DigiWriMo Post on Infographics

Infographic by Rachel Stelman

Infographic by Rachel Stelman

Earlier this week, Kevin Hodgson — one of the hosts of this year’s DigiWriMo — shared my guest post on “Navigating in the Age of Infographics.”

Here is a brief snippet from my post:

In their book, Everything’s an Argument, Andrea Lunsford, John Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters begin with the simple premise: “[O]ne Fact of contemporary life in the digital age: anyone, anywhere, with access to a smartphone, can mount an argument that can circle the globe in seconds” (5).

And, while the world we inhabit continues to take many sides on many issues, we also now have many new forms of media through which to present these arguments. And, yes, while some arguments can be shared through a Twitter message or a quick picture posted to Insta graph, one other form of argument that takes more time to compose, yet can be immediately understood, is the infographic.

Read more here. And, join in the #DigiWriMo conversation on social media, too!

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Hosting #engchat Next Week

This next Monday, Kristen Turner and I host #engchat for a conversation on Connected Reading. Here’s the announcement:

Recently, a friend of Kristen’s on Facebook posted a GIF that showed the evolution of a desk.  In 1980 the desk was covered with items: books, newspapers, magazines; a fax, phone, stapler and tape dispenser; a rolodex, clock, globe, calendar, and bulletin board; and a computer and phone.  One by one the items on the desk evolved – and disappeared, becoming an app on the computer – as a scrolling mast of years advanced.  By current day, only a computer full of apps and a Smartphone remained on the desk.

The GIF represents the possibilities of a digital world.  We can, if we choose to do so, conduct our professional and personal lives entirely on, with, and through devices, and a recent Pew study suggests that more and more teenagers and adults are making the choice to go digital.  What does this transformation mean?

As teachers of reading and writing, we recognize that our own desks – and those of our students – are markedly different than they were even just a decade ago.  We accept that, as the National Writing Project asserts, “digital is,” and we wonder how we can help adolescents to become critical readers in a world where they encounter short-, mid-, and long-form texts through their devices on a daily – and even hourly – basis.

For us, reading is not an isolating activity.  Digital tools allow individual readers to connect to a network of readers; texts of all kinds can be shared quickly and widely.  Digital tools also allow readers to share their reading experiences – before, during, and after – with others.  In a digital world, reading is visibly social.

In our book Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World, we describe a model of reading that takes into account the networked, social nature of reading today.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.39.36 PM

This model suggests that readers encounter texts in a variety of ways.  They may receive them from others, somewhat passively, or they may actively seek out new reading material by surfing without much intention, stumbling through sites with some intention, or searching with focused intention.

How do we help students develop their comprehension skills as they encounter and engage with Kindles and Nooks, RSS feeds and Twitter, hypertext fiction and digital textbooks?  How do we help them to read critically in a world where information flows constantly?  And perhaps most importantly, how do we help them to leverage the possibilities within a network of readers?

As we consider these questions, we look forward to the #engchat session on October 5, where we will discuss what it means to be Connected Readers.

In the mean time, you might be interested in reading this recent feature article in NCTE’s Council Chronicle: Teaching Teens—and Ourselves—to Be Mindful, Connected Readers.

See you Monday on #engchat!

Update on 10/27/15: Courtesy of Momchil Filev, the video creator, I have updated the link of the video to the original file available from BestReviews.com.

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More Updates from AILA: Notes Visual Literacy and the Digital Workplace

Here are some notes from the first keynote was from Wibke Weber, in her talk about “Fusing words and images — new forms of public storytelling.”

