Here are links to blog assignments that could easily be done without the use of the blog. I suggest having students share them on Google Drive or submit them to Black Board Learn (or whatever your school’s student learning system is). If you find a posting platform that works well for any of these assignments, please tell the rest of us about it!

  1. AN INFORMATIONAL WRITING ASSIGNMENT 
  2. An opinion/editorial assignment
  3. AN ASSIGNMENT THAT LOOKS AT ONLINE REVIEWS
  4. An assignment that asks students to generate a list of things in the community/on campus that would benefit from an evaluation
  5. AN ASSIGNMENT ON IDENTIFYING LOGICAL FALLACIES
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Social Media Application in the Writing Classroom

This is another post I wrote for the blog Writing in Professional Communities last spring. It makes an argument for incorporating more social media into writing classroom curriculum.

Writing in Professional Communities 2014

I turn thirty tomorrow. This past week, the last week of my twenties, I’ve thought a lot about the most important elements of my life: spending time in the mountains, rock climbing and mountain biking with friends, striving for an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, encouraging college freshman to think critically about their choices and their impact, creating lesson plans that help students understand language as an agency for social change and, well, playing with my dog. This list of activities involves a wide range of discourse communities–when I explain social-epistemic rhetoric to my climbing partners, for instance, it sounds a lot different than when I discuss it over spring rolls with my colleagues. But throughout the week, floating from one discourse community to another, I find comfort in the similarities and connections between these communities. The conversations that I have with my climbing partners about environmental issues often share the same content…

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Teaching Genre, Accepting all Voices

This is a post I wrote for the blog Writing in Professional Communities last fall. The argument the post makes for teaching genre inspired much of the lesson plans and blog assignments on this blog!

Writing in Professional Communities 2014

In my last post I proposed that we try to step away from the grading (and perceived value) of Standard English in our classrooms. This poses many concerns in the writing classroom, including the question: what on earth do we teach in English writing classes if not Standard English? My proposition is that we teach the inclusion of all voices and backgrounds, as well as a general acceptance and respect for diversity. And if that doesn’t sound academic enough, then how about this: an understanding of genre and discourse communities coupled with critical reading, writing and visual literacy skills.

I have to admit, I’m surprised at myself for proposing the teaching of genre as a solution to oppression and discrimination in the classroom.

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Comparing More Survey Results: The Open-Ended Questions

My last post looked at the responses to multiple choice questions on the midterm survey “The Development of Media Literacy Skills in English 105 Students.” This post will analyze the responses to the open-ended questions on the survey. To read about the methodology and background of the survey please Click Here.   

Question 10: What is the most valuable thing you have learned in the class?

To analyze the results from this question I put the responses into three categories that represent different areas of media literacy: related to analysis, related to evaluation and related to the creation (and engagement) with messages in a variety of forms.

analysis responses (1)

The responses regarding analysis do not show any significant contrast between the different survey groups. In fact, several of the responses from students in the sections using the standard English 105 curriculum show quite a lot of confidence in their ability to analyze messages in different modes. CLICK ON THE CHART TO ENLARGE.

Evaluation (survey response chart) (1)

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE. This comparison doesn’t reveal any significant findings either. At the most, the responses on the left of the table are a little more specific about the modes they have evaluated in so far this semester.

creation responses

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE. This is the only category that reveals a significant difference in responses between the two surveyed groups. The column to the left suggests that writing on the blog and creating multimodal projects has helped students communicate more effectively in academic discourse as well as other modes. Again, these responses only suggest this, and I understand that even though a student thinks they have learned a skill it doesn’t necessarily mean they have learned to use if effectively. The best conclusion I can draw is that I need to continue developing my own data collection practices and to continue observing and surveying my students.

The responses from all the surveyed sections to the other open-ended question were very similar. The question was: In What Areas of Your Life do You (or Will You) Apply Rhetorical Analysis? To view the responses from the sections of English 105 that I teach please Click Here. To view responses from the other three sections of English 105 please Click Here.

