Workshop on Communication, LEGO, and Serious Play. Led by Patrick Corbett and Me: Wed, Apr 5, 12-1pm

scholars-exchange-legoIf you’re around City Tech tomorrow and would like to learn how Patrick Corbett and I are building students’ communication skills with LEGO and Serious Play activities, stop by the Faculty Commons in N-227, Wed, Apr 5, 12-1:00PM. We’re only talking for about 5 minutes. The rest of the time will be hands-on activities with the same LEGO kits that we use with our students, but the workshop will be fine tuned for the faculty participants. We welcome participants’ feedback, questions, and ideas.

More information about the workshop is included below:

What Is Serious Play? How Does It Work? Who Learns What?

Our research introduces City Tech students to “serious play” as a way to think about how they communicate in a variety of situations. In our serious play workshops, small groups of students complete structured LEGO-based challenges that require them to design, and then share, their solutions with each other. Each challenge builds on some aspect of their identities as communicators as a way to productively highlight and discuss differences in communications needs and styles of individuals in group contexts.

What Can You Expect If You Show Up?

An interactive and fun Scholars Exchange event! Following a brief introduction outlining our approach to learning, research methodology, and workshop design, we are going to demonstrate several of the modules from our student workshops. Come prepared to play with LEGO bricks, discuss what you create, and share your ideas with each other (and us)!

Social Media Workshop on Professionalization and Pedagogy, May 12, 2015, 3:00-4:00PM

Twitter_logo_blueToday, I’m leading a workshop on social media as a tool for professionalization and as a tool for pedagogy. I am including some of the details from the workshop flyer below. You can download the flyer here: ellis-jason-socialmedia-workshop and my workshop notes here: ellis-jason-social-media-workshop.

Social Media Workshop on Professionalization and Pedagogy

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Namm 321 Conference Room

Organizer: Jason W. Ellis | Email: jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu | Twitter: @dynamicsubspace

Social media is an increasingly important communication tool for our students and us. We are integrating it into our daily practices, and it, like any new communication medium, is changing the way we think and connect with others.

As scholars, we can leverage social media to promote our research, share ideas with colleagues, and collaborate on projects and network building. As educators, we can guide and mentor our students in responsible and meaningful ways of using social media.

In this workshop, we will discuss several popular social media platforms that we can use in our professionalization and pedagogy, and develop rhetorically grounded strategies for using social media as scholars and educators.

Some of the professional strategies discussed will include: sharing and promoting our work, and establishing and maintaining professional networks. Some of the pedagogical areas addressed will include: composition, and professional and technical writing.

Please bring your questions, ideas, and experiences, or if you can’t make it, let’s continue the discussion online!

Discussion topics and other resources are listed on the reverse side.

Some Topics for Discussion:

  • Rhetoric and Multimodality (WOVEN: written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal)
  • Audience(s)
  • Network Building (breadth versus depth)
  • Risk Assessment
  • Online Identity, Metadata, and Commodification of the Self
  • Managing an Emergent Online Identity
  • Social Media Assignments for Composition and Technical Communication
  • Personal versus Professional Spheres, or Is There a Division?
  • Assignment Ideas
  • Reflection Exercises

Some Social Media Platforms Discussed:

Resources Discussed:

Recovered Writing, Brittain Fellowship, CETL Brown Bag, Writing the Brain: Using Twitter and Storify, Oct. 2, 2013

Slides from "Writing the Brain" PowerPoint.
Slides from “Writing the Brain” PowerPoint.

This is the sixty-second post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In this Recovered Writing post, I am including two PDF files that I used in my presentation on “Writing the Brain: Using Twitter and Storify” for the 2 October 2013 CETL Brown Bag Workshop. The first is my PowerPoint presentation file and the second is my handwritten presentation notes. Normally, I type up a carefully written script for my presentations, but in this case, I wrote my speaking notes out by hand. While I was driven my a tight deadline imposed by several other responsibilities converging at the same time, I saw this as an opportunity to experiment with a way of presenting that I normally don’t do and I wasn’t completely comfortable doing. As I tell my students, we grow by challenging ourselves, doing new things, and experimenting with new approaches. This was one such attempt on my part.

Support Files for My Module of DevLab Social Media Pedagogy and Assignments Workshop

Twitter_logo_blueAs part of DevLab’s 2014 Workshop Series at Georgia Tech, Valerie Johnson and I will be leading a discussion today about the use of social media strategically as a part of our pedagogy and tactically in our assignments. We encourage Britts to share their approaches to social media use during the workshop, raise questions about the use of social media pedagogically, and brainstorm new approaches for social media use in the classroom (repurposing, developing literacy, collaboration, asynchronous discussion, participation options, etc.). I am including my workshop notes and files below.


