Friday, September 30, 2011

Week Three and All is Well

This has been such a screwy semester in terms of schedule. My hybrid-online Intro to Art has already had one week off, one Irregular Day and next week will be off too. But, as far as things are going...

The students successfully created their personal blogs as a first project grade. They also posted their first field trip response writings. Both of these were due this week, and it seems that most everyone got it done. You can see them if you are interested at:

I created a separate blog site for their second project. For this group project, each student will select a favorite recipe, document themselves preparing it, and then post the images and text to the blog. I invited all of the students to be authors of the site, so that they can post their own entries. I didn't give them administrator access, however. Right now, my recipe for "Sweet Bacon-Wrapped Tofu" is the only contribution to the site, but keep posted for student contributions. Anyone who wishes to invite their students to participate, even if for extra credit, let me know. You can see this blog here:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

WEEK 3: Beginning Painting (or the first interaction with another class)

Beginning Painting

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
  • Explain their decision making process for each color they painted for color studies.
  • Evaluate colors mixed for different color wheels by their classmates.
  • Arrange motifs for Still Life painting.
  • Improve compositional balance of other people's artworks in another course.
  • Demonstrate the right attitude as a painter in an art critique.
The first art critique ever for this course. I preferred a "critique group" for discussing subtractive colors based on their completed Color Wheels, rather than lecturing color for them, because they should physically experience what colors other people think are, for instance, "red" and how those colors are different from what they believe red is.

Most students mixed their own red, by adding shades of yellow and blue. Two students had extreme difficulties mixing red-orange analogous (normal). One student had unexpected difficulties mixing blue-violet variations (unusual). No major disasters.

Each student was assigned to an Exquisite Corpse drawing received from Art-in-New York and she or he will make a NYC Painting on a 11" x 14" canvas board based on what she or he received (due 10/4). They need to make the image very NEW YORK CITY with an element from the drawing. This class watched an art video on Spirituality and visited September 11 exhibitions at museums previous weeks, so what they studied should be used to explore ideas of visualizing the city that historically and recently went through many events. Their completed paintings will be documented and the photos will be sent to another class from which the original drawings came.

For the rest of the class, we looked through Still Life paintings by Paul Cezanne and Giorgio Morandi to understand various balanced compositions. For the Monochrome assignment, they will paint three (3) eggs only with black and white in acrylics.

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life with Flask, 1953, Oil on canvas, 14-1/8 x 15-7/8", Courtesy of The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.. Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1966. Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Peer Evaluation of Blogs

Justin Rogers-Cooper

Instead of assigning a new blog last week, I instructed students to read over a blog written by another student. I placed all students (in both ENG 101 classes) into pairs. I posted these pairs on my main course blogs (each main course blog is quickly becoming an announcement site, an assignment site, a reflection site, and also a blog site).

The assignment post was due Sunday evening, when all my blogs are due. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went over two blogs with students in each of my classes. I made it clear that our discussions would focus on how the blogs were written. This meant evaluating what writing strategies students were practicing, determining how effective those strategies were, and then giving suggestions about how to make specific changes to the blogs.

In class, we first visually examined the blogs. I asked them what could we could tell about the blogs just from noticing things like whether or not there was a title, how dense the paragraphs were, whether or not students employed direct quotations, and whether or not paragraphs contained topic sentences.

Many of the features we observed then became the criteria for evaluation. Students understood that how we discussed blogs would directly inform how they responded to each other's blogs over the weekend. They would write sentences about topic sentences, unified paragraphs, providing context for outside readers, giving readers directions ("This blog is about...I am going to discuss..."), vague langauge, and keywords (and whether or not they're defined).

I then had the students practice writing their observations in the form of peer evaluation sentences: "Dear so and so, your topic sentences are focused on the main ideas in the paragraphs that follow. However your second sentence doesn't seem to fit. I suggest that you..." And so on.

Learning Objectives
Understanding, Analyzing, Applying, Creating

How Did It Go
When I left both my courses Tuesday and Wednesday, I was quite convinced that I had properly prepared students to assess each other's blog. Over the weekend, I had varying levels of resposes.

In my ENG 101: Language and Human Rights class, I had about 55% participation, which was much lower than I thought. Of those that participated, about 80% at least seemed to understand the expectations and what to comment on. In the remaining (few) cases, individuals seemed to post text-message type evaluations: short, unclear, and in text-speak.

In my ENG 101: Ethics of Food, I had a much higher rate of participation. I would estimate it at about 75%. Of those, I would say more than half met my expectations for comments. The rest left comments that either didn't meet my criteria or were off topic.

What struck me after this was that generating the criteria for analysis in class, with the students, didn't work as well I wanted. I wrote all the criteria on the board and instructed them to copy it in their notes. Nonetheless, many students chose not to use the categories of criteria when evaluating each other's work. Many fell into the cliche patterns of being too kind.

In the future, I'll need to be very explicit about how to comment on another person's blog. This will probably involve a separate assignment sheet. It's also clear that the students don't quite trust the common-sense link between us generating the categories for evaluation in class discussion and then applying those notions to each other's blogs. In class, I'll have to leave more time to actually write out a blog comment on the projector for them to see. I'll also have to leave more time for them to get started on the blog comment in class, like during a lab hour. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that ENG 101 students need much more definitive boundaries for their assignments, and less freedom to casually connect class discussion to out of class activities.

Every year I generate more and more explicit instructional "rules" for my assignments. I'm not sure if I'm becoming more and more like the public school system they are coming from; I'm not sure if what they're really learning to do is simply follow explicit instructions. And I'm also not certain if my role in ENG 101 is to teach them more critical thinking, or to teach them some critical thinking within the confines of these rule-based assignments.

What I believe worked was showing student blogs on the projector, and generating comments on those blogs using the same categories of criteria that we use to evaluate their longer essays.

To solve the participation issue, I believe I need to make sure students are connected to the class via Twitter. I honestly think that if I had their cell phone numbers and could text them reminders, I would see a slightly high participation rate. I know their lives are overwhelmed with health and work issues. I've already had several students attend funerals, miss time because of sick children, visit the hospital for ailments themselves, and complain of working "double-shifts" of 12 hours at work. I need to connect more with the students outside of class in order to grab their attention. And, oddly, doing so is a fresh reminder about just what kind of role education has to play in their lives. Or what role I think it has to, to teach them all. Can I really increase participation through another handout?

NOTE: I have tried to format this with less space between the paragraphs several times.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When bad things happen to good people

Okay. Not really that bad. (And of course I'm not really that good!) But last week was the week from technological hell.

