Archive for the ‘Nedra Reynolds’ Category

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Concept Maps as Heuristic

posted: 6.19.13 by Nedra Reynolds

The best resources for writing teachers are students themselves, and learning from my students is my favorite part of teaching. I got the idea to assign concept maps to my undergraduate students after one of my graduate students developed one for his dissertation; we both realized what a huge impact the map had on his thinking process as well on as my reading experience and the reading experiences of his other committee members.  [read more]

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Criminal Commentary

posted: 5.16.13 by Nedra Reynolds

If there were such a thing as pedagogical malpractice, I would be filing charges against an instructor (not one I supervise) who sent me a sample of the student writing produced in her courses.  Her motive was to share with some leaders on our campus what she considers to be “the horrible state of students’ writing today” and to share what she’s up against as someone who gives and evaluates writing assignments.

I couldn’t possibly be shocked by the students’ writing–not because I have “seen it all before” (as she assumes in her cover note), but because her markings have completely obliterated the original prose. [read more]

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Here’s to a future of many Little Green Blogs

posted: 4.18.13 by Nedra Reynolds

A few months ago, a student I had never met, a writing minor, asked me if I would be the faculty sponsor for her Senior Project in the Honors Program this spring.  As usual, I hesitated about adding one more thing to the list, but I did read Alyssa’s proposal.  That gave me pause because she was planning to produce a blog about sustainability and green issues.  Like you, I’ve seen my share of bad blogs and don’t think the world needs more of them.  So we talked about it.  Did she understand what she was getting into?  Did she realize that a successful blog demands frequent updates?  Was she prepared for multi-modal composing?  She admitted to having a lot to learn, but she was also enrolling in a course, “Writing in Electronic Environments” and hoped that it would give her the tools and guidance she needed. [read more]

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235 Downloads and 2,820 Clicks Per Semester

posted: 3.20.13 by Nedra Reynolds

For the 47th time in the past two weeks, I have typed this sentence into the comment box on Sakai >
Assignments:  “Please see my comments on the copy I’ve attached below.”

I’m tired of typing that sentence.

By the end of the semester, I will have typed it approximately 188 times along with onscreen-clicking at least 12 times per submission.  Is this the best use of my time?  Come to think of it, is the entire rigmarole that I go through to accept electronic texts the most efficient way of responding to student writing? (Okay, maybe there’s no efficient way . . . ) Collecting paper documents and writing in the margins with a pen is looking better to me lately—at least until I remember that my backpack was more stuffed; and that all those pages transmitted germs, absorbed cigarette smoke, and got wet, walked on by the dog, or stained by a teacup.

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Writing for writingcommons.org

posted: 2.20.13 by Nedra Reynolds

When I was starting to plan my 400-level seminar on “writing and rhetoric” for this spring, I received a fortuitous invitation from Joe Moxley at USF, who wrote,

I’d like to offer you and your graduate students an opportunity to participate in the conversation at Writing Commons, http://writingcommons.org. . . . since going public in February, thousands and thousands of readers worldwide have visited our open education site. Currently, we’re trending 1900 users a day.  We feel our goal—being a free resource for writers worldwide—is within reach.  So what’s our problem?  We’re having difficulty with our efforts to inspire writing teachers to submit new webtexts for publication.”

After getting assurance that advanced undergraduates were welcome to submit articles for review, I incorporated into my course plans a “contribution to a WritingCommons.org submission.” While I had not been actively seeking an experiential learning opportunity for this class, I couldn’t ignore the timing and opportunity of this call for submissions, especially when I was already interested in trying learning contracts and in finding a model of collaboration that was not simply “get into groups and each group creates one product.” [read more]

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Do Writers Need Teachers? Really?

posted: 12.5.12 by Nedra Reynolds

It was thirty-nine years ago that Peter Elbow wrote a revolutionary book called Writing Without Teachers, and the idea that writers might not need teachers or formal classroom time has persisted in composition studies in various forms. When I stumbled upon the work of Dr. Suguta Mitra and the “Hole in the Wall” experiments, it made me wonder what revolutionary changes might be possible in writing instruction.

