Thursday, May 27, 2010


Please have your students fill this very short  survey (10 questions only). They can complete this in class if you have a computer lab or as homework. My students took about 3-4 minutes completing it. If you need hard-copies, you can simply print them from the link and send the completed forms to me in E103.

Here is the link:

Note: Because we are using the free version of Survey Monkey, there is an ad for the service at the end. Students DO NOT have to sign up for Survey Monkey. They can simply close that window.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ode to Ning and Community 2.0

Ode to Ning 2 from Dr Van

Here is a list of some of the ways Ning (and Community 2.0) have changed my teaching, multiplied ways my students can interact with the each other and with me, and made my course more collaborative and less teacher-centered. Some of this may be obvious to the veteran online aficionados in this group but I thought it might be interesting and worth sharing—perhaps with faculty who are just getting involved:

1. Student Ownership: Anyone can start a forum or blog—students started doing this passionately about mid-semester as they got excited/angry (in a good way) about some of the material we were reading; result was more authentic voice and conversations that were less teacher centered;

2. Community: Students have a facebook feature so they can talk to each other on their own pages—this offers a semi-private space (you have to go into their pages to find it) and the various facebook features definitely made students feel more at home—they could personalize their pages, friend others, have conversations, comments with specific friends, post pictures—which they did—extensively;

3. Reflection: Students came back to earlier topics and continued conversations that normally would have a “shelf life” of one class discussions; this tipped me off about what topics were really “hot” and helped me adjust, expand, delete materials, sometimes modify assignments to connect with their passions;

4. Immediacy: Students could contact me anytime with a question (often a brief one) and I could answer quickly so they didn’t waste time going in the wrong direction (this takes a few nanoseconds compared to an email which now feels like snail mail; they seemed especially grateful for this feature—I had not previously thought about the anxiety a student has when he/she doesn’t know if the path is a good one and a draft is due the next class;

5. Synthesis: They can go back and expand/revise blogs for credit: I am using a portfolio system—they have to submit their top five for final grade—I am using Priscilla’s rubric—(the one she posted for us that is); this means they are doing more writing and reflecting on their writing—even in blogland; maybe for next iteration of C2.0 we should make this reflection/synthesis a regular part of activity—what did you get out of conversation—Scott set up pre-post for his students;

6. Collaboration and Research: The Groups feature enabled me to create “research” groups for each of the texts—the group had its own page where they could post things and divide up the work and even make plans to meet; their group research presentations, using the Ning page, powerpoint, and even in one case a short movie, were stellar—they went after research hungrily—they wanted to teach the class what they had learned;

7. Ownership and Authority: Bonus result I did not anticipate: students posted articles and films that not only helped them; they helped me! When they were relevant I could repost them on the Forum page so everyone could read them (with credit to the “scholar”—one student wrote “thanks for calling me a ‘serious scholar’”)—this means I could spontaneously modify my syllabus—inserting a new quick reading and plan to discuss for 15 minutes next class. (Two examples: Paola found an article on Breath, Eyes, Memory that only came out a month ago—I had not seen it and it was super relevant to our discussion; Dominick found a film “Aristide and the Endless Revolution” on Netflix—I screened it and ordered it for the class). So the course—thanks to Ning— is becoming a true collaboration; currently as they are doing research papers, I have encouraged a few students to pursue avenues of research that will help others as well as themselves and to post them with annotation;

8. Voice: The spontaneity of Ning enabled me to hear more of students real voices—not the artificial ones that assignments often generate; I was able to capitalize on this and suggest ways they could direct some of their energy/passion towards writing topics that would be most meaningful; in Community 2.0 they blogged with students in other classes quite eagerly; with pictures posted, it felt something like speed dating (only kidding)—they did focus on the topics (crime, identity, race, hybridity); this step needs refinement and focus—with advance common readings—we could even bring them together for field trip or screening if we had common time: this is worth a conversation in initial meeting for Fall group;

9. I am looking forward to our next Community where we can layer this collaboration. In this pilot the benefits as I saw them were about student connection and dialogue—my students enjoyed conversation with two other classes; there were some glitches in making sure all got in to the other class Ning easily—solution to make public; Ximena showed me a better way to organize the conversation so each student had a specific partner. Finding that partner was a little tricky for some (simplest way—advanced search—put in name). Scott said his students benefited from conversation with mine because they are entering and mine are graduating—raised the level of discourse—I shared that with my students and they were proud. Bricolage conversation with Ximena’s class also went well—students were really interested in writing their own complex “collage” of their identity and history (what do you disavow; what do you stress) and some of the conversations had multiple entries. Next step is to see if this blog work can lead to deeper dialogue and perhaps some joint projects connected to major themes and assignments in each of our courses. This will be the work of our next iteration of Community 2.0.

