Monday, October 30, 2006

Meshing practice and theory

In this weeks podcast I talk about how Bolter’s frame of Practice/Theory apply to the other readings. I review briefly the details of Bolter’s argument related to why the humanities found theory an important part of a disciplinarily important approach to New Media. With the Practice/Theory frame in mind I address each of the other readings as by and large examples of combining the two endeavors in interesting ways. Though I don’t find Bolter’s overall impression to be accurate today, I do think part of the reason for that is my own interests combined with development overall in the humanities.

Blog Reflection

I considered doing a podcast to share my thoughts on my blogging experience in this course, but then I thought I would somehow be sending the wrong message by using a different medium.

Anyways, in general, I think the blogging in this class was one of the smoothest experiences I have had to date when it comes to educational blogging. Blogger made it very easy for all of us to post our thoughts and view them.

However, despite the ease of use, I still have some concerns that we can consider for future educational blogging experiences:

1) It took me a while to get into the mindset of this being a blog dealing with academic discussions. Because blogger is mainly used for personal reflection and thought, it was tough for me to view it as different. It may have been especially difficult for me because I read another blog that uses the exact same background as this one, but he talks about pop culture and other mundane items.

2) I agree with Dr. Anson's thoughts on trying to have the blog be more dialogic. It felt as if we were posting for the sake of posting without putting a whole lot of thought into what everyone else had to say. Certainly by communicating with each other on the blog, we have the ability to enrich each other's thoughts.

3) Along those lines, the way the text is structured, it began to seem as if it was one voice speaking. There was not enough structure to give the reader a good sense of who was talking and on what. Part of this problem is that blogs are typically authored by one person. Each new post is only going to be made by that author. Perhaps a bulletin board would be better for a classroom situation. Not only would it encourage more dialogue between students, but it would also do a better job of classifying which posts apply to which week's topic.

4) One thing to consider if you're thinking about using a blog in a classroom with undergraduates is the idea of when they'll read new posts. I know many of us used RSS readers to alert us when new posts were made, but I wonder how many undergraduates use them. And if they're not using them, they would have to actually visit the site on a regular basis to see if any new posts have been made. I have my doubts about whether students would be that proactive.

5) Finally, I'd like to talk about the response aspect of blogs. Dr. Anson mentioned in his vidcast about how much easier it was to take notes from the blog than an pod/vidcast in order to provide appropriate response. I'm not sure about the ease of notetaking, but what I am finding is that I'm more eager or inspired to respond to the podcasts than I was to the blog posts. There something about hearing the author's tone and inflection that makes me want to respond with the same passion. I felt that when I read the blog posts, I read them to get the nuts and bolts of their thoughts. Right now, I'm seeing podcasts as being more motivating to produce dialogue than the blog was.

--Adam

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Flattening of Classroom Hierarchy

My podcast this week covers a key role that I see new media playing in the classroom; the role of structuring the classroom hierarchy, or lack thereof. The Wood and Fassett article go into detail on how the power dynamic of the classroom changes with the incorporation of technology. I focus a lot on that article in trying to discuss how far instructors will be willing to sacrifice power for technological alternatives.

--Adam

Various Reflections

Here's a vidcast with some ramblings about recent posts and podcasts.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Using Instruction in New Media to Create New Professional Genres

The question I eventually get around to asking is how should new media affect instruction in professional writing classes that deal with fields that are slow to adopt new communication technologies? Is it the place of the composition instructor, especially at the undergraduate level, to inculcate new communication techniques on students in these fields if the field as a whole has not adopted it? Can we play a role in the adoption of new media in other fields by sending out students versed in these new technologies, or should we continue to devote our time to intensively training them in communication techniques that are already well entrenched and will need to be mastered when the student fully enters the field?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Response: Blog Forum

I have used collaborative forum posting in coursework before; however, I feel as though the experience with this course blog was different. First, the interface, whether web-based or via e-mail, was much smoother than that of WebCT, Wolfware, and Web-Course-In-A-Box. Most of those systems have an ugly, unreliable interface that inhibits active involvement. The blog form is more easily customizable: had I taken the time to format the sidebar, we could have seen better organization in terms of topical heirarchy and responses, we could have an interesting links section, etc. As far as readability is concerned, this format is clean and enjoyable.

