In Sessions on January 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm



  • Readings & Responses Review
  • Wikis in the Classroom

Wiki Assignment Examples:

Readings for Next Week:

Assignments (as assigned):

  • Write a 300-500 word response to the above readings and bring  a hard copy with you to class, or
  • Compose a question to ask Dr. Rice next week via Skype, or
  • Prepare an informal presentation on a classroom unit/assignment involving working with wikis or other open-author technologies/media
  1. Last year I made a wiki for my first ENG 1020 class. I made a wiki because it was required that I did. I understood its resourcefulness in terms of having class material on an electronic forum so students could find it when they inevitably lost the paper handouts I gave them. I also understood there was some value in the fact that students could post things (like responses) and comment on the wiki, which I saw mainly as a convenience bonus. However, none of the main benefits Lundin provided in his article crossed my mind the entire semester I was teaching with a wiki: not networking, not hypertext, not editability, none of it. Basically, I just figured I needed an online presence for the class because that is what composition classes do now, so I dutifully created the wiki.

    Lundin’s arguments, however, were very interesting and convincing. Like Conatser did last week, Lundin revealed how a specific web-based technology could help students meet the learning outcomes and goals for a first-year writing course. The idea of not needing to learn coding, however, makes wiki seem like a more accessible option as compared to XML. I understand the usefulness of the wiki, especially as it helps reinforce traits of the new “distributive” workforce that we are currently entrenched in, such as networking and collaborative writing. But I also appreciated Lundin’s frank overview of the problems with wikis, such as the fact that students aren’t any more inclined to engage with texts.

    So Lundin describes a dream scenario: students voluntarily posting their own drafts and spending hours meticulously commenting on other students’ drafts. Though I’m tempted to believe she just fabricated that example out of pure wishful thinking, it is an interesting concept. For Lundin, it just seemed to happen. In-class peer review didn’t work out so she posted an optional replacement and students took advantage of it, to their benefit. My feeling is that getting students to engage would not always be so easy (which Lundin also acknowledges in her article). Engaging in hard-copy peer review is often uninspiring: many students are satisfied with just saying everything sounds good (even when told not to just say that) and their commentary is limited. My main line of inquiry revolves around the question of how to get students to interact on the wiki, particularly with peer review, but in general, as well. What would make students want to take ownership of it? How would the assignments or the class itself need to be reframed? Do we need to force the issue by assigning points to wiki participation, or is there a way to generate that desire from the students, themselves? This semester I dumped the wiki and created a weebly site, based on the presumptions I listed in the first paragraph. After having the actual benefits of the wiki explained to me, I am toying with the idea of going back to it next semester, provided I can figure out ways to coax students to get engaged.

  2. Between Instructor Made Videos, Online FYW courses, and wikis, there was plenty of practical, digital tool-stuff to think about in this week’s reading. I appreciated the span of technologies, as well as the descriptions of specific applications. Also imbedded in these readings were theoretical implications–for what the classroom is/should look like, as well as what it means to be a teacher and writer “in the 21st century.” Or something like that.
    Pan et al.’s assertion that “this streaming video phenomenon signals a likely paradigm shift in how students learn…” rings true. So does the follow-up claim that this shift will likely involve societies’ view of learning. But there are also implications for what it means, what it will mean, to be a teacher in the U.S. Beyond an expert in my field, with exceptional practice grounded in sound pedagogical theory, will I as a teacher also NEED to be a skilled video composer/editor/producer, too? Will that become part and parcel of the job description for “a good teacher”?
    Along with these squeamish questions, I wondered about the claim that “learners become active in the video learning environment, able to pause, stop, skip, etc.” Were they not active before? What kind of classroom environment is the baseline here? (ahem, hard sciences, math, chemistry the kind I know too well–the banking model, the objective assessments, the scantrons…) which leads me to the broader question of who do we want advocating for digital media and why? What happens when tools like IMVs are championed by instructors as THE (only) way to “get students active” in their own learning? Annnnnnnd how is fostering a consumer mindset towards education (“a customer-oriented approach”) a good thing? Pan et al. touts the IMV as a means of helping students improve their test scores, but what about classrooms/learning environments not assessed via test?
    This elusive “active learning” was eventually shown to originate with the students, specifically, successful students. In other words, active student participation–or engagement–is a habit of mind rather than a response to video content.
    The questions that Rendahl and Kastman Brach raised were similarly student-centered and interestingly required a habit-of-mind (metacognition) of the students as they were asked what they perceived were good study habits in relation to online learning. Here, the focus shifted from the sciences and math courses to FYW courses. The finding, however, about students not valuing peer-interaction or finding it important or helpful–contradicting, perhaps, all of social constructivism–implies an attitude on the students’ parts. This “strategic learning” attitude values the teacher’s input far more than peers, so that the student can be confirmed, correct and course for that “A.”
    “Teaching with wikis” also interrogates our discipline’s commitment to digital and networked pedagogy, noting that, “our departments are still overwhelmingly concerned with essay genres,” which feels so, so true. For all the hype, we still only give networked composing and digital literacy lip-service. We (sometimes, in some circles) say the trendy thing that these modalities are important, if not THE new ways in which to write. And then, we assign and assess essays, academic research writing and argument papers.

