For when 140 characters are not enough.

Tag: online writing courses

Resources as resources

I’m making my final edits for the online Writing II syllabus and just added more to the “responsibilities” section. This section is a shorter version of an email I send to all online student a week or so before the class begins. The syllabus section […]

Asking for what you want in an assignment

Over on Facebook, some of my teaching peers are struggling with an old problem–what to do about the many file formats students will use to turn in work. A semi-new twist has developed: some less-honest students will purposely turn in either a properly labelled incorrect […]

Using Twitter for Professional Development

I remember when Twitter was new. This is not my first post about it, having written a post for my Writing I students back in 2012 and other posts on my earlier blog, Techsophist that have now disappeared. I’ve been using Twitter for a long time now, since 2007, and I definitely have a perspective about what Twitter is good at and what it isn’t good at, especially in term of professional development.

Twitter has, I think, entered the social media phase where people don’t openly mock it as much as they used to. That may be because of the Twitter-integration within mass media (Follow us  at @localnews on Twitter!) and business (Follow Snapple at @snapple and be the first to know our giveaways!). It’s harder to make fun of the local news team or a megamillion-dollar corporation than it is a preteen tweeting about breakfast or Justin Bieber. Twitter works for all of these though, forming a social web with a powerful reach.

If you have a Twitter account (or would like to) and haven’t been using it, here are some things you can do to change how you use Twitter and turn it into a professional development tool that gathers ideas for your research and teaching, and better yet, connects you to the people who generate those ideas.

  • Use a Twitter client instead of the Twitter webpage when you use Twitter.  It will update your Twitter stream automatically and have more powerful search functions; you can even save a list of searches and have them on hand for updates. I use Twitterific, but it depends on what device you mainly use for Twitter. If you are an iPhone user and an avid texter, you can integrate those habits with one of the available Twitter apps, such as Twitterific, Twitter, or Hootsuite. The same goes for your iPad. If you center your digital life around your laptop or desktop, keep your Twitter client on in the background as you work, much the same way that some people use Facebook.
  • Do several keyword searches to find like-minded people. I don’t follow massive numbers of people on Twitter, but I do follow 443 people, almost entirely rhet/comp or creative writers. I tend to add people I either know or in the case of graduate students who add me, ones in graduate programs in Rhetoric and Writing or something like it.
  • Check who people you follow are following. Follow likely suspects.
  • If someone doesn’t tweet, don’t add them. Unless its a relative or one of their cats, I don’t add people who tweeted 32 tweets a year ago and then stopped. If they start being active, that’s different.
  • If someone adds you and the profile sounds interesting, add them back.
  • Commit to a certain number of tweets per week or day. I use a RSS reader and try to check what’s new every morning. If I am in the middle of a writing project, that may falter a bit, but that is my pattern. Out of that, I tend to find something worth tweeting about once or twice a week.
  • Be social and reply. I do this a bit more often. I guess I have witty friends who need replies.
  • Have a project. I know people who tweet a photo a day. I’ve had poetry students tweet concrete details, AKA small images.

If you do all this, the next time you go to the CCCC or Computers and Writing, you’ll be amazed by how many people you know, really nice and smart people, that you know through Twitter. Of course, the name tags will be a big help since you’ve never met face-to-face before, but it really will change your conference experience.

What Do We Teach When We Teach Writing Online

That is the title for module two of my Teaching Writing Online course and it’s a tricky question. We intend to teach students to write, but the core of the answer lies in how we do it. One thing is certain: we cannot teach a […]

Choosing a Blog

In my ENG 725: Teaching Writing Online class this spring, one of the things they will be doing is reflective readings responses. That should be no surprise, especially in an online class where face-to-face discussion takes some mediated contortioning. I know blogs seem so old-school […]

Getting started with Teaching Writing Online

I’m teaching a graduate seminar in rhetoric and composition this semester and next week is the first week, the week to get our collective feet wet, and while we’re splashing in that virtual brook, be like Phaedrus and Socrates on that riverbank and ask some deep questions about what it is we do and how best to do it. From time to time this semester, I will be blogging about our readings in ENG 725: Teaching Writing Online, and this time I want to ask, If kairos is the core of persuasion, and if what we teach in Writing I and II is how to persuade, mostly through writing, then how do we follow the NCTE beliefs for the teaching of writing when we can’t be face to face? I am especially pleased to see that the NCTE Committee on Best Practices for Online Writing Instruction is meeting at the CCCC this March. It is co-chaired by the authors of my two main texts for ENG 725, Beth L. Hewett and Scott Warnock. I will be at the Cs, and I will be sure to attend this meeting if it is open to non-committee members. The agenda , which is interesting in itself, is here.

