Writing for DMLCentral

Here’s a link to recent contributions for the Digital Media and Learning Hub site, DMLCentral.

Connecting Making, Designing and Composing

craft makingIn her closing keynote at FabLearn a couple years ago, Leah Buechley turned a critical eye on the maker movement. If you don’t know Buechley’s work, she is arguably one of the maker movement’s central players, founding the former High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab and inventing the LilyPad Arduino, among many other contributions. She is a champion of making, which makes her all the more thoughtful in her critiques. Buechley asks us to consider who gets to make and who is represented in the maker movement…

No Shortcuts in Course Design

prep for course designLike many of my friends and colleagues, August is the month for deep engagement in course design. If you were to shine a flashlight into this world, you would find me on a couch in the living room, hair disheveled, clothes unchanged for days, various plates and cups tossed to the floor, surrounded by books ranging from Vygotsky’s Mind in Society to Scieszka and Barnett’s Battle Bunny. I love this time of year. And, once I get started on design, it is almost impossible to stop. For me, imagining a learning environment, curating the texts, and…

Connected Learning in Teacher Education: Come Make With Us

Kira Baker DoyleA couple of years ago, I worked in the summer to build Connected Courses with some amazing colleagues. I dabbled in the work of connected learning prior to this invitation, but this was my first real attempt to put the principles into practice. Our goal with Connected Courses was, and remains, to support faculty who are “developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.” At some point in the middle of our week of building, Mimi Ito made a comment, an aside, that stuck with me…

Building Community With Peer Mentors with Keaton Kirkpatrick

mentors“The more I give my teacher-power to students and encourage them to take more responsibility for their own learning, the more they show me how to redesign my ways of teaching.” — Howard Rheingold, “Toward Peeragogy” Howard Rheingold has been a champion of peer-to-peer learning for years. Howard’s ideas are often in my head, milling about with Lev Vygotsky and social theories of learning. When I set out to design a large writing course for college freshmen, I was particularly focused on the role more capable peers would play in our writing class. In fact, I…

Rescuing Student Participation Through Digital Platforms

two students in fox masksLike many of my colleagues who think carefully about digital literacy and pedagogies, I began seriously considering the use of social media platforms in educational settings — sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr — around 2008. Despite nearly a decade of innovative uses of digital platforms in educational settings, the use of these platforms and spaces continues to be trivialized by the public and teachers alike, with cries echoing about attention spans and nostalgia for the loss of face-to-face interaction, which seem more “real.” But, to continue to dismiss digital platforms, particularly those focused on social…

Making Science: When Does Spaghetti Become a Light Ray? with Leslie Atkins Elliott

spaghetti artifactFor the past few years, we have been fortunate to work together in a scientific inquiry class. Bringing together science faculty and composition faculty makes for some lively conversations about the teaching of writing. The course is offered to future elementary school teachers who are typically non-science majors. We recently co-wrote with Irene Salter Composing Science: A Facilitator’s Guide to Writing in the Science Classroom (TCPress 2016), which describes our work with these future teachers and our practices for teaching writing in science. The book lays out how we engage students in practices that mirror the…

Epic Learning: Large Class as Intentional Design

Jumbo classLast October, I gave an Ignite talk at the Digital Media and Learning Conference called “Epic Composition.” Below, I offer a more extended look at the design and structures of my “jumbo” first-year writing course at California State University, Chico. Walking into our “jumbo” first-year writing course as an outsider can be a bit intimidating. The room is packed with people: 90 students, nine writing mentors, and the instructor. Students sit in new desks: rolling chairs with a bottom “saucer” for storing backpacks, a moving tray designed for a laptop. Students have nicknamed the chairs…

Writing Mentors FTW

Spent the last few weeks working closely with our writing mentors at Chico State thinking about their role in the success of first-year writers. Grateful in particular to Geoff Bogan and Brittany DeLacy for their participation in our Educator Innovator conversation (with Tom Fox), and Keaton Kirkpatrick for his DMLCentral blog–“Building Community With Peer Mentors”–this week. Fortunate to work with such amazing students at Chico State.

Leslie & I On BlogTalk Radio

Summary: We discuss teaching writing, teaching science, and how to create classrooms in which students use writing to learn and think scientifically with Kim Jaxon and Leslie Atkins Elliott, authors of the new book Composing Science. Kim and Leslie talk about concrete approaches for engaging students in practices that mirror the work that writing plays in the development and dissemination of scientific ideas, rather than replicating the polished academic writing of research scientists. They also address a range of genres that can help students deepen their scientific reasoning and inquiry.

Excerpt from Show

Leslie Atkins Elliott on using the ubiquitous scientific notebook the way scientists use it:

“For me, when I was in K12 and perhaps even beyond, they were very formulaic. You would need to start with your hypothesis and then list your materials, and then take your notes, and it was pretty rigid in what had to be in there, which is not what scientists’ notebooks look like. It’s pretty easy online now to find examples of really famous scientists’ fascinating notebooks. One of my favorites is Linus Pauling who, he’s scribbling in the middle of the night saying how he’s been thinking about this problem forever and it just came to him that he’s been doing it all wrong and now he has to go back and change the last few weeks of work, and how excited he is….Students are often surprised to see this…to see that they’re not following any kind of rigid procedures….So we start by showing students what scientists’ notebooks look like, and then develop our own rubrics for our own notebooks out of that. The idea is I want to be able to look at your notebook and know you were doing science, what should then we be looking for in your notebook.”


Nobody Quits in April

The spring semester in academia is notoriously brutal: conferences, thesis and dissertation projects, graduations looming, and many classes to teach. Years ago, well into a PhD program, my friends and I started to notice a pattern. Around April, one of us would lose it. Our panic rotated through the group, but on any given day, someone would talk about quitting. Sometimes it just sounded so much easier to go back to our day jobs and give up this grad school dream. We kept close: calling each other in moments of weakness and talking each other off the ledge. We created a motto: nobody quits in April.

IMG_0097The rule was that you could quit in June if you still wanted to, after you had showered, slept, and had a glass of wine. If you still wanted to quit then, perhaps the feeling was real and right. But the middle of April, with ten deadlines looming, is a bad time to make a life changing decision. I now repeat this to my own students over and over again in the spring semester: nobody quits in April.

The advantage to this way of thinking was that it also bonded us together, sort of a “you go, we go” attitude toward college. We knew how hard everyone worked and we championed success and consoled each other through rejections. It makes me wonder how we do this in our short time together with students: how do we create empathy so that our interests and successes are tied to each other.

One way I hope we do this in our first-year writing course is to blog together. If we read about the struggles of the first-year, will we see each other reflected in the stories? Will this create empathy for each other? You can find the featured blogs for this week here. What you’ll notice is the universal buzz of the semester. We are all running from one task to the next, hoping to have a few moments of feeling good about the work we are doing.

Nobody quits in April.