  3. Clay Spinuzzi explains that in the age of distributed work, activities are not “separated by temporal, spatial, or disciplinary boundaries” and they are “interpenetrated, with multiple, multidirectional information flows” (268). In this society, people have their own authority that enables them to control or demand something that they want and not a standardized one for everybody. However, Deleuze sees this era as the control society in which individuals continually challenge new things and compete one another. Unlike the centralized and monodirectional society, “we monitor each other and ourselves” (Spinuzzi 270) in the control society. However, I believe this characteristic is not necessarily completely negative and could result in a positive manner if we are aware of what we should do properly.

    When R. W. Lundin discusses the problem of authority in wiki environments in “Teaching with Wiki: Toward a Networked Pedagogy,” the author is concerned that distributed authority to students possibly causes maleficent result because “students could maliciously or accidentally change segments of the wiki, deleting important class information or their classmates’ work in ways that fundamentally threaten the progress of the course” (443-444). In the age of modular work, we did not have to worry about this kind of negative effect because a teacher is the only individual with authority in the classroom. To solve the problem, the author suggests “the soft security model . . . [which] indicates a distribution of responsibility in which keeping the site free of extraneous material and vandalism” (444). In other words, each student becomes a watcher to prevent the wikis from any harmful effects. This is basically the same idea that Delueze worries about, i.e., “mutual, distributed surveillance” (Spinuzzi 270). Bestowing a sense of responsibility to the students to watch one another’s contribution to the wikis can resolve the issue.

    Spinuzzi describes “unpredictable, multidirectional flows” as a good impact in this new age because “services and products are constantly adjusted or coconfigured” (269). However, it could turn into a nightmare in the classroom as Lundin explains because it is impossible for a teacher to react to all the flows. In brief, I think it is up to the individual if the distributed work becomes helpful or a shackle.

  4. The central question that arises for me out of this week’s reading (and to an extent the XML piece from last week) is one of authorship. Rebecca Ludin’s article on Wikis is the primary text that raises this issue for me. It seems to me that Ludin is actually writing about two different views of collaborative writing without really distinguishing between them. She argues that “Wikis can more thoroughly integrate the roles of author and reader” by blurring the lines “between a text’s author and recipient… and thus [call] into question traditional ideas about the authority of writers and readers.” Ludin challenges the “notions of authorship that confound composition’s tendency to insist on, and assume, a single author” by promoting the use of pure, user-editable wikis. She seems to promote “collaborative authorship” as “a given rather than an exception” (434). This represents a model of writing in which everyone contributes and has (equal?) control over the final product. One person can add, erase, or change ideas at will.
    The second type of collaboration Ludin presents has a “focus on the connectivity and complexity of rhetorical situations” that shows students that writing is not “the decontextualized product of a single, isolated worker” (432). Elsewhere she contends that “wikis enable the networked pedagogy that composition should be adopting,” which includes “collaboration and emphasis on continual revision and communal knowledge formation” (435). This type of collaboration is one that prompts the student to understand the relationship his/her writing has with other writing in the same rhetorical situation. It is a way of reading, writing, and talking about each other’s writing to further develop one’s own understanding of his/her writing in context. Everyone can talk, but only the author can make changes.
    It seems to me that these are two very different definitions or conceptions of collaboration that need to be distinguished and defined for ourselves and for our students due to inherent questions of authorship. When everything becomes blended and blurred, and it is no longer clear who wrote anything or how it came to be what it is, then whose text is it? How is it attributed? What happens to issues of intellectual property or copyright or plagiarism? The type of collaboration Ludin describes using wikis is one that seems more appropriate for more advanced writers. It is a particular rhetorical situation (among many). It should be neither the exception nor the rule. It should be one way of writing, and students need to think and talk about what’s at stake in doing that kind of work. Overall, I just feel like we need to be careful and clear when moving towards a “networked pedagogy” about what that means for us and for our students.

