Tag Archives: higher education

I’m reading The Available Means of Persuasion as I sift through readings for my forthcoming graduate courses. Helping students grapple with dense ideas of rhetoric, digital media, digital media literacy, digital rhetoric, and media literacy (literacies, etc.) requires students read a breadth of approaches.

I’m fascinated with their discussion of rhetorical agency. They explore the “the way agency is distributed across human and nonhuman actors” to understand how “multimodal public rhetoric is linked to the material concerns of technology and space” (p. 11). Their theory explores kairos, kairotic invention, and rhetorical agency as these assist a public rhetor’s preparedness for seeing the available means of persuasion.

While their attention to kairos and rhetorical agency is incredibly helpful, i’m left wondering in what ways the tools they discuss continue to use us (the users). Their aim is to inspire composition instructors to help students develop practices as multimodal public rhetors. This is amazing, I love it! But…….using the available technologies kairotically focuses time and attention on the situation, but never reflects on the affordances of the technologies being used.

Keep in mind, I do understand that a 15 week (or less!) composition cannot cover EVERYTHING. My aim here is not to critique their approach, but to wonder where and when reflection and critique of the affordances and algorithms of these technologies can feasibly be integrated into praxis.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was speaking with a colleague in the Library when he was approached by a student. Said student had questions about an undergrad honors thesis on Netflix and their LGBTQ category. After some back and forth questioning, the student was fairly happy to hear a body of research exists on YouTube videos and ‘coming out’ as genre. During the back and forth, the student commented on the prevalence of the LGBTQ queue in their stream (where I didn’t know it existed, but I have tons of kid categories). Additionally, the student commented on the types of films/shows featured (hence the ‘coming out’ genre analysis idea). When I began to mention the role the Netflix algorithm played in determining some of that information there was a significant amount of blank stares leveled at me. It’s not that considerations of algorithms influencing what viewers/users have access to is a difficult to understand concept – it just significantly complicates our traditional humanities approach (in this case – genre analysis).

As I read Sheridan, Ridolofo and Michel’s discussion of kairos as an important aspect of multimodal public rhetoric I immediately remembered the Netflix conversation. As we (composition instructors) include multimodal projects into our curriculums, is there a good space for discussing how the algorithm influences user experiences? When approaching a thesis as a genre analysis, it seems genre analysis as a method should include analysis (to the extent possible since most algorithms are kept fairly private) or at least discussion of the fact that an algorithm based on user preferences influences what a given user sees – highlighting the genre being analyzed. But, where does that conversation belong within the curriculum of an undergraduate degree? There is so much to discuss and practice at the Freshmen Composition level, adding yet another task that detracts from writing practices as transferrable simply dilutes writing learning. So where?

On a side note, I’ll begin teaching a Content Management course Spring 2018, this concept clearly needs to be a concern within that class!

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Book Review

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

One of the biggest struggles, as a reader of texts on digital and media literacy in classrooms, is finding a book that balances theory and practical classroom application of the theories. In an effort to avoid being prescriptive I’ve read too many texts that provided only theories and discussions of existing studies with no classroom application. I’ve read others with too little focus on the theory that influenced and supported the lesson plans. Unlike others works, Hobbs finds a great balance of theory and example lesson plans.

Underlying Hobbs discussion is the need to help students develop working theories of media and digital social tools, to strengthen their practices with these tools, and to develop their critical approaches to these spaces.  This focus matches my goals when using and discussing digital media tools.  Students need to learn to use the tools and avoid letting the tools use them – critical approaches to what students know and what they experience is so important for meaningful student engagement with the tools used.

In my advanced composition I require students to follow a social media user of their choice. The only recommendation I have for selecting a user and space is for students to not picking something too close to their heart – it can be difficult to analyze and critique your own fandoms. As I was finishing this book I received an email from a composition student thanking me for requiring students to critically engage with social media. Despite early skepticism with using social media – she appreciated the assignment and the chance to critically engage with a social media of her choice.