Our class is unique in that we are a small group of advanced students, comfortable with one another after fourteen graduate hours taken together, who don't need much prompting to pontificate. Within our group particularly, who may have a higher comfort level with digital media in general, I think that this is an ideal format for class discussion and reflection. We joke about our respective "roles" within the class; however, I think that this is an important indicator of our comfort level with one another, something critical when writing reflective or critical essays for public consumption.

I feel that with undergraduates, this sort of forum would have to be far more structured and instructor-supported; personally, I feel that a "scaffolding" support structure would be best, in which the instructor starts out heavily involved and gradually backs off as the class becomes
more comfortable with the format. Some may feel uncomfortable given the public nature of the blog, in which case it would be best for an instructor to perhaps limit the syndication and linking of the blog in the "settings" pane.

The format of the weblog, while it allows for posts of any length, encourages brevity; thus, while impractical for formal assessment, it would provide an excellent method for determining student engagement with the material (are the posts superficial? do they touch on the
material and draw conclusions you were hoping for?). My own use of blogs in the classroom this semester ended disastrously; however, my experience with this blog (and my reflections as to WHY mine ended in disaster) will help me to create a more structured, supported system in
the future if I choose to use them again (which I will).

--Chris

Blogs for class discussion

I found blogs very helpful in sorting out my own thoughts in preparation for class. As a tool for teaching I can see how students might benefit from blogs in much the way a reading journal might work. However, I think there are also some structural challenges to keep in mind. Within 704 it seems that dialog among blog posts was minimal. The small amount of cross posting or connections between posts I think may be part of the personal reading journal style the posts seem to take. Thinking about how to structure blogs as also a discussion tool, might be something to think about more in detail. Are there specific ways instructional approaches need to be set up for using blogs?

That particular question is really what I came away with after using the blog for discussion. As a student I am always sort of left with a bit of curiosity about exactly what my posts should do. Though I think the act of posting helped me when it came time to meet in class, I am unsure of where the posts fit in the larger picture of the class. I think as an element of process – a blog can be very helpful. The chance to either write a post quickly or to compose in a word processing program and then copy and paste make posting flexible in important ways. It seems thought that these different options might be thought about more from the larger class standpoint – how does posting fit in to discussion? I think this sort of question may follow throughout the different discussion formats we make use of.

Sense of helplessness

Well after a lot of frustration and aggrevation, I finally figured out how to get this podcast uploaded. Sorry it's coming in so late. Ironically, frustration is the key word related to my thoughts on this week's readings. Having a listen to hear my thoughts on the problems we face identifying this new role of the teacher.

Monday, October 23, 2006

For Comparison

My response post this week comes in two formats (for purposes of our comparison): I created a vidcast, then stripped the audio for a standard podcast (mp3 format). They would've been up sooner, but I've been wrestling with NCSU's servers for about two hours. Nonetheless, I think that this would be an interesting comparison. Below, I link to each:

Vidcast: http://bergspace.110mb.com/podcasts/courses/crd704/berg-1024.mov

Podcast: http://bergspace.110mb.com/podcasts/courses/crd704/berg-1024.mp3

-- Chris

Adopting technology

In this podcast I talk about how Rodger's different stages of adopting technology can be thought of as more of a cyclical process. I also consider how some of the other reading reflect these processes.

Response to blog forum

Christian F. Casper

CRD 704

October 23, 2006

CRD 704 Response 1: Blog

My response to using a blog as a class discussion forum is colored somewhat by previous experience because we used a similar forum in CRD 701, and as a medium it’s similar in some ways to the discussion boards in a package like WebCT Vista, which I’ve used in my own ENG 333 classes and have observed during my training to teach ENG 333 last year.

