Some Reflection on Email

Last week was my Media Literacy Institute so I fell far behind on posting. I did submit a proposal to MAPACA which was accepted so this is a perfect time to talk about how I want to connect casual games to gameful mindset to find ways of supporting student mindset development that includes self-assessment, self reflection, ultimately self efficacy. I’ll eventually, in future posts, get to that connection. Right now I want to focus on what didn’t work. Intelligent Agents. I love Intelligent Agents and the idea of hiding Easter Eggs for my students in my curriculum design – but they, apparently, don’t.

As I prepare my data for Connected Learning I’m seeing that where matters. Where do I communicate game prompts to students? Based on some playing with Intelligent Agents Fall 2017 I found that students liked the personalized emails the system can send them about their participation and grades in the course. So Spring 2018 I built all my quests through intelligent agents.

Advantages:

  1. it’s a push system – the student causes the email to be pushed to them based on their interactions in the system
  2. it’s a set and forget system – once I built out ideas for a module with dates, I didn’t have to do anything again
  3. it individualizes the email, including the student name, so I can build connection to the course, connection to the students
  4. it provides space to fully explain the concepts I want students to engage with, to allow them to playfully post self-assessment and self reflection.

Disadvantages:

  1. very few students played

Yeah, my advantages list is significantly longer than my disadvantages – and the personal connections I can create with students seem so important. However, students just don’t check their email, or don’t take the step of moving from the email notification to action (i’m sure there are marketing terms that would encapsulate this idea). So, despite the advantages, the trial (of the 40 students eligible to play, only 5 played) showed me I need to make changes.

Why? Why didn’t students play?

I’ll start with the change I made to Summer. I co-taught the Media Literacy Institute Summer 2017 and created a paper and stamp based game for the graduate seminar. While I didn’t collect much data – I know students played. My anecdotal remembrance that a lot of students played led me to create a game again this summer – for last week.

What seemed to work in that situation was the handout format. The students had the quests – the prompts – right in front of them. What would not be sustainable (or even possible in online courses) is the stamping completion. So for my online advanced composition course, I decided to create worksheets to scaffold reading (what should you be getting from reading – now apply that in this way). In creating worksheets – I could create the quests as check boxes for students to fill in. Then, for the Media Literacy Institute (since it’s a one week intensive) I created the same paper worksheet with stamp boxes.

Then, I collected data while I taught (which is hard so I’m using TAGS to verify tweet counts). The accurate data will be presented at Connected Learning, based on early numbers I can report that over 90% of the graduate student-participants (most of whom are K-12 teachers) played the game at the Media Literacy Institute. In my first 5 week summer class over 60% of the students played the game.

Initial findings

It’s all about the delivery. Where matters.

Without verifying, I have a feeling students don’t view email the way I view email. I think seeing coursework in their email was not motivational. Seeing ‘extra’ coursework in the course and posting in Twitter seemed to work.

Now I need to try this with larger classes across a longer time period, with various sections. All the usual. But i’m really glad I had this summer with smaller, shorter classes to play with the idea and see if moving the quests worked. I didn’t want to give up on the gameful idea – but I didn’t want to put a ton of effort into scaffolding worksheets (i’m drawing from “Documenting Learning” by Tolisano and Hale AND “Learning Assessment Techniques” by Barkley and Major for worksheet design and quest prompt ideas) if they were a similar bust. So yay to some positive news.

Now…..to design more worksheets that don’t look and feel like worksheets 🙂

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Media Literacy Institute

Starting on Monday I’ll teach a one-week intense Media Literacy Institute. Our focus this year – especially relevant to the contemporary political climate – is Digital Citizenship.

This year’s focus was inspired by my freshmen composition students. Several times, in several different semesters, in several different sections, students mentioned not feeling like adults, not feeling like contributing members of society, not feeling like citizens. While they take full advantage of the rights of 18yos (and older) with tattoos, piercings, and cigarettes – the lack of connection to their power as citizens bothers me. So I decided to begin investigating the connection to digital life, and extend that to the media literacy institute.

