Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Wonder our Students Love our Techie Classes

Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love

147-doctor-love 1
Photographs by Bryce Duffy
Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company.
The essence of affection. The cuddle chemical. In other words, oxytocin. This hormone, produced daily by your brain and mine, is the reason I'm on my back, trying to remain perfectly still inside a magnetic-resonance-imaging machine secreted in the basement of a cheerless building at the California Institute of Technology. Even though I am cocooned by earplugs and noise-cancellation headphones, it's freakishly loud in here, a mix of jackhammer pulses and a hurricane whoosh of air. In other words, it's your typical MRI experience -- save for the Apple laptop bolted a couple of feet above my head, the mouse on my chest, and the unbearably sad video playing on the MacBook screen.

The full article is HERE.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Facebook: From the Chronicle

I suppose on some fronts this may be new/s.

Students Push Their Facebook Use Further Into Course Work
October 27, 2011, 4:28 pm
College students are taking social media to a new level, using Web sites like Facebook to communicate with other students about their coursework, according to results of a new survey on student technology use.
Nine out of 10 college students say they use Facebook for social purposes, like writing status updates and posting pictures. And the majority, 58 percent, say they feel comfortable using it to connect with other students to discuss homework assignments and exams. One out of four students even went so far as to say they think Facebook is “valuable” or “extremely valuable” to their academic success.

Get the rest HERE.

Community 2.0 Agenda 28 October 2011 10:00-01:00 E255

Community 2.0 Agenda
28 October 2011
10:00-01:00 E255
10:00-10:10 Welcome!
10:10-10:20 The Coolness That is Us: Tech Demo  
10:20-11:30 On the Blog and In the Room: Strengthening Our Community. 
The printable directions are HERE.
11:30-11:45 Break

11:45-12:15 Working with Objectives: RadioJames Objectives Builder
12:15-12:55 JAM 1 Begins HERE (and in the links folder above)
12:55-01:00 Reminders
Reminders: December Meeting
  • Tool Demos
  • Team: Working on Connections Activities
  • Reflecting on the Semester
  • Be prepared to run-through your activity in the Spring meeting

    Transforming the world, one platform at a time: Hutchison, Gazzola, Jerskey

    In Fundamentals of Career Advancement, the class is completely online. (David only knows what they look like from their avatar (and e-portfolio! he lurks!)). David is using the revolution at Occupy Wall Street to get students to think about how what's happening in the world today will affect their careers and their lifetime earning potential.
    This is a nice segue to Judith's goal of integrating career planning into course content. (Judith is herself a LaGuardia alumna. She's Director of the Career Development Center. (more on that later.) Her overall goal is to help students make the transition from working class to middle class. One distinguishing characteristic, for example, is that these students are often the first in their family to attend college. She gets them to ask: What is that world like? How can we use the academic world to prepare them to be self-actualized, to have the self-efficacy and knowledge and skills to eventually have autonomy over the direction of their lives.
    Maria's platforms, including Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet allow students to access the information more easily than either paper or even Blackboard. The platforms make students more technology savvy, which is important for their academic and career success (Maria would call this technology literacy). The platforms promote academic, linguistic, and technological literacies. These literacies are essential for the 21st century citizen! These platforms mimic the learning community in which the students are participating, but also the real world digital communities that they will surely move into as they advance in their academic, professional, social, and political lives.

    How, When and Why Connect Students? Meangru, Pacht, Smith

    Snazzy Title (Ari, Luke, and Vera, all amazingly cool)

    We went over our websites--we all use blogger and we explored the benefits and limitations of commenting on posts versus writing threads. Some of the benefits of blog rolls is that they serve as a student portfolio, but at the same time the lack of threaded discussion makes an ongoing conversation difficult. Ari's blog includes a separate blog where all students are authors and contribute recipes as art, and this will be an ongoing repository of their contributions to continue to future semesters. Luke's class blogs connect students from different classes and allow interactions between them, such as this one and Vera's students have to choose a philosopher with whom they agree and comment on him in the comments section of the post.

    Our Intellectual Property: Blogs, Blackboard, and Students

    In our group conversation we went over the relative merits of Blogger over Blackboard, discussed how students use blogs to post and comment on each others' writing, also discussed using Twitter feed and Google Groups for discussion, and finally spoke to the benefits and challenges of these tools.

