Tag Archive for assignments

Storying Your Education through an Artifact

“What object would you use to tell the story of your education?”

This ques­tion was posed to me by Jenn Fish­man, an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity, who is today’s speaker at the Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion that I am attend­ing. Jenn asked us before­hand to bring with us an arti­fact that would help us tell the story of our education.

I thought about this prompt for at least a few weeks before com­ing to the con­fer­ence (Isn’t it such a provoca­tive thing to con­sider?). I even posed this ques­tion to my friends on Face­book, who responded with cre­ative and inter­est­ing arti­facts, includ­ing a flute, library, teach­ers, a spread­sheet, a human skull, and a lap­top. Notice that these items were not lim­ited to school­ing; instead, these (smart) peo­ple looked at edu­ca­tion from many dif­fer­ent van­tage points, includ­ing school­ing, of course, but also extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, hob­bies, places, peo­ple, and extra­or­di­nary objects.

When I began think­ing about how I would answer Jenn’s ques­tion, the object that first popped to my mind was a Bible. But this was not the story I wanted to tell about myself. I didn’t want to be one of those peo­ple who, at least in acad­e­mia, are often viewed as narrow-minded, pre­dictable, igno­rant, judg­men­tal, and hate­ful. I didn’t want to be char­ac­ter­ized, stereo­typed, or judged because of this arti­fact that I might bring.

So I began to pon­der other artifacts.

I looked around my office. I noticed the three diplo­mas hang­ing on the wall. I con­sid­ered bring­ing one of those. I even took a pic­ture of my Ph.D. diploma–just in case I chose to use it. This diploma holds great mean­ing to me, and not just in ways you might think (but that’s another story).

I con­sid­ered telling the story about how I over­came a speech imped­i­ment when I was young. I couldn’t pro­nounce my els, rs, or esses. I couldn’t even say my own name cor­rectly. This story has defined me in ways that I can­not fully artic­u­late, that no one else quite under­stands even when I try to explain. It is con­nected to why I try so hard at things, why being a vale­dic­to­rian and get­ting a Ph.D. mean so much to me. But I couldn’t think of an object to bring. I thought of My Fair Lady but decided against it. I thought of bring­ing a pic­ture of my speech teacher whose name I can’t remem­ber but who, in the sec­ond grade, showed me how, though six months preg­nant, mater­nity pants worked. I couldn’t find a picture.

I also thought about bring­ing a bas­ket­ball. Bas­ket­ball was not the first sport I ever played or the first sport I was good at, but it was the sport to teach me about dis­ci­pline, team­work, ded­i­ca­tion, and hard work. It was also the sport I loved the most, the sport I excelled at most, a sport I now play today with my own chil­dren. I learned about my strengths, my weak­nesses. I noticed that some of my strengths and weak­nesses were innate (I had a log­i­cal mind and could pre­dict where a player would throw the ball and inter­cept it; I was short and could not block a shot); oth­ers were devel­oped in life (I could nail three point­ers from all over the arc; I could throw a ball poorly to a team­mate and get it intercepted).

I learned so much about myself through play­ing basketball.

I learned about life and peo­ple and love.
I learned about good teach­ing through both good and bad coaches.
I learned about pas­sion and prac­tice and per­for­mance.
I learned how to have a good atti­tude, not be self­ish, how to lose, how to win, how to be a good team­mate, how to be a leader, how to for­give other’s mis­takes.
Bas­ket­ball taught me how to expe­ri­ence and live life.

I also thought about bring­ing one of my all-time favorite nov­els, The Grapes of Wrath (To Kill a Mock­ing­bird is another favorite of mine.). I read this book my senior year of col­lege. It was in “The Amer­i­can Novel,” the first upper-level Eng­lish course I took after switch­ing majors my junior year. This book changed me. It changed how I viewed the world. It changed the way I approached peo­ple and story. It expanded my under­stand­ing of lis­ten­ing, emphathiz­ing, under­stand­ing. I iden­ti­fied with the Joads and Tom and the pain and suf­fer­ing and loss this fam­ily expe­ri­enced. The sto­ries within this book broke my heart. I quickly bought and read as many John Stein­beck books as I could, includ­ing Of Mice and Men, Can­nery Row, East of Eden, and Trav­els with Charley.

John Stein­beck, I might argue, made me more socially aware.

