Friday, April 07, 2006

UMass WTT Conference Notes

Assigning and Judging Writing in the Digital Age
Mike Garcia: Accumulating, Connecting and Using: Sorting Out Judgment in the Digital Age.

Robbin Zeff: Time for a Makeover: Rethinking the Design and Delivery of Writing

Mike: U. context but ideas carry over to other contexts.

Remembers being ta in 2002 and taught tech. writing for first time and had to emphasize technology, including the WWW. Teachers had to learn WWW design to teach it (students required to make a WWW page). Mike had WWW experience but many other instructors didn't. Teachers were impressed with him, but his students were not.

Made webfolio as assignment w/ main page and links to work on WWW. Used dreamweaver. Mike find the folios disappointing. All students were doing he realized was putting offline/print based documents online. Work wasn't transformative. Just used to delivery print.

Found that they didn't take advantage of transformative power of Web.

Meanwhile, Mike had been weblogging since 2001 and was aware of power: browsing, linking, responding. What he liked was blog roles, trackbacks, tags, links to posts.

Web 2.0: Works in particular way. Goal for site, sets up tools, and users design as they go. Create space for design to emerge (emergent design). 100's might contribute to Wiki article but it's overall movement/work of the 100 not the role of anyone that matters (though w/out that role, nothing would happen, right?). Isn't it both things that matter, then?

Web composing primary mode of composition in U.S.? Good question. Might be the case for our students who likely write more "words on the web and for the web than anywhere else." Web2.0 is remarkably textual, an endless stream of words.

What's this have to do with judgment of writing. Cites Elbow's "Ranking, Liking, Evaluating" from '93. Readers reading for ranking don't read the way people naturally read.

Mike thinks about Peter's categories for writing for the WWW.

Public writing moves words beyond two party system of instructor and student only. Student classroom blogs become read by broad audience and find success that is different than what Mike is used to measuring.

His usual criteria don't matter for genre of blog. Or he can force them to force the genre closer to the classroom. If they do that, put just academic forms up, is it really a blog?

Mike: service learning and other writing in world assignments faced same assessment challenges.

Closer to world, harder it is to apply usual measures.

Ranking is academic concept w/ less relevance to outside world. Evaluating and liking mean different things in terms of WWW texts.

Surfing is accumulating and using texts, quickly and what Sirc called "throw away texts: dynamic, functional, situated and often forgetable; emphemeral text."

Class is doing an online journal and organizing it in a tag. What Mike realized that in making it a closed system, it wasn't really working, so he issued open call to journal and now outside contributors coming and project is looking like the WWW actually works.

Mike: talk about emergent behavior and how underlife transfers to WWW. Validity and Reliability in W2.0 context. TOPIC/ICON program. TTU goes in wrong direction, says, Mike because it further abstracts.

Dynamic criteria mapping process (via Bob Broad's What We Value, Beyond Rubrics).

Position statement/outcome statement on assessing blogs.

Statement will need to be dynamic and in flux, always in process in reaction to ongoing change.

PE: Life is long, and college is short. Mike says Peter referring to tendency of assignments to only serve classroom function, but that's a blip in terms of person's life and need to write beyond the class.

Mike: Never a big fan of standardization (thus rejection of TTU approach?).

Robbin up now: Time for a Makeover: Rethinking the Design and Delivery of Writing Assignment Directions by Applying UD for Learning Principles.

Robbin w/ North Virginia WProject.

DeWitt Clinton Steam engine image: shows train pulling stage coaches on train wheels. So you see old technology imprinted on old. Why did trains not adapt to new technologies -- cars, planes. Because they were in the train business, not the transportation business.

In writing, when we first put technology in classroom, first step is to do what DeWitt did (and what Mike just admitted); graphing print practices to teaching.

UD started with disabilities (wheel chair ramps were added to buildings after the fact). Shift was to design in accessibility in universally. Curb cuts made for wheel chairs originally be benefit everyone: moms w/ strollers, people pulling wheeled luggage, bikers.

Same principle of design matters for instructional design. Design assignments to be universally accessible from the get go.

Robbin describes how she learned universal design from working with a great editor. Tells of revising an article for professional magazine where the magazine didn't know what they wanted.

Colleagues did assignment and didn't know what they were looking for until got paper back and it wasn't it. Instructions didn't do it.

Need multiple representations, engagement, means of expression.

Give assignment in audio, print, online, downloadable.

Add images to directions: cog psych shows that people think in images often and words and pictures work best. Use images in instructions -- show layout you want for directions on where name and date and title of paper go --make it visual.

Examples are key. More examples you give, better it is.

Make assignment intuitive to use and understand:
* headers
* whitespace
* short passages
* use of concrete words and concrete descriptions
* graphics to accompany text.

Image to show what writing looks like to people w/ Dyslexia: Washout effect; River effect (words break where aren't meant to break), Swirl effect.

Ideas: Treat Instructions like writer's guidelines.
Provide multiple means of expression. Base assignment and course on what you want them to learn; the learning behind the task, not the task itself. Multiple ways to finished product. Not in the paper business, in the writing business.

Brain and Mind Research from UD:

Hearing words uses different parts of brain than reading words. Argument for audio assignment.

Multiple engagement:
Pop ups/mouseovers
Links to additional reading.

10 percent of read; 20 hear, 30 see, 50 see and hear; 70 say; 80 do.

work in class, work online, work with peers, comments.

Typical assignment:

compile an annotated bibliography on topic. Include 6 sources.

To make this prompt a full UDL assignment:

1. Move beyond prompt only instructions. One step was narrative, more words, more information, but won't work for dyslexic.

2. More design, assignments, overview, task more detailed, headers, white space, bullets, longer document w/ grade and assessment criteria. Additional resources via URL. Sheet of paper.

3. Did hypertext version of the same thing. Dates appear in calendar for visual learner via popups. Popup blockers doomed that. Mouseover, internal navigation.

We don't know our audience in highschool and their learning needs. Hard to differentiate instruction because we have no access to their records/learning history. Still, though on WWW, looked like sheet of paper. Through that out the window and used CSS. CSS removes design from text so text readers don't read code. Read text more cleanly.

Possible objections to this detailed assignment:

too much information could stifle creativity.
does work for students
takes too much time to write assignment
requires too much technical skill

Findings: People actually read instructions research says when they think they have something to say. When instructions look different, they pay attention. Delivery changes expectations?

Students read only to point where they think they know what you want and don't read all of it. Illusion of knowing. So if you change look, you break that illusion and they read more carefully.

Idea: Had students use insert comment feature on word to supply feedback on assignment.

* Writing process begins w/ instructions
* instruction become learning tool
* meet needs of all students in class.

benefits to instructors:
* better assignments
* is just good teaching -- clarity for students.

Two things I can use from UDL: honor past student work by making it a model; figure out what I think I want by putting down goals and criteria.

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