was very cut-and-dry—and admittedly, this was back in olden times—I wonder at the lack of collaboration within those courses. After reading Warnock’s chapter 14 and watching Janette’s video, I now think group work would have been very doable in those primitive e-classes of yore.

So, without further ado, I present my sample collaboration sequence. As I’ve yet to teach online/hybrid courses, this is all pure speculation and ideas; it’s a series I HOPE would work, but would need to be trialed and tested. My goal is to create a multi-modal, multiple-learning-pathways unit that fosters process work and scaffolding.

This would be a collaboration model I’d use in the later part of the semester for my standard English 100 course, which of course would have been translated into an OWcourse. The sequence would probably start in Week 11 or 12. This model doesn’t include PowerPoints and other lessons from me, entire-class posts, or individual work—it’s purely focused on the collaborative aspects. Here I go:

Multi-Modal Collaboration Overview

♦ The two texts they’d be working with are transcripts of Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” and Shafak’s “The Politics of Fiction,” two pieces I adore and highly recommend. I think Warnock’s (149) and Janette’s shared idea to sort students into smaller groups is both logical and brilliant, and therefore I’m unashamedly copying it: the students in this assignment would be sorted into groups of five.

♦ The assignment will ask students to work together in their groups of five to fully analyze the rhetorical devices, arguments, and strategies in both pieces. The final paper for this unit (which is not collaborative but is worth mentioning) would ask for each student to individually compose a comparative analysis of both pieces. They would do this in order to assess which rhetorical devices work best (and perhaps also which are weakest) in supporting similar arguments. That aside, the group would be working on a group assignment associated with the same readings where they give a presentation (yep, an OWcourse presentation!) on how ten rhetorical devices are functioning within the two pieces. The ideal is each student would be responsible for tracing two devices: one in Adichie’s and one in Shafak’s. They’d be collaborating, sharing their ideas, and working together to build a strong final presentation. All the process work is low-stakes: all the posts, discussion, etc. they do leading up to the creation of their presentation is worth points, which rewards them for being team players. These low-stakes steps are probably worth 10 points each, rewarding and enticing, but not akin to the heavy grade value (100 points out of a 1000-point class) the final group assignment itself is worth.

Series of Activities in This Sequence

1) Discussion Board Sounding Ground Pt. 1: After the students read the two pieces and have had a good deal of class-wide instruction and primary discussion, they’d be sorted into groups of five and asked to begin by creating one 7-9 sentence post discussion the various devices they’ve found in the two pieces. They would then briefly respond to the four others’ thoughts as well. In responding to each other, my hope is they’d see which devices are more prevalent than others within each piece.

2) Google Form: From here, they’d all visit a Google form and vote on a time to synchronously (Warnock 150) meet in a (designed by me) Chatstep Chat Room meeting. There is only one synchronous meeting they’d be required to hold. (Btw: Chatstep is a really nice website used to create private and safe chatrooms. If I need to step in and moderate, I have that option). The students are free to synchronously or asynchronously talk with each other in whichever ways they like best outside of this requirement.

3) Group Chat: In their synchronous chat, they’d select which devices they’ll each be tracing and how they’ll divide up the work. They’d also vote on how to approach the final product: they can use Camtasia or any other screen-recording software to either record their individual portions all meshed together, or record or upload them all individually to their group assignment folder on Canvas. Their final presentations can be PowerPoints, Google Slides, Youtube videos, or anything else they can dream up to meet the criteria. (Nota bene: I’d like to have an actual list of media for them to select from by that point, but I’m still currently working on broadening that list ☺).

4) Group Google Docs: Each group would have two Google docs, one of Adichie’s transcript, and the other Shafak’s. These two docs would be limited to the group of five. They’d each asynchronously highlight and comment on their devices. This assignment would also require them to respond—at least one per fellow student—to each other’s comments on the same doc. This allows them to provide feedback to each other’s ideas on the actual pieces themselves. This way, they can all—as a team—see the actual examples of the devices and read each other’s thoughts on how those devices and examples are functioning.

