Tag Archives: learning

Assignment Guidelines

I introduced the Module 2 assignments to my Web Writing and Content Management course on Monday. They are creating a Landscape Analysis, Audience Analysis, and Content Recommendation report.

I’m so excited about these assignments. Students can do so many creative things, with very little work, and no design experience. So, I left page requirements, word requirements, general recommendations related to formatting completely off the assignment. I told students to refer to the course textbook which includes summaries, bullet objectives, graphics, and images to convey information as a guideline.

So reading Warner’s similar recommendation on Inside Higher Education was great. Similar to Warner’s discussion, I left off requirements because I want students to think about content design in their reports about content design. I told them this.

BUT, I still had questions about page length. While this is really not surprising – this is a Junior level course, these students are really good at being students – it is more difficult to help guide students through analysis of content applying principles from the reading while also asking them to apply those same ideas to their own document. The questions students asked about document length and formatting absolutely indicated the final ‘reports’ they imagined look like essays.

Next week when we meet we’ll briefly discuss content, so they use their analysis of Landscape and Audience to connect directly to content recommendations and content created. We’ll discuss how this is what they’re very comfortable doing with secondary evidence in writing that is familiar to them, and more reminiscent of writing they’ll complete in professional settings. Now, I need to further reinforce that they need to critically analyze the format of THEIR content as an ethos move.

I’m considering tweeting good and bad examples all week, but that would require so much work. How did I learn to consider document design as part of ethos, how do I help students to that metacognitive space?

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eportfolios and badges

On Saturday I attended the full day workshop on ePortfolios at AAC&U. In several different sessions, and by several different speakers, the idea of using ‘badges’ to support student learning through eportfolios was mentioned.

While I use games in my classroom I’ve never found good integration points for badges – I always see them as behavior driven, or skill-based. I don’t think writing is a skill – I don’t think certifying students in FYC who earn a C or better as “FYC Writing Skill” would carry significant meaning/weight.

I think the mentioning (and it was mentioning not full panel discussions – more ‘here’s another way to use eportfolios, digital badges’) of badges was to add a layer of cool, to point to recent innovations and further digital connections – the idea really stuck with me as a framework for approaching eportfolio design as my institution. In focusing on developing an online graduate certificate program for writing, the goal is to clearly communicate to potential students (and employers) the value of this degree. This is where eportfolios is a great connection – they allow professional writing samples and reflection on learning to raise student awareness of their writing practices and their understanding of writing.

If badges are system ‘awards’ that ‘certify’ learning – how can these be integrated to better demonstrate and exemplify learning outcomes of the program in a way that both attracts students and communicates meaningful information to employers?

I currently (and have for a long time) play Words with Friends (the newer edition). This game awards badges for completing points in a week, for creating a specific number of words using difficult letters like J, Q, Z, etc. The app is designed to force me to click through badges (good UX design to raise awareness for a new award system!), but beyond some coins or help, these badges don’t have any meaning. For me, these types of badges dilute the meaning of meaningful badges because they offer nothing to the player. They don’t support game learning, they don’t support learning of new words (the dictionary attachment with definitions is a great addition for on-demand learning!). What is the value of these badges.

So as I move forward with my difficult question of considering how to design program learning outcomes as badges to support a portfolio project in a graduate certificate (hahahaha that is quite the goal for the next month), I want to draw from meaningless to craft meaningful.

I do think that translating program learning outcomes to badges, then asking students to understand the learning outcomes by submitting portfolio quality papers to each area of the program is a great way to visualize learning goals that will help learners through the program, and help them communicate their own learning and expertise upon graduation. The first obstacle will be committee buy-in of the learning outcome translations I present to them……..

I am excited that there are meaningful ways to rethink badges – to use badges without even necessarily describing them with that videogame-based terminology that will support better student learning. Now to design that at the program level, then the course level………

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Learning

Nilson, Linda B. The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating your course. Jossey-Bass, 2007.

I just finished reading Nilson’s work advocating for including graphic representations of course outcomes and learning. Nilson’s goal with the chapters and examples included is to further support student learning by using multimedia graphics (text and image mostly) to represent the overall flow and knowledge foundation of courses, so students can develop correct foundational knowledge.

I read the book because I wanted to do more with my syllabus. I was an easy sell for the content of this book. BUT, I found the HUGE variety of possibilities overwhelming. Nilson spends chapters on learning theory and multimedia learning to support her point, chapters on finding gaps when visually representing the syllabus, but I felt I needed more on visual organization ideas to support content. The problem with what I want is that a book can’t answer that desire for all faculty everywhere. How a faculty member demonstrates the connections can be unique even when the content is fairly similar. The graphics represent personality in the course, uniqueness of the students at the institution, and the learning goals of the course.

