Comics in the Classroom: Teaching Students to Read and Produce Graphic Novels

Assortment of graphic novels

This blog post offers materials and approaches for teaching comics from English 182 instructor Sumayyah Daud and English 131 instructor and graphic novel author Dorian Alexander’s recent workshop on using graphic novels in the writing classroom.

Why teach with comics? This isn’t an art class!

Graphic novels are an accessible medium that help connect students to material in less dense ways. Even if students don’t illustrate their comics, they can write scripts, which are used in the graphic novel world to convey multimodal design information to the artist (here’s a script example you can use in your class). In addition to or instead of creating comics, students can also read and analyze the multiple modes through which these texts convey meaning.

Okay, you’ve convinced me. How do I choose a text and develop assignments?

  • Browse Comixology, an online comics library.
  • Search for texts related to your course content and theme.
  • Consider cost: is the text going to be financially prohibitive for your students?
  • Look for representation. The world of commercial comics is largely white, straight, and male, but there are great independent texts that represent a broader array of characters.
    • Dorian recommends the upcoming queer comics anthology Be Gay, Do Comics by The Nib. I just backed it on Kickstarter, and you can too.
  • If you are asking students to write comics, consider the types of narratives you want students to produce and how you can model those narratives through the texts they read.
  • Adapt the sample prompts and use the texts suggested below.

 How Sumayyah Teaches with Comics

Sumayyah Daud, comics workshop facilitator

 

 

My first and second sequences lead up to students producing a comic. The first sequence ends with a fully-developed pitch, and the second sequence ends with a script. 

Sumayyah’s Teaching Resources:

  • Visual analysis PowerPoint (Warning: includes spoilers for Monstress)
  • Assignment sequences 1&2
    • Note from Sumayyah: This was my first time teaching 182. When I teach it again, I think I am going to move MP1 and structure my sequence as SA1, SA3, SA2, SA4, MP1, MP2. The second MP has space for shorter assignments built in (the outline and peer review), and this arrangement makes more sense in terms of skill scaffolding. I felt there was a lot of yoyo-ing this quarter in part because I was trying to find my feet in a new reading curriculum, and I think this arrangement would rectify that. This arrangement would also allow me to organically scaffold critical considerations of their work, instead of going back and forth between the creative aspect and the critical aspect.

How Dorian Teaches with Comics

Dorian Alexander, comics workshop facilitator

I’ve taught with comics in all my English and History courses. I find that comics are becoming a global touchstone of sorts and are therefore excellent aids in diverse classrooms. My current pedagogical favorites include Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele and Nat Turner by Kyle Baker.

Join us for upcoming CIC workshops, “Teaching with Video Games,” facilitated by Sophia Chen on Friday, November 22nd from 11:30-12:30 in MGH 082 and “Teaching Critical Technologies” facilitated by Caitlin Postal on Thursday, December 5th from 3:30 to 4:30 in MGH 082.

 

Thank you to the workshop participants and facilitators, Sumayyah Daud, Dorian Alexander, Sara Lovett, Jake Huebsch, Dino Kladouris, and Rachel Dusin for collaboratively generating the ideas presented in this blog post.

Teaching with Board Games: Playtesting the Curriculum

Written by Sara Lovett

On May 3, the board game pedagogy group met to “playtest” two prompts for analyzing and remixing board games. We used the social deduction game The Resistance (available at the library) to demo the curriculum. Below, I have included the revised prompts along with notes on our discoveries. Please feel free to adapt these prompts for use in your own classroom.

Game board and pieces for the game The Resistance

Prompt 1: Rhetorical analysis of a game

Teacher Notes

  • We found it useful to do a visual analysis activity before playing the game or even learning the rules. In our analysis, we noticed the the game is inaccessible to players with significant visual impairments since gameplay relies on images and text but offers no alternative. This realization led me to discover the website Meeple Like Us, which takes a human-centered design approach to board games, reviewing, critiquing, and offering solutions to accessibility barriers in board games. In case you’re interested, here is their review of The Resistance.
  • Depending on the length of the game, it could be played over two 50-minute class sessions, one 2-hour session, or as homework. If the game is assigned as homework (students could play it with classmates or friends), it may be beneficial to use class time to demonstrate gameplay with a fishbowl-style exercise so all students can either play or watch the game one time in class.
  • We suggest that students can focus on a different element of the game during each playthrough, but students could also each analyze a different element (e.g., interactive, rules, narrative, tactile, visual) across the three playthroughs and then compare notes.
  • Alternate assignment: students can create a disruptive “Let’s Play”/”Tabletop”/”Geek & Sundry”-style video in which they critique the game as they explain how to play it. This assignment would teach analysis, critique, and genre awareness.

Scaffolding

Before this assignment, students should learn about complex claims and stakes. It would be helpful to include a lesson on visual analysis too.

Assignment

Before you play, analyze the visual and tactile design elements of the game. What claims do the game pieces (cards, boards, tokens, dice, etc.) make? Play the game at least three times. Discuss your observations with the other players at the end of each playthrough and/or while you are playing.

