Blog #10 Fister & Wiley

This week we read Why the Research Paper is Not Working  by Barbara Fister and The Popularity of Formulaic Writing by Mark Wiley

Barbara Fister has been an outspoken critic of the research paper. She describes that “mixed messages” are sent to students by the typical “research paper” assignments. For Fister, the form is an “artificial genre” that “works at cross-purposes to actually developing respect for evidence-based reasoning, a measured appreciation for negotiating ideas that are in conflict, or original thought.” Yes the research paper teaches students how to research a subject and provide evidence in their writing to support their topic/thesis. But this doesn’t allow the student a lot of room for creativity or original thought.

The artificiality of the research-process and experience of writing the traditional research paper interferes with the students’ desire to engage with the course material. It prevents them from thinking through why the ethics of source usage really do matter in the real world. Due to the unoriginality of the topics used for research papers it prevents the students from caring much about the subjects they chose to write about. Foster writes that “If you want students to make an argument, start from something they know and care about, something that matters to them and about which they can hold an informed opinion.”

I agree with her ideas. It is great for a student to learn something new and to research it in detail but it seems that the research paper is extinct and that instructors need to cultivate a new way of assigning the research paper.

Mark Wiley begins to describe the affects that formulaic writing have on our students (the formula meaning the five paragraph rule, an introduction paragraph with a topic sentence, three supporting paragraphs with evidence and detail, and lastly a conclusion paragraph that restates your argument). He notes that students who are taught to only write to a formula have difficulty writing other texts outside of using the formula. Initially the formula was created to provide structure for beginning writers.  The formula was made with the intent that it would be a template for beginning writers. Once you know how to write a standard essay and organize your thoughts, you are free to be as fun and creative as your mind desires. However, teachers have expanded the use of formulaic writing because it is easy to teach and easy to grade. I think in the beginning this is a good tool to give students. If students are not given a model showing how to write an essay properly then they will never be able to move away from the formula and start bending some of the rules. I believe that the formula is helpful to a point. Once a writer is more comfortable they should be motivated to step away from the formula.

Mark Wiley suggests that future teachers should be taught how to teach writing effectively. Teachers should be prepared and encourage their students to express their arguments through a way in which makes sense to them. This allows them to creatively set up their essay anyway they want, as long as the essay is an intellectual piece of writing and is written that way. Ultimately, Wiley recommends that teachers should use formats for writing as strategies but resist limiting students to only writing formulas.



Blog #9 Straub & Yancey

This week we read  The Concept of Control in Teacher Response by Richard Straub and Looking Back As We Look Forward by Kathleen Yancey.

Straub seeks to identify the focus of comment styles Based on the work done by other well known composition scholars.He believes that the more comments a teacher includes on a paper, the more controlling the teacher is likely to be. This applies twice as much to those who make numerous specific comments about local matters.The more a teacher looks at the student’s writing processes and tries to focus on the writer’s development and not the development of the specific text, the less likely the teacher is to point out specific changes in the text.

Comments framed as corrections exert greater control over the student than criticism of the writing or calls for revisions that are stated as commands. Criticisms and commands exert more control than qualified evaluations or advice. Praise comments are less controlling than criticism or commands because they place the teacher in the role of the appreciative reader. Non-evaluative comments tend to initiate a more direct response from students because they require the individual writer to think about her own revisions and ideas instead of just following what the teacher “ordered”. The least controlling type are reflective comments that provide lessons, offer explanations of other comments, or present a reader-response to the paper. Words written on a paper inscribe specific social relationships between student and teacher and come with their own specific context. This context often comes, as the student reads the comments, with a specific image of the teacher. Thus the student is often not reading the comments, but hearing the teacher speak these words.

I agree with Straub that all teachers comments are in some way used to evaluative and direct, regardless of their commenting style. I guess this means that the critical question is to what extent do teachers exert power over their students?

I noticed that this was written in 1999. So before I even started reading I wondered if this article was going to be outdated. As soon as I started reading I noticed that her article is merely a timeline of the history of writing assessment. Yancey divides the history of writing assessment into three “waves.” The first wave (1950-1970) focused on objective, non-essay testing that prioritized efficiency and reliability. The second wave (1970-1986) moved towards holistic scoring of essays, based on rubrics and scoring guides first developed through ETS and AP. The third wave (1986-present) expanded assessment to include portfolios (consisting of multiple examples of student writing) and larger, programmatic assessments. She looks at these waves from several perspectives: at how the concepts of reliability and validity are negotiated and valued; at the struggle between the knowledge of the assessment expert (and psychometrics) and the contextual, local knowledge of the non-expert teacher (and hermeneutics); and the move of assessment from outside and before the classroom to within and after the class.