When designing lesson plans for the computer lab, I try to consider attention spans adversely affected by the potential for multitasking and multiple screens and address them through engagement.  One thing I love about my PC computer lab is that you can choreograph from the console. I hate to be am overt fascist (telling people when they can and cannot be on their technology). Instead, there are near moments of grace and litheness that accompany how I allow students access to their computers without them really noticing. (Or so I think!)
They are looking at your screen while on their screens.
They are off and blogging on their own blogs.
They are now looking at the PowerPoint on the wall (and not their computers because the computers have been frozen!)
Okay. They certainly notice that. But it's a powerful way to get them back to full group.

HOWEVER. I discovered this past week that the Mac lab does not allow this flexibility at all. I wish I'd known that beforehand. (I'm not sure what I would have done, but it does change the dynamic (and how you plan!) significantly.) My carefully choreographed lesson plan went out the window and I had to rely on asking students not to look at their computers which felt pretty lame, because of course the lure of the screen was too much for some.

Last week I wanted to review for this week's exam, but I was scheduled in the computer lab. No problem, people can follow along on their own computers, I thought. But it was the Mac lab and that follow-along option is not available. Yet. (Evidently it costs much more to purchase that option for Mas than it does for PCs. Let's hope they purchase it soon!)

BIG DISCOVERY: It's not easy for twenty-five students to comfortably view the one projection in the computer labs.
ALSO. There's the situation where half the class cannot log on to their blogs, or maybe they can log on to their blogs, but not to the Google spreadsheet they are supposed to reference for the blog post. That's a problem especially when your class is only 60 minutes long and the seconds are ticking!

Technology SNAFUs are inevitable--the Internet is not available; a platform is down; students can't log on for some reason. I guess you always have to be prepared for the unexpected. But are there some SNAFUs that can be expected? I wonder if those more experienced working on Web 2.0 platforms and computer labs (and even in Smart Classrooms) have wisdom to share.

It'd be great to have a glossary or small handbook or a wiki: "SNAFUs You Can Depend On in the Web 2.0 Classroom and How to Turn Them into Teachable Moments." The goal of any lesson, I think, is for learning to be the focus and the experience, and not the apparatus or scaffold that undergirds it. I hadn't realized how much this needs to be addressed in the online, hybrid, or Web 2.0 classroom.

The Allegory of the Cave, or eveything you always wanted to know about philosophy*

Wordle for Class Brainstorm of
Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave."
(*but were afraid to ask)

The goals for last week included having students work with summarizing arguments in groups following a model prepared by X and I.

Understanding, Applying, Evaluating
X and I have established a pattern for the students for the rhetoric piece of the class that can roughly be summarized as Understanding, Applying, and Evaluating. These will hopefully add up to Creating full essays next week. I stole this idea from the military where it is (or was) called Demonstration, Explanation, and Practical Application.

Our groups/pairs summarized a reading they had jointly annotated (understanding/applying) the class period before and then posted their summaries in a public Google Doc. X and I had our classes cross-comment on the summaries making suggestions for improvement (evaluating). You can see one sample HERE. One interesting comment I had from a student was that one of her group members kept "messing with" the group summary after they were "done" and I had to assure her that the group grade was not based on the product itself but the process, and that the group should have a talk with the student about group decisions such as when they are "done" or "not done". Looking back, I probably should have asked the student who was continuing to "correct" the group work to simply write a comment after as to what he thinks still needs work. However, I will note this incident as the first sign I have seen of discomfort with working on "live" documents. Mostly students seem to think they are kinda cool.

Students then attempted to summarize a piece on their own which they had previously annotated and posted this to their blog for later commentary/use. The goal is that we are building students slowly up to their first real essay (creating) and then we'll pretty much have them write an argument essay per week. This method is a little different for me as I have been a "essay a week" person for Basic Writing for several years and been very successful with it, but establishing the baseline skills first does make sense.

After summarizing we moved on to identifying Main or Significant Ideas, establishing a Claim, and identifying Reasons for the claim. Finally students were asked to combine the Claim and the Reasons into a Thesis Statement. We followed the same pattern--teacher model, group activity, individual activity--and are now planning to again have classes cross evaluate and make suggestions of improvement. The real issue here is helping students understand the effective difference between a "Reason" and an "Example" or "Supporting Detail".

In any case next week we are back to full length essays. We'll see if they retain the pieces for the whole. **Fingers crossed.**


The other major activity for the week was to begin work on "The Allegory of the Cave" and we had students free-write on "A cave is . . ." prior to discussion. The above Wordle was created from the following discussion using the "Create" program at Cut-and-paste any text into the window and Wordle will generate art for you. Saving it as a .jpeg file for later use is a bit of a trick (ctrl+alt+PrtSC then paste in Paint), but it is really easy to link to the wordle and embed it.

Here is a Wordle of this blog post. You can click it to see the big picture (so to speak).
Wordle: Wodle

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Blog Plateau

The Plateau (Problem and Concerns)

I feel as though my students have learned to set up and use the blogs in the last two weeks, but are currently a bit uninspired in the way they are creating posts.  Some students have not posted the past assignment at all, and others have done the minimal job possible.  Some did not really understand or respond to the question in the way it was intended, and this is true for both the ESL099 course (ESL and Art pair) and the ELL101 (linguistics) course. Finally, both the other professor (in the pair) and I are concerned that the ESL/Art students are plagiarizing and copying text from websites, and we are going to have to address this in some way.  All this brings me to these doubts and musings:

1.  Should I have walked them through the assignments in more detail in class than I did?
2.  Are blogs not as interesting to the students as it seemed in the past weeks?  Or are they generally overwhelmed with other things in the classes (quizzes and readings) and the blogs therefore seem not to be the priority for them?
3.  Are my assignments either uninteresting or unclear?
4.  Will assignments posted by the other professor in the paired class encourage students to use it more and take it more seriously as an integrated space for both classes?
5.  How will I best address the plagiarism issue?

Next Steps: Getting Inspired

I am going to peruse your class blogs and see what activities you have been doing to get more ideas!  I am also looking around on the Internet.

One thing I have found (and remember from prior conferences where people had really interesting, dynamic presentations using this program) is Prezi.  Has anyone used it for classes?

I have actually created a short Prezi presentation for the "Language of Art"course - and am also going to show it to the Intro to Language class - as an example - and then will ask students to create their own Prezi presentations (in groups) to teach a particular topic to the class.  Here is my presentation, on "Creativity":

Prezi: Creativity

I welcome feedback on any of the ideas/musings/queries in this post!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Introducing: The Sonnets

Wordle for Sonnet 20 by the group "The A-Team"
So, this week my Shakespeare students had a close encounter with Shakespeare's Sonnets in three meetings.