  • In recent years, the rise of multimedia creates a complex milieu of words and images; they must be seen as equal partners in meaning making
  • Data visualizations
    • In the past few years, these have found a home in “data journalism” — a hybrid form using images, words, and numbers to create a new cohesive form
    • For a long time, images were viewed as the “little sister” of language and the fact that images could represent ideas was largely ignored
    • However, we know that visuals have more than an illustrative function — they can help narrate and make arguments
    • The semiotic system of language appears in the form of headlines, articles, captions, but numbers and maps show visual orientation and analysis
    • With the continuing forms of data visualizations, there are many new ways to represent ideas
    • The strength of data visualizations is that they provide evidence; they explain something visible that is difficult to understand in text alone (if designed well)
    • On the other hand, visual evidence can appear misleading and can look “objective,” but this is illusive. Even though they are based on numbers and texts, they are always the artifacts of an artist and/or design team. They are open to critique of color, font, shape, and more.
    • This means that we need to look at the data source, how it was collected, how it was visualized, and more. Words tell, but pictures show. So the main function of data visualization is to show, to tell a story.
  • How do images tell stories?
    • A data visualization must have a beginning, middle, and end
    • Famous graphic from Charles Joseph Minard that depicts the devastating losses in Napoleon’s army on their march to Moscow
  • Comics
    • The use of the comic medium to cover events, even in journalism, is at an all time high. For instance, they are being used in the Guardian and NYTimes.
    • Comic journalism is not about funny pictures, it means that you are pulling on the news and using journalistic techniques and ethics
    • Like narrative journalism, comic journalism covers the public story behind the private one
    • They can represent a variety of ideas and events, for instance this one about Ebola
    • The challenge for comic journalism is that, because comics are generally seen as fiction, people may struggle to see comic journalism as “true” and authentic
    • Journalists must use verbal and visual clues to share the fact that they are a part of the work (e.g., having a picture of the journalist in the comic, or by having a historical photograph of a person with their comic representation)
    • Colors, tone, light, shape, handwriting or print — all of these devices are ways that comics can be read for authenticity. Speech bubbles versus text boxes, too. The stylistic elements corroborate the authenticity of the comic.
    • It must be clear that the journalists are telling the truth, not a fictional story. This becomes even more important when illustrating breaking news and when using virtual reality.
    • What are the authentication strategies that we can use?
  • Research/dissertation drawn as a graphic novel
    • Nick Sousanis’s “Unflattening”
    • We are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind — we need to bring the visual into academic discourse. It allows us to step outside of our own system and to see work in relation.

She has shared a great list of resources for infographics, and I thank her for allowing me to post them here:


Blogs and Tutorials:

Finally, Daniel Perrin shared his thoughts on “Investigating intercultural communication in the digital workplace”