So, here is my first attempt at graphically representing the connection in my Freshmen Composition syllabus in an effort to develop a deeper understanding of foundational knowledge of writing, and the connection the essays/assignments have to supporting student writing development (with disciplinary and work writing in their future). We’ll see how it goes 🙂

I started with a free Piktochart template (thanks Piktochart for awesome free basic templates). Then I built it up from there. I saved as an image to my syllabus, and as a stand alone image for students to reference.

ENGL 110 Learning Outcomes

What do you think?

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Supporting Learning – Student Outreach

Fall 2018 my department will launch a 100% online Graduate Certificate in Writing. This certificate program has been approved on campus for a number of years, but there has been no advertising, no support, no enrollment. To launch this program officially, it needed an overhaul, it needed curriculum to meet the needs of 21st century learners. So my recommendation to the committee was to streamline the courses to be completed, and deliver them 100% online in a year time frame.

In shifting to the online platform, many of the faculty in my department are nervous about teaching graduate courses (especially never before taught graduate courses) through the online platform. So I asked to lead a faculty reading group to support faculty in discussing teaching composition online – or Online Writing Instruction (OWI). We’re reading Applied Pedagogies: Strategies for Online Writing Instruction edited by Daniel Ruefman and Abigail G Scheg.

So far (I’m reading chapter 6 of 11) a question/concern regularly raised is “how to succeed in an online course”. Some chapters raise approaches to support student learning in online courses while others focus on instructor success (yes, teaching an online class SHOULD be different than teaching a face-to-face!). What’s important about these conversations is the student-centered focus on success in an online platform BOTH success with the online delivery (finding things) and with learning (content).

One of the automated ways of refocusing students in the digital classroom (even in f2f delivery) is student outreach. When students don’t submit assignments, when students don’t access pages, have the system automatically email.

CAVEAT: some students print everything! There are ways in some LMS systems to automatically print files in a module folder that don’t register a student having accessed specific pages. Setting up automatic student outreach may be overkill for EVERY page because there is no guarantee students haven’t accessed in print.

I’m also reading through The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating your course which emphasizes showing students the larger structures of organizing content knowledge so they know how to model the background knowledge you’ve created, where individual module pieces fit in, etc.

So, I want to combine these two ideas – to support a learner-centered classroom, how can I use automated messaging to support student content learning so they know how to make sense of their learning AND recognize learning? Instead of using Student Outreach messages as “hey, I see you didn’t submit the thing, how can I help” what if they focused back on learning “this assignment fits here on the learning map” (I default to pirate themed designs as we’re marauders – aka land pirates). The message could be tailored then to students who submitted and students who didn’t. If all students realize they are being direct messages in support of their learning, will they be more active agents in their own learning?

At this point – while still reading both books and prepping Spring 2018 syllabi – i’m still considering how these ideas come together to support students learning. But, I think it’s important to note – OWI offers new ways to be teachers, new ways to be students, we should consider how these new ways shift our questions and our focus. We should keep addressing questions like “how to succeed in the online classroom” but I think the focus should be more positive, even more positive learner-focused (growth mindset and/or mindfulness ideas would help me flesh this out here, but I’m trying to keep my findings more brief than that). How can these new tools, seemingly designed to track student submissions and engage students with things in the course, be used to teach students how to learn in was that positively effect learning AND engagement?

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Discussion Boards and Online Teaching

I was reading a thread in an online teaching forum about late discussion board posts. Many of the educators were willing to allow some points beyond their syllabus stated policy for comprehension, but not engagement. However, one poster equated the discussion board to the classroom essentially stating educators don’t hold make-up classes for students so why award points for late work.

I should also frame this with the fact that I have a fairly loose late policy – each student has one free late assignment – no questions asked (I don’t want to know about the vomit, or the grandma, or the dog, etc.) AS LONG AS THEY NOTIFY ME IN ADVANCE. They only need to notify me a few minutes in advance – the policy is an automatic yes if you’ve asked – I see this as a way to get better papers and slightly less stressed students.

So with the understanding that late policies are set by instructors and institutions, and vary greatly, I want to focus on the idea that the discussion board = class.

