Revolution Lullabye

October 9, 2013

Symposium on Massive Open Online Courses

“Symposium on Massive Open Online Courses.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 688-703. Print.

This CCC symposium brings together two short essays by Steven D. Krause and Jeff Rice who reflect on their experiences as students enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) sponsored by Coursera. This seven-week MOOC offered in July 2012 was entitled “Listening to World Music” and led by University of Pennsylvania professor Carol Muller. The purpose of the symposium is to understand how MOOCs change (or replicate) the traditional face-to-face classroom learning environment and to speculate on how MOOCs or other forms of distance/digital learning could impact the teaching and learning of writing.

“It seemed wise to learn more about MOOCs, and it seemed wise to learn about them from learners – who continue as perhaps the most consistent source of information about writing and learning to write in the field” (689).

Krause, Steven D. “MOOC Response to ‘Listening to World Music.'” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 689-695.

Krause’s response focuses on the MOOC’s writing assignments and the evaluation of those writing assignments. The writing assignments (2-3 paragraph responses to a choice of weekly prompts), coupled with the video-taped lectures and the discussion boards, were part of the course’s basic curricular structure, not really all that different from the structure of lecture-driven courses. At the beginning of the course, the MOOC had registered over 36,000 students; however, only a small percentage (2,731) of that number actually finished the course. To deal with the vast number of writing assignments that needed to be assessed, Muller and her graduate assistants turned over the grading to the students themselves in a kind of “crowdsourced” assessment, with peers evaluating each other’s writing responses based on an (under-explained) 10-point rubric.

Krause notes the problems of this kind of under-directed peer evaluation and response and contrasts it with the research on peer evaluation in the classroom, which does work well given the correct guidelines and constraints. He points out that one of the key issues of this crowdsourced grading is accountability – there is no mechanism to reward or correct good responses or peer evaluations.

In his conclusion, Krause moves beyond discussing and critiquing the MOOC’s writing assignments to comment on the failures of MOOCs and some of their untapped potential. The MOOC he experienced was “content without teaching,” focused only on the delivery of prescribed content, and that delivery itself had a pretty low production value.  However, Krause contends, MOOCs could break out of this static pedagogical delivery model and tap into the collaborative, social, and multimodal possiblities afforded in the digital sphere.

“After all, a MOOC is first and foremost a content delivery platform, one significantly more interactive and dynamic than a traditional printed book. Perhaps future Coursera MOOCs will do better at breaking out of what is essentially a nineteenth-century pedagogy of lectures, tests, and writing prompts that go nowhere. Perhaps it will turn out that writing ‘papers’ for a MOOC makes no sense because it doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities of networked writing” (694).

“So the writing assignments in ‘Listening to World Music’ left me with a feeling I fear some of my own students might share: it didn’t really matter what I wrote because no one (including myself) cared, and I was destined to get the same grade no matter what I did. It was garbage in/garbage out” (694).

“And as we all know as both educators and students, a textbook is not the same as a teacher. If education were merely about content delivery, then Socrates would have been the last teacher and Phaedrus his last student” (694).

The crowdsourcing grading: “It was a strange feeling: even though the class consisted of thousands of students from all over the world, this review process was oddly lonely, even more anonymous than the discussion forums” (693).

Writing assignments in a MOOC: “simulataneously a bold effort at thinking outside the box and a foolish exercise that was doomed for failure at the start, an example of both the grand promise of MOOCs to challenge education orthodoxy and the delusional, wishful thinking of pundits and administrators who think MOOCs will solve various education crises” (690).

 

Rice, Jeff. “What I Learned in MOOC.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 695-703.

Rice, who was enrolled in the same MOOC as Krause, questions why he ended up not completing the course. He points to the lack of affect in the MOOC structure: the MOOC relied on “nonsocial” videotaped lectures, multiple choice quizzes, anonymous discussion boards, and short writing assignments that failed to keep him engaged in the course (699). He draws on Richard Lanham’s argument about the attention economy, arguing that the interactive, networked, and inventive environment of the Web cultivates more desire and attention than the packaged content available in MOOCs like “Listening to World Music.” Rice argues that digital writing invites participation through aggregation, and that participation leads to occupation and desire. In their current form, MOOCs treat participants as spectactors, unable to invent and truly engage affectively in the material.

“Our current emerging institution, we might argue, is aggregation. Texts, images, ideas, videos, responses, and critiques are aggregating virtually into shifting identites of information encountered in online spaces” (701).

