Tech Writing and Videogames

I am beginning to build an Annotated Bib with entries based on courses and topics under the Teaching menu. I’ll also post the individual entries in the blog feed, and store these in an easily accessible format through the Teaching heading.

McDaniel, R & Daer, A. (2016). Developer Discourse: Exploring technical communication practices within video game development. Technical Communication Quarterly, 25(3).

McDaniel and Daer report on case-study that explored the intersection of game development and technical communication. The case-study was designed to understand how “professional game developers perceive the contexts, constraints, and conflicts affecting their work” to provide “insights for educators about the type of work future technical communicators may be doing in media-rich environments” (p. 3). This approach and these conclusions are especially important for educators interested in incorporating more multimedia texts into their Technical Communication classroom. Students entering the work force may encounter situations where they will need to create multimedia technical documents for various audiences. McDaniel and Daer’s case-study emphasizes the need for students to understand rhetorical situations as they relate to technical communication, and multimedia technical communication specifically as some documents, problem-solving and communication may need to be multimodal.

Personally, this validated my desire to include a large number of multimedia projects in a Fall 2016 Technical Communication course. McDaniel and Daer’s findings that technical communicators will encounter and create multimodal documents means they need practice and exposure within the classroom, with an emphasis on the rhetorical approach to technical communication within a SPECIFIC workplace so as future employees they know when to use the multimodal document preferred within the office, and when to design using their own ideas.

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Twitter in the Classroom

I’ve been using Twitter in my courses for over a year now, yay! And so far i’ve collected tons of great (anecdotal) evidence that Twitter helps. So now it’s time to actually test the response.

Similar to my last post, my foray into classroom tweeting began with the desire to help students (online graduate students specifically) engage with course material and each other. Twitter seemed like a more effective platform for that engagement because students could post ‘notes’ and then respond to other student notes. The reduction in characters from a fully developed, well articulated discussion board post would, in theory, help students engage with the material so they could then write the fully developed, well articulated, thoughtful discussion board posts I was looking for.

As I begin to put together my IRB paperwork, I need a more clear research question. I began using Twitter to help students write about reading, to help them process their own notes on a deeper level. So an obvious research question here is: do students engage on a deeper level with course material?

But, I need measurable outcomes, measurable data. Here the most obvious is the tweets, i need to collect student tweets to understand trends in twitter use.

Going back to my anecdotal evidence, different classes used Twitter very differently. So, if I gather data from 3 hashtags this term, could I encounter 3 very different uses of Twitter? So then should I start with a more basic research question, when assigned tweets as a writing assignment, what do students do? How do students use Twitter when a required part of the classroom?

No matter what way I lean, IRB will need to go through, and I’ll need to make some decisions about comparing course data since I’m teaching a freshman level composition course, and a junior level composition course. To add to the ‘how do students use Twitter’ I could also look to the data for trend differences in use between the Freshman and Junior level writing courses which would indicate some connection back to understanding writing.

I’ll keep working through these ideas, but the use of Twitter builds upon my eventual hope to incorporate OER into the classroom, can Twitter and required ‘note’ tweets help students engage with course material (the problem here is what does engagement mean? and if I look for traditional ideas of engagement according to comp theory, can I ensure students know what that means and care enough to actually do that, so then am I measuring what students understand to be required versus authentic engagement…….oh the pandora’s box here).

I’ll update further with where I end up with this question – I have some Uses of Facebook in the Composition Classroom articles to read to help solidify my ideas before I submit the concrete proposal.

In the mean time, how do you tweet?

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OER: how do students use them in the classroom?

A year ago this summer I began using Twitter in my classroom with the long term goal of implementing OER (Open Educational Resources). I attended all the teach-ins presented by Faculty Professional Development at my previous institution, and often heard professors struggle in the ed tech sessions with how students learn from technology. While I try to use technology for meaningful learning I struggled with a more basic problem: how do students learn from Reading Online. As yet I haven’t seen an answer. I haven’t even seen much of an engaged discussion about this in relation to OER (and I’ve found nothing on Pinterest but hand notes for K-12 reading, Pinterest is now failing me in sparking brilliance!!!)

Here I will outline my reasons for seeing struggle in a fairly one sided argument (with myself) to continue to move toward the adoption of OER in the classroom. I want to cut down book costs, but I’m still finding students learn better when I assign a book versus an article (accounting for equal level of density between the two). I see huge connections to information literacy development that is necessary outside the classroom, so this isn’t just a cost thing for me.