For this assignment at least, approaching social media to help students develop critical practices was a success. Developing assignments with Hobbs goal of developing more critically engaged students is possible! YAY!

While I’m updating my syllabi for my Summer and Fall classes I’m continuing to consider additional ways to develop more critical literacies practices. While we, as a class, brought in real-world examples early in the semester, we didn’t continue with this practice. I want to continue to support this practice in students and am consider ways of modifying my Twitter assignment to encourage (require) students to critically engage with news media in addition to the social media assignment. Both support critical reading and writing – the major goals of composition courses – and will allow for both academic and public genre writing.

Reading Hobbs book emphasized the importance of critical engagement with news media. While her book barely touches on videogames – my favorite media form – I really appreciated the mix of theory and practical application of digital and social media to support literacies development.

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STEM to STEAM

While I was teaching at NAU we developed an undergraduate videogame symposium to support undergraduate research in a topic they loved – videogames. During the second year we ran the event we used the idea of STEAM – Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math – as the guiding theory for the event, drawing the humanities into discussions of technology.

The push for STEAM education has continued to grow since our conference two years ago. I just saw a webinar hosted by Ozobots on using Ozoblockly (their programming app) to foster STEAM classrooms. What caught my eye about their webinar sign-up is the reduction of STEAM to “art and technology” as they relate to their programming color commands.

I personally love the Ozobots because of their color coding – these color codes do support easy learning of programming basics (I haven’t played around with the Ozoblockly app since I don’t have a tablet). I also love that the Ozobots light up with so many different colors – the programming of personality is really engaging.

What i’m not understanding is how this use of colors means Art. I also missed the webinar, so i’m sure it was more engaged than I’m discussing here, but honestly the Ozobot webinar description is just the starting point for my thought pattern here.

As a Humanities faculty member, when I discuss STEAM I see “Art” as the stand in for Humanities in general, more specifically Humanities based critical thinking, critical reading and critical writing. There is a ton of important criticism on the inclusion of just the A and the collapse of all Humanities fields into Art, there is also important criticism on reading the A as Art and not understanding the depth of opportunity available from a more nuanced understanding of Art. I am not going to include these discussions here, they are easily available to those interested.

What I want to focus on instead are the underlying questions:

  • Why did the advocates of shifting from STEM to STEAM (a lot of the research points to changes beginning at RISD) focus specifically on Art? Is the goal artistic creativity, tinkering, critical engagement, or something more specific to art? Since creativity and tinkering have existed in other humanities fields (remember Social Studies classes in Junior High with the student video assignments, debates – that’s one example of creativity and tinkering in the Humanities most of us experienced), why Art – basically was “Art” selected for a cool acronym, or is there something specific that has been left out of subsequent discussions?
  • Why should STEM education see a need to include Art? What is happening, maybe not well, that drives this need?
  • While STEAM is becoming more popular, why isn’t this acronym also addressed at the collegiate level? We required curricular general education requirements to support a broadly educated student (breath is the horizontal bar in a T diagram) and a major/minor for a deeply educated student (depth is the vertical bar in a T diagram). But when makerspaces and digital labs are created, discussed, funded, why aren’t humanities faculty included in those discussions?

I have a whole slew of reading to accomplish this summer to help me address these ideas. This is partly for a Graduate seminar this summer and a Graduate seminar in the Fall (which will include a publishing opportunity – former grad students let me know if you want to be involved because I know i’ll need more authors). This is also partly for a conference in October – Feminism and Rhetorics (I was accepted, YAY).

How can feminist pedagogy help STEAM? How can feminist pedagogy (i’m starting with bell hook’s Teaching to Transgress) help curriculum design that both supports student learning/engagement, and supports student critical learning/engagement with technology. I want students to develop critical reflection on their technology choices, by using technology to learn composition – to develop their own working ideas of writing (#teachingfortransfer).

