Spring 2014 Classes and First Assignments: ENGL1101 and LCC3403 at Georgia Tech

This semester, I am teaching three classes at Georgia Tech: two sections of ENGL1101/English Composition I and one section of LCC3403/Technical Communication.

My ENGL1101 class focuses on learning about rhetoric and multimodality with the neurosciences and evolutionary psychology. My LCC3403 class focuses on a hands-on and collaborative approach to user-centric research, design, testing, and revision.

In both classes, I have revamped my syllabi to try new things such as new parameters for the first major project in ENGL1101 (Twitter, Storify, Poster, and Essay) and a more guided approach to the first major project in LCC3403 (designing a Lego model, creating instructions, testing instructions, and revising instructions). I made changes in both classes based on my observations and reflections and my students’ course survey (CIOS) comments.

You can see my Spring 2014, ENGL1101 Syllabus and first major project assignment (Writing the Brain for Success with Twitter, Storify, Poster, and Essay) here: ellis-jason-2014spring-engl1101-syllabus and ellis-jason-engl1101-01-assignment.

And, you can see my Spring 2014, LCC3403 Syllabus and first major project assignment (Lego, Haptics, and User-Centric Design) here: ellis-jason-2014spring-LMC3403-syllabus and ellis-jason-lmc3403-unit1-assignment.

It’s the second week of classes and now things are in full swing. I am looking forward to seeing what my students create, do, and learn. If you see me carrying around Yorick to/from ENGL1101 or boxes of Lego to/from LCC3403, ask me how it’s going!

Mirja Lobnik’s and My Workshop at the Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Symposium: Multimodality and Perception: A Multi-Sensory Approach to Teaching Rhetorical Skills

Perception and cognition.

This morning, Mirja Lobnik and I will be co-hosting a workshop on “Multimodality and Perception: A Multi-Sensory Approach to Teaching Rhetorical Skills” at the Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Symposium co-hosted by Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program and Bedford St. Martin’s. Our workshop is about multisensory perception, multimodal composition, and cognition:

Associated with the use of various media to create cohesive rhetorical artifacts and the neurology of the ways humans process information through different sensory channels, multimodality has gained considerable ground in the composition classroom. Insofar as multimodal pedagogies emphasize the role of students as active, resourceful, and creative meaning-makers, it tends to enhance student engagement and, by extension, the teaching of composition and rhetorical skills. Focusing on sensory details of embodied, lived experience, this workshop centers on teaching that engages students both in mind and body. This approach not only promotes the students’ creation of multimodal artifacts but also encourages students to explore and critically reflect on personal experiences. Specifically, Lobnik focuses on aural composing modalities, including speech, music, and sound, and assignments that highlight sound as a rhetorical and creative resource: a transcription, audio essay, and a video. Ellis discusses cognition, metacognition, and curation and an assignment that integrates Twitter, Storify, ComicLife, and the written essay.

If you get to attend our workshop or the symposium’s other great sessions, please tweet using the hashtag: #AMsymposium.

2001 A Space Odyssey and College Writing

One choice that I wanted to adhere to in designing my first college writing course was that I would have my students read some Science Fiction.  Since I settled on the space exploration theme for the class, I thought that Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey was the path of least resistance to bringing SF into the writing classroom, particularly when the majority of them had never read SF (a suspicion confirmed by talking with my students).

I assigned the novel as part of the second unit of the course, in which my students will write their second formal essay.  Over the course of two weeks, I have my students read one (during the week) or two parts (over a weekend), and we come together to talk it over in class.  In addition to the text, I bring a lot of materials to class such as documentary videos and still images from the Kubrick’s film and astronomy observations.  Also, I bring my science background to class, because my students have had many poignant and spot-on questions about the science that takes place in the novel.  The integration of science, which they should have had some exposure to in high school, into the writing curriculum allows for another level of instruction in addition to the tremendous, yet not impossible, amount of writing that I require of my students.  Also, their curiosity about how and why things work the way that they do is leading them down the path to developing better critical thinking skills.

I can report that there have been good days and bad days in regard to our discussions on the novel.  A large part of that is my own lack of experience in leading discussion, using wait time, and encouraging my students to think about things before class through tailored assignments.  I spend a lot of time, a whole hell of a lot of time, planning my classes.  My student’s weekly two page journals have been an invaluable resource for altering course when one thing works better than another, because I can get their reflective feedback on things that we do, in addition to my own observations of class and my performance.

As much as I’ve enjoyed using 2001:  A Space Odyssey thus far in class, I’ve now come up against a wall regarding their next writing assignment.  I have a couple of ideas, but I will have to narrow these down tomorrow and put together a handout to give out on Friday after we finish talking about Bowman’s exit and return through the Star Gate.

This returns us to planning.  I’m still grappling with finding the appropriate time to devote to class planning and responding to my students’ work.  I can confidently say at this point in my burgeoning professional career as a teacher and researcher that I cannot meet my students on the page with the same intensity and time as someone such as Carmen Kynard, who writes about her work and experiences as an instructor in her article, “‘Y’all Are Killin’ Me up in Here’:  Response Theory from a Newjack Composition Instructor/SistahGurl Meeting Her Students on the Page.”  I wish that I could, but there isn’t enough time in the day (and I’m only teaching one course–Kynard writes about having 140 students!).  I spent approximately 10 hours evaluating my students’ first essay, and I regularly spend at least an hour and a half to two hours prepping for each class.  I realize that this is my first time teaching, so I’m building up an archive of materials and methods of teaching that I will be able to remix and re-purpose in future classes, but at this point, it all seems rather overwhelming to me.  I want to give my students my all, because I expect no less from them.  On the other hand, teaching is only one aspect of my PhD career at this point, and I have to engage the courses that I’m taking and produce my own work for those courses (and conferences–I still have to rewrite my Transsexual Technologies paper for SLSA 2008).

So, that’s my report thus far from a lone spaceman in tiny pod floating in space and feeling many millions of miles from home.  Luckily, my shipboard computer didn’t try to kill me, but the stresses of second year PhD life are taking its toll.