Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflection Blog Post Assignment

Today in class, in addition to completing the Community 2.0 survey, I had students do a "Reflection Blog" considering their experience in this class using the blog.  We will not have any more blog assignments, as students now need to focus on revising essays and preparing for the in-class essay final exam.

The Assignment (on our class blog):

The students' reponses were very interesting (posted on their own blogs) and it is helpful to consider the difficulties students have had (with home computers, for instance), how they view the blogs, and what blog activities they liked.  The students are very candid - some say they didn't really enjoy using blogs.  Others surprised me by saying they often looked and and edited their blogs outside of class or looked at other students' blogs a lot.  By and large, students enjoyed reading other students' blogs and posting comments as their favorite activity on the blogs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Retrotech: Like Email . . . but On Paper.

As we approach the end of the semester, I started to realize that I had a lot of my Basic Writing students who needed me to check special assignments I had given them, double-check essay revisions, and so on. One of the great things about an online grade book is that the students can see everything. One of the downsides of an online grade book it that students can see everything (and some obsess about it). My general answer when they ask me to look at something during class is "Email it to me."

I have decided I hate email. Email is no longer e-mail but e-everything: memos, announcements, advertisements, chit-chat, rants and raves, and a plethora of other junk I would rather not deal with. So, asking students to "email me" is rather like asking them to add their work onto a pile of other things I would rather not deal with and that, therefore, might get lost.

I decided to go retro-tech. I bought a pack of bright pink index cards. Now, when a student has an issue that does not require my immediate attention (such as double-checking a grade or re-reading a blog entry or an "off topic" question) they grab a pink card and put their name on it with the relevant information and hand it to me. When I have a chance (in class or at home) I go through the stack and respond as needed.

I must admit that I felt immediately less stressed about checking my email for student requests and the students also felt that they did not have to "follow up" every few minutes to see if I had checked my email. The card was in the "pink stack" and they knew that I would get to it.

So, back to my motto: The right tool for the task and the teacher. Like many of our students I may be "over" email as a useful communication tool (for my class especially) and sometimes, going lo-tech for what should be a simple task is the best.

Website discussing Twitter and the Classroom

An interesting blog/project site I found out about from a friend on Facebook!  This post discusses the use of Twitter in the classroom.  The link to resources and videos looks promising, though I haven't explored all of it yet!


There are other interesting things on this site, too.  Many reviews of technology use, such as QR codes in the classroom,  and thematic sets of resources on topics like Steve Jobs and Occupy Wall Street.

Writing self-efficacy, Web 2.0, Multilingual Writers, and Attention

Hello, All!
As you may remember, I am conducting a study to consider how the use of Web 2.0 platforms in classes might affect (improve?) the writing self-efficacy of multilingual writers. To unpack that briefly:

Web 2.0 platforms have the potential to conflate the reader/writer dichotomy (e.g., you're either one or the other) to a reader-writer identity (e.g., you read, you respond/you write, someone else responds), my hope has been that by incorporating blogs into my coursework, students who self-identify as poor academic writers might have the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of having their own writing read and responded to--and seeing how others write, respond, and develop their own and others' ideas over the course of a course.

If there is a certain "satisfaction" or "payoff," does it translate into improved writing self-efficacy--the belief that they can approach a challenging writing task and persevere through its completion?

I say "multilingual" writers to include the traditional category of "ESL" students as well as Basic Writers who may be bidialectal (albeit, their perception of another dialect may be that it is "broken"), and resident ESLs (a/k/a Gen 1.5) whose language/literacy competencies are difficult to cleanly categorize. These are the students that populate our classrooms at LaGuardia with monolinguals in the minority. "Multilingual" in this sense is not only from a teacher's perspective (wow! look at the range of language experiences/competencies in this class!) as well as students' perspectives as they read each other's writing and make accommodations for communication.

Now that it's getting toward the end of the semester, I'll ask those of you who asked your students to fill out my questionnaire in September/October, to ask them fill it out again in December: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FFXPZQ2

I'm excited to see the results, but already thinking about how I will tweak the study going forward to consider pedagogical issues (those rich, complex variables that fill a class each semester!) I hadn't anticipated beforehand. These have helped me to unpack my assumptions further.  A big one includes attention, which I've mentioned on this blog previously, and will continue to elaborate in further posts. I don't mean this as in "Pay attention, guys!" as if it were as simple as that. But based on emerging studies about the brain, the Internet, and learning, I understand much better that asking students to use Web 2.0 platforms is not as simple as allowing students to use something they are used to in their so-called out-of-school literacies. (I know this is obvious to you guys as you have been developing and implementing and grappling with the consequences of your own amazing Web 2.0 pedagogies! But I'm beginning to understand this more deeply.)