As you can see from the Wordle on the left, my students quickly discovered that the sonnets were more than just about eternal love (*ahem*).

Here is a brief description of each meeting, plus my goals and Bloom's from RadioJames Objectives Builder:

  1. A lecture on the sonnet tradition, the story of Shakespeare's sonnets, and a model analysis of Sonnet 73 ("That time of year thou mayst in me behold") that made them recall previous information as well as acquire new information. (Knowledge Level).
  2. For homework, students selected one sonnet and wrote a reader-response where they gave the sonnet a title, connected it to an image, explained what appealed to them about the sonnet, and speculated on whom they would send it to. (Evaluation/Creation Level). Networks Connection: these responses will be evaluated by Dr. Pacht's ENG 102 class, and one will be voted "Best Entry" based on whether it is complete, clear, easy to read, creative, and engaging. 
  3. Small group work, where, for a total of seven sonnets (20, 29, 91, 116, 129, 144, 147), students formally analyzed as well as interpreted one sonnet and posted their groups' conclusions on the Ning for others to see. (Comprehension, Application, Analysis Levels).
  4. Individual, small group, and large group work that distilled what students had learned, as they a) used their analysis and conclusions to build a mini-lesson they would deliver to four different classmates in two minutes (like the "speed dating" we did during our second face-to-face meeting), b) they left feedback on the two-minute lessons on the Ning,  c) constructed a Wordle to express the key ideas of the group's sonnet, and d) connected the ideas in a new  sonnet, 130, to the Elizabethan sonnet tradition. (Synthesis, Evaluation/Creation Level).
How Did It Go?
    The photo one member of the group "Hight Yare Let" took to
    demonstrate the group's work on structure
    The hands-on activities created a positive, energetic buzz around the analytical and evaluative work. The groups collaborated intensely both days, and I was pleased to see the groups work sans technology the first time around, so that, at least initially, their analysis was not tainted by interpretations floating on the web.

    While students were anxious about the "speed dating" activity (one even scoffed at the idea), the anxiety turned into eagerness to appear knowledgeable about a sonnet. By the end of the first round, everyone was having a blast sharing her/his understanding-- except for two students that had missed the previous classes and had to "eavesdrop" on other people's exchanges, as they both decided they did not know enough about the sonnets to be "2-minute experts." Between one thing and the next (read: the Wordles), we ran out of time for students to give me feedback about the sonnets lessons, so they will turn their reflection in next week  (I gave them the option of making the reflection anonymous) or via Ning.

    The image that the group "Shocskpear"
    used to explain the theme of Sonnet 29
    I still have to see what my students say about the lessons, but from my own observation, I would definitely do the following again: the reader-response, the group analysis, and the "speed dating." Maybe the Wordle should be part of homework so that it does not take up class time (though it was interesting listening to the group members arguing as to what words should be included). If I could get away without doing the introductory lecture, I would,  but I read somewhere that the only worse thing than a face-to-face lecture is an average online lecture. Anyone remembers where this notion is from?

    ENG 101: Blogs Connecting Plato and Personal Philosophy

    Learning Objectives:
    • students will apply Plato's philosophy to personal experience (applying)
    • students will choose topic with most potential for an essay (evaluating)
    • students will examine personal philosophy and how it has evolved (analyzing)
    • students will write a blog connecting past experience to future possibilities (creating)
    How did it go? 

    As preparation for the activity, students had learned and practiced invention techniques such as brainstorming, freewriting, and clustering, all focused on the issue of "previously held beliefs no longer deemed real." Furthermore, once they had enough material, students also practiced a technique for deciding what is a fruitful and original topic vs a common place one that everyone resorts to and ends up being generic. Then they had to develop an essay based on the following prompt

    For this blog, we will explore how we have come to form the reality in which we believe. Earlier you made a list of ideas and facts you thought were true at some point in the past but you no longer do; choose one of these, the one you think has more potential, and write a short essay where you 1) discuss what the previous belief was 2) explain how/what caused the change in your beliefs and the consequences of the change and 3) discuss another possible area in your life where you suspect you are "in a cave."

    As expected, the degree to which students had comprehended Plato's allegory of the cave affected the degree of success in the blog essay, combined with the degree to which they had incorporated in their thinking the lesson about choosing the topic that has most potential. While all students in their original lists had the tooth fairy, santa claus, etc as examples of illusions, a very limited number chose these for their essay, demonstrating that they knew there would be no significant opportunity for standing out in such a topic. 


    Because the activity is not a stand alone one, discerning how well it went depends on examining the previous activities as well. A few essays had very short entries, indicating that these students need to practice invention techniques more; furthermore some entries demonstrated limited potential for  reflection into personal experience and philosophy. The activity will provide these students with some successful models of reflection and topic development, and I will invite them to analyze and evaluate representative entries from a range of performances. As their first activity with blogs, it serves as a good benchmark for assessing current strengths and weaknesses. In essence I use this as a diagnostic, because I do not find value in students writing a context-free, non-specific to the classroom essay, so while it happens a little later in the term than diagnostics traditionally take place, it serves these purposes well. The majority of the students met all four objectives, and the next step to undertake with them is to help them move  from minimal achievement to the next plateau. 

    HAVE ART: WILL TRAVEL ! INC. CORDIALLY INVITES YOU TO SALANDER/BLOMKVIST: CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES Linda Stein moderates a panel with Jimmie Briggs, Michael Kimmel and Shelby Knox SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2011 2–4 PM

    Linda Stein moderates a panel with
    Jimmie Briggs, Michael Kimmel and Shelby Knox
    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2011
    AT THE

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Week 3, we keep at it!

    Rudy and I met to discuss plan and last Thursday and expected students enrolled in his hybrid course to want to post their homework the night before it was due.

    I also visited the first section of MAT096.1589. Student expresses an interest in following our blog due to their apathy to Math, but mainly because they don’t want to know the fastest way to secure their way out of this remedial course.

    This week I began tracking comments through DISQUS. I’m so glad I activated this option. It’s simple, quick and user friendly for both bloggers and readers to use.

    The most important aspect of DISQUS is that I can see all my comments on one page. As opposed to having to log into every single social media we have chosen for our project.

    As we get more traffic and comments, I will show you a picture of all the comments and traffic we are getting. (For some reason Blogspot doesn't allow Print-Sscreen shots added to this post).

    Next week, starting, Tuesday, I’ll visit the rest of the MAT096 sections and hope not to get too confused with the irregular days ahead in the academic calendar.

    Have an awesome weekend fellow Community 2.0 Bloggers!