When I wrote my dissertation, Scott Warnocks Teaching Writing Online: How and Why was one of the most comprehensive texts about online composition courses. It still holds a high place on mosts lists (include this one). Warnock recommends instructors translate their face-to-face curriculum online, emphasizing the writing possibilities in digital spaces. In many ways, this reliance on translate or migrate is similar to the discussion board I’m following – instructors make a direct one to one connection between what happens in face-to-face class and what therefore must happen online. However, this overvalues the face-to-face classroom model.

Not all classrooms look the same. I need to say this again, Instructors choose to teach their classes in ways that meet curricular goals effectively for them. Not all classrooms look the same. So, why do online courses needs to look just the face-to-face course?

I understand and agree that many students are new to online learning – reinventing the wheel with design and learning decisions students don’t understand in the online classroom space can be problematic – instead of learning content students focus on understanding navigation, design, and basic instructions. I don’t want to purposely confuse students, but I also think if we continue to tell them that discussion boards = class they will continue to phone-in their discussion posts. Not all students thrive on active participation in face-to-face classrooms, but discussion boards don’t offer the type of flexibility that classrooms do (it’s harder to notice if a student is struggling and/or disliking the forced conversation in posts the way instructors can notice in the classroom).

In the Spring semester I’m leading a small departmental reading group about teaching online composition. I’m really hoping to develop conversations like this – how does design influence how students learn, and how can online composition courses use that to facilitate better learning? Let’s move away from an online needs to resemble a face-to-face and begin the questioning and the inquiry from the point of learning in digital space. Since learning is the goal, let’s reimagine ourselves as less point calculators for discussions that should resemble a classroom, and consider where we can design moments of learning about writing, where meaningful feedback can be returned for student learning and writing improvement. I hope I can quickly shift everyone away from using a tool because it ‘mimics’ the classroom, and focus on using tools that support good learning about writing.

This ended up being a rather hopeful – my year ahead post. Well, tis the season and all 🙂

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Creativity and Play

Resnick, Mitchel. Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play. MIT Press, 2017.

I love to consider integration points for play in the course curriculum – these moments usually work best with projects, groups assignments, problem-based learning, and reflection. So I was wanted to like this book from the beginning, and I see a lot of cross-over with my pedagogical approach.

Overall, the book is fantastic. Resnick discusses the creative learning spiral (p. 11), and the 4 p’s (projects, passion, peers and play). These are important discussions and considerations for education and educational theory.

While I like the creative learning spiral (imagine, create, play, share, reflect, imagine…..) the applications within the text have a huge product focus – and it’s a project product not an essay. Writing is mentioned in off handed ways (on one occasion as if writing is just one thing like there is one way to write – which is odd from someone who published a fairly mainstream book through the MIT Press…..). The Creative Learning Spiral and approaches to projects, passion, peers and play would benefit from humanities thinking.

Every time I considered this idea – this would benefit from humanities thinking – I asked myself what do I mean by Humanities thinking. While the focus of a book review should be the book, I’m going to digress here because it’s a blog and I can (remember how I mentioned one way of writing issues?).

What this book really made me consider is what is humanities thinking, and how do I support that in composition courses through play?

So for now, I’ll begin with Humanities thinking.

I’m firmly in the rhetoric camp – when I am asked to define rhetoric I draw heavily from Craig R Smith’s definition in the final chapter of Rhetoric and Human Consciousness. Rhetoric is epistemic, ontological and axiological. Rhetoric is the way we think so that we know we’re thinking (ontological), rhetoric is the way we think through values and ideologies and culture (axiological), and rhetoric is how we teach and learn thinking and ideas (epistemic). We as listeners and communicators make meaning through rhetoric – which means meaning is always deeply entrenched in values and beliefs.

For Humanities thinking this often includes considering the human condition – the fundamental belief asks humanities thinkers to consider the human condition as they make meaning with various texts (texts broadly defined here).

So considering this and the creative learning spiral – where are the people in this spiral? I understand that humans, children, are the agents driving the idea, but what is it the creator needs to recognize about their learning, about what they know, to enter the creative learning spiral in the first place? How could recognizing the values and ideologies of our education, and of our noticing of creative thinking needs help us be more effective creative thinkers? How could writing about, reflecting on learning, discussing metacognition, improve our creative thinking?

I love the ideas in this book, and the stories of thinkers, educators, and children exploring, but I also see a need for more Humanities thinking. What do we know and why do we know? And how powerful could that recognition be to creating and creative thinking and play?

While I don’t mean for this to be a “long live the Humanities” post – I really appreciate how much this book helped me consider what I mean when I say “Humanities thinking”. I also highly recommend this book!

