Archive for the ‘Michael Michaud’ Category

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On Screencasts: Something Familiar, Something New

posted: 6.24.13 by archived

When I first stumbled upon Jing, a free tool for recording and storing screencast videos, it made a kind of intuitive sense to me right away. Jing offered something familiar and something new.

As an undergraduate English major at UNH in the early 1990s, I had had an instructor who used audio-tapes to provide feedback to me and my classmates on our writing. [read more]

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Reading Student Work in the Paperless Writing Class

posted: 6.10.13 by archived

In their book, The Elements of Teaching Writing, Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj argue that along with the actual instructions we create to guide our students through the writing assignments we give them, the feedback we provide on their written work is among the most important kinds of writing we produce in our classes. It’s hard to disagree. In our comments to students, we construct a persona for ourselves–one that may or may not match up with our actual, face-to-face classroom persona–and we establish the terms by which we will relate to or interact with our students. In short, there is a lot riding on the ways in which we talk to students about their written work. Grading papers is never just “grading papers.” [read more]

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Peer Review in Practice in the Paperless Writing Class

posted: 5.24.13 by archived

This is my fourth (and last) post on the topic of peer workshops. I have written more about this practice than I anticipated and yet, I find I have a bit more to say. In this post, I’ll try to describe the process I actually use to facilitate peer workshops in the Paperless Writing Class. I don’t claim this sequence to be unique or even terribly innovative. But this hybrid method has been working for me, combining, as it does, elements of face-to-face and online interaction. [read more]

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Peer Workshops and Grades

posted: 5.10.13 by archived

In my last post, I wondered about the possibility of peer-workshops being productive without the initial motivation of students to want to work to improve their writing…because they care deeply about what they are writing about. I shared stories of my own experiences with peer-workshops at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in the early 1990s, in courses where I was given the freedom and flexibility to write about topics of interest to me. (It’s worth noting that I probably participated in workshops in classes where the papers I was writing were of less interest, but I don’t seem to remember those workshops as well, if at all). [read more]

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Peer Workshops and the Role of Motivation

posted: 4.29.13 by archived

I don’t know where I read it, but I have this line in my head about peer workshops being the most frequently tried and most quickly abandoned practice by non-writing faculty (faculty in the disciplines). But among those who regularly teach writing, peer workshops are standard fare and, in my experience, seen as one of the joys of teaching writing. There is, perhaps, no other activity that is so taken for granted, so ingrained in the practices of good writing teachers: students need to sit with other students and read their writing. If we know nothing else, we know this. [read more]

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A Personal History of Peer Workshops

posted: 4.12.13 by archived

I first experienced peer workshops as an undergraduate student enrolled in Freshman English at the University of New Hampshire in the early 1990s. I don’t remember much about those initial experiences, I’m afraid, but my guess is that I found my first writing workshops both anxiety-producing and fun. I liked to write but had absolutely no experience talking with other students about my writing and was only just beginning to realize that one could think about one’s writing process (and that I apparently had one).

Peer workshops were a staple of undergraduate coursework at UNH—in both literature and writing courses. I have clear and fond memories of the small-group workshops I participated in while taking a course called English 501: Expository Writing with Pam Barksdale (who still teaches at UNH). In my mind’s eye, I can see my class sitting in small groups, exchanging our papers and reading them through on cold winter mornings in the front room in Hamilton Smith Hall. I can remember the social dynamics that built up within our group as we worked together all semester. Susan, an older student, was always enthusiastic and talkative with good things to say and I always looked forward to hearing what she thought of my drafts. Brent was not a strong writer and didn’t seem to be able to operationalize the instructions we were getting from our instructor (he was good at story-telling, but could never answer the “so what” question), but he was a nice guy and he always brought his drafts and commented on mine. Adam was shy and said very little, but he always wrote interesting comments on our drafts–comments that demonstrated that he was taking the work seriously, even though he never said a whole lot. Staying with these students in peer workshop all semester was a risky but ultimately productive practice. My group worked well together but I don’t imagine that all groups got along as well as ours. [read more]

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Writing is a Public Act: Take Two

posted: 3.29.13 by archived

When I wrote my last blog post on my “Writing is A Public Act” policy, I didn’t anticipate that it would be a two-fer, but that’s how it has turned out. In that post, I ended up thinking about how having access to student writing via the LMS and Google Docs is useful to me as a writing teacher in the Paperless Writing Class. What I didn’t articulate is why I think this policy is worthwhile for the students and that’s what I’d like to take up here.