5) Discussion Board Sounding Ground Pt. 2: They’d each post on an additional discussion board their finalized analyses of their selected devices. This assignment would, once again, ask for each student to additionally respond to at least one other peer’s ideas. This is one more chance for joint effort and group cooperation.

6) Presentation: They’d each record/upload the presentation of their devices. Again, the type of presentation is up to them: PowerPoints, Prezis, Youtube Videos, actual recordings of themselves, whatever works best for them is fine with me.*

7) Google Doc Credit Sesh: After posting their presentations, they would go onto a group Google Doc and do the following: reflect on how the assignment went, *justify their choice of media, and explain which parts of the collaboration they were responsible for. I know this might be an unpopular strategy, but as someone who was the student who always ended up with all the work, I feel this portion is vital towards a fair distribution of points.

8) AV Feedback: I’d provide the group with feedback. This step needs more thought, of course, as I’m not sure how I want to approach it. I might decide on one master recording of me going through their presentations accompanied with my audio commentary. Whatever I chose, I’d be sure to also provide them with a document listing their group grade and plenty of explanation.

So, of course, there are a few disclaimers to this sequence: first, these aren’t the only activities they’d be working on, just the collaborative ones. There would be other whole-class activities, individual assignments, lectures, and readings they’d be working on simultaneously. Second, this would take place over the course of four or five weeks. Third, I have no idea how successful this activity would be, although I have high hopes—I’d love a chance to try it out, of course!

After this unit, I now have a lot more hope and faith in the possibility of collaboration outside of just doing peer reviews—which, like Warnock, I didn’t want to belabor (149). I am in constant awe of the digital possibilities open to us nowadays and would like to incorporate other newfangled techs into this design. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Collaboration avatar

Thanks Janette for your great video.

I thought you stated what many of the scholarly articles stated, but your explanations were clear and provided a good framework and advice, so thanks.

  1. Buy-in

It seemed to me that your advice of getting students’ buy-in was an important thread throughout all the literature since many online students might expect and prefer to work alone. It may even be the sole reason they have chosen to attend online classes, so I think your ideas of preparing them right away from the course description and syllabus would be important for everyone but especially for the loner.

  1. Clear expectations

I must confess that that when things fall flat in my classes, I have to take responsibility for not having clear expectations of not only the outcomes but how they will reach them. Also having clear expectations for students you won’t see f2f becomes crucial since you won’t be able to do a spur of the moment correction. I would think that this step might take quite a bit of time to prepare and might get better over time when the pitfalls become clearer.

  1. Start small

I felt more reassured by your advice to start small and build up from peer reviews and discussions which are a part of every course to larger types of group work.

A f2f group assignment that I would consider migrating to an online composition course is actually a pre-writing activity. I have come to feel that preliminary research and pre-writing activities can help students organize and write better essays, so I would carry this philosophy online.

I prepare the students by mirroring the following process in class on a different topic. Their assignment is to do general research on the assigned topic with the end product being a random list of 25 phrases or terms they jot down while reading and bring to the next class.

The in-class groups of about 4 students then take the random lists and cluster like items together into two shorter lists, leaving out what doesn’t fit. They then create a general category name for each of the two clusters.  The topic I’ve used for this is an essay on the effects of school bullying, and after the clustering of ideas, the student groups have come up with such organizational patterns as short term/long term effects, physical/psychological, victim/bully, or others. Their group work continues with organizing the sub- items in the two clusters in order to group ideas together and create a logical flow—they have actually roughly outlined the body paragraphs. The group then comes up with a working thesis sentence that works for their organizational pattern, and together they draft an introductory paragraph. Their assignment for the week is to write the body paragraphs using the organized list of ideas, adding what is needed, and backing up their ideas with research.

The following week, the same groups do a peer review of each member’s resulting essay.

I think that the changes that would need to occur to move this to an online course would be a video of my initial mirroring demonstration. The preliminary research and creating the random lists would remain the same, but the lists would simply need to be shared in the groups I create.