Survey Results: The Development of Media Literacy Skills in English 105 Students

At the midterm of this semester I surveyed six sections of English 105 with the intention of documenting students’ thoughts on their development of the technology and visual literacy skills used in class. I wanted to know how my students’ perception of their technology and visual literacy skills–with the blog assignments and multimodal projects as the core of their homework–compared to the perceptions of students from more standard English 105 classes. This post looks at the multiple choice questions of the survey. To read about the open-ended questions please Click Here.

Methodology

I created ten questions on Surveymonkey.com modeled after Colorado State University’s Writing Studio guidelines for conducting field research. To view The Writing Studio’s website please Click Here. Eight of the questions were multiple choice and two of the questions were open-ended.

I surveyed the three sections of English 105 that I teach along with three random sections of English 105. I conducted all the surveys during the same week of the semester (the first week of March), and in similar environments (in computer labs). All six sections of the classes I surveyed were in the process of writing the informational paper.

Background Information 

In the three sections of English 105 that I teach, students use the following technology: Black Board Learn discussion posts for some homework assignments, Google Drive for peer review of academic papers, WordPress for posting to The Critical Student Blog and self-directed choice of media design tools for the multimodal projects (Word, video recording software, online meme makers, Prezi, etc).

The other three sections of English 105 use these technologies: Black Board Learn discussion posts for some homework assignments and Google Drive for peer review of academic papers.

Summary of Results

The results from the three sections of English 105 that use a student blog and multimodal projects in the curriculum saw a marked increase in positive responses in two areas: the improvement of technology skills and the understanding of the role media plays in society. Most of the other questions, on the ability of students to analyze messages in a variety of forms and the ability of students to critically analyze social media and popular news, saw very little increase in positive responses (responses from all classes showed a high rate of confidence in these skills). On the question “How much has this class improved your ability to analyze academic texts?” about 70% of students from my classes, and about 70% of students from the other classes, responded that their ability to analyze academic texts had improved “some.”

About 30% more of the students in the classes using a student blog and creating multimodal projects thought their technology skills were improving because of English 105. 

These are the results from the three sections of English 105 that use the blog and create multimodal projects for each module.

These are the responses from the three sections of English 105 that use the blog and create multimodal projects for each module. Click the graph to enlarge.

Responses from the students in other sections of English 105.

This graph shows the responses from the students in other sections of English 105. Click the graph to enlarge.

About 15% more of students in the classes using the blog and creating multimodal projects believed their understanding of the role media plays in society had increased because of English 105. 

This graph is of the responses from the three sections of English 105 that I teach. Please note that the "now" is a typo of "no."

This graph is of the responses from the three sections of English 105 that I teach. Please note that the “now” is a typo of “no.” Click the graph to enlarge.

This is a graph of responses from students in the other sections of English 105. Please note that the response "now" is a typo of "no."

This is a graph of responses from students in the other sections of English 105. Please note that the response “now” is a typo of “no.” Click the graph to enlarge.

To compare the rest of the results please Click Here for the responses from the students in the sections that use the blog and multimodal projects and Click Here for the responses from the other sections of English 105.

Conclusion

This survey didn’t provide any eye-opening or earth-shattering information. But the results do suggest that incorporating a blog and mutlimodal projects is beneficial for some students (as seen by the 30% and 15% increase in positive responses about gaining technology skills and a better understanding the role media plays in society). These survey results also suggest that the addition of social media (the blog) and multimodal projects doesn’t hurt students or detract from their engagement with academic discourse. This element needs to be studied further, but I think it is important to note that in all sections 70% of students thought that English 105 had only helped them improve their ability to analyze academic texts “some.”

As my sections of English 105 dive deeper into their academic research for the informational paper and the extended argument, I intend to construct lesson plans and activities that will help them further transfer their analysis of digital media skills to academic discourse. Please stay tuned for updates on these lesson plans. I am also in the process of constructing a second survey, to be conducted at the end of the semester, to further document the impact of the blog and multimodal projects on my English 105 students.

Click Here to read my analysis of the open-ended questions on the survey.