CMU Podcast Interview on Technology Literacy

Earlier this month, one of my students, Lynette Seitz, and I were interviewed by Heather Smith, CMU’s Assistant Director of Media Relations about technology literacy and our work in ENG 315 this semester.

I appreciate her invitation to record this podcast and it was wonderful to have Lynette’s voice in there, too, as a pre-service teacher who is thinking about incorporating digital writing into her classroom.

You can get the podcast through CMU’s channel in iTunes.

April Showers Bring Me Back from the Blogging Drought

March was like a lion for me… beginning, middle, and end. I wish there was a better excuse, but that’s the long and short of it. Conferences, prepping my portfolio for my annual review, teaching, grading, etc.

OK, enough of that.

My purpose tonight is to just capture some thinking on a presentation that Rob Rozema and I will give at the Bright Ideas Conference this weekend: Social Networking, Teacher Education, and the English Language Arts.

My main contribution to the presentation will be an annotated bibliography of sources on social networking in education. Here is what I have so far and I welcome any insights that you may have to add to this list. Feel free to comment here or jump right in and add something on the wiki:

Also, I am trying to think about how to discuss the idea of social networking. What I have found with my experiences in using any social technology is that the teacher really is key to making it work. Be it a discussion board, a blog, a wiki, or a social network, if the teacher talks the talk about using technology, yet doesn’t walk the walk, then it is likely that the students won’t follow.

On a related note, I often wonder about our efforts as teachers to adapt technologies that students are using for their own personal purposes and then connecting it to more academic purposes. In what ways does this co-opting of the technology change the use of it, for better and for worse? For instance, in the social network Rob and I set up this semester, I decided not to make it a “requirement” for my ENG 315 class, and I noticed that very few students have been active in the network as an extra curricular activity. What if I had made it a requirement? Would obligatory postings be worthwhile for students? Would the network have grown more in an organic manner, even though I required it to be fertilized?

As I prepare to present this weekend, these thoughts continue to roll around in my head. In some ways, I don’t even know that I consider myself a proficient user of social networks, as I am in a number of Ning, Facebook, and other groups, yet rarely participate in any meaningful way. I am just wondering how the norms of social networking map on to the academic life of a university faculty member, let alone K-12 teachers and students. I know that they can (as the examples above show), but I am still struggling to make it work for my students.


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Meme: Passion Quilt

Kevin tagged me to continue Miguel‘s Passion Quilt meme.

Cool! Given that I have been reading about memes in Lankshear and Knobel’s New Literacies, this was timely.

So, here goes:

Images from my ENG 315: Writing in the Elementary Schools Courses, Spring 2008

Why these images? Well, they highlight some of the conversations that we have been having this semester in ENG 315 about the teaching of writing. As I view these images, I am reminded both of how much I enjoy teaching teachers how to teach writing and how much these students learn over the course of a semester as they work together in class, assist in local schools, and become writers themselves. I am very much looking forward to their final projects in just a few short weeks of class.

All right, now for the fun part. Miguel provides three simple Meme rules:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

And the five people that I am inviting in to the meme:

Enjoy!

Beginning to Think About Fall 2008 Courses

It is just barely spring break here (well, break at least, if not spring) and I am already turning my attention somewhat to the fall. I have been asked to adapt two existing CMU courses into ones focusing on digital writing. Here is what I have come up with so far:

ENG 460 – Current Issues in English: 21st Century Literacies

The study of English continues to evolve in the twenty-first century, based on changes in information communication technologies and the underlying social relations that they allow. Students in this course will explore print, oral, visual, digital, and critical literacies such as blogging, social networking, web-based collaborative writing, and multimedia authoring in relation to their own inquiry projects.

For this course, the main goal seems to be that students create a final research project, a capstone to their English major. So, I hope to attract students who are moderately interested in technology so that we can hit the ground running. I imagine that this group would go through many of the same steps that I am going through with my ENG 315 students this spring (starting a blog, wiki, and social network) and that they would quickly organize themselves around affinity groups. I would take special care to teach them about tools that would be useful in researching (social bookmarking, Zotero, Google Notebook, Scribe Fire) and the topics would largely remain their own, although I am sure that they would be influenced somewhat by the readings and technologies.