I think the blog has been a useful forum, although I’m still undecided about how much structure is needed in terms of what is expected from the students. On the one hand, it’s common to expect students to write one substantive post per week, but in my experience this often results in superficial or unthoughtful posts that aren’t terribly interesting to read (present company excepted, of course!). On the other hand, offering a forum like this as a place to post when one feels like it, perhaps for extra credit, results in most students ignoring it altogether. I suspect the reason for this is that students view their scheduled class time as delimiting the time that they need to be engaged in the class, except for their homework. Posting a reading response in an online forum feels, in a genre sense, like class discussion, so it violates the conventions of the genre in that it comes outside the time designated for it.

Another important point is the public nature of the blog. Discussion forums like this are often touted as alternative forums for shy students to use if they don’t like speaking up in class. I see some validity to this – and I speak as one of those students – but I don’t think any forum can completely eliminate the nagging feeling that a student might have that her or his contributions don’t measure up to those of her or his classmates. Still, it does permit students who don’t like to throw out half-formed ideas in class to put their thoughts down in writing in a more deliberate, reflective fashion. Furthermore, in our case the blog is available for anyone to view, whether they’re part of our class or not. I realized this over the weekend when Anne and I were putting together a family blog (“Casper the Friendly Blog”), also on Blogger, and I realized that if I use the same account for the new one that I use for the 704 blog, then it will be possible for visitors to the family blog to link over to the 704 blog. I was uncomfortable with this idea, so I’ve decided to create a new account so that the two blogs aren’t associated with each other. (Currently Anne and I have a joint account that we use, but I think we might go to individual accounts instead. In that case I’ll still create a new one for myself.) If I were going to use a blog as a discussion forum in ENG 333, say, I would try to make it as private as possible, which is an advantage of WebCT, since only class members can access the discussion boards. I don’t think undergrads should have to worry about their posts being publicly viewable.

Overall, the blog seems to be most useful when the posts are private (for classmembers’ and instructors’ eyes only) and understood to be short and supplemental to in-class discussion. Best practices in web writing always discourage very long-winded entries in favor of shorter bits of text because of reader fatigue or the possibility that the reader won’t read the text at all, determining after glancing at it that it’s just too long. In fact, I think I might be running into that problem with this entry. We’ll see what it looks like when I post it!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Power in the classroom

Christian Casper's audio post for 10/24.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Videocast

OK, I've tried to post a videocast to the blog, which should open with Quicktime. See if this works. --CA

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Community vs. Collaboration

If this audio file works, you will need to listen to it for about 30 seconds before it begins. [CMA]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Collaboration and constructivist learning

Teaching Digital Rhetoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application (click the link for the podcast in you are not subscribed).

As a collaborative effort…

Revisiting my perspective…

Also featuring "our lives change," by Tryad (www.tryad.org) Creative Commons License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Collaboration rises above the medium

Having explored the idea of collaboration in the online environment for my masters thesis, I felt as if I had read all of these articles before (although that may not neccesarily be true). Reading over the selections for this week, I began to get that familiar feeling of frustration that I had as I worked on that thesis.

To me, there is not one form of communication that lends itself better to collaboration than anything else. I'm not saying collaborating online is better; nor am I saying collaborating in person is the superior method. Based on my thesis work and the time I've spent teaching Small Group Communication, I truly believe that the success of a group's collaborative efforts is based solely on the group itself. If the group is a good, cohesive unit, they will have the ability to collaborate their efforts in any medium that they use. Likewise groups that struggle to work together will have difficulty being collaborative, regardles of the method they choose.

I think the article that really resonated my thoughts was the Hoag article. She seemed to pick up on the lack of difference between online and face-to-face environments. She also posed some additional questions that we, as researchers, should be more focused on. There are two things that we should be focused on in an attempt to have better collaborative efforts from groups: First, there needs to be more of an emphasis in the classroom on the group formation phase of group development. Instructors need to inform students of both how to choose complementary team members, but also how to communicate effectively so that the team's goals are clearly understood by everyone. The other thing that should be addressed is an idea that probably won't be well liked by educators. Teachers must work harder, now more than ever, to stay up to date with all the potential collaborative technologies. Strong groups should be able to work together, regardless of the environment. However, it is up to the teachers to make sure they let their students know of all the potential options they have to choose from when it comes to collaborative methods. This, unfortunately, means a lot more work placed upon the instructor. I can't say for sure, one way or the other, how willing instructors would be to take up this additional task, but they may not have any other choice if they want their groups to be successful

(P.S. Sorry this didn't come in blog form. I just ran out of time and energy to put these thoughts in audio form).

