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TED Talk Teaching: Part IV

posted: 5.27.15 by Barclay Barrios

TED Talks are great teaching tools.  Each is visual, engaging, focused, and contemporary.  I think they make excellent supplements to the readings in Emerging, particularly because many of the text’s authors have been TED speakers.  And the interactive transcript is a bonus feature, letting students work with the text of each talk.

In this series of posts I want to highlight some particularly useful TED Talks and suggest some of the ways to use them in the classroom.

The Talk: Pankaj Ghemawat: Actually, The World Isn’t Flat

Why It’s Great: Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” is another very popular essay in Emerging.  On its face, his argument feels quite intuitive—the notion that global supply chains have so interconnecTED countries as to promote geopolitical stability, though these same supply chains are used by terrorists.  Ghemawat argues against the idea of a “flat” world, using persuasive evidence.  He thus usefully complicates Friedman’s argument.

Using It: Friedman’s “Dell Theory” is predicated on a deeply interconnected and globalized world.  If Ghemawat is correct in claiming that our perception of an interconnected world is “globaloney” then on what grounds, if any, does Friedman’s argument still stand?  If globalization doesn’t account for political stability then what other factors might?

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TED Talk Teaching: Part III

posted: 5.20.15 by Barclay Barrios

TED Talks are great teaching tools.  Each is visual, engaging, focused, and contemporary.  I think they make excellent supplements to the readings in Emerging, particularly because many of the text’s authors have been TED speakers.  And the interactive transcript is a bonus feature, letting students work with the text of each talk.

In this series of posts I want to highlight some particularly useful TED Talks and suggest some of the ways to use them in the classroom.

The Talk: Kwame Anthony Appiah: Is Religion Good or Bad (This Is a Trick Question)

 

Why It’s Great: Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Cosmopolitanism” and “The Primacy of Practice” are in some ways at the heart of Emerging because they encapsulate ideas that run throughout the text: we lived in a deeply interconnecTED world and so we had better find a way to get along.  In this talk, Appiah explodes the very idea of religion while focusing on what people do.  This discussion of practices (and the ways they can be misinterpreTED) makes for a useful supplement to his reading in the text.

Using It: In what ways is religion a collection of practices?  What role do values have to play in religion?  Which has primacy in people’s lives and which has primacy in the ways in which we think about religion?

 

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TED Talk Teaching: Part II

posted: 5.13.15 by Barclay Barrios

TED Talks are great teaching tools.  Each is visual, engaging, focused, and contemporary.  I think they make excellent supplements to the readings in Emerging, particularly because many of the text’s authors have been TED speakers.  And the interactive transcript is a bonus feature, letting students work with the text of each talk.

In this series of posts I want to highlight some particularly useful TED Talks and suggest some of the ways to use them in the classroom.

The Talk: Daniel Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness

 

Why It’s Great: Daniel Gilbert’s “Reporting Live From Tomorrow” is a particularly agile essay since its ideas about our future happiness can be connecTED to any number of essays in Emerging.  Gilbert has a few TED Talks (see also this one and this one) but this particular talk intersects most usefully with “Reporting Live from Tomorrow.”  In it Gilbert elaborates on his work with happiness, showing how “synthetic happiness,” in which we end up happy even though we don’t get what we want, is just as real as “natural happiness.”  The talk is useful for expanding students’ understanding of what it takes to make us happy.

Using It: Gilbert concludes by saying that “our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.”  Synthesize this conclusion with his work on surrogates.  What role do surrogates play in synthetic happiness?

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TED Talk Teaching: Part I

posted: 5.6.15 by Barclay Barrios

TED Talks are great teaching tools.  Each is visual, engaging, focused, and contemporary.  I think they make excellent supplements to the readings in Emerging, particularly because many of the text’s authors have been TED speakers.  And the interactive transcript is a bonus feature, letting students work with the text of each talk.

In this series of posts I want to highlight some particularly useful TED Talks and suggest some of the ways to use them in the classroom.

The Talk: Michael Pollan: A Plant’s Eye View

Why It’s Great: If you like teaching Pollan (and it’s one of the essays in the book that students respond to most) then this is a fantastic talk to use. Pollan discusses Polyface Farm near the end of the talk, but part of what makes it so great is that when he does, he ends up he situating his argument in “The Animals: Practicing Complexity” within his larger intellectual arcs.  Students can see how writers’ ideas evolve by listening to the way in which Pollan’s arguments across his books are interconnected.  In doing so, he also reframes his argument in “The Animals” by casting it in light of his prior book, The Botany of Desire.

Using It: In the talk, Pollan uses Polyface as an example a non-Cartesian system of growing food, which is “based on this idea that we bend other species to our will and that we are in charge, and that we create these factories and we have these technological inputs and we get the food out of it or the fuel or whatever we want.”  How does what he writes in “The Animals” complicate this notion of Polyface?  Does he suggest that there are Cartesian elements?  Is Joel Salatin in charge?