  1. The first time you play, observe the rules, game pieces, and story. Make sure you understand the game, the claims, messages, and stories that the game communicates  and how the rules and pieces help facilitate communication.
  2. During your second play-through, pay attention to the overall narratives of the game. What claims does the game make through the rules and the story? What are the stakes of listening to or believing those narratives outside of the game?
  3. During your third play-through, return to your analysis of the game pieces. How do they serve as evidence to support or contradict the game’s claims? Or, do these elements make their own sub-claims?
  4. Write a rhetorical analysis (2-3 pages) of this game’s claim and how effective it is or is not. Use specific examples.

Students will be able to…

  • Identify claims and evidence in a multimodal text.
  • Rhetorically analyze a multimodal text.
  • Explain the stakes of a claim and how it could have an impact beyond the text itself.
  • Critique narratives, claims, and ideologies that underlie texts.

Prompt 2: Disruptive Remix of a Game

Teacher notes:

  • We got caught up on the concept of “disruptive” remixes. We had lots of ideas for remixing the game, but many of them did not critique the game. This is something to be aware of if you’re using this assignment: students might not be clear on what qualifies as disruptive, which is where examples may be useful.
  • Here are some disruptive remixes we thought of in various stages of development:
    • Because we identified visual accessibility limitations with the game in our analysis, we wanted to remix the game so it could be played by sighted and non-sighted people. Some ideas we had were adding tactile markers to the cards to differentiate them and creating a digital version of the game that uses text rather than images so it would be compatible with screen readers. We did not have time to build out a full prototype, but we discussed that we would need to do a lot of research and, ideally, playtest the game with non-sighted people to know whether our remix was effective. Limitations involving audience, resources, and time should be accounted for when students are prototyping their projects.
    • Instead of using guns as an image in The Resistance, we pondered how we could use memes to represent the spread of ideologies online.
    • Using the game Pandemic, we wanted to remix the game to reflect actual responses to real-world epidemics. For example, we could research an epidemic and revise the game’s mechanics to imitate real-world responses to make a claim about uneven resource allocation between the global North and South in medicine.

Scaffolding:

Before this assignment, students should learn about remix, critique, design strategies, and group work strategies.

Return to the stakes you wrote about in the previous assignment. What negative or positive consequences might result from the claims that this game makes? In this assignment, you will revise the game’s elements (story, rules, and/or design) to make a new claim.

Assignment:

  • Option A: Identify a problematic claim that the game makes and remix the game to make a more productive/ethical/equitable claim.
  • Option B:Identify a claim that this game makes that does not reflect real-world conditions. Remix this game to make a claim about the way the world is. Your claim should use the game to critique those real-world conditions.
  • Option C: Identify an accessibility limitation in this game and remix the game to address that issue. To identify solutions, you will need to do research, and you may benefit from recruiting playtesters from outside of our class.

Students will be able to…

  • Make, critique, identify, and respond to claims.
  • Remix multimodal texts.
  • Apply basic design principles.
  • Work productively in groups.

What’s next for the teaching with board games group?

Some of our ideas include full, fleshed out sequences for teaching with board games including more prompts and lesson plans; a workshop series in the fall on teaching with other types of games such as video games, tabletop roleplaying games, or live-action roleplaying games; and a gaming pedagogy workshop in the fall geared specifically toward new instructors. 

Links to check out the games in the library are below:

Teaching with Board Games

By Sara Lovett


Four graduate students set up for the board game workshop.

On April 5, the UW Libraries and CIC co-sponsored an event on teaching with board games. The libraries have six board games (Risk, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Dominion, and The Resistance) available for check-out as part of a pilot program. At our event, participants rotated through stations and each learned about three of the six games and brainstormed how they might use these games as part of their teaching. In this post, I will recap overall takeaways and present specific ideas related to three of the six games.

Takeaways

  • Games are ideologically-rich, and they are an excellent site for critical analysis. Dominion and Settlers of Catan, for example, replicate a settler-colonialism narrative whereas Pandemic offers up a narrative of consent and transnational, interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • One attendee, Dorian, drew upon scholarship from comic studies to point out that games are easier to analyze than books or movies because of distance from the material.
  • Though it is not usually possible for all students to play a game at the same time, we came up with several solutions: 1) students can check out and play the game as homework, a task that would also orient them to the library’s space reservation and course reserves systems, 2) instructors can use a “fishbowl” structure, in which students alternate between playing the game and analyzing play while observing their peers, writing reflections and engaging in discussions on both experiences 3) students can use free online clients such as Dominion Online (https://dominion.games/) to play some games, and 4) for some of the games, instructors can request additional copies via interlibrary loan.
  • Games offer a site for students to engage with multiple modes (e.g. tactile, visual, spatial) and reflect on the literacy skills they used to learn and play the game.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Genre

Betrayal at the House on the Hill board game tiles and character pawns

Betrayal at the House on the Hill (click the link for a playthrough video from Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series) is a narrative game in which players explore a house. Players explore a house by flipping over tiles and moving figures representing their characters from room to room. Characters’ traits change through items and rooms they encounter (e.g., a book might cause your character to gain knowledge). Though players begin on the same team, the “haunt” occurs partway through the game, and one or more players may turn traitor. The traitor(s) and the heroes (the remaining players) each read a separate set of new rules and story elements that affect the rest of gameplay. The game contains 50 haunts, so the gameplay experience varies with each new playthrough.