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Kairos and Power

There is a story in Smith’s Rhetoric and Human Consciousness about Marin Luther causing an uprising months after he published a paper in an unexpected area. The Printing Press was very new technology, authors hadn’t considered circulation and kairos because circulating texts had been difficult and expensive so very few were circulated.

Today I read a post on Chronicle of Higher Ed about recent identity politics issues. While these are important discussions, what struck me were the examples of social media critique that stopped movements. Without self-reflection on the influence of our own subject positions, arguments may carry bias. With the internet publication cycle (anytime, anywhere), this can cause power issues in addition to the expected circulation issues.

As I’m beginning to formalize my plans for Web Writing and Content Management, this idea struck me as especially important today. In a course focused on the circulation of text, the plans to structure communication in meaningful ways, how do I address issues of power as they relate to the content.

Web Writing and Content Management is a course closely related to Technical Writing and Business Writing. While the impact of text and document design is briefly discussed by these fields (in textbooks – I’m focusing specifically on textbooks here not scholarship), it’s still just a brief discussion. Yet, Universal Design for Learning, Document Design for Social Justice, and the power of unconscious bias in text are important conversations directly related to all the assignments created for such a course.

In my current Advanced Writing course, the Document Design for Social Justice article resonated the most with students, but after the course conversation, most chose not to continue with this discussion in the papers they submitted. How do I not just design accessible content, but focus on teaching accessible content design, the importance of accessible content design as a primary concern?

In my composition courses I’ve begun to structure them based on key concepts, as an approach to learning composition through threshold concepts (organizing learning structure to support transfer and recall). What will this look like accounting for UDL and potential content bias? What key concept can support critically engaged thinking while teaching approaches to writing and structuring content in meaningful ways? What can a Content Management course look like structured by learning-based writing concepts modified to support content management specific writing so writers consider UDL and power?

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The New Twitter

Recently I posted on the value of Twitter in the classroom. As Twitter has fully embraced the extension to 280 characters, I’m wondering how this changes my use in the classroom.

In my last post I walked through my 5 “why I use Twitter in the classroom” ideas. Of those 5 reasons, brevity made my list at #5 with “focus on communicating the message”. Even at #5, and even as I mentioned, 280 characters is brief! For instance, this paragraph is 280 characters.

While I don’t love the decision, I liked how hard 140 characters made communicating (and I worry how much more drama will be possible with 280 characters), I want to shift the conversation to the possibilities for pedagogy.

This semester I worked on developing assignments that asked students to engage with analysis in their writing – to analyze articles in class, to extend conversations, to find the ongoing conversation, to add their own ideas and opinions. Getting students to extend conversations means hoping they read the article well enough that we could begin the conversation with a brief overview, then extend begin analysis. There were good days and bad days with the initial reading expectations with students. As we move into the later portion of the semester, the reading and willingness to discuss has decreased further.

This is where I think the 280 characters might actually add to pedagogy – where the additional length might serve educators.

First, I should begin with quizzes. I know a lot of faculty who give various reading quizzes. Basically, check-ins to ensure the students completed the reading to support discussion in class. I like this idea, but I hate quizzes.

Second, I know a lot of faculty who require written reading summaries. I hate building all the assignment submission links for students to upload summary writing. I feel I have to undo so much summary writing work to teach analysis in writing if I require these summaries regularly.

In the Fall semester I required students to post Summary Tweets (ST:) before class began – in addition to the required tweets for class – to facilitate discussion. For the most part this was successful, it increased engagement with the materials because an assignment was attached to the reading. The downside, students read conversation posts for the gist of the reading without actually reading the assignment. This is both good and bad:

  • Good: students read for conversation. Even if they didn’t read the article, in browsing through the posted summary tweets, students were able to read for conversation to determine the main themes of the reading. As a reading skill that will support good writing – this is amazing.
    • While I didn’t use the summary tweet approach this semester I want to investigate how this reading can support awareness of these reading. Can students summarize AND reflect on reading/writing practices now that Twitter has allowed for more writing?
    • Can students analyze and development mindful awareness of their writing when reflecting on the readings?
  • Bad: students didn’t read the assignment.
    • Students who did read the assignment struggled more with differentiating their post from peers than on engaging with the materials.
    • Students who did read the assignment read to post a summary, not to engage with the materials.
    • Can all of these bad be overcome with the mindfulness and reflection that could help students learn writing?

Ultimately, my major concerns are students need to read the assignments, but students also need less practice with summarizing the articles. Yes, summarizing, quickly, author points in essays is an important skill. But, analysis and doing something with that information is so much more important. How can the increased character count in Twitter support better writing about the readings?