Speaking as one who greatly values the process time one-on-one with students as they draft that a computer classroom allows, I see this as the core question: How do we teach process in a content space? For the online course, no matter how many added bells and whistles, IS a content space. A CMS or LMS like Blackboard, Moodle, or Sakai when taken down to code is a database. It is a sophisticated way to sort and deliver content.

A lot has changed since I took a similar course myself in teaching writing online while a graduate student. At that point, Blackboard was a baby and the only option examined, and since it was light-years ahead of anything else at that point (Remember early WebCT? Ouch!), rightfully so. At that time the discussion board was heavily used to build community and to replicate classroom discussion, which can be a big part of FYC (first year composition), but not the most important part. The virtual classroom feature was touted for online office hours, but in real life students would just phone or send questions in an email. Looking back, I can see some real possibilities for the virtual whiteboard, but in practice it quickly turned into chaos. This was pre-Facebook (imagine!) and blogs were the primary social software out there, although there was NOT any blog module in Blackboard. Essentially, it was a CMS (content management system) not a LMS, and was a somewhat functional depository for course materials. I supplemented it in 2003 with a Drupal blog, a communal blog that all class members contributed to. Drupal was pretty powerful, really, even then. It had polls and chat, and it even had a wiki module that could be used to build an in-course textbook. Through that experience, I learned how to modify CSS and became more fluent in HTML, both very good things in the long run.

The options are vast now and much more user-friendly, but the question remains, How do we get the writing process modeled, get it analyzed, how do we give the same quality of feedback as in a face-to-face class? Written feedback transfers fine, but what about the writing conference? Anyway you look at it, the situation is not ideal, but it is also not going away. Online writing courses are here and the teachers called on to “make it work” are commonly the teachers with the least power for significant pedagogical innovation, which is what is needed as the social media landscape shifts and expands. Per course, adjuncts, graduate students, lecturers– these are the front lines for teaching writing online and these are the ones least likely to have a doctorate or masters degree in rhetoric and composition, even less likely to have any coursework specifically in teaching writing online. I am thrilled that my university is doing something to change that dynamic. My class this semester is a special topics course, but our composition director has a course proposal up for approval for a permanent course in teaching writing online, a course that I believe has a strong chance of being required for those in the rhet/comp track, and I hope, required for other areas as well.

Here is why I think it is an important course for literature and creative writing track MA students also: Truth be told, MA English grads in literature or creative writing who want a full-time teaching position at a university or community college will not be teaching literature full-time, if at all; they will be teaching composition, if they are lucky enough to get one of the very few openings. Our last full-time instructor hire was in 2005 and our situation is not unusual. We’d love to hire, but economics dictate that we cannot. When an opening does occur here or elsewhere in our area, online teaching is the growth area for composition, and those who can say that they have coursework in it will have an advantage in the job market. Their teaching portfolios will have modules to show potential employers what they can do.

But I digress. How do we teach writing online? I’m going to go with the short answer for now and let my students work out multiple answers through the forum on our Moodle site. The short answer, I believe, is this: Not by doing the exact same things we did face-to-face.

Formal Verse and the Unexpected

This weekend my summer poets are busily drafting two poems at once (nature poem and free choice), so the next poem assignment, The Form Poem, may not be on their radar yet, but it is Poem 5 in their quest for 8 Poems in 8 […]

Online Workshop Feedback

Even though workshop [This is a post for ENG 203, but others can read along] will look different online, what makes good feedback is pretty much the same as face-to-face. The main difference is that your fellow students will not be able to see you […]