Betrayal lends itself to analyses of narrative construction and performance as well as genre analysis and production. As students play multiple Betrayal scenarios and/or peruse the game manual, they can take notes on the conventions of the genre of these scenarios. Then, individually or in groups, they can create their own scenario to be playtested by their peers. This activity can generate conversation on the topics of genre, uptake (i.e., do the rules in the scenario “work?” What kind of play is taken up by the playtesters?). Students could even create scenarios that teach particular course concepts (e.g., players need to construct a complex claim in order to successfully leave the house).

Pandemic and Remix

Pandemic board game board, cards, and character pawns

Pandemic is a cooperative game in which 1-4 players act as the world’s top public health specialists collaborating to stop four pandemics. We noticed as we were discussing this game that it facilitates narratives about cross-national collaboration–the players can travel easily between cities, and though there are four regions, there are no explicit borders between nations–and about consent: the dispatcher role card states that this player must gain “consent” before moving another player on the game map. This game offers opportunities for discourse analysis and remix. Specifically, we thought about how students might revise Pandemic to reflect real-world conditions such as unequal resources privileging the global North over the global South, international borders hindering collaboration, and separate research agendas and incentives for each player (think culture jamming for the classroom).

Dominion and Visual Analysis

Dominion board game cards

Dominion is a deck-builder (i.e., a game in which each player acquires, draws, and plays cards throughout the game). The rules of the game are simple: players play cards, take actions (denoted on individual cards), and buy cards.

We spent most of our time at this table discussing the theme, which is best summarized by the game’s creator, Donald X. Vaccarino:

You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.

But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted (Dominion game manual).

There is much to analyze in the opening text alone, and the cards offer even more material to unpack. We noticed, for instance, that most of the cards are gendered and raced in ways that uphold stereotypes. We wondered how the game itself would change if the images on the cards were replaced and nothing else were changed. Students could undergo this project as part of a visual analysis or a word inquiry project, investigating the origins of words like “witch” and “bureaucrat” and interrogating the relationship between card names, images, and game mechanics.

Playtesting the Curriculum

Certainly, there are many more ways to use these games in the classroom. What are your ideas? Feel free to share in the comments or at our next event on May 3rd, which will build upon the first. Participants will “playtest” a curriculum that I am developing based on the insights from the first event. I hope to see you there!

Acknowledgements: Thank you to the attendees of this event for collectively generating knowledge. I am especially grateful to Elliott Stevens for his continued support in facilitating this partnership with the libraries and to Holly Shelton and Ahmed Al Awadhi for serving as roundtable leaders (as well as photographers and editors).

Translation Apps and Pedagogy in Writing Classroom

Co-written by Gust Burns, Kevin deVoss, Katie King, Sumyat Thu

Rise of Translation Apps in Education

At the Praxis 2018 conference, Gust Burns, Kevin deVoss, and Katie King facilitated a roundtable discussion based on their research on the implications of the rise of using translation apps in higher education. Burns discussed a Marxist critique of machine translation app like Stepes. In 2015, the multinational localization company CSOFT debuted Stepes, the first on-demand and just-in-time human translation platform.  Self-described as the “Uber of translation,” the platform contracts individual bilinguals to translate texts on-demand for business customers. As the Stepes website puts it: “By seamlessly connecting businesses and individuals with the world’s linguists through our on-demand translation eco-system, we help break down language barriers between businesses and their customers, and among nations and people.” In Burns’ words, we can understand the mechanics of Stepes, along with both machine translation in general, by thinking with Marx in the Grundrisse, about machines, as manifestations of fixed capital that function not to “transmit the worker’s activity to the object,” as we normally think about labor in early industrial and even Fordist production, but rather so that “the machine’s work, the machine’s action” is maintained and supplemented by the human activity, the latter which becomes “a mere living accessory of this machinery” (692, 693). In other words, as human activity becomes subservient to the active determining functionality of machinery, human capacity is increasingly inseparable from its position within machines, it becomes fully subsumed, in a real way, under capital.

In deVoss’s work on computer-assisted language learning (CALL), he mentions much of pedagogical literature on CALL seems to focus on questions of  “best practices,” and ways to implement particular tech products into the classroom. But deVoss points out that what is missing is sufficient critical inquiry into these products, and of the ideological assumptions behind them as they spread into the wider academic ecology. Tech commodification has certainly touched postsecondary English language education significantly. For instance, Duolingo, which is probably the most popular language learning application currently on the market, has already set up English placement testing services within a lot of well-known universities. Many of the most popular massive open online courses (or MOOCs) through for-profit services like Coursera and edX, and who sponsor coursework at many American universities, have developed a lot of English language learning content both domestically and internationally.