Student Feedback on 2.0

I have requested and received feedback from approximately 65 students on their experiences serving as guinea pigs for my first attempts to use 2.0 technology in writing classrooms.

Here's a quick summary of their feedback:

Academic Benefits

Students reported feeling more connected to the material, their peers, the teacher and the school becuase they were participating in a virtual network.

Many mentioned that they used my "central" blog to re-orient themselves when they felt lost, to search for extra support materials, to explore ideas and links and to find course documents. Many weaker students or ESL students volunteered that the blog allowed them to more slowly refresh the main ideas and concepts covered in class.

Discipline-Specific (Writing) Benefits
It was evident students saw the intrinsic value of writing on the blogs because a) they are public/social; b) they are 'fun'; c)we wrote about a social/health topic (food and politics)they felt was 'important' and d)blogging is a technological-capacity they want to have and feel they will use. This was never my experience with students writing soley in private paper journals and high-stakes formal papers.

Students enjoyed reading other students' writing, and felt the blogs gave them a deeper sense of everyone's opinions on the topics. A handful made it explicit that they were modelling their work after that of peer writers they felt showed stronger skills.

Students intuitively valued the blog for their writing.

They started with and maintained a more positive orientation towards writing using digital media then I have ever seen in classes where "paper" writing was used.

Techno-Access and Techno-Instruction
The most common complaints - indeed the ONLY complaints - had to do with students' lack of consistant access to technology on a daily basis (especially over the weekends)and their inability to use technology as well as they wanted (or even at all) without hands-on instruction.

While some have computers at home, this is by no means something we can take for granted. Many reported riding subways over the weekends multiple times to libraries or jobs for computer access. Since my students often had assignments with 2 distinct parts to do over the weekend, my assumption that they had easy access placed an enormously unfair burden on students without home access.

Many students also reported having frustrations early in the semester with being expected to complete tasks - from setting up a Google account to posting a Blog - without a me or a tutor there to guide them. They had printed stage by stage instructions, but these were not effective. While many students struggled initially, it was an almost universal issue for our non Net-gen students (those in their 30s and beyond)for at least half of the course. In addition, ambitious students wanted help personalizing their blogs and integrating other media (video) into their posts.

Solution: Students universally asked that this kind of class be at least partially taught in a computer lab. I agree 100%.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome to ACE!

Hopefully, we'll have some of the LaGuardia ACE faculty and staff dropping by today. We're looking forward to working with them in the future!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tutors Respond Again!

Last Thursday my tutors responded to Dr. X's 099 students ACT writing on their NING. We had the same basic tutoring response guidelines as we did when responding to Dr. Smith's ENG 102 students: be descriptive, try to say something positive and also suggest something(s) for the student to work on. I could see a real improvement in the quality of my tutors responses this time compared to that experience at the beginning of the semester.

I'm sure they've improved at giving feedback because they've read alot more theory over the last two months, plus they observed four tutoring sessions with the regular tutors at the Writing Center. Moreover, they wrote detailed evaluations (to be delivered to Bert this week!) of the tutoring they observed when sitting in on tutoring sessions, and they've been tutoring my 099 students in the Writing Center for the last four weeks. So, while a couple of them could still use some work, I thought their responses were mostly well-written, descriptive of what they saw the student doing, and critical yet encouraging. That's one of the main skills we've been refining these last 2 weeks--how to be critical yet encouraging. The other thing we've been working on is how to meet the student where he/she is at, and how to identify the 1-2 things that seem most necessary and possible for the student to work on. I feel like the tutors did well with that too.

I hope it was good for Dr. X's students!