It's been fantastic reading about what you're doing and I'm eager to talk/write/read more about how integrating Web 2.0 has challenged and addressed your own pedagogical goals. To be continued...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful for the lovely "submit" and "ask" buttons on our blog!

Dear Community 2.0 of fellow LaGuardians,

I originally wanted to write this post on Tuesday, but after approving the posts Rudy's MAT115 students submitted to the blog, I decided to wait until today. Why? To allow a steady stream of queued posts on our blog.... I must admit that I love the queue feature and I will certainly share its advantages and disadvantages (there are some, of course) at our December meeting just a couple weeks away. Yes, this Fall I 2011 session is flying by non-stop!

At any rate, the reason of this post is to report that the majority of the posts (see here, here, here, here and here) having been very positive, except for this one. We expect more submissions from MAT115.1592 in the next two weeks, along with the end of Fall I 2011 surveys. We have learned that a couple students want to vlog (video blog post), as well. Needless to mention, Rudy and I can't wait to use our nifty iPhone to record and post within minutes via our friendly user Tumblr app. Can you tell we love our gadgets and technology?

In the meantime, Rudy has graciously appointed himself as the one in charge to answer all "Math Questions" on our MathBlogLagCC. I would have volunteered, but I really would not want to disappoint the Intrawebs and Intranets Binomial Gods.

We hope the questions come more often as last sessions midterms and final exams are just around the corner.

Until the next post!

Mrs. De León

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beyoncé and Plagiarism

Art in New York

A. Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

B. Reflective Description
Beyoncé was just accused of Plagiarism for her dance moves last month and I played the media coverage on the case before discussing Plagiarism with my class. Most students already knew how to cite sources since my course is a graduation requirement, but they did not know about Beyoncé's case. I wanted to introduce the MLA basics in a unique way but did not want to waste any class time for it, so I decided to do both at once. In this semester, for the first time in my teaching career, I am allowing my class to cite blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets for final papers.

C. Conclusions
Surprisingly, I think many of my students did not know about Beyoncé to begin with. Or were they confused because their "high art" instructor suddenly started to talk about a trivial pop culture phenomenon? In any case, this lecture actually worked fine as a regular art topic even though students were already experienced with the MLA System.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The State of Things...

Next Stage

The news is spreading about the mathblog. We are beginning to see comments and questions from students across courses. Our reponses to these questions will be very useful not just to the ones asking them but anyone who visit the mathblog site. We anticipate a greater participation from students across other courses as the words get out about the site and the inevitable finals.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Blog or ePortfolio? 2

Okay...I've got three arguments. Three ideas on the way to an argument about what we need to do.

1) Blogging.
Here is the first idea of a successful blogging: what it means to be a successful implement of "blogging" in a college-level course. No, not a "blog" but a condition of "blogging" among students that we are trying to create. This is what we mean by building an online community.

This semester, I required all students in all of my classes to start a blog. I wanted them to become independent thinkers. This project is unexpectedly going well.

2) ePortfolio.
The idea of ePortfolio. When you think about ePortfolio, you might think about an online portfolio that organizes uniformed contents, something like the Interfolio or the SlideRoom. This is not what I mean. I mean ePortfolio that separates a student from all others, something that helps my students stand out in a crowd.

The closest concept may be a digital artist's book. For me, the idea of blogging has always been associated with an expansion of ePortfolio, right from the beginning.

What I did not know was that my students had something else on their mind.

3) Trust and Independence
My painting students teamed up two weeks ago and told me that they wanted to continue with blogs only---no more ePortfolio---.

Let me go back to the point (1) above for a second. I worked very hard in the beginning of the semester to convert all of my students into bloggers. This project is unexpectedly going well. It IS successful---SO SUCCESSFUL that they are now protesting the use of ePortfolio.

After close discussions with them, I now have a better idea of what is going on. Yes, there is a lesson.

What should I do now? I would like to offer an overview of what would be pros and cons of Blogger.com in this environment. Blackboard is another system that can be replaced by Blogger, so I considered it when making the list below. Hope this is helpful.


Easy to use "like Facebook" (quoted from my student.)
Students can access their own sites forever after graduation (quoted from my student.)
A link to an ePortfolio can offer an expansion of the ePortfolio system.
Less down time during the midterm and the final.
More freedom in customizing the service.
Students will be able to evaluate and analyze two online systems on their own even before instructors ask them to do so.

Blogs may be blocked on a corporate computer if students work at major corporations.
Textbook copyright issues.
No Grade Center.
No SafeAssign.
No Usage or Log-on Tracking.
Students can protest ePortfolio and/or Blackboard by learning a more intuitive user interface.

