Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 8

I noticed something new this week. During our two-hour lab period on Tuesday, I witnessed students browsing through one another's posts to get an idea of whether or not they were on track with the assignment requirements--or just to get an idea of what to write about or how to structure the response. Rather than ask me, students took the initiative to look to their peers for guidance. Facebook can be a bit clunky at times (much scrolling required), but the option to see what everybody is posting in real time is a big advantage for many students who need to see a model as part of their composition process.

I'm thinking about how I might take this to the next stage and create virtual partners or groups. Students could be paired based on ability (or not) and take responsibility for each other throughout the semester. Students might be paired (or grouped) with other students from another course or a different section of the same course. This might work with groups for a specific project, or it might work to have students paired (or grouped) throughout the semester--a kind of "buddy system." Pairs and groups could rotate. Part of each student's grade might be an evaluation from their partner or group members. In any case, virtual pairing or grouping might work well. This might also eliminate some of the inevitable awkwardness of actual pairing or grouping as well as the difficulty of coordinating schedules to meet after class.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Team discussion 4/29/11

We discussed the question, as we had been considering all along this semester, how we could connect a science class which covers a lot of topics at a rapid pace to another class which is more writing intensive or discussion oriented. Another problem that limits this is that different classes are using different tools to connect making it difficult to connect between those classes. I learned from previous semester that students tend to participate when they already are utilizing a specific tool. For example, when I used "Google discussions" they did not participate well, despite repeated reminders, but are taking more active role now when I used facebook because they are already on it. As it is, already they have to use one login for blackboard in addition to so many other accounts that they may have been using.... it becomes cumbersome to keep track of passwords, ID's and checking all those different apps. In this regard a uniform platform may have an advantage where one login may take them to different sites- but I think that may result in security concerns, such as risking a lot of personal info in case of a security breach.

Post midterm and preparing for audio/video peer review

On Wed. I returned my studetns' midterms with comments (strengths and weaknesses) and I asked them to assign themselves grades based on my comments. Today, we reviewed the midterm questions and I talked with each student individually about what grade they think their midterms should receive. For the most part, the grades students assigned themselves were the same or close to those I assigned them. And actually, few of them were much harsher on themselves than I was :) But one student in particular, who tends not to follow directions/answer prompts, once again insisted his essay/midterm was on point. Hmmm....I can't quite figure him out; he is a wonderful writer but all his blog posts and assignments always critique the writer/author's feminist agenda rather than answering the assigned questions/prompts.

Now, I am really excited about having students record themselves reading their first drafts of their research paper 1 and posting this video on their blogs. I really think this will show them how helpful it is to read one's work out loud, especially to another person. And this video peer review would do just that. BUT I remember that last term when I recorded my students' debate, uploaded it to YouTube, and tried posting it on the class blog, I ran into few issues, mainly the video was too long. I don't think this will be the case with students reading a 3 page paper. But the second issue is access to the media to complete this activity. I took Prof. Susan's suggestions about where students can access audio recoding devices. In the library media center, I would have to reserve the room and probably do so during class time, which I cannot spare. Now in C 216 students can do audio recordings on their own- I spoke with a gentleman who works there- but if they are unable to complete this part of the project, I feel sort of bad penalizing them for failing to do so? Any suggestions?

On Extended Online Projects

OK, it's only my second post of the semester, so excuse the length.

The semester has been crawling along, particularly in my 102 class, the students of which seem even more reluctant to 1) come prepared with their materials (they have to go to the website and print the poems we are reading the next day) or 2) access the online calendar to see wtf is going on, and 3) work independently on their wiki projects -- this is the primary concern of this post. They had 6 weks, and as of Last Monday, only about 4 had even started, and several of those only had 1-2 sentences.

There had been a hope (which I am still trying to keep alive) that I could connect the class with Phyllis', having her students visit my students' wiki projects and use them as a resource, possibly commenting on and contributing to them, but the students were so slow to start, that I had no idea if they would produce anything at all in time. It looks like, as of the Tuesday due date, about half the class has completed Phase I of their project, and is ready to move to the next step. So, Phyllis, I'll be emailing with a list of students who have finished their projects and are ready for visitors nd their wiki terms.

In future, I simply don't think I can treat this as an extended term project. I am starting to believe that our students are simply too accustomed to procrastination and forgiveness of deadlines to be able to do long-term projects. I'm going to have to make each one of the 10 steps homework that I check on a weekly basis and give credit to on a weekly basis -- which almost makes it more like a blog than a wiki. Which in turn defeats the whole damn purpose of extended definitions and exploratory term projects, revision, reflection, web design, etc. Argh.

This semester I have had it on the calendar that, by the end of each weekend, they should have completed steps, 1-2, or 3-4, or 5-6, etc, in order to remain on track. But this has not been enough, as there are no actual penalties or rewards for them actually doing these things. I'm not sure how I will have to change the grading of the assignments/ stages/ overall project in order to keep them paced, but still look at the big picture in the end. Should completing the steps each individually by a particular date be separate homework assignments, but the finished project be then graded as the 20% of their grade I've been using? As it is, the vast majority of them risked 20% of their grade by waiting until Sunday at midnight to start working on a project due Tuesday. Their citations are then a mess, they struggle with computer/ web tool failures, and don't display anything near the quality of critical thinking or qualitative exploration I am asking for. And they have no fun, which is irksome as I've designed the project to ultimately be fun and rewarding. But in order for them to get anything out of it besides trauma and frustration and hassle, they have to do the steps in a reasonable time, and all my encouragement and voicing of concerns, and classroom clarification is of no use. Suggestions?