Most importantly, students need to feel connected to their devices and have that connection validated long before they can access voting booths. Off handed comments like “social media is ruining everything” does far more damage than most people think. Instead, mentioning the benefits of social media use, the power of social media use when deployed in meaningful, thoughtful ways should be discussed with teenagers, daily.

So, I’ve done this rant before right – what’s different in this post.

Well, games. My focus, my specialty at the institute is videogames, games, and play. Similar to the digital citizenship call for regular (daily!!!) positive reinforcement, I’ve spent this past week developing the ‘game’ we play through Twitter to support learning, reflection, self-assessment, mindfulness, and playfulness so student-educators develop an awareness of gameful mindset.

Today I’m struggling with why I even call this a game. Technically……it’s a worksheet.

I attended a digital workshop on learning assessment techniques and ways of supporting active engagement in the classroom recently. This was the first time I’d seem worksheets used for active learning, in meaningful ways. So while i’m saying worksheet – I really mean this active learning approach to worksheets where students take notes – and the worksheet is structured around the events of the days – and students post comments and reply to peers through Twitter. The active engagement with course content through twitter posts is designed to support a positive experience with social media, to build a learning community in Twitter (it’s an amazing place for educators).

So I took a break from designing this game and graded my other summer classes Tweet of the Week assignment where they similarly play a Twitter based game. For the first time in my #drpgame history, half the class is playing the game. Most students cite ‘extra credit’ as the reason for playing. But honestly, and sorry to students in that class reading this – is 3 points really going to make a big difference? Maybe, but most likely not. BUT, I really do think the anticipation of the reward, the gameful understanding of rewards for play are making the minimal 3 points worth it. This tells me a lot about what my junior level students bring to the game i’ve designed.

As I returned to my grad class game design I began wondering how I could guess what these students would bring with gameful understanding to games – in a course that is a part of a series of Institutes designed for educator PD credits. In other words, in what ways will the Institute design for educator PD credits influence how student-educators approach the course – which will influence how they approach the idea of game. What version of gameful mindset will they bring?

Are games extra credit – or rewards for student behavior? In which case – the game is supposed to serve as the reward. How does this influence ‘game’?

Are games horrible things that students play on their own time? This will really influence what student-educators understand ‘game’ to be. If they default to games = Grand Theft Auto and all the violence/misogyny/etc. ‘game’ will be understood negatively, as having no place in the classroom (random side note: I have played GTA for a class demo before, I’ve also played FarmVille)

Are games spaces of learning? At the end of the day I want students to say yes to this – but I want them to also recognize they need to support learners with recognizing their own learning in these spaces.

This is what brings me full circle to my freshmen again. My freshmen composition students don’t see their own power, they don’t recognize their own adulthood and the ‘rights and responsibilities’ awarded with their 18th birthday. Contemporary society regularly critiques social media an videogames as the root cause of all evil. If we (educators – yes i’m calling on all educators) to approach these ideas in a positive light – including games in the curriculum, as the curriculum, in support of learning will only support a student so far. Students need the awareness of learning supported and reinforced, they need help recognizing their own learning and awareness or the empowerment, the responsible use, will never happen. They won’t recognize their position as civic participants in those spaces because they’ve associated the contemporary negativity with social media/videogames outside Professor P’s class [insert teacher name here].

My exploration of what is a game reminded me of how much I need to reinforce for educators, the need to positively approach the media, and help the student be aware of when they positively approach and when they negatively approach so they understand their own position – so they begin to develop as a digital citizen.

So thank you Media Literacy Institute – whose was influenced by students – for reminding me of what I need to help teach students, every day.

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Annotating Texts

Spring 2018 I used more digital texts and OERs than I’ve used in previous semesters. Fall 2018 I am not requiring a textbook for my composition courses (just the One Book All American Boys which can be checked out from the library). What I usually see associated with discussions of Open Educational Resources is Open Pedagogy.