Problem #1: It’s RARE that  student will come to class with the article printed, while mine is all marked up, noted, questions listed for class on the front, and often color tabbed so I can direct the discussion, check understanding and use the article for engaged learning in game days. On Game Days when students were asked to reference sections of an article, students flipped through pages, back and forth, back and forth, with what seemed like little direction or idea on how to focus and find what they needed in the text.

Problem #2: I don’t know how to transfer my own reading process to an online resource – so how can I guide students to do the same in a freshmen comp course using only OER?

Problem #3: OER are not designed to be printed, so what is the relationship between reading and taking usable notes? Similar to other online debates in relation to education (how do you authenticate the identity of an online student? – ummmm do you check id’s in f2f courses? like that debate) – this is a fine point question. Students don’t always/usually know how to take notes on their reading in a usable way to begin with so why would they know online – so then what do I do?

So it’s problem #3 that I believe provides the entry point (and the connection between maker education, digital rhetoric, and education that I strive for in my research) to OER. But I feel like I need to *solve* #2 to address #3. I need to find ways to take and retain usable notes from all my online reading. I need to find a way to store and access information, article references, annotated bibs for all my school-related reading first. If I can model one approach, and recommend good approaches that didn’t work for me, I’ll be in a place to help guide students through OER.

I think this is a good time to jump in with the why – why is this important. When I first started working at ASU with the hopes of a job paying for my master’s I worked at the front desk of a department. I had calls for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week asking for information that could easily be found on the ASU webpages. I became really good at finding those sources and sending them. Information retrieval, search terminology, all of that is a necessary information literacy skill (yay one more thing that needs to be taught and discussed in an already jam packed semester). The good news here, if I have an ARG for this!! The point is, in a job, this was one of the first skills I was expected to develop, QUICKLY. When I mastered that skill, I was promoted because information retrieval is a skill not many fine tuned. Hopefully the connection here is a bit obvious, students may have to search for articles and ideas for school, but they’ll similarly search in the work world based on modern uses of computers. So reading the internet and retaining/using information read is both an important school-based AND work-based skill (we’re mattress shopping right now, it’s also an adult skill).

The difference here, using my example (and drawing from Gee’s works) is need – I needed to demonstrate strong information literacy so I didn’t sit behind a desk my entire career (plus moving on helped my grad class schedule – so double need). I retain articles and blogs better when I consider using the information in class. I remember romance novels in more detail when I imagine the blog review I would write when I work up the nerve to start my romance review blog. Just like in videogames (Gee) the need to use information increases retention.

So my struggle with OER won’t be solved today, because I don’t know how (similar to textbooks and in-class articles) to make it seem necessary to students. I also don’t think enough research has been conducted on how students approach reading OER versus textbooks to begin to know how to address it. Through my Twitter assignment, I assign necessary tweets reflecting on readings, connecting performance to grade to artificially inflate ‘need’ but I think there are better approaches. So for the next 3 months (Fall term) my goal is to find ways to use online resources without printing. Wish me luck😉

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Social Media Methods

This summer I enrolled in a few FutureLearn MOOCs on various aspects of social media – to help both my research design and my assignment design (#school4life). MOOCs have fascinated me for a long time, and I had a student who loved to argue the increased engagement when students could pick and choose their courses so it’s a topic I’ve discussed heavily. This is not my first, and will not be my last MOOC; but, this will also not be a conversation about MOOCs.

I’m completing a Social Media Analytics course – I’m working through a few projects that collect social media data, so more methods and ideas would be helpful. Since this is an open MOOC, the course begins with a super short post on social media and conversation, focusing specifically on Twitter. The author throws in the idea of sociability, finds Twitter not as sociable as it was in the beginning, then ends the piece. Again, short intro. The course then relies on crowd funded knowledge. This is a fairly common construction of learning in a MOOC. So the discussion asks “Are social media still social?”. As I read through the posts most people discuss ‘social’ a few discuss ‘ conversation’ but no one says anything about ‘sociable’ (random side note: most responses are positive for social media, social, and conversation with hints at tools and know-how in the space but no vocab for those discussions).

When I read the intro article I was so distraced by the idea of sociable I spent a really long time trying to find a consensus for what sociable means – to no avail (Wikipedia failed me!). So I engaged with the idea of sociable and data ethics with my response because I think they are connected. So i’m going to raise the question here – what is sociable? and as a follow-up, how do we know?

