I think I’m doing this wrong.

Or maybe, I’m not doing it wrong. I’m doing it differently. Gen Z students are not like me, a Gen X middle-aged teacher. Gen X is fiercely independent and experimental in our own way. That’s significant: our own way. According to David Barnett in the UK’s Independent, Gen Xers work hard and play hard, we learn from the past and the future and we make things work when we need them to work.

School was not touchy-feely. It was the Banking Concept or it was study hall. There’s a reason Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was so popular. But now education needs to be more interactive, more attractive, less boring. And let’s be clear: reading is boring.

According to Darla Rothman in A Tsunami of Learners Called Generation Z, “continued interactions with a fast-paced, sensory laden, multimedia environment predispose/influence a brain to a shorter attention span. In the classroom, the average student’s attention span is seven to ten minutes; but online, it is now eight seconds. That has a lot to do with hypertext, which encourages learners to point or click on a link to get the information they need without reading all of the text. “Keyword spotting” is a preferred strategy to locate needed information” (3).

Reading anything on paper, with its lack of color and sound, the inability to easily move from one source to another (the many tabs open in any one browser) must seem to them as interesting as a blank white wall. The lack of fluidity is not native to them. The lack of choice in where to focus attention chokes them.

This is not to say any of this is good. It’s just different and it’s what I have to work with. I can’t change it. I can’t suddenly force an entire generation to give up their apps or the sheer volume of information they are accustomed to having on an hourly basis. Gen Z students are not digital natives, many can work apps, but not software, however they are connected at the brain to streams of information that they don’t see as supplemental. These streams to the majority of them are necessary as air.

Their culture is a visual one. Perhaps if I want them to understand rhetoric, to write about rhetoric, I need to start there. I need to help them unpack and interpret what they see instead of what they read; what they hear instead of what learned elder has said. It’s like putting medicine in whipped cream. I must be stealthy and sneak in my antiquated forebears who taught me so much through their books.

(I wish Kindle had a multiple open book feature. Would they read more? I might.)

So what does Gen Z need? Visuals. Interactivity. Groupwork. Tangible products that they can tick off a list so they can “move on” to the next thing. They may not be so different from Gen Z, at least my version of Gen Z. Coming from a small town half industrial, half farm in the early 80s, no one cared whether or not I succeeded.  I didn’t expect teachers to, I did my own thing because I was curious. That meant books. Newspapers. AM Radio.

The curiosity is different, the venues of information are different., but the drives are the same. It’s just a matter of maturity, which I can’t control in them, and the ‘aha’ moment, which I can facilitate if they are willing.

Using OpenPedagogy

I’m pretty new to OER and OpenPedagogy; I’m a customizer whose moving into creating my own content. This past semester, I spent a lot of time reconsidering how I teach rhetoric in Freshman Composition. There are about 30 years between me and the students. I like to think about it as a jump in the alphabet from X to Z in which I spent a lot of time thinking “why:”

Why don’t students read? Why don’t they like the assignments? Why don’t they value writing when all they do is write?

Open Pedagogy seems like a natural fit to freshman comp because how can I set a curriculum that requires close interaction when I don’t even know the people who are going to be doing the interaction. And I really don’t know much about Gen Z except that they are not like me.

So this semester, I developed handouts that help students do a variety of rhetorical analysis on the things that matter to them: youtube videos, songs, tv/film/streamed series, comedy, ads, even game commentary. (Seriously, have you ever listened to Troy Aikman commentate on an Eagles game? So biased.)

I got better writing when students are emotionally invested in what they are investigating. At week four, I gave the class a bundle of handouts all looking at the different pieces of pop culture that someone might interact with. I asked them to rank which type of “text” they work with the most to the one they work with the least. Then I asked them which paper they think would be the easiest, the most interesting, the hardest, and the most rewarding to do.

From there, students considered their data and then created the order in which they would do these papers. Since they were all rhetorical analyses, I could fold in the concepts no matter who was doing what paper. Students also worked in groups with people who were and were not using the same kind of text. We used students’ texts as examples in class.

I also had a backup list of texts in case someone didn’t know what to do. I think I will ask the class to help me create the backup list. We spent a lot of time doing metacognitive activities to check students’ understanding and progress. Next semester, I will see if I can get some of these questions and writing prompts from students.

I’m just beginning Open Pedagogy, so I’m scaling up slowly and I will adjust as necessary. But OpenPed has made teaching a lot more fun.