Ultimately, I think it is important to have students work independently on long-term projects -- things that they create and produce individually outside of the classroom. Thinking back on my own education, these sorts of projects, even when I procrastinated, were some of the more memorable and rewarding. I'd hate to give up on it, but it defeats the point if they do it all in one marathon day just before the due date. They don't have time to brainstorm, explore, reflect or, for that matter, tinker with and play around with the online tools we are using to get the most out of them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Agenda for 4/29/11 Meeting

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda
29 April, 2010
E255: 09:00-12:00

  • Welcome
  • Ongoing Research and Presentations Report
  • Review of upcoming responsibilities
    • Student post-survey
    • Final Reflection Review and Handout
    • Final Meeting
      • show and tell
      • faculty post-survey
  • Future Plans
    • Seminar Report
    • Publishing the Blog
    • The Next Seminar
  • Team Time OR
  • Tool Research
    • Tumblr
    • Mahara
    • Spruz
    • Google Cluster
  • Commenting on Community 2.0 Powerpoint
  • Report out on previous work as Comment this blog post
  • Final Reminders

Finally some success in my class!

Firstly I apologize for not posting earlier for there was not much happening except one post here or there by the students and my nerve compression that was too painful to write that not much is happening. Well I started with facebook. Initially students were happy and joined the group. But then as usual they were not posting much. However, it remained to be a good tool for me to keep posting small announcements. Slowly the students are recognizing the value of connecting to each other and now they are asking stuff that they missed in the lab, what will be on the next quiz, when will be the next quiz and some even uploaded some videos found in the Internet on topics covered in the class. Now I see students checking their cellphones and telling me that they just got the post which I posted in the lab class. Given that the course moves with enormous speed and lots of quizzes and exams, this already is a great success!

Wordpress New Writing Helper Tool just launched a new tool called, "Writing Helper." Allegedly, it will take your post (or your students) and give feedback on the grammar, spelling, etc.
I'm trying it on "for size." If it works, it would be a great tool for students.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Connection with Ann's LRC 103 Ning and plunging into research papers

This is my pre-spring break post and I apologize for the delay but I was away in South Africa and did not have internet access.
Last term, Ann M. and I tried to connect her LRC103 Ning and my ENG101 Masculinities blog in an effort to help students with the research process. Bascially, the way she and I envisioned it, her students would become research advisers to my students ( my students find appropriate sources and assess them). But unlike last term, when I overlooked the fact that her students needed gmail accounts to post comments on my students' blogs, I provided instructions for LRC 103 Ning students on how to create gmail accounts. Then I had all of my students join Ann's class' Ning, create profiles and reach out to students, asking for research help with their individual projects. Some students jumped in and friended many of the LRC 103 students but then some of my ENG 101 students friended their classmates, not realizing they are in the same class. Lol :)
As we are progressing toward drafting the first draft, several of my students have connected with their research advisers- Ann has been kind enough to create a spreadsheet which reflects the pairs, some of which she assigned as some students were unable to find their match on their own.
But of course, much like last term, most of the exchanges between students in both classes take place via e-mail :( I think what might be partially to blame is the fact that blogger does not seem to accept/process comments which are longer than certain amount of characters?
I've asked Ann if she would be willing to continue this research adviser experiment and have my students contact her students about their second research papers, and she agreed. We are both hoping that the first paper will be the ice breaker and the second will reflect students taking full advantage of these connections.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blog Looping

I have been thinking about the ongoing conversation about blogs vs essays which, as I have posted, some of my students have as a concern as well (the great blogs, sloppy essays issue Phyllis and Richard mentioned). I wonder if we need to view blogs as freewriting and then ask students to use them as looping--for the non-English faculty in our midst, that means asking the students to read the blog and then choose what they consider as its most significant, striking, original idea etc. They can then blog again (aka freewrite) on this idea and once more choose a key idea. Perhaps that will allow them to see blogs as raw material which require this kind of sifting rather than something which can pass as a finished product. I will try to use that in my class in the next few weeks and see if that will yield anything of note.

Just in case this is of interest....comic book event on May 2

Sorry if this is OT, but just in case anyone is interested in bringing their classes or telling their students about this. I invited two comic book writers/artists to do a panel presentation here. Larry Hama is a well-known guy in the industry (worked for DC & Marvel, best known for creating the GI Joe universe, but also has written/edited Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Nth Man) & teaches graphic narrative.

And coincidently, one of Prof. Bogacka's students who's working on an Asian masculinity paper is using an article which quotes Jeff Yang (he started A Magazine in the 90s)...

Monday,May 2 @1:30 pm, Room E242

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I just finished grading my ENG 101 midterms and was struck that too many of my students relied on a personal voice with some extreme editorializing ("I think," "I can relate," most every other sentence) and "this reading reminds me of my own story," instead of engaging our source texts with direct quotes and cites. Argh.

I blame the blog assignments, which of course are wonderful for eliciting personal stories and so forth. But for newer writers especially, who are obviously not aware of the conventions of more formal writing, I think my blogs may have been a hindrance.

I'd agree with Dr. Van that their blog posts are strong, their formal essays are not. Writing an essay with a beginning, middle and end seems to have been impacted (though we have reviewed models and made plenty of suggestions for the review.) 'Writing from sources' is an important objective in Composition I. I've tried to structure my blog assignments to encourage mid-stakes writing, not exactly informal, but still I see the effects....

More theoretically, I suppose, professors of writing and literature obviously are so aware of genre and convention and audience. Our students do not know this, or really care. This all reminds me that blogs--or any other technology--can never be a magic bullet for our students' needs.... It's still work to engage these questions of audience, genre and rhetorical effects. (Next week, we shall have to go over the basics of writing a simple, but effective, in-class essay in class. Yet I fear that my students may groan because 'formal writing' is just not as fun as blogging.)

Last, I wonder what the cognitive effects of texting or tweeting all day are? It cannot be good for the modest essay form.... In its ideal form, I still believe the blog is perfect for a smart, informed mini-essay.... But it takes work to use blogs to promote forms of writing that will translate into the more 'formal' assignments. It's probably my fault, in part, since I allowed my students to practice for their midterms on similar, sample topics for a blog assignment. (I'll be grading those next... and get some ideas of what, perhaps, may have gone wrong.... and how to improve things for next time.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Great Blogs; Sloppy Essays--what to do???