At the heart of Open Pedagogy is discussing the ways OERs shift the practice of education, the ways we approach classrooms. As a member of an English department, I see articles circulated by literature faculty about how little students read literature when they read the text digitally. While I appreciate their concern for student reading of texts, the studies they circulate don’t compare how well students remember and engage literature when they read from a traditional book. This is where Open Pedagogy discussions should be so important to education – how do we support students reading texts? Not just digital texts, but traditional texts as well.

There is a lot to be said about Open Pedagogy, what I want to consider right now is the One Book All American Boys. In my summer Web Writing and Content Management course several students are using the audio book to complete their reading this summer. Now that they are working through web-based book review content writing, I’m wondering if I should have done more scaffolding (this being the open pedagogy connection).

While children have books read to them, hearing books becomes less common as students progress through grade levels. While I don’t doubt my students will craft interesting assignments based on the reading they’ve completed – it’s the ‘non-traditional’ mode of the book that raised the connection to Open Pedagogy for me.

To help students as they read, I asked them to tweet images of ‘reading’ to open twitter discussions of what it means to read, and how we read in various ways. The students using the audio book struggled with this assignment a bit more. While I could discuss at length the ways we’ve taught students to complete assignments ‘the right way’ what was more important for me was how few of the students using the audio book chose to complete these tweets – making up the twitter writing with different tweets instead.

I see this as a failure in my pedagogy, in the assignment. I didn’t provide enough room in ‘reading’ to accommodate the different modes students accessed the book. I defaulted to the typical teacher ‘students will purchase the book and read’ mindset – then designed my assignment scaffolding accordingly.

As I begin to grade the assignment submissions I want to also begin to shift how I practice education so students accessing the book in different formats find additional ways of engaging with the text and the course twitter discussions.

Returning to the reading studies so often circulated, my students using audio books struggled to represent ‘reading’ because they were listening. But for most educators, the thought process of ‘reading’ is the important element that I want students to recognize and better understand. I want to teach students how to engage with texts for specific purposes in specific contexts, then recognize their own learning so they can engage better across contexts. Students, even good students, don’t arrive at college understanding what to do with assigned reading. While studies tend to blame digital texts, distraction, lack of deep reading for that problem, I want to take the more positive approach. Why not shift our educational practices and teach students how to read for our classes, and help them recognize those practices so they can adapt them to new contexts as necessary for life-long learning.

I want to push for an understanding of Open Pedagogy that isn’t just a focus on reimagining educational practices, but that reimagines educational practices with a focus on transfer by bringing awareness to the content AND practices learned in various areas to support life-long learning.

And since that sounds so easy……GO! 🙂

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Self-assessment with Rubrics

I’m currently reading Using Self-assessment to Improve Student Learning by Harris and Brown. I’m most interested in adapting these ideas, techniques, practices to online spaces – especially online only courses. How can we support student understanding of writing and learning to write by empowering learners through self-assessments? Where are the moments to include these ideas?

A bit of a tangential side note, this book references research on student ego and negative student perception quite a bit. This is a huge concern with self-assessment. As a writing instructor, I hear all the time from students “I hate writing” and “i’m a terrible writer” and the worst “I won’t ever need writing”. These negative student perceptions are often accompanied by student ego issues – students unwilling to listen, pay attention, do the work, believe me. So while I love these ideas, I’m a realist in this situation and understand self-assessment won’t work for everyone (I’m also playing around with growth mindset in gamified learning to see if I can reach more students).

I’m only halfway done with the book, but what struck me, and inspired this post, was the discussion of rubrics. I understand why teachers and professors love rubrics, but I hate rubrics. Do not like them. I’ve moved to a 1 point rubric – 1) Where you did well, 2) where you can improve. All my comments then center around this criteria and relate directly to key concepts from the course.

So, this book discusses the usefulness of rubrics – with the caveat that rubrics are co-constructed by teachers/instructors AND learners. I’ve tried this – I’ve asked students to help me fill out the key concepts based on my rubric and they wanted to write and not pay attention to the assignment they were completing (and then questioned grades). So I really like the short discussion on co-creating rubrics , then providing time and space for self-assessment of that criteria, then evaluating that self-assessment, then helping students develop strategies to improve their writing (or practice depending on content area). In this way, the criteria not only comes out of teacher-centered (which has been part of my issue with rubrics) by being co-constructed, students are also taught to develop their own understanding of the assignment, their own understanding of the assignment grading criteria – they are provided space to self-assess and develop techniques to self-evaluate (transfer!!!!!).

