Scale what?

I was recently participating in a webinar about a MOOC-style first-year writing course, and a few words kept confusing me. Content. Delivery. Scale. . . .  If you’re a teacher and have thought about these terms, here’s my humble attempt to think through the confusion.

What is the “content” of a writing course? Whatever text its instructor assigns students, right? How about the basic knowledge of terms and concepts, skills and conventions that students need to acquire? Citation guidelines, punctuation rules, rhetorical terms, knowledge about genres and conventions of writing, strategies for analyzing texts or engaging sources. I spend about ten percent of my class time teaching them. And I have often created videos, encouraging students to watch them, so we can use class time for more discussion and practice. But students didn’t like it. I hated using the “content” from one year to the next; I want to cover new issues, approach them differently, and so on. I would rather find the ten percent class time and integrate content within interaction and practice more seamlessly. read full post…

Reverse Hacking Education

Disruption, reinvention, and even hacking have become very common themes in the discourse of higher education lately. As I sit down to write this post on the theme of hacking (for the fourth week of #clmooc, a connected learning community/course), I am thinking about how buzzwords tend to carry truckloads of irony and how often those who jump on the bandwagons of buzzwords with the most excitement don’t realize (or care about) the complexity of their words’ meanings, origins, uses, and effects. As a teacher, I am fascinated by the educational potential of irony and paradox in buzzwords, grand narratives, and over-sized belief systems. So, I often ask students to unpack the irony/paradox of overly popular words and their collocations. The intersection of the word “hack” and “education” seems so rich that I want to write an essay on it myself.

Assignment X: “Pick a word or phrase that has become unusually popular in the field of education (or another broad subject/context of your interest), study its meanings, origins, uses, etc, and write an essay in between 1000 and 2000 words.” read full post…

Message in a Floating Bottle

. . . A Writing Teacher’s Considerations about Cross-Border Education

I found a plastic bottle floating on the Atlantic at the south shore of Long Island some time ago. It was a warm summer day, and I was playing with my five and three year old children on the beach. As soon as I noticed a piece of paper inside the bottle, my curiosity was piqued and I took it out and read the message. It said: “Come here around this time tomorrow and we’ll talk about our plan further.”

The first thing that came to my mind was: “Gosh, is this message somehow intended for me?” I wondered who the sender of the message may be. Come? That is called an indexical in linguistics: it needs to have a point of reference, that of the speaker’s location, to which the other person is being asked to move. I would need to know who the addresser and addressee are. read full post…