DevLab’s Digital Pedagogy Workshop Series Begins Next Week on April 1

DevLab Workshop Flyer. Created by the AWESOME WCP Interns!
DevLab Workshop Flyer. Created by the AWESOME WCP Interns!

Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program’s Brittain Fellow-run DevLab has lined up four upcoming workshops for you on Podcasting, Social Media, Flipped Classrooms, and Interactive Fiction. Through these workshops, we wanted to share some of the things that we’ve been working on pedagogically and professionally with you. We invite you to join us for learning, sharing, and collaboration on these topics. We encourage all participants to bring their experiences, ideas, and questions to make each workshop more informative and useful for all. Information about each upcoming workshop is included below and on the attached flyer. If you have any questions, please contact me or the workshop leader(s). See you at the workshops!

Spring 2014 Digital Pedagogy Workshops
Have you ever wanted to create or teach podcasts? What about developing social media assignments? How about flipping your classroom when teaching close readings? Or maybe you want to create interactive fiction with your students? If so, you are invited to our informal digital pedagogy workshops in the Hall DevLab. Session leaders will share their experiences developing curricula and adopting teaching practices using a specific technology or approach.
All workshops held in Stephen C. Hall Bldg., Room 012, DevLab.
1. Podcasting and the DevLab Recording Studio, Tuesday April 1, 1pm-2pm

Alison Valk’s introductory workshop will be an introduction to podcasting. Participants will learn the basics of podcasting software (Audacity and Audition) and have an opportunity to see our Recording Studio and its technology.
2. Social Media Pedagogy and Assignments, Tuesday April 8, 3pm-4pm

Jason W. Ellis and Valerie Johnson’s workshop will discuss how they each integrate social media into their teaching practices and design assignments with its use in mind. They invite participants to bring ideas and approaches for using and teaching social media to this open discussion about theoretical and practical aspects of social media pedagogy.
3. Rethinking the Flipped Classroom: A Multimodal Approach to Learning, Thursday April 10, 3pm-4pm

Mirja Lobnik’s workshop will focus on ways to integrate online resources into our teaching. In particular, it will showcase a lecture video that demonstrates close reading and provides contextual information, present student responses, and invite a discussion of the benefits and challenges of the flipped classroom.
4. Programming Interactive Fiction: What You and Your Students Can Do with Inform 7, Tuesday April 15, 11am-12pm

Jonathan Kotchian’s workshop will offer a brief introduction to a “natural English” programming
language used to create interactive fiction and show participants how they and their students can create rhetorically focused games. No coding experience necessary.

My Poster for SAMLA 2013: The Brittain Fellowship’s DevLab: Space, Resources, Expertise, and Collaboration

My DevLab Poster.
My DevLab Poster.

This year, Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program and its Brittain Fellows had a strong presence at the annual South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

I presented a poster on the program’s R&D unit, DevLab. To compose the poster, I took a panoramic photo of DevLab’s main space (we also have an external recording booth). My students and fellow Brittain Fellows are pictured doing work and collaborating at various events over the past few months.

Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.
Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.

We also had posters on the Communication Center, our pedagogical research, and our scholarly research. Here’s a list of all posters from the official program:

10. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship,

Poster Series I

The Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology

a. Jason Ellis, DevLab: Research and Development Lab Facility

b. CommLab: Tutoring Center for Multimodal Communication

11. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series II

WOVEN: Multimodal Communication in the Classroom

a. Joy Bracewell

b. Jennifer Lux

c. Julia Munro

12. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series III

Intersections between Scholarship and Pedagogy

a. Aaron Kashtan

b. Jennifer Orth-Veillon

c. Aron Pease

13. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series IV

Changing Higher Education

a. Mirja Lobnik, World Englishes Committee

b. Multiple Presenters, Curriculum Innovation Committee

c. Arts Initiatives Committee

Besides participating in the poster session, I also took notes from N. Katherine Hayles’ plenary lecture on Friday afternoon. I will post my notes from that talk here soon.

Next year, I will propose a paper for SAMLA and hopefully present an updated version of the DevLab poster. See you there!

Brittain Fellows: Join the DevLab for 2013-2014 and Serve as Leaders in Digital Pedagogy

ThatCamp SE 2013 play session on eBooks and retrocomputing held in DevLab.
ThatCamp SE 2013 play session on eBooks and retrocomputing held in DevLab.

Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program’s Media and Communication Committee, also known as DevLab, is an important advisory and participatory committee focused on innovating digital pedagogy and supporting the digital pedagogy of Brittain Fellows, other WCP Committees, and the program in general.