    ENG 102: Week 2

    Learning Objectives:
    To understand the poetic elements of a sonnet; to analyze Shakespeare’s language while reading/interpreting Sonnet 18; to prepare for an online connection with Ximena’s Shakespeare class.

    How did it go?
    I hit a typical snag right at the beginning when I realized that many students had not printed the sonnet out and brought it with them to class as requested. The good thing about posting links to the text(s) on Facebook is that we can all access it at any time. But it helps to have the text in front of you for discussion purposes and we were not in computer lab on Wednesday. I momentarily blanked out on the fact that I was in a smart classroom and had a projector and screen at my disposal so students ended up reading the poem off their phones or looking over someone’s shoulder, which was not ideal. The discussion went well though and they seemed much more confident about their ability to understand Shakespeare at the end of the hour. I therefore asked them to connect online to Ximena’s Shakespeare class over the weekend. They are being asked to review the student work posted on her Shakespeare Ning, choose three responses that they find most intriguing, and then choose one favorite based on a list of criteria created by Ximena and me. I reviewed the instructions on the screen, showing them where to find the links and browsing through some of the work Ximena’s students had posted. This preview helped generate excitement and they seemed anxious to see more of what other students had done.

    The instructions for the online connection all seemed to make sense when we discussed it but I’ve already gotten a few e-mails asking for clarification so I’m not sure they will all be able to complete the work. The assignment does require a fair amount of clicking back and forth, which might be confusing. I’m leaving class time on Monday to discuss what we’ve done and to cast votes for our favorite example of student work so I can report more next week. For now, though, I feel good about the fact that they will be seeing the work of more advanced students and am hoping it will help them as they read and try to interpret Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 for Monday's class.

    WEEK 2

    Art-in-New York

    Learning Objectives

    Students will be able to:
    • create an 11-step value scale (monochrome) by mixing black and white.
    • mix secondaries and tertiaries from primaries.
    • collectively critique artwork and rearrange visual elements for improving compositional balance.
    • demonstrate their feelings about what they see.
    I decided to put all students in a 1-hr color boot camp for mixing, judging, and discussing subtractive colors. They successfully painted a value scale in one hour. I was amazed. The Color Wheel became their homework because this class is not meeting the following week (Friday schedule next Wednesday). There was no time to explain what was happening in color and in their eyes, but this way, they can at least "evaluate" colors in color-field paintings at MoMA on a field trip, two weeks from now. If not, they cannot even "see" that a painting is there!

    We used the last half of the class time for a group critique of exquisite corpse drawings from last week. I asked the entire class to evaluate drawings based on their completion levels: 0% to 100%, and why they feel that way. In some sense, this exercise was more about verbalizing their feelings than the drawings.

    Two students documented all drawings at the end
    Those photos will be sent to other students in Beginning Painting.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Community Affiliate

    Hello Community 2.0ers,
    Hope your Fall semester is off to a great start. While I'm not teaching this semester-am going to LA in few days, working on a possible book project, and patting myself on the back for passing my oral exam with distinction :)  - the blog I've set up for my Eng101 classes-  is still up. I've posted announcements about two great events on men/masculinities. Do check it out.

    Getting Started

    It's been a great beginning of the semester for my hybrid-online Intro to Art. I reserved a computer lab on the first day, and had everybody set up their Blogger accounts. A couple of students had trouble making accounts on campus, but they were able to get their accounts running at home. Their first project grade was to create a personalized blog page and respond to the writing prompt, "Good Art/Bad Art."

    Last week we took our first field trip to MoMA PS1 to see the "9/11" exhibition. They were a respectful and inquisitive group, which is always a relief. Their 2nd blog posting will be a response to that trip, called, "Art and World Events." Both of the above prompts are due by next week, so I'll post an update when I see their responses.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Getting Up and Started

    This has been a bit of a crazy time to get this going. I got the course at the last minute and then left for California for a week and took my laptop with me to make the course happen. So I am still searching for a dance partner within my department but I have setup my own blog for the class as a starting point.
    I have distributed the survey to everyone and since I am teaching an ONLINE class only I have to assume good Karma will move over my super scholars and urge them to complete the survey.
    I will give you further news on my success later this week.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Ah, the second week is really the first week!

    Hello Fellow Community 2.o Bloggers,
    Prof. M. and I met on Tuesdays as we had planned and wrote our very first post for our MathBlogLaGCC Blog and on Thursday I introduced the Facebook Fan Page to his MAT115.1592 students.
    I was able to activate our own DISQUS account to keep track of all the postings and comments students make on the Blog (Tumblr), Facebook and Twitter. I highly recommend using DISQUS to keep track of all your comments if you use more than one social medial platform. I also added the Google Analytics html piece to our blog to keep track of all the traffic we may (or not) get in a regular basis.
    DISQUS and Google analytics are powerful media tools to track what we do and see how engaged our readership becomes per post and over periods of time. I can’t wait to see and share the stats from our blog with you all.
    How did it go?
    Well, once we had all the students logged into Educo, it was easy to send them the link to all our Social Media opportunities of engagement, once again. Prof. Meangru didn’t have to search for email addresses, but instead just used his group email option form this Math software online product to communicate the message to his students.
    We also discovered that although students may have a FaceBook account, they really don’t want “to go on it” as much. This information did not face us, for we were prepared with DISQUS to allow students to comment directly on our blog posts. I emphasized that the reason we choose these three platforms was to give them as many user friendly options to talk and learn about Math. Through DISQUS, our blog is now able to accept comments and record students’ reactions to our blog posts and as well as their peers. DISQUS also offers our students the option of not having to open an account on Facebook or Tumblr and have to suffer trough non-sense Facebook newsfeed of status posts from their FB friends when they need to post on our FaceBook Fan Page.
    I look forward to next week’s visits to the other math sections and to introduce the blog once again, to a new group of students in the MAT096 sections we selected.
    Hope everyone is having a blast with our blogs and social media projects!
    I know, I am!

    Week One Activity

    My colleague Ingrid and I met last Thursday with my College Algebra and Trigonometry class in a computer lab. We dicsuss our Web 2.0 project with them and our intentions for them to engage in an online mathematics community through Tumblr and Facebook. They were given an open access link for Tumblr to post a comment before the next class. We were unable to do this right away, since the account could only be activated after a 24 hour period. Hope this goes well.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Getting Started & Differentiating through Blogs

    Hello everyone,

    Finally posting on this blog!  I wanted to check in with my ELL101 students today before posting, so I'm sorry for the delay!