As a first step, these are the questions I have at this point. I’ll continue to develop the underlying questions about STEAM which influence the approaches used by technology companies to aid teachers in integrating technology in the classroom – to find ways of disrupting the expectations for college classrooms.

 

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Let’s Talk About Grammar

I know the research on direct grammar instruction shows it has no effect, sometimes even a negative effect when it takes away from composition instruction (NCTE affirms these findings here).

As I read Warner’s piece on Inside HigherEd (here) about pushback comments to direct grammar instruction I considered the times when I’ve lectured on grammar.

Style

When discussing rhetorical moves made by academics in different disciplines, part of the discussion looks to grammar structure too. The passive construction of methodology details provided in the sciences is very important to that field, so it needs to be discussed as part of the style of the discipline. In understanding style and noticing these choices, the complexities of audience become more clear.

Well, let’s be honest, the goal of this conversation is to help students realize there are different grammatical values in different disciplines. All disciplines care about presentation, academic support, proper use of MLA/APA/AP/Chicago/IEEE/etc., argument support, clear argument development, consistent format and organization. The problem is, the grammatical details catch faculty members, so their significance to writing takes on more weight.

When discussing this with a freshmen class, it’s necessary to provide an example. So I use my son.

Marshall was accepted to [insert prestigious school here].

[insert prestigious school here] accepted Marshall.

These style choices rely on some element of grammar knowledge – students must identify the subject of the sentence, the verb, and the object to understand how the style choice significantly changes the meaning of the sentence.

This first step is where many students often struggle. They struggle to identify the parts of the sentence.

After I help them with the first sentence they are rockstars with the second. BONUS: I can see learning transfer across a short time period – which is amazing.

Grammar versus Style

At this point I often wonder, am I directly lecturing on grammar with this style example. Will this style example/discussion carry weight in their learning so they access these ideas in new writing situations.

It’s such a small part of the overall curriculum (again, focused more heavily on the argument presentation ideas above) that I doubt it carries – but it holds so much significance. While it’s grammar, I’m imparting knowledge on basic grammar functions, the real focus of these discussions is style. What is the place of style in composition teaching?

Based on disciplinary feedback, my department has considered the idea of creating stand alone style courses (there are amazing books on style that can be incredibly helpful). But not all students will volunteer for this approach to writing.

As I work through final grading for the Spring 2017 semester I begin to plan my next courses. While I’m teaching mostly Grad classes this summer, I will also be planning a curricular overhaul of FYC in the Fall. Is there a place for style discussions? I’ll also be teaching a Junior level composition – are juniors more prepared for this discussion?

Also, if I work it into the curriculum, where would it be 1) the easiest to teach based on surrounding assignments (hello scaffolding)? 2) the most meaningful to students (hello transfer)?

While I don’t think I’ll have THE PERFECT (imagine this in a big booming voice) answer, I will play around with this idea as I create new curriculum.

This might be a bigger project requiring a shift in disciplinary understanding of their own writing practices. While they often point to comma errors and split infinitives, is the underlying concern more one of style, or truly grammar. On a side note –  we all make these grammar mistakes. And may I remind these faculty of the most famous “To boldly go” split infinitive?

Now, on to exploring the place of style in an updated, Teaching for Transfer modeled composition curriculum.

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Motivation and Mindset

I participated in a Faculty Learning Community read of The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion. While it’s looking like I’ll miss the last faculty meet discussion of the book, I want to engage with the final chapter of the book, so I’m writing instead.

Additionally, I’m working on a conference proposal for CCCC 2018. Our panel will focus on the idea of transfer. While Writing across Contexts is the focus, I started reading the edited collection Understanding Writing Transfer and want to consider how the discussion of emotions in a curriculum mix well with curriculum design focused on transfer.