    Although time-consuming occasionally, we have all found blogs to be a valid tool for classroom use. Dr. X reports that her blog allows her a space to assign tasks, to communicate with students, and to provide her students with a space to grow and evolve their writing ability. Since she's working with many basic and developing writers, giving them a space on Blogger to expand their capacities for putting thoughts into words is particularly helpful. Aaron showed how he's begun leaving assignments on blogger for students to respond to, and how he hopes to begin incorporating more low-stakes and discussion-oriented activities into his class. Dr. Jrc showed how he's been "live blogging" during his writing workshops with students in class, how Twitter can feed class discussions and out of class reading, and how Blogger has generally become an outstanding tool for organizing on-going essay assignments, blog prompts, and student blogs. The blogs have also become a great space for peer evals and cross-class peer commentary.

    The subject of intellectual property also came up as a key difference between Blogger and Blackboard. There is some concern about the legal ownership of intellectual property by CUNY whenever someone posts something to Blackboard. We all feel strongly that open-source content free of legal riga-ma-rool is the most ethical direction for the future.

    There was a challenge about making Blogger the ultimate tool for coursework because Dr. Jrc questioned whether or not it could host PDFs. Dr. X said it could, because a blog could link to a Google Doc, and that G-Doc could be used to upload an off-site PDF. A PDF from a text that's been scanned could be merged into a G-Doc.

    The challenges can literally occur in the lab itself. The computer classroom disrupts the signal to Blogger (and Twitter) and makes it hard for students to all comment at the same time.

    [Image from Free Design Web]

    Parking Deals

    Last week Prof. M was heading uptown Manhattan. He parked his car at 87th street and 2nd avenue at a lot that charges $10.50 for the first hour and a certain amount for each fractional hour thereafter. He remembers paying $33 for about 3.5 hours of parking. This week he was heading uptown again and decided to park for 4.5 hours two blocks before 87th street at a lot that charges $9.50 for the first hour and $6.50 for each fractional hour thereafter. Assume it would have cost him $0.25 to drive up to 87th street. Did Prof. M saved any money by not driving to 87th street?

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Finding your passion

    Sometimes students discover a passion for an occupation when they take a course, read a book, meet someone on an internship or have an experience that leads them in an unexpected direction. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Henrietta’s great-granddaughter Erika was inspired by Henrietta’s experience to study science.

    Were you inspired by any of people in the book? Some readers may be inspired by
    issues that people faced during the time period covered in this book. These circumstances can also bring occupations to mind.

    Listed below are some of the people in the book and their occupations. A few issues are also listed. What other occupations come to mind as you read the book? Add them to the list. Select an occupation that interests you and visit to learn more about it. Share the occupation you selected and share some of the information you learned. Find a student who selected an occupation similiar to yours and discuss what you like and disliked about the occupation.

    Mary Kubicek was a lab technician responsible for preparing and storing tissue samples.

    Roland Pattillo, is a college professor at Morehouse and was George Gey’s only African-American student.

    Michael Rogers is a reporter who wrote for Rolling Stone magazine.

    George Gey was a researcher who worked as a carpenter to pay his way through

    Margaret Gey was a surgical nurse and supervised the lab where tissues were stored.

    Richard Wesley TeLinde was a surgeon who conducted research into the causes of various diseases.

    Gary, Deborah’s cousin was a minister, attending to peoples’ emotional and spiritual needs.

    Henrietta’s children suffered from a variety of health issues. A Community Health Worker educates people on how to address a variety of health issues.

    Civil Rights attorney protects peoples’ rights when they are violated.

    Blog or ePortfolio?

    Beginning Painting

    A. Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Optimize photos of their paintings using Microsoft Paint Tool.
    • Create an ePortfolio with a Fine Arts template.
    • Link a blog to an ePortfolio.
    • Explain how to add a text module and a gallery module.
    B. Reflective Description
    This was the most productive ePortfolio workshop ever. By the time it ended, all students had their own ePortfolio with at least one image in the gallery module under the text module, which contains the course description. Painting students are not very tech savvy, but thanks to our well-prepared lab tech, the class went through a lot in two hours! I asked my students to bring in two digital images of painting assignments but already knew few students would photograph their paintings during the workshop.

    C. Conclusions
    My students might need to stop blogging and start working on ePortfolio. One student was not comfortable with the idea of having her blog on her newly created ePortfolio. I also thought a blog can look sloppy when seeing it with an ePortfolio because my class uses a blog like a sketchbook; it has its own quality and value, but does putting them together benefit my students in the way I want? I first thought that it was a great idea, but I am not sure now. I am curious to find out what my options would be to use both, blogs and ePortfolios, in one class.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Blog Assignment 1

    Peer Evaluations: ENG 101

    Justin Rogers-Cooper

    Bloom's Taxonomy: analyzing, evaluating, creating

    Class Activity

    This past weekend my ENG 101 Ethics of Food (EF) and my ENG 101 Language and Human Rights (LHR) students evaluated each other's blogs. They had already practiced evaluating each other's blogs on two previous occasions. I posted about this the first time and felt disappointed by the results, both in terms of participation and outcome. I received wise counsel from this Community 2.0 network, and I decided to be patient and continue working toward these cross-class peer evaluations.