    Bloom's Taxonomy

    BTW, I found a very detailed taxonomy wheel on Wiki Commons that gave many examples of each domain:

    My goal the first week was really to get students set up in blogger and to try posting a few things, including images and links, so that future blog post assignments go smoothly.  At the same time, I wanted students to introduce themselves to one another.  This doesn't seem to fit under the taxonomy neatly, but is a part of demonstrating knowledge (of how to blog) or application of what they have learned about blogging.

    Last week, we expanded into "real" blog post assignments that began to focus on the course content.

    In ESL099, students had a BP about "What is Creativity," an assignment derived from questions in the text about what creative traits the students have. Here the students needed to demonstrate that they had read the chapter and understood the relevant vocabulary (knowledge domain) and they needed to evaluate themselves and their own creativity.

    In ELL101, students needed to demonstrate knowledge of phonetic symbols and sounds to describe their own names for their second blog post.

    Reflective Description

    All the students in both classes seemed to be able to set up their blogs and begin to blog within the class period set aside for the creation of blogs and the initial practice posts. The students in ESL099 had some difficulties, as many had not used online systems very much in the past, and needed more support.

    I am wondering how it will go when the other professor in the paired course also gives blog assignments.  I hope that the class will feel integrated and the assignments connect everything together for the students.

    Discoveries, Challenges, and Fun (oh my!)

    I think one challenge will be getting students to consistently participate in the blogs.  The ELL101 class already has a number of students who have not done the assignment that was not completed during class.  Any thoughts on motivating students to participate, even though the assignments are low-stakes and do not count for such a large part of the grade is highly appreciated!

    I found that the layout with the main blog on the left and the menus all along the right-hand side are easiest to read.  It seems as though most other classes are also using this format!

    I think that the students like having the blog, and I want to keep this interest or sense of fun with it.

    The Last Word...

    As the classes are just getting going, I don't have many conclusions yet.  Maybe more in the following weeks!

    I think that I will show the blogs more during class time - to keep reminding students of them and highlight good work!

    I just had this meta-thought: is blogging about blogs on blogger therefore "meta-blogging"?


    PS - I will confess - I completely forgot to do tags and had to go in and edit to add them!

    Getting Started

    I'm just getting started; so I set up a blog for my two Intro to Philosophy courses and I will at first have them connect and comment on each other. Ximena suggested that I could have students access the blog and comment instead of giving each student permission to be a member. I have done that last semester and it worked well, so I will probably do it like that for now and change it later.
    Students will have to write a persuasive argument (following given criteria) on a topic of their choice, and then they evaluate each other.
    This past week I have also been thinking about teaching online classes; next semester I will probably teach my Phil of Law class as an online class. It seems that most people who have taught online used Blackboard as platform for this, but I am not very fond of the Blackboard discussion feature, so I would prefer a blog or perhaps a facebook group. Has anyone of you taught an online course used one or more of these?

    Dr. Albrecht

    Students Creating Content in Shakespeare


    This past week and a half, my Shakespeare students were busy joining Shakespeare Workshop on Ning and creating questions based on several readings for their final exam. Yep. That's right: one part of the exam (the take-home part) is written by them.

    Goals and Bloom's
    (For writing the goals, I used RadioJames Objectives Builder).
    • To identify key ideas in several passages about Shakespeare's world, Shakespeare's personal life, the Elizabethan stage, and "Shakespearean" language. (Comprehension Level).
    • To create four questions that would test others' understanding of the same passages. These questions could be in form of Multiple Choice, Fill in the Blanks with a  list of possible answers, and/or True or False. (Synthesis/Creation Level).
    • To rewrite the questions, if necessary, to guarantee complete comprehension and accuracy. (Evaluation Level; Synthesis/Creation Level). 
    • To submit new questions, if a topic had already been covered by another classmate. (Synthesis/Creation Level).

    How Did It Go?
    It went fine, but not outstandingly well, at least at first. It always surprises me that at least half the students in a class do not (Will not? Cannot? It's a mystery) follow instructions, even though we read the instructions out loud in class and I have answered questions about them. (!!) So, there was some back and forth between them and me as about half of them submitted open-ended questions, or did not submit the list of answers for the fill-in-the-blanks, or replicated work done by others (which may imply they did not read the other entries before submitting theirs), or phrased their questions so strangely that I could not understand what they were asking. After the back and forth, however, all was well for most of them (some did not fix their questions and therefore did not get credit or full credit) and everyone was satisfied with assignment (students always tell me they like that they get to ask their own questions about the material).

    This exercise, of course, is about many things besides the stated goals. It helps me drive home the importance of following written instructions. It allows me to identify what they consider important material to be included in the final exam. It allows the students to have some say and control over the material and their own evaluations. And so on... Of course, the dark side of the assignment is to see how my students' lives have been determined by standardized tests that ask them to regurgitate the least possible useful facts of any topic. For example, there has not been one semester that someone in the class does not ask the exact date of Shakespeare's birth (!) when there are so many other pieces of compelling information to consider: life expectation under thirty, the legal status of women, public executions and bear-baiting as forms of "amusement," women characters being played by young boys...

    BTW, Jason will be posting on our common endeavor in Basic Writing while I will be posting on Shakespeare, so you will get less posts from me... ;-)

    I love it when the other shoe drops...

    Research Firm Finds Blackboard Security Holes

    September 18, 2011, 7:36 pm
    A security firm hired by an Australian university has found vulnerabilities in Blackboard Learn, the popular course-management software, the Australian computer-security publication SC Magazine reported on Friday.
    For more, go HERE.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Marathon Week!

    This week our ENG 099 classes not only got their blogs set up, but they wrote their "Diagnostics" (see Justin's remarks on such futile exercise HERE)  and were (re-) introduced to two much needed basic skills: Annotating and Summarizing. WHEW!!!!

    A full class meeting was devoted to each skill, but since our methodology was similar for both, I will report on both meetings at the same time.

    Goals and Bloom's
    (For writing the goals, I used RadioJames Objectives Builder.)
    • Our first goal was to make students thinks critically about the particular skill by identifying and reviewing examples of it, discussing its uses, and identifying its possible relevance to their writing. (Comprehension Level).
    • Our second goal was to have students put in practice the ideas they had reviewed by creating an annotation and a summary of a CAT-style reading in association with other classmates (Jason put them in groups, I had them partner). (Synthesis/Creation Level).
    • Our third goal was to have students reflect on the discussion and work for that day by evaluating the different strategies to which they had been exposed and deciding which seemed to work best for their writing. (Evaluation Level). 
    • For homework, the students were to put in practice the two skills by creating an annotation and a summary of  a different CAT-style reading on their own.  (Synthesis/Creation Level).