One theory discussed by Cavanagh in chapter 5 is control-value (there is tons of research on this – read Cavanagh for the overview I’m not providing here). Essentially educators want students to have a lot of control so they see high value in the assignment to inspire “self-directed learning that results in a shift in how they [students] see the world, and something that lasts for their lifetimes” (Cavanagh 145). While Cavanagh isn’t using the term transfer – what I’m taking away from this discussion is the goal of transfer (i’m also applying this to composition courses).

If I look at just control-value – I do this (as do most composition courses). I encourage students to select a topic that is meaningful to them, and to draw from a discipline that interests them (students also create a project adding a secondary layer of control-value). But, by itself, this assignment isn’t necessarily motivating. Nor, and most importantly, does it inspire good writing, good understanding of writing, reflecting writing, understanding of one’s own writing process, and all the other necessary steps for humans to develop strong writing skills. Cavanagh provides great ideas on scaffolding learning, providing long-term assignments that inspire high control and high value in students – but I struggled with finding the application in [my?] composition course.

Typically, students don’t see the benefit of a composition course. Freshmen often enter college with experiences writing literary analysis in high school English classes. The goal of Freshman Composition is not literary analysis, but a more general ‘academic writing’ that prepares students for disciplinary writing (in all disciplines since their major may change AND they will probably [hopefully] write for gen eds). The goal is to teach students who don’t think they need writing, students who don’t want writing, students who don’t think they’ll ever write in their profession, and students genuinely interested in learning to write. Motivating students to see the control-value situation of a writing assignment so they embrace the learning of writing is difficult (note: i’m not assuming this is easy in ANY class – i’m simply applying to my discipline).

As I read Moore’s “Five Essential Principles About Writing Transfer” I began to see connections back to the control-value theory through principle 3 – the need to develop students habits of mind and identities to help students see their high control and the high value in transferring writing. For so many of the mini assignments I have students engage with this is the underlying theory (I didn’t know I was using) – helping students recognize their previous habits and assemble and remix new knowledge in to transform their prior knowledge of writing. Which helps motivate students to see the purpose in their own learning (developing their own theory of writing – Teaching for Transfer goals) – which helps high control and high value assignments work.

As I move forward with my CCCC 2018 panel discussion I’m working in ways gameplay can help students develop mindset necessary to transform their prior knowledge (principle 1 and principle 3). As I continue to work through new curriculum i’m constantly considering – what does this look like in the curriculum? What flexibility can I design to modify these approaches based on the students IN THAT SECTION?

I also need to read more on mindset – Dweck’s book is in my TBR pile!

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Predictive Analysis

While I love technology in the classroom, I try to not assume that technology can address many issues students encounter as students of the class (and other classes). I love the idea of grammar help through programs designed by textbook publishers (sold to faculty as a way to remove the need to address grammar in composition classrooms) but what drives students to want to use those – and to internalize the learning so it can be accessed as base knowledge in other situations (transfer)? This is a really complicated consideration.

With that always bubbling in my subconscious, and 2 sections of freshmen comp topic proposals to grade, I read Challenging Superficial Solutions here on Inside Higher Ed. To address a high failing course, instead of relying on just early alert systems to tell the high percentage of failing students they were failing, Ben-Naim describes how a course redesigned with threshold concept tutorials.

I’m exploring Teaching for Transfer (TFT) and Writing About Writing (WAW) and transfer theory to address similar issues in freshmen composition courses. I am redesigning to explore the threshold concept idea – inspired heavily by Writing Across Contexts. my bubbling subconscious loved this portion of the Challenging Superficial Solutions post.

Where I struggled is toward the end – Ben-Naim breaks down failing course options to only early alert systems OR fixing the course.

1) this assumes the course is broken (yes there is still bad teaching built on bad (or no) pedagogy). Is this an assumption I’m comfortable making, no. I’ve taught so many students through the years who want to achieve, and I’ve taught so many who scrape by. Is it the fault of my course if a student shows up to every single class period, participates in discussion, but submits no assignments (i’ve had this happen more than once). This example is not uncommon, as is the student who disappears halfway through the system. Neither of these are indicative of a broken course, but they factor into the failure percentages when looking at the course as a whole. We can’t choose who to exclude from data sets, so the set discussion should include the variable of the student.