Using discourse analysis methods, deVoss looked at media statements made by the creators of these kinds of tech-ed companies and found that the word “disruption” kept recurring with regard to the higher education system. “Disruption” is a kind of loosely-defined buzzword within Silicon Valley and associated with a variety of meanings, including: “innovation,” “marketization,” and even “destruction.” Of course, in these accounts, tech-ed industry figures unanimously viewed disruption as a necessary, positive project for the higher education system. But deVoss also finds that the “disruption” of English language education in higher ed was associated with a lot of troubling trends, including: the introduction of more student fees, higher course costs, low course completion rates, and disinvestment in faculty and academic student employment and compensation.

Google translate: Youtube or Vimeo?

In King’s research on Google Translate as a tool for literary translation, she argues that the process for “training” an AI algorithm is not only something we humanists can understand but also should understand, and teach. A machine translation tool is just that, a tool that has been created by human beings, and not all the available tools perform equally.  Google Translate not only did not perform well translating a complex literary paragraph from Spanish into English, it also did not learn from King’s feedback over time. But King found other researchers in Europe who have experimented with building their machine translation tool specifically trained to translate literature between French, German and English. Their results were limited but much better. King’s advice to researchers and instructors is to inform themselves for the benefit of their own knowledge about these evolving tools, and to introduce to their students the concept that they must check the results of translation tools carefully.

Translation Pedagogy in Writing Classroom

While teachers should be aware of the possible downsides of using translation technology as part of their pedagogy, encouraging multilingual students to use their human translation capacity has been found to be a helpful writing pedagogy. For example, Eun-Young Kim, an English language and second-language writing scholar at Southwestern Adventist University, asks her Korean and English speaking multilingual students to do translation exercises in order to raise students’ metacognitive awareness about how they write and things they may have missed in their writing process. In the first exercise, students were asked to read the final versions of their English essay writing and translate their own writing into Korean. Kim emphasizes that they should translate their writing as if it had been written by someone else. After finishing the translation, the students were asked to hand in a written response describing what they felt and learnt while translating their own writing into Korean.

Some students reflect:

“After I translated my writing into Korean, I discovered a lot of mistakes. There were many unconnected sentences. I think translating our own writing into Korean is important in order to measure our true writing skill.”

“Before I translated my writing into Korea, I had thought that my writing was pretty good. But when I tried to translate it, I was surprised that my expression was inadequate and the content was insufficient. Some of my sentences were not exactly what I meant.”

“I had to revise my writing four times while I was translating. Some sentences are smoothly connected, but others were a little too forced. I also realized that I missed some details because I was concentrating on my English. I like my introduction better this time. I could discover my mistakes more easily when I translated my composition into Korean.” (Please see the rest of the quoted students’ reflections on the article here).

It’s a great result for students’ self-assessment through translation that students are reporting they could have had better sentence transitions, logical connections, and more details in the writing. This level of self-assessment seems to engage students in a process of possible substantial revision  that goes beyond merely checking for lower-order concerns such as conforming to Standard Edited English grammar or mechanics.

In the second exercise, Kim asks her students to work with a peer partner and translate their partner’s English essay into Korean. Students were then asked to respond to their partner’s translation to see how accurate the translated essay was. Some students respond:

“I was very much afraid if my composition would clearly deliver my message to my partner. When I read my partner’s translation of my composition, I found out that she understood my composition differently from what I meant in the writing. I feel that my English was unclear; that’s why my partner didn’t understand it correctly …”

“The translated text is not what I meant. I wish my partner had translated my writing better. Professor [addressing me], I added some words to the translation in order to make my meaning complete. I think this [miscommunication] is because my composition is not clear.”

Though the second exercise is more complicated with the possible room for misreading and misinterpretation by a peer-partner, both of the exercises indicate that when multilingual students engage in translation between their languages, it heightens their rhetorical awareness and self-assessment ability to more clearly see where the students might have fallen short in composing their text and the different choices they can make because of this awareness. Multilingual students might also begin to critically reflect on cultural rhetorics and contexts behind using a particular language which might help them become sharper language users and writers.

Works Consulted:

Eun-Young Kim, “Using translation exercises in the communicative EFL writing classroom,” ELT Journal, Volume 65, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 154–160.

New CIC AD Introduction

Hello! I’m Sara Lovett, the new CIC/182 AD starting this quarter and continuing through next winter. Sumyat has completed her term as the CIC AD, and she is teaching this quarter, so you can contact me with any 182/CIC concerns.

Any class can be multimodal and/or make use of technology, so even if you’re not teaching in a CIC classroom this quarter, please get in touch if you’d like to talk about how to engage with multimodality through your teaching. I am also now your primary contact (slovett@uw.edu) if you would like to reserve a CIC classroom.