Treasure Hunts & Quizzes

Recently, I was annotating Melvin B Tolson’ Harlem Gallery for myself and I realized how different annotation is now from when I was working on my undergraduate degree in the early 90s.

Back then, as it is now, annotating something existed on par with treasure hunting. I’d find small keys of knowledge that led to the real treasure, a newer, deeper understanding of a text. But my method of hunting these keys was radically different. I start with the paper version of the Oxford English Dictionary, the long one that stretched across half a room. With notebook in hand, I moved from OED to the stacks, weaving in and out of high shelves, tripping over happy accidents, writing more notes until my fingers went numbs forcing me to finally break down and spend a dollar to copy ten pages at the copier. Even then, I happily highlighted lines and words I thought were pretty. At long last, I’d sit and compare paper notes with a poem on paper and then I’d use more paper to write more notes.

I did this over and over and over because I loved it.

As I stare at my notebook of annotations today, I caught myself in mid-thought – that didn’t take too long. All I did was type one word and then “meaning” next to it in Google. Before I knew it, in the space of an hour and a half, I’d 34 out of 40 references I needed. What can I say, I type slowly. If I wanted to, all I really needed to do was copy and paste the information onto a Google doc.

But I didn’t. Writing is the way I remember things. If I write it, I remember it. Like gaining understanding, if I work for it, I value it more. Annotating then was a physical problem to be solved. A game of sorts, frustrating and jubilant at the same time. I had the determination to deal to with the whole process and I wonder if my students now could follow through with the old way.

Whether they could or not doesn’t matter. They Google. Googling doesn’t make the process easier, it makes the process different from what I know. Googling requires the use of good search terms. Without those, happy accidents can still occur; there is still a chance for material that is related enough to add to someone’s body of knowledge. Or even a chance for unrelated knowledge to move someone into a completely different but not unwelcome new topic.

Tweaking search terms is a learn-able skill. Figuring out which terms will work and using revised Boolean techniques get better with practice. However, what happens to the other pieces of learning? Copying and pasting into a new document does not log pieces of information into long term memory.

I have an idea. I can’t move away from Google, although I can direct them to use the school’s subscription to the online OED first. Whatever piece I give them, I know there will be some difficulty to it, perhaps Laura Mulvey or John Berger if I go the visual literacy route.

In class, they will highlight what they don’t know. In groups, they can search the OED and only after that, can they Google for meaning. Each person will hand in at least ten hand written annotations; one point of extra credit for each annotation over ten. I can do this in one class period to start and maybe do it to a lesser extent with the next reading. The final reading’s annotations can be done for homework.

It’s reading, annotating, sharing, comparing, and “doing” all in one. I’d like to say it’s a winning idea, but it hasn’t been tested, yet. Each day brings something new to think about.

It’s not a new idea, by any means. Usually, this is done for homework, but there are a few new developments in teaching that make this difficult. Students seem to think homework, like attendance, is optional. My hope is to make a class set of annotations that we can compare in conversation, discovering which definition or annotation best fits the context of the passage we’re working on. If I do this enough at the beginning, I’m hoping that by mid-semester, they can (or will) do it for homework.

I know that when I assign a reading, they aren’t reading the way I want them to when they do. I don’t know if anyone has ever taught them to read in a way that helps them retain the information. I do know that my college offers classes to help students to do this, but students tend to see classes as separate organisms, that one strategy works for the class in which is learned. This is a matter for a separate blog post, however.

To tie this post up nicely (ha!), I know that whatever I do will have to have stakes. I’m not looking forward to quizzes, but quizzes there will have to be. If I label this activity as preparing for a quiz, or worse, a test, then I might get some actual work out of them. I hate this carrot and stick mentality, but it’s what they’ve known for twelve years. I even wonder if a pop quiz might help to make students aware of what they don’t know in a reading so I can help them figure it out. Especially if I promise to drop the lowest quiz grade.

This feels terrible, but I don’t live in an idealized world where students are truly interested in learning. They want jobs and college is a way to better pay. As a writing prof, I know where I stand in their priorities.

Potential Plan toward Open Pedagogy

An obviously sheepish, non-committal type of title should not conceal the fact that I like what I’m studying. A lot.

For my capstone project in the Pedagogy Master Class, I am creating a blue print toward making my course open. The final blue print will have four modules; I’m posting two of them here.

The plan for module 3 is going to be how I figured out how to compile a class catalog of examples of how to do a rhetorical analysis, complete with annotation techniques, open sources of information, student essays and commentary.