It seems that what I can do in a 4 hour f2f class would need to be broken down into pieces so that each student in the group can contribute to the process through Google docs and small group discussion.

How can I use technology to take what I do well already and make it even better?
How can I use technology to take what I do well already and make it even better? avatar

Hey Everyone,

I am jumping in a bit late here, yet with the advantage of hearing what you all have to say. As has already been mentioned I am also excited about Warnock’s basic approach to think of the transition to teaching online as an opportunity to recognize your teaching talents, the things you know you do well, and find ways to translate that online (xiv). How can I use technology to take what I do well already and make it even better is a good question?

While I have never taught a fully online course, I have been teaching hybrid courses for a while—courses where I am continually trying different ways to integrate technology into the learning process. Before 2013, I was the kind of technology skeptic who dealt with technology as little as possible (basic email and CMS only). In this way of thinking, technology is yet one more thing taking us away from the “real” work of teaching. The change for me was a graduate seminar with Kory Lawson Ching called Teaching Writing in a Digital Age. That seminar shifted my world completely towards being excited about digital rhetoric and thinking, along with Elizabeth Clark about  how we can use technology to “re-create the contemporary worlds of writing our students encounter every day” (2009: 1).

Students complete all of their writing online in my courses using google docs that they store in a course folder on their google drive. One of the first things we do together is learn to use google docs and google drives including team drives. When students complete an assignment they then submit a link to their google doc on Canvas with the “can edit” option set for my feedback. I then use speedgrader to access their assignments and provide feedback directly on their google doc. Google docs can be used for drafts of essays and also for feedback on outlines, introductions, and other “parts” of their projects as needed. We use google docs for instructor feedback and also for peer-review. Besides google docs and drives we use discussion forums often in my courses to for invention work, to post our ideas for Essay X, or our thesis statements or our conclusions (if we are working on ways to expand out conclusions etc.)

In reading Warnock’s chapter 12, I am excited about the possibilities for using audio visual technologies to improve my feedback.  One things from this chapter that has me thinking is his discussion about how we need to develop a relationship with our students at the beginning–and how important this is.  We know from Wood’s  Teaching Men of Color in the Community College: A Guidebook (2015), that this is especially important for  first gen students.  So how do you do that in an online environment is a question I’m reading for?  Most of you have much more experience teaching online and using a variety of online tools so I am eagerly reading and learning from your posts here:)


Yolanda S. Venegas



Tools to assess student writing
Tools to assess student writing avatar

In the past, I have tried using macros for electronically submitted essays. However, for the most part, I found the text in macros felt too generic or repetitive, and managing the macros more difficult than simply typing individual responses to students. I am excited to learn about new tools for use in future online sections of composition courses that others share in this blog that offer a better way to provide feedback improving the quality and perhaps the number of responses to student writing.

Because I just started using Canvas this semester, I was happy to learn about tools provided in Canvas that were included here in the bibliography. Specifically being able to email a student directly from the grade book is something I will use in my campus course, but I can see how important it would be online for immediate feedback with ease of use for the instructor.

I currently use rubrics for assignments, but I’m not sure how much students actually review them before submitting an assignment, so I think Warnock’s suggestion of electronic rubrics would also help students realize what’s expected and then how that resulted in the grade they received.

Responding to Students
Responding to Students avatar

Hello everyone,

I see responding to students from two very different perspectives. My main job right now is working full time as a writing coach here on campus. I also teach a section of English 100 at Palomar in a f2f classroom. These two perspectives have allowed me to view giving feedback in different ways and using different tools for my feedback.