One problem we had, though, was that NING would not let several of my students post. It was doing the same thing it was doing to me & Priscilla during the Jam. They were signed in, they had been allowed to sign up for Dr. X's NING in particular, and yet it wouldn't accept their posts! I have to say it made me not like NING! It's really frustrating when that happens!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Welcome to the Participants in English Adjunct Training at LAGCC!


for those who use facebook, the following website is trying to get facebook to change its default "privacy" policy (which, as the site demonstrates, is a policy of zero privacy). Type in any word or phrase and see the list of people whose facebook status includes that. It might be a good exercise for students to engage in as well, to test their current settings.

I did some random searches by the way, one of which was on plagiarism, and here is my favorite status on the subject from someone in Reno, NV: "So I found a book full of Greek mythology from thousands of years ago at the store... and it says (c) 2007 at the beginning. Seems to me that copyrighting someone else's stories, however old, is still plagiarism."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blogger Warning

WARNING: if you use Blogger and get a Gmail notification that someone you do not know has posted to your blog, DO NOT use the link in the email to check your blog as this may install malware onto your browser that places pop-up adds on your blog.

Our Class Trip to Ning

So this week, my students went into Ximena's Ning and recommended keywords and sources for their various papers.

I can't speak to how helpful it was for Ximena's students, but it seemed incredibly helpful for mine. My students were really focused in their advice, but also relatively on-point with their suggestions.

I'll ask them to brainstorm keywords for their own work in class and they'll avoid Boolean terms and refuse to run test searches.

But when it came to helping Ximena's students, they were all about test searches, refining searches, and Boolean connectors.

I'm hoping now that they've applied this to other students' work, they'll see they can also do it for themselves.

The students really seemed to enjoy the assignment, though. And getting everyone into Ning was truly effortless.

Here's the specific assignment my class did for Ximena.

Hopefully Ximena's class will swing by our class next week as we work on paraphrasing and using quotations.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reading in a Digital Age

(This post builds a bit on Luke's post on print in a digital age.)

I've been thinking a bit about my students' reading habits (which are pretty much non-existent). It's been such a challenge to get them to read for LIB 200, and I've packed the syllabus with graphic novels and short essays (one-page handouts) that build on film excerpts (documentary and YouTube clips).

I realized that in our basic writing classes, students can and often do often leave the reading for the day of class. (In group work, they can and do catch up.) But you can't do that with a longer text. My course ends with a few chapters of Frankenstein (with film clips from the Kenneth Branagh adaptation). Originally, I had planned to tackle the whole novel. Now it's a few chapters.

I was just thinking of how convenient and useful print is for class discussions. If we rely on digital versions of texts, until students have iPads or nooks or Kindles or whatever, they wouldn't be able to use these digital version for the midterm or final. There is something valuable about print (such as consistent pagination). How would I choose selected chapters of a novel or novella using an e-text? The pagination is entirely different.

A bright idea: If I were in charge of digital strategy at Blackboard, I would create a reliable e-book platform that would deliver electronic texts / textbooks to web browsers, smartphones, iPhones, iPads and even Kindles in a consistent way. Then no matter what flavor of e-reader, students could at least agree on what the text is for class.... It's so clear the e-book market is fragmenting--even with e-textbooks, content cannot be shared across different 'mobile platforms'.... And this trend isn't going to get any better as different computer manufacturers (yes, that's you Steve Jobs) strive to keep the other team's content off their devices. Whatever happened to open standards?

Yet there's hope for print. In my ENG 102, my students were reading a graphic novel (manga edition) of Shakespeare's The Tempest. In group work the other day, they were discussing sections from Act III--and there was some really excellent close reading going on. And flipping pages! And pointing at the way characters were drawn. Maybe graphic novels will save close reading!... I can't imagine this kind of conversation going on with a small-footprint device, which is really only viewable by a single reader/user....

