The Dangerous Blog for Grad Students

A How-To Tale

“Critical Visual Literacy: Multimodal Communication Across the Curriculum” Precis October 28, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 2:08 pm
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Barb Blakely Duffelmeyer and Anthony Ellertson

In this increasingly visual society, it is important that students learn how to deal with the images, text, music and combination of all these that they are bombarded with on a daily basis.  It is not enough to simply sit back and watch, but to attempt to interact with what is going on around us.  Much as writing can be a type of communication, it is now sharing the spotlight with its newer technological bedfellow.  Though some might complain, teaching visual literacy is not forcing text to be a subordinate, but rather sketching out all the options.  

Students need to understand that text itself is not unbiased.  It cannot be simply looked at and unjudged.  Rather, any text, image, or audio piece must be considered in light of its biases and then a decision made on what to do what the information it transmits.  Because of this, everyone must look develop this sort of rhetorical outlook.  We need to teach this to our students and give them opportunities to practice, because so often they just take what they read/hear/see for granted.  When they begin look at other work with this attitude, it will help them assimilate it into their own projects.  And lastly, students also need to understand how to communicate.  This could be writing; this could be imagery.  But really, anything to prompt some kind of response, rather than the passive assumption that they can do nothing to affect the world that they live in.  Perhaps their impact is not big, but still, the task gives them some kind of agency.


“The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Disciplines” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 5:13 am
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Susan McLeod

It is important for students to be prepared to meet all kinds of writing in their college education.  They are not quite receiving that training in their high school years; instead, their learning is measured by fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice tests.  How easy it is to forget that there are so many different standards for writing out there, that our way is not necessarily the high way.  That is why it is important for teachers across the disciplines to listen to each other and learn from each other.  Not only are our styles of citations different, but our preferred verb tenses, our prose style, our formating and what we value as facts.  If we don’t understand these things about each other, we will only succeed in confusing our students and frustrating them to the point of their producing no decent work.

Instead, we can focus on two types of writing – for learning and for communicating.  Writing for learning may take the form of some kind of journal, where the student can wrestle out their thoughts and their ideas of how concepts tie together with no fear of being graded or judged, though the teacher may give them feedback in this outlet.  It gives them a chance to hash out what they are thinking, but also to experiment with styles.  Writing to communicate is going to produce more polished work – pieces that have been written and rewritten, revised and edited, presented to peers for feedback and those comments taken into consideration.  This needs to have a great audience than just the teacher for the student to realize the magnitude of what they are working on and the audience with whom they would be communicating.  It is not simply a test of what they have learned, but an opportunity to teach it to someone else.


“Expanding the f2f: Writing Centers and Audio-Visual-Textual Conferencing” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 3:08 am
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Melanie Yergeau, Kathryn Wozniak, Peter Vandenberg

Audio-Visual-Textual (AVT) Conferencing is the newest way technology offers us to tutor.  In this day and age, sometimes it is impossible to have a sit-down, face-to-face (f2f) tutoring session, so we had graduated on to email tutoring.  In spite of the fact that students were working on their writing by actually writing (typing up questions, responses, defenses) to their tutors, there was none of the personal interaction that occurs in a f2f, with vocal inflections, facial expressions or any sort of body language whatsoever.  

And so, AVT conferencing is introduced.  It allows there to be all the elements of an actual tutoring session and some other factors besides.  For example, many reactions over a technological system are often over-emphasized – hand waves to say goodbye, more exaggerated shrugs and shakings of the head.  This could be helpful and is just a natural instinct (since it is still communicating long-distance), so it probably will not distract either party and help further communication.  There is also the added bonus of being able to write as well as talk, and, along the same vein, easily access links or tips to pass along since you can get right on the internet.  It could be a huge benefit to be able to make the changes on the document as the conversation progress or open up a link on a personal computer when the tutor suggests it, which would be impossible in a f2f conference over a printed document.  One bit about the AVT conference that could be either way is that the tutee could be in their personal space, meaning that they may be more comfortable in the comfort of their own room and that may give them confidence to defend their work/argue their side.  However, it could also make them feel strange that their tutor is able to see into their room.  

AVT seems like a reasonable alternative when f2f is just not an option.  As long as the student is comfortable with the technology and the concept, a very productive session might ensue.