The idea that rubrics are more integrated into a cycle of drafting makes so much more sense to me than as grading criteria. How can I re-introduce rubrics as self-assessment criteria to support student learning of self-assessment strategies to improve and understand how to improve their writing? The rhetorical applications of this are endless……Plus, this idea holds value for writers outside academia. The likelihood that students will write a traditional academic research essay after graduation from their bachelor’s is minimal. However, students will write. Understanding how to contextualize their writing, and self-assess that writing within the context properly (not as I worked really hard on this email asking my boss for a raise – but as here is and email with the evidence I deserve a raise).

I’m worried calling this a rubric will still be problematic – it’s essentially breaking down assignment sheets and asking students to respond with their level of understanding of how criteria for grading will align with assignment sheets, and their strategies for drafting and revising based on that understanding. is that really a ‘rubric’ – but it should be….so do I need to call this cycle something different, without ‘rubric’ for students to reconsider OR do I need to help students shift their understanding of rubrics and their function within classrooms (as context builders and self-assessment tools) for the benefit of learning transfer?

I’m about to begin chapter 4 (of 5) and I highly recommend this book for those considering ways (and ALL the complexities) of supporting active self-assessment in their classrooms.

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Books, Books, Books

I have several in-progress projects right now that i’m reading for, and i’m finding so much interesting cross-over across these ideas. So, I’m making a “what i’m reading now and in the near future” list. I was inspired by a colleague who posted his summer reading list, but some of these are currently halfway read – so Summer Reading List didn’t seem to fit my understanding of my list. So I’ll call it Books, Books, Books – and then add more as the projects change – YAY!!!

  1. A Guide to Documenting Learning by Tolisano and Hale. This is one that I’ve already started, and it is so so so good. Active learning is important, and meaningful, but (and this is a cross-over alert) helping students recognize their learning so they can apply/transfer their understanding of understanding to new situations is SO important. Finding ways of helping students document and notice their learning is hard. This is where (so far) Tolisano and Hale provide really interesting ways of conceptualizing and applying these ideas. Many of the ideas are more K-12 focused, with some college level scattered throughout. But, the baseline ideas are easy to adapt by grade level AND discipline! I’m about halfway through this one, it’s excellent!
  2. Understanding Writing Transfer by Moore et al. This edited collection discusses various aspects of writing transfer. While not all chapters apply to every composition context – the broad range of topics and approaches to supporting learning transfer are so important for contemporary composition instructors. I’m looking forward to new ideas, and theories to support my existing SoTL work.
  3. Agents of Integration by Nowacek. More transfer research!!! Transfer requires a basic understanding, a working model of your own knowledge. Nowacek analyzes and discusses that self-model through rhetorical situation. I’m interested to see how framing and context support transfer and understanding of rhetorical situations.
  4. Create to Learn by Hobbs. Digital making to support digital literacies development – yes please :). I’m interested to see what tools and assignments and ideas Hobbs discusses in this book. I’m a big fan of her work – and this will be read before the Media Literacy Institute so I can help teachers consider assignment design to support critical engagement AND literacies development (i’m sure i’ll throw in tons of metacognition to tie all these theories together too!).
  5. Producing Good Citizens by Wan. I think this will be my book report selection for the Media Literacy Institute (#medialitmu assignment). I want to experience the assignments with the students – and I am really interested in the connections between Freshmen/English Composition and Digital Citizenship. While the connection to citizenship training is not new (this is what i’m hoping to rediscover with Wan), I think the connection to Digital Citizenship can be improved while supporting learning to write with a teaching for transfer model. I’m hoping to also find some connections here that can support early theory development for the International Policy Conference on campus in October.
  6. College Writing and Beyond by Beaufort. This is more transfer background reading. The TFT model my colleague and I have designed (and are testing) includes transfer-focused key concepts, then application of the key concepts through a theme. Beaufort is often cited for her critique of theme-based writing (themes without the TFT) so I am working through some theory development for a paper about our data results.
  7. Algorithms of Oppression by Noble. I have been wanting to read this book since before it was published. I participated in a Faculty Learning Community Fall 2017 on Raising Race Questions. It was so important, and so helpful. It raised a lot of important ideas, and led to a lot of important discussions about race, gender, and class in my freshmen English Composition courses. I’m really excited for further connection to digital tools. This is another that I plan to finish before the Media Literacy Institute to help support idea generation for K-12 teachers :).

