9/25 Composition Committee Meeting Notes

Composition Committee Meeting, 9/25/13

Attendees: Tanya Zhelezcheva, Dominique Zino, Matt Koch, Pete Gray, George Fragopoulos, Jodie Childers, Jean Murley, Aliza Atik, Stephen Tumino, Melissa Dennihy, Elizabeth Toohey, Danny Sexton, Chris Leary, Rob Becker, Kat Alves, Joan Dupre, Danielle Izzo, Matt Lau, Kim Banks, Tammi Rothman, Elise Denbo, Jean Darcy, Vartan Messier, Leah Anderst, Mark Schiebe, Lacy McNair, Laurel Harris, John Talbird.

The meeting began with John and Laurel introducing and getting feedback on three digital resources being developed in the department—a faculty handbook, a departmental archive (possibly on Omeka), and a low-cost reader for students. John, Laurel, Jean, Jodie, and David have started work on the online faculty handbook, which is slated to go live at the end of the semester. Dominique Zino, a former Writing Fellow at QCC who worked on the construction of the Queens College first-year writing site, will also be helping with the development of the project. All three projects are intended to make the work of the faculty visible, and, through this visibility, promote cohesion in the first-year writing program while maintaining faculty autonomy.

John asked that faculty send their most interesting assignments (low- and high-stakes), syllabi, rubrics (if applicable), and a short contextualizing statement to Dominique at dzino@qcc.cuny.edu by 10/15 for inclusion in the first iteration of the e-handbook. At this point, the chapters that showcase faculty work will be structured around four units moving from the personal to the public: 1) Self; 2) College; 3) Local Community; 4) Global Issues. Drawing in part from the print handbook developed by John and Linda Stanley, the e-handbook will also include logistical information (such as parking and copying), information on best practices in composition (such as peer review), and other features that faculty cited as useful in a survey given at the beginning of the semester.

Following this introduction, several important questions were raised about the project by attendees including the potential problem of student access to an online student reader, copyright issues, and faculty independence. John and Laurel emphasized that faculty could mix and match units from the reader with their own plans or even just turn to it for ideas. No one would be required to use it. Several attendees had good advice on copyright, and, combined with input from librarian Jean Amaral, suggested that we could skirt copyright concerns by asking students to download texts from the QCC library databases. Jodie discussed shooting video of faculty and students for the faculty handbook and (eventually) student reader. It was mentioned that any other faculty trained in shooting video would be very welcome to help with this part of the project. A final question raised in the discussion was how much content we want to develop ourselves (for example, Jodie suggested a grammar wiki) and how much we want to link to content from outside sources. Finally, Joan offered the suggestion, for the short term, that we should develop and maintain a list of low-cost student texts in the departmental archives.

In the second half of the meeting, John had attendees free write on one of the following two questions and then discuss their responses in groups:

  • Which online platforms and functions do you use, and how do you see their connection to student learning?
  • If you don’t use much technology in the classroom, why do you choose not to use it?

The subsequent discussion revealed that faculty use the following diverse platforms and functions:

  • YouTube for video, music, and ads to either illustrate a point or as a source for critical analysis.
  • Blackboard for maintaining a grade book, archiving course documents, SafeAssign, blogging, wikis, groups, and (possibly) asynchronous conferencing through Collaborate.
  • Epsilen for wikis that enables students from different classes to share materials and give each other feedback.
  • Prezi (described by Dominique as “3D PowerPoint”) for presentations of faculty lectures and student projects.

Stephen raised the point that issues of inequality and access should be integral to discussions of pedagogy and technology. To this end, Melissa and Matt both emphasized the importance of promoting critical thinking about technology in our classrooms. Melissa cited Kathleen Blake Yancey’s assignment of comparing and contrasting a print encyclopedia entry to a Wikipedia entry, and Matt, drawing from his own classroom material, suggested a unit on technology as part of the e-reader. Mark mentioned the difficulty of getting students to buy-in to using technology like a WordPress blog, and Melissa spoke to recovering “physicality in the moment of teaching” and having more classroom interactivity as a result of writing on the board in a classroom without a SmartPodium. Jean offered an alternative perspective on the use of technology in the classroom as she described how her use of online platforms had democratized her classroom as students worked in teams on an issue, discovering “alternative inquiry paths” and producing work for an audience beyond the teacher. She described such work as “liberating.” Elise also mentioned that the grade book function on Blackboard supported student autonomy in keeping track of progress and seeking help as needed. Chris provided one solution to the practical problem of using technology while not teaching in a computer classroom. During class, he sends his students out to computer classrooms around campus to post on the class blog and then to return and continue the discussion.

The meeting concluded with John and Laurel giving a faculty survey to determine the topics that will be covered in the five future composition meetings.

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