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Highlights from Last Week’s Workshop on Digital Writing

Posted by on Monday, February 15, 2010 in News.

During last week’s “Digital Writing: Using Social Media to Enhance the Teaching of Writing” workshop, CFT Assistant Director Derek Bruff tweeted some highlights from the panelist remarks and subsequent conversation.  For those of you not following the CFT on Twitter, you’ll find Derek’s comments below.  Please also visit the online “home base” for the workshop for additional information and resources, including links to several course blogs by Vanderbilt faculty.

  • English prof Jay Clayton talking about his “Worlds of Wordcraft” course on narrative and virtual worlds. Course blog:
  • Jay had students use own blogs the 1st time, but that led to too many tech problems. Upshot: Don’t let the tech get in the way of learning.
  • Jay shares his blog traffic stats w/his students (up to 30-40K hits over the life of the blog). Gives the students a real sense of audience.
  • Another takeaway from Jay: *Informal* blog writing helped students better understand the *formal writing* they did in the course.
  • Jay’s students’ posts were informal, but not sloppy. Grammar, spelling, mechanical errors weren’t allowed.
  • Jay’s current course is on genetics and literature. Here’s the course blog: Blog categories generated from student tags.
  • Jay wants his students to tag their posts. It helps them contextualize their contributions and drives blog traffic.
  • Now hearing from Jane Robbins from Leadership, Policy, & Organizations at Peabody College. Leadership course blog:
  • Here are the slides Jane is using: [PPTX]. And here’s her Innovation course blog:
  • Jane gives her students a strict word count limit. Wants her students to practice concise, professional writing. But 250 words is too few.
  • Jane Robbins: Brings student blog posts into the classroom discussion. This keeps the blog work from being disconnected to rest of class.
  • Jane requires students to subscribe to the blog via email or RSS. That way they stay more regularly involved in the blog discussion.
  • Here’s a great post from Jane’s leadership course blog on superhero leadership: Lots of peer comments.
  • Jane: Course blogs do a great job of creating community among students, extending and applying the in-class discussion.
  • Next up: Gabe Cervantes on using Twitter in his “Lives of Slavery” course, an upper-level writing course on bios and autobios.
  • Gabe showing what’s out on Twitter by searching for #literature and showing the user @EmersonRalphyW.
  • Gabe: I’ve been commuting to and from school as a student or teacher for as long as Lady Gaga has been alive.
  • Gabe on Twitter vs. email: Twitter better for short, timely messages. Also puts more responsibility on students to stay current.
  • Gabe Cervantes now analyzing the Twitter bird as a metaphor. Drawing connections to Emerson’s writing and nature.
  • Emerson: “Language must be raked…” Language is something that has to be worked on, managed, curated, patterned.
  • Gabe’s next course will require students to post quotes from the reading on a course Twitter account.
  • Why? Should capture ephemeral responses to reading–what usually receives highlighting, underlining, or margin comments.
  • Also, literarary writers work by quoting and integrating the works of others. Students tweeting quotes brings them into this tradition.
  • Hmm, that should have been “literary” not “literarary.” Will Gabe count off for typos in his course?
  • Interesting comments about the public nature of course blogs. Students are writing to each other, but the public can “listen in.”
  • Jay Clayton: Course blogs, esp. w/large readerships, help students see themselves as producers, not just consumers, of knowledge.
  • Jay: When students see what search terrms are leading visitors to the blog, they find out that, say, high school students are reading them.
  • Jay Clayton creates categories for the course blog, like a table of contents. Students can make up their own tags, however.
  • Great discussion on the use of tags (students tagging their own posts, others’ posts) to help students synthesize course material.
  • One idea: No tags throughout the semester on course blog. Then give each student a copy of the whole blog & have them retroactively tag it.

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