    The task for the cross-class evaluation was to reproduce the kinds of evaluation that both classes practiced in previous class blog reviews, as well as in out-of-class essay peer reviews. The terms of evaluation were quite familiar to the students by now: argument, topic sentence, unified paragraph, quotation, citation, paraphrase, critical thinking, context, and directions (I define directions as the writer's technique of communiciating to the reader what is actually happening in their writing, such as, "In his blog I will discuss," or, "first I will discuss this and then I will discuss that"). I have been instructing them all along to respond to each other through the lens of these specific techniques and skills.

    I left both classes directions on the main course blogs, and then paired the students up somewhat randomally with students from the other class. I left them with a name and a link. I told both classes that the assignment would detect their ability to communicate with a general audience. Would they be able to explain their ideas, their texts, and their course to an outside party? I have often discussed this "general audience" alongside the specific audience of their peers and myself, particularly on blogs.

    How It Went

    This went much better than I thought it would. Students worked hard to provide this "general audience" with an idea of their writing. Students left evaluations that tactfully used the writing skills and techniques we've been rehearsing in class discussion, peer review, and previous blog comments.

    For example, a LHR student left an evaluation of an EF student that was longer than the blog (see here). Another LHR student expressed relief to finally see what the "other class" was learning about (here). Two of the LHR students left specific suggestions about how to revise an EF student's blog (here). We have practiced in both classes how critiques must always be followed by specific suggestions that give the writer something practical to do; in this case, the student suggests that the writer "introduce the the text by directing the reader to the context and therefore the use of quotation and citation would be very effective." Some of the comments were quite constructive with their criticism (here). There is actually too much to discuss in the little space of this blog.

    From the other side, the EF students also provided good comments, although the participation in this class was less than ideal (this has been a problem class for me all semester). Nonetheless, many of the comments were specific and thorough (here). In some cases, the EF students made comments directly upon the key ideas that individual LHR students were using for their second essays; this kind of criticism becomes very valuable, then, for this reason (here). Some students were quite attentative to the idea of directions mentioned earlier (here). Again, there are too many examples to discuss individually in this blog.


    Both classes received valuable constructive criticism from students in the other class. This activity showed me that both classes can use their knowledge of writing techniques and structures to comment upon content from a completely different course. This means that they understand the difference between those skills and simply having an opinion about content. It also means that they're internalizing those skills to a point where they feel confident enough critiquing other students. This gives me a great deal of information as an instructor.

    There are few nuts and bolts issues I'd change: I provided links to student blog pages, but I should have provided links to specific blogs. There was some confusion, even though in my directions I told the students to look for the mention of specific texts to identify the correct blog. This extra step was redundant. I never would have known to go that extra step, however, because I've never done this before.

    Finally, I'm going to provide time in-class for students to revise their blogs based on the comments they've received. I've explained to both classes that I will assess their blogs at the end of the semester using a different rubric than the one I've used so far. At the end, I will evaluate for polish and revision, whereas so far I have a rubric that evaluates how closely their blogs align with the assignment.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    A Class Wordle

    Just for fun, here is what we discussed today:

    Interlinking our students!

    What happened?

    We have ventured into a major stepping stone--MAT096 to interact with MAT115 on the blog!


    Educo Software technology allows us to reach out to those specifics sections we targeted from the beginning of this blog, however, there were some glitches with accessing such sections and permission rights for this Fall I 2011. (It was one of those moments whereby Prof. Meangry oscillated between that “I love/hate technology” scenario). This was last Thursday, but luckily we were able to fix that glitch today.

    The messages have been posted and emails have been sent to both faculty and all five MAT096 (.1558, .1572, .1589, 6528 & .6547). We will keep you posted and pray that technology doesn’t pull any tricks on us.

    Here’s what we emailed:

    Dear MAT096 Faculty,

    Ingrid C. De Leon and I sent out a message this morning to reach out to your MAT096 students to participate and continue to enrich our MathBlogLaGCC online community of MAT115 and MAT096 students.

    We request your assistance to encourage students to engage their MAT115 classmates by doing the following:

    Ask students to go to: and choose to answer the first three problem listed on the blog.