My own interest in multimodality is rooted in in game studies and my experience as a board gamer. I’m the Graduate Representative for the Council for Play and Gaming Studies, a cross-institutional group of writing instructors who research and teach through and about games. I’m more than happy to talk about teaching with games. In fact, EWP and the UW Libraries are running a workshop on Friday, April 5 in Red C in the Research Commons (Allen Library) to discuss how to teach using the board games that the library has on reserve. Don’t let this shameless plug be go to waste–come talk about games with us on Friday!

In addition to game studies, I focus on the role of access, social justice, and civic engagement in writing education through the lens of antiracist pedagogy. I’m happy to talk about any of those topics too if they are of interest to you.

Keep an eye on this blog; I’ll be posting periodically throughout my time as the CIC AD. In the meantime, reach out–I always love talking about teaching!

How to Make Your Writing Pedagogy in Line with FERPA Law

Since the ways we teach writing especially nowadays may inherently involve digital literacies and public-facing writing media, we’d like you to be cognizant of ensuring your classroom practices comply with the FERPA law. Here are some things to keep in mind for assignment design and assessment, and some resources for more info.

FERPA law

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) says that educational records (which include not only students’ grades, but also records that identify students’ course numbers/titles/times/instructors) cannot be revealed to a third party without the written consent of the students. Because UW cannot guarantee the security of internet-based resources outside the UW NetID, keeping student records anywhere else is a risk (and UW can’t help us legally if there’s a data breach outside their NetID protection).

Just for the sake of clarification, we should NOT:

  • post student grades in public or leave boxes out for student paper drop-off or pick-up;
  • discuss student grades over email except Canvas messaging;
  • store electronic copies of student papers or grades in your personal Google Drive, Dropbox or other cloud service.

Check out here for a detailed overview of FERPA from the UW registrar office.

When you use course assignments that ask students to use non-UW protected, publicly available digital tools or media, it’s important to do the following:

  1. Obtain students’ written consent whenever you ask them to use a non-UW-protected digital tool (I’ve included a sample consent form below). Note that if students create anonymous user names, you do not have to get their written consent, but you do need to be prepared to provide an alternative for students who have legitimate concerns about putting their work online.
  2. Give students a viable alternative to using the non-UW-protected digital tool: they should not be penalized in any way for not using the non-UW-protected tool.

Taking these simple steps allows you to safely and conscientiously use great digital tools and resources in your class. Please view here for details on EWP instructor policies regarding using UW-sponsored software, publicly available open software, and public writing for the context of service learning composition such as ENGL 121. Go to section 15: use of blogs and other forms of public writing in teaching.

If you’re using a non-UW protected digital tool for a course assignment, or if your course theme is about public writing, we recommend that you include a “public writing and student privacy policy” clause in your assignment prompt or course syllabus. Here’s a sample you can use:

This assignment/course may involve using a non-UW-protected digital tool or writing on the public web. In accordance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it is your right as a student to sign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the consent form regarding your privacy and making your writing potentially publicly accessible. If you don’t give consent or want to make your writing private or restricted-access such as password protection or giving access only to our class members, I will work with you to implement these accommodations which will have no effect on your assignment/course grade.

And here’s an example consent form (credits to Ann Shivers-McNair, a former CIC AD) for using a non-UW protected peer-review program that informs students of their rights, the security specifications of the platform, and their right to opt out:

All the work you do in this course, including your peer review work, is your property, and you have legal control over who has access to it.  Eli Review is a platform for conducting peer review and revisions on your projects in this class; it is password protected, and peer review projects will be restricted to members of our class.  Your work will be stored in a secure database accessible only to Eli developers for the purposes of site-wide, de-identified statistics or system diagnostics. Your name will be attached to the work stored in the program database, because you will create a profile in the system in order for the system to generate the individual reports you will see after you complete a peer review task.  You do retain legal rights to your work.

By agreeing to use Eli Review in this class, you are consenting to allowing your work to be non-anonymously stored on the Eli database.  If you are not comfortable with this, you can use Canvas for peer review instead, and you will not be penalized in any way.

I hereby DO/DO NOT consent to use Eli Review for course-related review and revision work in ENGL 131 during Spring 2014 quarter.

I understand that consenting or not consenting to use Eli Review will not affect my grade in the course.

Let’s say, you create a class blog or a collaborative website where students write for and interact with the public in some ways, you may be able to use a Creative Commons license with the consent of the students, specifically a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This blog post by Jack Dougherty, an associate professor of educational studies at Trinity College, includes a sample clause you can adapt and explains how he asks students to do public writing without violating the FERPA.

Also, when you add guest teachers, librarians, or observers to your Canvas course, it’s important to give appropriate access level that stays safe within FERPA. Please refer to this cheat sheet from UW Tacoma’s FERPA & Canvas guidelines page:

table of canvas roles

If you’d like to learn more about FERPA in general, there’s an online UW FERPA Training that you can complete in 15-20 minutes to help you equip with recommendations and a reference guide.

And as always, feel free to send us any specific questions to Sumyat or Kimberlee.