For 2013-2014, I invite all Brittain Fellows to join the DevLab. As a member of the DevLab Committee, you will have opportunities to:

  • serve as programmatic leaders in recommending new digital pedagogy for the curriculum and classroom
  • explore, develop, and implement innovative approaches to digital pedagogy
  • support the digital pedagogy needs of Brittain Fellows
  • work with other committees in ways that support digital pedagogy
  • coordinate digital pedagogy training and recommend other training resources
  • maintain and promote the resources available in the DevLab, including the DevLab space in the Stephen C. Hall Building, collaborative workbench, our Mac and PC computer cluster, printers, tablets, cameras, recording equipment, X-Box System, and more)
  • use and help others use the DevLab in creative ways

All Brittain Fellows are encouraged to join the DevLab. Tech savvy and less-than-tech-savvy Britts are equally invited to join. In fact, the DevLab is a terrific opportunity to learn more about digital pedagogy and to share what you learn with others.

It is my goal as the chair of DevLab to provide all members with interesting and useful professional experiences. Together, we will define our goals and deliverables for the upcoming year.

The WCP will send around a Google Form soon about joining programmatic committees. Consider adding DevLab as one of your choices.

Feel free to contact me at jason.ellis at to let me know that you would like to join or to ask a question. Even for those Britts who decide not to join DevLab, I would like to encourage you to email me with your digital pedagogy ideas and your requests for training or equipment.

Georgia Tech’s Celebrating Teaching Day 2013

My poster and I.
My poster and I.

This morning, Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning (CETL) hosted the annual Celebrating Teaching Day.

We began with a poster session that showcased pedagogies and assignments from across campus.

A number of Brittain Fellows had their posters on display and we were there in force to talk about our teaching of communication as rhetorical and multimodal (WOVEN = written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal). I presented my poster on, “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience” [you may view it here–with thanks to my student Jinming Hu for giving me permission to share his work from class].

Fellow Britts: Olga Menagarishvili, Mollie Barnes, Emily Kane, and Iuliu Ratiu
Fellow Britts: Olga Menagarishvili, Mollie Barnes, Emily Kane, and Iuliu Ratiu

We were able to share teaching ideas and techniques with others from the Georgia Tech community.

Emily Kane explaining her assignments.
Emily Kane explaining her assignments.

The poster session was very well attended by people from across campus. The posters demonstrated the innovative teaching taking place at Georgia Tech.

Lots of visitors and lots of posters at Celebrating Teaching Day, 2013.
Lots of visitors and lots of posters at Celebrating Teaching Day, 2013.

After the poster session, we were treated to lunch, an awards ceremony, remarks by President Bud Petersen, and finally, a presentation by Dr. Derek Bruff of Vanderbilt University on “Social Pedagogies.”

Derek Bruff's Social Pedagogies Presentation.
Derek Bruff’s Social Pedagogies Presentation.

Notes from Dean Jacqueline Jones Royster’s “Difficult Dialogues” Workshop, an Exploration of Using Difficult Texts in Our Classes

Two weeks ago, the Georgia Tech Brittain Fellows‘ Digital Pedagogy Seminar featured a special guest: Ivan Allen College Dean Jacqueline Jones Royster. She led an incredibly informative and powerful workshop on “Difficult Dialogues.” Dean Royster facilitated discussions between the seminar as a whole and smaller breakout groups on the challenge, techniques, and potential of guiding our students through difficult dialogues on difficult texts. I have included some of my notes from the session below to share the pedagogical questions and responses that were discussed during the workshop. While this is only a sketch of our own difficult dialogues, I hope that it might be useful in your own thinking and pedagogical use of difficult texts.