Here, on this blog I write and leave my words in the vast wasteland called the internet. Occasionally I have responses, but not often. Does that mean this blog is not sociable? Does a conversation require two people (as i’m revising i’m continue to converse with myself)? Adults often talk ideas through to themselves, I watch my 4yo play out entire imaginary scenes by himself. Are those conversations?

In physics there are two types of energy, potential and kinetic (this all coming from high school physics memory and kid museums). Potential energy is as the name implies, the potential for energy, the moment a roller coaster begins to descend the drop before dropping – at which point the energy becomes kinetic. I feel like social media lives in that moment with potential energy high and kinetic energy low, when i’m about to plummet down the roller coaster drop. This is where sociability belongs for me, because the only way potential energy can be high in social media is if the platform provides tools to allow for conversation.

**caveat** users can be incredibly creative. Elizabeth Losh writes about high school students using an early version of email on a city server who found a way to post messages to each other. So the tools don’t need to be developed for interaction, and users may still find a way.

So when asking about sociability and the internet, I think our discussions need to include the tools (yes, I’ve been obsessed with and studying internet ‘tools’ since my MA, I have problems). But, this is also where the idea becomes really complex. Does it matter how I (user) see the use of the tool for communication when the researcher analyzes my conversation/data? Conversely, if a tool has the potential for social communication, is communication ever not social on the internet? Let’s try this with a ridiculous example (and one recently showcased on Silicon Valley). When Facebook began, before the platform was live for users, there was never just one user. Zuckerberg was never alone on Facebook – he (and his team) needed others to user test and functional test the operating system. These accounts then existed within the space, meaning any *live* tool had the potential for social communication, it is sociable. Did it really matter that the tools weren’t being used to send notes to grandmas yet? To ensure security functions appropriately even developers have 2 accounts on their platforms to check developer access versus user – there are always already multiple accounts. As soon as the internet 0’s and 1’s form a picture, tools and platforms have the potential for interaction – I am arguing that makes them sociable. They have potential for interaction, conversation, sharing, social……but interaction, conversation, sharing, social cannot happen without that tool (in this case it doesn’t need to be a *specific* tool, as multiple tools can facilitate these ideas and platforms often offer multiple).

So, if we accept my premise – and since I’m talking to myself, unless someone responds, I think I will accept my premise – that a tool on the internet has the potential for sociability, can any social media space ever be not social? Based on my premise, we also have to accept that live social media space is always social, and functioning tools provide that potential for kinetic social communication in a way that can never be denied since potential and kinetic are on a sort of sliding scale.

Which then leads to, what is a question like this really asking? And, how does understanding what researchers/educators really ask when they ask if social media is still social may have SERIOUS impact on how they represent data (including accidental bias or misread). So I think this is an important conversation, especially as we head into an election with big data. I changed my facebook profile picture – that’s now being used to predict who I’ll vote for (just an example, who knows if this will happen). We as social media researchers need to consider how asking about the social of social media AND failing to define sociability leads to data interpretations like this. We’re not to blame for lack of critical engagement by some with big data, but we (especially those in the Humanities) are poised to push better interpretations if we ask better questions.

So I leave you with, what is driving “are social media still social” questions and investigations?

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After moving across the country, hello east coast, I’m ready to begin posting again. That was quite the hiatus. I’ve begun working on my summer project list, starting with revisions to a praxiswiki about an assignment.

This had me asking – what is the purpose of an assignment?

This question is asked consistently in WAC/WID in relation to ‘the research essay’ assigned by disciplinary faculty – what do you expect students to be able to show in an essay when you haven’t discussed writing or the purpose of writing in your course? Fair question – but also heavily exemplifying rhet/comp thinking! I ask myself this every term as I modify and shift the syllabi – why do I want students to complete Assignment A and how can I prepare them for that assignment (I don’t want to hate my life while grading after all). This is not always 100% successful but planning for writing discussions is a post for another day.

How did you value reading? This one really stumped me, when was the last time I talked about how to read, and the function of reading in my courses? I know when teaching 210 (Principles of rhetoric) we discuss this with theorists, and we discuss the unction of methodology, results, discussion as format for science papers – we also talk abut literacy and the ways types of reading are valued, but that never translated into “how do you read? how should you read for this class and what does that mean?” But final assignments require students to integrate scholar voices to their writing, to show how they read and make meaning. Then demonstrate their reading through writing.