(Recommendation or Things that would happen in the near future)
Offer students an option of purchasing access to ePortfolio forever, even after two years of graduation. This is a business opportunity!
Develop a more intuitive user interface for ePortfolio [but I heard there was a long way to arrive the current "Digication" era].

Catching up - and Blogs about Internet Memes

Catching Up

I apologize for being behind on blog posts.  I was completely overwhelmed by conferences for a few weeks and then "the attack of the meetings" the past few weeks.  I have perused Community 2.0 and hoped to have interesting posts about what my students were doing online, but did not do much online work with them the past few weeks.

I did some online searches for ideas and resources and saw some interesting activities on various wiki, blog, and online community sites.  Slowly the rusty 2.0 gears started turning...

To get back into the swing of things, I combed through everyone's blog sites to see what you are all doing and get some inspiration!  From posts by Ximena and Jason and comments by Justin Rogers Cooper, I was inspired to have students do some reflective blog-writing about blogging in our lab class tomorrow.

I also really liked some of the activities Luke is having students do in both classes.  Some of his prompts made me consider what things "out there" on the Net would interest my students.  And then certain Facebook posts I saw today (including ones by Maria) sparked my slumbering blog imagination...

Pepper Spray Everything, the Internet Meme

I wanted to try something edgy and follow a popular Internet meme trend - the Pepper Spray Cop!  I will have students contemplate and write about the newest viral sensation, the "Pepper Spray Everything Movement" and consider whether this is art or not:


Stay tuned for comments on how this activity worked with my class!

How It Went:

The student posts about the pepper spray cop meme were very interesting.  Their ideas about whether or not the meme images were art and whether or not it was a form of plagiarism were varied and led to an interesting discussion of what can be considered plagiarism, particulary when it is so easy to copy images found online.

Online course information - including a good explanation of plagiarism

I also came across this site which has information for students who are doing online courses or using online tools.  Some of the information is pretty useful.  I liked this explanation about academic honesty and plagiarism:


Has anyone used Wikia?

I have just ran across an article on Wikia and how it provides semi-private college wikis:


Does anyone have any experience using Wikia?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy International Men's Day !!!

Learning Objectives:
comprehension, analysis

My 101 students connected to one another online as part of larger assignment. They were divided into small groups and each group was assigned an article that relates to our discussions of Fast Food Nation. Four specific tasks were defined: 1) summarize the article, 2) note who was interviewed for the article and decide whether or not they are "reliable" sources, 3) choose two important quotations and explain their relevance, and 4) prepare two discussion questions for the class. Group members chose their tasks and posted their work on Facebook. Once the initial assignments were posted, they were assigned "partners" and asked to read and respond to their partner's post. They were also told to prepare class presentations.

How it went:
Most of this went really well. Students did a great job with their assigned tasks and the presentations were terrific. They succeeded in dissecting and analyzing a possible research source and practiced their public speaking skills. The class got an overview of 6 resources and many have chosen to use some of the articles in their upcoming research essays. The part that didn't go so well was the online connection, mostly because the instructions I provided were confusing to them. A few did a wonderful job but most did not, which tells me that the fault lay with the prompt, not with them. Their comments were short and vague and not particularly useful. I would certainly do the larger assignment again but need to rethink the online connection. I may have been trying to force something for the sake of experimentation when it really doesn't belong and may end up cutting that part entirely.

On an unrelated note, I'm having technical issues with Blackboard SafeAssign and could use some advice. Many students trying to post are getting error messages saying that the system is overloaded. I planned to return comments on Monday so wanted to grade this morning and afternoon. Since most essay aren't up yet, I'm already several hours behind schedule and am afraid I won't have time for all of them tomorrow. So, what do I do? Give them an extension? Accept essays via e-mail (which will be very confusing for me)? Make them keep trying and hope they upload in time for me to read them?

Friday, November 18, 2011

What's a College Degree Worth?

Lately I've been reading about the long-term impact globalization and technology have on today's students, particularly when it comes to achieving their career aspirations and earning potential. I'm also serving on a college-wide committee that's looking at ways to increase LaGuardia's graduation rate. These two issues are linked; students cannot get ahead if they don't have a college degree and the first step for many is graduating from LaGuardia.

In today's economy a college degree is one key to economic opportunity. A report published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, "The College Payoff," reveals that the median lifetime earnings of those with a Bachelor's degree is $2,268,000 while those with a high school diploma have a median lifetime earning $1,304,000. Quite a difference! In addition to a college degree, race, gender and choice of major also have an impact on income and upward mobility. I have attached a link to the article-I think you will find it interesting and the information may be useful as you talk with students about their career choices.