    Here are the direct links:

    MAT096 Problem #1:

    MAT096 Problem #2:

    MAT096 Problem #3:

    Students will be asked to log-in with their email address, or twitter or Facebook. We recommend that they inform us of their last name and their MAT096 section to trace back each answer/comment to you.

    Should you find it appropriate, please offer extra credit incentives for posting on our blog. This type of incentive can definitely increase engagement and interactions between MAT115 and MAT096 students.

    We deeply appreciate your support and encouragement to keep this online growing with active and positive interactions.

    All the best,

    Prof. Meangru & De León

    What we learned?

    Always pray and breathe deeply when assuming all of your rights certain for software are updated and that one can figure out the glitches sooner than later.


    Students are more patient than one would think!

    Half-way thorough this session and thus far this blogging experience has been a upward ladder learning experience.

    Have a wonderful week!


    Twitter and Critical Thinking: In-class Low-Stakes (III)

    Justin Rogers-Cooper

    Bloom's Taxonomy: Analyzing, Applying, Creating

    Class Activity

    Besides using Twitter to create context and main ideas sentences and paragraphs, Twitter can also be useful for critical thinking. In my two ENG 101 courses I have recently emphasized critical thinking strategies for students to employ in their essay paragraphs. One of the strategies I have stressed is the "keyword" strategy. I've defined keywords as critical ideas found in the text or created to describe an important passage or idea from the text. To be a keyword, students must define it as "an idea that describes more than one thing." Therefore, to use a keyword successfully students must define it and have two examples at the ready. In my Language and Human Rights class, a keyword that arose has been "sadism," which we've used to discuss lynching. In my Ethics of Food class, we've used the key word "environmentalism," in the context of factory farms (eating meat is the leading cause of climate change, and so active environmentalists must consider food choices as more important than recycling, transportation decisions, and consumption habits).

    In a recent class, I began class by asking the students to find one keyword from the text (Eating Animals, Southern Horrors). On Twitter, they Tweeted their word, the page number, and a brief definition of the term. If they created the keyword, they had to put a small phrase in quotes "like this" to act as a marker for the passage in the text.

    After they Tweeted, I had two students each share the keyword they Tweeted. As a class, we listened to them explain their keyword. They read their relevant passage out loud from the text. They gave more details about their choice. Then, I had students find another example from the text that "fit" their keyword. I then explained how this verified the keyword: it must explain more than one thing.

    I then explained that critical thinking means linking different passages in the text together by connecting keywords. Looking at the board (where I took notes), I asked them to identify a connecting keyword. Students then volunteered their own keywords, or that of a peer. We then connected the new keyword to the one in question.

    When the students got the hang of this, I told them to go into their Twitter feed. From the Twitter feed, I instructed them to select a keyword that another student Tweeted and to "star" it. I then explained that they should "reply" to the Tweet. In the reply box, they should write down the keyword they found, add their own keyword, and then write an explanation of the relationship between the two in the reply Tweet.

    How It Went

    Going back and forth from Twitter to class discussion to text to dry-erase board to Twitter worked very well. I went around as students composed their Tweets, and offered suggestions about using a different economy of language; many of the students are still trying to figure out how to say a lot in such a small Tweet. Students seemed to enjoy the chance to reply to each others' Tweets as a kind of intellectual social networking. It also made the students who feel behind on Twitter more connected to it as an easy form of media. It also helped students practice critical thinking strategies in a low-stakes environment, even as I reminded them that these ideas could work in their second essays and as fodder for the midterm next week.


    Twitter has proven extremely useful as in-class, low-stakes form of media for building class ideas, archiving student thinking, and practicing writing strategies - including critical thinking. I've had more success using Twitter in-class than out-of-class to generate student connections so far, even though both classes seem to be more comfortable and Tweeting more frequently in the past two weeks.

    Invitation to five Mat 096 Classes

    My colleague, Ingrid, have met with faculty from five Mat 096 classes to discuss our project and get their support to encourage their students to participate in the math blog. Also these faculty have given her a few minutes of their class time to talk to their students about it.

    Each week we have been posting a set of problems that are appropriate at the Mat 096 level, but with a greater degree of expectations. This week we have reached out to these students to participate in the math blog through their e-mail and online learning system.

    What is really going on in Zuccotti Park?

    Rich and successful is good, but at any cost is not good. BE RESPONSIBLE!

    Second Blog Assignment Zuccotti Park Demonstrations

    Educational Connection:
    To create an awareness of the link between social media and the power of people demonstrating to create change.

