Saturday, May 2, 2015

MOOC: “End of Reform”, or Beginning of Possibility?

For this very last post of this semester, I’m trying to make a juxtaposition between Aaron Bady’s “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform” and Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “If Freire Made a MOOC”, not only because both of them apparently comment on the MOOC phenomenon, but I also see part of Bady’s revelation of the dark side of MOOC serves as the footnotes for Morris and Stommel’s. Although I do have already known this form of online open courses for a long time and took one to help me prepare for my Japanese proficiency test, it was not long ago that I came across this acronym “MOOC”. Despite that we have been talking about visualization for almost the whole semester, the emergence of MOOC requires a new definition of visualization: not only knowledge is presented by digital technologies, but even teachers who are teaching the knowledge are framed into the small screen either. How should we view this MOOCification of education? What are we, as teachers, supposed to do in its heyday? I think Bady’s and Morris and Stommel’s articles shed light upon these questions.

In “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform”, Bady expresses a strongly negative feeling towards MOOC’s “reshaping the face of higher education”, which is either “disrupting education through innovation” or “simply representing the disruption of education as it is embedded in the market”. Neither of the routes is pleasant, we have to say. Bady is not denying the MOOC as a whole—he recognizes its value as a free educational resource, “a free and useful thing, available to those that want it”. If we merely use these sites—Coursera, Udacity, and edX—to learn something that we are interested in on a surface level, we may find it more convenient and less painstaking than sitting in a class and pay one-hundred-percent attention to the teacher. However, when MOOCs get into higher education and become a replacement for traditional face-to-face college classes for college students to get credits in order to graduate on time, it’s an entirely different picture. Bady’s concerns about the MOOC phenomenon focus on three aspects: the market value of MOOCs, the aggravation of hierarchy within education system, and the blind optimism about learning process and outcomes. First and foremost, MOOC has pushed higher education into the market, but not in a friendly way. It devalues the “chairs” in classrooms while increasing its own market value, which violates the original intention of MOOC as a free public resource. Secondly, instead of decentralizing the classroom, MOOC’s “teacher-as-content” creates a wider gap between students and teachers—students even lose their rights to question and interact with teachers. In addition, the hierarchy within education system is further developed—MOOCs are attached to the label of “Harvard”, “MIT” and other forefront universities, using their “symbolic role in American higher education to define the new cutting edge”, leaving the low prestige university, University of Phoenix, cry over its own innovation. Last but not least, “MOOC boosters” sometimes hold over-expectation for MOOC, while the truth is low completion of the courses; and when it comes under the circumstance of higher education, there turns out to be a lot of cheating. Actually this is what I’m worrying about MOOC, too. We surely need to trust our students for their independent learning ability and self-discipline, but it may not be a safe bet. How can we expect them to learn effectively with a video, when they cannot even devote themselves wholeheartedly in a face-to-face classroom? How do you perceive MOOC’s replacement for the live classroom?

Although Bady concludes his critique by saying that “MOOCs are more like an end of something than a beginning”, Morris and Stommel are milder and more positive towards MOOCs’ popularity. Like Bady, they also notice the drawback of most MOOCs that “reinforces ossified hierarchical relationships in learning environments”. However, they don’t see it as a dead end; instead, they are looking for a possible way out. In light of the Critical Pedagogy advocated by Paulo Freire, Morris and Stommel believe that “make a space for open dialogue, and change can occur”, and propose that “a course is a starting point, a space in which learners can experiment with their agency, discover the complexity of their oppression, and begin to work toward more liberated action”. Therefore, they suggest 6 theses to “reimagine MOOCs”, each of them presented in a “What the Critical Pedagogy advocates—How the most MOOCs are in conflict with it—What we need to do as a remediation” pattern. It does offer some insights about the direction towards which MOOCs should head to. I’m not going to illustrate the theses one by one; instead, let’s dig out how critical pedagogy may influence MOOCs’ future as a whole. The two main arguments Morris and Stommel make are as follows: 1) In order to create collaborative learning environment, teachers must cede authority and students experiment their agency. Traditional teaching establish teachers’ role as “sage on the stage”, and MOOCs, where teachers are inapproachable on screen, further intensify the problem. Critical Pedagogy calls for a more dynamic classroom and content as well, so that what we need to transform MOOCs to that expectation. 2) The notion of “outcome” should be reimagined within the Critical Pedagogy. Grades should “give way to epiphanies”, and correspondingly, standardized assessment should be rethought as “a reflective and recursive process that emerges from within a learning community rather than structuring that community in advance”. That’s something MOOCs should seek to accomplish. Well, I have to admit that although this article is titled “If Freire Made a MOOC”, it’s more like an introduction to Critical Pedagogy, and MOOC is only its additional value, a field where this Critical Pedagogy can apply to as a remediation. While I was reading the theses, my gut reaction was like “Yes, I agree that changes should be made to MOOCs, but how?” I expected more from the authors, because I couldn’t come up with a way of fulfilling this, but they just scratch the surface without going deeply into it. From my viewpoint, MOOC, in the form of pre-recorded videos, can hardly cater to all the students’ needs, and thus is difficult to incorporate the Critical Pedagogy into it. So I wonder if you practicing teachers have any idea about how it may work successfully?