De León, Johnson & Kato's cool things!

This exercise has been a fun and challenging way to work together. We haven't managed to meet face to face, but managed to email each other several times to complete our task.

Rebekah's cool thing is that her blog has homework descriptions right there, so students do not need to go to blackboard for details. We also like that she posted her mid-semester survey on her blog. Nozomi’s did gave her mid-semester survey in her class because her students are not tech-savvy and made it in a manner that the class can finish it in a minute. Overall, we were pleased that the three of us always prefer a student-centered approach like me.

Nozomi's cool things are the way she mixes the use of ePortfolio (ePortfolio is required for Art and Design majors) and blogger. This exchange allows her students to exchange digital images on each other's course blogs. Nozomi also asked students to do an optional museum visit and in return students began posting about their visits—all thanks to the new online exchange--blogger! Nozomi finds blogging as another platform for students to communicate with her. Nozomi was able to respond to their requests for assistance, though the downside was that some students did not reply back to her outreach posts afterwards.

Ingrid's cool thing is that she posts mathematical problems on her MathLaGCCBlog. I have never seen that before, and I think that students would find problems posted on a blog rather than in a book or on a blackboard are different and interesting, and more engaging. In addition, there is information about online tutoring and an invitation to ask questions on the blog, encouraging students to use online services to learn more.

It comes as no surprise that posting homework assignments on our blogs is a pretty darn cool idea. It provides us with freedom and efficiency to send our students straight to the task without having to worry about Blackboard’s wonky ways and high traffic during midterms and finals.

Open Invitation

We have extend an invitation to all Mat 096 and Mat 115 students to join us
in open discussion on Tumblr. Students are permitted to post any mathematical
questions and are free to provide solution(s) to anyone else's question. We have
set up some guidelines for students to follow and our method of responding.

Our goal is to develop a larger group of math followers. As final exams are
approaching,we hope to see more activities on Tumblr.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Here We Go...

Georgia Tech Wipes Class Wikis From Web

November 17, 2011, 12:34 pm
The Georgia Institute of Technology has stripped, at least for now, more than 10 years of class work from its collaborative-learning Web sites, known as Swikis.

Following a student’s complaint to the university that his name was listed on the Web site of a public course, Georgia Tech officials decided on Monday to remove all Swikis other than ones from the current semester, said Mark Guzdial, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing, who is a co-creator of the Swikis.
He reported the development on his Computing Education blog this week. (The tech journalist Audrey Watters picked it up on her blog.)

In his post, Mr. Guzdial recounts how he and two Ph.D. students created the Swiki, or CoWeb, in 2000, so that students would have a place to “construct public entities on the Web.” The Swikis served intentionally undefined purposes, such as providing a forum for cross-semester discussions and a home for public galleries of student work. “All of that ended yesterday,” he wrote, because of Georgia Tech’s concerns about Ferpa, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

In a letter to faculty, posted on the university’s Web site, Zvi Galil, dean of the College of Computing, says Ferpa “prohibits the release of student names in connection with any particular classes in which they have been enrolled.” Under the university’s interpretation, that includes the Swikis, because students’ names are listed on the Web sites. The step was taken to make sure that students’ information was protected, a university spokeswoman said in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

Steven J. McDonald, general counsel at the Rhode Island School of Design, said that because students themselves are not subject to the provisions of Ferpa, if they are the ones posting the material, and not faculty members, then they are acting outside the confines of the privacy act. It would be as if a student were to post something from class to YouTube, he said.

Jochen Rick, one of the Ph.D. students who helped create the Swikis, acknowledged via e-mail the potential privacy concerns. But “to me, Georgia Tech’s interpretation of Ferpa implies that their students are not capable of reasonably and actively managing their privacy,” he said. “That’s a pretty low assessment for a group of tech-savvy adults.”

Other people upset by the university’s decision have taken the conversation to Twitter by creating a hashtag, #FERPANUTS, to discuss the issue.

Brendan Streich, a spokesman for the College of Computing, said in a phone call that the Swiki content, while not visible to the public, is not lost forever. The university, he said, would repopulate any Web page at the request of a professor, but only after removing any Ferpa-sensitive information. Since that includes names, it remains unclear how the university would go about this under its interpretation of the law.


Spreading the Word

This, apparently, is a week of presentations. Luke is going to the National Council of Teachers of English conference to present on peer evaluation using blogs and I am presenting at LAGCC's The English Language Center on ways to use web 2.0 tools for feedback. If you are curious as to what I will cover, the outline is below.