Adam

About Time.

I may have read the Ede & Lunsford piece before; I'm not sure. However,
I often find myself discussing many of the exact same ideas that they
address in this piece. I find it amusing that we ascribe authorship of
"The Death of the Author" (Roland Barthes) to an autonomous individual,
an independent agent; despite the blow to "author"-ity that the piece
claims. I cite it myself, frequently with no thought until later as to
the partial absurdity of my claiming authority of a piece discussing the
practical absence of our socially constructed "author." We /are/
trained - in English at least - to ignore personal contradictions when
engaged in our favorite pastime: theoryspeak.

The inside world of the academy is a confusing morass to outsiders - and
the inside world of humanities studies must be even more so. Our
day-to-day work - the instruction of students, departmental affairs,
"ordinary" clerical and administrative tasks - these we do not describe
as "our work"; instead, we discuss some piece of academic triviality
that we haven't researched, let alone written about, for weeks. The
most maddening practice to those outside our little world must be our
insistence on "single-author books" as the sole means for securing
tenure. Collaborative work - the heart of the Ede & Lunsford piece - is
ignored or degraded by the established practices of humanities scholarship.

Chris

Collaboration and authorship

Ede and Lunsford's discussion is important for those of us who assign team writing assignments in our courses and then have to assess them. I know of instructors who try to assign an individual grade to each member of a team that produces a single collaboratively produced document, but I've never found a scheme that effectively breaks down the contributions of each collaborator. (They tend to rely on individual evaluations of teammates, which I don't necessarily trust.) The biggest problem here, in my experience, is that students don't like working in groups (and I sympathize) and they tend not to think it's fair to be graded on work that is partially done by someone else. I'd like to see some literature on assessing collaborative projects.

My other thought as I read these pieces is that they reminded me of some work I did two semesters ago in a philosophy of science class that I then applied to my 701 and 702 papers. We read some work by Helen Longino on the construction of objectivity in scientific work by collaboration and peer review. Essentially, her point was that individual scientists aren't objective, but the objectivity of their work can be enhanced by criticism by others, most obviously in the form of peer review. In that sense, no work can be maximally objective unless it's been subjected to some sort of collaboration. We're beginning to see forums, such as the e-letter in the online version of the journal Science, that allow commentary to be posted along with the published article, essentially converting the article from a finished piece of work to just part of an ongoing, living document. It seems to me that this is the future of scholarly publishing and those of us teaching academic communication to students would do well to try to create projects to address these new genres.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hybridity

I like a lot of what has emerged here concerning distance and
hybridity in courses, especially in interaction like this. It
occurred to me that, from an instructional perspective, different but
related skills are at work in "leading" a discussion in a class and
online; and different skills are at work in different discussion
modes in both forms. For example, leading a discussion on a blog like
this allows for a lot of time to reflect on the posts and see
relationships between and among them, then craft questions or further
statements to shape the discussion, which proceeds sort of like a
loris moves--one claw at a time. In faster modes, such as IM or chat,
the interaction is more like a typical classroom, and there are
different orchestration skills needed. In classrooms, there is some
control over discussions on the basis of what students do: what
prompts they're given, whether they report out in specific episodes
(which slows everything down and allows for reflection), and so on.
But there is also an immediacy in FTF interaction that is removed,
somewhat, in electronic interaction. It's no less challenging, but
just different . . . a different order of necessity and pedagogical
skill.

Hybridity

I like a lot of what has emerged here concerning distance and hybridity in courses, especially in interaction like this. It occurred to me that, from an instructional perspective, different but related skills are at work in "leading" a discussion in a class and online; and different skills are at work in different discussion modes in both forms. For example, leading a discussion on a blog like this allows for a lot of time to reflect on the posts and see relationships between and among them, then craft questions or further statements to shape the discussion, which proceeds sort of like a loris moves--one claw at a time. In faster modes, such as IM or chat, the interaction is more like a typical classroom, and there are different orchestration skills needed. In classrooms, there is some control over discussions on the basis of what students do: what prompts they're given, whether they report out in specific episodes (which slows everything down and allows for reflection), and so on. But there is also an immediacy in FTF interaction that is removed, somewhat, in electronic interaction. It's no less challenging, but just different . . . a different order of necessity and pedagogical skill.