“Responding to Student Writing” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 1:26 am
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Nancy Sommers

Teacher’s comments on a student’s work are probably one of the most influential steps in a revision process, yet we as teachers do not seem to know how to handle these remarks.  Over a study, looking at the comments that a teacher leaves (versus a computer program) and taking into consideration the students’ response to these (mostly confusing) remarks, we see an area that probably needs to be paid a greater amount of attention.  

There are two main problems in the feedback from teachers.  The first is that some comments actually distract from the students’ aim in their essays.  When we are constantly correcting grammar and punctuation and not giving enough credit to the actual content, students will begin to think that those small grammatical issues are the most important thing.  Those marks can also directly contradict other statements made, such as telling a student to tighten up their prose, but telling them to elaborate on the same exact part, leaving students to decided which to fix.  The other problem is not leaving text-specific comments, i.e. leaving remarks that can (and are) made on an number of different papers.  Instead, response should be to the student’s text, so that they have the best possible idea of what you mean, instead of having to guess at vague terminology.  

We put enough time into looking at student drafts already, but now it is time to add some substance that the students actually understand.  Pay attention to what they are saying (or trying to say and not quite making it work) and leave the comma splices until just before the final is due.  Thanks!


“Cross-Curricular Underlife: A Collaborative Report on Ways with Academic Words” Precis October 27, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 6:59 pm
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Worth Anderson, Cynthia Best, Alycia Black, John Hurst, Brandt Miller, Susan Miller 

As five students and one teacher, we observed many different classroom cultures (mostly general education requirements) to see how language works between the members of the classroom.  We wanted to see if these experiences would indeed link to our time spent in the first-year composition class (Writing 210), to see if the class prepared us in any way.  We feel that it did, to a certain extent, because it taught us to  analyze and imitate the reading and writing, but other things, such as peer revisions and that strong sense of the group did not carry over.  

The classes we observed were all very different, and each student took a different approach to what they observed.  We did all agree, though, that most of the learning had to take place outside of class, with an independent focus on reading for more information, writing papers and organizing what information we were given.  After reaching several conclusions about the general education required classes in general, we came to the consensus that our composition class was helpful in that it prepared us for writing (despite the fact that we did very little writing compared to what we had completed in that class).  Also, it helped us in the way it taught us to look at different audiences, so that we could adapt it to various situations

Because of this, teachers of those basic courses should really strive to have their classes be a kind of preview for the rest of the work that they will be doing in the university – looking at how several disciplines writing, talking about the change in audience, building basis for organization and solid writing practices.


“Writing Center Pedagogy” Precis October 26, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 9:17 pm
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Eric H. Hobson

Writing centers have popped up across America and are making the transition from grammar-checking police to services for bettering the writers and not the writing.  

Though these centers were vary from place to place depending on the staff and multiple other factors, most writing centers are trying to help out students, not just by cleaning up their papers, but by working with them across the board.  There is a lot of individual one-on-one work, ranging from someone just randomly stopping in to weekly meetings between tutor and tutee on whatever the tutee may have going on in his/her life right now.  There are sometimes group study sessions, with students able to participate in a smaller-scale discussion.  Some centers look at only paper and ink drafts; others can help students through emails or other electronic communication.

Regardless the set-up, writing centers are focused on helping the student to better their work and creating knowledge of how to proceed with more work.  It’s not just enough for a student to be able to turn in one piece if they can’t imagine how to approach the next. Writing centers are around to help with that – giving advice, teaching skills and “rules,” and lending a helping hand to students without a judgement being passed or a essay being graded.


“Utopic Visions, The Technopoor, and Public Access: Writing Technologies in a Community Literacy Program” Precis October 21, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 3:33 pm
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Jeffrey T. Grabill

No matter how modern we think our world is, there is still a surprising amount of people that do not have access to a computer and thus do not possess the same computer-related skills.  If someone does not have access to this kind of technology, it is going to be really hard for him/her to be suddenly thrust into a situation where they must use it or learn it.  Organizations like Western District Adult Basic Education offer classes for just these such people.  They can go and get training on computers, enough to be able to join a high-school level computer class.  Unfortunately, many of these organizations do not have the money to buy good equipment and people are either learning on something that is so outdated that it is hardly relevant anymore or working on limited machines or not being able to access everything that they need.  With these skills, people can go on to type letters, emails, flyers, resumes – things that most of us take for granted.  We should take a stand to help others learn these computer skills.  With them they can get better jobs and perhaps have a better life.  It’s such a small thing to do, but the public has just as much right to have access to computers like academics.