The Dangerous Blog for Grad Students

A How-To Tale

“Techno-Pedagogical Explorations: Toward Sustainable Technology-Rich Instruction” Precis November 11, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 4:17 pm
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Dickie Selfe

Use technology in your class, by all means, but remember to think of it as an exploration with your students.  You don’t know everything about the intricacies of the web and it’s communications and neither do you students, but if you take a look at it together, it can be a wonderful learning experience.  

There are many different ways that you could approach using technology in your classes.  One option has been around for quite awhile – email.  If you set up an email listserv for your class(es), they can use it as a tool for discussion outside of class, with or without your participation.  You could also use chat rooms (as long as you know how they work) to allow students to chat about a movie or something of the sort while they are actually watching it.  This is an especially interesting project, because many students are very comfortable with this – since it is something they do already with text-messaging.  Or maybe you might publish student work online, using Blackboard or WebCT.  This was a limited amount of people would be able to see the students’ work, but they would gain valuable insight from outsiders.  

Just be sure that with any technology-rich project you bring into the class, you take time to work through the PAR process:  preparation, activity and discussion.  This should help you assess what you are doing, how you are doing it and if there is a better way to try for the future.  And make sure you back up everything!


“Can Teaching, of All Things, Prove to Be Our Salvation?” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 6:39 am
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Kurt Spellmeyer

There once was a group at Rutgers University that acknowledged that fact that students were not graduating with an understanding of modern society.  As they debated what to do about it, many departments offered their views on what students should be taught, but it was soon evident that no consensus would ever be reached.  And so, instead of continuing along that track, the committee decided to instead look at envisioning what problems students might face in the future and create classes to prepare them for those happenings.  In theory, this was the right way to go, but it was rather hard to execute, especially when it came down to have teachers from different disciplines work together or teach something that was not especially in their field.  

But, oddly enough, even after the movement died out, the idea seemed to live on, and even work, in English first-year composition classes.  Yes, students everywhere still to basic writing exercises, much like they participated in in high school.  But, it was also possible for them to move on and look at more challenging texts – texts that illustrated what was going on in the world in a way that was new and maybe even difficult for students to understand, but that pushed them to try and grasp the concepts being stated.  Students could be encouraged to look at the world around them and realize that they many have more to learn than just what college professors can teach them.  These writing classes embrace students of all different disciplines and can take up the Rutgers plan of trying to prepare students for what may lie ahead of them. 


“WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 5:53 am
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wpa-wpaCouncil of Writing Program Administrators (WPA)

This statement is put out to help writing teachers and programs know what students nation-wide should be learning in their first-year composition classes.  The students are learning to write and this should be taken very seriously.   These main points should be considered as a regulation.  Of course, standards and the specific ways in which these ideas are taught will be left up to the university. 




Students need to display:

  • Rhetorical Knowledge
  • Critical Thinking, Reading and Writing
  • Processes
  • Knowledge of Conventions
  • and Composition in Electronic Environments

Students should understand what all of these things entail and be building on them throughout the semester.  More specifically, they are to be working on skills such as:  writing to different audiences, genres and forums; understanding how their work interacts with research, as well as the comments on their peers and teachers; working through drafts and revisions, knowing that the first product may not always be the best; making their papers suit the style and format that they are assigned to be; and being able to use a computer to research and compose an essay or other text.  In all of these steps, the help of the composition teacher, as well as other instructors in the individual’s field of study, is instrumental.  


“Portfolio Standards for English 101” Response

Filed under: Response — deduvick @ 5:13 am
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Douglas D. Hesse

It was very interesting to be reading about this in our book, since this is exactly the model that we are working from in our own English 101 and 101.10 classes that we teach.  I must say, however, it is much easier to read in our table-like boxes on the rubric in our books than in this linear format!

Anyways, the key is to look at the adjectives.  An “A” portfolio writer is skillful, consistent and effective.  They make decisions that are fresh, show their wide reading, are appropriate and go beyond the obvious.  A “B” portfolio is very similar to the “A,”  but where the “A” writer makes good choices “frequently” and “generally,”  the “B” writer only  makes them “often” and “usually.”  Also, the “B” writer sometimes only “suggests” the actions that the “A” writers achieve. 

The “C” portfolios are more average – the assignments are perform “competently.”  Writers of “D” and “F” portfolios have an “inability” to perform the assignments give to them, with the “F” writers achieving much less than the “D.”  And, if a portfolio is incomplete, missing any part, it may only be given a “D” or “F.”  