So I still prefer print for teaching--as they say in Avenue Q, "For now"....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

For our reading lists

Yes, the Internet is rotting your brain is a salon article which, in the densely ironic way we navigate our online lives, is an online article reviewing Nicholas Carr's book on the dangers of the internet to the brain. Interesting as this article is, I have to say that I had actually already come across a similar idea in this entry from the onion: Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text. By the way, according to Carr such links as those I posted are exactly part of the "problem."
I will say that I tend to believe Carr's assertions. What I don't buy is the declensionist narrative that accompanies such findings, as if change is by definition bad. Civilizations have frequently affected how humans process information. In the time of Homer and Pericles, people were able to memorize and pay attention to amazingly long speeches and recited poems to degrees that, say, Renaissance audiences could not. By the time civilization moved from the oral to the written text, and by the time much later Gutenberg invented mechanical movable type printing, I am sure the way the minds of the people in these civilizations processed information and retained it had changed as well. Yet we did not lament how our dependence on the written text weakened our oral memory. If anything, we credit printing with bringing about huge leaps for humans. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


My students are now posting the different parts of their staged essays on the blogs. I'm still struggling to get the commenting part going - having outside readers comment seems to have helped in the past, so if you, like I, procrastinate by posting on blogs, and want to drop a comment on their various stages and other posts, that would be great:

The 101 blog is here - their theme is work and their drawing on archive sources and other course texts to investigate a work related theme. Some will be doing an interview themselves, and others will use course text. Student blogs are linked along the side.

The Art, Protest, Politics blog is here - this is a great class with great discussion and papers, but the blogs have played a smaller role. That should be changing as they investigate a political art work of their choice. Student blogs linked along the side.

Also, I'm interesting in archiving this semester's blogs (with their permission). I take it this is a pretty easy thing to do?

Does Making Writing Public Matter?

Bear with me, please.

What I want to show you is a sample of my Woman Trouble (ENG099) students writing the introductory paragraph for their ACT letter and then an introductory paragraph for a real letter that would be read by a real person (I sent the actual letters to their councilpersons and they posted their letters to the CEO of Ning on his blog). The samples are absolutely random. The students wrote these one week apart.

Please let me know what conclusions you can derive from this "simulated" vs. "real" writing from the same students. I plan to ask them the same next class.

[BTW, the ACT 3 introductions were written after I had a whole lesson of making introductions "personal" and etc. (sigh)]

Ariel's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear Members of the city Council:
Last night I hear in the radio that this community has received a large grant from the government for child care. Also, two options have been made for using this money. Option A is to open two large child care centers in the community. And option B is to give a $1000 per child under age four to all qualifying families for this year. I been work in a Ice cream truck for 6 years in this community and children always came to buy Ice cream. In my opinion option A will be the best option the best option.

Ariel writing to his councilperson:
Dear Diana Reyna
My name is Ariel Maduro and I am a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn. I’m 20 years old and I had understanding that you are the person who is in charge in Community Development. I been living in this borough for six years and I’m really getting tired about that the only park that is around my neighborhood, in grove St and central Av, is not really a good park.

Geovanny's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear members of the City Council, my community has received a large grant from the federal government for child care. Two proposals are on the table. One proposal is open two large child care center and the other proposal is to give 1,000 per child under age four. My community and I believe that the best choice to invest is open two large child care center because parents would be better workers in their jobs, our children would have an adult supervision and our children would be better students in their class.

Geovanny writing to his councilperson:
Dear Daniel Dromm
My name is Geovanny Gomez. I am 22 years old and I am living In East Elmhurst. My community and I have a lot of issues that have to be taking in consideration. One of the main problems that we have is the lack of public transportation at the very morning hours. The lack of busses affect myself and my whole community because is danger for people walk home from Roosevelt avenue to Northern Boulevard , people don’t get good sleep and also affects our own economy.

Hanifah's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear Member of the City Council
It has come to my attention at a recent local board meeting that our community has received a large grant from the federal government for child care. The two proposals that have been considered are good ideas but I think opening up two large child care centers would be best for our community.

Hanifah's introduction to her letter to the CEO of Ning:
Dear Mr. Rosenthal
My name is Hanifah am I am a student currently going to a 2 year CUNY college in Queens. This ‘’Introducing Ning Pro, Ning Plus and Ning mini” is a bad idea to most of us that use your program. What about the students in grades higher than 12th grade, that now has to pay? The majority of people using Ning are mostly students already paying for their already expensive education.