Chris M. Anson [Web site]
Professor of English 
Director, Campus Writing and Speaking Program 
Box 8105, North Carolina State University 
Raleigh, NC  27695-8105 
(919) 513-4080 


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Other concerns with distance learning

This topic fits well with the area I'm reasearching for my 704 paper: hybrid courses and instructional technologies for asynchronous communication outside the classroom such as WebCT. The readings today addressed many of the concerns about distance learning that I've found in my reading in the literature, but there are a few that were left out.

First, while several of the readings addressed the increased faculty workload that online learning brings, they didn't do much to address some of the implications of that. The most important, I think, is the effect of the "shelf-life" of the material. Because an online course can't be as easily modified as a more traditional classroom-based course, the material needs to be able to last longer without major revision. A consequence of this is that material in online courses can often be more superficial than classroom instruction. This can be overcome in hybrid-style courses that allow classroom time for active learning, but in purely online distance courses this is hard to overcome.

Ragan and White gave us a nice analysis of good communication practices by instructors, but we were left without much analysis in these readings of non-verbal feedback between communicants online. Some of the readings I've looked at for my paper examine the difficulty that instructors have in finding that "deer in headlights" look in students when they're interacting online rather than face-to-face. In hybrid courses the fact that the students and instructor meet periodically helps, but it can also cause problems for the student by throwing off their communication cues when they have to switch back and forth between face-to-face and online learning.

Anyway, without writing my term paper here, these are a few of the concerns we can add to our list to discuss in class.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves?

Reading over the articles for this week, I found myself torn. On one hand, I thought all of the authors brought up some really interesting points and I tended to agree for the most part with their suggestions for how to handle online education in the future. However, I also had this nagging feeling that something wasn't right here. Going through all of these readings, I got the sense that these authors feel online education is an inevitability and we should all start preparing for it. That to me, is a bit presumptuous.

There are a number of problems which weren't being addressed in these articles which need to be dealt with first, I feel, before we can worry about how we will teach online. I think the biggest issue is getting all instructors to agree to this in the first place. We've harped on this issue a lot in class, but it deserves to be said again; there are going to be some faculty at each university who will resist using technology in their classroom. Unless they are mandated by the university, some will refuse to learn how to use the technology.

Let's say though that we somehow do reach a point where all education takes place online. In my research, I have yet to find any proof that shows distance education flattens instructor effectiveness. In other words, those that are likely engaging teachers in person will likely be engaging, somehow, online. Those who aren't as engaging won't be online either. So if there is no difference in teacher effectiveness, why make the shift to distance education. Unless the plan is to eliminate un-engaging instructors because fewer teachers are needed in an online environment, but I don't think the industry would allow that.

Right now, we are still in the infancy stages of distance education. To me, it seems like we are trying to push the cart before the horse by writing articles focusing solely on what the instructor should do in an online environment before learning what the future of distance education is. If this article, Can Internet Communication Sustain Us?, is any indication we may soon see a decline in the desire to do all of our communicating through a computer.


Adam

Thursday, October 05, 2006

More on identity online

I stumbled on to some very interesting blog entries from an instructor at Ball State. I have linked her blog through the title above, but basically she is teaching 100 level English class using Second Life. A pretty interesting idea and it seems some great thoughts on identity are developing. Just sort of another thing to think about in relation to the reading and discussion we've don.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Interdisciplinarity

