Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tech Tonic

Now I regret not learning how to create an ePortfolio before starting to write this blog entry—
I’ve found some URLs, Here, Here & Here
And I must do some more R&D on ePortfolios…Gonna have to make one for myself one of these days….

One of the subdivisions of Language & Literacy is “Writing for  the Workplace,” a field I am very interested to learn more about since I have spent so much time in corporate (or corporatized) environments—might as well learn the academic lingo to describe my time in the cubicle farm (the Squaresville Death Trip?).

Having written memos, reports, news articles, market analysis, and so on, I think I could pass on some information, or at least have a leg to stand on when critiquing students’ efforts.
(putting my money where my mouth is…)
Some Hints for Writing in the Workplace:
STICK TO BUSINESS. Jack, be a dull boy.
Proofreading also means taking a look at the layout and
seeing if your boss is being made fun of.
PROOFREAD. In tHe name of all that is holy, read and re-read your missive if it is work-related.
But how to teach “writing a memo”? (Take away all signs of humanity? We’ll see…)

This comes to mind with a portion of Klages & Clark’s (K&C) “New Worlds of Error and Expectations: Basic Writers and Digital Assumptions” (2009):

Too often, basic writers are asked to write simple essays that don’t engage their intellectual interests or their critical thinking abilities. (p39)

(This seems to tie in with adult learners needing a reason to learn something, as well as its having an immediate relevance to their lives.)

Synchronicity alert: As I am brushing up on my adult education terminology in preparation for next semester; I discovered an article that touched on some of these things—
While Schwartz’s story deals primarily with what is blocked from some school’s computers and the trust issues involved between students and administrators, from what K&C note regarding “basic writing as punishment—”

Let’s recap (BTW, it is weird reading about CUNY this way…)
K&C: Nearly half of all students entering LaGuardia (44% in 2006) are placed in basic writing. Like most basic writers, they are uncomfortable with writing and experience high levels of writing anxiety in academic situations. They have little or no confidence in their writing, reading, and critical thinking abilities. For most of these students, academic writing is seen as a one-way communication in which they seek to demonstrate acquired knowledge to a teacher-authority. In an era of No Child Left Behind, students educated in American public schools often understand writing as high-stakes and test-driven. These students often have little investment in education as a means toward cultural and social empowerment, rather seeing it as an end to economic advancement.

In most situations, including their placement into a basic writing course in college, writing has served as a basis for punishment. (p37)

When you write academically, think like you were talking to a cop seems to be the suggestion.

A wonderful remix/twist on a classic punk rock design;
part of a world many teachers are severely alienated from
Schwartz notes on the KQED.org site:
The millennial generation of students is often criticized for being impatient, unfocused, entitled and lazy, but [Michelle Luhtala, head librarian at New Canaan High School in Connecticut] said that’s an old-school way of looking at a group of kids who have grown up in a dramatically different world than their teachers. “I don’t think kids are unfocused,” she said. “I think they can be super focused if you give them something to do. And I really mean DO, not listening or watching, but really physically doing something.”

Creating learning opportunities that don’t rely on lectures, textbooks or sitting quietly goes against established educational patterns and can feel foreign to many adults who learned that way themselves. It requires trust, but once given, can often produce incredible projects from students that might never have materialized without giving them the freedom to think and act independently, Luhtala said.

“Passive learning is really not an effective way to teach these kids,” Luhtala said. “The reality is that kids will retain less than ten percent of what we say in a lecture setting. So we need to empower them to become independent learners.”

The librarian concludes by saying,
“If we trust them to engage with the content, then we have the power to teach them the digital citizenship,” Luhtala said. As with most learning, students understand the necessity of responsible behavior online when they are confronted with real choices as part of their school work. “We have to let them go to places that may feel scary at a lot of levels, but digital citizenship is an important part of 21st century learning,” Luhtala said.

It's not just what you say, but how you say it. 
K&C already have data that may be of interest to Ms. Luhtala:
For some, “developmental skills” is a phrasal code for “not college able.” And all too often, basic writers are marginalized within a larger college curriculum that uses the issue of “standards” as a weapon against them….In our classrooms, we seek to use the ePortfolio as a tool to suggest to students that the world they write is the world they will claim, as authors and as citizens. In our basic writing classrooms, we strive to shift students’ perspectives of themselves as non-writers as they compile ePortfolios documenting their development as writers and reflecting on the tangible progress as evidenced by their collected writing.

This practice significantly challenges the other measures of student achievement in the course—two high-stakes exams imposed by the university system and our department—to help students document their emerging authorship and to claim authority over their own writing, and, ultimately, their own education.

Which brings us to our second synchronicity alert!
Another article discovered while reading extracurricularly…

"Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests," by Alfie Kohn, Oct. 30, 2014, Huffington Post
“Not only do tests assess the intellectual proficiencies that matter least, however -- they also have the potential to alter students' goals and the way they approach learning. The more you're led to focus on what you're going to have to know for a test, the less likely you are to plunge into a story or engage fully with the design of a project or experiment. And intellectual immersion can be all but smothered if those tests are given, or even talked about, frequently. Learning in order to pass a test is qualitatively different from learning for its own sake.

The ePortfolio, and students’ understanding of their progress and their limitations as writers, serves to provide them with a powerful counternarrative within an otherwise anonymous and punitive writing context. As they develop rich multimodal ePortfolios characterized by an intensive use of visual rhetoric to complement their written and oral productions in the course, students build on their technological dexterity and begin to understand their emerging writing skills as equally important components of their digital literacy.

Yancey is a great booster of e-portfolios, and sees their use growing, as well as their impact on students:
Given that many e-portfolio practitioners and researchers understand reflection as the connective tissue for the intellectual work and exhibits we see in electronic portfolios, the next generation of electronic portfolio research is likely to focus on questions around reflection…And because e-portfolios link curriculum and assessment in ways that acknowledge and build on students’ experiences, they provide new sites for learning about how we assess, about how we teach, and perhaps most importantly, about how we all learn. (p32)

Returning to something mentioned by K&C, what can we do to make basic writing less of a punishment?
Remix, prank or social commentary? Uhhhh....Yes?

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