As a writing coach in a Writing center, I can’t always use the tools that I use in the classroom (rubrics, goggle docs, email feedback, peer review freedback) in quite the same ways as in the classroom. One primary reason for that is that in the Writing Center, we do not write on drafts-our pedagogical approach stems from the fact that we are ideally functioning as “peers” responding to another peer, so writing in a margin or at the end of the paper is not viable. Students do not always remember to bring in rubrics and prompts or drafts with instructor feedback- so sometimes the tools are conspicuously missing in the session. However, in the Writing Center I do fall back on some basic principles that actually serve me well when responding to my own students’ essays: As a reader, criteria based feedback, and Socratic questioning. These strategies still translate well to online feedback, and I am using them for online feedback in my f2f class, where I am responding to their drafts online through Canvass and the speedgrader platform that Canvass offers. As a writing coach, I do give feedback online to your students, and the tool we use is either snagit or Camtasia 9. The things that is interesting about asynchronous feedback is that I have to be more directive than I would be in person. I try to balance that directivity with key placed open ended questions (often for when I am trying to get a student to add more writing, so those open ended questions are usually brainstroming in nature). Online feedback also means that I have to do things like narrate my moves. I say things like, “let’s scroll to page 3 now and look at the paragraph that start with…”. This helps students get situated in the context of their essay, and then I can scaffold my recorded feedback better.

As a writing teacher in a f2f classroom at Palomar, I use speedgrader to give digital based feedback. Speedgrader has some nice digital features that mimic what it is like to give written feedback on a hard copy draft. You can write marginal and terminal comments using a text box type feature. You can highlight, draw with a drawing tool, and include  what they call “point annotations” when you want to create a longer comment. I tend to use the point annotation feature for offering models or sentence starters, or for when I ask more open ended questions intended to generate thinking, more reading etc…Speedgrader also has a way to record audio feedback. I have been playing with the audio feedback for my terminal comments that sort of sum up the next steps that I would like to see them take in their next draft. I plan to play with audio feedback on my next batch of essays by using it to record model sentences and some grammar feeedback- feedback that I feel has been, in the past,  hard to do online.

Ultimately, the tools I use for feedback in the Writing Center have had some really good implications for how I teach in the classroom and give feedback to my students online. I have seen myself do more scaffolding with my feedback. I also feel my Writing Center feedback experience has enabled me to take on a better persona as a responder. My students see a more friendly responder, and they say that my “as a reader” comments are less scary and thus more “doable” than when they hear me respond as a “professor”. I think they still feel it is a professor response, but the “as a reader” comments actually encourage more revision from my students.

Last, my online feedback experiences from my Writing Center work has also changed my practice in the classroom. Stuudents are often overwhelmed by too much feedback. But the online feedback I give to your students here in the center has trained me to pick only 3 top tier higher order issues to focus on. So in that way, I see myself cutting down how much I respond to my own students, and I hyper focus on only 3 next steps for them to tackle in a revision. This 3 next steps is a key to the Writing Center’s pedagogy for online, yet it is so interesting to see how it has impacted my teacher persona when I am responding.


Reimagining Feedback & Rethinking Grading
Reimagining Feedback & Rethinking Grading avatar

Hello, everyone! It is great to be back in this learning platform with you all, and I look forward to sharing ideas, resources, and tools.

I thought I would address my response to this blog by going back to the three areas I identified in the google doc as the writing concerns that most often elicit my feedback in the writing process, and then highlight which tools/practices I am likely to use in onground vs. online environments and how although the goals may be the same, the methods vary.

  1. Issues with interpreting the topic/prompt (e.g. is the student’s initial work/claim clearly responding to the assignment; does it need some redirection or strengthening).

This takes center stage in the ESL classroom (as I’m sure it does in a more traditional classroom), but it can be quite a challenge due to students’ experience (or lack thereof) of expository, reading-based writing assignments in their home countries as well as the linguistic gaps that might hinder their initial understanding of the depth and breadth of an assignment. In a f2f classroom, students can orally share their thesis statement for immediate feedback; students can post their initial ideas on the board for a walk-around feedback from me and their classmates; we can select some strong thesis statements and direct it back to the writing prompt to ensure the topic is being interpreted correctly and the claim is one which will work for a given assignment. It is pretty second nature to do a number of these activities early in the process in the classroom.