  • AL Research Frameworks
    • Beginning with a “newspaper extinction timeline” from futureexploration.net
    • How do we begin to investigate solutions in this field
    • Combining many frameworks
      • Ethnography, grounded theory, Realist-social theory, Transdiciplinary action research, Dynamic systems theory
      • Connecting to real life problems
      • Change and stability
      • Agency and structure
      • Practitioners and researchers bring in their knowledge as experts
      • Collaborate and learn from one another
      • Learn and adjust goals, methods, and findings
      • To produce new, emergent, situated knowledge
      • Focusing on what works, for whom, under which circumstances
      • Not about the grand theory, but what works in certain contexts
  • The Idee Suisse Research Project
    • Focusing on SRG public broadcasting which is caught between a public mandate and private forces while being asked to stimulate public discourse
  • Macro level findings
    • In the program mandate, SRG is supposed to promote understanding, cohesion, and exchange across the various publics
    • Intercultural communication is a part of the media company’s mandate, but they don’t have the right tools and knowledge to bring together contradictory expectations of public discourse and compete against private, entertainment programs
    • Managers talk the talk, but do not walk the walk in propositional reconstruction — “public service media are not the institutions to solve social problems.”
  • Knowledge transformation from the ground floor — it doesn’t come from management, it comes from those who are doing the work
    • Understand the macro results
    • Take a closer look at experienced practice
    • Discover emergent practices and “third ways” out of critical situations
    • Deriving and telling the good practice story
    • Formulating guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
  • Data collection and analysis
    • What are the distinctions between what happens in the newsroom, in the conferences, and what appears on screen — recording the data during the course of a year
    • This is the “mother of spyware” that we installed — so we had to plan for ethical and practical aspects, also just having people know what we were doing and why
    • How do we do all of this in a theoretically and methodologically sound manner?
  • Conclusion: from tacit to explicit
    • We had to look at the hypocrisy framework — the organization is exposed to contradictory expectations. They must response to the conflicts in order to survive.
    • We also looked at the tacit knowledge frame — looking at how individual, experienced journalists filled in the slots left open by management. They develop strategies to meet organizational and public needs.
  • Looking at a specific case
    • Thinking about the writing situation, activity, and the strategies/practices
    • A particular journalist was highly experienced and was allowed to do “forbidden things” such as closing a story with a quote. He was a counter-conventional person and had the skills to be able to pull this off.
    • He would write the text after composing the video with the editor.
    • He would also write the introduction for the anchor woman himself; this is uncommon, because the journalist normally writes the story and the anchor writes her own introduction
    • Normally, the anchor’s introduction is about selling the news piece. But, for this journalist, it is really important that the anchor provides context for the piece. He knows how to tell about complex things in a simple manner.
    • The journalist goes through a very linear writing process for the anchor’s part of the story. His own writing process is a bit more recursive, but he is able to get the info for the anchor created in a very linear manner.
  • In a more abstract format… writing strategies in a propositional format
    • To distinguish between the two stories (background and current)
    • To tell the recent story in the news text because it fits the recent pictures
    • To tell the background story because not all the audience is up-to-date
    • To tell the background story in the anchor text because there are no pictures
    • In short, there was a high degree of intercultural communication between the journalist and the anchor (different professional cultures within the organizations)
  • What are the strategies that the journalist uses across the writing process?
    • Goal setting
    • Planning
    • Controlling
    • Revising
    • Defining the task
    • Implementing the product
    • Reading sources
    • Reading the text so-far
    • Handling writing tools
    • Handling task environment
    • Handling social environment
    • Establishing relevance for the audience
    • Finding the sources
    • Holding space and time restrictions
    • Limiting the topic
    • Staging the story
    • Taking own position
    • Revisions
  • This differs from the traditional Flower and Hayes model, where a student is given a task that they are supposed to do for school
    • But, in real life, writing requires goal setting well before planning
  • The “good practice” story
    • Whereas critical situations denote exemplary constellations of circumstances which could lead to failure, good practice stands for potential success for everyone involved in creating the story.
    • Production conflicts force an emerging solution
    • Orientation to uptake to complicating action to resolution to coda
  • “what works for whom in what circumstances” (Pawson and Tilley, 1997)
  • Research-based guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
    • Fostering conditions as drivers of emergence
    • Ensure experience in teams
    • Facilitate negotiation
    • Promote variation
    • Reflect routes and develop repertoires
    • Expose to the unexpected — and remain open to it
  • Conclusion
    • Applied linguistics research shows and fosters intercultural communication on three levels
      • between societal groups of a multicultural society
      • between professional cultures within the broadcast company
      • between practitioners and researchers in trasndisciplinary collaboration
    • Linguists can identify, analyze, and solve problems related to real-life issues

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Updates from AILA Junior Researchers Meeting

This week, I have had the good fortune of presenting a keynote at the 7th Junior Researchers Meeting in Applied Linguistics, sponsored by the International Association of Applied Linguistics. I focused my keynote yesterday on both the work that I have done with my NWP colleagues to produce Assessing Students’ Digital Writing, as well as my own career trajectory as a teacher and researcher.

It has been wonderful to interact with various researchers throughout the rest of the morning, most of whom are finishing their PhDs or beginning their careers in Europe. As I listened to the variety of topics they are studying and questions that they are pursuing, I was pleased to see so many of them employing theoretical frameworks that address new literacies and methods that employ new technologies such as analysis of digitally-mediated communication — including words in English and other languages, as well as the new universal language of emojis — as well as screencasting as a tool for capturing, and then replaying and analyzing, the writing process.