    Personal Impact:
    The business community and in particular banks are under huge pressure to review their compensation packages and spread the wealth. As a entrant to the work force in the next 5 years you may find the world has changed some as a result of what is happening in Zuccotti Park.

    My Overview:
    I spent 5 hours with the demonstrators on Oct 24 and here are some of my discoveries. These again are only statements made to me via groups of demonstrators and in all cases would have to be further verified.
    1. Corporation control the money flow and place profits as the number one goal.
    2. The vast income wealth in the USA is controlled by 1% of the population.
    3. Most industry would only do environmental protection if mandated to do it.
    4. Banks control both political parties.
    5. Corporations are only accountable if mandated to by law to compy.
    6. The city’s cleanup plan was an effort to get rid of the demonstrators.
    In the last month there has been a continuous demonstration called Occupy Wallstreet in Succoth Park in lower Manhattan. There has been a lot of press coverage on the event and this assignment is to ask your opinions about this Occupy Wall Street Movement. Review the questions and then investigate the internet for the answers.

    DUE Date on this Assignment is October 31 at 930AM
    1. How did it get started?
    2. What are their expected results?
    3. Do you feel that this is an effective way to get their point across why or why not?
    4. Identify other cities that this movement has gone to?
    5. Peaceful demonstrations like Occupy Wall Street were the mark of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, how effective do you think they are as opposed to the more aggressive demonstrations of the Arab Spring.
    6. Locate one or two pictures about the protest that you think best identifies your attitude about the current economic state in the USA and the World.
    7. What is the potential impact is something like this demand for accountability on your career?

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    They are A-Changin': Blackboard Goes For Sharing

    For the times they are a-changin'.
    Even Blackboard has realized you have to share:

    "...Today the company announced plans to add a “Share” button that will let professors make those learning materials free and open online...."

    Virtual Minds: Sounds Like Fun to Me.

    Virtual Minds: Sounds Like Fun to Me.: Nudity, Pets, Babies, and Other Adventures in Synchronous Online Learning October 20, 2011, 9:01 am By Marc Parry Philadelphia —The Unive...

    ENG099 Cross-Evaluation and Online Discussion

    Quote of the Day
    "Il n’est pas nécessaire qu’un auteur comprenne ce qu’il écrit. Les critiques se chargeront de le lui expliquer." --Abbé Prévost

    **Thanks to Anaitoron's Blog for the quote and the cartoon (which is from**

    The new activity for the week was a cross-evaluation of a CATW style essay. Dr. X and and my students wrote a CATW essay by hand under testing conditions. (Bloom: Synthesis/Creation level).

    Dr. X and I then evaluated the essays using the CATW rubric and indicated for the students the areas where they needed the most work. The students then revised the essays for their blogs with the understanding that they would have an outside peer reader or two commenting on the entry. Ximena designed a formula for the response based on our work on claims, reasons, and evidence which you can see HERE.  (Bloom: Analysis and Evaluation levels).

    How Did it Go?
    Many students stuck to the formula, but some really did use it to make valuable commentary. You can see the cross-evaluations by going to my course blogs and Dr. X's course blogs. The responses to Maiko's essay HERE were pretty typical. The most interesting thing from my end was that we get to immediately see where the evaluators are confused. We are working on evaluating the effectiveness of this exercise now, though a straw-poll of my students using the Blogger "survey" widget showed that most students found the activity "very useful" or "useful."

    Online Discussion
    We also had our second online discussion, this time over The Matrix.This time we matched two of our classes together so there were approximately 50 students per group in each discussion. One is completed HERE and one goes live today HERE if anyone would like to check them out. You will need to "join group" on the right if you would like to participate. Right now, our students are just getting the hang of online discussions, though they do recognize the similarity to texting. For Basic Writers, I think written discussion is useful for them to practice with writing, especially since we ask them to post with "Claim", "Reasons," and "Evidence" clearly labeled.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Playing with Hamlet

    Kenneth Branagh doing his version of "The play's the thing"
    from Shakespeare II-En 356
    So, my Shakespeare students had to compete in the Hamlet Quote Game this week for extra credit.