So this is my list so far. Lots to read before July.

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Technology bans

I recently read an article about positive results (measured in test scores) when technology is banned in a classroom. As I’m prepping for Summer and Fall I’m becoming  disturbed by this trend and the questionable data, and the longterm implications of these bans.

Questionable data? But the grades improved.

Years and years ago I was asked by an Instructional Designer what grades were for – the meaning of grades. This is a surprisingly tricky question. The easy – but incorrect or at least short-sighted – answer is to demonstrate learning. So measuring the success and effectiveness with increased grades (as averaged by students across the course(s)) seems like a good measure. Technology is banned and average grade on midterm increased from 70% to 80%. Seems like HUGE results, right?

Well……what was the status of technology before? How was technology used in the course? I could argue that my use of Twitter has increased average paper grades from 70% to 80% because of how I use it to support learning about writing. Because of the combination of my pedagogy and the research it’s developed upon. If technology is implemented and well used in a classroom, grades and learning can be improved.

Not to be rude, but a technology ban that results in increased grades demonstrates a stronger link to previous poor technology usage (or at least lax technology usage that students exploited).

Student’s don’t know how to take notes on computers/tablets/technology just because they are ‘digital natives’ (which is always already a problematic concept). Students also probably don’t know how to effectively take notes for a given subject area. High-Impact Practices demonstrate again and again that students struggle to make connections across disciplines and explicate what they’ve learned. In these studies with positive results – did the technology ban result in some attention to note-taking. The articles I read usually include students self-reporting better note taking. This indicates to me that attention was paid IN CLASS to how to take notes, or just note-taking in general. Which means the results are not 100% a direct consequence of the technology ban!

Ok, rant over on that part.

Long term implications

As the instructor of the Media Literacy Institute on Digital Citizenship this summer, I’m really interested in the long-term implications of this. What happens when students go to work and only have laptops? What happens when these individuals communicate and engage in online spaces after experiencing bans? Bans usually indicate bad, so in what ways are technology bans creating internet communication errors? I’m not saying the job of all college faculty is to train all individuals to use the internet, i’m speaking more broadly about the implications of a ‘ban’.

What does a ban mean to you? Banned books usually excited readers to read what’s on the list, to become emotional about their favorite book that happens to be on the list. They discuss them more, they fight them more. Is that the mentality that supports positive digital citizenship on the global world wide web?

I really think we need to rethink the ‘technology ban’. I’m not arguing that all faculty should include technology in their classrooms – instead spend time discussing why technology is not appropriate for note-taking in your course, how to effectively take notes for better learning and exam/essay performance, and leave it at that. Why do we ban, when we could instead empower?

This is my call to empower technology in classrooms to support learning (I’m going to add this to my syllabus).

This is my call to empower discussions about effective note-taking in your class instead of a technology ban. I’m serious – call the section “Effective Note Taking” and describe (in positive terms) why technology is less effective and explain effective notes. Then let students remix those ideas to meet their individual needs. You’re empowering learners – including learners with disabilities without requiring extra effort by any student.

This is my call to return to student-centered syllabi and pedagogy by considering learning instead of blaming and banning technology.

If we all ban together (pun intended) to positively support and engage learners, using whatever technologies (paper and pencil are technology BTW) appropriate for our classrooms, we could create syllabi and students and classrooms focused on learning!

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Finals…….

It is final’s week at my institution, which for me means grading, student presentations, stressed students, and reflection on my curriculum.