In the last thesis, Morris and Stommel assure that “technology will never replace teachers”, which evokes my thinking about teachers’ role in the MOOC era. With MOOCs swiping across universities like “campus tsunami”, do you see any possibility that they may one day capture high schools, middle schools or even elementary education (or has your school already been using this kind of teaching method)? How will teachers’ role change by then? Will we become the TAs for the teachers who are teaching in the video? Looking forward to your thoughts!


p.s. Sorry for being lengthy! And please excuse me for the grammar mistakes if any :P 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

PowerPoint and Storify Projects In Your Classroom:




In lieu of there being two blog posts this week, I will try to keep this post short and to the point.

Rorabaugh and Stommel’s journal entry, “How to Storify. Why to Storify,” promotes integrating social media into the classroom in the form of social stories.  Rorabaugh and Stommel seem to think that social media has a unique place in the classroom, and that students can learn from social media trends when they are linearly related.  The aims of storifying are, “bringing together media scattered across the Web into a coherent narrative.” This narrative is then to be read and analyzed in the classroom.  Storifying, “takes the glorious chaos of dynamic interaction and makes it contained and linear.”  I could see storifying being useful in applying literary works to current events.  For instance you could read a novel about the civil rights movement such as, To Kill A Mockingbird, and storify the various #blacklivesmatter hash tag posts from twitter and Facebook, as well as eNews articles written on police violence against African American citizens.   You could then apply the themes and social issues from a novel written almost 75 years ago to American current events in American society today.  The only issue I anticipate with incorporating storifying into a classroom, is that it might be difficult for an educator to see why a social story may be relevant to their curriculum and educators might have some difficulties creatively assimilating social stories or “storifying” their curriculum. On one hand social stories may lend to making the curriculum relevant to students today through cultural modeling, but I’m not sure how “storifying” social media would really be more valuable to students than other more conventional technologies in the classroom. Rorabaugh and Stommel’s article does a good job of explaining what storifying is and what it should do, but they don’t really explain how using a linear model of social media stories may or may not apply to current content standards, or how it would enhance an ELA curriculum.  How do you see the ability to storify being useful in an ELA classroom?  Do you think storifying would make content more relatable to student’s lives, thus making them more interested in the novels being read in your classroom?  Would you use storifying in your class? 

            Juxtaposed to this is Edward Tufte’s, “PowerPoint is Evil.” From Tufte’s strong feelings on PowerPoint, “degrad(ing) the quality and credibility of communication.”  I feel that it’s safe to say, Tufte would not be a fan of storifying anything in the classroom.  Tufte seems to be an advocate of good old fashioned written reports “using sentences.”  He finds the use of PowerPoint in the classroom “particularly disturbing,” and if he can’t find value in presenting main points of the text free from extraneous details, I can’t see him supporting studying linear models of twitter posts.  Having used PowerPoint in school since the seventh or eighth grade, I can attest to how useful it is across curricular subjects.  PowerPoint is particularly useful for students who are not strong language learners, especially ELL students and students with disabilities.  PowerPoint allows for students to learn and demonstrate their content mastery in ways besides the traditional text reports using sentences.  I definitely recognize the importance of teaching and using sentences in the classroom but PowerPoint is engaging and an effective instructional tool through its images and media as well as its bullet pointed “main points,” for those students who struggle with language.  What are your thoughts on the role of PowerPoint in the classroom?  Have you ever considered negatives when using PowerPoint in an ELA classroom?  What do you think of Tufte’s argument, was it substantiated?