Dr. Gitsaki's latest book: Recipes for the Wireless Classroom – Mobile Learning Activities

Dr. Gitsaki’s latest book: Recipes for the Wireless Classroom – Mobile Learning Activities

This morning, I was able to enjoy a keynote from Christina Gitsaki, from the Center for Educational Innovation, Zayed University, Higher Education, UAE. The focus of her presentation was on an iPad initiative that she supervised over the course of 18 months at numerous universities across the UAE. The major takeaway from her talk is one that I think we continue to grapple with throughout the world as we employ new technologies — how can we invite teachers to engage in meaningful professional development so their instructional methods change in substantive ways? That is, rather than simply introducing the iPads into the classroom and asking students to do something on screen as compared to doing it on paper, how can we instead engage them in a task that they would not otherwise be able to do without the technology? Needless to say, she shared a fast-paced talk, and here are some quick notes from her presentation.

  • MALL – Mobile-Assisted Language Learning
  • Looking at the explosion of mobile learning in 2005-201 with new technologies such as MP3s, PDAs, mobile (and then smart) phones, tablets, and laptops. This led to ubiquity, but then in 2010 the iPad brought about a revolution.
  • The UAE education system has a bilingual language policy, and students learn English for an average of 3-6 hours per week. All the courses in bachelor’s degree programs are taught in English, and about 20% of high school graduates are eligible for these programs right at graduation. The other 80% enter “foundational” courses to gain more English proficiency.
  • Gitsaki was in charge, as an associate dean, in implementing the iPad initiative. This involved 17 colleges, 22,000 students and the demand was for an entirely paperless classroom.
    • To assess this program, she conducted a variety of formative applied research methods including surveys, observations, and classroom assessment data.
  • Teachers reported that they gained confidence in using the iPads in the classrooms, managing their lessons, taking care of technical issues, and preparing materials.
    • However, they remained concerned that the iPads were really helping their students gain proficiency in English. Unfortunately, most teachers were only using the iPads for vocabulary lessons.
  • Students generally reported positive results with using the iPad, including a great deal of use in the classroom. Most of them do feel that the iPad is helping them learn more with English. In short, there is a very different picture from the students and the teachers, but this is all self reported data. Students were also using their iPads for other tasks, such as blogging.
    • So, she tried to correlate what the students said that they were doing with what the end-of-semester assessments showed, too. Students who performed at least three types of activities on the iPad in class and outside of class, did show some impact on their test scores.
  • Critical issues that we learned from the study:
    • Pedagogy — technology was dictating what the teachers were doing in the classroom, needed to help them use a “technology-enhanced,” not “technology-driven” method
      • Also, needed to teach teachers how to use the iPad in an EFL context. We need to discover and understand best practices for teaching and learning English.
    • Teaching materials — the materials created by textbook publishers were simply PDF copies; interactivity was very difficult because of having to use different annotation tools on the iPad
      • We also requested that the teachers to create their own resources, but we never really taught them how to do this; we had no expertise in teaching teachers how to create these resources
    • Assessment — current practices for evaluating the impact of tech in education needs to broaden; this does not fully measure the extent of the skills that students are learning
      • We need to find new ways to identify and measure the skills and knowledge that students are gaining from mobile tech
      • For instance, looking at a platform like Knewton for learning analytics
  • So, where does this take us as we look at mobile devices in the classroom?
    • Need a longitudinal research agenda
    • Need to rethink teaching tasks
    • Need to reconsider what it means to read and write in digital spaces
    • Need to understand how mutlti-tasking and environmental distractions can affect learning
  • Intro to the Center for Educational Innovation
    • Invitation to come to the center as a visiting researcher — travel to the UAE!

There are more sessions today and tomorrow, and I hope to find time to blog about them as well. For the moment, Gitsaki’s work remind me that we need to continue our efforts at teaching teachers how to employ digital tools and spaces in smart, critical, and creative ways. This is a challenge that I can relate to and — as is evidenced by the many other young researchers here at this conference — one that we will continue to face, and embrace, for years to come.