    How Did It Go?
    Since the main objective was to (re-)introduce skills and get students to begin thinking about them and attempting to practice them in their own work, we would say that, based on our students' responses and reflections,* the classes got the gist of both lessons. We did not expect the level of annotation or summarizing to improve dramatically,** but rather we were establishing a base that we could work from for the rest of the semester.

    *Student Responses and Reflections
    • For my students' group annotations of THIS reading, see HERE and HERE. (Jason's classes discussed out loud how to annotate the reading). Interestingly, the two classes agreed on many points.
    • For Jason's and my students' group summaries of the reading above, see HERE and HERE  (two more classes are doing this lesson next Tuesday).
    • For my students' reflections go HERE  and HERE (annotation) and HERE (summary). (Jason's students did them as blog entries).
    **improve, that is, from the level shown in their responses to the CAT reading they had for their "Diagnostic."

      You've lost that chaotic feeling...

      I am Comm2.0-ing two courses: ELL 101.XXXX ( and ESL 099.XXXX ( (I will look up the sections and edit in a bit!)
      I spent considerable time before the semester envisioning/designing how the platforms I'm using could/should look and "feel." So though they are both "blogs," they are also integrally connected to Google Docs (including Forms, Spreadsheet, Presentation, and Docs) and Google Sites for the class wiki we will be developing in ESL. (Yes, I am now LOVING Google.) The blogs feel like flexible Web sites and I stole plenty from Jason and Ximena (thanks, guys) to set mine up. 

      Getting students to create their blogs on the first day of class was a lot less chaotic than it has been in the past. I can always depend on one or two people in the class to go around like I do, helping people figure out what's not working. Inevitably they have a Google account but have forgotten the username or password or they miss the whole point of setting up a blog and spend a considerable amount of time (until I see what's going on) tweaking their Google profile. But I found myself sort of "surfing" that chaos and trusting that it would all come together. Which it did.

      The down side of all of this, is that in an effort to set everything up in the linguistics course, we didn't have enough time on the first day to talk about the overview of the course. I feel that somehow the cart got a little ahead of the horse. 

      This course is in a cluster with Justin Rogers-Cooper's Eng 101/103 and Bojana Blagojevic's Law and Human Rights. The students are using their individual blogs for all three courses. The cluster is "The Language of Human Rights" and I think having the work for all three classes on their one blog is going be a powerful determiner in how we co-construct what the language of human rights might be!

      I only meet with my ESL students once a week for the reading component of their course. (The writing component of this course is taught by an adjunct instructor, Pamela Soto.) The semester is nevertheless ambitious since we plan to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. As I prepped the book over the summer, I thought a lot about what it would mean to use Web 2.0 tools with a community of readers to make sense of what I see as essentially three stories going on in the book (one that's the scientific aspect; one about civil rights, ethics, and the legacy of being African American; the third is about the writing process of the book itself and the relationship of the "story" to the journalist/author). Of course, the stories intertwine, intersect, overlap, and make up the one narrative that is the book itself. To tease this out and grapple with the structures and themes, I set up a Google spreadsheet for a class-generated glossary of vocabulary and Google Sites to create a class Spark Notes. Okay I'm kidding. It won't be Spark Notes, but we'll use Sites as a Wiki to "make sense" of the book according to how this group has unpacked their experience of reading of it. Stay tuned.   

      The upside is that a lot of community building has occurred in both classes.  The writing "on the wall" is already blowing me away: their language, their insights, their range of knowledge and thoughtfulness, and, for some, their limitations to express themselves. These are formulating exciting opportunities for teaching and learning as we all have the opportunity to not only "hear" each other, but to "read" each other too. 

      For me, this is an invaluable opportunity to feel what it's like to be teaching and composing using 21st century literacies. I think about audience, purpose, and form in ways that are dynamically shifting from how I've approached them previously--not that my approach to teaching and writing has ever been static or predictable; it's always some form of chaos coming into sublime moments of control, before crashing down into chaos again. 

      BTW: I've also created a blogger platform for my graduate course on Effective Academic Writing and will be creating one for the Literacy Brokers Program. 

      In all of these "places/spaces," I've been intrigued by the exchanges between folks (e.g., "How do you link this phrase up to Google Docs without showing the URL?" or "How did you upload a PDF to Google Docs?"). It's exciting to see that we can all help each other, show short cuts. It definitely plays around with the teacher-student, reader-writer dynamic and we're obviously together in this sea of change--surfing the chaos. 

      More about actual lesson plans, etc. next week. Promise! (And I'll try not to be so heavy-handed with the metaphors!)

      Ready, Set, Blog

      I am going to follow Michelle's format because I really did not have some new lesson I tried this week. I met students in the two classes where I will use blogs (ENG 099 and ENG 101) and used the time in a lab to set up the blogs. I am actually starting to wonder if it would be better for me to NOT spend any time in class for that, and ask them to do it at home. I have observed time and again as I do this that certain students, who I do not believe are afraid of technology, associate being in a classroom with having to ask the teacher what to do and not taking any initiative. More than once I had to go to a student and tell her "well, you now have to click on the 'create a blog' button" which, since the agenda for the day written on the board stated "today you will create a google account and then use that to log in and create a blog on" puts the term 'self-evident' to shame. As I said, I don't think this is because these students lacked the intelligence to follow the directions, but because they had cast themselves in the roles of these helpless creatures who needed hand-holding. I do in fact plan to make it a homework assignment next time, so you now also know what my first entry in Spring I will cover.

      These problems aside (and some funny ones, like a student who kept kicking the LAN cable out of its socket but kept complaining that her computer hates her), it is always amazing to me how students will accept whatever requirements set with no question. I always expect an avalanche of questions regarding why they have to do blogs, yet seeing it as a requirement on the syllabus in black and white seems enough for them. We also had an interesting discussion about privacy and authorship in ENG 101. I explained to them why it may be to their advantage to use their first name and the first letter of their last name only if they wish to protect their privacy, but instantly a few students asked why write in public if you do not want that shared. I told them that technically they do not choose to write in public, as they did not know about that when they joined the class, so this is a way of retaining control over their online identity. Several students asked me if they were allowed, all the same, to choose to be public with their full name, and I agreed that they could but I warned them that once you go down that road, you can hardly go back. But as a discussion it did serve as a great starting point for discussing the rhetorical triangle of message, speaker, and audience, so-with apologies to someone in the seminar I know hates that term--it was indeed a teachable moment.

      Setting up Student Blogs (Dr. Rizz week 1)

      This week I asked the students in my Medical Ethics class to set up a blog using blogspot. My Environmental Ethics students are setting up blogs for another class. When everyone is set up I will then have everyone connect to each other. I am going to use these blogs for two purposes. First, they will answer some of their reading questions on them and give feedback to one another. Second, students from each class will be paired together and they will give feedback to one another on their essay assignments.