In the middle of Spring Break I am pondering what to do about a set of very disappointing papers--in an Honors class no less! And after group led discussions of topics for two full classes... After reading Jeremey's post about giving more class time to supervised writing I am wondering if I can combine that with something like what Justin writes about and have them peer critique each other's theses and initial drafts of next essays using a rubric I adapted from 102 for my Novel course. I don't have a lab so this would have to happen on their own time but I think if I pair them (class is small--16 students) and give them precise instructions, it might be helpful...and I definitely need an intervention strategy because they are going to be very disappointed in their grades...suggestions welcome :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Facebook updates...

The class has been going well for the past two weeks. Students continue to be engaged in their group projects and most of them handed in their group proposals. Facebook group seems to be finally working. For some curious reason, neither my coworker nor I were able to find the group on Facebook. Thanks to Jason, he was able to find it and kindly forwarded us the link. The group has been working ever since then. I guess I’ll never know what happened, but I’m grateful that it’s working again. As far as communication goes, students haven’t really embraced the FB group as I had hoped they would. Apparently, when there is no mandatory grade requirement for online communication, students opt out from using it. I haven’t given up on FB yet, but I’ll need to figure out more engaging prompts or techniques to really get students involved. (I’m still impressed by Prof. Trapani’s “business” group.) Maybe they don’t perceive this particular FB page as a necessary tool for their college success? I also elicited students’ opinions about FB in class, and many of them stated that they are trying to reduce their FB usage because it’s addictive. Also, I was definitely more successful with online communication when the class met in a computer lab. For future semesters, I will revisit the pros and cons of conducting a one-hour seminar in a computer lab. As stated before, I am very pleased with the quality of student engagement in class however it seems to come with a high price tag (less online communication). I hope I don’t have to sacrifice one for the benefit of the other.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching Peer Responses to CATW Blogs

Instructor Justin Rogers-Cooper, English Department

This blog is a description of my first-time attempt to construct an online collaboration between students in an ENG 220 "Peer Tutoring" class and an ENG 099 developmental English class.

I am currently teaching an ENG 220 Teaching Writing course during Monday and Wednesday evenings. The course is thankfully capped at 15 students; three subsequently dropped to bring the total to a very productive 12. The course is designed to teach students how to become peer tutors, how to practice responding to student writing, and how to connect pedagogical theory to real classroom experience.

This is my first time teaching the course, and I’m using a syllabus almost entirely in debt to the powerful instructors that came before me in the English department, Marian Arkin and Kristen Gallagher. One of the main objectives of the course is to instruct students in the evolving art of face-to-face peer tutoring, such as the kind that takes place in LaGuardia’s wonderful Writing Center. To further facilitate that goal, students with a B+ average will begin tutoring ENG 099 students around the sixth week of the course. To prepare the students for this experience, I devoted class time to familiarizing my ENG 220 students with the CATW exam. The CATW exam is an end of semester test that ENG 099 students must pass in order to ascend to ENG 101.

To extend our learning experiences into the realm of real practice, and with mutual benefits in mind, I made virtual connections with two ENG 099 classes – Dr. Ximena Gallardo’s and Dr. Jason Smith’s.

The first of these virtual connections was with Dr. Gallardo’s 099 class. Her students had written blog responses as a group that summarized a CATW essay. They did this to practice their critical reading skills. Dr. Gallardo suggested an exercise where my students responded to those summaries by assessing how they incorporated the main ideas of the CATW reading. To accomodate this, I decided to mirror her activity with my own students. So in similarly sized groups, my ENG 220 students also wrote group summaries for the same passage. They then compared their responses to the ENG 099 group responses. Once they accounted for the differences, they drafted a letter as a group to one of the groups from Dr. Gallardo's class. They were able to accomplish this in about 40 minutes of class time. I then sent these summaries along to Dr. Gallardo. The experience was gratifying for the ENG 220 students because they were able to familiarize themselves with a CATW response, collaborate on the written response together, and test-run their responses collectively without the pressure of any individual anxiety. I imagine this was the same for the groups that wrote Dr. Gallardo’s blog.

For the second of our virtual connections, Dr. Smith also generously opened his ENG 099 student blogs to my class. Due to the large number of students in his class relative to mine, I assigned each of my students two of Dr. Smith’s student blogs. I handed out new CATW rubrics that we had already discussed several times, explained their instructions again, and set them to their task. They were to rate each ENG 099 blog in five critical criteria (as per the rubric), and also write a 4-5 sentence "overall" statement that set the priorities for revision for the ENG 099 students. I expected the students to spend 15-20 minutes writing each blog, and I left open 30 minutes of lab time for this.

At the end of this class, however, none of the students had completed their first blog response. Working alone proved to be much more challenging than in groups. I had forgotten to factor in the amount of time students took simply reading the ENG 099 blogs. Most of them took nearly 10 minutes to read each one, and most took notes. Given their procedures, only half of the class finished their first blog responses by the end of the next class’ allotted 30 minutes.

In my frequent tours around the class computers to discuss their ongoing compositions, I learned several things that I believe slowed down my student responses. Somewhat unsurprisingly, some of my students were nervous. The quick confidence they displayed in class discussions and group activities didn’t easily carry over to the unfamiliar design of the CATW "rubrics" and its various categories. My students also had their own issues organizing their responses. Many adopted inappropriate tones, and a small minority only wrote two or three sentences in the "overall comments" section. Many of these sentences were vague, such as: "Your sentences are choppy. Work on them."

By the third hour of yet another class, I realized that students were having a hard time writing one blog response in under 30 minutes. This was perhaps because it was their first time. And unfortunately for my commitments to Dr. Smith, we had other tasks on the syllabus to be completed in lab time. They had been observing peer tutors in the writing center for an hour of class time each week, and then typing up these responses in the lab as well. I finally had to tell the students to finish the second blogs at home and send me their responses.

In a further complication, I also decided to try and make some last minute "fixes" to some blog responses as they took them home to finish. We had just read the "Responding to Student Writing" section in our course text Tutoring Writing by Donald McAndrew and Thomas Reigstad. This terrific passage aptly advised tutors how to give specific comments to specific essays, and I pointedly told three students to review it before they handed in their final blog responses – these were the students with only two or three sentences in their "overall comments" section. Two of these students responded well within three days, but the final student ignored the request. He never finished even his second blog response, ever, even though we had spent at least one and a half hours of class time and almost two and a half weeks working on the assignment. Frustrated, I ended up sending all the blog responses to Dr. Smith except this missing one after three weeks.