Works Consulted:

EWP Instructor Policies

Jack Dougherty, “Public Writing and Student Privacy,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/dougherty-public.

How to Schedule a Computer Classroom for On-Demand Use

Even if you’re not teaching in the CIC’s computer lab classrooms, you probably do some form of tech-embedded multimodal assignment or pedagogy in your courses. We’ve found that, especially this quarter, it’s been a bit more difficult for instructors to get access to a computer classroom for their occasional pedagogical purposes. So we’d like to highlight options for reserving a computer classroom either for a one-time request or several days of a quarter.

For some context: CIC has access to two computer classrooms in Mary Gates Hall, 076 and 082, in partnership with the iSchool. Our regularly reserved times for these classrooms are Monday thru Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., while the iSchool gets access to these spaces after 1:30 p.m. On Fridays, we have access to Mary Gates 082 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The iSchool has 082 after 1:30 p.m. and 076 all day. A good portion of our reserved times are filled with regularly scheduled CIC courses.

When you need a computer classroom for specific times during a quarter, the first thing you should do is email the current CIC AD or Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges (CIC director) the dates/times you’d like to book a room. If your course meets during CIC’s reserved hours and no other course is scheduled, we can book you into Mary Gates 082 or 076. If your course meets outside our reserved hours, we can check with the iSchool coordinator to see if the iSchool is indeed using the CIC rooms for the times you’ve requested. If they are, we will forward your request to EWP program coordinator, Jake Huebsch, who can request the Mary Gates 033 or 044 computer classrooms.

If you’re helping students learn a particular program or technical skill, you may not need to book lab space for in-class instruction. UW Learning Technologies provides free technology workshops and one-on-one consultations in Odegaard Learning Studio 102 throughout the year.

If the above options don’t work out, you may request an Active Learning Classroom (ALC) in Mary Gates or Odegaard, or a Research Commons space in the Allen Library. In this case, you’ll have to ask students to bring a laptop/tablet or check one out through the UW Student Technology Loan program. Mary Gates has two ALCs (with no computers): MGH 058 and 295. If you’d like to reserve one of these rooms, contact Jake Huebsch, who can then process your request. The Research Commons in Allen Library South has three spaces that my work for your class: Green A, which seats 25, Red A, which seats a maximum of 16, and Red C, which seats a maximum of 18. You may check Research Commons availability and reserve a space here, and the Odegaard ALC schedule and one-time use request form is available here. Note that the Odegaard ALCs are general assignment classrooms. One-time use requests are considered after all classes that regularly meet in the ALC have been scheduled.

We’ll continue to monitor how the use of computer classrooms increases or changes among our EWP instructors in the upcoming quarters and will advocate for more computer-integrated instructional spaces if we see an increasing need. Feel free to let us know your concerns or inquiries.

Self-intro: New CIC Assistant Director – Sumyat Thu

Happy spring 2018, everyone! I’m introducing myself here as the new CIC assistant director serving from spring 2018 to the end of winter 2019. I’m Sumyat, a PhD student in English composition and rhetoric who’s taking her qualifying exams very soon (!) and does research in transnational, translingual literacies, anti-racist theory and pedagogy, and public scholarship. I have also worked in writing center space for a long time as an undergrad and grad student. Outside of CIC duties, I’m also serving as the chair for Praxis conference 2019.

CIC AD Sumyat Thu

As far as how I can be a resource for those of you who are teaching a CIC course or a multimodal composition like ENGL 182, you can contact me for pedagogical discussions to practical concerns like reserving a CIC lab or visiting your class to do a Canvas e-portfolio workshop. As CIC ADs before me have consistently mentioned to the teachers, we don’t want CIC instructors to think that just because they’re teaching in CIC now, technology has to be a central issue in their pedagogy. Our suggestion is always to think of technology available in CIC rooms as a resource and not as a mandate. The level of tech engagement you do in class should depend on your pedagogical intentions and comfort level with the tech. For example, some instructors do peer-reviews electronically on Canvas, but some just prefer low use of technology such as having students read an article on the screen instead of distributing hard copies.

During my CIC AD term, I’ll be posting periodically blog posts that detail CIC workshop events we’ll have had or discuss some kind of pedagogical issues that involve technology and multimodality. Kimberlee and I will also continue to add teaching resources to our CIC website. And stay tuned for the quarterly CIC workshop events! In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at smthu@uw.edu to discuss any CIC related issue. My office hours this quarter are: Mon 10-noon (Padelford A-11), Tue 10-noon (MGH 088), and Wed 10-noon (Padelford A-11).

Hope to see you around!

Digital Storytelling

group photo of workshop participants in front of a white board

Workshop participants from UW Libraries, EWP, IWP, and CIC.