I was just thinking about our conversations in class about interdisciplinarity in light of the readings the past two weeks and I'm wondering about what direction this might take administratively in the academy. The sound readings from a couple weeks ago and the Knadler (Spelman) and Hess (faculty webpages) readings this week brought up the blurring of the boundary between communication and English departments. These studies were done mostly in departments of English, yet they bring in these other modes of communication that we normally associate more closely with communication departments. (Remember that we really wanted to see the web portfolios in the Knadler piece.) As I recall this is kind of where we left the conversation, perhaps with the unspoken assumption that we might see some of these departments merging at some schools (which, of course, would just reverse what happened back in the 1920s and is already happening some places). But with the new emphasis on interdisciplinary studies that take place across departmental boundaries is it even necessary to merge the departments? Might we be able to carry on just as well cooperatively rather than as a single body? Our own program is demonstrating how this can be done productively. For example, I think of myself as belonging more to the "English side" of our program, but I have yet to take a course here with "ENG" in front of it. Might we see this trend tricking down to the master's and undergraduate levels? Could someday an undergrad receive a degree in English by taking the core sequence in English and taking all of her electives in the COM department, or vice versa? Maybe it's already happening somewhere. But someday we'll probably all design our own programs anyway.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Test Podcast

This is a test for podcasting for the next discussion format.

Identity...

This is more of an idea post than anything else. In all the reading on identity I was also thinking about online courses. Though I'm a big fan on meatspace classrooms, it seems that an online class might really be able to consider identity in interesting ways. What would a class look like that played with identity? Would such a class be possible considering the other readings we looked at?

IP and University Websites

I'm planning on discussing the Hess article first, and one idea he
brings up that I feel is very interesting given the IP discussions we've
had in other venues is that of University claims to ownership of faculty
websites: specifically, how can the university claim ownership when it
forces page owners to /disclaim/ university involvement (e.g., that
little blurb that NCSU wants at the bottom of all hosted sites on the
www4 network: "The material located at this site is not endorsed,
sponsored or provided on or behalf of North Carolina State University.").

Hess also offers some interesting ideas on self-representation in the
visual, something else I want to discuss.

Chris

Identity in the online classroom

I see a connection between the readings today and the article that I posted to the wiki on Friday. We see from several of the readings that students who are members of underprivileged groups struggle to maintain their identity with their ethnic background, gender identity, what have you, in the freer, more anonymous space online. Whereas the predominantly white, male users of the Internet in its early days celebrated its anonymity and the freedom to create new identities, others who have to fight every day to have their identities recognized and respected struggle against this trend. In the article on the wiki, the authors explore through autoethnography the way that power is made distributed, embodied, and malleable by communication technology in the classroom. In our new electronic classroom, students share power with the instructor (whether the instructor wants it or not) and, it seems, have their identity blended with the instructor's as well. In Knadler's classroom his African American female students used their web portfolios to reaffirm their identity as African American women rather than to explore new, alternative identities that we often see in white users of the internet. Could it be that this was a reaction to the blending of their identities with that of their white, male instructor? More likely it's a reaction to the white male environment of the Internet in general, but I do wonder how much Knadler's own identity played a role in their choices.

Different technology = Different identity?

I considered doing a podcast of my thoughts on this week's readings on a somewhat trial basis as we prepare to transition into a new method of doing our pre-class discussions. However, as I began to think about what I would say on my podcast, I began to think to myself, "Gee, whatever I say here, I'll end up repeating in class". Doing a podcast would take away the thunder of the insights I would hope to address in the classroom.

I haven't felt that same way in doing discussion on the blog and I think the features of the technology play a role in that. On the blog, things are more formal. Trying to do a long post would be fruitless because the reader will lose interest. You have to edit yourself and format your comments in a more succinct manner. I don't feel those confines when I do an audio recording. I would talk on the podcast in the same rambling manner that I would in face-to-face situations.

So I guess I'm left with two options: 1) I could work on edit my oral thoughts and have my podcast be more formal so as not to repeat myself once I get to the class. 2) I could go on with the more loose, rambling format and hope that it generates enough interest from listeners so that they can respond and still produce a fruitful conversation in the classroom.

If I choose choice one, then what advantage is there to do a podcast over a blog post? If I choose choice two, I run the risk of no one being able to respond to my thoughts and then I'm left with nothing new to say in the classroom.

I'd like to hear what everyone else feels and if anyone else sees a change in identity as you change technologies.

- Adam