The online collaboration between my ENG 220 students and ENG 099 students worked very well, but the assignment itself was something I’d do very differently next time. On the one hand, the ENG 099 student blogs were accessible and easy to find. There were no technological issues that disturbed our progress. The classroom network between Dr. Gallardo, Dr. Smith, and myself was productive and reproducible.

What made this assignment difficult were the old-fashioned pedagogical issues that always hover in the background of tightly-packed semesters. The biggest issue was time-management in the classroom and outside the classroom. The CATW responses were not assigned on the syllabus, and thus did not appear in the course grades. I inherited my syllabus from two previous faculty and decided not to change anything. The online collaboration, however, should have been built into the course schedule and should have counted for an official grade. Without those formal protocols, the assignment felt both weirdly informal and yet obviously important. I lacked critical leverage over the procrastinator students; they were late turning in the work in part because it didn’t go for a grade. I felt the responses of the entire class were held hostage by the two or three students that put the assignment on the back burner. In the future, I need to make this assignment count for a grade, and I need to plan for us spending much more time in class than I previously allowed.

The students also began the individual blog response assignment timid and insecure. Fortunately, by the end of the assignment they felt much more relaxed about their work, the CATW exam, and the online collaboration more generally. In the future, however, I would spend much more time modeling written responses on the classroom projector, and might even pair them up for their first blog responses. Once I had evidence they could work in pairs, I would then assign only one blog to each of them. I believe this revised in-class organization would minimize their anxiety and allow them to work faster and with more confidence.

Web 2.0 technologies can be superb tools to increase student capacities and make them better writers. The goals behind this assignment will make my students better peer tutors for ENG 099 students and exposed them to the kinds of student writing they’ll encounter in their future tutoring sessions. Seeing student work online and responding from classroom to classroom was an interactive experience that taught my students by allowing them to teach themselves. It allowed them to learn by doing, rather than by theorizing. I would do this collaboration again in a heartbeat – but I would make the necessary adjustments to my own classroom organization and syllabus first.

Out of the Classroom with ASAP

The idea of using Community 2.0 out of the classroom to connect students has now spread. The ASAP Program will be using another type of network called TUMBLR to provide their students with access to the Program and to other ASAP students. We will focus on three key points: Career Tipps, Academic Support, and Success Stories. Each week there will be postings and students will be able to share their ideas and comments.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 6

What I like about facebook is rather than students "commenting" on a given writing prompt, students have the option--through the facebook group page--to open a "document" and write. This document interface (complete with toolbar) is very similar to a Microsoft Word document page. Having students open a document in facebook and compose rather than "comment" on a writing prompt seems to trigger a more "formal" response. Students often format their response the same way they would if they were typing a Microsoft Word file (personal/assignment info in the top left corner, etc.). I'm finding this even in low-stakes assignments. I've never asked them to do this. They don't need personal information on the page--I can see exactly who posted what. And I can see exactly when it was posted.

Well, I'm now considering not only how I'm going to network with Michelle's class, but also how I might use 2.0 technology in my ENG099 classes next semester. One question I'm asking myself is Blogger vs. Facebook? One reason I'm interested in continuing with 2.0 technology is that I'm consistently pleased with the level of work produced in class. So pleased, in fact, that I'm considering having my students write more of their longer essay assignments in class. I like being able to counsel students during the composition process. They seem focused and aware and free of distractions in a way that I suspect is seldom true if merely set them free with an assignment to complete at home. I also found student in-class writing to be more focused last semester (in my ENG101 course) as well. With the ability to type (rather than scribble) essays during our two-hour sessions in the lab--why not have every essay (except the researched essay) an in-class assignment? 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another week and still struggling

Another week has passed and students are still struggling with the audio files. I am starting to believe that they just refuse to do it and that creates a major problem in an online class. A few students seem to have disappeared. After having such a successful class last Fall, I am extremely disappointed. I expected a similar experience and I have even backed off on some of what I require since I know it is too much.

I always front load my courses (as do a few of my colleagues) since I know how difficult end-of-semester is for so many with term papers, etc. Spacing out the assignments has worked but this class is testing everything that I seem to require. I would expect that when we return from Spring break, a number of students will officially withdraw from class.

Google docs still gave me error messages re: browser (tried a few different ones) but today it seems to be working. Data is starting to be posted on the survey.

As for my Portfolio Development class, one student is really technologically challenged. He has over thirty credits and really has no concept of what to do in Blackboard so forget Digication! Another student has taken him under his wing but even that has proven to be frustrating (for the student). The student really puts no effort into anything he does and is taking the class since it made him full time. Does that translate into not doing the work??? I find it hard to believe that students who are 19 or 20 are technologically challenged to this degree - especially considering how this "mature person" (dare I call myself old) has adapted.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making connections

Spring Break has barely begun and already I'm thinking about how to use FB and other web applications to connect my students to those in other classes. I want to work with Jeremy on poetry-related stuff, Lizzie on food-related stuff (we're reading Fast Food Nation next), and Phyllis on something, not sure what yet.

I also like Luke's idea of having students reflect on their use of technology in class. We've had some discussions about it but a written piece will allow me to hear from every student and might make it easier for them to be open and honest (writing something -- even something "public" on FB or a blog -- can seem less scary than saying it out loud to a group).

Halfway through the semester, I'm feeling good about my progress so far and look forward to doing more in the weeks ahead. Happy Spring Break, everyone!

