Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Returning to Older Technologies: Pictures, Words, and Paper, Oh My!

Over the first two weeks of the semester, I've used some sample pages from a fairly new composition book, Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide To Writing. Not surprisingly, the book is, for lack of a better term, a graphic novelish approach to teaching writing and rhetoric, specifically content familiar to first-year composition courses.
Before going all out and using the whole book for my Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking course, I wanted to test the waters and see how the students reacted to it. More specifically, I was interested in whether or not students 1) read the material, and 2) could actually remember what they read when they got to class. Could this return to an older technology - drawings - increase knowledge acquisition for students who, we are told, are constantly looking at moving images on YouTube or the simultaneously static and moving text messages feeding through their phones? 

Visual Rhetoric in the Composition Classroom 
In many composition classrooms, there has been a turn towards visual rhetoric. Talking to colleagues at my home institution and at other universities, more people are integrating advertisements, movies, television, and commercials into writing instruction. We might ask students to rhetorically analyze clips from The Daily Show, show an episode of The Office to talk about genre awareness in sit-coms, and in my own class, students create an advertisement using some sort of media - print, sound, video - show it to an audience, and discuss their rhetorical choices and attention to document design.

The Results 
This semester, I plan on putting even more emphasis on the design aspects of the project, and using Understanding Rhetoric was my first foray into getting students to think about the different ways in which visual images work together to show the reader/viewer something.

On the whole, the students reacted to the chapter, on Aristotle's rhetorical appeals and kairos, rather well. They demonstrated an ability to understand what the appeals are and how kairos works. More interestingly, however, was their reaction to it - they liked it - and how they used the reading in the classroom. Rather than trying to remember, desperately, what the reading said, looking through notes, hoping they had annotated the correct place, looking for bolded vocabulary words, students could more easily find the information they wanted and point to it during class. In other words, they engaged with the text much more readily than they have with more traditional readers that are predominately word-based over image-based.

For me, this semester is about experimenting with technology in the classroom, asking how well different technologies work (for instance, today our CMS refuses to do what we need it to do), and how well students are able to learn from or through different modalities. This very quick, two-day use of pictorial images showed promise in the way students understood the material, used it during class, and even maintained the information over the weekend. Tangentially, because the book doesn't include set essays and readings, it requires me to bring in readings from outside the text, drawing from current events, student interests, and topics that are important to campus. These additional readings ask students to be more aware of their surroundings in ways that the most time-honored and traditional essays from readers cannot.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School Edition - Teaching with Technology

This semester, for the first time in four semesters, I do not have an online course. Instead, all of my courses are face-to-face: first-year composition, technical writing, and an introduction to English studies for majors and minors.

Where earlier posts considered what it was like to teach and learn online, this semester's (hopefully more regular) posts will consider bringing technology into the classroom. Deciding whether or not to use technology, exploring the different ways that students choose to (or not to) use technology in their assignments and during the class period, and considering the learning effects of technology.

This semester, I'm considering using various uses of technology, and they're not all electronic.
  • Graphic novels to teach visual rhetoric and document design
  • Multi-modal assignments (including web pages, video and sound recordings, and paper and ink) 
  • Cell phones (yes, cell phones!) in class 
  • And, the good, old, computer classroom (two of my three courses are in a lab setting) 
Each week, I'll blog about the ways in which my students used technology in the classroom, how it's working (or not working) and what I'd like to see happen from their new found skills.

My good friend Danny at The Arnoldian Project has written about his own experiments using Twitter in the composition classroom. I look forward to more insights into how that experiment goes for him this year. Maybe I'll do the same (though, that would require me to use Twitter, too.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Online Teaching and Accessibility

I just returned from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I attended the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication. Throughout this conference, two ideas firmly situated themselves in my mind - accessibility and online teaching. The panel I presented on (and indeed my presentation itself) was interested in making literacy and writing accessible to all. I also, in the same interest with which I joined the EDCMOOC, attended numerous panels about teaching online, including one during which Cs Committee on Online Teaching released best practices for online instruction.

I look, now and in the future, to determine how to make online education accessible.

Why does accessibility matter? Accessibility in education is not just about ensuring those with disabilities can obtain an education, but online education brings with it other obstacles (notably technological access). I discussed technological access in my post "Imperial MOOCs," and for our students at our local institutions, technological accessibility is also important. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reflections on my MOOC experience

The E-Learning and Digital Culture MOOC officially ended today, with the crowd source grades and comments revealed. I have no doubt that discussions among class members will continue, and I have much to think about, particularly about moving what I learned into my own teaching and learning.

In this post, I outline my observations about the experience and a plan for the future for this blog, for though we do not know the future of the MOOC (and previous posts make my skepticism clear) we do know that online learning is here to stay.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Imperial MOOCs: Should We Be Worried?

Throughout this blog, I have tried to differentiate my experience in EDCMOOC and my experiences teaching in a capped, online course. While there are similarities, there are obvious differences. 
One significant difference I see is the MOOCs "coverage." While most online courses are offered through universities (to which students have to apply for admission [regardless of the specific admission standards], register for the class, and pay tuition and fees; there is, in other words, a gatekeeper), MOOCs are currently open to anyone - registration takes but a few moments. There are no gate keepers: in this sense, MOOCs are open to everyone and anyone who is willing to abide by the rules. In this sense, the openness of the MOOC is both appealing and utopian: anyone, anywhere, can receive the education offered.

The more I consider the utopian rhetoric of MOOC ambassadors, the reach and scope of the MOOC, and the audience (whether intended or actual), I grow increasingly concerned with levels of access to the technology and what that (lack of) access means to non-Western cultures. Like the British Empire - on which the sun never set - will the MOOCs' influence also never set. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Human Touch in the Online Course

This week's MOOC readings introduced us to the idea of "human touch" and asked whether or not technology allows us to "reassert the human." In "Heart to Heart," a commercial for BT, two sons worry about their mom - first, they talk to one another (and their mom) through chat, and then one son calls his mom and talks with her over the telephone.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

MOOCs in the News: Uptopian and Dystopian

The MOOC received a decent amount of attention this week in United States' non-academy focused media: Salon's Andrew Leonard proclaimed "The Internet will not ruin college," and Slate's Will Oremus wrote an article about the "MOOC Meltdown" where an "Online Class on How To Teach Online Classes Goes Laughably Awry." Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, discussed the revolution that is the MOOC, and not surprisingly, academics responded (mostly negatively) to his comments through letters to the editor.