2) this assumes there are only 2 ways to address the situation – early alert OR predictive analysis addressing of threshold concepts to increase learning. This sounds fantastic – sign me up for a situation in which I can teach threshold concepts and pass an entire course. Oh, wait, there are students involved, students with their own agendas that cool digital modules (which is amazing and should be used whenever possible to address the majority of learners needs) can’t touch. I agree early alert systems puts the responsibility back on the student, and a study skills counselor (a position I just invented right here!) would be immensely beneficial in helping the student address the real problems. Early alert is more indicative of a student who possibly doesn’t have the maturity to attend school, or doesn’t understand how to adjust their learning for the new situation. These systems can be beneficial, but they don’t necessarily address the needs of students. Similarly, if the course is difficult, new approaches to teaching are necessary and strong digital content can help faculty address those concerns.

However, we can’t leave the student out of these discussions. What drives students to college? These questions need to be considered by those in higher education, and by students and their families. How can university/college resources then help students meet academic, educational, and professional goals to help students graduate? To improve graduation numbers?

When we have these discussions, and complicate the systems that universities embrace to improve retention and graduation rates, we can’t forget the students. When I worked as a functional analyst my job was to break the system I was testing, even if the sequence of clicks was highly unlikely. Users will always make their own decisions and design needs to account for that. Students are the same – students will do what they please no matter how thoughtful our systems – so how do we return the humanity to these discussions.

On a PS side note I just finished reading Rogue Archives which has an amazing discussion of how the 1990s and early 2000’s ushered in an age of women’s interaction with technology framed by the goal of saving humanity – so humanity in relation to technology has also been an ongoing discussion that obviously influenced this post.

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More on Twitter and SNS

This also appears in my working annotated bibliography pages.

Tess, P.A. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual) – A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29.

In this review article, Tess discusses articles published prior to 2012 that discuss social media in higher education classrooms. Tess found that most of the articles published about social networking sites in the classroom relied on surveys and questionnaires for evidence of outcomes.

While a bit dated in 2016 (year of my posting), his concluding question still stands up 4 years after data collection. Tess asks “Can the same affordances of social networking sites that support individual level use, commend the integration of SNSs into the higher education class?” (p. A66). This question continues to be researched. I continue to grapple with this question when I assign not just SNSs as required technology for the course, but with Web 2.0 technologies (such as Word Clouds and Infographics), and with the learning management system.

This is also a very complex question – do instructors use SNSs in similar ways that influence how a site is assigned? I’ve discussed Twitter with various colleagues, many implement the tool in their classrooms very differently than I do while our learning goals are similar. So in asking if individual level use can be integrated into the higher ed classroom, the researcher also needs to consider practices associated with the SNSs realizing practices are not uniform across users.

It’s this question that I want to focus on here. When I assign Twitter to students, I build the assignment as a “Live Tweeting Class Notes” and “Live Tweeting Reading Notes” assignment, that also requires engagement with peers in the course hashtag. Have I just recreated the discussion board differently? I drew on ideas of Writing about Writing in developing this assignment, where students write informally about their own writing and learning.

What I know so far:

  • students are writing about writing
  • students are practicing writing for a known audience
  • students are writing in a shorthand form that must convey an argument (elevator pitch)
  • students are more engaged
    • favorite created hashtag so far #drphelpmegetthatdegree

Next steps –

  • beyond surveys and questionnaires, how can I measure the effectiveness of Twitter in the classroom?
  • is there a measured difference based on major? Now that I’m teaching a junior level writing with next to no English majors – how does this space help students further along in their majors write about writing?