CIC recently partnered with UW Libraries Research Commons to offer a workshop on digital storytelling for instructors to learn more about representing research in video form. The Research Commons typically offers a Digital Storytelling Fellowship (DSF) for ten graduate students on a quarterly basis, and many instructors in the English Department and beyond have expressed interest in these projects.  There are natural connections to public scholarship and the recently updated Expository Writing Program (EWP) course outcomes for 100-level composition courses that include a multimodal approach.  Some instructors who attended from the Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) specifically wanted to make their research findings on disciplinary topics more accessible to communities they work with and research such as health topics in east Africa and fisheries.

Matt Howard, an EWP instructor who had previously participated in the more extended DSF, was originally interested in “platforms for conveying research in a fast, efficient, and memorable way” and feels that he gained “a good grasp on building narratives with imagery, sound, and purpose.”  He is now building a sizable portion of his own research upon technological composition practices, and he’d like the broader strokes of the project to be more publicly accessible.  He intends for his students to create their own digital storytelling projects this quarter.  For other instructors interested in digital storytelling, he advises thorough scaffolding and explaining the necessary elements of creating such a project.

Zhenzhen He-Weatherford, another EWP instructor, is attracted to digital storytelling because of her interest in multimodal composition, which she has taught at three different levels within the past year. She offers digital storytelling as one option for students and came for the workshop to better support her students in the future by designing her course to meet their needs as they negotiate the challenges and opportunities of working with technology. She is also personally committed to “destabilizing some privileged ways of composing texts, thinking, making meanings, and communicating meanings” and adds that “digital storytelling is a great way to communicate in nontraditional ways.”

The recent CIC workshop focused on how to use digital storytelling in a classroom.  As an initial activity before meeting, participants were asked to create a short introduction video and post it to a group chat.  For this particular workshop, the Research commons used WeVideo for editing and Slack for group chat.  The prompt itself was given as a video that used screencasting to show the basic editing functions of WeVideo.  It also asked participants to write a script to introduce three things into a short digital story: name, favorite food or hobby, and why they were excited about research.  They should include images that connected with the information in this introduction.  The finished videos were posted onto Slack so that the other workshop participants could view them and respond before meeting.

During the workshop, the librarians played several of the introductory videos as a way of prompting discussion about different editing tools and features participants had discovered and used in various ways (like subtitles or audio) as well as different rhetorical strategies and new kinds of meaning that came from combining words, images, and other resources.  Elliott Stevens and Perry Yee explained that there are several reasons for this activity.  First, participants who are intimidated by technology have time and space to learn how to navigate features of the video editing program.  Second, fostering community and communication around these video research projects is one of the biggest draws for most DSF participants.

Stevens and Yee typically use a process approach when introducing digital storytelling to students based on the work of Samantha Mora.

a cyclical graphic depicting stages of the digital storytelling process

A graphic with composition stages from Samantha Morra shared during the workshop.

Materials for further explaining elements of digital storytelling can be found on the UW Libraries in Tacoma website.  Instructors can use these topics and resources to develop activities and short assignment prompts that scaffold and build to a major digital storytelling assignment:  http://guides.lib.uw.edu/tacoma/digitalstorytelling

The section on “Getting Started” includes topics like conceptualizing your story; finding audio, video, and images for use; considering ethics and participation; and storyboarding and scripting your story.  There are also some example projects that can be used as models.

On the technological support side, UW Information Technology offers regularly scheduled workshops for students and instructors on the Seattle campus that cover how to use particular technology and software resources, especially audio and video editing programs and platforms. Instructors can gain familiarity with programs students may be using, and/or students can be asked to attend a session of their choice on a program that will help them complete their intended project.  The UW-IT calendar with upcoming events is available here: https://itconnect.uw.edu/learn/workshops/.  They can also be contacted to request a classroom instruction session if there is a particular program all students will be using.

As an interface with other kinds of writing, the process approach to digital storytelling can be combined with more traditional written project proposals, submitting other formats of research that are then translated to a digital project (or vice versa), incorporating writers’ memos or reflection statements to identify rhetorical choices and intended effects.

For composition classes specifically, issues related to drafting and feedback are also important.  Some free program options for providing video feedback include Panopto and Screencast-o-matic for recording screen casts.  This would allow an instructor or fellow students to watch, pause, and respond to a video at specific points and provide audio commentary feedback on an individual basis.  As a web-based alternative through the University of Minnesota, VideoAnt provides a way of annotating a video with written comments connected to certain time points in a video.  It also makes collaborative feedback available since anyone with a link to the same video annotation project can add more written comments.

Workshop Participants in the CIC computer lab

Workshop participants converse about their introductory video projects and research.

Notifications for upcoming DSF workshops and registration can be found on the Research Commons Facebook page.  For further questions on more specific digital storytelling issues, the following librarians can be contacted:

  • Elliott Stevens, Research Commons Librarian res22@uw.edu
  • Perry Yee, Online Learning Support Manager perryyee@uw.edu

 

Gaming & Gamification in Composition

A few weeks ago, we had a CIC workshop on gaming & gamification in composition.  This post will be a summary, follow-up, expansion, and resource bank of some of the key take-aways for teachers and researchers interested in the potential for gaming and play in teaching composition.