Dr. Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, has been studying for several years teacherless learning—designing experiments to “let learning happen,” or to encourage kids to teach themselves and each other. Kiosk computers installed in the slums of India, for example, constituted his first trial; with each consecutive study, the approach has been roughly the same: give kids the tools and a nudge—and walk away.

[read more]

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Reflection in Perspective: A Dialog

posted: 11.8.12 by Nedra Reynolds

Dedicated to Tom Romano*

The scene is a shared cubicle in a college writing program office during the final exam period. One teacher is sitting at a table when an agitated colleague bursts in:

“Geez, I wish my students could reflect on their writing! They seem to be just going through the motions—telling me what they think I want to hear.”

“Yep, that’s the sense I have, too: they struggle with reflection more than with any other part of their portfolio assignment.”

“They can’t think. They rush.”

“Well, what is reflection, anyway? What do we mean when we ask students to reflect?”

“It’s metacognition, of course! It’s the ability to think about one’s own thinking. Students need to be able to step back and look at their learning and their decisions while taking a longer view.”

“Sure, but what do we mean by reflective writing? Is it narration, description, exposition—all three? Is it more like a story or more like persuasion or an, um, obituary?  There’s been so much attention to genres in the past few years. What kind of genre is reflection?”  [read more]

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Trinary Collaborations: An Alternative Model for Writing Instruction

posted: 10.10.12 by Nedra Reynolds

Recently I had the energizing experience of serving on a dissertation committee (via Skype and e-mail, alas) for a doctoral student at the University of Hawai‘i who has completed a study that will interest many Bits readers. Titled “Trinary Collaborations in First-Year Composition: A Mixed Methods Study of the University of Hawai‘i Writing Mentors Program,” the dissertation examines data collected over four years and across 100 sections of first-year composition (FYC). All sections in the study consisted of an instructor, first-year students, and an M.A. student in English serving as a writing mentor-researcher. More than a tutor, these writing mentors performed an extraordinary number of tasks and played a number of roles.

The major takeaway from this ambitious study is that as colleges and universities try to find ways to make writing programs more “efficient” (and in particular as they seek to deliver writing instruction via online courses), they might see better retention rates and deeper engagement with writing if they put more resources into writing classes—by, specifically, adding  a writing mentor to every class. [read more]

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Making the Most of NCTE’s National Gallery of Writing

posted: 9.13.12 by Nedra Reynolds

As I begin planning my fall courses, I’m thinking once again about how to incorporate the NCTE National Gallery of Writing, one of the best resources for writing teachers that has emerged in recent years.  The Gallery has stopped accepting new submissions, but it remains a searchable archive of 33,000 pieces of writing submitted by writers across the U. S.:  http://www.ncte.org/dayonwriting/gallery.

Opened on October 20, 2009, the National Gallery of Writing solves the problem of not having samples of writing to share “on demand”; this resource makes it easy to find models to share or texts to stimulate discussion or inspire writers.  Asking students to use it also gives them an opportunity to learn how to search an archive.

Under “Browse,” for example, a user can select options that will allow her to find a poem written by a 12-14 year old in Tennessee, a school assignment addressed to a decision-maker, a piece that celebrates something, or a dissertation about secondary teachers and electronic portfolios.  Users can search by Gallery or by other parameters, and with 33,000 documents, the variety and range are tremendous. [read more]

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A Conversation with Nedra Reynolds

posted: 8.15.12 by Nedra Reynolds

Hi, Bits readers! We were at the Conference on College Composition and Communication again this April and we sat down with more of the talented authors who blog here on Bits to talk about writing, blogging, and online community. We hope you enjoy this chance to get up close and personal with Nedra Reynolds!

Be sure to check out these conversations with some of our other Bits bloggers if you haven’t already:

Jay Dolmage

Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Andrea Lunsford

Steve Bernhardt

Susan Naomi Bernstein

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