      Goals and Bloom

      The main goal this week was simply to get the students to set up a blog (applying) which requires they they also obtain a google account (applying). I then asked them to follow my blog and leave the contact inf. for their blogs in the comments box of my first post (applying).


      Most of my Medical Ethics students were able to set up their blogs and give me their contact info. Some are having more trouble and we spent 15 minutes in class on Tuesday reviewing the process. I am optimistic that all of them will complete the assignment this week.

      WEEK 1

      Ok, I asked each of my students to create a blog on and follow my course blog. I thought I can follow them back right away, but it seems Blogger does not allow me to see & follow my followers' blogs. How are you dealing with this "problem"? This is a well-known problem, which is not clearly stated in the Blogger FAQ. Are you googling each name to see if she or he created one already? Any idea?

      Also, so far my students are creating blogs under their real FIRST and LAST name because their previous English courses required them to do so. Any idea on this, too?

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      The first day, 9/8/2011!

      Last week Prof. Meangru (Rudy) and I created a structure to meet, plan and lay out all of our posts (both for this blog and our MathBlogLaGCC on Tumblr) for the remainder of Fall I 2011! We both have busy schedules and meeting first thing on Tuesday mornings (we decided) would place our minds at ease and enable us to tackle our goals week by week. Prior to the semester starting, I had created all the accounts needed in all three social media venues we chose as part of our blog proposal.

      Rudy's MAT115.1592 is a hybrid online and in class course. This set up gave us the opportunity to meet his students in person last Thursday (9.8.11) and allowed us to introduce our MathBlogLaGCC Blog initiative from the very first day.

      How it went?
      Students were welcoming to the idea of a personalized math online support structure. We learned that all but three students don’t have a Facebook account. (This will save us tons of time for when we provide them with our Facebook Fan Page, Tweeter and Blog address.) Students were pleased to learn that if they don’t want to use Facebook, they can become faithful readers of our blog and comment at least once a week.

      During this first meet up we also took advantage of the lab room and got 21 students in MAT115.1592 to complete the pre-survey. Yay!

      Setting up time to meet and plan is crucial. I’m glad I’ve the flexibility early in the mornings to tackle our tasks both on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m glad the three social media platforms we have chosen are versatile enough to meet students’ individual preferences. This helps us engage them without becoming a burden!

      In the next two weeks we will introduce the blog to the targeted MAT096 sections and have students link up to our Tumblr Blog, ‘like' our MathBlogLaGCCFanPage on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Can't wait for the interactions to begin...

      First Day and Bloggin'

      Ximena and I are working together with a schedule for ENG099 primarily designed by her off a theme that originated in one of my Liberal Arts clusters (where I had the students for 7 hours a week) that was modified by X for a 6 hour ENA099 and she now squeezed into a 5 hour ENG099 for both of us. I am amazed at how much of the original material from the ENG101-ENG103-LIB110 remains! As you will see, however, some days can be pretty tightly packed and the first day was no exception.

      Goals and Bloom's
      The main goals of the first class period--besides the usual coverage of the syllabus--were to get all my students a Google account (applying), a Gmail address (applying), a Blogger account (applying), have them use an interactive Google Doc to give me their Gmail address and Blogger URL (applying), write and post their first blog entry (a CATW style essay--analyzing, evaluating, creating), and learn how to edit it later (applying). Whew. Though the schedule was pretty tight for a two hour class.

      And How it Went
      To an outside observer, I am sure my class, which met in the computer lab E141, would probably have looked like a train wreck in action. However, we accomplished all of the tasks above, though I am sure the next class will demonstrate that the "Remembering" level of Bloom's (the base for everything else) should have been reinforced as we deal with forgotten passwords and etc. Incredibly, I DO have all the students' Gmails and URL's and have now added them onto the class blog which you can see HERE. We did have a few problems, however. In the heat of the moment, I flashed back to a few semesters ago and had them create a Blogger account before a Google/Gmail account, so all that got a little messy. And as the students do not know each other yet, the more tech-savvy were a bit reticent to help their classmates, so I had to be everywhere at once.

      Unfortunately, 7 students did not come to the first class, so next week I have a packed day plus figuring out how to do all this again with the folks who skipped.

      Ximena did a great job designing this two-hour class and she says it worked just as well for her even though we have different classroom management styles (albeit similar teaching styles, of course). I hope all the lessons and activities go this well.

      I Like the Blog Format
      I have to admit, even I was a tad skeptical about this blog format, but it actually made writing this much faster than usual.

      Blogging the Diagnostic Essay

      Justin Rogers-Cooper

      I am teaching two Liberal Arts Learning Community "cluster courses" this semester. I still have yet to link one to the Community 2.0 Wiki, but I will (I promise). For the first week of both classes, like others I spent my computer lab hours with my students setting up Blogger and Twitter accounts. The blogger accounts were mostly easy (my Language and Human Rights class had already set up their accounts with my colleague and team teacher, Dr. Maria Jerskey. Thanks Maria!).

      The Twitter gave me problems in both classes -- most of the students, but not all, got a screen that said "Cannot Do This Right Now. Try Again Later." Apparently, by "later" it seems Twitter meant much later. Most students had to wait at least a day, including me, since I was trying to set up a Twitter ID specific to my classes. All of these tasks appear to fall into the category of "applying," based on Jason and Ximena's blog.

      I would thus like to move on from the social networking tales and relate what I believe was the real innovation (for me) of the week: turning the English 101 Diagnostic essay into a "live blogging" workshop.


      The main goal of the traditional English Diagnostic essay is to get a snapshot of incoming student skills and abilities. The Diagnostic is considered to be one of the required English 101 essays assigned throughout the year. I have always found it a poor measure of what happens in the semester, and rather tedious to evaluate. My reasons for this are because:

      (a) Knowledge, Terms, and Time. The Diagnostic measures not only what students may or may not "know" about writing a college essay on their first day of class, but also how quickly they are able to understand the directions and the terms of the directions on the Diagnostic itself. Problematically, what they think I mean by "argument" and "supporting claims" and "using the passage" may not be what I had in mind. The Diagnostic is also supposed to last (I think) 90 minutes, so that the students have time to write enough (the goal for the semester is to write 600 word essays).

      So, in essence, I have 15 minutes early in the semester (usually the first week) to explain what goes into a college essay, and then give them a short passage to read, and then have them develop an argument and supporting paragraphs. In my mind, this sets students up to mostly "fail" the Diagnostic. It makes it very easy for instructors to find skills to improve and techniques to address -- but I'm not sure that what instructors are measuring actually corresponds to anything meaningful. We're asking them to show their ignorance so we can point it out to them. I believe I can measure something "else" and I believe my teaching time is more effectively spent doing just that. I'll get to it in a moment.