My original plan was to try to implement this in Fall  18, because I am either crazy or super enthusiastic or both. But the grading structure I have in place makes paper 3 a higher stake paper, so I want to stick with my original plan for now. Spring 19 will be a different story.

There’s a lot to think about. Especially if students decide they want to make their stuff open, which is something I would love! That would be peer review on an eight shot espresso. For now, I’m still in the formative thinking stages, but here’s my first two modules’ plan. Note: this was supposed to be a visual map. Ooops. Also, the course description and the related learning outcomes are not my own. They are the sandbox I play in.

English 103 Blueprint (in process – 2/4 modules complete)

 

Course Description: Emphasizing the recursive nature of writing and the process of revision, this course teaches students the skills and processes necessary for writing and revising college-level academic prose. Various aspects of writing, including invention/pre-writing, composing, revision, and editing/proofreading will be taught. Critical readings of various non-fiction texts may be used to develop understanding of rhetorical conventions and genres. Composing in and for electronic environments, as well as their conventions, will also be taught.

Module 1: Using Rhetoric – Introduction & Essay 1 (Rhetorical Analysis)

My Goal 1: Demonstrate understanding of the Rhetorical Triangle (RT)

Goal 1 Learning Experience: After introducing the RT in class, students use their personal technology to apply logos, pathos, and ethos (kairos if applicable, but not required) to an ad that pops up on their social media accounts and produce a short, informal written or visual description of how they used logos, pathos, & ethos.

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).

Goal 1 Learning Experience: In small groups, or large class, discuss each element of the RT and how they are used together.

  •  Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).

My Goal 2: Assess the needs of different audiences using the Rhetorical Triangle.

Goal 2 Learning Experience: In small groups, discuss various writing assignments students have for classes in other disciplines. What’s the difference between writing for an English prof and writing for a Bio prof? Aside from word choice and content, what else is different? How can you use the rhetoric triangle to help you figure it out?

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Demonstrate an awareness of and respond to the needs of different audiences and rhetorical situations (Rhetorical Knowledge)

Goal 2 Learning Experience: Using the article provided as practice, apply logos, pathos, and ethos to the work to consider if the author’s opinion is appropriate for academic work. Students use preferred annotation strategies to create notes, maps, visuals, and other annotative products to help them understand logos, pathos, and ethos in the article. Students will produce essay 1 from this experience.

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Demonstrate an awareness of and respond to the needs of different audiences and rhetorical situations (Rhetorical Knowledge)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).

My Goal 3: Apply the Rhetorical Triangle in a student created written work.

Goal 3 Learning Experience: Using student created annotations and the article, students begin to consider the author’s rhetoric. In small groups, students consider all of their notes and create questions about the author’s use of logos, pathos, and ethos. (This corresponds to the brainstorming portion of the writing process.) 

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Produce coherent texts through a multiple draft process (Processes)

Goal 3 Learning Experience: This activity occurs shortly after the previous learning experience, preferably in the same class. Students consider several potential ideas that could serve as their focus or their thesis. Students volunteer their potential thesis/focused ideas for help. (Help could come from sharpening the focus, for helping the writer gain solid evidence from the article, to have potential issues raised with a weak focus, etc.)[1]

  • Related to Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)

Goal 3 Learning Experience: In the computer lab, students begin drafting their essays. Students work with each other, by themselves, or with the professor. In the last five minutes of the lab, direct students to the Purdue OWL for MLA & APA formats. (Have hard copies of sample pages for those who want them.)

Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Produce coherent texts through a multiple draft process (Processes) 
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Compose in an electronic environment such as a word processing program (Composing in Electronic Environments).

Module 2: Assessing sources using the RT & Essay 2 (Rhetorical Analysis)

My Goal 1: Introduce open sources/creative commons & plagiarism/citation/format

Goal 1 Learning Experience: Hold a preview discussion of plagiarism and “common knowledge” to find out how students define these terms. List key terms in a place where everyone can see them. In small groups or alone, students search on www.p.org (Understanding plagiarism) to gain more insight. (Many videos are 14+ minutes; allot time for students who want to watch a video.) Hold a follow up discussion to integrate the new information into what they already know about plagiarism. (Sneak five minutes in to review the use of MLA & APA formats.)

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Successfully make use of the conventions of college level writing and Standard Written English within that writing (Knowledge of Conventions).

