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.  


“Prologue” and “Opening” Precis November 4, 2008

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. 


“NCTE Guideline on Multimodal Literacies” Precis

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 6:02 am
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Multimodal literacy should be especially encouraged in the classroom.  Many kids grow up with it – it comes to them like second nature – but there is a select underprivileged group who do not grow up in a very literate culture.  Nevertheless, students should be be able to practice blending text, speech, images, videos and the like to a very real approximation of what they will be doing in the “real world.”  It may seem unlike a traditional classroom, but it applicability of the projects will make the work seem more relevant to the students.  

However, it is important to keep in mind both that not everyone learns at the same pace, nor do they all begin at the same place.  Some students may have easier access to certain computer programs that allow them to combine medias, others have had much previous experience with concepts, either through a job or just from playing around and others will be completely new to the whole idea.  Regardless, the teacher will need to personally learn something to be able to pass on to the students, and then it is possible to let them go and see where it takes them.

Undoubtably, there are obstacles, such as non-tech-savvy teachers (or students), the difficulty in measuring the outcome of students attempts (both in quality and quantity) and the variances in the abilities of the students.  But, given adequate planning time to clearly delineate goals and criteria, educate students on critically looking at media so that they can bring that knowledge to their own work and finding current and necessary projects, students can become more literate about multimodal texts and better able to compete in and consider the world at large.


“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.