Monday, April 17, 2017

Experiments with Digital Annotation

I wanted to help students comprehend assigned readings. So I felt excited to give, an online shared annotating/note taking program, a try. I’m still getting acquainted with the program and all its functions. But I can already attest to the value of digital annotating. Students can highlight as they would on actual paper, and they can jot down notes, or add links and images. Since everyone in class can see and comment upon everyone else's digital notes, students can start discussion threads anchored to readings.

The big goal here isn't to learn to highlight for the sake of highlighting nor to use digital tools out of a commitment to technology. Instead, I wanted to provide students a way to engage in meaningful reading and dialogue to develop content for their essays.

So I uploaded readings them onto, “seeding” them with highlighted notes about content and structure. I introduced the texts to students. And I demonstrated in class, devoting laboratory time for students to sign up and practice.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Chopping Up" Pinoy Psychology: AXES Illustration Paragraphs

The above clip features psychology Professor Kevin Nadal (he also does stand-up - talk about renaissance man). I like how Nadal illustrates Filipino American psychological phenomena using humor. I use his text book Filipino American Psychology in a composition class I teach. Why? For one, the class is part of a Filipino American Learning Community, so the subject matter is right on time. Secondly, the book features rhetorical modes typically found in college textbooks. And one of the big lessons I hope to teach is how to recognize and replicate those types of writing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

P.O.W.E.R. & Thriving: Formulas for Success

We’ve been studying various ways to explain growth - leaning on traditional models of student development like Perry and Kohlberg. We also examined racial identity development models (see beverly Daniel Tatum's "Talking About Race, Learning about Racism"), another crucial area of growth. Movement through developmental models (ethical, moral, racial) can lead to an overall state of flourishing. 

One formula that measures how students flourish is what education professor Laura Schreiner calls the “thriving quotient.” Her formula accounts for the kind of growth we’d like students (and ourselves, as life-long learners!) to achieve. Schreiner breaks up her formula into five common sense factors: Social Connectedness, Positive Perspectives, Academic Determination, Valuing of Diverse Citizenry, and Engaged Learning.

She describes those ingredients in her essay, "The Thriving Quotient.” Social Connections speaks to fostering social capital and “soft skills” we need for collaborative work. Positive Perspective refers to positive psychology theories like Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit.” Academic Determination has to do goals, attitudes, and skills for growth. Value for Diverse Citizenry isn’t only about the ability to work well with different kinds of people. It’s about hope and the spirit of optimism that intergroup collaboration makes a difference. Engaged Learning accounts for actively participating in one’s learning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Podcasts & Classroom Conversations

As is my habit, as I drove home from work, I was listening to a podcast, Slate’s Audio Book Club. Because we are in the middle of studying Ta-Nehisi Coate’s recent book Between the World and Me, I wanted to supplement my reading with the opinions of Slate journalists that I respect: Jamelle Bouie, chief political correspondent, Katy Waldman, a staff writer, and Meghan O'Rourke who writes about culture, and she has recently published a memoir about her mother’s death Their podcast conversation was smart. Erudite. Insightful. The journalists manifested a breadth and depth of knowledge that added so much to my reading of Coates’ epistolary memoir. 

Listening to them reminded me of being in graduate school seminar, where we tested our ideas, took (and changed!) tentative positions about an author’s content, and sought to find the significance of the texts before us. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

End of Semester: Minor Victories!

Finals start today. And I’m feeling, well, pretty good. Usually this time of year, I’m out of sorts. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s the season of recriminations and regrets: “I didn’t finish everything I had planned! Students won’t be ready for their next English class. How did I fall so far behind? Someone’s gonna figure out I’m a fake.” The chorus in my head should be working overtime. 

But it’s not. I’m almost feeling . . . optimistic, uncharacteristically calm.  Is this denial? Have I drunk so much coffee and eaten so much junk food (stress eater!) that I’ve numbed myself out so completely, immunized against my inner critic? 

For certain, there are kernels of truth in my Greek chorus’ remorseful refrain. I could have more effectively prepared student. I could have used my time more wisely. And I’m definitely a master of “acting as if.” But for some reason, my self-recriminations aren’t piercing my so deeply. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Courageous Conversations at Southwestern College

My colleagues and I organized a Courageous Conversations dialogue program recently for all three of the multicultural learning communities here on our campus: Bayan, the Filipina/o American focused learning community; Puente, the Latina/o learning community: and Umoja, the learning community focused on African and African American students and issues. 

We, along with the professional development office  on our campus, wanted to create a space for dialogue about human relations issues that our students face - race, gender, criminal justice issues, internalized racism, colorism, and class to name a few. And we wanted to broaden the circle of safety that naturally develops in a learning community to a wider circle.

We used as our inspiration the book Courageous Conversations About Race by Glen Singleton and Curtis Wallace and a version of a discussion protocol called “conver-stations” from the Cult of Pedagogy website. In addition, I was inspired by a workshop I attended in Spring presented by the San Diego Area Writing Project, revising their program for a student audience. I'm grateful to all our sources for their intellectual generosity! 

Participants at the SDAWP workshop ( K- 16 teachers, professors, and administrators) rotated through three rounds of conversations ranging from sexual orientation and diversity to social justice activism to institutional racism. Each conversation took place at a table with about ten (10) people and a facilitator. After the workshop leader welcomed participants and reviewed communication agreements, facilitators at each table asked participants to introduce themselves and to briefly (ever so briefly!) state their investment in the issues. Then, each facilitator took a brief moment to either share short readings or share a set of provocative questions to get the conversation going. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Using Music to Distinguish Between "Content" and "Structure"

A major objective in all my classes is for students to distinguish between content and structure, between the meaning of a text and the strategies authors use to construct that meaning. Students typically come into my class with strong summary skills, and they are definitely on the path toward being able to identify an author's main and secondary ideas, i.e., the content. Certainly, they can strengthen those skills - and that’s why they're in my class! 

The more difficult skill to master for practically everyone in my classes is to identify the moves or structures that the authors use to express those ideas. By “moves” and “structures,” I mean what the writer does to express her content: describe, explain, contrast, express effect, tell a story, use dialogue, state a point, or give examples.

Certainly, “meaning” and “moves” are mutually reinforcing, difficult to separate. At the same time, I want students to be able to identify what writers do so they can emulate those moves to express their own ideas. To introduce students to this process, we examined texts students are already deeply invested in: music they love.