In a completely online setting, we would need to get the same accomplished but use the technology to assist. A couple of immediate ideas would be to use a google doc to have students post their work and have written feedback/suggestions provided. Based on that work, I could create a Jing or Camtasia video looking at the google doc and its comments and work through orally and with highlighting etc., some of the stronger ones showing the connections we are looking for, and/or selecting a few that might need some redirecting and using those to talk through some options and suggestions.

  1. Developing support in the body paragraphs. I often need to encourage the students to “dive deeper” vs. staying surface level in supporting their claims through the evidence and analysis (usually the area I need to spend more time addressing) provided.

Again, we spend a lot of time in a traditional classroom working to get students to develop their evidence and analysis more specifically and convincingly. In f2f, I might ask students to select a paragraph that is brief or that has already received some initial feedback that offers suggestions for further development. I might have students underline their topic sentence and then for the supporting sentences that follow use a colored marker to highlight whether the sentence seems to offer evidence for the claim or is analyzing it. This works to get them to see what type of development they might be favoring and where they need to go deeper. For this type of activity online, I might use the Discussion Board to have the student do this same activity, highlighting sentences as evidence or analysis. This is a good check for me to see if they are understanding the difference and it allows for them to easily compare their thinking to their classmates. I could then assign others to use directed questions to ask their classmates and offer suggestions on how they might more specifically develop content.

  1. Clarity issues- I don’t typically comment on students’ grammar but instead focus on their clarity, particularly in the early stages.

In an L2 classroom, it is very commonplace to offer suggestions for language/word choice issues. When students are grappling with an assignment and a number of readings on a new topic of exploration, they may not have some of the targeted vocabulary necessary or expected in an academic response; they also typically need help with collocations and other more discrete word form issues. For example, on an assignment addressing issues of what it means to be financially independent, they would need to understand the differences between word forms, e.g. finance (as both a noncount and countable noun), financial, financially, etc. They would also need help with collocations related to finance: frugal, budget, investment, credit, debt, consumer, etc.  And of course, they might need help understanding other idioms of finance like “a ballpark figure” or “cutting one’s losses.” In an f2f class, we start a Vocab/Word Form list of common vocabulary they are likely to encounter and/or use in their own writing. Each class as something comes up, we add it to the list, I take a picture of it at the end of class, and it gets posted to Canvas.

So this can also be done virtually using a google doc specifically designed for these sorts of global vocab needs. As for more personal responses to student writing, again I would likely either offer some typed feedback suggestions or use a simple audio feedback option on a discussion board.

In all honesty, I think that doing the feedback online is much more time consuming than doing the feedback collectively in a classroom. But the benefit of the online systems is that they are a more “permanent” experience that students can go back to, review, reflect, model, etc. I know even though I do the same sort of feedback in a classroom, in writing and/or orally, it can be more fleeting or the students might only capture part of it. With online, I can redirect them back to the feedback and they can also learn from feedback I provide to classmates.

So for the last bit of this (sorry, rather lengthy) blog, I wanted to comment on Chapter 12: Grading: Should It Change When You Teach Online? I think this is such a critical conversation and one which I have been thinking about a lot. Warnock provides his breakdown of grading percentages of his onsite vs. online class. I have never been one to give quizzes in a comp class or a number of smaller point-based assignments; instead, I build in a number of scaffolded assignments that culminate in their essay assignment. Each essay assignment through the semester builds on the previous and point values increase. I do have additional points for their final portfolio, active participation, and journal. However I think I would really need to restructure some of this for online. I am fortunate that I get to observe three online 100 classes this semester by our online gurus- curry, Tony B. and Jim. I am noting that each of them has a lot of regular, weekly points assigned for anything from small quick-check quizzes on lessons to postings made to google docs, to graded discussion board forums. This would be a huge shift in my teaching approach but one that I think is necessary and would be beneficial in the online arena. As I see more of this play out and read your perspectives, I see that this is likely to influence and change the way I grade in my f2f as well.



Back in the Day…
Back in the Day… avatar

With a warm moment of nostalgia, Warnock reminds us of the longstanding notion of the writing teacher persona, “sitting in a café with papers stacked neatly on a table, quietly reading, and then writing comments by hand” (p124).  All that is missing is the tanned classic leather satchel to complete the image in my mind’s eye. It is a nice thought and I certainly remember those days.