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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part IV

posted: 4.29.15 by Barclay Barrios

In this series we’ve looked at a few ways to make the craft of peer revision more “crafty.”  All of these exercises tend to be a big hit in my classes and I usually end up with stronger papers to grade because of this work.

But why?  Why do students do this work so enthusiastically and so well?  I have some theories:

  • Fun Factor.  Most of the students in the writing classes I teach are there because they have to be—the class is required.  Most of them also have a troubled relationship to writing, thinking they’re not very good at it for example.  Introducing craft-based activities introduces an element of fun into something many students find to be very hard work.
  • Nostalgia.  Teetering on the edge of adult responsibilities, students are reminded of a simpler time with these activities, a time filled with nap time and recess instead of exams and papers.
  • Switched Registers.  All of these exercises switch into a new register, allowing students a new perspective on writing, one in which they might see completely different things in their work.
  • Learning Modes.  Similarly, these activities touch on visual and kinesthetic learning in ways that can engage students who tend to learn in those modes.

I suspect there are other factors at play here and I will love to hear your thoughts.  Do you have any “crafty” exercises?  Why do you think they tend to work so well?

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Categories: Activity Idea, Drafting, Learning Styles, Peer Review, Revising, Teaching Advice, Writing Process
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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part III

posted: 4.22.15 by Barclay Barrios

So far in this series, we’ve looked at coloring (essentially that’s what they’re doing with highlighters), cutting, and taping.  In this part we’re going to move into drawing.

“Drawing the Argument” is one of my favorite class activities when discussing a new reading.  Working in groups, students draw the argument of the essay, locating quotations that support their visual interpretation.  It’s a great way to open up discussion about the meaning of a reading since it forces students to condense the argument into a form that can be drawn.

I sometimes use this same exercise for peer revision.  In some ways it’s more challenging for the peers since there’s less “stuff” to draw but as part of a class with a couple of peer revision exercises it offers authors a completely new view of their writing.

It also occurs to me that in early stages of drafting it might be interesting to invert this exercise, asking students to draw the argument they want to make in a paper and then share that drawing with peers (or maybe a photo collage they prepared before class).  Peers would then write out the argument they see.  Student authors might get new insights on their own thinking, not only by making the drawing in the first place but also through any suggestions, deviations, or variations offered by their peers.

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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part II

posted: 4.15.15 by Barclay Barrios

In my last post, I suggested ways to use highlighters in peer revision.  In this one, we’re moving into dangerous territory—dangerous because scissors are involved (no running!).

Bring a few pairs of scissors to class and some tape.  Ask students to cut up a copy of their paper into individual paragraphs and then to shuffle them.  (You can also ask them to do this part before class, bringing in the cut up paragraphs in an envelope.) Peers are given the individual slips of writing and then asked to put them in the right order, taping them back together.

The primary goal of this exercise is to help students with organization.  I usually frame it with a discussion about organization and transitions.  Most often, students get taped together papers with one or more paragraphs out of place.  These are probably paragraphs that need a better transition but this exercise will also reveal a paper that just makes a series of points without suggesting any logical order to those points.  This is to say that the exercise will reveal both local and global problems with organization.

There is a secondary effect of this technique, too.  Students, receiving long strips of taped together writing, are offered a new perspective on what they’ve accomplished by seeing how much writing they have done when receiving one long taped together strip of paper.  They tend to be really impressed with what they have been able to accomplish, as well they should be.

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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part I

posted: 4.8.15 by Barclay Barrios

Though we have diverse approaches to teaching writing, my experience suggests that one of the commonalities we all share is some sort of peer feedback. Whether we call it peer revision or peer editing or something else, there seems to be wide agreement that seeking feedback is an important part of making writing better. The creative writers in my department would perhaps call this part of the “craft” of writing.  We are more likely to call it part of the writing process.  Regardless, in this series of posts I want to riff a bit on that notion of “craft” by sharing some peer revision strategies I use that are “crafty.” These exercises are all class-tested and Barclay-approved.  I have some theories on why they tend to work so well, which I will share in a later post. For now, though… highlighters!

In my office I keep a bag of inexpensive highlighters in every color I can find—at least thirty or so.  It was a modest investment at the office supply store but it’s paid wonderful dividends.  At least once a semester I bring that bag in for students to use during peer revision.  Here are some of the things I do:

  • Have peers highlight the argument and each key sentence related to the argument in a paper.  Peers tend to read the paper with more care to locate these moments, giving them practice in doing the same sort of work when reading the essays of the class; authors see whether or not readers are able to follow their arguments, where particular moments of support might be missing, if sections of the paper are just “fluff,” and how what they wrote reflects what they wanted to say.
  • Have peers highlight each quotation used in one color and all analysis of quotation in another; alternatively, have peers highlight all analysis one color and all summary another.  Authors can immediately see if there is a particular imbalance, if they just sprinkle quotations without working with them, and if particular parts of their paper are under-supported.
  • When papers include multiple readings, have peers highlight work with each reading in a different color.  Authors will be able to see immediately if they tend to use one reading too much or another not enough.
  • Have peers highlight each transition.  Authors will be able to see where they are missing or where they are so ineffective that readers can’t see the transition.
  • Have peers highlight any patterns of error so that authors can see how frequently they make it.