She voices her concerns and directions for further scholarship and practice in writing assessment. She also challenges the field to look for ways to use assessment rhetorically and ethically to help students and programs develop and to produce scholarly knowledge. I wonder if Yancey is happy with the way writing assessment has changed since 1999?

Blog #8 Assessment

This week we read Bean and Yancey’s take on Rubrics and Assessment.

First, Beans article on Rubrics. Rubrics are something I really wanted to learn about. With having a college professor be one of my goals I knew that I needed to learn more about rubrics and how they are helpful for student and teacher. After reading the article I realize the importance of a rubric due to the differences in grading between instructors. A student can’t assume how to write an essay if the instructor doesn’t convey the specifics he or she is looking for in a paper.

I enjoyed the breakdown of each type of rubric and the actual examples that were given. Being able to see each rubric along with the explanations was very helpful to understand the article better. I believe that rubrics are a good thing and I wish that I was able to use them more in my education. I have written countless amounts of papers but I can count on one hand the amount of times I used a rubric either in class or for writing a paper. Its a shame that there isn’t a universal rubric that can be used so all students understand better but it is good for instructors to start using rubrics because this allows the student to understand better what the teacher is asking and how to answer the prompt effectively.

I also appreciated Bean’s account ensuing rubrics in the classroom. I find them to be more effective just in my personal education but it is good to know that the author is in favor of rubrics and has used them i the classroom.

Testing (or assessment) was a staple in my education grade school through high school. Every subject had tests but each test was different. Tests were graded and my final grade was based on how well I did. A huge test also helped me gain credit for college courses. The AP exams were not only tough but they were a competition with students all over the country. Then the SATs was another test that determined my college fate. Assessment is everywhere and there hasn’t been much done in the academic world to protect students from the terror and fear of assessment. (This article wasn’t the easiest to read so I did my best.)

Yancey discusses that Assessment might not be the right way to grade a student. She brings up the idea of portfolios. After the past few weeks that we have been discussing theory I have come to the conclusion that portfolios are a great way to assess students. It allows them to edit and revise and to turn things in together at the end of the term instead of being held to shorter deadlines throughout the semester. Yancey describes different types of models that are used for assessment. She also brings up reflection. She explains that reflections can be used in portfolios and they are also another way of assessing. If students write reflections then they can assess themselves. Yancey believes that the future of assessment is in the outcome. She believes that students will be graded on the outcome of their work and not on the process.

4. Wherein the Writer Hears His Jam

Did you hear that?  Listen to it. I’ll wait.

OK, now? OK. That music, for me- it’s hard to explain. It’s just a piece of music, probably simple as far as classical compositions go. I don’t know, I’m not a music person. I’m talking about my relationship with this piece of music, but not JUST this piece of music, and I mean that on levels. No, its not just this piece of music, its the emotional life that this music has tied into in stages over years. But more literally I mean it isn’t even literally this piece of music. It’s a whole collection of music that sound like this. Variations on these themes, rendered at every stage of complexity- from 8-bit sound files to a single guitar, so a full symphony orchestra accompanied by a choir. All forms of this piece of music thrill me, and it’s not because “it’s such a good song.” How could it be? It’s not even a song. Listening to this admittedly subdued iteration of this theme music brings out in me a feeling of importance, or urgency. I want to get up and do something. I want to run. In every version no matter how simple, this music feels like the beginning of an adventure. It’s tied to being called to adventure, to action. It reminds me of a quiet room and free time, and a dark screen, and then it’s like a wormhole into another dimension, an explosion, a tornado into technicolor. In a medium where we can’t smell anything, the sound, this music is our most immediate sensory companion. And it runs right into us like its being injected into our veins and it feel like it’s flowing so fast. Like flying. Like you’re a different person. In an instant suspended disbelief becomes full immersion, and its not so unbelievable that you can be the hero you want to be. Just like that, you’re in the world, you’re taking up the quest. And the music, as the first part of your experience, is your portal to that, and it stays with you for the whole experience. Exploring the world, meeting important characters, fighting the battles, beating the game, the music is part of the fabric of it all, and weaves it all together. And it doesn’t matter how simple or complex it is, the point is that it’s incredibly evocative. Hearing even a chord, a note, at any time can pull a player out of their lived and into a memory of a moment they may have lived a dozen times. It has the ability to take you from sitting on the subway to saving a princess and a world in an instant, because somebody’s phone rang. The feeling is, it’s time to go. Get up, it’s time to be who you are now. For reference for the uninitiated, the above symphonic arrangement, the passion and power that begot it and exists within it, comes from the below. Valuable, for contrast.