While I have a bit of a filter-bubble in Twitter, I’ve seen tons of tweets circulating about self-care, the necessity of sleep to support studying and learning, campus-based activities to structure meaningful study breaks and provide food to students. I’ve seen my campus and colleagues try to address the student stressors to minimize cramming and sleeplessness.

I want to connect these ideas to reflection on my curriculum. While final projects and final essays are the norm in college composition classrooms, are there ways I can better support student learning while reducing stressors toward the end of the semester?

This semester I’ve been working on an ePortfolio plan for our department, so I played with Portfolio-based assignments in my class. This meant, students submitted ‘final’ drafts 3 weeks ago, received comments back from me, had class time to digest comments and work with peers, then submitted Portfolio drafts of their final essays (with reflection letters). The goal here was to support application of learning across drafts, with reflection on how final drafts in future classes can be as solid as the Portfolio draft for my class. But, I also considered how this would ease my grading load and reduce stress for students. They spent their time revising and composing, not drafting. Will they notice a difference? Or, will students wait until the last minute to revise the essays for my class giving priority to ‘new’ final projects?

So far (in 3 of my 4 classes) the presentations have seemed more relaxed. The students haven’t been frazzled – but there is no way to know if the curricular structure, their course load this term, or the mindfulness activities sponsored by campus and colleagues (or a combination) led to this reduced stress during my presentations. But it was really nice to discuss student presentations and projects with students who were less stressed. Is this enough to support learning about writing that will transfer across the curriculum (and life really), the outcome I would prefer to emphasize? I don’t know – but a few less stressed students seems like a win for the semester.

And, the essays were better 🙂

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Book Review: SoTL

McKinney, Kathleen. Enhancing Learning Through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. Anker Publishing, 2007.

This semester I joined a faculty learning community that read McKinney’s book about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I have a few projects right now that develop from the ideas of SoTL work, namely improving teaching and assignment design to improve learning.

Overall, this is a great book for interdisciplinary discussions on the value of SoTL work. It provides a significant number of resources and ideas – some organized by discipline to help readers from various areas find what they need. If you already value teaching and learning – as many teaching institutions do – this book is a bit less helpful as many of the chapters are devoted to why SoTL should be valued. Despite that, I still recommend the book to those interested in SoTL.

What I realized reading the book is I want more ideas for assessing and measuring learning on a smaller scale – then I want to address any needs that appear. When designed into the overarching curriculum mini-assessments can improve larger assessments, meet learning outcomes, support good learning.

But with writing courses, the default measurement is writing (grades on essays, content analysis of essays). More writing (so students can update, modify, demonstrate learning) equals so much grading. Because of McKinney’s book I’m now exploring ways of making learning visible to students so they can measure their own learning – so they can demonstrate learning.

Of course I expect to have the usual student resistance. For students who think they are strong writers so English Composition isn’t necessary for them, for students who think they’ll never learn to write – asking them to think through and make visible their own learning will be a struggle. I’m hoping growth mindset research has some ideas for long-term support to help in these cases. But I’m also wondering how students will conceptualize a course on composition where they need to make visible and measure their own learning. How will they understand the value – how will this mesh with transfer theory – how will I measure and record this? So many questions.

If you’re interested in SoTL I recommend this book – I think there is value to the interdisciplinary approach. I read about SoTL approaches used in different disciplines that helped me consider new approaches in my own. McKinney also provides really useful resources for supporting SoTL across campuses, and for accessing discipline specific information. If you already value SoTL you may find some chapters repeat what you already believe – but they can still be valuable for considering how other disciplines value and measure teaching and learning that may spark some creative approaches in your own classroom.

 

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Teaching Publicly

I have had these plans to post reviews of books and articles I’ve been reading lately – but I haven’t sat down and written those posts yet. So, I’m writing something completely differently today and it will be more stream of conscience than well thought out.

Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed Zeynep Tufekci about her public scholarship, critique of social media data use, and why scholars are so well poised to critique contemporary data politics. What caused me to want to write this stream of conscience post is Tufekci’s discussion of twitter. When asked about her social media use, and what she posts, Tufekci discusses the classroom and the way instructors strive to make the classroom open to different ideas – especially to engaging with different ideas from different angles to support student learning. She essentially brings this approach to her social media posts – how would my students respond to this type of a post, will this post maintain the comfort level of my students in my classrooms.

I love this idea.

I have struggled for a while with my Twitter scholarship – which has caused endless writer’s block and article writing that takes too long to complete. My hangup is closely related to Tufekci’s point – if I publish about Twitter and someone (hopefully) reads my paper then all my student writing for class is now public to my audience. Even students who didn’t provide permission for their tweet to be published in my article will now be found and read, and possibly read out of context. Our classroom is in twitter meaning my Twitter scholarship is always scholarship of teaching and learning, but I cannot ever guarantee the anonymity of students who happen to take my classes.

I see many scholars discuss their use of twitter without mentioning students – but I can easily find their classes and find their student writing. Do other scholars struggle with these ideas?

While I discuss this element of public writing with my students before they create their twitter handles and begin publicly performing student, do students truly understand what this means? Especially in freshmen composition where students are more traditional (18, right after high school graduation) – they are new to ‘adult’, do they understand what this public record can mean for them?

How do my discussions of public writing to support learning, public writing to support student ethos, public writing to support future post-graduation plans transfer? What elements do students remember later?

As I’m writing this, and writing about writing about twitter, I’m also outing my students’ public writing. I use this blog as sample text for assignments, peer review, word cloud play time, but are my students aware that digital literacy and information literacy stress contextualizing information which could cause readers here to check for legitimacy – does this blogger actually use twitter? I want to support meaningful information literacy practices, but that needs to mean consider the ways additional information could be connected and the ramifications (positive and negative) of connecting various pieces of a digital users identity/footprint. Are they comfortable investigating that?

Many are uncomfortable googling themselves, have they considered the ways they can be found through the choices of others? (Thanks Facebook)

So my stream of conscience writing became a huge list of questions – how do the information literacy practices valued within higher education support connecting my students to my public work? How do students connect my classroom self with my public/twitter self? How do readers of my work connect my students as validation of my work? Digital and information literacies support good practices in the effort to fight ‘fake news’ and similar misinformation campaigns – but we need to consider how those same practices make our digital work even more public possibly for negative ends. Then consider – what are the ramifications of my writing about social media tools?

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Choice in Curriculum

Yesterday I attended a Center for Academic Excellent (CAE) session on offering choice in the curriculum. I saw direct connection to an article my Freshmen Composition students read by Brian Ray, “More than Just Remixing: Uptake and new media composition.” The idea is students develop research questions based on their interests as they align with course content – then spend a long period of time research, investigating, studying, that questions. Students then present their findings, in essay format or multimodal format. The key – and the connection to Ray – is students need to determine the format, the mode, the technology that will best represent their thesis.

For the past few years I’ve asked students to create a multimodal project based on their final essay in freshmen composition (this assignment is not unique to me, but really fun and important). The major goal is to play with non-essay mediums and genres specific to a student audience. I’ve noticed students struggle with the medium they’ll use – they automatically default to wanting to use powerpoint because it’s familiar within an education setting. When I remind students the assignments asks for no powerpoint – they choose Prezi. No matter how much we’ve discussed that they need to select a medium that best conveys their point for the audience, they select comfortable and familiar technologies.

I noticed with the examples discussed in the CAE session that students seemed to select comfortable and familiar mediums in other classes as well. While the choice is empowering, I wonder how to structure assignments to support student risk taking. I also wonder if working toward risk taking and supporting tech exploration moves the emphasis away from what technologies can support toward developing technology skills.

So the struggle is, how can a composition classroom focused on developing strong academic writers and thinkers also support similar critical thinking/engagement with technologies when use skills may also need to develop.

How does adding choice that include multimedia add a new layer of complexity and how can instructors deal with the connection to skills? How can I develop a multimodal assignment, connected to course curriculum that supports critical thinking? critical engagement with how technologies support meaning making and carry communication? skill and practices development through new technology play that will support life-long learning?

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