Finally, in Tufte’s article he states that, “When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships.”  I’m not sure if "information stacked in time," means when information is stacked in a “linear relationship” way (exactly like storify is) that it is difficult to understand?  If so, this would seem to make him completely opposed to storifying in the classroom.  Do you think Tufte would be as opposed to storifying as he is to PowerPoint? 

Let's Get Medieval

In Tara Williams’ essay “Multimedia Learning Gets Medieval,” she discusses how technology helps students tackle the difficulty that is medieval literature. I have to agree with her when she says that the “first and most intimidating impediment to understanding medieval texts and contexts is the language itself” (83). I, myself, struggled so much with the language when I was assigned Canterbury Tales as a reading for a class in college, that I never really got through it (Sorry, Alex). But maybe if my professors had used technology the way that Williams does in her own classroom, then I would have been able to understand and actually get through it.

Williams states “students often approach medieval literature as ‘dead texts,’ artifacts of a culture and society that seem very distant” (77). So, she started using different types of technology to help make the readings connect to the lives of students in her undergraduate class. She used PowerPoint slides that had images to go with the texts, audio and video clips, and a project that required researching different websites to decide which one best fit a curriculum for medieval studies. Her students seemed to respond very well to these technological enhancements. They said in surveys about the course that it really helped the contextualize medieval times and helped make medieval times seem more real and less like a time period that they are just using their imaginations to visualize. For people who are currently teaching in your own classroom, how do you use technology to make literature like this come to life for your students?

Something that Williams talked about that stuck out to me was the connections she made “between medieval texts over time and the hypertextual relationships that exist on the Web…it signifies a certain way of thinking: links bring together related texts, but each link brings you to a site with a changed focus or a different interpretation” (88). I never thought of medieval texts that way. Whenever my college professors discussed Beowulf and how it had been told and retold for thousands of years, I never connected that to my modern life by thinking about how hypertexts connects all different, but related, Internet articles. It’s definitely an interesting way to think about how the interconnectivity that we have on the internet today has always been a part of literary societies.

“Multimedia learning gets medieval” also touched on the skepticism that many people have about using technology in the classroom. Williams quoted one professor as saying that technology is “pedagogical parsley added decoratively to the edge of the platter of learning.” And she quoted Jacqueline Foertsch’s argument about film and television being used in the classroom saying that they become the “dessert” reward for the students after having the “literary broccoli” that she has been serving all year. She goes on to say that “courses in film and television analysis bring out the couch potato not only in students but in teachers as well.” Now, while I can almost see the point she was trying to make, I radically disagree with this statement. But I’m more interested in what you all think. Do you think that film and television are negatively affecting our students?

Williams talks about how to use technology to enhance learning medieval literature or other literature from a different time period. But how can we use technology to enhance learning more modern literature? How do we, as educators, use technology without bringing out the “couch potato” in the student?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Icebergs Right Ahead!: Negotiating Our Way Through the Digital Classroom



For this week’s discussion I decided to dig a little deeper in to the idea of “negotiation.” (Since I still can’t quite wrap my head around the Drucker.) As defined by both DeVoss/Eidman-Aadahl/Hicks and Henry Jenkins, “negotiation” refers to “the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.” Throughout our course we have talked about the different ways that digital teaching and learning can open doors for our students. We’ve explored fascinating ways that technology can expand our students’ experience and allow them to encounter new perspectives. Teaching with technology allows our students to interact and work with people and information from around the world, and the possibilities for positive growth and learning seem obvious and endless. And yet, plenty of risks and complications are also inevitable, and as instructors it is our responsibility to help our students negotiate these interactions, and to use their digital tools in an ethical, respectful, and academically useful way.

Robin Wharton’s “Of Icebergs and Ownership: A Common-Sense Approach to Intellectual Property” introduces one particular set of norms that our students will need to negotiate – specifically how the rules of intellectual property apply to digital writing and publishing. Students these days have easy access to the work and ideas of many different people, and one of the greatest assets of learning in the digital age is being able to freely explore the work of others. Access to this wealth of information makes it especially important for our students to learn how to differentiate between their own ideas and those of others, to recognize and clearly communicate the difference between source types, and to credit their sources fully and accurately.