Student Helping New Students

A student peer BLOG has been developed and the students are begining to receive feedback from other students. This is a BLOG that was developed from continuing students to help new students. The following three additional spots will be added soon: 1) The Academic Corner: Best Study Tipps Ever How to Stay Healthy & Fit to Pass Your Classes What to Do About Math Anxiety 2) The Social Corner: What is happening on Campus? 3) Any Advise on Campus Life. The Site is htt://

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I found coverage for tomorrow's class :) and am off to South Africa

Hello Everyone,
Have a great Spring Break. I know I will now that Ann Matsuuchi has agree to cover my class tomorrow. Ann, huge shout out to you. You are the best. Thank you Community 2.0 and its blog for facilitating faculty connections :)
Will post in few days from South Africa

Guest commenters for ENG 101 / ENG 102 / LIB 200?

We're about at Spring Break and I have 75+ bloggers in my three classes.

Does anyone want to invite their class for some 'guest commenting' for the first week or two after break?

If so, I can send my class your way (to your blog roll?) to do some commenting and reflecting on the work of another class in a future blog assignment.

There are blog rolls of for my classes at the following web pages:

ENG 101 -- Composition I --
Recent Posts on: The Changing Nature of Work, Personal Essays, Reading Historical Photos

ENG 102 -- Writing Through Literature --
Recent Posts on: Realism, Fables/Parables vs. Short Stories, Short Story 'Elements'

LIB200 -- Humanism, Science and Technology --
Promise and Perils of Science, The World's Fair and Suburbia/Global Warming,
Recent Posts on: Technology Optimism/Pessimism, Robots and AI: Friends or Foes

If I could get one volunteer for each class, we could do a virtual visit soon--just let me know!

(Of course, we needn't be teaching the same classes--we could have ENG 099/ENG 101 students looks at LIB 200 for instance.)

Have a good break, everyone!!

Students' reflections on blogging

As we approached the midterm point, I had students in my ENG 101/103 cluster discuss what they saw as the pluses and minuses of using a blog. I expected a lot of the pluses they mentioned--there is less stress, it feels less like work, it is good that we can see each other's work. This last point, of course, was also mentioned as a minus. Certain students expressed the belief that the public nature of the blog adds more stress. They told me that they think the professor is teaching them, so they are fine with him/her looking at products that need work, but that everyone having access to their work causes them anxiety.

What was really interesting though was that some students thought that blogger encourages their laziness when it comes to editing and even structure. These students told me they would like more essays and maybe keep the blogs as an added element, like journals, which is something to consider. On the one hand, blogging does produce more text and interactions. On the other, I, too, have seen how a blog usually transforms into a loose collection of ideas rather than an argument with direction. I am considering creating some showcase portfolio for them to create out of blogs, where they turn them into essays, next semester.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Misgivings and Missed Opportunities

I feel that I have been so immersed in the graphic novel concept that I missed some solid opportunities to connect with others working on similar themes. I find it difficult not to get caught up in the "bells and whistles," to the extent that content falls apart. I am now on "oovoo." Of course, I love it; it's a new toy. I haven't used it in the classroom yet. However, we are going on a field trip to the (real world, not virtual) American Society of Psychical Research tomorrow. I'd like to be able to video chat that in. We may be doing "astral traveling." As we continue more in depth in the area of Victorian literature, the role of women takes center stage. If this is a topic that connects with someone else on a thematic level, it would be great to connect our courses. Anyone that wants to add to the Pennydreadful2011 project is also free to do so.


The great thing about Ning is that they do feel it is theirs. The blogging is really solid, interesting, has depth; they are quoting from the text and have started spontaneous responses to the current novel (Love int he Time of Cholera). I want to channel their enthusiasm into discussion leadership and I want this to happen online to strengthen our discussion follow-up in class. Good motivation so far. So one student said (on the blog) she was fascinated by all of Garcia Marquez's references to the civil war and chaos surrounding the oblivious bourgeoisie. She volunteered to start her own blog on the topic; she researched the endless Colombian civil wars between liberals and conservatives. A humor group in class discussion gathered the funniest moments so far (parrot falling into the stew pot won)--we posed the question--why does GGM combine seriousness (mortality, love, solitude) with farce (people in evening clothes wading through mud and dead animals in a thunderstorm...)--again--this needs to be interrogated, hashed out online; what I like is that they are really prepared in class--ready with page references etc.

on another note, work online is so good I am disappointed in their writing--even in an honors course I am going to have to spend a good chunk of time on essay structure--Jason--love your period and comma thingie on youtube; I need one for essay structure--that it has to be about ONE THING, not go in 7 directions simply because you have brilliant thoughts--is this what the blogs have spawned??? (just kidding--I am still totally in love with them). One more thing--I have started taking very brief notes on what they are noticing--then assigning groups according to their interests--Charles will lead definition of passionate love discussion; Penelope will lead discussion of history etc...they like that I have noted their interests and it helps incorporate the blog into class discussion--this may be obvious to those who have been using this technology for awhile but thought I would mention it...that's all for now :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some good news

We may be able to pilot the BLOG for new students connecting with continuing students. There are two Peers working on the BLOG and they will try a test run within the next week. Also, the ASAP Program is presently looking into a BLOG for their students. I will be working with an advisor in the Program to begin the process. She will also be joining our group.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Week Five Progress

There is limited progress using Voice Board but it looks as though a number of students are making some efforts. Why they would think they wouldn't have to speak is beyond me. However, it also looks like I may have lost a few. One student has dropped - too much writing in the online section, will take it in the summer. This week there is a PowerPoint assignment due so I'll see if technology that is more familiar works better.

Asked students to let me know if they are planning to go out on internship in the summer through a Google survey but that has been wonky lately. I am holding an orientation/information session next week about internships at MetLife and encouraged some of the online students to drop in. While it is a good opportunity to learn about these internships, it is also an opportunity for me to meet them outside of my office. Many of the activities to date have been low stakes. The first paper of significant weight is due on Tuesday. This should give me an indication of who is really still in the class. I check Blackboard statistics and all seem to be checking in but a number of them have not submitted assignments. Hard to figure out what is going on.

After the break we will be gearing up for our VoiceThread activity. I have been using the same VoiceThread for about 3 years and just keep adding new sections. The textbook has been revised so I may need to adjust a few things but think my questions are pretty standard so should be fine. Would not want to lose all those voices.

