The Micro-Lecture

Post-it note with smiling face

Post-it note with smiling faceShort, focused discussions of key concepts or ideas can be a great way to support student learning when they’re working independently or at a distance. This summer I’m teaching a fully online course and one of my big concerns for online teaching is maintaining a high level of student engagement. One of the ways I’m approaching this is through regular use of focused 5-minute videos.

Take a look at my post on GradHacker about some strategies for recording your own micro-lecture.

The Values of Writing Across the Curriculum

Crumpled paper

Crumpled paperSilences and occlusions represent ideological positions in the Writing Across the Curriculum movement. Several major professional associations have taken-up WAC through issuing position statements: NCTE, CCCC, CWPA, NWP, and INWAC. Presences and absences in this discourse suggest tensions embedded in WAC’s historical development, and provide insight into the state of the present movement in three areas: values represented by writing-to-learn, the movement toward WAC programs’ institutionalization, and the critical potential of teaching writing and rhetoric in the disciplines. Despite working as part of institutions that can perpetuate social disparities, scholars and educators have the opportunity to work against the discourses that make such inequitable structures possible, and innovate viable opportunities to change the terms of this encounter for their students.


Presented at Conference on College Composition and Communication, Houston, April 2016.


[Photo by Travis Grandy, all rights reserved.]

Make a Better Writing Assignment by Design

[Image by Flickr user James Harrison and used under Creative Commons license]

[Image by Flickr user James Harrison and used under Creative Commons license]I work with a lot of instructors who use writing in their teaching. One of the challenges of teaching with writing is that without the right kinds of support, students might struggle to accomplish learning outcomes, get frustrated about the writing process, and result in more work for teachers when it’s time to give feedback. By situating writing assignments in a sequence of well-scaffolded activities, students can get support from the process, and you can write holistic feedback that will help students make progress toward your learning outcomes.

Take a look at my post on GradHacker with strategies for designing writing assignments that can help students refine the skills they already have, as well as hone new skills through practice, exposure and feedback.


[Image by Flickr user James Harrison and used under Creative Commons license]

Build More Collaboration into Your Online Class

Speech bubbles made of different kinds of paper

Just because you’re teaching an online class doesn’t mean you can’t have students work and learn together. As I’m building an online class in preparation this summer, I’m also trying to plan activities that students can do in collaboration with each other and to contribute to content of the course.

My post on GradHacker discusses some ideas for online activities that go beyond the typical discussion board conversation. Take a look!

[Image by flickr user Marc Wathieu and used under Creative Commons license]

Give Your Syllabus an Extreme Redesign for the New Year

Syllabus bWho says that your syllabus should only be used on the first day of class? Perhaps it’s an issue of design. After getting some inspiration from a post on Creative Approaches to the Syllabus, I decided to undertake a full redesign of my syllabus, including visual design.

My post on GradHacker has some tips on making a syllabus more clearly represent your values, tips for coming up with a sound design, and how to incorporate the syllabus throughout the term, not just the first day of class.

See the full syllabus here.


Image by Travis Grandy, all rights reserved.

Convergence in the Classroom: Exploring New Media in Composition


21st-century environments for reading and writing are continually expanding. With this expansion comes a growing variety of texts, few of which resemble what many students and teachers think of as a “traditional” essay. A critical understanding of the concepts of purpose, audience, context, and choice are vital for writers who take increasingly versatile approaches to composing. Rather than taking time away from the concerns of the composition classroom, critical engagement with digital technologies and multiple modes of communication enables students to access the concepts traditionally at the core of writing education.

The Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sponsors a group of teachers who explore the convergence of new media and traditional writing pedagogy. These Technology Fellows encourage their students to develop an awareness of the conventions, material contexts, and possibilities of new media technologies and texts. In this workshop, Technology Fellows who have incorporated digital, multimedia, and new media components in their teaching will share insights from their work, lead discussions on classroom practices, and facilitate hands-on sessions in new media composition. Specifically, participants will work collaboratively to explore these questions:

  • What is new media and what can it offer to the teaching of writing?
  • How can critical engagement with new media promote effective classroom practices?
  • How can we teach students to analyze and produce new media texts, especially if we are not completely sure how to do this ourselves? How can we navigate various levels of expertise and access to technology?
  • How can we assess new media texts produced in the writing classroom?
  • How does bringing new media into the classroom help us re-imagine the act of writing and our own goals as teachers?

Throughout the workshop, we will model how new media enhances classroom activities such as discussion, analysis, and composition. Attendees will participate in a range of exercises designed for in-class use, culminating in the creation and assessment of their own new media texts. This workshop will provide us and our participants the opportunity to examine new media’s relationship to traditional classrooms; however, participants do not need prior expertise in digital technologies and multimedia composition.

This workshop was presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in St. Louis, March 2012.

[Photo by Flickr user Anthony Albright and used under Creative Commons License]