I’m sure you can imagine more uses for this general technique.  The key is that highlighting highlights particular parts of the paper, allowing students to visualize parts of it instead of just seeing lines of black that blur together.

And, well, it’s fun too.

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A Sequence on Sequencing: How? (Part III)

posted: 4.1.15 by Barclay Barrios

There is one more approach to sequencing you can use.  I don’t tend to use because, well, I think you’ll see…

We’ve included nine sequences in Emerging, many with options built in for alternate readings and assignments.  So a third method of making your “own” sequence is to modify one of the sequences that’s in Emerging. (And I don’t use this method because it’s not really modifying when I wrote the sequence in the first place [g].)

This might be a particularly good option if you just want to try this approach to teaching or if you’re getting your feet wet with sequencing.  We’ve already figured out what readings work together, which themes emerge from them, and what kind of work students might be able to do.  In turn, you can tweak individual assignments or the whole sequence based on your experience with teaching and your understanding of your students.

There’s a bonus to this method.  You cut down, I suspect, on plagiarism.  I imagine there are many papers floating around out there on the Interwebs that respond to the standard sequences.  Changing just a few aspects of the sequence encourages students to work without that virtual help.

Even if you don’t use or modify one of the existing sequences, I think they can still be useful in terms of inspiration and modeling.  Reading through them might give you ideas about sequences of your own.  Seeing how we’ve fit them together offers a useful model for how to sequence your own assignments.

 

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A Sequence on Sequencing: How? (Part II)

posted: 3.25.15 by Barclay Barrios

Last time I talk about forming a sequence around a particular reading, but one of the things I love most about this approach to my teaching is that it allows me to respond to things going on in the world right now.  And so a second approach to sequencing is to start with a current event or topic and then build a sequence that explores that issue.  Not only does this method help students to see how what we do in the classroom connects to the world around them but it also offers me the chance to bring in any number of small supplemental texts from the media.

I’m writing this soon after the Oscars.  I was struck by racial discussions around the awards ceremony as well as racially inflected comments about Zendaya’s hair on the red carpet.  If I were assembling a sequence right now, I might choose something on this topic.  I think I would title it “Hollywhite: Race and Media.”

Having a topic in mind, I use many of the same steps I use when starting with a reading.  I start by locating all the readings that relate to the topic, including readings that are near to the topic and readings that are “universal.”  Emerging offers a number of tools to help in this process: quick annotations of the readings, tags in the table of contents, questions accompanying the reading, thematic table of contents, existing sequences, and the Instructor’s Manual.  When I’m done I would end up with something like this:

  • Alvarez (ethnic identities and economics)
  • Appiah (mechanism of social change)
  • Fukuyama (what makes us human)
  • Gilbert (determining happiness)
  • Muñoz (assimilation)
  • Nathan (education and diversity)
  • Olson (the persistence of race)
  • Pozner (race and media)
  • Savan (race and advertising)
  • Yang (racial stereotypes)
  • Yoshino (civil rights and assimilation pressures)

Last time I went for really obvious pairings.  This time, however, I think I want students to think about this issue from a few different angles.  I would want to use Yoshino because he mentions the ways in which Hollywood stars have changed their names to “cover” their ethnicity.  Muñoz would be a good pairing since his whole essay is about Anglicization of names.  Pozner talks explicitly about race and television so I would want that.  And then I think Appiah so that students could think about how to make changes to the situation.

Of course, I could also see Savan / Olson / Yang / Alvarez or Fukyama / Olson / Nathan / Gilbert or Pozner / Savan / Yang / Yoshino.  The essays I select are determined by my sense of where I want the sequence to go, as well as some sense of which offer ideas that students can work with.

Having selected my readings, I would then spend some time thinking out the order of the assignments.  For me, this is almost an exercise in narrativity.  That is, I am assembling a series of causes and effects in order to locate a central “story” about race and media.  This central narrative then offers a spine upon which students can build their own structures relating to the topic, based on their interests and their critical thinking.

In this instance, my central narrative would revolve around pressures to conform, the power of negative stereotypes, and the possibility of change.  Having determined that, then it’s a matter of writing out the assignments, leaving some room for adjustments along the way and perhaps building in assignments that allow students to bring in current events.

I like both approaches.  I’m not sure which I tend to use the most since I feel like both offer me good advantages.  I will say, if you’ve not written your own sequences before, I hope you will consider giving it a try.

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