These are he complicated questions that underlie assignments. Faculty have learning goals for their assignments, skills and knowledge they expect students to demonstrate through assignment completion, but how do we talk about that, support it with theory, and generalize those ideas to others?

These are the questions i’m grappling with, and attempting to answer in less than 2 paragraphs for this short piece i’m revising and resubmitting. Obviously, keeping the discussion short is a huge challenge.

I’ll leave this post with the question of the week: why do we assign ‘the essay’?

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Twitter Analytics and Humanities

For the past few terms I’ve been exploring Twitter in my classes, in various ways, with tons of openness to allow students to influence and have input on the course use of Twitter. Now that I have several semester practice I’ve been exploring Twitter Analytics as a way to understand what students have been doing. Here’s what i’m finding:

  1. Twitter Analytics were designed for business reach so most free programs are only somewhat helpful to classroom use. By somewhat I really mean barely. Analytics and data track numbers and quantify data. While these analytics can amass our obsession with memes and gifs in cool ways – the number of posts don’t accurately represent the quality of the posting and connections developed (hello future digital humanities project)
  2. Student exploration of Twitter Analytics is fun because they notice that the analytics strive to capitalize on their individual use. Humanities students are amazing at analyzing and understanding the representation by numbers and of numbers. They offer in depth discussion on how those numbers don’t accurately represent the connections they’ve built through the assignment!

I’m impressed with the engagement in the course demonstrated by my students. But I don’t feel the Twitter Analytics I’m finding accurately represents their learning, nor would content analysis of the tweets (especially with the high volume of memes).

As I move forward with this assignment, and ask other types of classes to engage with Twitter conversations I’m wondering:

  1. What am I noticing in their posts that shows engagement?
  2. How does the assignment initially reward engagement?
  3. How do students branch beyond the assignment in their engagement?
  4. How do students in various classes interpret the assignment and use Twitter? and how do I ‘measure’ that?

Twitter is an amazing tool for fostering engagement and conversation, helping students build strong support systems within the course, and ways of engaging with course material both digitally and in the class. The struggle is in the measuring of this, in being a part of the developed Twitter course community and not being able to make it strange to understand and qualify the writing work occurring. The next step will be to consider how to make the engagement strange to offer suggestions for similar implementations, to consider how the assignment is designed and how it can continue to be improved.

The big finding is how adept students in digital rhetoric courses are at understanding how Twitter Analytics and Big Data operate in contemporary culture. Their insightful discussions demonstrated the need for digital rhetoric scholars to begin considering ways of understanding Twitter interactions beyond data analytics. I can see a need for future work addressing questions about Twitter use, Twitter application, and how users understand Twitter trend development.

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Fall Course Description

Here is the course description for a new capstone course topic. I’m hoping to expose students to new tools (always a learning goal for me) and alternative forms of writing they may want for their careers (grant writing).

Fall 2016 ENG 410: Digital Humanities

This course investigates current uses of big data, data tools, and online resources in humanities. We will explore ‘Digital Humanities’ as a field of study using rhetorical theories, we will also explore the rhetorical function of data visualizations, big data sets, and contemporary uses of social media spaces. Students will use blogs and twitter – although no previous experience with these tools is necessary. Students will also practice grant writing as part of their final Digital Humanities project development.


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Process Writing and the Blog

White, Edward M. and Cassie A. Wright. “Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A writing Teacher’s Guide 5th ed.” Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2016. Print.

I read a lot of blog posts everyday. Mommy blogs, higher ed blogs, ed tech blogs – and everyday I notice an editing or argument issue. Sometime I stop reading a post due to argument structure issues, sometimes the typos drive me nuts (we all have them so I’m not judging). Given the vastness of the internet these small issues are microscopic! However, the average blog isn’t diluted by the entire internet, especially when blogs are used in the classroom.

In my Capstone undergrad courses I require students to create and regularly post to a blog. Students record gamified posts and theory posts, providing space for students to develop public writing. Here’s where I’m becoming conflicted – I want them to develop – develop! – public writing. Emphasis on process. However, as I grade their blogs what I’m seeing instead is product focused. We discuss theory, they write and post – publically post. I assign a series of quests exploring the theory, then grade the product. There are no rough drafts, the brainstorming sessions are publicly posted and often not extensively revised.

So as I read White and Wright’s discussion of meaningful assignments that demonstrate the importance of process I realized how off the mark my blog assignment feels. I still like the ideas of students writing publically, and see the need for this approach to ’21st century learning and writing’ but feel I have sacrificed process because blogs are understood as such final, published, product writing.