  1. Why use difficult texts?
    1. Challenge and reflection develops minds.
    2. Confront students’ preconceptions and assumptions.
    3. Develop students’ critical thinking abilities.
    4. Guiding students to an understanding that their worldview/point of view is but one of many others.
  2. What is the challenge of using difficult texts?
    1. Students might rely on their preconceptions and assumptions.
    2. We develop students’ collegiality.
    3. Mutual discomfort for teachers and students.
    4. Fear of shutting down conversation.
    5. Questioning of teacher’s authority to teach a given text.
    6. Vulnerability for students and the teacher.
  3. Can we make any text difficult?
    1. Of course!
    2. Multiple approaches to any text.
    3. We bring a particular approach to direct class discussion.
    4. Lived experiences.
    5. Lots of potential to not know, and what you don’t know matters.
  4. What difficulties exist for participants and facilitators?
    1. Not thinking about how different students are.
    2. Ignoring signs of engagement and disengagement.
    3. Failing to monitor cognitive and affective states.
    4. Being impatient–going too fast.
    5. Being unclear.
    6. Insecurities of teacher and students.
    7. Structuring processes: do not remain on the surface–go deeper.
    8. Enable multiple standpoints.
    9. Keep the dialog going with rhetorical questions for/by the text.
    10. Finding content appropriate/connected to learning goals.
    11. Teach to the head and the heart.
    12. Setting up the class as mutually respectful and safe to discuss.
    13. Treat all questions seriously. Do not allow flippancy to enter the room.
    14. This is a grand adventure. There are plenty of ways to screw things up.
  5. Some shared strategies for building dialog and guiding students under the surface.
    1. Richard Utz suggests having students not speak as themselves for the hour. The challenge is to speak using a different persona, lowering barriers to dialog, and thinking through things from a different perspective.
    2. Karen Head suggests having all students write a “coming out” narrative. This autobiographical approach follows her ENGL1101 class’ emphasis on autobiography. Having students come out about a secret or a core part of their identity that they hide from certain friends/family (e.g., coming out as an uber-geek, or coming out as an atheist). Students begin to think about other people’s thinking of themselves. It can lead to reconfiguring the way students talk about others.
    3. Dean Royster suggests admitting insecurity about talking about a particular topic: “Who is uncomfortable talking about race?” She also tells us that she brings newsprint and crayons to a class and she invites the students to draw a place to begin their conversation. It doesn’t have to be an authentic place, but it can serve to orient students in a more comfortable way to what they need to talk about and consider.
  6. On reading aloud Nikki Giovanni’s“The True Import Of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro (For Peppe, Who Will Ultimately Judge Our Efforts),”we discussed how it made us feel and how we might engage students with it.
    1. Some poems are meant to be read. Some poems are meant to be spoken. Some poems cannot be heard unless they are spoken.
    2. You cannot avoid the rage.
    3. What was the occasion? What was it meant to do? What does it continue to do? Why do we still feel so hot just by seeing/hearing/speaking that word?
    4. External conversation.
    5. What would you have to do? History, context, writer’s relationship to community.
    6. Who would be the ‘Nikki Giovanni’ today? Contextualize the poem and its author for today and our students’ lived experiences.
  7. Acknowledge that you want to use something for some purpose. You have to carefully guide/facilitate discussions so that they do not get out of hand.
    1. How can we help students see that there are other boundaries beyond their own? Achieve that shift in perspective.
    2. How do you read the room to decide where to take something?
    3. It is better to do more with small things. Be thorough.
    4. How would you shift the emotion around a text like Giovanni’s poem?
    5. Sometimes we do not have all of the answers. Out students can help us think through these questions.
  8. Leading students to “sideways thinking.”
    1. Dean Royster described this as “thinking as if through a kaleidoscope.”
    2. Deploy “enhanced inquiry model.” This is all of the forms of analysis telescoped from micro to macro/inside to outside that links to an “ethics of hope and care” and “responsible use of knowledge.”
    3. As Toni Morrison teaches us in Playing in the Dark (xiii), we and our students have to go “deep.” Going deep is not meant to make our students uncomfortable. We understand that there are rewards on the other side of understanding. We have to help them get to the other side and seize the reward of deeper understanding.
    4. Go deep, under the text, between the words, in the margins, not just what is in the story but what is really going on (again, thinking of Toni Morrison).
  9. Finally, we next discussed Derrick Bell’s science fiction story, “The Space Traders.”Dean Royster asked us to break into groups to discuss the story and think of ways we might engage students with the story. Patrick McHenry and I came up with some of the following ideas, and others were contributed by the ensuing workshop discussion.
    1. Issues of capitalism and democracy. Privatization of public services. The aliens pair with corporations and the social/governmental collective is the planet Earth being invaded by the aliens.
    2. Issues of calculation and quantitative analysis. Who is black? Who is any race? What constitutes a race? “Blood laws.” Push rationality/science too far and it becomes irrational.
    3. C.f., Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”
    4. Teaching American history. Genres and satire. Pseudo-rational. C.f., Jonathan Swift. The satire acts as a mirror on society.
    5. The cold tone of the story. C.f., Nazi memos, slavery auctions.
    6. C.f., Octavia Butler. Language, biographically. Who is Derrick Bell and why did he write this when he did? Begin with slave narratives and follow history/culture to Bell.
  10. This was an incredibly useful workshop, and it was a real treat to have Dean Royster lead this workshop in excess of the 2 hr 15 min we normally meet on Wednesdays!

Prepping MacBook for Digital Pedagogy Seminar

I’m prepping my MacBook for this evening’s Brittain Fellow Digital Pedagogy seminar. As you can see above, we are going to be running simultaneous backchannels–one on Twitter and one on Besides looking at how these technologies work, we will do other things with the words that we write with Wordle and Storify. Details of the meeting including readings and technologies are available on TechStyle here. I will see my fellow Britts in Skiles 302 shortly.


Co-Hosting Digital Pedagogy Seminar on 9/12 about New Media

There are some exciting things going on in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. On 9/12/2012, Peter A. Fontaine, James R. Gregory, Patrick McHenry, and I will be hosting a seminar for the Brittain Fellows on using new media in the classroom. While discussing the theory and praxis behind new and social media in the composition classroom, we will specifically focus on technologies by Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, TodaysMeet, Storify, and Wordle. Learn more about what we will cover by visiting TechStyle here.