Thursday, March 10, 2011

Class Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text

Title and some thoughts inspired  from,16932/

Picture a group of students of the suppossedly techno-immersed younger generation entering the ENG 099 lab. Tis' the second class day so we get straight to setting up blogs. The previous day we went over the syllabus and they wrote a diagnostic CATW-type exam. They open up the directions for how to set up blogs, start following them, and half an hour later they are as comfortable following the directions as if I had written them in my native Greek. After helping the seventh student with the exact same problem (namely, second-grade reading ability) I ask all of them to take a pause and explain what about the directions they find so challenging to follow. One of them knows the ropes enough to throw in the trump card: we are not very good with technology. Yet I have read their diagnostics, so I know that the plain paper directions on Tuesday were as hard for many to follow as the blogosphere rosetta stone they think they are reading. And it's not because they are ENG 099 students--my cluster students had some difficulty with the written directions as well, and if I simply went over and repeated them individually to them, they found them more easily comprehensible. I doubt that it was the Greek accent that made them grasp it better. I finally realized that it was the fact that I was pointing to things on the screen--they wanted me to have included screen captures, and it was the text by itself that they found impossible to approach.


  1. Very Interesting!

    Compare to my experience for any class level: before we leave the first day, I pull up the Blogger sign-in site, point to it on the screen and say "See this site? Go there and get a blog by Wednesday."

    Result: by Wednesday 2/3 of students have a blog. I work with the last 1/3 while the rest type the diagnostic, customize the blog, etc.

    BUT I do only use the ol' show-and-tell--no (or minimal) written instructions.

    It might be interesting to see what Rich has to say, since he does use written instructions to help his students get Blogger also.

  2. OK, I read the Onion article, and it made me think that you could turn this into a "teachable moment": since this is ENG099, one of the CATs from the BMCC site is TOTALLY related:

    It's a good one to help students connect their experiences with the ideas in a CAT reading; you *might* even use the Onion article also. I know I will, probably in Monday's class.

  3. I think I will at some point, probably for both classes since my ENG 101 will have to do an archives project, and the archives don't have a single youtube video--nor did Fiorello have a tumblr account.

  4. I loved the narrative! I'm sure it was more fun to read than to experience!

  5. I seriously think there is dependence "you have to help poor me" issue here, especially with the Basic Writers and more traditional students. I have now gotten in the habit of making small groups review written directions together, then ask questions of one another, THEN ask questions of me AS A GROUP, then set to work. I routinely have students say "I don;t understand this" and when I ask them "Have you read it?" They often say "No." Essentially, they want me to do everything for them, so I tell them outright "Following written directions is a central skill you will learn in this course . . . starting now." And "There is only one of me and 28 of you, so help your neighbor to get on track." It seems to work overall. I still will have 1 or 2 who constantly seek help or approval and I have to wean them off more slowly.

  6. I actually "borrowed"- sorry Luke, I should have asked you before I did so- Luke's how to set up a blog directions. For the most part, students in my ENG101 were able to follow them. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that those who are not as tech-savvy, asked their neighbor for help. On the other hand, on the first day of class, many students seem to have not read the directions for the diagnostic essay and/or the actual prompts. So I received several one paragraph responses, and quite a few responses which did not address any of the three prompts.