Public Lives

Greetings from Seattle where I am for the Phi Theta Kappa convention.
This past week as we were discussing MLA documentation, one student insisted that she did not see the reason to have these sources documented and if I would not hunt her down all would be ok. How she has pegged me as the person that would be so cavalier about breaking rules is an issue for the student's special coach in reading people to deal with, but another student had an "aha" moment and told her "they will find you because you will post it online."
Throughout the term the realization of what it means to have the work public has been gradual, for them and sometimes even for me, and this was one of these moments. Another student asked "is that why we have blogs?" I told them that I did not have that as a main or even secondary reason, but there are unintended consequences of making your work public. By the same token I explained that this way they really are writers and have real audiences, in a way that writing papers for a professor alone to read cannot replicate. So, while I am not fully satisfied with blogger (interactions are not as good for group discussion, so I would have to resort to google groups for instance) the open nature of it is a big advantage for writing classes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Media and Wordpress

Now that I have finally :) landed on wordpress, I'm making progress. There are so many bells and whistles that it is difficult not to get caught up in the, "I want that, too!" syndrome. One of my students captured an audio file that we tried to upload in vain. It looked to me as if it would be necessary to upgrade (pay) to the next level. Then, however, I noticed that it is actually possible to add all sorts of media under various "shareware apps." One of these is slideshare for which I have signed up. I am trying to put a Powerpoint presentation on the pennydreadful site. It also looks like I can also enroll in a shareware flash player on wordpress. With that in mind, I plan to film our field trip to the American Society of Psychical Research and/or film a "Blair Wit" (I considered, "Blair B....") and upload that on our website. I am glad to have selected a social networking tool (finally) that seems to be able to provide enough latitude and depth to go to the next level (video/audio).
Let's see what happens! Once I get this working (if I do!), I'll be happy to help others interested in doing this.
Wish me luck!

As promised, I am breaking out into Youtube!

So my tech goals this semester were to experiment with Facebook and with Youtube. I have now done a little of both. I am using Facebook as a "chat" page for my students (there is a bit of disinformation being passed there, but at least I can catch it and stop it) and as online office hours (using the live chat function). I have used Youtube for their videos on occasion, but not actually as a teaching tool, so I have decided to start mimicking  my mini-lectures as videos that can be reviewed over and over as the students wish and also to give verbal directions for homework, lab, and so on that pairs with the written directions. Both seem to be working really well, though I will finally have to learn to speak more slowly. Sigh.


Hi everyone!

I'm headed to NEMLA and I will report on any happenings related to 2.0 pedagogy on my return!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Anyone else have difficulties with Google Docs?

I wish I had something wonderful to report/share but unfortunately this post is a bit of a bore and a whine. For some reason, I'm unable to share Google documents with students who set up their blogger accounts with hotmail, LAGCC , yahoo and/or aol e-mails??? The strange thing is, that at first I was able to do so- I created a grade book ( borrowed this from Prof. Smith) or separate document in Google docs for each student, which contains all the assignments completed or missing. But when I tried something similar with my students' assignments drafts - they complete an assignment in Google Docs and set share settings to themselves + me or Anyone with a link, and then I make a copy of it, rename it, add my comments and share this new version with them- Google Docs would not allow me to share them. The document would not have the little label Shared next to it and students would e-mail my gmail account, which I rarely check as I gave them my LAGCC e-mail for contact purposes- requesting permission to view the documents.
Has Google changed settings for Blogger? Does it discriminates against some e-mail addresses but not others? I know this sounds silly but it is very frustrating and completely random (i.e. I can share documents with one student who used LAGCC e-mail to set up blogger but I cannot do so with another student who also used LAGCC e-mail to set up blogger???).

Arriba Teamwork!

From Conversation Agent
Tired of having students respond to interesting questions with vague one liners? Try this: for the next couple of weeks, four Basic Writing courses will be practicing how to discuss using claims, reasons, and evidence ONLY in a series of rapid-fire sessions in Google Groups. Luke, Jason, and I started the conversation by creating three questions based on themes from the film The Matrix:
Luke: "What is real? (Morpheus' question)": Remember when you were watching the movie and you felt some anxiety about what will happen? You laughed at some parts even. And there have been other movies where you may have gotten sad. Yet none of these are real--they are movies. Were your feelings real? What is real when it comes to what you experience?

Jason: "The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?": Neo has a choice: To take the blue pill and stay in his current existence or take the red pill and see "how far down the rabbit hole goes". Think about your own life. Which choice would you make and why? Would you choose to stay in the world of "stuff" or dive recklessly into the world of knowledge and rebellion?

Ximena: "What is The Matrix?": The Matrix has been considered by many as a "message" film. What do you think the film is trying to tell us about what is wrong with our world? And, should we care? (or maybe we shouldn't).
Then we asked students to answer one question using the following format:

After that, students were to continue answering as much as possible, only this time they could choose between a question from another professor, or the answers from their classmates or from students in other classes.

I was the first to try this exercise last night, and I have to say that from my point of view, the outcomes were very positive. Some evidence: students quickly caught on to the format and were answering each other's threads quickly and fully--and a few were on fire! Also, some students realized that "the hardest part" was to find evidence for their claims and reasons, so I walked around having conversations as to what kinds of evidence could work, connected the exercise to their experiences of having trouble finding evidence when they responded to the CAT, and gave some pointers.

But the best part was the really positive feedback from the students (as comments to my blog): most found it a really valuable exercise, especially to get them thinking about how to frame their CAT responses. One said that it was the most useful exercise we had done for the CAT so far!

Today Jason's students (two sections) respond, so we'll see what happens there. We'll keep you posted.

Week 5: Wheat and Chaff

This was the week when students decided to either double-down or fold their hand (so to speak). We've been moving through challenging readings--and some students made it through brilliantly, and some decided to stay home (literally). It became clear this week that meeting in the lab on Tuesday poses a dilemma for students. They have to make a decision at some point over the weekend: to be, or not to be.