Simple Web 2.0 Feedback
Ximena Gallardo C., English Department

I. Introduction to Web 2.0 and Privacy Discussion
  1. Definition of Web 2.0
  2. Privacy Handouts
    • Handout for Teachers HERE.
    • Handout for Students HERE.
  3. Degrees of Privacy
    • Public (Pu): Anyone in the world can see the feedback (but probably will not. Consider that on Nov .12 the Nielsen Company site BlogPulse identified the number of blogs to be over 176 million).
    • Semi-public (Semi): Only those in a community (a group or class, for example) can see the feedback.
    • Private (Pr): Only you or you and those you choose can see the feedback.

II. Hands-on Work with Tools Where Teachers Act as Students
  1. Poll Everywhere (Pu)
    • Show: Poll Everywhere PowerPoint.
    • Work: Responding to Feedback Poll
    • Mention: Survey Monkey (Pr); Google Forms (Pr)
  2. Google Docs (Pu, Semi, Pr)
    • Show: Google Docs in Plain English HERE.
    • Show: Group collaboration on annotating a CAT HERE.
    • Work: Commenting on student response HERE.
    • Show: Teacher-to-student feedback  (Gradebook) for ENA099 HERE.
  3. Ning (Semi, Pu); Blogger (Pu)
    • Discuss: Administrator-controlled space versus administrator-authorized network
    • Show: Peer-to-Peer feedback on Shakespeare Ning HERE. (I model, then feedback begins on page 3) .
    • Show: Peer-to-Peer feedback on Blogger  
      1. Google Docs Instructions HERE.
      2. Sample Responses  and feedback HERE  and HERE (network-mates and me).

III. Q&A and Exploring Tools of Choice
  • Join Poll Everywhere HERE.
  • Join Google HERE.
    • Google Docs Tour HERE.
      • Create a Google Document HERE.
    • Blogger Tour HERE.
      • How to Create a Blog on Blogger HERE.
      • Create a Blog HERE.

IV. Feedback for the Day’s Work
Please complete a SurveyMonkey survey HERE.

P.S. One other interesting feedback tool: Voicethread (Semi-Pu)
    • Voicethread Demo HERE.
    • Join Voicethread HERE.
    • How to Create a Voicethread HERE.

Protecting the Brand at any Cost

The Penn State story is a great illustration of how people will protect the brand of the company at any cost. Having worked most of my life in corporate America, I know how often it is done. This week's Community Blog ask students how they would handle protecting the brand,even if what was occurring was illegal.
As graduate of Penn State, I know the machine power of Penn State Football and the MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars it brings to the University. 100,000 people paying upwards to 200 dollars a ticket on a weekend to attend a game generates a lot of cash for the school. Brand protection is important and here is the assignment I ask them to consider.

The Penn State Football incident is a good perspective on how the real issue are getting lost in the chatter of lost jobs and people being fired who have had long careers.

In time you will all go to work for an company or organization and you may be ask to defend the image of your company in violation of the law. I don’t want you to address that situation because I think it is hard for you to answer that question at this time.
However, I want you to look at the Penn State scandal as an outsider and then answer there questions.

  1. Why do think the Coach Sandusky was never arrested and brought up on charges even though witnesses has seen him molest a 10 year old boy in 2002?.
  2. Do you think Coach Paterno should have been fired because he did the correct think legally but not morally?
  3. Why do you think the President of the University participated in the coverup?
  4. Who are the real victims here, the staff or the ten boys molested or even the football players or a combination?
  5. Do you think an organization such as Penn State has the right to do what it take to protect its name even if a crime as been committed? Be aware there are many documented cases of this occurring both nationally and globally. Many hundreds of jobs have been saved by companies who have done at any costs what it takes to protect their image.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Speaking of the validity of non-internet sources, especially journals...

Fraud Scandal Fuels Debate Over Practices of Social Psychology

I include a link to the whole article, but this part caught my attention--because I am not so sure if it is limited to just that field:

But one methodological expert, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, of the University of Amsterdam, added a sociological twist to the statistical debate: Psychology, he argued in a recent blog post and an interview, has become addicted to surprising, counterintuitive findings that catch the news media's eye, and that trend is warping the field.
"If high-impact journals want this kind of surprising finding, then there is pressure on researchers to come up with this stuff," says Mr. Wagenmakers, an associate professor in the psychology department's methodology unit.

Knowledge Pools --> Social Media --> Collective Cognition

Justin Rogers-Cooper

Classes that think online teach other. Students that learn from each other combine knowledge. Students that combine knowledge perform better individually, but do so while their individual work more openly 'echoes' the work of other students.

Learning Objectives

Knowledge, Comprehension, Analysis

Knowledge Pools: Assignment Description

Last Monday the students in my Language and Human Rights class wrote blogs that summarized the main elements of non-violent theory. Here's how they did it: first, each group was assigned a different essay by MLK, Jr, on non-violence. Each group summarized the main points and found/defined keywords. They all read/re-read the essays and found a consensus about the main ideas.