I really think the key is in mindfulness and reflection. Having students not just tweet the summary, but reflect on why that part, how they read and found that section, why they find it important, what they learned about analyzing that information. In this way, students will be responsible for demonstrating their learning (less important), and be responsible to their own learning (super important).

Now, to actually develop an action plan for implementing this……Spring 2018 with Twitter at 280 character, here I come 🙂

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Observing Teachers Teaching

This semester I’m Co-Chair of a committee in my department that observes the teaching of our non-tenured faculty. I want to spend some time consider what I’m learning about teaching from observing teaching (practicing my #meta pedagogy).

Scaffolding

Composition instructors spend amazing amounts of time developing strongly scaffolded assignments in their syllabi. To help students understand the connections we really need to be overt in discussing the connections between assignments – connections to the overall learning goals. I’ve noticed students in classes where the scaffolding was overt, where the connections were discussed, asked excellent questions about writing and their assignment. Questions to help guide and develop their thinking.

Awareness and Language

The advantage to these overt discussions was language development. Students in sections with discussions about the assignment connections developed richer language about assignments, learning, composition, writing practices, etc.

Students benefit from understanding the language that surrounds writing. When freshmen composition students ask questions about identifying arguments in persuasive opinion articles, and about the effectiveness of supporting detail, they are able to discuss how arguments develop. In aiding students with developing rich language surrounding writing, they can use that language to identify and understand writing in other classrooms, in other situations.

In my classroom observations I saw students ask more complex questions when they had language to support their questions. I know there are many different theories to support this approach to teaching writing. How do we share these results? What results will be most meaningful to faculty members to adjust their curriculum to support stronger student writing development including the language and metacongition that supports understanding of their own writing?

 

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Makerspaces at Conferences

This past weekend I presented at the Feminisms and Rhetorics 2017 conference. I presented a maker session on using coding robots (my ozobots) to support learning writing processes and theories (maker pedagogy with a focus on transfer).

The conference call for papers included a call for maker sessions, but for this conference it seemed very few presenters submitted to publish under that category. I attempted to attend a few maker sessions that didn’t happen, and generally did not see many listed in the program. Whatever the cause for fewer maker sessions, it caused interesting mindset reactions in my session.

I presented on Friday afternoon – after a largish lunch with our keynote speaker. The conference began on Wednesday, lasted all day and into late evening on Thursday, included activist sessions and workshops Friday morning, followed by our keynote address, then my session. By my session many attendees seemed a bit overwhelmed and tired. There was a lot of conference happening before my session. What I appreciated most was the joy and excitement in my session when I told attendees the point was to give them time to experience my theory pedagogy, they were going to play with robots.

While i’ll follow-up later with discussions of the theories, I want to take a short break to discuss the idea of maker time at conference to support good learning at conferences. Educators burn-out too. We become overwhelmed at conferences. My session now has me wondering if there should be more productive ways to organize conferences to build in experimental time, experience time, play time.

What i’m not arguing is that my format was the best. What I am considering is the way my play-based format, using the ozobots and some keynote theory slides, but focusing on spending time with the theories as experiential learning offered time for attendees to process some of their learning. Even if attendees never use robots (I understand the cost prohibitive nature of this tech – I only have 4 which influences how I design some of my pedagogy), even if attendees don’t process my theories but some of what they’ve learned from other sessions, could there be benefits to makerspaces at conferences where all attendees work through their own learning in experiential ways that are meaningful to them?

With a focus on transfer (I’m reading How People Learn, I highly recommend these ideas), I’m also wondering how makerspaces can aid learning transfer. How can attendees use these maker practices in new spaces to continue to support their own development. While being overloaded with ideas for new projects is great, it’s also exhausting. Can makerspaces help information processing in meaningful ways?

I feel this post has even fewer answers than I normally provide, I’m epically failing as an education blogger by just adding more questions to an already complex field, but I’m really happy with these ideas. I’m also considering possible applications in the classroom. Yes, I use robots, but with course times, regularly engaging maker activities requires a lot of work (and areas where I need to improve my approach to flipping). How does the classroom need to be reimagined for this to work? This same question would apply to conferences too – how would a conference be reimagined to allow for maker learning processing space? How do we get student/attendee buy-in for such a different approach? I have tons of students who love lectures, they are comfortable with and familiar with lectures, modify that approach and students need guidance. I’m assuming conference attendees would be similarly mystified to new approaches to conference learning. How do we teach students/attendees how to learn in these new approaches?

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