It is a very understandable process and over the semester I have been grading quite a few projects whose grading standards are very similar to these.  It will be interesting to see what the students come up with when they turn everything in at the end, especially if they have been looking at how we have been grading them.


“Writing with Video: What Happens When Composition Comes Off the Page” Response November 4, 2008

Filed under: Response — deduvick @ 3:52 pm
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lovett-et-al-writingThis sounds like a fabulous class!  Not only are students learning about writing, researching and creating a text – but they are actually putting together a piece that has some relevance outside of the typical classroom.  It really seems like a great way to make students actively participate and, may I even suggest, enjoy what they are working on in class.  It is something that they can upload to YouTube, show their friends and families or even have used by the university, like Erin’s No Child Left Behind video.  

Since it really is an interdisciplinary class, students campus-wide can take it – from the art, communications, film studies, etc.  I think that that is one of the problems here at Illinois State.  It is impossible to be able to take some classes in other departments, even when it is relevant to your area of study.  For example, there is no photography class that English students can take, even if they are interested in working with magazines or journals after graduation.  But with something like Writing with Video, all different kinds of students can take it and bring their ideas together, helping everyone to learn not only from their teachers, but also from the classmates.  And speaking of the teachers, the fact that they themselves come from different departments and train grad students to teach as well just goes to increase everyone’s knowledge of the technologies being used.

I understand that there are a lot of issues to be faced with a project like this, such as funding for technology and teacher training, but I feel that this would be an excellent addition to any university and a boon to students to better enable them to communicate in a very current multimodal way.


“Prologue” and “Opening” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 5:48 am
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palmeri-prologueJason Palmeri

There are several problems in getting multimodal studies recognized as a legitimate direction to take current freshman compositions classes:  1) Why is it even desirable to teach students to use not only text, but also images, sound, etc.?  2)  Why should we as composition teachers teach these modalities, instead of leaving it to those who know it best, ie. the art, communications, music or design departments?  3)  Does learning multimodalities add to or detract from the learning of alphabetic writing?  How so?  Yet it is very important that the study of multimodal composition be studied because students nowadays were be increasingly using these skills in the work-force after college and they are coming to school already literate to the multimodalities surrounding them.

Students need to learn to use multimodalities partially because it is so relevant to their lives, but this is not to say that this is something new.  There has always been other modalities involved even when working with “just text” – in formating, fonts and colors, even without illustrations, diagrams or graphs factored in.  Rather, what is newer is the digital communication technologies, the unbelievable access that students have to these programs and the ease which with they can be learned.  And so, with not having to have extensive training in programs such as Photoshop and Indesign (and other such programs), our composition teachers can – and should – be the ones to teach the students.  Not only can the ideas of rhetoric be applied to learning multimodalities, but we can also help students to look at their works critically and in social and ethical spheres.  And lastly, multimodal composition does add to the learning of alphabetic writing in the same way it always has – it provides an outlet to sketch out ideas or connect meanings that can only help when they are again writing in alphabetic ways.  

Multimodal composition should play as much a factor in our composition classes as any other pedagogy.  It certainly has a past and also a very real future.  There’s no real way to argue with that, is there?


“Multimodality” Precis November 3, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 10:52 pm
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Gunther Kress

Text and writing has always been multimodal.  To read such, it requires both sight and hearing – seeing the marks (letters) arranged on a page and understanding the sounds that each represents and so interpreting what the text is saying.  Naturally, one aspect is  trumping the others – in this case seeing over hearing (in the instance of listening to a speech, hearing would win).  But still it is multimodal.

In the same way, everything around us can be interpreted as multimodal.  Even purchasing something as simple as a bottle of mineral water requires sight and hearing (as shown above) along with touch and taste, in combination with certain ideologies that we bring to our water-buying.  Even an object that has no language contained within it can communicate by its presence – we can understand what it is/was used for by sight, hearing, touch and the idea that it must have been created for something.  

We need to understand that multi-modal “texts” are not just to be read – they are to be used.  And, so students need to be taught how to use these texts.  It is amazing how far we have come, with pictures being used in books and textbooks, not as a mere compliment to the words, but to describe in their own right.  There is so much to be gotten out a picture that would never need to be explained in words.  And pictures (along with other multi-modal options) communicate – bringing knowledge and understanding that cannot at times be gained from reading words on a page.