Our Tuesdays are a hybrid of discussion/SWA (short writing assignments). But no matter how much discussion takes place, at some point they'll have to produce some writing. And if they arrive unprepared it will be a rather excruciating experience. Why? Because I counsel each student as they're writing. Does any student ever want to look their professor in the eyes and say "I'm completely unprepared"? Although the lab is a WAREHOUSE, there's nowhere to hide from me. Every student is held accountable. What I'm finding is that students who are showing up prepared are producing good work--better than what I've seen in the past working on similar assignments. The wheat's good this year. Or something like that.

We're experiencing technical difficulties...

Overall, FB has worked really well for me but this week some student posts disappeared for no apparent reason. I tried to turn the frustration into a teachable moment by suggesting that they all use Word to write and save their responses, allowing for easy re-posting if necessary. One student is still handwriting everything and then typing it into the computer so when we do in-class writings, she needs additional time. I'm trying to accommodate her (so as not to punish her for lacking computer skills) while at the same time pushing her to get more comfortable using the computers. We'll see how that goes.

Like Jeremy, I struggle somewhat with how to comment on public FB posts in a sensitive manner. For the most part, I've been pulling general suggestions from my readings of all the posts and then making a global comment to everyone. When a post is particularly skimpy or undeveloped, I've been sending a private message to the student, indicating that s/he needs to add more detail, explain more fully, etc. This seems to be working for now.

On another positive note: students have been communicating with me much more frequently outside of class now that I'm using FB. I've always given them my full contact info but more of them ask me questions via FB than they ever did using e-mail or voicemail.

Out of the Classroom with 2.0

The last time I posted I was in the process of setting up a connection with two areas of the college. Unfortunately both areas have not responded yet but I think they maybe still interested. Since I have been reassigned, I have discussed the idea with my colleagues on establishing a BLOG for our program (ASAP). A member of our team will be attending the college wide session to find out more about Community 2.0. The new plan is to continue with the idea of connecting new students with continuing students and maybe expand the Community to alumni. I will keep you updated.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It Finally Happened! We're actually functioning on wordpress!

It was rough say the least. I could not figure out how to make the students authors. They were giving me emails like, " (why is it always "hotmail"?)and they could only reply. I was headed toward....yep...ePortfolio. I really didn't want just the linear blog thing since I do feel that unless the blogs are uniquely and well prompt driven, they wind up being like text messages...and I hate that! Besides, after the burning of the Lautrecville Spruz city, my pride and ideas were still smoldering. I wanted/want to have the class do something creative while still fulfilling English Composition and Research requirements. My graphic novel idea looked like it was circling the drain until we (and I have to credit a student with figuring it out) resolved the posting issue. The students are now in their "summary" of stories phase. These are "Tagged," and I have to admit I stole that from Phyllis when I realized that "tagging" was a great way to get them to select which concepts and/or themes came from each story. The next step is to locate pics, sounds, and we may shoot some video and vlog, although (why is there always an "although"?) it seems that wordpress has quirky file styles that it will accept, and wav and aiff are not two of them. I may have to powerpoint in the whole thing. The next step after that is for the students (during vacation) to come up with a list of absolutely necessary screenshots for the Penny Dreadful. Then we probably will powerpoint in the "talk or thought" bubbles from Powerpoint, and set up our online Penny Dreadful Comic which will also be available in print form.
There you have it! Next step: the world!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Desperately Seeking Your class for Peer Editing!

I'd like to set up a cross-class peer editing date - or two - in May.  Anyone want to go for it?  I have one ENG101 class writing about food and another section (actually a 101/103 cluster) who will be writing about the Matrix.

On the Reliability of Internet Sources

I have my students blogging, and in LIB 200, they are blogging on topics for research papers. We were discussing how technology ads are 'techno-romantic,' we looked at some new and old examples. After class, a student described to me how there was a giant dial on the new Mac laptop and it took 45 minutes for someone to write an e-mail. That sounded familiar. Of course, this was a video from The Onion a few years back. I didn't have the heart to correct this--the student had the spirit of the video correct--an attack on Mac advertising to make most anything desirable, right? I was reminded of how difficult it is to navigate the Internet for reliable sources.

Then a day or two later, someone forwarded me an article about Richard Branson, the Virgin Atlantic billionaire buying Pluto and re-christening at as planet. I clicked on the link. Hmmm. Seemed like a good publicity stunt, just about Sir Richard's speed. Only till the end did I see it was a good joke too. My readerly expectations were was that it was made-up, but I hovered back and forth in the provisionality of meaning, as literary critics say, I suppose as I skimmed it. This sort of makes sense, esp. with Virgin Atlantic's move into paid sub-orbital space flights, right? (Philip Roth said in it in about 1970--the world was always exceeding a fiction writer's ability to invent it.) True now, only moreso of course. Now much of the strange stuff is online, too, and we all have to deal with it.

Today we had our orientation session in the the Library for my ENG 101 class, and once again I'm struck by how students do not think at all about sources. We all know this, and our challenge is to get them to think about where information comes from, and to jumpstart their understanding and research repertoire with links to LexisNexis, EBSCOhost, etc. One thing that I've done to make their research lives easier is to provide direct links (in a new section of Blackboard which I call Research Links) to the common Library databases. These are also available in our course wiki. This makes it simpler to get to the good stuff, beyond Google, right....

Last of all, speaking of wikis, one good thing I said in class the other day was about Wikipedia. It's not necessarily bad that it is anonymous and crowdsourced (fine by me, but not all), but that it is still, fundamentally, just an encyclopedia article. (You don't just use an encyclopedia article for your research paper, not unless it is a book report in the 6th grade, right? Or you use one encyclopedia article and other, more substantial--and perhaps more argumentative / interpretative texts to set up a conversation around a topic.) I think the students got that. That's how I'm going to explain the pleasures and pitfalls of Wikipedia from now on I think....

Connecting and Disconnecting

First, the good: As you read in Magda's entry, my students connected with her students in a peer review session. Besides the obvious benefits for composition (better feedback, more specific comments and criticism) my students also got what I want this experiment to be for them, which is a glimpse of another theme. Suddenly we were discussing gender and gender markers, which was both a nice change of pace and gave students an idea of the wide variety of intellectual pursuits college offers--all thanks to Magda's assignment and her students' drafts.