However, specific rules about exactly how students are allowed to use the work of others are hard to pin down, and as Wharton points out it can be dangerous for an institution to be too prescriptive with those guidelines. “Institutions attempting to chart a safe course through treacherous regulatory seas too often take an approach that positions faculty and students as passengers along for the ride, rather than co-pilots or fellow travelers capable of plotting a course of their own” (Wharton). Instead of passing down hard and fast rules from on high, she argues, guidelines should emerge from a collaborative process that engages both teachers and students, and emphasizes the key purpose of the project. “My primary concern is helping them understand how they can ethically and responsibly use and build upon the work of others in their own work.” In her own courses Wharton works with her students to “examine together the question of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable reuse of pre-existing work, and how the answers to that question evolve to fit particular situations” (Wharton).

In the world of digital writing and learning, expected norms of behavior may not always be clear or even solidly fixed. Expectations might change depending on the situation or the individuals involved, however if we are going to open the metaphorical doors of our classrooms to the larger digital world, then we are responsible for giving our students the skills to successfully negotiate their way through that landscape. Wharton sums up her approach like this: “Rather than setting them adrift in the murky waters of the law or establishing barriers to keep them from venturing out from the shallows, I try to provide my students with ethical tools that will help them successfully navigate the seas of professional discourse” (Wharton). Obviously Wharton’s experience is mostly focused on higher ed, but is there a version of this kind of negotiation that we could imagine doing in a high school classroom? Do you think you might face more or less institutional resistance at the high school or college levels?

Wharton’s piece is just one example of the kind of negotiating we might encounter as digital teachers and learners. This past weekend I attended a session on “The State of the Field: Digital Humanities” at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. Although the specific projects discussed were focused on History instead of English, a lot of the central questions resonated with our course and specifically with this question of negotiation. As one speaker stated, teachers of the digital humanities need to be willing to work without a net. We are helping to develop a field that is still largely undefined and that in many ways requires the blurring of traditional boundaries. As a result the rules of engagement are not always clear. In order to make the best use of the new tools available we will need to be flexible, collaborative, innovative, and free to explore and experiment right alongside our students. The one thing we know is that “the human and technological networks within which we work will continue to change—and in ways that affect our teaching approaches, our social practices, and much more” (DeVoss, Eidman-Aadahl, Hicks, 141). How do you think we can best prepare ourselves and our students to negotiate that change? What other boundaries (social, cultural, etc.) can you see your students having to negotiate in the digital world?  Lots to discuss!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Words and Images: Teaching English in a Visual Culture

For this week’s readings I’ll be focusing primarily on Gunther Kress’s “Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning.” In exploring his piece, I’ll be circling a few general questions: What do Kress’s “gains,” or the enriching advantages of an increasingly visual culture, (as imagined by Kress) mean for English teachers and students? Relatedly, I wonder what bearing the infinite possibilities of visual meanings, posited by Kress, has on assessment of multimodal “texts” – a topic we’ve covered before but that I’d like to revisit in light of Davis & Yancey’s compelling discussion.

First, a brief synopsis of Kress:

 Kress begins by describing a cultural shift “from the centrality of writing to the increasing significance of image” (6). Kress uses semiotic theory as a means of examining the distinct possibilities and limitations of written/spoken language (though he is careful not to conflate these) and visual depictions. Through this examination he hopes to present a clear-headed assessment of what he calls “gains and losses,” untainted by the emotionally charged nostalgia/pessimism or “unwarranted optimism” often invoked in the discussion of changing cultural values regarding representation and communication. Kress compellingly implicates his discussion of the distinct merits/limitations of these separate modes in changing social and cultural attitudes which may begin to account for new kinds of “texts.” To illustrate this, Kress compares the Institute of Education’s prospectus from 1992 to the current (via 2005) version of their webpage. He notes the linearity and rigidity of the 1992 version, which has a single entry-point, seems to presume that “the structure of the institution and of its knowledge were identical with the needs of the life-worlds of the individuals who might come to it as its students” (9). Conversely, the latter webpage has 13 points of entry and follows the “image-based logic of contemporary pages” (9). [He’s describing it a decade ago, here’s the currentpage, still image centric.] For Kress, this stark contrast reveals changing attitudes about authority and authorship, which will become a central tenant of his discussion. In the linearity of the 1992 prospectus “the power of authorship was strictly governed,” as opposed to the later formulation in which, “the author(s) of this page clearly have in mind that visitors will come to this page from different cultural and social spaces […] not necessarily know to or knowable by the maker(s) of this page” (10).  Kress comes to associate this uniquely open image-based logic with greater reader/viewer agency and a kind of erosion of the binary between author and reader, which will have important implications for students.

