Archive for the ‘Michael Michaud’ Category

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The Moments When We Become the Teachers We Are Now

posted: 2.1.13 by archived

I’ve been trying, since I started writing this blog, to think through the ethos, if you will, of the Paperless Writing Class–and how I got to the point of living within this ethos. If you’ll bear with me for the next few hundred words, I’ll tell you what I think is the story of how I got here.

In the spring of 1999 I completed a Master of Arts in Teaching degree at the University of Iowa and found a position teaching high school English. I got right to work reading or re-reading the books I was to teach in the fall, but as the summer progressed, a creeping feeling kept trying to tell me that something wasn’t right. I remember the day I knew I had to back out like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the beach on a beautiful day in late July, trying to make my way through Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage. I couldn’t do it and I knew that there was no way I could teach such a book–or many of the books I was told I would need to teach, for that matter. I called the department chair and told her I wouldn’t be coming in September. I felt horrible–and relieved.

What came next was a leap of faith. At Iowa, I had been fortunate enough to teach first-year composition for one year while pursuing my degree. High school may not have been for me, but teaching college seemed like it could be a real possibility. I went online and found a list of all the colleges and universities in the state of New Hampshire, where I was living at the time, and began making calls to people I knew who might be able to help me find work as an adjunct English instructor. While I would have to go without health insurance for a little while, I was confident that if I could scare up enough sections of first year composition or introduction to literature, I could earn enough to get by. [read more]

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On Google Docs: Take 2

posted: 1.18.13 by archived

In my last blog post, I wrote about the ways I use Google Docs in The Paperless Writing Class to accomplish work I was already accomplishing using pre-cloud applications (e.g. MS Word or Excel) and to accomplish work I was already accomplishing but in new or different ways. In this post, I want to talk about a third way I use Google Docs: to do new kinds of pedagogical work. Specifically, I’ll share one way I use Google Docs to prepare students for classroom discussions of course readings. It’s highly process-oriented and hands-on, moving the sage very much off the stage (and into the margins, so to speak).

Like many writing teachers, I spend a good deal of time thinking about what I need to do to ensure that discussions of course readings succeed. The fact is, most students have busy and full lives. A long time ago, I gave up on believing that I would (or should) be able to just walk into class and begin a discussion on a course reading or series of readings. Undergraduate students just aren’t prepared for this sort of work. Even when teaching upper-level students in the major, I’ve found, students have too many other things going on in their lives to walk into a classroom and be “on.” [read more]

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On Google Docs

posted: 12.21.12 by archived

It’s not an exaggeration to say that google docs has had a transformative effect on my teaching and that this free application has now become one of the key engines driving The Paperless Writing Class. A quick review of the docs in my fall 2012 ENGL 231: Writing for Multimedia and Digital Settings course reveals that this fall, for this class alone, I created 34 new docs. The types I create vary a good deal and I seem to keep finding new ways to use docs to collaborate with students. For example, this term, for the first time, I experimented with google’s “form” doc, creating a survey with a group of students in ENGL 232 to collect data on attitudes towards writing on our campus (and to date, we have 102 responses!).

I use google docs in a several different ways to accomplish different kinds of work. First, I use docs to do things I was already doing using pre-cloud applications like MS Word or Excel. Second, I use docs to do something I was already do in MS Word or Excel but in a new or different way. Third, I use docs to do something entirely new, something I’ve never done before. Let’s take these one at a time. [read more]

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Collaboration in the Paperless Writing Class

posted: 12.7.12 by archived

This semester, in my Writing for Digital and Multimedia Settings course (ENGL 231), I attempted something I’ve never tried before: collaborative writing. By this I mean having students actually produce written documents together. I’ve had students collaborate on the writing process right from the start of my teaching career. As in many writing classrooms, my students share, discuss, and comment on one another’s drafts-in-progress. In this way, they collaborate on the writing process. But to have them actually write together—that is something different entirely and yet something I’ve wanted to experiment with for some time.

So this semester, I created an assignment sequence where collaborative writing is built into the fabric of the course. The course itself is designed as a service-learning experience, with the students producing digital and multimedia writing on behalf of their client, the English department, who is seeking to promote a new minor in rhetoric and writing. The first major project asked the students to write a report presenting their findings from an analysis of the Websites of several other rhetoric/writing programs. Students were divided into groups of three, and in my assignment instructions I suggested that they write the introduction and conclusion sections collaboratively, but write the three parts of their findings sections on their own, with each student contributing his or her analysis of a single school’s Website. [read more]

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The Paperless Writing Class: Take 3

posted: 11.16.12 by archived

As I think back on my first three blog entries and think about this, my fourth, I see that my writing reflects the reality of my thinking about The Paperless Writing Class—scattered. What IS the paperless classroom? What does it look like? What happens there? These are some of the questions I’m dealing with. Here are three quick scenarios that work towards some answers and that briefly illustrate how my students and I spend time together in The Paperless Writing Class.

