Site Update: Course Syllabi and Assignments Added Under Teaching Section

Over the weekend, I added new pages under the Teaching menu option for the courses that I have taught, am teaching, and will teach. Each course page includes descriptions, syllabi, and assignments arranged chronologically by school:

If any of these materials might be useful to your course and assignment design, please feel free to adopt or modify as needed.

While assembling these pages, I discovered that some assignments and supporting materials were missing. Of course, it is best pedagogical practice to reflect and archive these kinds of materials for reference, improvement, and growth.

Brittain Fellowship Year Two, Fall 2013: ENGL1101 (English Composition I) and LMC3403 (Technical Communication)

A year has passed since I began my three year tenure as a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

During my first year, I taught six sections of ENGL1101 (English Composition I), which gave me a unique and welcomed opportunity to refine and revise my approach to composition. I made changes to class readings, organization, assignments, and projects. During the process, I invited students to reflect on and comment on their work. This demonstrated their mastery of the outcomes, concepts, and processes of the class. This information, combined with student opinion surveys at the end of each semester, guided my thinking on my class revisions.

Over the summer, I had a very special chance to teach an upper division LMC class: LMC3214, Science Fiction. When I was a student at Tech, I originally tried to take this class from the legendary Professor Bud Foote, who went on to found Georgia Tech’s Science Fiction Collection in the Library. Unfortunately, his popularity combined with my minimal accrued hours, I was unable to take his class. However, in the summer of 2002, I took Science Fiction from Professor Lisa Yaszek, who inspired me to become a teacher and researcher.

My experience teaching Science Fiction at Tech was the realization of a dream long held–to teach a subject specifically in my field and training. As I blogged in earlier posts, I enthusiastically led my students to discovery of the historical and cultural relevance of Science Fiction through a panoply of layered, multimodal approaches to learning–ranging from lecture, active learning, team-based discussions, research projects, and a final haptic building project involving Lego bricks.  From my students’ feedback, I believe that I provided them with rich learning outcomes and fueled their interest in the genre, and it brought me great joy to teach SF and to give back to my alma mater.

Now, in Fall 2013, I have a slightly different schedule than what is typically given to Brittain Fellows. For the most part, Brittain Fellows are given one prep per semester on a 3-3 load. However, several of us who have shown an interest in teaching Technical Communication (e.g., I took part in the Fall 2012 Tech Comm weekly seminar–something required for those teaching Tech Comm for the first time at Tech but voluntary for everyone else) were given a choice to have two preps–one for Tech Comm and two for ENGL1101. I opted to do this, because I wanted to expand my teaching skill set with a topic that I was already very aware of and thought about from my experiences at Tech as an undergraduate and my experiences in the workplace at IT companies.

In order to try out new approaches to ENGL1101 and LMC3403, I redesigned my ENGL1101 syllabus [Fall 2013 ENGL1101 Syllabus] while building my new LMC3403 syllabus [Fall 2013 LMC3403 Syllabus] so that the first unit of both courses would overlap in readings and a similar assignment. This year’s First Year Reading Experience book is Donald A. Norman’s Living with Complexity. I used this as the framework for this shared unit across the two courses. My freshmen would already have this book–something given to them by Tech over the summer, but my LMC3403 upper classmen would have to purchase the book. I thought that it was well worth the investment for them, because I choose to adapt Norman’s idea of managing complexity as a way of thinking about what Technical Communication is: managing complexity through communication. In both courses, students were asked, following a week long discussion of the book, to propose a plan to manage some kind of complexity that they identified around Tech or related to Tech (it could extend to applying to school, the Atlanta area, etc. as long as Tech provided an anchor for their proposal). My ENGL1101 students were asked to propose their plan for management in a 2 page essay that could include photos or illustrations of their making. My LMC3403 students were asked to write a more detailed proposal memorandum that thought through all aspects of the proposal from identifying the problem to a plan for action to costs. I plan to write a pedagogical paper about the types of thinking and composition that my ENGL1101 and LMC3403 students created, but it suffices to say here that the students in the two classes approached the task with enthusiasm and produced sharp proposals.

I want to thank Rebecca Burnett, Andy Frazee, James Gregory, and Emily Kane for their advice and suggestions while I was building my LMC3403 syllabus and assignments.

Here’s to year two!

My Georgia Tech ENGL1101 Syllabus Version 1.1, “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience”

engl1101-syllabusI am currently teaching three sections of ENGL1101 at Georgia Tech. The class’ theme, “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience,” remains the same as my earlier syllabus that I taught in Fall 2012 [available here]. However, I have made some fundamental changes to the reading list (two books instead of only one: John Medina’s Brain Rules and Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal), reading schedule (began with WOVENtext, then three fundamental essays/excerpts from O’Shea’s The Brain, Gary Marcus’ Kludge, and Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind), and major projects (still three major projects, but now the first project incorporates Storify and ComicLife and the third project is an individual Pecha Kucha presentation instead of a group presentation–students will continue group work on the second project’s video). In the readings, I am encouraging more discussion about WOVEN and rhetoric in addition to discussion about the content and its application to composition. I have also integrated Twitter into the class’ daily rhythm and added daily reading presentations as a core component of the class. I have given the new syllabus a version 1.1 designation. Find out more by reading the new syllabus here.