More aware of injus­tice.
More aware of the ter­ri­ble ways peo­ple treat each other.
More aware that the idea of pulling one­self up by the boot­straps is a myth.
More aware of sys­temic poverty, racism, clas­sism, and sex­ism.
More aware of priv­i­lege.
More aware of my own sub­ject posi­tion.

The Grapes of Wrath gave me rea­son to be angry. To be rav­ing mad. But it also allowed me to under­stand the dig­nity of wrath. It led me to want to fight injus­tice. It changed me.

Even­tu­ally this book led me back to the first book I con­sid­ered as my arti­fact: the Bible. And, in the end, the Bible is the arti­fact I chose. I thought the risk was worth it.

Holy Bible Pink Cover


Teaching Writing in a Digital Age

This semes­ter I designed and taught a new course, “Writ­ing in a Dig­i­tal Age.” This course will soon become required for all Pro­fes­sional Writ­ing majors, and I am thank­ful to have been the first to teach it.It tops the list as one of my all-time favorites.

The stu­dents were engaged, ded­i­cated, and flex­i­ble.
The mate­r­ial was stim­u­lat­ing, new, and excit­ing.
The topic was rel­e­vant, inter­est­ing, and prac­ti­cal.
The clients were involved, atten­tive, and grate­ful. 

I learned. The stu­dents learned. The clients learned. And we all did so with atti­tudes of open­ness to the process, which is impor­tant when you’re teach­ing with and using technology.

My stu­dents pre­sented their final projects yes­ter­day. They showed us the web­site they had cre­ated for a local small busi­ness, and they reflected on the process of writ­ing for the web, work­ing with a client, and tran­si­tion­ing the web­site and social media pages over to the client. I was fas­ci­nated by what they did in six weeks. I am amazed at my students.

A few of the clients were able to come as well. I really enjoyed hear­ing their per­spec­tive about how dig­i­tal writ­ing mat­ters in small busi­ness. A few men­tioned that they did not know how much an online pres­ence would mat­ter for their busi­ness, but that, in just a few weeks, they can already see how use­ful it will be for their busi­ness. Awesome.

Here are some of the web­sites my stu­dents created:

In the future, I plan to expand this Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing project to the entire semes­ter. I think stu­dents and the client will ben­e­fit from doing so, and I can envi­sion many ways to expand the assignment.

Thanks for a great semes­ter, #DW4375!


Why I Like the End of the Semester

The last week of the semes­ter is upon us at Bay­lor and at many col­leges all over the coun­try. Next week is finals week, and then comes grad­u­a­tion. And, then, the semes­ter is over.

This time of year is one of my favorites. Yes, sum­mer is com­ing and stu­dents and teach­ers alike will soon get a much needed break. We don’t have to come back until August. But what I like just as much as antic­i­pat­ing the sum­mer hia­tus is get­ting to see what my stu­dents have learned. This is the time of the semes­ter when stu­dents sub­mit their work, work that high­lights what they have learned, accom­plished, and achieved through my course. I enjoy look­ing through stu­dent  projects and reflect­ing on what we have done over the course of 16 weeks and all that we have accom­plished together.

What is really excit­ing for me this semes­ter is that I designed and taught a new course, “Writ­ing in the Dig­i­tal Age.” This course has exceeded my expec­ta­tions, and I have really enjoyed the con­tent and the stu­dents who enrolled in it. We have had a great semes­ter together. Stu­dents cre­ated a pro­fes­sional blog and com­posed weekly blog posts on issues related to dig­i­tal writ­ing. They mar­keted them­selves and their work through Face­book and Twit­ter. They researched a topic related to dig­i­tal writ­ing, such as pod­casts in the class­room,e-books, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and the Smart­Pen.

Stu­dents also cre­ated an audio or video Pub­lic Ser­vice Announce­ment. Ali­son cre­ated a video PSA on Lupus, and Ari­adne com­posed a provoca­tive PSA on body image.Other PSAs exam­ined child­hood lit­er­acy, hunger, and binge drinking.

The last project of the semes­ter, which we are cur­rently work­ing on, asked stu­dents to locate a local small busi­ness and work with them to develop an  online presence–to mar­ket them­selves dig­i­tally to their audi­ence. Stu­dents built a Web site for their client and then cre­ated or updated their client’s Face­book and Twit­ter pages. Next week, we will have a cel­e­bra­tion party where we will view the final web sites and cel­e­brate with the clients. I have really enjoyed this project and plan to expand it as a semester-long project next time.

The end of the semes­ter is excit­ing for stu­dents and teach­ers. Edu­ca­tion, in all its embod­i­ments, becomes evident.