Let me say from the outset that the writing I’m talking about here is not of the personal sort–I’m not looking for students to do a freewrite on a significant relationship in their lives and then insisting that they allow me to share that freewrite with the class. That’s not what I have in mind. I’m talking about the kind of writing students do when they’re working through ideas or asking questions or reacting to something they’ve read or we’ve discussed. Let’s take an example.

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Writing is a Public Act: Take One

posted: 3.15.13 by archived

Over the past several years, I’ve added a new section to my course syllabus or User’s Manual called “Writing is a Public Act.” In The Paperless Writing Class, all writing is public. As in most writing classes, I ask students to share formal papers in small groups and occasionally I ask individual students to allow me to discuss their writing with the entire class (they can, of course, decline). Nothing revolutionary here.

I also reserve the right to share students’ low-stakes, write-to-learn writing with the class at any point in the semester. This second bit, about sharing informal or write-to-learn writing is, to my way of thinking, the more innovative and perhaps risky practice, so I offer students an “out,” if they want it, by letting them know that if this policy absolutely creates a problem for them they can talk to me about it and we can find a solution. No one seems to care, though. They’re either too busy to give this policy much thought or too accustomed, already, to seeing their words, even their tentative, unpolished words, hanging out there in public, online.

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Google Docs, Take Three: The User’s Manual

posted: 3.1.13 by archived

In this blog post, I’d like to return to the topic of Google Docs and to share a teaching practice I planned to write about a few posts ago, but never got to. In one of my previous Google Docs posts, I wrote about the way I have come to use Docs to disseminate key course information via standard course genres such as the schedule, syllabus, etc. I focused on the example of the course schedule, a genre I now create as a Google spreadsheet, which allows me to better account for the highly dynamic and shift-shaping nature of the typical semester schedule in a writing class.

Here, I’d like to share another way in which I use Google Docs to, as I wrote before, “accomplish some task I was already accomplishing via pre-cloud apps like Word or Excel,” but in a “new, innovative, problem-solving way.” A few years ago, I began to notice a theme in the comments I was receiving on course evaluations from students. The theme was something like this: Dr. Michaud’s class is different from other courses. It is more hands-on and technology plays a larger role than in other classes I’ve taken. While it took me a little while to adjust to this, in the end, I really appreciate his approach.

As I encountered this theme again and again, I began to realize that what my students needed for my course was something to help them understand my priorities and values and also to walk them through the major course projects—in short, a kind of user’s manual. [read more]

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How We Adopt New Technologies

posted: 2.15.13 by archived

Every time I get together with colleagues to talk about teaching, as I did a few weeks ago at our annual Faculty Development Workshop, I find myself trying to assess where my colleagues are with adopting technology in their teaching–and where I stand in relation to them. The group who attend professional development seminars are, perhaps, not the best group to gauge technology penetration among college faculty. These folks, by the nature of their attending a professional development day, were probably among the more progressive of those who teach at our college.

Still, whether it’s because my colleagues are experimenting more or because the Luddites are staying home, I seem to hear fewer comments these days of the “well-that-sort-of-thing-is-not-for-me” variety. It’s clear that many faculty members at my institution are experimenting with technology. Rather than the “that’s-not-for-me” comments I used to hear, more and more I’m hearing comments of the “this-semester-I-plan-to-try-out-the-(insert: blog, discussion board, wiki, journal)-tool.”

All of this has me thinking about the stages that faculty go through as we adapt to new teaching technologies and try to account for changes in our practice. Not surprisingly, I’m not the only person thinking about this question. A quick Google search revealed any number of studies examining faculty use of and attitudes towards technology in the classroom. One of the most interesting studies I found was “Analysis of Predictive Factors That Influence Faculty Members’ Technology Adoption Level” (PDF) by Ismail Sahin & Ann Thompson. I’ve tended to think that in the not-so-distant future, this question of technology adoption will become a moot point, as more and more of the so-called “digital natives” enter the classroom–as faculty. Faculty at the mid- and end-points of their careers today came of age at under a different pedagogical regime and during a different era. It’s understandable that many are not so enthused to embrace new teaching technologies or ways of teaching. [read more]

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