Goal 1 Learning Experience: Introduce Creative Commons in basic terms. Students search in these places for a deeper understanding of Creative Commons:

  1. Article: https://designshack.net/articles/business-articles/the-simple-guide-to-creative-commons-resources/
  2. Image: http://unl.libguides.com/cc-unl
  3. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKfqoPYJdVc&feature=youtu.be

In small groups or as a large class, discuss the benefits of using Creative Commons material. Also, canvass for questions or concerns students have for using Creative Commons. (Or if they want to license something themselves.)

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Successfully make use of the conventions of college level writing and Standard Written English within that writing (Knowledge of Conventions).

My Goal 2: Find an object (article, video, piece of music, image, podcast, posting, etc) on CC Search using the RT as a guide. (The goal here is that students easily relate to the creator’s use of rhetoric so they can write about it. The RT focuses their viewing.)

Goal 2 Learning Experience: Computer lab for finding objects. Give the students 1/4 of the class for this activity. Then stop and assess progress. Have they found potential objects? Consider what they have found? Can they glean any usable material from it or should they refine their search? This may lead to a short class discussion and then students can resume their searches.

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Demonstrate an awareness of and respond to the needs of different audiences and rhetorical situations (Rhetorical Knowledge)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).

Goal 2 Learning Experience: Brainstorming and Drafting Essay 2: Students use preferred annotation strategies to create notes, maps, visuals, and other annotative products to help them understand logos, pathos, and ethos in the objects. From these annotative products, students will create a short summary of their object. Students will produce essay 2 from this experience.

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Demonstrate an awareness of and respond to the needs of different audiences and rhetorical situations (Rhetorical Knowledge)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing).

My Goal 3: Apply the Rhetorical Triangle in a student created written work: Essay 2

Goal 3 Learning Experience: Using student created annotations and a summary of their object, students begin to consider the creator’s use of rhetoric. In small groups, students show their objects and offer their summaries, along with questions they have created about the creator’s use of rhetoric. The group discusses all questions. Use group roles, such as a time keeper or someone to keep the conversation on task. Students take their own notes from the discussion of their objects. (This corresponds to the brainstorming part of the writing process.)

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Produce coherent texts through a multiple draft process (Processes)

Goal 3 Learning Experience: This activity occurs shortly after the previous learning experience, preferably in the same class. Students consider several potential ideas that could serve as their focus or their thesis. Students volunteer their potential thesis/focused ideas for help. (Help could come from sharpening the focus, for helping the writer gain solid evidence from the article, to have potential issues raised with a weak focus, etc.)

  • Related to Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)

Goal 3 Learning Experience: In the computer lab, students begin drafting their essays. Students work with each other, by themselves, or with the professor.

  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating, integrating student’s ideas with those of others (Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Produce coherent texts through a multiple draft process (Processes) 
  • Related to Course Learning Outcome: Compose in an electronic environment such as a word processing program (Composing in Electronic Environments).

 

[1] At the end of this class, or any class just prior to going into the computer lab, have the class draft ground rules for the lab. Students are the ones who have to concentrate, so let them choose what they need: music, the ability to come and go, rules for talking with each other, dealing with a slow printer and a big queue, etc.

 

 

I swear, I did not do this on purpose

For my last reflection activity in the Pedagogy Master class, I’m supposed to reflect on a disposable assignment. A disposable assignment is one that has no value outside of the classroom it was generated for.

To be fair, I haven’t had a lot of those, but one that sticks out is a process-analysis essay I had to do in Freshman comp. This is terrible because I’m actually going to assign a process-analysis essay, but I don’t think mine will be disposable.

For my process-analysis essay, I had to write a “how to” on an activity that I had done recently. (This was close, but not quite, an essay on what I did that summer.) The prof’s ideas amounted to “what do you do while working at McDonald’s” or, in my case, “how to audition for a show.”

I outlined the steps that I followed, wrote the essay according the handout he gave us and then forgot about the assignment once I had handed it in.

The process analysis essay, the poor thing, is so abused. I’ve managed to make it work for me. At an Ag & Tech school, I had Auto Tech students do a Process-Analysis on a car repair, taking care to make sure the language they used would imitate the language they used to explain to a customer why a repair might be so costly. I got great results, as well as a catalog of repair instructions for my 2002 Focus. (No, they didn’t get extra points. I happened to have a Ford, the program they were in happened to be Ford based. 🙂

The process analysis I would like students to do is more of a meta-analysis in that students have to think about and document how they came to understand how to do a rhetorical analysis. Even as I write this, the concept is a little scary since so many of my students are ALP students and have writing phobias. I have to be very careful in how I introduce this. It will be called the “how to do a rhetorical analysis” essay and nothing else because words matter.