“This aggregation keeps me occupied with a sense of learning unique to network spaces. Being occupied is a feeling, an affective state central to a learning experience or occasion. Being occupied is a state of desire. Being occupied is an occassion for digital aggregation (i.e. learning and expression). When I am occupied, I encounter (as opposed to just ‘watching’). In other words, I want occupation. Pretaped lectures and a message board don’t provide me with that same feeling…My issue with Coursera was not just that its method of content delivery has nothing to do with how content is aggregated online, but that I cannot be aggregated aswell in this particular setup. I am left as spectator. Message board commenter. Watcher of videos. Writer of two paragraphs” (701).

“What Coursera lacks, many higher education courses taught via lecture and graduate student breakout discussion lack as well: emotional occassion” (702).

draw on Jim Corder (the occassion) and Gregory L. Ulmer (avatar)

“The overall question of whether or not to endorse online learning because it will save/destroy higher education – at the level of MOOCs or some other type of iteration – is not a question worth asking because it falls into the cliche trap of face-to-face value or the fear of alleged corporatization. Neither response gets at the issue of desire or occasion regarding learning and how such desire might be facilitated in a digital age where attention functions differently than lecture formats and message boards deliver” (700).

MOOCs as part of a long line of other forms of distance learning (like correspondance courses) (696).

 

October 5, 2013

Enoch and Bessette, Meaningful Engagements

Enoch, Jessica and Jean Bessette. “Meaningful Engagements: Feminist Historiography and the Digital Humanities.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 634-660.

Enoch and Bessette, citing a disconnect between feminist rhetorical historiography and the digital humanities movement, explore what digital historiography could offer to feminist historians of rhetoric.  Their essay, which is organized around three terms used by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch to describe excellence in feminist research (strategic contemplation, social circulation, and critical imagination), explains the surface-level contradictions between feminist rhetorical historiography and digital historiography, argues for the deeper connections between the two kinds of research, and offers suggestions and/or hesitations about how the two might adapt and affect each other. In the end, they call on feminist rhetorical historiographers to explore and question what the digital humanities bring to (or subtract from) their work. 

Enoch and Bessette interrogate specific digital historiography methods, including distant reading, visualization, multimodal production, and open or interactive online history projects. Enoch and Bessette point out that digital humanities often rely on the construction of online archives, which can open up research opportunities for feminist rhetorical historians (though, they do point out that the contents of these archives (e.g. Google Books) leave out many documents and works of interest to feminist rhetorical historians.) They also address two main issues of concern about feminist rhetorical historians becoming multimodal digital humanities scholars: first, that there hasn’t been enough scholarly attention to the effects of digital histories on audiences (what the histories do) and second, that many feminist rhetorical historians lack the technological skills set to produce multimodal scholarship, and the “culture of code” surrounding the digital humanities prevents women from participating in this area of research.

 

Notable Notes

Google’s Ngram as a useful research tool for feminist rhetorical historiographers, a distant reading tool that searches for words and phrases over the entire Google Books corpus and generates a visual graph that shows when those words or phrases appear over 200+ years.  These tools allow researchers to incorporate evidence (and find new questions) that would have been impossible for a single scholar to aggregate. (643-645) example: Aspasia

interactive online histories like the Harvard Film Study Center and Laurel Ulrich’s site DoHistory, which invites readers to read an 18th-century American midwife’s journal (Martha Ballard) and “translate” her diary, read other contemporary documents next to it and come to their own historical conclusions about events, etc. (650).  These interactive histories, though, bring to light a “different dynamic of power” between audience and scholar (650).

digital archives aren’t necessarily “disembodied” and therefore counter to the principles underlying feminist research – certain digital archives allow for “virtual proximity” with their abundance of data that researchers can use to find new connections, patterns in their digital recovery efforts.

Subheadings: “Digital Archives, Strategic Contemplation, and Virtual Proximity”; “Social Circulation, Evidence, and Distant Reading”; “Critical Imagination, Dangerous Moves, and Multimodal Histories” – these subheadings correspond to Royster and Kersch’s principles.

 

Quotable Quotes

“Evidence here becomes pattern, repetition, and aggregation” (645) – the kind of evidence generated through distant reading methodologies (e.g. Moretti)

“We intend this essay to function as a springboard for feminist historians (and all historians, in fact) to consider their relationship to the digital humanities” (637).

“The work accomplished in Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies” enables us to put feminist historiography in conversation with the digital humanities in general and digital historiography more particularly for the purpose of considering how the two fields of study may come together and invigorate one another, how they might complicate one another, and how they may run in contradistinction to one another” (636-37).

“Whereas we once confronted a seeming dearth of archival evidence, now it seems that opportunities for digital recovery are everywhere” (639).

“the culture of code is likely to be off-putting to women at best and discriminatory at worst” (652-653) – countered by local, smaller groups dedicated to teaching women scholars how to code.