I am not sure what to use as a reading collection for this course (or the one below, for that matter). Right now, I am leaning towards only using open access journals and other web resources. Somehow, I want to use the MacArthur series on digital learning, although that could come in to play more in the other course.

Also, the main goal for students is to develop a quality research project, and I would act as a coach for that project. Thus, I need to think about a book that talks about research, yet in a way that makes it engaging and interesting. Right now, I am leaning towards The Craft of Research, although I don’t know if that is too “grad studentish” and if their might be something better for advanced undergrads.

ENG 402 – Rhetoric and Argumentation: Digital Rhetoric

By examining the histories, communities, and designs of digital spaces, this course will relate the rhetorical tradition of argumentation to contemporary rhetorics enabled by information communication technologies. Students will develop multimodal arguments based on issues such as online identity, the digital divide, intellectual property rights, gaming, civic engagement, and online communities.

For this course, I am going to build off the work of my dissertation director and mentor, Danielle DeVoss. She has an outstanding course in Digital Rhetoric already designed, and I would like to follow her lead in terms of the general direction of the course and the overall outcomes. As I mentioned above, I feel strongly that as much of the course material as possible will be open access, so I want to use the MacArthur series as touchstone for the units in this course.

I am also thinking about doing a digital literacy autobiography in this course, utilizing digital storytelling as a means for accomplishing that goal. Bonnie Kaplan and I are already talking about that. Also, I think that it will be important for this class especially (and maybe the 460 group, too), to be thinking about design issues. I just got the third edition of Robin Williams’ Non-Designers Design Book (with color!), and I am leaning heavily towards having my students investing in that text for this course.

Clearly, I will have to do some additional thinking for both of these courses in the months to come. If you have ideas about how I can make these courses stronger, I would really appreciate hearing them.

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Brown Bag Presentation: Multiliteracies in Composition

Last Friday, I was invited to lead a “brown bag” session for my English department’s composition program. Titled “Multiliteracies in Composition,” we focused our pre-reading on an article about a second-year college composition course developed at Michigan Tech called “Revisions.” Details can be found in the following article:

Lynch, Dennis A., and Anne Frances Wysocki. “From First-Year Composition to Second-Year Multiliteracies: Integrating Instruction in Oral, Written, and Visual Communication at a Technological University.WPA: Writing Program Administration 26.3 (2003): 149-171.

We began by watching the Richard Miller’s presentation: The Future is Now. This presented us with a variety of challenging questions about how we might pursue such a vision of the “new humanities” at CMU, including discussions about professional development, our beliefs about the changing nature of literacy, and how, if at all, a shift in our curriculum would happen in the time frame that Lynch and Wysocki describe from their context.

We then continued in small groups with a jig saw reading, where groups posted 2-3 responses or question in their own page on my wiki. After a watching Wikis in Plain English, they understood the basics of posting and were able to see how using a wiki could allow for multiple groups to post their work and then quickly share it with the class. The conversation continued in a large group discussion, including some emerging questions:

  • What do students need in terms of literacy in a changing world?
  • How do multiliteracies relate to technology and communications?
  • What does the multi-disciplinary approach do for departments? What about specialization?
  • If everyone talks the same language, do we have our own specialties?
  • What does this mean for us in terms of the course? Content? Writing?
  • Faculty-only vs. Graduate Assistants–How is this possible or feasible at our University?
  • What does this look like across the curriculum? Is it sustainable?
  • What about assessment? Individual? Groups? Programmatic?
  • Is there still a need for traditional comp courses? Don’t you still need a first year comp?
  • How does the continuing focus in professional organizations on 21st century lliteracies contribute to this discussion (last week’s NCTE statement on the future of composition), both for college and life?
  • What would the writing center need to/be expected to do?
  • Does this perpetuate a two-tiered society, a Gutenberg in reverse?
  • How do we support faculty in these collaborations?
  • Is the resistance about learning to do old things with new technologies or really coming to understand a new paradigm that the new technologies allow?

