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Computers & Writing 2010: Remixing (Techno)Feminist Pedagogies

I'm in the Remixing (Techno)Feminist Pedagogies half-day workshop at C&W 2010 (where I'll be presenting on vids and vidding tomorrow, woo-hoo!), having just participated in a breakout session on using technology to foster collaboration in the classroom.

In the wake of this morning's session on Twitter, I'm thinking a lot about using Twitter in next semester's FYC class, and possibly other classes as well. (I've also got a post brewing about Twitter vs. Facebook and why I think that, despite having resisted Twitter for years, I'm going to prefer it to Facebook; more on that later.) The most immediate uses I can think of have to do with collaborative research processes, so part of what I'm thinking about is how to build up to that—how to scaffold the tech use. One idea: having students tweet discussion topics or questions before class rather than going over them in class; this way we all get to see them ahead of time. (I've used a version of this idea successfully in seminar in past years, so this would just be a new platform.) I like the way this strategy helps decentralize the classroom and rewards students who prefer to contribute textually rather than orally.

We also talked about hooking these micro-posts to longer-form writing, possibly through blog posts (I got to plug Dreamwidth!).

Really, though, we spent less time talking about tech than talking about what our starting points need to be. What do students already know? What don't they know? What do we assume they know that they might not? What platforms and tech are students actually using? What activities and discussions do we need to build into the syllabus to faciliate students' use of any of the various tech options? We talked about how we might need to start by helping students learn to read these sites: rhetorically, what are the differences among self-representation on (for example) Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace?

Pam Takayoshi brought us back to the question of relationships: how do we foster students' relationships with each other and with us as instructors? Wendy Anderson suggested a great first assignment—a questionnaire filled out and submitted online—that introduces students to Blackboard but also lets her start to get to know them in ways that foster not only individual teacher/student relationships but also a better classroom dynamic.

For me, the takeaway points were that 1) flexibility is key: students have to be able to fulfill assignments in multiple ways; we have to have a backup plan in case the system goes down, in case students' primary online access is via phones rather than computers, etc.; 2) we need to stay focused on the learning goal, not the technology—which sounds obvious, but in the excitement of Shiny Tech Toys, it can be easy to let the tech drive our pedagogy, and ultimately that doesn't end well.

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We also talked about hooking these micro-posts to longer-form writing

I've seen a lot of people using Twitter as a linking tool to their longer posts on Tumblr, and Twitter posting is apparently already integrated into Tumblr.

After taking a class where I was required to blog, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I am proud of the work that I did, and I loved being able to integrate media, as well as have my participation in the class accurately measured for weeks when time didn't allow verbal discussion. However, the students were all allowed to use the platform they felt most comfortable with, so though the professor had links to everyone, we (the students) were not linked together or interacting. Perhaps that just saved me hours upon hours of internet time?
That's good to know about Tumblr; thanks!

I've required students to write online in some classes, but I didn't use blogs; instead, I used the forum boards that were part of our campus course software (Moodle), and I did this for exactly the reason you mention: I wanted students to interact with and respond to each other rather than simply turning in response papers to me (part of what I like about Twitter is that assigning a hashtag for the class that everyone has to use for class-related tweets makes it easy to follow, aggregate, and archive relevant tweets). So the assignment was that every week a couple of students had to post responses to the reading, and everyone else in the class had to read and comment on those posts. In general, it's worked really well.

If I were going to require more online writing -- say, everyone blogging every week -- I would want to require reading and commenting on other students' blog posts, and ideally I'd want to use Dreamwidth or LiveJournal to facilitate that reading and commenting. (Also, it would be great to be able to set up a community space for everyone in the class in addition to the individual blogs/journals.)
I'd twitter with you!