I do enjoy the integration of technology and I fully support Warnock’s notion that the digital landscape affords us many new opportunities to explore writing and student engagement.

The integration of digital tools has fundamentally changed how we can operate and interact with learners.  Whether you are teaching an F2F class, hybrid, or fully online, I have seen teachers at all levels integrate many of these wonderful new technologies by necessity.  That is, in many ways this new paradigm for teaching was inevitable given that more and more of our students are “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001) and we strive to continue making our lessons both real and relevant for them today.

For my F2F classes, I give the option for students to write by hand and/or by computer (most use computers).  For my hybrid classes I integrate the Google suite/ Adobe products through a CMS. For both types of classes, I have always provided my global commentary in a digital format because I type over 100 wpm and my handwriting, well, based on what I’ve been told of my penmanship, I could have been a doctor.  Naturally, I still collect papers and write notes in the margins, but I try to do as much as I can digitally.  Macros and rubber-stamping have not worked that well for me as I tend to enjoy writing personal remarks to each student.

I actively implement many of the ideas presented by Warnock in regards to grading/ quizzes and rubrics. In particular the use of quizzes to provide a structure for students as they work through the materials.

Now that I’ve established my fondness for technology, there is one thing that truly remains a challenge for me and takes me back to the days of having a leather tanned satchel filled with essays in a café. That is, the face-to-face exchanges and the information that transpires when people interact with each other directly. I know that there are many great tools out there that we can use from voice threads to videoconference, but for me they still fall short. Perhaps it is rooted in my Waldorf education experience, but I feel very strongly about face-to-face social interaction for humans. So, there is my dilemma and I look forward to learning from all of you how I might be able to bridge that concern.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking:
I have not used this tool as of yet, but I’ve heard much about it and I can’t wait to try it. I’m excited to see what I might be able to do with it and how my students respond. I’ll gladly provide my thoughts on it soon.  Is this the same program that the writing center is using?

Skype/ WhatsApp / Zoom:
Of all of these I’ve found WhatsApp to work the best for students and me. It’s free and all that is required is a WiFi signal to connect anywhere on the globe.  They all allow you to add documents to the conversation, etc. etc. and provide an opportunity for face-to-face communication.

Google Suite:
Google Docs / Google Groups / Google Voice (text/call) / Google Hangouts (video/chat/text) Synchronous editing is great for student collaboration and for editing documents with students. Has features for editing directly or simply making suggestions (like notes in Word). Google products can be integrated into your CMS if features are not already built in.

Inserted Spoken Comments:
Yup, have tried this.  Never quite got into this one. Just seems a lot easier to type a comment in the notes / margin.  I do like the idea of recording global summary feedback on writing projects.

I know some teachers give out their personal phone numbers. I don’t.  I’ll gladly text or have a call with a student, but we’ll use a 3rdparty provider like WhatsApp or Skype.

I have created podcasts in the past, particularly as a world language educator, but have not yet applied the technology to my writing classes. Podcasting is best suited for long-form content but I’ve used it for 10-15 minute introduction and overviews of projects and lessons. I’ve also used it successfully (I thought) for literature reading review projects. Although podcasting does not solve my issue with the lack of the face-to-face teaching component, I do think it goes a long way in building a genuine connection with your audience instead of one that might feel a bit lackluster and distant.

Taking the plunge…
Taking the plunge… avatar

“Teaching online privileges writing in ways that traditional classes cannot.” Okay, this is a basic assertion, but it really resonated with me as someone who, in theory, prefers f2f teaching. I am still learning to think through a keyboard and migrating, ever so slowly. (Somehow it feels less daunting when it is presented as migration and not transformation…) I was struck by Warnock’s predominant theme that we identify our strengths as instructors and think about how to maximize them online. I am teaching my first hybrid class this semester, and feel like I still have a lot to learn about class management as I get more comfortable incorporating the canvas tools. I tend to emphasize process in my classes and have to be cognizant of the amount of feedback that I give students. Commenting online has been good practice for cutting down on the amount. It doesn’t seem (as the commenter) that I am writing so much when it is in pen! I would like to become comfortable with speed grader because it seems like an amazing way to cut down on the amount of comments and provide directive feedback that doesn’t overwhelm anyone. I have been experimenting with holistic grading and think that it can be a really good way to make the task of writing feel less imposing with low-stakes assignments. I would like to learn more about other approaches to grading rubrics.