I’d like to briefly outline the stark distinctions he makes between visual depictions and spoken/written language.

Speech/Writing: temporal, narrative
Image: Spatial, display

The question asked by speech: “What were the salient events and in what (temporal) order did they occur? (14)
The question asked by display is: “What were the salient entities in the visually encountered and recollected world, and in what order are they related?” (14)

These delineations lead Kress to make some evaluative observations about the possibilities of these categories. He posits that “because words rely on convention” they are general and vague, while depictions, on the other hand “are full of meaning; they are always specific” (15). He furthers this prizing of visual over word by suggesting that words are limited in their finiteness, we can’t express something we don’t have a word for while images are infinite; “the former tend to occur in […] fixed order […] the latter tend to occur in an open order fixed by the reader and/or viewer’s interest” (Kress 16).

So all of this, I think, begins to lead us back to the classroom. I found the most interesting part of Kress’s discussion to be the way in which he aligns these distinctions with compelling questions about teacher and student subjectivity and agency. Drawing on the “visual geography” image to the left he asks:

“What is the assumed subjectivity of the students to whom not just this aspect of the curriculum but nearly all of science is presented in this manner? And equally, what is the subjectivity of the science teacher who teaches science in this manner? [what are the] implied notions of convention, of competence, of knowledge, and of authority?” (19).
Earlier, Kress posits that when we “read” visual texts we compile information, but have the agency and control to create our own knowledge – but when we read linear, narrative texts, knowledge is presented ready-made (10). Do we agree? Do you think these kind of visual aids more readily allow students to fashion their own “knowledge?”

Kress obliquely answers his own questions by asking more. He ends his piece with a series of questions that read more like statements. In fact, I was a bit puzzled by the title of his piece because this doesn’t seem to boil down to an exploration of gains and losses of each category – but rather, a more straightforward gain loss hierarchy in which images occupy the former category, and words, the latter.

Kress asks, “Would the next generation of children actually be much more attuned to truth through the specificity of depiction rather than the vagueness of word?” (21). Though I think Kress’s framework and assertions about subjectivity are compelling, I have a hard time accepting the word/image binary that seems to be at work in this piece. Are these things really so distinct? And are images really less convention laden or finite than words? Drucker discusses graphic “ideologies” and I’m tempted to think that visual representation is just as socially constrained as language. Finally, if we accept the supremacy and infinite possibilities of the image, what does that mean for English teachers? Further, do we need to teach students how to “read” images, or are they inherently abounding with meaning? If a visually representative culture gives more agency to the viewer (and, also the designer) do we need to teach them how to use it? And if so, how?

 Further, the infinity of visual meanings (which are also somehow specific for Kress?) seem to add an interesting dimension to the recurring issue of assessment. I really appreciated Davis and Yancey’s thoughts on this subject, I wonder if others felt similarly?

They write: “assessment is about what dialogue one might have” and speculate that it could potentially be a dialogue “about meaning-making, about how we make meaning and what meaning we make out of that” (14). This focus on meaning making, and secondarily, interpreting that very meaning making, seems apt given Kress’s attitude, which seems to imply that the possibilities of multimodal texts are infinite. If there are infinite meanings, then the assessor has infinite choices leading one to believe that when assessing these things, we have to pay close attention to the choices we make – in other words, to interpret our own interpreting, if you will. For current teachers, what’s are some of your strategies? Did you find Davis and Yancey’s discussion of scrapbooks/e-portfolios helpful? 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is Big Brother Really Watching?

