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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Peer Review Publishing

Yesterday, I attended “Peer Review Publishing as a Tool for Teaching Biotechnology: The MMG 445 eJournal Experiment Using Production-Level Freeware” by George Garrity, MSU Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

George will describe a teaching experiment, now in its second year, that he and his colleagues, Terry Marsh, and Scott Harrison, began in MMG 445: Basic Biotechnology. They are producing a peer-reviewed electronic journal of student review articles covering a wide range of topics within the field of biotech. To accomplish this, they are using the Open Journal System that was created at Simon Fraser University.

Given my current interests in exploring collaborative writing software like wikis and Google Docs, I am now trying to think more about the pedagogical aspects of teaching writing in this way. So, I wanted to hear about the ways in which students are able to do online peer review. Garrity began the presentation by giving some context about the course and discussed how the students in this course are a heterogenous group and they need to consider that as they think about writing in the course. He gave some context for biotechnology as a field as well, and discussed how the changing field has also forced him and his colleagues to ask what “basic skills” that have lasting values that they should be covering in the course. He cited the lack of a teaching text for the field as a problem, too.

He shared some insights from his experience in industry, thinking about what types of skills the setting demands from scientists. Multidisciplinary teams, adaptability, and the ability to acquire new skills topped the list, and being a curious, open-minded, problem solving, effectively communicative worker were also there as essential skills. He then looked at the course, and asked, “What is the most effective way to teacher these skills in the context of a course on biotechnology?” and “How do we keep this real?” He shared the evolution of the course from a traditional lecture-based one, to one that was very student-centered. An interesting example that he brought up was how one student group in an earlier semester turned in a paper that had parts plagiarized, and how that experience helped him rethink the way that the course was taught. Also, he discussed how the students moved to a model of leading mini-seminars based on peer-reviewed papers that they had produced. He held them accountable by switching from a pre-set list of three reviews that students would do to randomly collecting their reviews three times throughout the semester (this helped with attendance). They wanted students to read primary literature, write original seminar papers on that literature, and then review one another’s papers and presentations.

Looking at an overview of the course, he shared the background skills (library resources, writing and editing, as well as presentation skills), the enabling technologies and products/processes in microbiology, the student contributions from outside biotechnology, and the intellectual property laws. Resources that they have created for the class include a static web page, an online journal produced by the class with a real publishing system used by publishers’ websites, and electronic journals with “smart reviews.” Garrity also asks the students to read three books by Alley about scientific writing as well as exercises to follow.

Four principals from Alley’s books about scientific writing:

  • Understand your audience and what they know in terms of background knowledge and expectations.
  • Follow the right format directions in terms of structure, language, style, and illustrations.
  • Be sure to use appropriate grammar and punctuation for the format and audience.
  • Politically, the writer needs to understand how to remain honest while still satisfying the legal and organizational constraints for the message, audience, and format.

The students complete three assignments throughout the semester.

  • Review article covering an area of current research.
  • Give a 25 minute presentation (if they only present for 10 minutes, we will question them, intensely, for 15 minutes)
  • Scientific and editorial review that must be concise (2000 words), and summarize 10-15 review papers that we and their peers review. The scope of the paper has to be new material, within the last five years.
  • They have to agree to the instructions to authors statement on the website.They need to look at multiple sources in the secondary peer-reviewed literature, news articles, trade publications, newspapers, web sites, on-campus seminars. Once they find something to dive into in the primary literature, they then have to look at patent literature, too. They find 10-15 references from primary and secondary literature.

Garrity then described the editorial process from the author, to the editor, to the production of the journal. The students turn in their paper the night before the presentation, and then he makes the editorial assignments about ten minutes before class (randomly). The whole review process takes about a month, from initial submission to the final draft being submitted for the course.

Pedagogical rationale:

  • Reading and editing is informative for students as they learn from each other
  • With others critically evaluating the scientific quality of the manuscript forces authors to revise
  • The reviewers remain anonymous throughout the process, allowing them to experience the peer review process without worrying about the affective responses (positive and negative) that happen in face-to-face reviews.

At this point, Garrity shared the Open Journal System, a free and open-source progam for manuscript trafficking. He then shared their MMG 445 Journal and took us behind the scenes to see how students submit articles and reviews, and how he as an editor can control the work flow.

As I reflect on this presentation, I am amazed at the ways that Garrity and his colleagues have combined active student-centered pedagogy, quality writing instruction with instructor and peer review, and technology as a means to facilitate the process of review.

This seems like a process that many secondary teachers could adopt in their classrooms, and I like the idea of holding students accountable for paying attention to all the presentations and then, at random, three reviews throughout the semester. Overall, I was very impressed with the pedagogical and technical aspects of Garrity’s peer review process.