Workshop Participants with Meeple Avatars

Workshop participants show off their meeples from one of the workshop activities.

First of all, here is an introduction to some shared vocabulary that informs our conversation (from Deterding et al & Envato):

  • Play: a free-form, expressive, improvisational recombination of behaviors & meanings
  • Game: playing structured by rules and competitive strife toward goals
  • Gamification: the use of game design elements in non-game contexts
  • Gamefulness: the experiential & behavioral quality of gaming
  • Game Design Elements: Challenge, Choice, Change, Chance

Example Gamification Books

We can think about gaming as literacy practices, which are tied to composition (see Kurt Squire & the New London Group in particular for connections with multimodality).  We should also recognize gaming practices to be embedded and emerging from within social and cultural practices, especially as they move into economic and educational systems and contexts.  As critical educators, we need to be careful of adopting “gamification” concepts wholesale.  Consider the source and purpose of tips and strategies you may find to “gamify your class.”  In the ethics of argumentation, we don’t want students to just “crush the competition!”

Multimodal & Gaming Literacy Excerpts

Multimodal resources excerpted include Writer/Designer by Kristen Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” from the New London Group, and “Video Game Literacy” by Kurt Squire.

Since many CIC instructors hold a variety of teaching philosophies and approaches to the level of technology integration in their classes, we also find it useful to identify ways that gaming and play can be used along an integration spectrum.  As a caveat, there are many additional ways that gaming can take place in classes, so this is not an exhaustive set of examples, but rather a starting point.

  • Minimum integration: Game as text used to analyze course theme(s); gamefulness in class activities (example prompt)
  • Medium integration: Game/game element as assignment or class activity in addition to game as text (example prompt)
  • Maximum integration: Game as text to investigate multimodal literacy practices and games as texts/integration points for related compositions in multiple genres (example prompt)

One example of a student-composed game for a multimodal composition class at UW that was later published is now publicly available via the following link (excluding accompanying reflection writing):

Scratch – STEM Curator: Women in STEM

In this game you will play as a museum intern tasked to design a museum to help girls stay interested in STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math. The purpose of this project is to educate people that the discouragement women face when entering STEM fields is entirely cultural. We as …

This game was featured on Scratch and received positive reviews.  Reflection writing revealed the students’ composition process and intentions.

Students can also interact with and analyze games as texts.  In role-playing games, students can choose an avatar to play, which allows them choices for playing a character that seems closest to who they are in real life or to experiment with an identity at a greater distance.  Because of this, they have opportunities to conduct inquiry into issues of identity and representation without being obligated to reveal vulnerabilities in class.  They can draw on primary sources from their play experience and secondary sources like online forums to explore and research their position within the game world (as well as how this connects to real-world issues of identity and representation).  For example, imperialism, nativism, and racism all appear in the game Skyrim with different material impacts and choices for different characters’ play experiences.  The available (and customizable) races in Skyrim are included below:

Avatars for Exploring Identity Issues

Skyrim character images subject to creative commons license from Wikia.

In the following class activity, various students’ experiences and responses were used to refine the conception of inquiry in research.  Students responded to a set of questions using Survey Monkey, and the class moved from a basic binary question like, “Which side did you choose?” to identifying better non-binary questions and then moving to more nuanced research questions like, “To what extent are the Stormcloaks justified in the civil war?”  The choices players were given from the game designers on any issue in time remained open for investigation and connection to real-world issues.  Students also practiced framing evidence for their own purposes with the graphs produced from class responses.  These were also issues they were invested in through play experience, rather than an abstract research topic that they might not feel authorized to write about yet.

Survey Monkey Results for Class Inquiry

Graphs generated by student participants using Survey Monkey.

In the game Skyrim – like many others – players also choose to develop “skill tree” items as they level up depending on their play style.  For example, they may choose skills to develop related to a warrior (heavy armor, archery, smithing, etc.), mage (illusion, conjuration, destruction, etc.), or thief (light armor, lock-picking, sneak, etc.).  In order to start owning the language of the outcomes and create a revision plan during the portfolio sequence, students created analogies between the available Skyrim skill tree items and EWP course outcomes.  This also modeled the way students could enter the discourse communities of their majors beyond the game and the composition class.

For assessing assignments that deal with gaming and play, we need to consider the following elements:

What are we assessing?

  • Game design
  • Statement of purpose, reflection
  • Achievement of statement goals
  • Fulfillment of assignment goals

Who is involved in developing assessment criteria and how are students internalizing criteria?

  • Creating or co-creating criteria
  • Practicing assessment
  • Revising criteria

Here are some resources available on and beyond campus to explore how you might implement some of these ideas or some of your own.

For Accessing/Analyzing Games:

For Designing Games:

CIC Sample Prompts and Activities:

While many of these examples and resources tend to follow digital medium games, it is important to note that the same play and gaming principles can be available through table top gaming as well.  The UW library system is currently acquiring table top gaming resources that should be available for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Please check with the UW English Studies Librarian Faye Christenberry for questions or updates.