Scenario 1: Covering Course Content We begin the day by reviewing the “Daily Plans” and course schedule (both Google docs), posted in the learning management system (LMS). We then move on to a brief online quiz, which I review with the students, hitting on key points from the homework. Next, students break into small groups and use a Google doc to summarize sections of an article they read for class, identify passages of significance, and generate discussion questions. As they work, I add comments to the doc in real-time–asking for clarification, posing questions, and making sure that each group is on task. Once the groups have finished, we come back together to review the doc and discuss the article in detail. I post a link to the doc to the LMS so we can refer to it later in the learning unit, when we’re writing the first paper and it will come in handy for the students. We close by returning to the LMS to review the course schedule and the homework for the next class. [read more]

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Talkin’ Bout My Generation

posted: 11.9.12 by archived

At my college we recently created a faculty email list to share ideas and information and, of course, grouse about the things that bug us. This week, we had a discussion about a research report, “Beyond Bieber: Twitter Improves Student Learning.” The report’s central finding: “college students who tweet as part of their instruction are more engaged with the course content and with the teacher and other students, and have higher grades.” Predictably, this posting generated some controversy on the list, including a fair bit of skepticism and puzzlement about the challenges of teaching and connecting with “digital millenials”.

Reading over the exchanges on the list brought to mind the notion of “digital natives,” first advanced over a decade ago by Marc Prensky. My colleagues’ words move me to think that, at least in higher education, things have perhaps not changed as much as they might have since Prensky first advanced his central arguments: 1) “Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” and 2) “ the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” [read more]

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Get a Room

posted: 10.19.12 by archived

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently working on a research project on Donald Murray and his impact on the Freshman English program at the University of New Hampshire. When Murray first arrived at UNH to establish a journalism program, the first thing he asked for was a room to teach in that was full of typewriters. That was in 1963.

Murray knew then what I’ve been coming to realize now: you don’t teach writing around a seminar table, in the 20th century or the 21st. I’m coming to envision the paperless writing class as embodying this unique but not necessarily original approach to teaching and learning. Recently, I realized just how unique this approach is to higher education when I found myself sitting around a seminar table with a group of English majors for a course I am teaching called Studies in Rhetoric. The room in which we meet is called The Shakespeare Room and it is one of the more sought-after teaching spaces in our building. A small, wood-paneled room in the corner of the building with a bookshelf full of faculty publications in one corner and nice views of the quad, the Shakespeare Room is the kind of place where veteran members of our department lead intimate senior seminars or profess to small groups of graduate students. Until recently it contained a wonderful old wooden seminar table (we now have moveable desks in the shape of a giant rectangle). It has the basics of instructional technology: wireless internet, a desktop computer, an LCD projector, and speakers. But what the Shakespeare Room doesn’t have is a computer for each student. And this, I’m realizing, is what’s making teaching there a challenge. [read more]

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Tales of an Emergent Academic Technologist or, Getting Out of the Garden

posted: 10.5.12 by archived

In college, I somehow came to distrust technology. This was around the time of the Unabomber, in the early to mid-1990s, and I remember reading one of his manifestos in the newspaper and thinking–“This guy is crazy, but he’s sure getting a few things right.”

I’m not sure I would have seen it that way prior to my becoming an English major at the University of New Hampshire, but I think that studying English can cause you to distrust a lot of things, among them: organized religion, corporations, politicians, the military, and maybe, if you’re like me (and the Unabomber), technology. For some, a Thoreauvian vision emerges as a kind of solution to a dim world-view. Get off the grid. Go out into nature. Bring a paper and some pencil. Write. Grow your own food. Whatever. I imagine I am not the first or the only English major to have lived some version of this dream–to have had his coursework seem to point him in this direction.

Despite the fact that I now teach English majors, I have only a slight sense of how such students view the world today. When I hear a student say, as one did in my rhetoric course the other day, that he would prefer to talk less about politics because he “fucking hates politics and all politicians,” I begin to think that being an English major may not have changed a great deal. On the technological front, things are a bit more complicated. On the one hand, many of the English majors I teach embrace their smart-phones and their Facebook pages with great vigor. On the other hand, I had a student last year who confessed her adoration and preference for the pencil. Another questioned why so much of what we were reading was posted online (she wanted to read more books). [read more]

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