  5. “Maybe I’m just no good at this job,”
    Thematically Rendahl and Breuch seem to lead the way. Their social-scientific survey of students; experiences in online first-year writing courses lists as a “highlight” in its findings engagement levels and (positive) attitudes of students. These engagement levels and positive experiences were self-reported. Pan, Sen, Starrett, Bonk, Rodgers, Tikoo and Powell are following the same track with their research published in the (open access) Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. That is, rather than focus on media production or an explanation of scaffolding-as-pedagogy they report on what the students thought about professor-made-media. As an aside and as a transition let me paraphrase from a wiki; a reason given to avoid a particular liberal-arts institution on was that promotion decisions included “up to 50%” weight afforded to student evaluations. Speaking of wikis, the language used by Lundin alludes to Foucault. That is, rather than the experiences of individuals (which Foucault indignantly dismissed in his famous televised debate with Noam Chomsky) the regimes of discourse which manipulate bodies is his concern. That is, the individual experience is mitigated, and the collective is seen as paramount. (For the dual roles of a critically-informed collective and both how bodies do and= what is done to said bodies see McKerrow’s “Critical Rhetoric,” 1989.) Lundin is clear in her Conclusions:
    [Wikis] could complicate the already-tangled relationships between teacher and student authority, encouraging us to purposefully rethink and negotiate those relationships. Most importantly, wiki use could help us realize and enact a more fully social view of writing in which each text is, plainly and literally, connected to and developed by a number of people. (445)
    Our thematic analysis ends with Spinuzzi. “Dividuals,” or “Cyborgs” emerge as the collectivization of composition pedagogy becomes complete. Spinuzzi is onto something when she says that the Digital Humanities (DH) (broadly speaking) are at “the beginnings of a Copernican revolution that will reorient this solar system , placing the customer as the center” (269). Except in the DH the customers are the students, the professor is a media-creator and a professor’s success or failure – pedagogically speaking – will be measured by the number of likes.
    For me, a simple binary is what this slippery slope may end in. Ala Facebook, a class or an assignment or an Instructor Made Video (IMV) will be reviewed by deans and/or provosts the same way a cat/cheeseburger meme is evaluated. That is, The Onion, in a wonderful article -“Professor Deeply Hurt by Student’s Evaluation” – is prophetic when it writes: “The poor rating has left Rothberg, a Rhodes Scholar, distraught and doubting his ability to teach effectively at the university level.”

  6. The supplemental multimedia techniques laid out in this week’s readings present options for a more engaging educational experience targeted at today’s students, who are much more accustomed to images, videos, succinctness and interactivity rather than in previous years of education in which students relied primarily on lectures and readings. The value of these teaching styles are in that they can bring education into the technological world that much of the younger population doesn’t separate out as a reality outside of smartphones and laptops. People’s devices are becoming more and more extensions of the individual, and as much as I lament this fact (and truly prefer the old-school educational techniques and have never used a smartphone), it is obvious where the world is headed and what an educator is up against when trying to connect with a student and retain a level of engagement.
    As I discussed briefly in my first response, the average student is inundated with so much digital experience that it’s much more difficult to engage the interest of the average beginning student plugging away at general education requirements when there is so much out there vying for attention and influence. It is almost like an educator has to incorporate at least a miniscule degree of “flashing lights!” into their coursework in order to effectively hook the student into greater interest in the material. I’m not saying the instructor has to become an entertainer or that education must degrade itself to the banality and lifelessness of memes, but there is no doubt that by spreading out the educational presence across digital formats that can be accessed at the student’s leisure, perhaps manipulated or conversed with at will, allowing for “anytime access”, offering brief “to-the-point” supplemental videos and encouraging ongoing discussions on more perplexing subjects can greatly impact the chances of engagement, along with education ever seemingly in the hands of the student while carefully guided along and crafted by the minimal technological knowledge that an educator needs to navigate a web 2.0 environment. Educators have always had to stay a bit ahead of certain socio-cultural curves and this one is no different, and basic interactive technologies such as wikis and the fact that every phone, laptop and tablet includes a video camera makes it easy for any educator to “plug-and-play” with very simplistic digital presences that can only enhance the overall approach to teaching, and to penetrate more areas of the students’ existence, which is becoming more and more equally balanced between digital and physical universes.

  7. Let me start with an attempt to address, again, what I find rather unsettling about new-media enthusiasm: the constant references to deskilling and dividuation. I have this feeling that because there’s some consensus on an equality model of access as being “right” that we’re moving ahead under the assumption that it “is,” when even a cursory glance at a contemporary survey of American economics reveals that it isn’t: increasing numbers of people are without access to capital, and as such are potentially out of luck when it comes to access to information and employability.

    This has, to me, been a consistent failing of the digital economy, this notion that: hey, nobody has to dig a ditch because they can just design an app and monetize it. If that’s the way things are going then our challenge as educators is clear: increase access across the board, and campaign to establish electronic education and opportunity as a fundamental human right. A child born without access to an HD camera and a copy of Dreamweaver should be cared for just as a child born without arms is today. Or rather, the way a child is cared for in a country with a decent healthcare system – but I digress.