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Rewiring Research on Teachers Teaching Teachers

This past week, I was able to join in a conversation with my good friend and colleague, Dawn Reed, on an episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers so we could talk about our forthcoming book, Research Writing Rewired: Lessons That Ground Students’ Digital Learning. Enjoy!

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Changing the Field, One Teacher at a Time

This past week, two thoughtful teachers shared their insight on some of the work I have done with my colleague Kristen Turner. Knowing that what we have written is making a difference in the lives of teachers is, quite simply, amazing. So, I offer my thanks to these two edubloggers here.

Inforgraphic created by Cris Turple based on my co-authored article, “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait”

First, thanks to Cris Turple who shared this infographic based on my English Journal article with Kristen: No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait. In her blog post, Turple concludes that

“Digital literacy is a crucial component in modern literacy instruction and is necessary for today’s students to be productive members of a digital world. Teachers should focus on the skills related to digital literacy, not specific tools which will soon be obsolete in the ever changing world of technology.”

No surprise here: I agree with Turple completely on the idea that we focus on skills, not tools. Check out the rest of her website for a variety of resources related to TPACK, SAMR, Google Apps for Ed, and more.

Second, Jianna Taylor from the Oakland Writing Project (MI) offered a thoughtful review of our book, Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World — as well as a number of additional ideas and resources that she uses in her own classroom. I very much appreciate the way that Taylor read the book and jumped right in with connected reading practices in her classroom, primarily through the use of Notable PDF. She discusses how this tool is “one of my favorite and most used Chrome extensions both personally and professionally” and the ways that she will use it again this fall. Knowing that teachers like Taylor are willing to jump in and make these changes, turning on a dime, encourages me; often we get caught up in the educational bureaucracy, but she found an idea, tried it, and will refine it to make it better. If, as I often say, “education is the business of hope,” then Taylor makes me very hopeful indeed.

So, as I think about the ways in which my work with Kristen continues to circulate, I often reflect on a goal that she and I share when we are writing. As we collaborate, we always have goals in mind. Yes, we write because we enjoy it and because it leads to tenure and promotion within the university. However, there are other more important reasons.

We write about digital literacy so we can better coach our own children as readers and writers.

We write to help teachers understand the ways that technology affects literacy practices, and what that means for their students.

In short, we write everything with the goal of “changing the field.”

This week, it feels like the field changed just a little bit more. Thanks, Cris and Jianna for letting us know just how that happened for each of you.

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Introducing Assessing Students’ Digital Writing

Assessing Students' Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely. Edited by Troy Hicks. Co-Published by NWP and TCP.

Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely. Edited by Troy Hicks. Co-Published by NWP and TCP.

By all measures, I am fortunate to work with so many incredible colleagues from the world of education, both K-12 and higher ed. Many times those collaborations happen in just a few hours, or a few says, and they then disappear.

However, sometimes they last for months or even years, and they transform into something much more powerful. Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely is one such example of that powerful kind of collaboration.

Here is the book’s description:

Troy Hicks—a leader in the teaching of digital writing—collaborates with seven National Writing Project teacher-consultants to provide a protocol for assessing students’ digital writing. This collection highlights six case studies centered on evidence the authors have uncovered through teacher inquiry and structured conversations about students’ digital writing. Beginning with a digital writing sample, each teacher offers an analysis of a student’s work and a reflection on how collaborative assessment affected his or her teaching. Because the authors include teachers from kindergarten to college, this book provides opportunities for vertical discussions of digital writing development, as well as grade-level conversations about high-quality digital writing. The collection also includes an introduction and conclusion, written by Hicks, that provides context for the inquiry group’s work and recommendations for assessment of digital writing.