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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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Creativity in the Classroom

I often call my approach to “Game Days” or “Quest Days” gameful, sometimes gamification, sometimes game-like learning, occasionally problem based. At best, my pedagogy is a student-centered, and creatively gameful. So we’ll go with at best.

As I wrote the Game Day quests (my Videogames and Literacies course) and Quest Day quests (my Rhetoric Capstone) I revisited Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry for inspiration on inspiring creativity. That’s right, inspiration on inspiring creativity. What games do well is design systems with rewards, motivations, and choice that allow players (users/learners) to experience learning. Once players have enjoyed learning, they’ll enter levels where creativity matters. For example games in the Little Big Planet franchise and similar games allow a player to collect items that will aid a player in designing their own level – once the player has reached an appropriate level within the game as decided by the game designers. In games like Plants vs. Zombies 2 the player has access to a LIMITED number of plants to begin with, then as the player progresses they open plants. The game then emphasizes choice as each level allows a limited number of plant slots (let’s say 5) while the player probably has a large arsenal (6-50 for instance). In all these cases, the game helps the player level up, limiting many of their choices until they’ve reached a more advanced level in the game – with game elements and desire to make more choices helping to motivate the player.

Education and an individual course are not designed in this manner. Course-to-course learning is absolutely scaffolded, which in many ways game learning mirrors. But the restriction of choice is not very present as a motivational tool. So as I read through Barry’s Syllabus I was exploring ideas of inspiring inspiration as a way to academically mimic the choice scaffolding and motivation of games to design my gameful course day assignments. What this reminded me is that I may use game-based language with quest, levels, varying points, and bonus points – but what i’m adding back to the classroom in these early quests is inspiration to be creative and free-space to create choice. These are the new elements to my gameful assignments students struggle the most with as they are the most new element.

In Syllabus Barry experiments (across several semesters) with ways to activate showing thinking, from drawing circles, to drawing on notecards, to writing and drawing everything in composition notebooks for an entire semester. She explores, with her students, what ideas look like in physical form, what processes and thinking look like in physical form in composition notebooks.

So for these first two gameful days I’ve asked students to simply create. And I have a feeling tomorrow, when they’re asked in class to create this will be the panic moment. I don’t have the practice space that games do in this learning situation, I need my students to move to choice must faster than a game would allow. What I’m struggling with today, is this classroom gameful? At the college level, does this need to be the steep cliff for students to experience creatively learning? Is this inspiring inspiration?

One of my online grad students said it best – I’ve come to expect the unexpected in Dr P’s classes. I find that inspiring, so hopefully it inspires inspiration in my students tomorrow!

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2014. Print.

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Backchannel and Notes

In a summer grad class I taught I began using Twitter. I’ve heard amazing ideas and stories of uses in f2f courses for creating a backchannel for students to participate in class, and to identify when information needs further discussion. This second idea influenced my adoption of this technology in an online only grad class – could I use Twitter to create a digital archive of the course, similar to class discussions, and also use those notes to address any struggles with course materials. I specifically designed the assignment to create a store house of notes from reading, so students could use all the notes from all the students, plus LMS discussions, as they created their theory papers. It provided alternative approaches to course material, requiring students to find ways to write virtual notes about each reading in 140 characters or less.

Many students struggled in the beginning – thinking of notes in such short bursts was difficult to them. They wanted to write paragraph length notes. After the first couple weeks, Tweets were more effective for note purposes, and more useful to students as they wrote their paper.

Additionally, these notes demonstrated the learning and focus of students, so they served as an unofficial backchannel for me – I could gauge the responses of students and prepare for their projects more effectively based on their understanding, discussion and embracing of the course readings.

Moving forward with this assignment, I’ll be more overt with the backchannel. Students who experimented with Twitter were willing to include my handle when questions arose, and they were happy to engage with my posts when I responded, but few reached out to other students, instead preferring to post in isolation. I’ll work on engagement in the Fall as I use Twitter again in courses to further support engagement with the course, course materials, course concepts, and Twitter as a learning tool.

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