  • I use Twitter in the classroom for collecting thoughts before discussion, reflecting on reading before writing formal summaries, encouraging discussion/backchannel between students, and demonstrating ways of turning social media to our own purposes (collecting individual thoughts/dataset, professional discussion, and transforming/translating compositions from one media form to another).
  • Discuss WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) potential for social media platforms including Twitter.
  • William Gibson, “the street finds its own uses for things,” from “Burning Chrome” in Omni, July 1982.
    • Repurpose social media for our needs, purposes, and use.
    • Use social media to collect data, build a data set, and cite data in future self-focused research projects.
  • Develop digital literacy–understand how the technology works, use the technology in different ways, see models of different uses of the technology, and critique how others use the technology.
  • Audience awareness–public facing, multiple audiences, and unintended audiences.
  • Ephemerality and permanence.
  • Examine how the medium effects/shapes/is the message. Mention Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media and “the medium is the message.”
    • Transform compositions from one medium to another, share these transformations with peers to observe reception, and discuss how the message might change, lead to misunderstandings, or be more effective (e.g., Twitter > Storify > poster > essay).
    • Explore how we can use rhetoric to maximize each medium’s possibilities to persuasively communicate our message to audiences.
  • Bridging discussion across sections of the same course–especially for students on-campus and off-campus (Summer Online Undergraduate Program–see LMC3214 syllabus below).


Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Tweet Round Up on Storify and a Picture of Me and My Pedagogy Poster

My Pedagogy Poster on "Writing the Brain" at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.
My Pedagogy Poster on “Writing the Brain” at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.

Today, the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program and Bedford St. Martins hosted a symposium on Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn. I co-presented a workshop with Mirja Lobnik on Multimodality and Perception and I presented a poster during one of the day’s sessions. Many of us were tweeting our experiences at the symposium today, too. Click through the Storify embed below to virtually experience the symposium 140 characters at a time.

[View the story “Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Symposium” on Storify]

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!

Archive of Kent State University Digital Composition Workshops, Fall 2011

This is an archival blog post of a previously posted page on I am glad to have had the experience of teaching graduate students and faculty about using technology in the composition classroom, because these instructional/reflective workshops inform the teaching that I am now doing as a Brittain Fellow at Georgia Tech. The original page is included below.

For Fall 2011, I am the Office of Digital Composition Coordinator at Kent State University, Department of English. As part of this assignment, I provide assistance to instructors and faculty in the use of digital technology in their writing classes and I facilitate workshops on specific digital writing technologies.

During fall semester, I offered workshops on the following three topics:

  • Using the Vista8 Blackboard Content Management System [pre-semester workshop, notes]
  • Blogging in the Classroom and Profession [see poster above, notes]
  • Multimodal Assignments and Assessment [see poster above, notes]

I am developing two more workshops that will be led by Professor Derek Van Ittersum during spring semester while I am completing my dissertation on a Pringle Fellowship:

  • Social Media and the Writing Class [read on Google Docs here]
  • Writing Collaboration Using Online Writing Tools [read on Google Docs here]

Stochastic Update, Reinstall Complete, Workshops

My Late-2008, Aluminum MacBook is back up and running with Lion, Aperture, and Office. After installation, everything is updated and running nicely. It’s too bad that Apple dropped support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. I had considered getting back to basics for this particular Mac model, but had I done so, I would not be able to receive any security update or run the most up-to-date Safari web browser.

While restoring files, I have taken some time to trim the fat so that I have a leaner, meaner installation.

Not much else to report besides dissertation writing.

Oh, I do have some new workshops designed for the spring semester digital composition workshops. I will post those soon here so that you can have a sneak peak.

That is all . . .

Fellow Kent State English Department Bloggers

This semester, I led two workshops on Blogging in the Classroom and Blogging in the Profession.

Two of the workshop attendees, who also happen to be my friends at Kent State, forwarded me their blogs to share here:

Courtney Werner’s Land of Nod and Twitter @lilithladiosa2k

Lindsay B Steiner’s Twitter @lbsteiner

Courntey and Lindsay write about their work in rhetoric and composition among other things.

PS: This is my 1,200th post!

Second Blogging in the Classroom and Profession Workshop Success

This afternoon, I facilitated a second “Blogging in the Classroom and Profession” Workshop as part of my work in the Kent State English Department’s Office of Digital Composition.

Unlike my previous workshop, I switched the content around to talk about professional blogging first and classroom blogging second, because I wanted to accommodate the schedules of some workshop participants. Also, I wanted this workshop to be more of a conversation rather than a lecture, as my previous workshop had been.

I was very happy with our discussion. Some folks brought great questions and others shared their own experiences with blogging. All around, I am pleased with the dialog that we generated during this workshop.