In the first chapter, “Failing to Forget the ‘Drunken Pirate’,” of his book, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger manages to tie the theme of this week’s class, judgment, with the idea of collective societies’ ability to forget. He posits that technology, and more specifically the internet and abilities of Web 2.0 type websites have expanded the ability of our collective memory beyond the capability of the basic human mind and in this, we need to be weary in how this changes the paradigm of how we theorize both memory and how we forget.  It seems clear that the author believes there is a disconnect between our human and digital memories, and not rectifying this disconnect could lead to some pretty serious consequences.
Mayer- Schönberger begins the chapter relating a social media horror story which I believe exemplifies many different things. First and foremost, it seems to exemplify how little savvy or thought can go into what we post online in social media. This ties into judgment in two levels. One: it illuminates the judgment we have to put into what we post online. Two: It shows the judgments others make on us in what we post online. Mayer-Schönberger ties this into the idea of our collective and individual memories noting, “This case, however, is not about the validity (or stupidity) of the university’s decision to deny Stacy her certificate” (2). He goes on to add, “It is about the importance of forgetting.” I think this frames memory and the process of forgetting into an interesting and important dynamic with this concept of digital memory as something that never forgets. I think a lot of this certainly ties into our own personal responsibilities to what we decide to or not post, as the author notes, but I wonder what we as a class think about how this speaks to teaching about develop voice and identity in our writing.
Mayer-Schönberger notes the example of Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist, how, in an interdisciplinary journal, admitted to using LSD, and then being banned from crossing the border because of it. One would think a safe place to divulge this information would be in an interdisciplinary journal in the context of one’s career, but with no criminal record and a simple Google search, this gentleman was banned from crossing borders in a country. I think the author here is asking us to question how far is too far? Mayer-Schönberger seems to be saying that, in our current state, context means nothing and keywords can damage a life as much as a criminal record.
The author seems to note that in the past, before this digital memory was prevalent, we had a culture of forgetting, where our past actions and mistakes were memories we chose to forget and as such there wasn't as much of a danger for them to come back and haunt us. I post the question, however, is this really true? Our method of keeping records is surely not as efficient as it once was, but Mayer-Schönberger examples of criminals records being “forgotten” I don’t think is as convenient a comparison as he would make it out to be. This being said, I agree with his supposition that being a slave to our past actions isn't fair and the convenience of this digital memory makes it harder to outlive mistakes we have made in the past.

I don’t think Mayer-Schönberger has the answers to how we change this paradigm of the digital memory never forgetting, but I do think he is right to question us being both more aware of it and growing savvier in our use of it. While I think at times he plays loose with some of the terminology he uses in regards to our collective memory and its history both of “forgetting” and remembering, I’d be lying to say this is the first of these types of articles this semester that didn't give me pause for thought about how I feel about some of these technological issues that we face today. While typically I am not of the fear-mongering sort and think we should be more embracing of technology in our lives,  Mayer-Schönberger certainly re-frames the argument in a way that speaks to the larger discussion on judgment (both by ourselves and on ourselves) that needs to continue.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

To Tweet or not to Tweet



When I selected “Networking” as my blog post topic, I was not at all certain of what to expect from it. Social networking and teaching had never been something I had associated with one another. Reading Dorothy Kim’s The Rules of Twitter reminded me that the internet itself is a learning experience, something that we might not think about while we’re following links and scrolling down our Facebook timelines, Tumblr dashboards, or Twitter feeds. She put terms to concepts I’ve known of but not thought to define—the digital mediated public space as a protest space and a place for public grief. She puts an emphasis on the ethics, rules, and etiquette of using a microblogging platform, and rightly so.

Her introduction to this mediated public space is to point to those predicting “the demise of the social media microblogging platform.” Considering everything that has happened and will keep happening, I couldn’t help but feel incredulous. Kim points out the use of hashtags such as #Ferguson and #BlackOutBlackFriday—both of which I was aware of while they were happening because of social media. These are signs that the microblogging platform is still going strong, despite what the “white male pundits” who “always imagined [Twitter] as safe, suburban—by default—white, and upper-middle class” are lamenting. I recall during the December of 2010 when the Arab Spring began and the only news I was hearing about it was from bloggers and tweeters experiencing it. Kim goes on to say Twitter “was never a porch, it has always been a mediated public space, a hacked public space.” This is the Twitter I know and appreciate! This porch business, narrow and limiting, has nothing to do with the online space I know.

Twitter as a platform for learning is an interesting concept, which we’ve touched on during the semester. The ongoing conversations “annotating” the texts we read, entire tweet conversations mulling over the same question or related issues that come to mind is only a fraction of what one could do on Twitter. In addition to how we’ve used it, the idea of public lectures and live tweeting conferences are interesting new ideas to me, ideas I'm not certain how one would apply to a classroom. The hashtags encouraging open discussion can be another means for students to connect with the information out there. Students who know how to use Twitter and know the etiquette and ethics can engage in the hashtags and open forums. Kim rightly points out that “harvesting, quoting, and using others tweets without consent, attribution, discussion, or compensation/credit is a major problem.” Any students writing essays on subjects that require cited sources from Twitter need to know how to source correctly and ask permission to use the material. We do it for academic journals and websites, Twitter should be treated the same—by both journalists and academics.