3. Wherein the Writer Explores the Field

Steven Kent- The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to  Pokemon and Beyond
Tristan Donovan- Replay: The History of Video Games
Espen J. Aarseth- Cybertext
Walter Ong- Orality and Literacy
Eric Zimmerman- Gaming Literacy
Hazel Newlevant- Chainmail Bikini
Anastasia Salter- What is Your Quest?
Ernest Cline- Ready Player One
James Gee- What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning  and Literacy
Jane McGonigal- Super Better
                            Why I Love Bees
                            A Real Little Game
David Sheff- Game Over
Tom Bissel- Extra Lives
Eric Zimmerman & Katie Salen- Rules of Play
Nick Fortugno & Eric Zimmerman- Learning to Play to Learn
Mitch Resnick- Scratch
Above is a list of possible sources about games, gaming literacy, and learning. Within the list is a mix of traditional scholarship and less formal writing from memoir to fiction. I don’t know that all of it will have value, but each piece on the list ties to some element that has been part of the discussion of my thesis. The emotional experience of gaming, how it may have enriched my life and understanding of the world, how gaming can be involved in education, even programming.  I’m not positive that all of these sources will make it into my lit review, but from my point of view now, each of them seems like they may have something to offer. Additionally, each source that is useful I will mine for other material, be it academic research or other sources of inspiration involving gaming. One thing that is missing from this list is an adequate treatment of the Raspberry Pi. While my search returned many results, the vast majority were how-to guides and videos, which I do not feel are relevant at this point. However should I need to reference materials like this, they’re very easy to find, so I’m not really worried about losing them. So I have a lot of reading to do, but I’m looking forward to it.

Rough Draft of my Vignette

I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to post this or just bring it to class. Since I wasn’t in class last week I am just going to do both.

From Reporting to Writing

We are sitting in a circle. He has us do this so we can feel like we are in a real newsroom. He points at me and says, “You’re on the slam poet that’s coming to perform.” I freeze, I know nothing about slam poetry. I immediately go back to my dorm to do research on “The Asia Project.”

This guy is amazing. He battled cancer and lives to tell his experience through slam poetry. I am amazed, and I decide to go a step further. I want to meet him. I find his facebook page and I ask if I can interview him after his performance. He answers me back right away that he can’t wait to meet me.

His show is late on a Tuesday night and not many people have showed up. That’s ok I think, this is way more intimate. His show was phenomenal; his poetry is an art that I have never learned to appreciate. I took notes in my composition notebook the whole two hours. The room is clearing out. My hands are shaking. He is packing up, its time for me to meet him.

He isn’t a celebrity and he doesn’t act like one. Yet I am sweating like a fan girl because I have never met an artist who I respect as much as I respect him in this moment. We shake hands, I take out my recorder and I start firing off my questions. He is honest and we laugh at most of the things he says. He is candid but sweet. He tells me about his wife when I ask about the poem titled “sunscreen.” I can’t help but fall in love with this man and his talent. He gives me so much material that I can’t wait to write this article.

Asia’s poetry is like music. It is an art I can appreciate but not duplicate. I want to do him justice and recognize his talent the best way I can. I am going to write a feature about the emotions he evoked during his show. Audience members cried and laughed during the show. Multiple times he took my breath away, I wanted to do that with my article.

I spent three days writing and revising my article for the school paper. I finally hand it in at our weekly meeting and I am so proud. My editor smiles and says he will be in touch with my next assignment.

Later in the week I receive an email from my editor. In short he told me to rewrite it. He asked for a hard news story about what events were happening on our campus. He said what I gave him was a fluff piece and that he wouldn’t run it the way it was written.

I was heartbroken. This man who had changed my life in the course of two hours on a cold Tuesday night gave me the gift of art. That’s what I wanted to give back. I wanted to write a story that encapsulated his spirit and talent. Instead I had to edit my story down to half the amount of words and write it in a style that killed all creativity. Although I was crushed I did what was asked of me. I handed it in and it was printed in the school paper. I quit the paper right after writing that article. I am still friends with Asia on facebook and I sent him the article I wrote but we never discussed it. I still listen to his poems from time to time but I should have thanked him for was the realization that I not a reporter, but a creative writer and I should have never overlooked that.