    The game is easy (most of what they do falls under Bloom's Knowledge and Comprehension levels): 
    1. Students send via the Ning e-mail their two favorite quotes from Hamlet. Length is (usually) irrelevant.
    2. I classify each quote depending on how easy it is to recall if you've been paying attention in class (say, 1.4's "Angels and ministers of grace defend us!" versus 1.3's "And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,/With almost all the holy vows of heaven"). Some I discard  because they are too difficult/obscure. If necessary, I add one or two of my own (usually not).
    3. I create 5-6 groups with 7 quotes, making sure each group gets a couple of easy quotes and a couple of harder ones to recall. I add an 8th, extra-extra credit quote. It is usually a hard one. This time around I did 
    Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you;
    though, I know, to divide him inventorially would
    dizzy the arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw
    neither, in respect of his quick sail. But, in the
    verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of
    great article; and his infusion of such dearth and
    rareness, as, to make true diction of him, his
    semblable is his mirror; and who else would trace
    him, his umbrage, nothing more.
       4.  Students get in groups pre-determined by me to make sure they don't get their own quotes. They get 15 minutes (sometimes I make it 20 or 25, depending how hard the quotes are) to figure out  and write down who said the words, to whom (if applicable), and what is the situation in which the words were said. They can only use print copies of the play. Whichever group finishes first gets the most extra credit points (though everyone gets some points for participating--it's hard work after all). 

    How did it go?
    I had to do a bit of shuffling with the groups because not all students came to class or were on time, but I managed to make it so no one got her own quotes. After 5 minutes into the game everyone was completely absorbed trying to find the correct answers. Groups where everyone had a print copy of Hamlet worked faster than those that did not, a fact that I pointed out to the students and asked them to remember for the upcoming quote game on Othello. While one group finished the seven required quotes in the time alloted, a second group was the one who got quote 8 correct, so they got the extra-extra points. While everyone worked hard, I plan to up the ante the next quote game by offering ore extra credit points than this time around.

    The Kids Are All Right, But Is Technology Messing with Their Ability to Learn?

    When I saw this image online at, a place I visit regularly, I felt like I was still standing in front of one of my classes. Not all of the students are like this, but enough to make it unsettling and disruptive.
    Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest

    First of all: the iPhones. It seems students can't help themselves. And why not? Studies show that  the cumulative hits of dopamine people receive from checking their iPhones produce feelings similar to love. There was an opinion piece in the NYTimes (I read it online), entitled, "You Love Your iPhone. 
    Literally."  (Fortunately, I also read the paper version a few days later and came across a letter to the editor refuting that study, signed by 60 (count 'em!) neuropsychologists.)  So maybe it isn't love, per se, but it is hard to resist.
    Second of all: the passive watchers. I will not bother to call them "learners." Look at this kid in pink. She represents the students who stare numbly at my PowerPoint presentations in ELL and are so difficult to move to action when the "exercise" frame comes on. It's not like I am asking them to get out of their chairs (but what if I were?). I told the students the other day: Get out your books and a notebook and take notes! Some hadn't even brought pencils/pens.

    We talked about it: What followed was a discussion about how to be engaged while learning. I said, just staring at the PowerPoint is not helping you learn. Taking notes, writing your own words, and asking questions until I (or another student) explains it in a way you understand is helping you learn. Again not all  the students do this, but enough to make you want to scrap the PowerPoints altogether.
    This image was in Sunday's NY Times, attached to an article by my favorite what's-technology-doing-to-us-as-learners-and-to-our-brains investigative reporter, Matt Richtel: A school in Silicon Valley that eschews all technology. Executives from eBay, Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard send their kids there! What do they know?

    Third of all: The under-underprepared. A majority of my students this semester are right out of high school. Several have never read a book. Seriously. They do not know how to make use of (i.e., not just read, but go back and forth to understand concepts, take notes, etc.) our textbook. One student explained to me that she never had homework in high school. Ever. And she had no problem passing. She understands now that college is different, but she's having a difficult time with the transition. Her friends feel abandoned, and the trade-off of doing a lot of work for not such great grades (at first) is hard to prefer over a good night out with your buds. From that perspective, I have nothing but respect and admiration for her; her open-mindedness in recognizing the game change in her life; and for making this effort to exercise a muscle no one ever challenged her to strengthen before.

    Fourth of all: The kids are all right. But is sticking them in front of computers in a computer lab the best thing to do for them when they first come to LaGuardia? Am I of a different mindset now? I feel like one of those "old" people who scoff with disgust as people bounce off their iPhones or as students switch computer screens faster than you can say, "It's an epidemic!" (And it's not limited to students: Of course we see people at committee meetings doing the same thing all the time.) Cathy Davidson published a very optimistic book this summer called, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. In it she extolls the benefits of multitasking, collaborative multitasking, innovative mind wandering, etc. and doesn't worry about the dangers of attention deficits. I read this as I was planning my courses! Ha! (This is too brief to do her book justice. Sorry.) I love this stuff. But I find that, anecdotally speaking, sticking kids in front of a computer when they haven't been used to reading and writing critically, is doing them, possibly a disservice.