Now, the bad: I am grading blogs on google docs one after the other Saturday, when my connection stops. Time Warner did not fix it until the next day, and I got a nice break, but I was also thinking what would have happened if I had been a student and that was the time I had allotted to do this task, i.e. post my blog. After all, my computer broke or my internet is down have become the modern-day equivalent of my dog ate my homework. (Has anyone even heard someone use that excuse ever?) And if I were to account for the possibility, how would I safeguard that it then does not become a standard excuse? When students sign up for online classes they do sign kind of a buyer beware clause that technical difficulties cannot be used as a reason for not turning in work, but what we are doing is classroom+, not purely online. I would be interested in how others deal with such issues.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phantom FB group!

I continue to have problems with FB group which cannot be found in any combination of the search words! Students who joined the group within days of its development were able to find it, but ever since then, it has miraculously disappeared. Even I cannot find it anymore if I search for it through my personal FB account. Unfortunately, not being able to locate the page and join the group hinders online communication.

As far as the class goes, students continue to work on their group projects and some of them are quite ambitious (regardless of my advice to stay “small” and “local”). Either way, students seem to be engaged and invested in their group projects. At the end of the semester, students will showcase their projects in class and complete project assessment reports. Groups are also encouraged to share their projects on a web 2.0 platform such as YouTube, FB, Blogger, etc. where they can comment on each other’s projects.

Week 4

My students have definitely warmed up to the facebooking in the lab. No issues technical or otherwise facebook related. That said, our readings this week were challenging. Even though some of the students weren't as prepared as I had hoped for Tuesday's Short Writing Assignment (SWAs)--which was a staging exercise preparing them for a "close reading" essay--they were still able to produce some decent work.

To counter my anxiety about "commenting" (facebook style, visible to all) on student work, I've decided to comment on their documents in the facebook group. In order for students to see my comments, they have to maneuver through an extra step. This is a thin layer of concealment to be sure, but I think it works for me. I do love the way I can open up their document and edit.

I've been handling the SWAs as very informal writing assignments--purely staging exercises for longer essays. So a lot of their writing has been pretty free form. This has worked extremely well. I think their ease with the technology coupled with low-stakes assignments really helps them get some words on the page. And after having graded their essays, I have to say, I think their work is good. If only I had an extra hour of discussion time with them...

Why can't ENG102 be a 4-hour course?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

First connection across blogs and gearing up for Blog to LRC103 Ning connection

My first connection of the term was a peer review by Luke's Media Lives Eng101 students of my students' first drafts of photo analysis papers. And I must say that Luke's students did an amazing job. Not only did they complete the peer review promptly but they provided constructive and helpful comments for my students to work with for the final drafts. I quickly read through the Media Lives students' comments and I was very pleased to see that their feedback reiterated the comments I made on  my students' first draft.
Luke and Media Lives students, thank you again :)

This Friday, I reviewed the first research paper assignment with my students and asked them all to accept invitations to Ann's LRC103 Ning. She has been kind enough to add me as an administrator which made the business of my students joining her class' Ning and creating profiles a breeze. Ann and I have tried this connection last year and it was somewhat successful. What became an issue last year, was that I, the inexperienced blogger that I am, completely forgot that Ann's students need to set up blogger accounts in order to comment on my students' blogs. So, this Friday, after my students joined Ann's Ning, I asked my students to post a message on their Ning page introducing themselves and inquiring if any LRC student will be willing to help with research. Then I invited all of Ann's LRC students to be author's on my class' blog. I'm hoping that some students, those who are a bit more motivated, will pair up on their own. Next Friday, after  my students attend the Library Orientation Session, which Ann will be conducting, I'll check which students have connected with Ann's LRC students. Those who have not will be assigned partners by Ann and I. Also, as an extra incentive I told my students that their connection/exchanges via blogger or Ning with a student from Ann's LRC class,  will count as extra credit. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In the groove with Ning

So this week students have completed four blogs, two on each novel, which is heartening--and yes they are speaking to each other though not as much as I would like. What they are doing well is writing in depth and quoting from the text, grappling with the text. This solves one problem I was concerned about--if I teach six novels how can I be sure they are reading all of them since they will ultimately write essays on 4 of them? (unless they opt for cpsn/contrast); I am relieved that through the blogs and avid class discussion I can tell they are really working and their postings are thoughtful enough that they lend themselves to essay beginnings. Am trying to hone my questions so that they will dovetail with class discussion and I have taken to making notes on the blogs (really forums/fora in Ning) to use as jumping off points for class discussion. What I like about this is that it decenters my authority and allows me to reorganize around what is speaking to them in the text--a little chaotic for a linear person (not a digital native)--but it seems to be working. Am reading through other sites and would like to make connection with another class. Have reached out to Corbett for wikis but am open to another activity. The honors novel students are hard workers and like doing research. Through a student using an ipad, I learned this week that you can type in a phrase like "my father" for the text, Washington Square, and every reference comes up--this is a very cool way to begin thinking about a paper topic!

How to use FB without getting sucked into FB

I'm still enjoying the web presence created by and for my class, with students having easy access to handouts, posting the results of group work done in class, etc. My third informal writing assignment didn't go over as well as the first two -- about 2/3 of the class answered it while the whole class managed the first two -- but I think that has more to do with my prompt, which wasn't very clear, than the technology.

This week, a student did raise a possible issue with using FB for class: as she was working on her essay, she popped over to FB to get one of the handouts and look something up about the assignment. An hour later, she had checked all her status updates, chatted with some "friends," and managed to get sucked into the time-wasting non-academic world of FB. Her comment prompted a class discussion about why I'm doing this whole web thing and why I chose FB in particular. Most of my students agreed that the FB page is easy to find and navigate because they're so familiar with the platform but I can see why it may be counter-productive to send students to FB to get work done. We agreed on some strategies (get all the info you need before starting to write, setting up a work or school-related FB page that won't be as distracting) and will revisit the topic going forward -- it's definitely something that I will continue to explore.