Like Kim, my Twitter is a “space of activism and justice.” While I do not actively Tweet—unless there is something of particular interest to my father who is a prolific Tweeter—I keep an eye on my feed for news and happenings among those I follow. I have seen feeds set ablaze by current events—raging at the events happening around the world going largely ignored by the major news groups, by society, and by governments. If students understand, as Kim says, that “you will earn respect by what you say and what you do; by who you defend and who and what you fight for,” they can garner a truly interesting perspective on events and a chance to explore it with those involved, if they dare to engage.

But what might a “Twitter assignment” look like? The articles linked by Kim, such as #TwitterEthics Manifesto, could be efficient starting points in teaching students the do’s and don’ts of Twitter (and online) life. Social Media is a Conversation Not a Press Release by Zeynep Tufekci builds on that. The resources are there for students to explore and learn. They could even take a hashtag such as #Ferguson and explore the what, how, and why’s of it.

And finally, to the class, what do you think? What do you use Twitter for, how do you see it used, and why do you see others use it? Do you think there’s a place for it (or other forms of social media) in the classroom?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Whose standards?

In the chapter “Standards and Assessment for Digital Writing,” DeVoss et. al. try to answer, or at least pose, some difficult questions.  Initially I assumed that this chapter would be more about the technology available and the suggested methods assessing digital work.  I was wrong.  Rather, this chapter made me reconsider what a writing class is, and what it will become. And more general, but still interesting question, what will it mean to be literate person and a functioning member of society in the near future?

To begin, Hodgson uses the example of a student who creates an essay in the form of a podcast, and says that “as the writer, you are controlling what you want the reader to see.  So that kind of platform can really change how you persuade somebody” (DeVoss et. al. 91).  This, however, will most strongly benefit student if there is “ongoing discussion of the rhetorical choices that digital writers make, and the observation of their effects,” it is only through this that “students begin to understand better how to assess their work as digital writers” (91).  Certainly a self-awareness of why students make the decisions they do, and what effects these decisions have on the audience, will go a long towards strengthening their ability as digital writers, but it will also improve their non-digital writing.  This then begs two questions: first, is digital writing different from traditional writing? And second, is the benefit of teaching digital writing that the improved writing is then transferable to non-digital writing, or is the benefit of teaching digital writing that the genres/mediums that students will be expected to write in academically, professionally, and personally, increasingly be digital?  Eve Bearne thinks the latter is likely, as she outlines what multimodal abilities students should have by way of offering a ‘metalanguage’ to out of touch instructors (104-5).  DeVoss et. al. seem to take a more measured approach, as they argue that although digital technology has changed the way people collaborate or design, ultimately “writing is the same as it ever was—a task that requires writers to examine the rhetorical context and craft messages suitable for the intended audience” (105).


With that question out there, the next thing I would like to explore is the, potentially, changing role of the English instructor and the English classroom.  Hodgson has developed his own methodology for teaching his students how to use new technologies for digital writing, but is this the future—or at least a future component of English instruction?  Put more directly, “will digital writing be seen as part of a larger set of technology standards?  Will technology use be seen as an essential part of writing standards? Or both?” (90).  I was unaware of the different sets of criteria that determine technological standards, but apparently they do exist.  For example, McREL requires a person to “[understand] the nature and operation of systems” or “of technological design” (95), while Ribble and Bailey put forth the requirements for ‘digital citizenship,’ calling for people to have “full electronic participation in society” or an understanding of “the conduct expected by other digital technology users” (97-8).  Certainly the idea of literacy is changing, and—though it may seem odd now—the idea of citizenship is now undergoing a change, as social, political, professional, romantic, and academic lives of people increasingly have there strongest presence online.  As these shifts occur, whose responsibility is it to ensure that students are becoming technologically literate?  Will much of this fall under the realm of instructors like Hodgson, by nature of its tie to digital writing?  What of digital citizenship, should this be up to the English instructor (at some grade level) to teach, or will such questions necessitate the development of some digital civics/home-ec hybrid?  If I’m not mistaken I think Allen (maybe Brian) said that he is already seeing much of this fall to the English teacher, as these are important things to teach but have no clear home in the current academic structure.

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