I should also note that I had planned on teaching ENGL1102 in Spring 2013, but the school asked for a volunteer to teaching ENGL1101 again. This seemed like a terrific opportunity to put some of my ideas from reflection into practice right away. I do plan to teach ENGL1102 in the future, and I will be ready with this syllabus (unless, of course, I find the time to develop another syllabus, which is something that I would like to do by continuing the “Writing the Brain” theme into the second tier class with neuronovels and neuronarratives).

My ENGL 1101 Syllabus for “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience”

My English composition students at Georgia Tech are now well into their second major project, so I figured that I should get in gear and post my syllabus for my newly designed, WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) focused ENGL 1101 syllabus. The title of my class is “Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience.” Unlike the previous iteration of this class at Kent State called “The Brain and Writing,” I overhauled the whole class to only use nonfictional readings and more strongly emphasize multimodality in assignments and discussion. So far, I am very pleased with the results as demonstrated by the great work and commitment of my students. If you would like to read my syllabus, you can download it as a PDF here: ellis-jason-fall2012-1101-syllabus.

Other Dreams, Other Worlds, Other Syllabi

After I posted my dream about teaching on another planet a few days ago, Mack Hassler emailed me a recent article that he wrote about the history of world building in science fiction. This made me realize that creating syllabi for new courses, as I had been doing for a job application, was a form of world building. As a teacher, you imagine what is the best environment and situations to accomplish the goals of a given course. As a classroom world builder, you consider what texts, order, and assignments will help you achieve those goals. I wrote this back to Mack in response to his essay:

Thanks for emailing me your piece on world building! It was an
enjoyable read, and a good reminder of some of the heavy work in
science fiction–building worlds. I finished writing two syllabi for
the GT application just before dinner time. Not exactly
worlds, but smaller worlds–perhaps on the scale of Kubrick’s/Clarke’s
Discovery or Lucas’ Death Star. One is in Biomedicine and Culture and
the other is Science, Technology, and Postmodernism. . . . It was fun
constructing those worlds with my selections of flora and fauna.
However, I do not know what kind of people will join me on those
worlds–I hope that it will not turn out like Dick’s A Maze of Death.
I will mail all of this out on Monday and we will see how it goes.
Now, it is time to return to my Kent State writing worlds and do some
grading, after which it will be time to dissertate, if I can find
Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

I am writing this blog post from my office at Kent State, which is anything but a Fortress of Solitude. Cutting at the chaos outside with a slammed door has at least helped me get some layout work and this post done.

I will post my sample syllabi soon in a subsequent post.

Kent State College Writing II, Fall 2010, Humans, Technology, and Cyborgs

I just finished my syllabi for two sections of College Writing II at Kent State in Fall 2010 with the theme: Humans, Technology, and Cyborgs, and I have attached them here (section 002) and here (section 007). The classes are identical, but the meeting places and times have been changed in each syllabus.

This semester, I have designed the course around the image of the cyborg in fiction and our everyday lives. We will read C. L. Moore’s “No Woman Born” and James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” to get things started. Then, we will segue into William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Grant Morrison’s We3, and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, “The Best of Both Worlds” part 1 and 2. This will be a lightly theoretical class for sophomores, but it will have a heavy independent research component for the second half of the semester. I still have to finalize the three major essay assignments, but I have penciled in the topics on the tentative schedule on the syllabus.

One important change about these classes as compared to my previous classes at Kent State is that I have decided against using classroom computers for all assignments. I found in my last two semesters that students weren’t revising as much, and they weren’t generally writing their assignments to meet the minimum word count (a tedious task at times with Blackboard). Writing in long hand in class and revising that on a computer later will encourage revision practices, and having a printout of a student’s work will quickly let me see if word counts are reached. Using paper will also eliminate problems with students’ digital files (corruption, fonts, version incompatibilities, etc.). Perhaps Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office is right and paper is still very important.

I am excited to get things started in a few weeks, and I am glad that I have the latitude at Kent State to devise a class theme on my own. I enjoy working with these texts, and I believe that I will demonstrate that in the classes. Also, it will be useful to think of these texts in relation to my dissertation, which I will be working on concurrently with these classes.

Kent State University, Fall 2009 Begins

Tomorrow officially kicks off the Fall 2009 semester at Kent State University. My syllabi are ready for my two sections of composition, and I created Vista8 course pages for both classes so that I can go completely paperless this semester. Another added benefit of the paperless classroom is the virtualized classroom–maintaining an online presence may be advantageous if Swine Flu creates havoc on our petri dish campus.

If you would like to see my syllabus, you may download a pdf of it here: ellis-jason-11011-050-syllabus. This is my third semester of using the space exploration theme, but I have once again shifted and changed things to better accommodate my students’ needs as well as my own. I will post in the future on this iteration of my syllabus.

College Writing and Space Exploration Theme

As many of you know, this is my first year teaching college writing at Kent State University, and it’s already been an enlightening experience.  I chose space exploration as the course theme (after a suggestion by Brian Huot and protracted consideration on my part and a mad scramble for resources before classes began), because I can use this theme to bridge science fiction with the real world.  

I’ve already had my students write about Walt Disney’s short film, “Mars and Beyond.”  Soon, they will read Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and then move on to Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.  Through their viewings and readings, I’m having them write extensively to develop their writing skills.  Also, I’ve taken steps to connect their career goals and hobbies with the rewards of space exploration through personal email exchanges, which I hope to incorporate into later assignments.  I’d say, so far, so good, and much thanks to everyone who offered me teaching advice and assistance!

If you’re interested, you may read my course syllabus here, and my first assignment handout to accompany the Disney film here.