The Future’s so bright . . .
The Future’s so bright . . . avatar



Greetings! Great to be a new member of the Writing with Machines crew!


Reading through Warnock’s text, it’s really got my neurons and synapses firing thinking about the overlap and inherent hybridity that is happening more and more as I integrate Canvas into the daily/ weekly work in my onsite classes. Though I’ve never taught an online course, since adopting Canvas over the summer, it (Canvas) has become an integral component of my teaching practicum. Specifically, in terms of assessment, SpeedGrader on Canvas is much more conducive to comment on drafts early on in the writing process. During workshop/ peer review over the summer, I started to reviewing and making short, targeted comments on student drafts while they are working in groups with peer drafts, I could then check in with each of them individually to discuss the comments I made. Granted, this was for a summer course and we had three hours to work on this, so adjustments would need to be made for a shorter class period. But with an online course, the highlighting and commenting functions in Canvas introduce many opportunities to engage in directed comments while mitigating the issue of illegibility that Warnock brings up in chapter eleven—something I have struggled with for so long.

Another exciting proposition that Warnock addresses in his section on grading in chapter twelve is the possibility of “generating an ongoing conversation with students about their progress . . . grading is too often a one-way announcement form the instructor” (137). One method I’ve employed in my f2f classes, and will continue in online courses, is the use of a Google doc to get a sense of where students are at with their thinking/ feeling about their essay drafts. I ask what they’re excited about, concerned about, or still have questions about- they respond onsite using laptops, phones, or ChromeBooks, and I also give them the choice to answer anonymously. This practice has given me valuable insights into student thinking – and better understanding of what I need to address/ adjust in the lead up to assessment. Students have a chance to comment on what I can do to better clarify or improve my expectations for an assignment and we can then work as a class to address concerns before a grade is assigned.


Future Possibilities

If I could sum up my thoughts about the future in teaching online courses, I would use one word—more! More comments from me, more low-stakes writing with responses from me, more quizzes to fire up thinking about the readings. Warnock has given me much to consider and to be excited about—some specifics.

Macros—I appreciate Warnock’s cautious endorsement of macros-having a bank of auto-fill comments would help mitigate or prevent “repetitive stress injuries.” I also take to heart Warnock’s privileging of student agency and awareness of student engagement when he cautions against an over reliance on macros that would lead to “boring mechanical routine, “ while “students most likely would sniff out the inauthentic nature of your comments” (126). Macros are definitely a strategy that I would like to cautiously attempt when teaching my first online course.

But the strategy that most excited me was Warnock’s section on AudioVisual Responses to student work. Warnock admits that “[u]sing AV feedback to respond to student writing in the composition classroom is trill a fairly novel application, but the technologies to support this are improving at a rapid pace” (131). I was holding office hours in the Writing Center on Thursday and I notice they had a separate room for synchronous online appointments and it seemed like a very effective use of AV feedback—both the tutor and tutee were discussing in real time the tutee’s paper. In a class of twenty-five plus students the dynamic would have to be adjusted, and one would have to account for the largely asynchronous nature of online teaching, but as Warnock mentions, “AV feedback cranks up the response process considerably from the simple tape recorder by including video of the paper . . .This [AV feedback] is much faster than evaluating papers conventionally, and I give the students more extensive feedback—saying nearly twice as much as I do in a typical written response” (131). Very exciting prospect here—and I hope to learn more about where we are with the technology now, as I imagine we’ve come a long way since 2009 when Warnock’s text was published.