Poster Session

“Exploring Literacies:  The Intersection of Writing and Technology in First-Year Writing Courses”

Track: Poster

To address how first-year writing courses can improve student engagement, the speaker has redesigned a first-year writing course that bridges the divide between professor-controlled technologies and student-controlled technologies that distract from what’s going on in the classroom. The course redesign recognizes that these strategies must acknowledge students’ relationship to their technologies and henceforth use those technologies to encourage student engagement. A course redesign that utilizes a variety of technologies will thus demonstrate how educators can not only bridge that gap, but use it to reinforce student learning outcomes and foster engagement.

 

Susan Lago,
Lecturer
William Paterson University

Bio / Expertise:
Susan Lago is a lecturer in the William Paterson University English Department’s Program of Writing and Rhetoric where she teaches first-year writing. Additionally, Professor Lago is an instructor for the William Paterson University Youth Program where she teaches reading and writing skills as part of an enrichment program for Paterson middle-school students. Her previous experience includes teaching first-year writing at Ramapo College, Montclair State University, and Bergen Community College. Her short fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Pank, Per Contra, Monkeybicycle, Verbsap, and Word Riot. Her short story, “Songs from the River,” was by nominated by Pank Magazine for a 2011 Pushcart Prize.

 

Presentation Content:
In “Exploring Literacies:  The Intersection of Writing and Technology in First-Year Writing Courses,” the speaker will discuss how increasingly, four-year institutions are moving away from offering Basic Writing courses and as a result, the first-year writing classroom must engage writers at disparate levels of proficiency. In an effort to address how first-year writing courses can engage all students, the speaker has redesigned a first-year writing course that bridges the divide between “good,” or pedagogical, professor-controlled technologies, and “bad” student-controlled technologies that distract from what’s going on in the classroom. The course redesign recognizes that these strategies must acknowledge students’ relationships to their technologies and attempt to find ways to use those technologies to encourage student engagement.

From remediation to first-year composition, writing today exists in a New Media and Web 2.0 universe. Students of writing must now master multiple literacies in the classroom, at community colleges as well as four-year institutions. Mary E. Hocks makes the point that by “recognizing the hybrid literacies our students now bring to our classrooms, we need a better understanding of the increasingly visual and interactive rhetorical features of digital documents. As writing technologies change, they require changes in our understanding of writing and rhetoric and, ultimately, in our writing pedagogy.” Unfortunately, the students who are most at risk of being left behind by these changes are those in Basic Writing courses.  This vulnerability is complicated by the elimination of remedial or basic writing courses at many universities. With this phase out, basic writers, especially those from urban populations and/or of lower economic status can be left even further behind if they have not had the experience of writing with technology. Thus, composition classes must now engage students at all levels. To address this need, this panel will explore how pedagogy can work best in today’s web-based, digital environment.

Nicholas Carr argues that “we are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest.”   Indeed, as students attempt to navigate the traditional college classroom using technologies that their professors may not even understand, both students and instructors are in danger of getting lost in that “forest.” The speaker will discuss how a course redesign that utilizes smartboards, wikis, blogs, and discussion boards, can also take into consideration student writing via their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and social media networks. In fact, a 2008 Pew Research study found that although teens write every day, there is a disconnect between their personal, social writing, and the writing they do for school.  With a technology-focused course redesign, the speaker will demonstrate how educators can not only bridge that gap, but use it to reinforce student learning outcomes and foster engagement.

In the Spring 2012 semester, the speaker piloted a section of a technology-themed first-year writing course at William Paterson University. This course utilized students’ engagement with their own technology (such as smartphones) in conjunction with university technology such as Blackboard, ePortfolio, and other web-based e-learning tools. Students were required to write essays in a variety of rhetorical modes. They also used writing to explore ideas, shared writing with peers, received feedback on drafts, and worked through multiple drafts.  In addition, however, students wrote using a variety of technologies such as surveys, wikis, and blogs. The class also focused on our personal engagement with technology as well as understanding the impact these technologies have on society. To this end, students used writing to explore the ways in which technology has shaped interpersonal interactions, work, friendship, education, and writing itself. For their final portfolio project, students created an ePortfolio on Blackboard.

For the academic year 2012-2013, the speaker aims to build upon the experience gained over the past two semesters. To this end, she will improve the course, by taking into consideration current research on ePortfolio, the results of classroom surveys, and – most importantly – the insights gained from actually teaching the course. The goal is to increase student engagement by capitalizing on their immersion in their own technology and ultimately to affect retention rates.

The speaker will also continue to investigate the efficacy of ePortfolio as well as continuing to develop web-based or online assessment tools for the first-year writing classroom.

 

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