    But here, it seems that we’ve just been pushed into a new corner insofar as we risk de-liberalizing education in favor of a technical approach. Slowly, technique seems to have been creeping up as an increasing share of core competency all along: first with grammar and spelling, then with document formatting and citation, now with coding requirements, video production aesthetics…what’s next? Will there come a point at which we stop even bothering to discuss argumentation? Or ethics? Reason? Logic? Humanity?

    Nevertheless, while researching supplemental opinions in preparation of this class, I appreciated the supplemental value of having a whole lot of data at my fingertips really quickly. I appreciate the difference between a quick Google search and the research projects of my youth, walking 3 miles to the library (uphill both ways, etc.)…It’s incredibly useful that the data moves faster, less useful sometimes that there is more of it, and utterly useless when there’s no attribution. This is the issue, to come back to the matter at hand, I had with the Lundin article – the lack of attributable authorship and, yes, authority, attached to a given piece of writing.

    It is in part by Ethos that we establish the strength of an argument. What is the internet’s ethos? Don’t we tell our students not to quote “Wikipedia” as a monolithic Ur-source? Don’t we want them to root out specific arguments by specific authorities? If so, how do we reconcile the anonymity possible in the digital chora against the value of deeply learned research?

    A nod to two quotes in parting: Buckminster Fuller’s oft-repeated criticism of the specious notion that everyone needs a job – that a very few people out of every generation make it possible via technology to support the other billions of the planet, freeing them to learn and grow. The other: Isaac Aasimov’s lamentation of American anti-intellectualism: that the ignorati claim their ignorance is as good as a learned expert’s knowledge “because democracy.” I think these ideas will inform a lot of what we’re going to do.

  8. This week’s articles on classroom technologies made me think differently about ways to incorporate technology into the composition classroom. I have always been an advocate of incorporating technology in the classroom, but my main focus has always been on using Web 2.0 technologies to provide students with opportunities to produce and collaborate. The readings for this week, however, made me realize technology could potentially augment my current pedagogic practices in ways I had never considered.

    Since my interest in Web 2.0 has revolved primarily around its ability to allow students to participate and collaborate, I was surprised to find myself unconvinced by Lundlin’s “Teaching with Wikis.” It never struck me to provide students with a blank slate wiki or to allow them to modify all the course materials including the syllabus and assignment guidelines. Lundlin, however, believes a fundamental benefit of wikis is their potential to level authority between students and teachers. While I strive to lessen my authority as an instructor and encourage students to take responsibility and control of their own education, Lundlin’s belief that a leveling of authority can truly be achieved seems, frankly, naïve and utopian. The fact of the matter is that as long as students are required to take general education classes such as freshman composition and teachers are required to grade them, there will be an imbalance of power. In focusing so much on leveling authority, Lundlin misses out on the fact that the lurking her students do, which she describes as inadequate, is, perhaps, the very thing that makes a wiki valuable. I would be thrilled to know my students were accessing the course wiki and were reading each other’s work even if they did not directly respond or communicate to one another. It seems like the potential value of a wiki, then, is not exactly that they allow students to take control, but that they provide genuine audiences for students’ work.

    While I didn’t find the wiki article convincing, I was surprised to find myself convinced by Pan et. al’s discussion of the value of Instructor Made Videos, even though this is not a pedagogic technology that encourages students to be productive, per se. The IMVs Pan et al made were geared toward providing students with an individualized educational experience, an important need to address in the large lecture style math and chemistry classes discussed in the study. But it’s clear to me that IMVs could serve a different purpose in small, community centered classrooms like my own. In other words, I see their value as supplemental, “just-in-time” instructional tools more than as community builders. For example, many of my students come to the classroom with a firm grasp of MLA citation, general word processing, and grammar, but some do not. Because of this, it is difficult to determine how much time to dedicate to these topics in class. Oftentimes I feel like the refresher I provide is not enough for a handful of my students, but I can’t justify spending a significant amount of time on it. IMVs on these topics would provide the students who needed more coverage with appropriate instructional materials which they could look at as many times as necessary, fast-forwarding, rewinding, and rewatching as they saw fit. It would also provide a “just-in-time” resource for all students to review while in the process of drafting their papers. In fact, I am convinced enough of the value of IMVs that I have decided to make a handful for next semester’s class. What I find so interesting about this is that I always assumed that online instruction, being inferior to f2f instruction, should adapt and modify techniques used in the f2f classroom. I am beginning to realize that online instructional methods may have something of value to offer to f2f classrooms as well.

  9. Since we’re reading about Maps ,and mapping this week, I thought everyone might enjoy this West Wing clip:

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