Teaching and Writing with Technology

Oct 08 2008

Teaching and Writing with Technology

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Supporting an Instructional Goal

This workshop facilitates the instructional goal to support students’ development of strategies to compose with technology. Based on the 2007-2008 assessment results, students would benefit from more instruction and practice in using technology as they write – both to facilitate process activities and to refine their product. In addition, in recent faculty surveys, College Writing faculty members consistently have asked for more faculty development on teaching with technology. Our goals to support students’ development and to enhance our teaching – using technology – correspond with national movements to integrate digital technologies.

The Council of Writing Program Administrators recently added the following section to its Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition:

Composing in Electronic Environments
As has become clear over the last twenty years, writing in the 21st-century involves the use of digital technologies for several purposes, from drafting to peer reviewing to editing. Therefore, although the kinds of composing processes and texts expected from students vary across programs and institutions, there are nonetheless common expectations.

By the end of first-year composition, students should:

  • Use electronic environments for drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and sharing texts
  • Locate, evaluate, organize, and use research material collected from electronic sources, including scholarly library databases; other official databases (e.g., federal government databases); and informal electronic networks and internet sources
  • Understand and exploit the differences in the rhetorical strategies and in the affordances available for both print and electronic composing processes and texts

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn

  • How to engage in the electronic research and composing processes common in their fields
  • How to disseminate texts in both print and electronic forms in their fields

College Writing/English 110 Faculty Practices

  • Rhetorical Analysis and Wikipedia
    Students assess the reliability—the accuracy, credibility, and usefulness as a research source—of information included in a Wikipedia article. They write a formal essay in which they argue for or against the reliability of the article, making sure to tailor the argument to a particular audience. (Paula Patch)
  • Wiki Assignment
    In place of a traditional literature review, students create a wiki entry for Wikipedia. They learn to use library databases to identify relevant, scholarly sources; annotated those sources to practice identify and summarizing key ideas; synthesize source information using a table in Word (see example below); and compose an essay suitable for Wikipedia, translating the information from their scholarly sources into a wiki entry accessible for a general audience. After revising and editing their entries, students post their entry to Wikipedia or integrate their work into an existing Wikipedia article. (Jessie Moore)
  • Movies as Invention Activities
    Students can draft arguments using media they encounter in their daily lives – images, video clips, and music. Using the drag and drop technology in Windows Movie Maker, students combine these elements into a short movie. Their movie versions of their arguments facilitate discussion about the rhetorical strategies they are using and about the organization they employed. We then can discuss whether these choices are appropriate for a written version of the argument – or whether adaptations are necessary. (Jessie Moore)
  • Revision as Visual Rhetoric
    Students revise an argumentative piece into a 3-5 minute movie using software freely available to either PC or Mac users. Students begin the process by identifying images, sound clips, and other media that can aid them in constructing their arguments.  Assignment requires 2 class periods and about 2 weeks for students to complete. (Michelle Trim)
  • Research Skills for the WWW
    Students are asked to work in teams to first identify and then attempt to answer a question based on some kind of cultural myth or technological process. Questions range from “Where did Halloween come from?” to “How many recyclables really end up getting recycled?” The activity works best when students have computers with them in class. (Michelle Trim)
  • The Research Document
    In a twist on the traditional research paper, students create a public document at the conclusion of this research project. Students could choose from a number of genres, with the exception being an essay. Several students chose to create blogs and one even chose to create a Facebook group. (Paula Patch)
  • Microsoft Word’s Review Tools
    Faculty can use the review tools to provide feedback to students (see February 2006 workshop materials on Teaching in the Computer-Classroom). We also can use these tools:

    • To teach students how to think about incorporating feedback. What it means to literally click Accept Change or Reject Change has implications for revision; we also compare what it “feels”  or “looks” or “sounds” like to receive handwritten versus digital/online feedback. (Paula Patch); and
    • To teach students how to provide feedback to their peers (see February 2006 workshop materials), as well as to provide information directly to their peer reviewers (Paula Patch).
  • Wordle (http://wordle.net)
    Students can put sample texts or their own writing into Wordle to produce a visual representation of how often words appear in the text. Teachers have used this tool for a variety of activities, from visually mapping key concepts in assignment guidelines or class goals to supporting student reflection in anticipation of revising or editing.


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