Joshua's introduction to ACT Practice 3:
Dear members of the city council
It has come to my attention that a grant has been received for child care. One proposal is to build two large child care center. The second proposal is to give $1,000 per child under the age of four. I think the best way to effect child care is to build two large child care centers. This will help parents get a job to better care for their child, and help children get ahead start in school.

Joshua's letter to his councilperson:
Dear Council Member Julissa Ferreras
I am a resident of Corona queens. My community has had a very bad crime rate for the past 10 years. In July 17 2006 11 year old Genesis Regalado was shot and killed by 20 year old Jeffrey Matista. A guy that hung out on the very street I live on. After that day my neighborhood crime rate has been getting worse and worse. Two teens were shot and killed on 54th av, 2 blocks away from Callaway and the LI Express way. Something has to be done to make corona go back to the peace full neighborhood it once was, where one could walk out at any time of the day and feel safe.

Cynthia's introduction to ACT Practice 3:

Dear Community Board
I am a resident of Ridgewood and I come from a generation that has made many mistakes with the environment. Changes cannot be made in one day it takes baby steps to eventually try to save our planet. So naturally when I heard about a proposal for an empty parking lot I jumped at the chance to discuss it with you. It is no surprise to me that one of the choices you have is to construct yet another multipurpose building in our neighborhood but it is my intention that with this letter I can convince you that your other choice to build a community garden would be a better one for us and the environment

Cynthia's introduction to her letter to the CEO of Ning:
Dear Jason Rosenthal,
I’m a college student at LaGuardia when I was first introduced to this website I thought wow how cool useful technology available to everyone. Since then, I have mentioned the site to everybody I know and I can even take credit for some of your new members. It’s important to have websites like this available to non-profit agencies and schools. It isn’t fare that you are charging us now think of all the people you have helped don’t you feel the slightest remorse for this.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Report from CUNY-Gen Ed Conference

Hi all! Phyllis and Ximena and I went to the CUNY General Education Conference on Friday at Kingsborough Community College to talk about our Learning Networks and we had a good size audience (15 or so) and there was a lot of discussion all around.  Several faculty members from other campuses asked for more information and a few wanted to go ahead and link with us through the blog.  I have already added Joseph Terry, a Philosophy Professor at KCC, under the title “CUNY Affiliates” on the bar to the right. I am going to try connecting with one of his classes in a few weeks when we return to discussing The Matrix and Philosophy or, if the notice is too short, to start thinking about next year. There was a lot of excitement in the room about what we are trying to do and they were very impressed with what we have accomplished in such a short time. Good work!

**Please see Ximena's post below!!**

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Students Prefer Blogs

This was kind of an unusal experience.

My students' midterm grades were lower than I expected, so I asked them to do a freewrite based upon some prompts, asking what they expected the midterm to cover, how they studied, what was hard about the midterm, how they would prepare differently for the final, etc.

I asked them to write out their responses on paper and they asked if they could post it on the blog instead.

I asked if it didn't seem too personal for their blogs, which are public, and they said it wasn't a big deal.

So I said they could post a response on their blogs if that was their preference, but they could also hand write or email me a response.

And everyone posted their responses on their blogs.

I'm not sure what the significance of this is, but I was very surprised. I think it definitely speaks to a preference for communicating digitally (at least in my example). I'm not sure if the public, or semi-public nature of their blogs is also somehow attractive to them.

One student did say that no one knows who their blogs belong to, which I suppose is true.

Their final projects are discussing how Facebook is impacting privacy. I'm very curious to read their thoughts on that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ning will be charging - maybe staying free for teachers

The Matrix film and Philosophy (05/05 10:30-12:30)

Hi all!

My ENG101/103 cluster class will be holding a live telecommute class on the Ning, 05/05 from 10:30-12:30. Yes, they are logging-in from home or "wherever", so we will see how this goes. However, it is worth noting that they ganged up on me and requested to do this. Please feel free to lurk or join in, or check it out after. Remember to "sign in" to actually participate. I am, by the way, holding them to attendance (sign in on time) and evaluating participation and critical thinking. We'll see how this goes. The link is HERE.

Also, the digital version of the text they are using is HERE (last on the list in PDF, use "download" and "open" for the best quality).