“Since a great deal of feminist historiographic work hinges on the idea that women have been all but erased from rhetorical history and the rhetorical record, a marked characteristic of feminist research has been to recover forgotten figures whose rhetorical significance is often found in out-of-the-way places rather than institutional and federal archives with enormous holdings” (637-638).

December 7, 2010

Wallace, A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response

Wallace, M. Elizabeth. “A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response to the CCCC Statement of Professional Standards.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (Oct. 1991): 350-354.

Wallace argues for the legitimacy of part-time faculty positions as a viable alternative to the traditional (male-centered) full-time academic model. Part-time positions, she argues, are good for the academy because they allow for positions for those people who cannot work full-time (due to child care or family structure obligations) or who are professionals in another field and have expertise to lend, part-time, to building writing programs. She also suggests three appendices to the statement: 1. a list of books that hinted at the broad range of theory and research regarding writing and writing pedagogy (what the field is); 2. a plea to part-time faculty to carefully consider the political implications of accepting low-paying adjunct jobs; 3. a ballad (the “I’m Just a Poor Part-timin'”) – the statement, she argues, lacks affect.

June 16, 2009

Norman, Emotional Design

Norman, Donald. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Designers must account for people’s emotional and cognitive responses to three aspects or levels inherent in  any design: visceral (immediate, automatic, appearance-based); behavioral (function, pleasure and effectiveness of use); and reflective (personal satisfaction through memories, self-image, intellectualization.) The things we like act as symbols to us and have meaning in our lives. Norman describes and shows many examples of designs that successfully tap into a person’s affect – their subconscious value judgments that translate into emotions. Good designs are also rhetorical: they fit a particular context, culture, location, and audience, so no one design can be univerally appealing. Good designers are those who are able to keenly observe people’s behaviors and tap into people’s unarticulated needs, seeing the product not as a decontextualized thing but something that is used by someone.

Quotable Quotes

William Morris: If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  (“The Beauty of Life” 1880)

“The emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements” (5)

Notable Notes

cupholders as an unarticulated consumer need

personalization and customization

good designs seduce people – Csikszentmihalyi’s flow

success at the reflective level can outweigh the other two aspects – visceral and behavioral

February 20, 2009

Robillard, Young Scholars Affecting Composition

Robillard, Amy E. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68:3 (January 2006) 253-270.

With the publication of an all-undergraduate research and scholarship journal in composition (Young Scholars in Writing), composition has changed (whether scholars have noticed it or not) in two distinctive ways. First, that students can publish in the field has marked a shift from treating writing as a verb, a pedagogical focus (how does one learn how to write) to treating writing as a noun, a more objectified, researched scholarship focus (what is writing and should it be studied.) Second, student scholarship, scholarship that compositionists can take up, argue with, and use in their own scholarship, creates a contradiction in the ways we think about students and how we cite them. It is common practice to protect students in our scholarship by assigning them first-name pseudonyms, but now that they do contribute to the knowledge of our field (are not just products of our pedagogy), we need to consider both the legal and, more importantly, affective functions of citation. How we choose to cite student writing and student work in our own scholarship affects how we think of them – as authors or as passive products of our pedagogy.

Quotable Quotes

“To analyze student writing for what it demonstrates about a particular pedagogy – this is an authorizing move in the discourse of composition studies, perhaps the authorizing move.” (256).

“Citation practices vary, too, according to the status of the person being cited” (262).

“To cite Sahra Ahmed or Silas Kulkarni or Alicia Brazeau is to align oneself with students, to forward the argument that students contribute to the knowledge of composition studies as more than examples of particular pedagogies. To cite students is to forward the argument that writing as a mode of learning (Emig) is a dialogic process; teachers teach students to write, but students, in their writing, teach teachers about more than the results of particular pedagogies” (263).

“To name is to control. To withhold a student’s name is a form of that control” (268).

Notable Notes

Connors and Howard – citations practices

categories for functions of citation for readers, authors, and authors who will be cited (258)

categories for functions of citation of students on both students and composition scholars (266)

we need to teach students about the affective aspects of citation practices

legitimate relationship to students’ work

deep acting

February 17, 2008

McLeod, Susan. “Some Thoughts about Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process.”

McLeod, Susan. “Some Thoughts about Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process.” CCC 38:4 (Dec 1987): 426-435.

McLeod writes that composition studies would benefit from more research on the emotional or affective aspect of writing as it relates to writing anxiety, motivation, and cultural and personal beliefs about writing. She proposes a theory of affect based on George Mandler from which to study these three areas. She claims that it is impossible to write without triggering some emotions, and instructors should help their students channel their emotions so that they enable them during the writing process instead of impede them.

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