An aha moment on sharing writing

Sharing writing is fraught with peril. The stakes are far more open but different now; public spaces for sharing writing are frequently adversarial (call-out culture, racist, homophobic, and sexist comments from trolls) that may consciously or unconsciously cause hesitation when sharing writing. I know from teaching that peer review comes with a boat load of anxiety.

So, while Professor Gaertner believes that writing should extend beyond the college walls out into the community, as do I, he acknowledges the peril in doing so. I don’t currently use the digital world to create and revise writing assignments because that venue for writing wouldn’t naturally occur to me, even though I read online every day. Yet, this is where students get their impressions on sharing writing. I’m left to question all the methods I’ve ever learned about peer review. I hated it, but I did it because I believed it made me a stronger writer. I don’t know if that belief holds weight these days. Especially in an age where trolling is a pastime. I had never before considered the volatility of sharing writing for a 21st century student. According to Gaertner: “When you publish, traditionally, when you publish, there’s a feedback loop, whether it’s peer review or just something disagreeing with your point of view. But I think that open makes that much, much bigger, much more fraught and much more attack-y and negative in a lot of ways. So there’s different stakes now with publishing and openness widened that. All you need to do is understand how volatile those spaces are…open a National Post article, go to the comments section there and see the racism, the misogyny, the hatred, and the vitriol that’s spewed out of there.”

So, now what?

Another quote I took from the video may form my next steps, something I may be able to add this semester, but definitely for next semester.

“So, I think the callout culture is a big thing on Twitter and social media, is by pointing to people and saying ‘This is wrong. How dare you?’ Anger is there but part of what I get students to think about is this call-in culture and how we can invite people into the conversation. So finding spaces where you can use calm, compassionate language to point out error, but not in a way that alienates people but brings them in and potentially looks at making them allies in this conversation” (Gaertner).

Creating a class blog where people post parts of their work in process sounds like a great idea, especially for my 0-level class where they need to provide a portfolio in order to exit the course. But how do I create buy-in? Do I even know how to create a class blog? We have an LMS; it doesn’t always work well.

This may help. From his article, “Gaertner sees community as a verb rather than a noun—something you’re actively doing. The projects that his students work on are a way of building community both inside and outside the classroom.

“What I find with technology and open spaces is that they are ways of doing community, whether that’s a wiki that students are building together, or whether it’s putting together a podcast with a group of people—it’s a way of building community that happens in the moment,” he explains.

The goal when working on digital projects, Gartner emphasizes, is not to create a perfect end product. Rather, the value is in the process of creation. “Where the learning, where the community-building comes in, is doing it together,” he says. “And as a professor, you can be part of that process.”

For my beginner students, this may be as simple as taking a class to set up reasonable ground rules for posting, to remind them they can use the rhetorical triangle to evaluate the emotional content of what they write and to evaluate the comments they receive. We can even use the triangle to come up with, as a class, appropriate and inappropriate language for responding. Something, anything that helps students form and accept constructive feedback.

Source: David Gaertner

Teaching Meta

Welcome to my Blog.

Some say I think too much. I don’t think that’s possible. As a teacher, I’m always trying to improve what I do. As the students change, so do I.

This is a new blog, all of my older posts have been retired. Time for a blank slate. New academic year, new thinking.

Reflective Journal: Entry #1 Examining Beliefs

  • What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education?
    • I hope higher education continues to grow. As K-12 relies continually on standardized testing, higher education has to provide instruction on critical thinking and problem solving that can translate into life skills that work beyond the classroom. My hope is that higher education will continue to move consistently away from lecture based, sage on the stage education to something more practical, like hands on learning or classroom instruction that relies on group interaction and student participation.
  • What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom?
    • As a writing professor, I know the only way to learn how to write is to write. But there are blocks that students have that I have to help them work through, so I envision an environment where students can explore their own writing by using a process that allows them to forget about things like grammar and punctuation so they can work only in the realm of ideas. This translates to my design as putting each part of the writing process in its own time and space; this week, it’s about ideas, next week about organizing and developing those ideas, the week after, we revise and refine. Editing comes last. This mirrors my own practice as a writer. This is what I do, consistently process my ideas. This is why I consider myself a writing professor and not an English professor, even though my title is English.
  • How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher?
    • These roles are interchangeable. I am facilitating learning as I learn. Each student has a perspective that I can learn from. My realm of experience is all about language. Students teach me expression by using their language; I teach them how to modify their expression to match a particular audience. (How else would I know what on flique means?) This is just a small example of how I learn from them.
  • What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?
    • The biggest challenge I see, especially in teaching rhetoric, is that students have a hard time moving from summary to analysis. Summary is a “thinking habit” that students have used for years. It’s hard to make the transition between telling me what’s in a work and telling me whether or not an argument is sound. I address this pedagogically by moving very slowly at the beginning of the semester, providing scaffolded lessons that students discuss in small groups, large groups, and then write about in class.