We ended with Michael Wesch and his students’: A Vision of Students Today, and just in time for a sunny mid-winter drive home. All told, it was a timely and lively discussion for our department, and I appreciated having the opportunity to facilitate the session. Given the release of the 2008 Horizon Report, it seems as though we are constantly reminded that things continue to change. I hope that this session serves as a spark that continues into further conversations about multiliteracies in composition later this semester.

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An Update on Blogging, Podcasting, and Wikiing with Pre-Service Teachers

January has been a busy month for me as I have been coordinating field placements for my ENG 315 students and we have begun exploring the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and RSS in our teaching lives. When we began this work a few short weeks ago, only a handful of these pre-service teachers had heard of a wiki or a podcast, fewer still knew about RSS, some had a general idea about blogs, and none of them were thinking about how these tools would translate into the teaching of writing in their classrooms. So, we started slow, and now things are moving along quite well.

The second week, we downloaded Portable Apps, and I explained my rationale for why would use these tools — both because they are free and open source as well as the idea that they need to be able to take their data with them. We also started setting up our blogs, and discussed the Common Craft video on blogs, thinking about implications for our classrooms and personal learning. The third week, we turned our attention to understanding RSS and reading each other’s blogs. This week, we set up our Google Readers, and I am now challenging them to begin using RSS reading in their professional responses.

So far, this process is going fairly smoothly and I do not feel that I am detracting from the “content” of the course by focusing on the technologies. In fact, I feel that they are helping me get some ideas across even better. For instance, it is one thing to encourage them to read each other’s blogs; it is quite another to provide them with a combined feed of everyone in their class and invite them to read, through their Google Reader, everyone’s posts. I will be building in some time for people to read and comment each week, as their reading of other blog posts will help them activate their brains for our class discussions.

Also, I am finding that they are all having “aha” moments as we move forward. Some are seeing connections to other classes an projects, and I think that they are all starting to see the ways in which we can connect with one another. For instance, one student explained how she immediately subscribed to all her friend’s blogs and, while it wasn’t purely academic, that solidified in her mind the power of RSS to gather information. In a time where we take for granted that all of our students understand so much about the web intuitively, it is good to know that we can talk about these technologies in relation to the teaching of writing and that they can begin to see some new connections.

Next up, we will be working with Rob Rozema’s class at GVSU to post our “This I Believe” essays to a Ning social network and get comments across classes. Then, after spring break, digital stories. As we continue on in the semester, I am looking forward sharing more ideas. It is interesting to compare the snapshots of two generations of teachers that I am seeing this semester — the pre-service students and the in-service teachers in Project WRITE — and compare how they are engaging with similar technologies in different ways. I feel as if with the pre-service teachers, they can pick up on the technology quickly once it is introduced, yet the conversations about pedagogy are still emerging. for the in-service teachers, we are able to talk about pedagogy very easily, but only after very thorough discussions of how and why to use the technology.

The differences are clear and makes me even more aware of the generational gap that must be happening as new teachers enter schools. They are very excited about the technology, yet can’t talk about it in pedagogically sophisticated ways. Veteran teachers are, as they should be, very concerned about pedagogy. This dichotomy makes me wonder how we can get everyone speaking the same language and beginning to think more about the pedagogy and the technology at the same time, regardless of age or experience. Then, we need to layer in discussions of literacy for everyone, because those are not present yet.

More teaching to be done, for sure and it is a great deal of fun in additional to a continual pedagogical challenge.


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Video Welcome for the Semester

Things are underway for the semester — I am looking forward to teaching ENG 315 again, and I made this quick video to welcome students to the class.

My daughter helped a bit, too. Enjoy!

PS — If anyone can help me figure out why I can’t embed YouTube videos in WordPress, that would be very helpful!


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