Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Trends in Teaching Writing Online: What Things May Come

Up Goes the Triangle, Slowly

At a Computers and Writing conference held in Ann Arbor some years back, I touched on some data Bedford/St. Martin's, as the company I work for was known by at the time, learned from faculty surveys. That's here: We saw a distinction among research universities and two year colleges in what technology was reported used, and we saw that overall, across the board, technologies that folks who attend computers and writing have known about and used for years were making just small in roads in most courses. 

And yet, the trend from 2006 to 2010, the two years spanning the surveys, was up, more technology was being used. We are seeing now, though I don't have the data, that trend continue, with multimodal composition being something programs and professors request support on (scroll down from this post to see an example). 

That said, trends come and move slowly. Wassily Kandinsky, describes in his monograph Concerning the Spiritual in Art, a triangle that moves up a slope, and at the tip, a lone innovator, and the base, folks doing what came before. But as the triangle moves up slowly, at some point the base will be where the innovator once was. I picture it something like this:

Nick's bad art. The red line is slope the triangle moves up. When the bottom line gets to where the top point is, that's when most of the field catches up to where innovators are now. Sometimes progress is so slow, you cannot tell it's a trend.

So What are Some Trends and Changes?

Multimodal composition was a featured topic at Computers and Writing in Pullman again this year, but hitting a kind of perfect storm moment in terms of resources available to support it's growth.

CWPA had a lot of discussion on foreign student enrollment growth and the kinds of support those students need and thus faculty need.
Big data has always been part of composition, at least in big programs and around SACS and QEP time, but technology is making the gathering of data easier for those with the tools such as e-portfolios or home-grown writing systems like EMMA at UGA, MyReviewer at USF, Raider Writer at TTU.

But eportfolio systesm are abloom, and increasingly merging presentation eportfolios designed for good looking portfolios but also tool on the back end for using rubrics, counting page views, and other metrics.
Chalk and Wire
Pebble Pad

The shift in data, however, is not just harvesting rubric scores, but looking for ways to gather engagement and learning analytics, records of student learning actions and choices. Programs exploring this include:

Eli, from MSU's Drawbridge and WIDE team
Writer Key
SWoRD from Panther Learning
MyCompLab Mastering from Pearson, which uses Knewton's adaptive learning engine
Acrobatiq from CMU
LearningCurve from Macmillan
Competency Based Learning Programs
Automated Writing Evaluation, though controversial, is a trend

What's interesting is how these things might converge in different ways. And what they mean going

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