    What do you think? I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but...

    This was posted on Facebook by a friend who is a textbook publisher; she found this hanging on a professor's office door.

    The cult of paper

    As it happens, my ENG 101 students and I are in E-272 and students are about to respond to a blog question which asks that they apply their findings from last week's exploration of Oedipus the King to perspectives on truth and illusion. Previously they read Plato's excerpt from the Republic usually referenced as "the allegory of the cave" and following that they watched The Matrix, albeit at home.

    Students start going over their notes, except one of them opens up Oedipus on the screen. "You must use the paper copy with your notes" I insist. The student, who is not one of those troublesome ones, responds that it will be easier to find the parts of the text he remembers apply to the prompt question if he has the "find" feature of the browser. I do not even entertain the possibility "No, it must be your text. You can't access any websites while composing" is my final verdict.

    At the end of the assignment as he walks out the door, he comes to my desk and states "was there a reason we had to waste time doing it on paper?" I inform him that yes there is, and we can address it in a future class if he wishes. He informs me that he would. So I go home and start thinking about the very issue (as I see from Michelle's post, it was a week for reflecting on technology and its uses).

    Granted, I do not consider myself a fan of technology despite my curiosity and willingness to adopt and become familiar  with it, especially for teaching. Every Friday morning, away from work and obligations, I pick up the New York Times and go to my favorite coffee shop and I spend between two to three hours reading it, a remnant of my European upbringing. While over the week I browse newspapers articles online or on my iphone, such browsing is passing the time. The experience, the pleasure, is only the physical copy. Furthermore, one of my big concerns with technology is when it is employed to do something that could be done without it, just for show. In fact, my rule is that if something can be done the same with and wihout technology, then technology goes.

    Back to Oedipus though: this was not a literature class, where I wanted students to closely read the text (setting aside the innate futility of doing so with a translated text to begin with). I wanted students to:

    • learn how to incorporate textual evidence into their own text
    • analyze textual evidence 
    • use textual evidence to support their own argument

    In short, I am not sure that the time spent looking for a quotation on paper, when a student vaguely recalled it and could have typed up a phrase to locate it electronically in a fraction of the time, was productive time. Perhaps as an English professor I attribute an atavistic quality to the endeavor of highlighting a text and making marginal notes, but even these are activities that could have taken place before (or the student could have created a google docs file with the text and his comments). I am not ready to shift my whole attitude based on this instance, but obviously I am not as certain of the right course of action as I was before this simple question arose.

    Twitter as Low Stakes II: Crafting Context

    Justin Rogers-Cooper

    Learning Objectives: Understanding, Applying

    Class Activity

    In both my ENG 101 classes I'm trying to experiment with using Twitter. I'm also trying to introduce them to composition skills and techniques for college argumentative essays. After evaluating their first essays, I decided I needed to spend more time teaching them "context." In my course, we've defined and discussed context as a technique connected to audience. I often rehearse the questions "what does your audience know?" and "what does your audience need to know?" when students raise texts as evidence for their arguments. Specifically, we've worked on reciting the "main ideas" of the text in addition to making an audience aware of authors, titles, and general backgrounds.

    One of the techniques we've discussed is "listing" as a method to convey quickly to a reader those main ideas. For example, in When I Was a Slave students should be able to convey that the text's main ideas include "slave work cultures, white supremacist violence, master-slave psychologies, and post-war black labor."

    Since we're using a new text, Southern Horrors, I decided to begin collecting a list of the text's main ideas. To do this, I also incorporated Twitter. The students began class by finding one example of a main idea from the text. Then they Tweeted that idea. For their Tweet, they put down a page number, a keyword, and a brief definition of that keyword. Then they checked their Twitter feed. They noticed what ideas other students Tweeted. They then produced a list of these main ideas. Finally, I asked them to expand their list into a full-blown "context" paragraph. In that paragraph, they introduced the text, listed the main ideas, and then wrote at least three sentences sentence explaining and/or defining three of those main ideas separately in more detail.

    How It Went

    The Twitter part of the assignment was interactive, interesting, and helpful. Some students were confused about keywords: should they find one in the text, or make one up? I opened it to either, but then some students had a hard time finding a made-up keyword on a page, since they had to make the connection between the definition and a passage on their own, intuited from another student's connection.

    I gave the students 45 minutes to write the paragraph, but some weren't able to complete the context paragraph in that time.