Then I paired each group with another group: I told them to teach other the essays they discussed in their groups. The students in one group took notes on what the other students taught them. The groups then blogged about what they were taught, *not* about the essay their group first discused.

In some cases, I joined a third group to the these new, larger groups. They all then taught each other the new material in big bunches.

Social Media: How it Went

In the next class on Wednesday, we started off with their blogs. I listed several main ideas from their blogs on the board, and then we opened the MLK text to some of the main ideas they were working with. The point of the day was to move the discussion of non-violent theory into an analysis about how non-violence actually works. So after our discussion, we watched clips from the PBS documentary Citizen King on the Birmingham March in 1963. After pausing and discussing what we saw throughout, we had a brief discussion about the main ideas.

I then told the students to brainstorm on Twitter - and an outpouring of at least 50 Tweets sparked and rippled througth the class. I had the Twitter feed on the projector and we watched the ideas water through. Some of the Tweets overlapped with each other, while others pushed new ideas into the mix. The students were writing and thinking in real-time, but sharing every thought with one another. You could see knowledge as a kind of liquid pouring through the classroom, and see it freeze into different themes.

Collective Cognition: Conclusions

As the students Tweeted, I would yell out insightful examples and exclaim out new ideas. When they finished, I told them to use the Tweets as a basis for a revised blog. Since the Tweets were full of original critical thinking, they were to comb through the ideas and match them into the non-violent theories they wrote in their Monday blogs. Students used the rest of the class time to draft paragraphs that used Citizen King as an example for them to analyze and to develop critical thinking around non-violence.

It has occured to me more frequently and more forcefully of late that the students are sharing both summaries and critical thinking with each other. Yes, each student is authentically conjuring new ideas - but some of the more compelling ideas end up finding their way into student essays (nearly everything they write ends up in an essay). Where does the border between one student and another begin and end? Since they're composing together, they cheer each other on with new ideas and add to and contest each other's work. Plagiarism be damned: this is the knowledge pool organized into social media, and then shaped into scholarship!

In all my classes I've noticed that the students learn more from teaching each other and from learning from each other than any other method.

Social media helps students become teachers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Opening up the flood post gates... we hope!

In the past week or so, Rudy and I decided to open the tumblr function whereby students ask and are able to post questions regarding any MAT115 or MAT096 issues directly on the blog.

Two students are interested in writing a text about their experience with a hybrid course experience and the ability to interact/practice homework assignments directly on the blog.

I will also be collecting mini-videos to allow student to talk to a live camera.

Lastly, I will be once again, visiting the MAT096 sections to continue encouraging this online interaction.

Our hope is to open up the doors (ask and submit a post option) and let the interaction begin a larger scale begin.

We hope for the best of course and no harsh posts, of course!

Article: "The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades"

Though I haven't read through it yet, the study detailed in Junco, Heibergert, and Loken's "The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades" (Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, April 2011) shows more student engagement and higher grades. I'm looking forward to reading it, and to seeing how engagement is defined in the study.

Speaking of reflection (as Jason was) the term engagement has become almost a toss-off, as Carol Rodgers, who has written extensively about reflection in learning and teaching, explores in her work.

One awesome thing that article author Rey Junco did on his blog was summarize each section of their 14-page article in tweet form - i.e., in 140 characters or less.

The Art of Reflection

Ximena and I have been seriously considering the role of reflection in our Basic Writing classes. On the one hand, we have very little time with them before the CUNY Assessment Test in Writing (the test comes in week 10), so every minute of class time is essential. Additionally, many students simply will not do homework, so we try to keep as much of the course content in the classroom. They read in class and write in class. The upside is we can see how they read and how they write. The downside is we can only really count on the 40 hours we have them in class for work. And, honestly, we do not have enough time to change their counter-productive behaviors either. A few, sure--but not all of them.

In any case, we have 4 units in our classes that run approximately 2 weeks each. I had always favored a "reflection" blog entry at the end of each unit that I would use as the basis for their evaluation. You can see our basic evaluation rubric HERE (this is its maiden voyage, so we are still negotiating the points and etc.) However, this semester the schedule seemed very tight as we changed the schedule a bit to have a preliminary unit on writing and rhetoric. We ended up dropping the reflection for the second unit at the last minute as it seemed an excessive amount of work for the students that they were unlikely to do in any case.

Epic fail. Though we did not notice at the time. We picked the reflection back up for the third unit and the students, by and large, really hit it. Overall, we were shocked by how well the students have been able to gauge their own performance in the class and in writing. We were also very impressed by the level of engagement in the course that the students demonstrate in their entries. Here are three examples from Ximena's class. I am particularly impressed with their sense of audience.