      (b) Disconnection and Scaffolding. My other issue with the Diagnostic is that it's disconnected from their first essay assignment and not typically a good bridge to future student writing. This could be my fault, and of course I take responsibility for it, but no one else has told me to do anything different, either. Typically, in the past I have assigned directions for an argumentative essay (much like a midterm or exit exam) combined with a 250-300 word passage from a mainstream news publication like Time magazine or the New York Times. I usually have problems with the composition and content of such excerpts, but before this year I had never explored the idea of simply jettsioning them from the package of acceptable first day texts.

      Whatever the passage, students read it and take notes on it for creating their own argument. One I used in the past was about how industrial meat production and consumption is the leading cause of catastrophic climate change and chaotic weather (more than transportation, etc). After reading it, students write as much as they can within the structure of the essay as they imagine it and as I try to explain it (or not) in 15 minutes. Then they turn it in, I evaluate it, I write them a letter explaining what techniques and skills to work on, and then the next class I introduce the first 'real' essay assignment. I realized coming into this semester that repeating this exercise would be a waste of time for me and my students.

      Resolution: The Diagnostic would be scaffolded (bridged, connected, staged) into the first essay assignment. Defense: See above.

      Resolution: I would run the Diagnostic like a workshop, and offer guidance to the students. Defense: The essays that I emphasize and prize highest in my ENG 101 classes are always the ones where we go through the writing process: discussing, noting, drafting, peer reviewing, reflecting, composing, and then, finally, handing in. I want the Diagnostic to reflect what students will actually do in my class: talk with me about their writing, in "real" time. I want to have time to explain the basics of college-level argumentation before the Diagnostic, and perhaps some other useful technique (for both classes, we added "summary" to the techniques I wanted them to know first).

      For me, then, the Diagnostic would offer an opportunity to immediately learn "how" students were learning and applying techniques of writing. What it would measure would be, yes, whether or not they could generate anything like 600 words from reading a quick passage; but it would also measure their learning process: could they incorporate suggestions? Could they learn the basics of argumentation and then write an argument? Could they learn the basics of summary then summarize? The Diagnostic would then tell me what they could do, not what they didn't "know."

      Bloom's: I could be wrong, but I believe that what I was expecting here was:

      understanding - Did they understand the passage? Did they understand the Assignment? Did they understand the passage from the text?

      applying - After learning how thesis statements work, could they write a simple one? Could they defend it?

      analyzing - To the extent that they had to offer their own arguments and analyze a passage from a text, I think students had to say what things "meant" and why. Is that analysis for Bloom? I'll need to review.
      creating - It might be overly ambitious to say this, but they did create a draft (oops, Diagnostic) for me to evaluate.

      During the Diagnostic class, I gave students the directions and passage on my blogger page. While the Diagnostic went on and I went around answering questions and giving students feedback, I would return to the blogger page and update it with my replies to students questions. I was trying to distribute feedback, support, and ideas during the Diagnostic itself. I told the students to "refresh" their screens after I published an update. I told them to ignore the update if it didn't apply to them.


      Based on minimal expectations and my sense of experimentation, I thought the Diagnostic workshop went very well. The students were much more invested in their work. Many of them were serious and wanted to know if their arguments could work. There was an immediate sense of confidence among many. They realized that they could adjust to college-level expectations very quickly. They also appreciated the fact that their time was spent working on an assignment that would be due anyway (for a peer review on the 21rst, and as a final draft on Oct. 3). I also got to engage with all the students one on one, and learn about what was stopping them and what was motivating them.

      Most of the students were able to produce at least one double-spaced type written page. I confess that this probably is shorter than 600 words. But ALL of the students produced workable thesis statements of various qualities, and almost all of the students were able to link these ideas to supporting paragraphs. I tried to give them very clear instructions about how thesis statements sound (and I confess I set up a fairly telegraphed structure for them to follow, and one we can deepen and revise as the semester unfolds).

      I'm also happy that I'll spend my time this weekend evaluating drafts that will be returned with valuable comments.


      I believe this experiment increased student confidence, measured something valuable, and will return the time of investment of myself and the students.

      The link to my Language and Human Rights blog is here:

      If you scroll down you can see my "live updates" from my updates as the workshop progressed.

      Thursday, September 15, 2011

      Week 1: Setting Up

      I came into this week feeling very prepared -- I had created a Facebook page for each of my two classes, posted the course information sheet and other relevant documents, and even made the first assignment or two available. I knew both classes would be in computer labs on Monday so I planned to have them log onto Facebook, join the class group, do the student survey, and post their first informal writing. My plans were foiled early on when no one in my ENG 101 class was able to find the group page I had created. Befuddled, I tried several different tactics to no avail. I finally wrote the URL for the student survey on the board so they could at least do that and asked them to e-mail me the first informal writing assignment rather than post it. I was prepared for a similarly frustrating experience with my ENG 102 class later that day but, lo and behold, most of them found the group page just fine and we were able to get started as planned.

      I'm still not sure what the problem was but after conferring with Ximena and Jason I decided to e-mail a link to the group directly to students. In class on Wednesday, I wrote the URL on the board for anyone who hadn't checked their e-mail, letting them know to e-mail me if they have any trouble. So far, it seems to be working since most of the class has now joined the group and I haven't gotten any e-mails.

      I gave both classes an online assignment to complete over the weekend and asked them to read each other's posts before class on Monday. We'll see how that goes. It was a bit of a shaky start but having a Plan B (and C) definitely helped and I didn't lose too much time. Let's hope next week goes a bit more smoothly!

      Embracing Your Inner Technophobe

      Three Tech Tips for the Technophobe in You

      September 13, 2011, 11:00 am
      LudditesLast month we asked you, our readers, for your ideas about what ProfHacker should cover in the coming academic year. Among the many helpful suggestions, there was a theme that stood out to me. Here it is in your own words.
      I would love to see some technology-related posts written by people who are not technologically inclined. (kaitlinwalsh)
      I’d also like to see some articles that take the concerns of techno-curmudgeons and Luddites a little more seriously. (matt_l)
      I’d second the comment that some of the reviewers are a little too in love with technology–and perhaps are of a younger generation–than most of the readers, so that there’s a lot of tacit knowledge here that needs to be made explicit. (bethelcollege)
      These are entirely reasonable suggestions. After all, there is—and should be—a bit of a technophobe in each of us, asking the question, Will trying this new approach/technology/tool really help me, or will it just waste my time.   --For more, click HERE.