Screenshots of Students' Digital Writing

Screenshots of Students’ Digital Writing from NWP’s Digital Is Website

Moreover, each of the book’s chapters include online resources available at NWP’s Digital Is website. One note here is a huge shoutout to my friend and NWP colleague Christina Cantrill who has made the companion site on Digital Is a possibility. There are six different pieces in the collection, including:

My sincere hope is that the student work shared in this collection and online will spark dialogue amongst teachers about when, why, and how they can and should integrate digital writing into their classrooms. If you have questions, please let me know.

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Summer Institute, Stillness, and (Digital) Storytelling

Digital Storytelling on We Video

Digital Storytelling on We Video

We are in the middle of week three of our Chippewa River Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute, and I am sitting in the late afternoon calm of writing time.

At this moment, eight of the seventeen of us are here composing various pieces, including our digital stories. The rest are scattered around our building, or around campus, doing the same. Teacher writers who have found some time, space, and stillness to do meaningful work, both personally and professionally.

For me, it is digital storytelling — the recursive process of writing words, finding images, recording our voices, and repeating each of these steps over and over again — that makes for the most compelling type of writing that we do each summer. I am continually fascinated by the ways in which teachers work on this multimodal composing process.

Some begin with a hint of an idea for a story; others have a strong lead with a clear picture of the story they want to tell. Some begin with their own pictures, digital or digitized, and are able to easily form them into a timeline. Others are stumped, searching the web for countless images that will fit with their vision. Narration is scripted, recorded, revised, and re-recorded.

Joe Lambert, the Director of the Center for Digital Storytelling, offers some specific advice on this process in their Digital Storytelling Cookbook:

Finding and clarifying what a story is really about isn’t easy. It’s a journey in which a storyteller’s insight or wisdom can evolve, even revealing an unexpected outcome. Helping storytellers find and own their deepest insights is the part of the journey we enjoy the most. (10)


Digital Storytelling

Image by Casey Fyfe from Unsplash

We don’t often talk about how to gain insight from our writing processes, at least not in school. This is the joy and opportunity that we find in the summer institute.




All of these intangible elements combine to allow us to take risks, be creative, and open ourselves up to discovery. This is the space in which digital stories are born, are nourished, are revised, and, eventually, published and shared with the world.

This afternoon, we took some time to talk about revision, too, and it was interesting to hear how many of us talked about revising our digital pieces, especially our digital stories. Changing one word, just one small element of a script can result in an alteration of the entire timeline. The exact moment when a picture should appear, timed with our own voices or a sound effect, can make or break a digital story.

Digital storytelling, unlike any other form of writing, is a recursive process of discovery, a process that I continue to enjoy as a teacher, teacher educator, and storyteller myself. I look forward to sharing my next story soon.

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Reflecting on Digital English in Taiwan

Screen Shot from Peace's Video Project

Screen Shot from Peace’s Video Project

With a little bit of time in Tokyo’s Narita Airport, I figured I should try to capture some of my thinking about teaching my Digital English Learning course at Shih Chien University (USC) in Taipei, Taiwan. As expected, the three weeks have disappeared already, and we focused conversations and class activities on issues such as online privacy, creating a professional digital footprint, participatory culture, media literacy, and, of course, digital writing.

Because I was teaching a course for the Applied Foreign Languages Department, most of my students were studying English. Yet, as with all students we teach across all contexts, my students in this course came with differing levels of proficiency. As the mantra goes, “we teach the students who are in front of us,” and after a few days and some formative assessments, I was able to adjust my expectations and pacing as I learned from them and they from me.

Having never fully learned another language myself — and having little official training in teaching English as a second or other language — I adapted many of the reading and writing strategies that I have used across the years, from teaching middle school to graduate school, and our shared efforts — me teaching, them learning; me learning, them teaching — seemed to work quite well. They produced more and more writing as the weeks went on, and that led to more participation in class. In hindsight, I am sure that I could have scaffolded more interaction in class, and helped them get to know one another better, so if I had that portion of my teaching to do over again, I would focus more intently on community building in the first few days.