Student 1
Student 2
Student 3

We are reviewing this blog series now, so I will have a follow-up to this post shortly. But I can tell you now, I am never dropping reflection out of an instructional unit ever again.

Photo thanks to killer_muffin.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blogging and the Arts of the Contact Zone (or what I've been learning I didn't know this semester...)

Thanks to Luke for his post about blogging...
I find the student entries (see example below) in that article striking for their insight, incisiveness, and fluency in/facility with academic language/literacy. (And maybe there was a bit of cherry-picking in finding a blog post that mirrored the intention of the blog itself...)
"The use of blogs in the classroom has helped me to better articulate my ideas and interpretations of the text as well as to bond with my fellow classmates. The blog has served like a series of student journal entries, unifying our class in our quest for knowledge and understanding. The blog format has helped me to be more concise and get right to the point of what I'm trying to say. Also, the blog is significantly more informal than short essay assignments, allowing me to express my ideas in a raw form, then refine them later and make them suitable for a formal paper."
Most of my students this semester in my Intro to Language are not close to this combination of meta-awareness and academic language/literacy "fluency" (for lack of a better word).
To the community 2.0 folks: I'd be interested to know about your experiences and see samples of your students' writing. This semester I am teaching in the cluster (with Justin) and we've found that most of these students are right out of high school--and some of the poorest performing high schools in New York. They come with a sure deficit in critical thinking, reading, writing, and language skills--and this sure potential that has not been tapped and exercised in meaningful ways to make them proud and sure of their thoughts and opinions and how they shape and inform their knowledge. I've been backpedaling all semester to meet them at their point of need. But trying at the same time to locate their point of strength so they have something solid to build on. Naturally in this "community" the constellation of strengths and constellation of deficits will be just that--constellations--up close separate and burning--from far enough away--a contained shape within which we can work. It's taken a while to get a sense of that shape--of that space. Of what Mary Louise Pratt would call a contact zone.
Next semester I'm teaching an honors section of Intro to Language, so it will be a different demographic of LaGCC student. But not that different: I have still found in my honors sections students who  scramble to "paper over" their deficits. This semester has taught me that next semester I want to make the focus of the blog much more about language awareness. Not the "linguistics content" kind of awareness, but the actual process of languaging that happens while blogging, while reading and responding to each other's blogs, the language in which they choose to express themselves, and the relationship to knowledge-building they notice.
I guess I'm hoping for a much more authentic experience for them and for me and it will need to begin with the blog post prompts. This semester the prompts assumed a certain "acculturation" into academic culture. I'm thinking now about what Mary Louise Pratt, in "The Arts of the Contact Zone" calls transculturation, where, to begin with, it will be more transactional.
And I'm thinking about the blogs as spaces similar to her safehouses...
I guess I assumed they'd be safe houses, but in fact, I think we need to negotiate together much more fundamentally what these spaces are that we are building...
More on that later!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Article on Blogs and composition

Maybe it's my contribution to the seminar. Maybe I am just thinking this topic 24/7 as I am presenting on it next week at NCTE. :) Or maybe both--nonetheless, here is an article I found interesting on blog pedagogy. Of course the writers have a particular pedagogical model in mind (what they call the agonistic classroom) and thus favor a central multi-authored blog--such as this one--over the hub models with each student having their own which most of us use in our classrooms.

Bridging the Composition Divide: Blog Pedagogy and the Potential for Agonistic Classrooms

by Janice Wendi Fernheimer and Thomas J. Nelson

Since the emergence in 1999 of online self-publishing tools such as Blogger, blogs have grown exponentially in many arenas--political reporting, private life, and education. As many readers will know, a blog (contraction of "weblog") is a web site composed of generally brief, frequent entries arranged in reverse chronological order. The convenience of easy-to-use, form-based interfaces has led to an explosion of the so-called blogosphere. As of November 2005, Technorati.com (a search engine that specializes in blogs) indexed 21.9 million blogs in its database, and there are estimates that 80,000 new blogs are created every day (approximately one per second) (Dyrli). Though blogs have been used in many ways, they tend to exhibit certain identifiable generic attributes, including a blurring of public and private modes of writing or behavior. This article will consider how we as writing teachers might use this new genre. We will first consider how the quasi-public, semi-private generic attributes of blogs trouble the traditional divide in writing instruction between expressivist and social constructivist theories. Then, we will discuss a model for using blogs in the writing classroom to promote intellectual community and agonistic engagement in the proto-public space of the classroom. Rather than using blogs as a tool to facilitate a type of online journaling, we will focus on the implications of using a single, multiply-authored class blog as the central interface for the writing classroom.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Hi all! I am writing a magazine article on the New York based BioBus this week (http://biobus.org/) and ran across the founder's other project: Microglobalscope (http://www.microglobalscope.org/) which is exactly the type of thing we are trying to do. I think he has some really fantastic ideas that work for the sciences. Maybe we can get "Dr. Ben" to come speak to our group. Thoughts?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sharing on FB

We've hit the time of the semester when everyone's feeling overworked and overwhelmed (or is it just me?) and I'm hoping to use Facebook - along with group work and good ole class discussion - to accomplish several things this week.