Now I’m considering ways of using White and wright’s chapter 6 on e-portfolio’s to help students develop – truly develop their public writing. I don’t have the answer for a trial implementation yet….that will come in a later post, but wanted to begin the conversation and thinking about blogs as process, and how process will be perceived outside the course in this public writing space. While I often note and outline my posts, then revise right before publishing – I don’t spend the amount of time revising here that I do on a journal article. And yet, this writing is so accessible that it’s an easy way to evaluate me as a writer. It represents blossoming ideas that are cornerstone in academia – we are judged on our ideas and the dissemination of knowledge. So I can quickly and easily disseminate, but spend less time revising. Is that the right outlook for blogs? Why am I surprised by the public writing of students when my attitude and ideologies for the space mirror theirs? What would I be asking for, ideologically, in incorporating process into blogging?

More on this in posts to come as I consider how to implement portfolio assessment into blog posts – not just to address grading but to help students use their blog moving toward post-graduation work.


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Gamification and Gamified Systems

Gilbert, Sari. Designing Gamified Systems: Meaningful Play in Interactive Entertainment, Marketing and Education. New York: Focal Press, 2016. Print.

In her book Designing Gamified Systems, Gilbert says Gamified Systems “leverage game thinking and user-experience design to build motivation, explain difficult concepts, broaden audiences, depend commitments and enhance human relationships” (1). Essentially, immersive experiences to support learning and motivation.

Buried within a brief paragraph in chapter 2 Gilbert discusses PBL – points, badges and leaderboards, the ‘traditional’ toolset for Gamification in education. In previous semesters I’ve used various badges through BBLearn, and positive point accrual as application of gamification game-like principles. Even with extra credit and course work reduction, badges have not been well-recieved by my students. In talking about this with my suite-mate, she’s had similar results to the use of badges in her courses.

As an educator, I find it easy to read learning goals in Gilbert’s definition of a gamified system, and while she advocates for PBL, it’s not the focus of the theory. This opens game-like learning principles to a broader interpretation by educators, allowing them to explore learning within their classrooms in new ways.

So the problem becomes, how do educators and students learn about game-like principles, experience game-like learning so they can conceptualize learning systems in their own classrooms? One recommendation that would benefit Gilbert’s work, and many other pieces on games and classrooms: Play more games. The best way to experience gamified systems, to explore ways learning design through games is to experience them through play.

The question that results from this recommendation, will games be played differently when played for learning experiences than for ‘fun’?

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ENG 410C Quest Day #3


Please work with a partner you’ve never worked with before.

In experimenting with playful rhetoric we’re going to play an internet version of 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

6 degrees of Kevin Bacon is traditionally played by naming an actor, and connecting Actor A to Kevin Bacon in less than 6 ‘moves’ – drawing connections between actors in shared movies. For example if I say Ryan Reynolds.

Ryan Reynolds was in “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock (Move 1)

Sandra Bullock was in “Gravity” with Ed Harris (Move 2)

Ed Harris was in “Apollo 13” with Kevin Bacon (woooo Move 3)


Quest #1 Play 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wikipedia

Using Wikepedia hyperlinks, connect “Play” (the page) to “Rhetoric” (the page).

Write down each move you make, why you chose to make that move.

Write down each move you explore as a possibility and why you chose to explore that possibility.


Quest #2 Make your own 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wikipedia

Step One: Create your own 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wikipedia game – select your own beginning page and end page. Please don’t use actors, everything else is fair game.


Step Two: trade with a partner group


Step Three: Play their game

Write down each move you make, why you chose to make that move.

Write down each move you explore as a possibility and why you chose to explore that possibility.


Step Four: Report your moves to the original group.




Quest #3: Reflection

Post all your Quest #1 moves to your blog.

Post all your Quest #1 possible moves to your blog.

  1. In what way do your decisions reflect ‘traditional academic thinking’? (approximately 300 words)
  2. In what way do your decisions playfully critique ‘traditional academic thinking’? Use Holmevik in your response (approximately 300 words)
  3. In what ways did Peer Game Design reflect ‘traditional academic thinking’? In what ways did your approach reflect ‘traditional academic thinking’? (approximately 300 words)
  4. In what ways did Peer Game Design playfully critique ‘traditional academic thinking’? In what ways did your approach playfully critique ‘traditional academic thinking’? Use Holmevik in your response (approximately 300 words)

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