Still, I was able to work with them in class as well as through individual writing conferences with many students (on the weekend, no less), and I modeled the researching, thinking, and writing process for them with Google Docs, Citelighter, WriteLab, resources from the Purdue OWL. This also led to modeling and trying a variety of multimedia tools that they could use to create and share their final presentations. Last night, they shared their projects, with most creating work with Prezi and Powtoon.

Most of the projects were quite good, and a few really stood out. One student, TJ, created both a Prezi discussing the positives and negatives of using social media and, embedded within it, he also produced a short live-action film using WeVideo. Using the example of a friend who got in a fight with his girlfriend via social media, TJ demonstrates the ways that he can compose multiple forms of media and blend them together to create an effective argument.

Another student, Emma, took the idea of “remix” that we discussed in the class, and created a mash-up of news stories about Snapchat to complement her brief oral presentation.

As mentioned, many students used PowToon, and Banet’s was one of the most powerful examples. Combining critical media literacy skills with his knowledge of social media and fashion, he effectively blended images of fashion, his own voices, and elements from PowToon to create a compelling description of what the industry is doing — and could do better — with social media.

Finally, Peace found that he could not accomplish all his goals with WeVideo, so he turned to iMovie. Combining his own drawings with screencasting and other found images, Peace creates a thoughtful argument about the ways in which students can, and should, take responsibility for their use of technology in learning.

There are more projects than what I can reasonably feature here in a blog post, yet these four represent a great deal of thinking, writing, and learning that has happened in our brief three weeks together. I’ve enjoyed the experience teaching at Shih Chien, and I hope that you enjoy these students’ projects as much as I have enjoyed watching my students create them.

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Teaching Digital English in Taiwan

Image of Shih Chien University's main entrance to campus (photo from Shih Chien University).

Image of Shih Chien University’s main entrance to campus (photo from Shih Chien University).

The beginning of a new month finds me in the the midst of the new teaching experience; for the first time ever, I am teaching a class overseas to students who are non-native English speakers. My course, dubbed Digital English Learning,  is a three-week, two-credit intensive course for undergraduates at Shih Chien University (USC) in Taipei, Taiwan.

In January, I was invited by the department chair of Applied Foreign Languages, Li-Te Li, to propose a course and make plans for a three-week adventure in Taipei. My journey so far has been both engaging and challenging, as I have only really travelled to France and England, with a very brief trip to Argentina when I was still in college. Additionally, I was allowed to bring my daughter on the trip, and this has made the trip all the more rewarding. While we miss everyone back home, the new places, foods, and events — including a student drama competition yesterday — have made our time here wonderful.

For the purposes of this blog post, my main interest is in thinking about how the course I have designed is working as both a course to introduce academic writing to non-native speakers as well as a course on digital literacy and media studies. I began the course last week with a survey to find out my students’ interests, questions, and concerns. Many noted their interest in the topic — digital English learning — and how they could learn to use their smartphones and the Internet more effectively. And, as I imagine I would be in a similar situation, many of them were concerned about their abilities to read and write in a second or other language. To that end, I have worked carefully to scaffold their writing through journals and, later this week, the rough draft of an essay.

Also, I am expecting them to create a media project of some sort or another. Building off the success that my students felt in my ENG 201H and ENG 514 courses this spring, I am trying to share many different media sites that my USC students can use for their own projects. So far, in the first week, we have only dipped into some initial ideas for composing multimedia work, though we will begin doing more of this work tonight as we look at ideas surrounding participatory culture.

Finally, I have been reading exit slips from last week’s class and working to figure out a variety of resources for students to use as they begin their essays both in terms of content (which seems to be focused on social media) and form (which I have loosely categorized as  problem/solution, compare/contrast, and cause/effect (ala the New York Times Room for Debate blog). This week, I am hoping that we can get into a computer lab so I can have them begin their drafts in earnest.

There will be more to report before the course is over, I am sure, and any ideas for teaching digital and media literacy to non-native speakers would be more than welcome!

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