    Twitter functioned as a useful tool for gathering main ideas from a text. In the future, I'll need to define the keyword part of the activity differently -- I'll probably insist that students select a keyword from the text, and not create one to describe the text. Creating keywords should be a separate activity, and one that could probably also include Twitter.

    NYTimes piece on technology in the classroom

    I just saw this article and thought I'd share -- it's about grade-schoolers but many of the issues we've been discussing are addressed:

    Using Technology Wisely

    Class goals for the week:
    - continue to practice doing online research
    - create a properly formatted Works Cited page
    - submit an essay draft via SafeAssign

    Before I get to the above, I'm feeling another reflective post this week. In the WID seminar I'm leading, we are discussing the article "Teaching and Learning with the Net Generation." It argues that Net Generation students (Net Geners) are easily bored and therefore exhibit a greater need for variety in the classroom, need more interactive and inquiry-based activities, have short attention spans and demand instant gratification, and are "shallow learners" often due to their use of technology. If this is true, do we try to combat the more negative aspects of technology by railing against it or are there ways to use technology to enhance their learning?

    Our WID group has had a lively discussion about it on our blog, with some feeling that technology can end up encouraging lazy thinking, lazy researching, and lazy students overall (someone compared using FB in class to letting young kids watch Sesame Street -- it may be "educational" but it's still T.V.). Others feel strongly that in order to serve our students best, we need to adapt our pedagogy to meet them where they are and use the strengths of technology to overcome the possible drawbacks.

    Another point made by the article is that Net geners seem to feel that learning must be "fun" and "entertaining" and they therefore resist lectures, workshops, or other activities that seem "boring." Do we think this is true? If it is, is it because of social media or is this just how students are (and have always been)?

    One thing my WID group agreed on is that technology needs to be used wisely and with purpose. It's OK (and even necessary) for faculty members to practice and experiment (many of us are not Net Geners, after all) but using technology for the sake of using technology will produce disjointed lessons, confused students, and not-so-great results. That's why I think this seminar has been so valuable for me -- it really forces me to think about my goals for each activity so that it has substance and purpose and can be assessed for future use or revision.

    One general concern I have had about technology is that we tend to assume that all our students are perfectly comfortable using Ning and Blogger and Facebook and in my experience, that has not been the case.

    As I stated at the beginning of this (overly long) post, this coming week we will continue to practice online research skills, learn to create a properly formatted Works Cited page (using online resources), and submit the first draft of an essay via SafeAssign. I'm nervous about the last part for several reasons but since technology can make plagiarism so easy, I'm curious about using it to deter and detect plagiarism for a change. More on how that goes next week...

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Academic Integrity Assignment

    This week I discussed issues of academic integrity and plagiarism with my students and then had them research a work of art from the Met and write up information, citing other sites and articles.


    Students will be able to...
    ...use citation conventions to give credit to sources
    ...write grammatically correct citations and quotations
    ...paraphrase some information and quote other information (and discern how much should be quoted)
    ...research information on the Internet and write a summary


    Students were asked to select one artwork from Egypt, Rome or Greece at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by looking at the museum website or using the MyArtsLab resources on the collection at the Met.  They were asked to read about the artwork, add an image, and write a short report on it, using citations and quotations.


    Students worked on this assignment during class when we were in the computer lab.  The students all selected interested artwork to report on from the correct time periods and regions.  I modeled a report on an Egyptian bronze footbath and pointed the students to it when they were having difficulty.

    At first, some students copied and pasted entire chunks of text from their sources, but I worked with each student to point out that they should use quotation marks for any copied text and the citation format for sentences (which we had already gone over).  I also pointed out that only a few sentences should be quoted and the rest should be paraphrased in their own words.  Students worked on using good citation sentence structure and putting the ideas into their own words, in addition to adding the reason they selected the artwork.  The results were fairly good and I feel as though students understand the concept of academic integrity and know how to use sources now without plagiarizing.

    I had been struggling with how to tackle the issue with students and I am pleased with the way the activity and the student blog posts went.


    Week 6

    Today I reserved a Mac lab for my students to take their first test and to work on an Adobe Photoshop collage project. They were able to take the test on Blackboard with fewer issues than when they take the test from home. This was also the first semester that I specifically reserved a Mac lab for the Photoshop project. Even though I have made tutorials that outline everything they need to know about using this software, working hands-on with certain students has helped alleviate any confusion.

    I asked Burhan Siddiqui to permanently change our classroom to a computer lab. He was able to do this, and I feel that this will greatly benefit the students for the remainder of the semester. This way, I can think of additional ways for the class to use technologies to connect with each other during class time.