This is big for me since it could conceivably take up the next to papers. Paper 3 may fail. But I have a plan B. I always have a plan B and I’m good at adapting.

My first attempt at Open Pedagogy. Of course, I’m going to do this now.

For the Open Pedagogy Master Class, I had to “[c]hoose an activity that would work in your course. Explain how the activity exemplifies Open Pedagogy and describe how the activity would look in your course (what needs to be adapted, what will students be asked to do/create/contribute?)”

Here’s mine:

 The relationship between academic reading and academic writing is sometimes difficult for students to grasp, especially considering they came up in an academic setting that divides disciplines with stark boundaries. Approaching academic work means understanding that the lines between disciplines are often blurred, which is why students read in a writing class (and in almost every other class) and may write in biology, psychology, or PE.

The enthymeme here is that academic reading and academic writing require some skills that aren’t normally used in other reading situations. That’s why this assignment exists in the first place; students have to use a framework, in this case Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle, to analyze for meaning. Doing this helps students see beyond the superficial and dig into the ideas of a work, especially when considering if an argument offered in writing is reasonable or not.

Rhetorical analysis is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp because there is a tendency to summarize. So, I’ve decided to try to use Open Pedagogy to help my current students and, hopefully, my future students. Writing is best done in a community; writing a rhetorical analysis the first time can be frustrating and lonely. For this unit, students will create a collection of annotations, essays, and commentaries for themselves and for future students to read and use.

I’m adapting this example from the list.ly provided below the explanation:

Student Created Examples

Students could create examples of course concepts. A common example is video of a speech, great examples of essays, illustrations of a concept that work well. The goal of this type of assignment is to take a work that the students might do anyway, and prompt them to use openly licensed works in the background so that the student’s work can be used again.

List.ly link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KWy_Dx8k0cIVa2bNM_Ma0v0JGiBpaGSQFC5mmciEfe8/edit

This activity exemplifies Open Pedagogy for several reasons. First, this is a community created resource that could provide examples of student writing to students in the coming semesters. It’s also something that can continue to grow.

All writing will undergo the writing process, including group generativity activities, in-class writing sessions, and peer review. The activity is also learner driven in that students get to pick the object of their analysis. Students will be using CC search, which provides them with an opportunity to search for and work with open source materials.

I plan on doing this activity this semester, so I’ve provided a rough outline of what the lesson looks like.

Create a “how to” manual of rhetoric analysis

  1. Have students create visuals of their interpretation of the rhetorical triangle
    1. This will help them see what they understand and I will be able to work with them on their terms. I’m not looking to see if they remember the terms logos, pathos, and ethos; rather, I’m looking to see if students can recognize emotional arguments, a credentialed writer, and the reasonable use of facts.
  2. Find source using CC search only
    1. I’ve done some searches using this. I think students will be able to find something to use.
  3. Have students apply the rhetorical triangle to whatever they found on CC Search
    1. They may use the visual they created as a framework for looking at the object of analysis.
  4. Take the source and using the rhetorical triangle, annotate it in some way that helps the next person.
    1. Together brainstorm how to annotate a video, image, song, song + video, vine, snapchat story, Instagram post, post on any other social media, provided they found the object of CC search. (Finding the object will have to be done in class.)
    2. Together create some kind of visual annotation that can go into a book
  5. Brainstorm or generate ideas for rhetoric analysis by talking about the objects in class.
    1. Depending on the class, this could be small groups or pairs.
  6. Computer lab for writing essay 2
    1. This is the second rhetorical analysis they’ve done, so I don’t know we will need two classes in the lab. Maybe. I’ll ask.
  7. Proceed with revision activities as normal.

Essay 3 – Process analysis essay detailing the writing of essay 2.

  1. Explain process analysis
    1. Provide multimodal examples
    2. Break up into groups based on the type of mode students want to view process analysis
  2. Discuss process analysis as a large group.
    1. Prompt for questions (refer to beginning of the semester’s handout on this)
    2. Gauge for understanding, let those students with a strong understanding explain it.
  3. Brainstorm the sections of the paper
    1. Format is non-negotiable (MLA or APA)
    2. Remind them to focus on HoCs in the rough draft; let that inform the brainstorming session – how to get a meta-analysis on paper in a reasonable order. Don’t call it meta-analysis.
  4. Computer lab for writing paper 3 – definitely two classes.

Proceed with paper 4 as an argument.