Tag Archives: learning

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.


  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.


  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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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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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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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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Media Literacy and Composition Studies

At the 2018 SXSW EDU conference danah boyd discussed media literacy, and contemporary struggles with media literacy. Namely, she pointed that the focus on skills and practices as applied through various digital tools can do as much harm as good. When we support student development of digital literacies and media literacies – they may use those skills to weaponize extremist groups (on both the left and right – using the American political system).

boyd points to the need to consider, discuss, and reconsider epistemology – how do we make knowledge, how do we discuss knowledge, how is that knowledge valued. Practices and knowledges have significant amounts of overlap – but they are different. That difference between the two is where media literacy falls short. Even incorporating information literacy, and many other xxxxx literacies, these approaches tend to focus on the skills and abilities, how students make knowledge of these existing communication acts without considering the larger cultural context, how knowledge operates, is made, is valued (or devalued) within the larger culture. Essentially, we are in the middle of a culture war that media literacy is ill equipped to engage in.

What I found so compelling about her discussion is the connection to Composition Studies. For decades, Composition Studies has been in a similar culture war. I re-read Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” last night and was struck by her bleak picture of diminishing English departments, her tracing of the devaluing of ‘writing’ because of the numerous definitions, ideas, and assumptions held about writing. As we currently read about universities in Wisconsin cutting English programs and majors – reducing English faculty to Composition Instructors (not by title, but content area valued at the institution) it’s clear there is a similar culture war within higher education – or simply an area of the same culture war boyd mentions.

As a Composition Instructor I often hear “students can’t use APA and it’s just a series of rules,” or “students don’t understand grammar,” or “students can’t write.” My job is reduced to rule memorizer and grammar teacher. The understanding of writing, the value it lends to the university is rule based – ignoring the significant evidence that writing supports and develops reading, thinking, agency, identity, and so much more. boyd’s point really resonated with me – I do think that media literacy as supporting skill development is as useless as composition lecturing on grammar and MLA/APA rules. That decontextualizes information, knowledges, ideas, values. It removes these skills/practices from the real-lived situations where writing happens, where media making and consuming happens as if the ideas presented through the use of the correct rules doesn’t matter. It potentially weaponizes writing abilities, similarly to boyd’s discussion of weaponizing media literacy skills.

As a discipline, many within composition studies are focused on ideas and explorations of transfer. How do we help students understand the contexts they write within, the audiences they write for, the arguments available within those spaces, the practices expected, and the ideas valued as the approaches to helping students recognize the grammar and style guide rules. We spend more time developing epistemology than we discuss rules. Could this be the answer to media literacy – contextualize the skill development, ask students to determine the appropriate media for their message. Both approaches place significant value back on the message. Words matter, ideas matter – let’s spend time discussing that.

The downside to this discussion is always time and content. K-12 teachers prepare students for graduation requirements and standardized testing. Adding one more area of discussion that’s difficult to assess (if 30 students use 30 different media how can that be assessed?) is asking a lot of teachers. Similarly, college composition faculty spend so much time trying to help students think creatively and analytically and critically is there time to add more media literacy into the composition curriculum. I only have students for 15 weeks their freshmen year, and if i’m lucky, 15 weeks their junior year. That is such a short period of time to engage with epistemology, and writing, and disciplinary writing, and discourse community, and and and and…….

I know boyd’s video has been somewhat controversial and my aim is not to critique or defend her. Instead, I want to consider her struggle, the struggle of media literacy, through the lens of the struggle of composition studies as a discipline. Is there anything media literacy can learn from composition studies, and is there anything composition studies can learn from media literacy to help students as they wade into the contemporary culture war?

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No Such Thing as Bad Writers

I’ve been reading extensively in Digital Citizenship lately as I prepare for some new research projects, prepare my Media Literacy Institute on Digital Citizenship (more information here), and reconsider approaches in composition classrooms that could include more direct conversation on our social media/content creation use as digital citizenship. The goal for me has become the idea of digital citizenship as critical approach to technology and stewardship to support digital citizenship understanding by others.

So with these two approaches to thinking always at the forefront of my thinking, I read an Inside Higher Ed post on “Bad Writing“. While the blame is placed heavily on K-12’s required standardized tests that force the hands of educators – I think we need to stop calling this Bad Writing. Again – at the forefront of my thinking is this idea of stewardship, if we (educators/faculty) continue to have public conversations about how “kids today don’t write so good” that negativity will continue to be associated with writing. While there is plenty of evidence that standardized testing to measure writing ability requires very formulaic structure that has very little to do with the actual content of writing, scores are decent which means kids today write very well! For where they are measured!

This is the key for me – for where they are measure, how they are measured. When students come to my composition courses with my adapted Teaching for Transfer curriculum (shout out to #4c18 and my panel on this curriculum on Friday 3/16), they are asked to understand the interchange among discourse community, purpose, audience, and ethos. As the understanding develops through the theme (for me, remix) students begin to understand that certain discourse communities allow for certain arguments and analysis – purpose is not global it needs to match the argument within the discourse community AND be meaningful to the audience. I could go on and on – but the key here is – coming out of high school these students graduated and were admitted to college. They understood how to develop an argument on a standardized test that met the needs of their audience (the test grading service), and demonstrated their ability within the discourse community (K-12 education).

If I supported the idea that these students were bad writers i’m not allowing them agency over their successes so far. In fact – I’m denigrating their successes so far. I’m taking away the success they had at developing an argument for a discourse community. They are in college! They have succeeded. My job is to help them be successful at navigating the more nuanced discourse communities. I want to empower my students to recognize these communities and determine how to adjust their writing process accordingly. Because, let’s be honest, they’ll take a class from that one professor who cares more about spacing in APA citations than they do the content of writing (ahem….how is this different than the standardized test?). They’ll also need to understand their education and educational experiences so they craft themselves as strong employees to their internship supervisors and future employers – so they get the interviews, the jobs.

Again, I’m approaching life through positive development of digital citizenship and stewardship. We’re all already using technology. If I rage about the misuse of Twitter I’m accomplishing nothing – my students are just hearing more negativity (by the way, there is an interesting IHE post on citizens stepping back from social media sharing). They are sick of the negativity, so they tune it out. This – tuning out – that is dangerous for writing instruction. I don’t want students to tune out and not care about thinking and writing and learning and how all these will help them in their classes – their careers. So why would I approach the situation so negatively? It’s not working for cyberbullying campaigns (thanks Digital Citizenship theory) why would it work for teaching writing?

So I’m calling on al my readers (hello!) to consider their approaches to teaching, or studenting (there is not good word for this, hahahahaha), or citizenship as stewardship. I’m not just an eternal optimist arguing for positivity, I’m drawing on real data from digital citizenship studies that show positive approaches – stewardship – to digital citizenship supports better understanding and critical engagement with technology and what citizenship means in a global technology world. Let’s use that in composition studies – let’s use that with writing!

What would it mean to drop the conversations about “Bad Writing” and instead focus on the ways that students succeeded in writing, and the ways we (educators/instructors/researchers) can help students develop a richer understanding of writing (again TFT model here) for more successful writing for specific situations. Let’s actually make this happen and stop calling writing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ which confuses college students by removing their agency. Let’s say “Great work – you’re in college! Now, let’s start developing a richer understanding of writing so you don’t write a 5 paragraph essay for a discourse community – a course – where your audience will not approve of the stilted argument development and structure”.

Let’s approach the teaching of composition as stewards instead!

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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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