Objectives include:
ensure students do the reading;
encourage them to consider the major issues raised in the assigned chapter,
practice introducing and explaining quotations in small groups,
practice quoting and using in-text citations,
do a peer critique as a class, and
refine and expand on their work through individual in-class writing.

Since we'll be working on "sandwiching" quotations in class, I want them to have actual quotations to work with. So, I asked them to choose one passage from the assigned reading that stands out to them, post it on FB, and write a sentence or two about why it's important. The deadline was noon today and most of them have posted good, solid responses.

Tomorrow, I'll break them into groups and ask them choose one of the posted passages to work with. Working together, they will write one sentence that introduces the main idea of the passage and one that explains its significance. We'll discuss their sentences as a class and then they'll write individual paragraphs fleshing out their ideas that they will also post on FB.

I've done this sort of thing before and I like the idea of combining different tools and activities. I hope that sharing their work online will provide a sense of accomplishment for those that do well and models for those that could do better. Ideally, this work will also help them as they revise their midterm exams and begin to draft their next formal essay.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Information Vs Knowledge

This year, the advisory team of Phi Theta Kappa has been guiding the students in the research of the topic assigned by the organization's National Headquarters, "The Democratization of Information: Power, Promise, and Peril." One of the students interviewed Dr. Chaffee on the issue, and as I read the interview I found one except really relevant to what we are doing in the seminar, and I think it also highlights our future work as educators. Seems to me we have an ethical and professional responsibility to be helping the students make sense of what is available to them than to simply ask them to avert their eyes and ignore the internet and new technologies that make so much information readily available to them. Here is the except from Dr. Chaffee's interview:

Q: How does the media, press, and the internet influence the democratization of information?

Dr. Chaffee: Well, it’s interesting. On the one hand, it makes it more available. Anybody with a computer now can access any kind of information. The problem is that a lot of that information is worthless or worse, it’s false, and it really highlights this idea that information is not knowledge, information is just stuff. Information doesn’t become knowledge until the human mind acts on it, until it analyzes it and applies, synthesizes it, evaluates it, integrates it and makes use of it. But also, determines whether the information has value, and if it has value, what value and how it ought to be used. So on the one hand, there is the accessibility to an infinite amount of information, opinions and all sorts of stuff. But if the person doesn’t have the intellectual abilities, the critical thinking abilities to really sift through and evaluate the processing and make sense of all that stuff it really doesn’t have much value. In fact, it can be dangerous and destructive because people would read things or be exposed to things that they consider to be information, which then they might think is knowledge or something ​that has value when it doesn’t, and that can lead to dangerous and destructive actions.

Remind you of anything?

‘Speed Dating’ Peer-Review Writing Workshops

November 3, 2011, 11:00 am
The format is pretty simple, though it requires some preparation and classroom reorganization. Here’s what I do to set up the workshop:
  1. I ask students to bring a printed copy of their introductions to class. Because this exercise requires students to move frequently (more on that shortly), laptops can be unwieldy.
  2. I arrive at the classroom at least ten minutes prior to the start of class. I move the chairs (and, if the room has them, tables) so that there are two concentric rings of chairs. The chairs in the inner ring should face the chairs in the outer ring. When students arrive I make sure they sit in the rings.
  3. I also bring some music to class—a song that plays for approximately 4 minutes. I usually plug my iPhone into the classroom sound system (if there is one), but you could just as easily bring in a portable music player or some laptop speakers.
  4. I ask students to get out their printed introductions, one piece of paper, and a pen or pencil.
After this preparation, the workshop is pretty simple. When the music starts, facing pairs of students exchange introductions. They read each other’s paragraphs and then give their partners one specific piece of advice about how to improve their introductions. This advice is delivered aurally, and students write down their partner’s advice on their papers. Hopefully they can do this before the song ends (which doesn’t always happen in the first round but almost always happens within a few rounds). When the music stops, the students in the inner ring stand up and rotate to the next partner. I restart the music and they begin the process again. In 40 minutes students get feedback from 10 of their peers.

Read more HERE