A = Analogies

Analogies are useful for learning because, once we disregard the surface similarities, the shared structures can be illuminating.

Providing two analogies rather than one improves learning (Schwartz, Tsang, and Blair 3). Basically it creates a Venn diagram of the shared ideas that can elucidate the idea/theory/practice we are attempting to focus on.

When I first heard of this, I thought it was a simple and fascinating concept. Just give students random things and they could try and figure out how those things “were like” the topic.

I have done that for a single random item (a bunch of small toys) in an FYC course during the introduction of students, asking them to explain how the toy was like their chosen major. It worked really well and was interesting.

However, for focused learning, I probably can’t throw random physical objects around the room for them to work with/on.

Random Practice Example:
Looking at the table in front of me, how is a bowl like writing? You fill it up with something significant. It is not particularly useful empty. It is designed to hold and transport things (or ideas).

Looking at the table in front of me, how is a cheese stick like writing? It needs to be wrapped up. It needs a particular level of wrapping to be useful. The cheese/writing can go bad if the wrapping/words are less than optimal. You consume it in small bites. You can put it up and eat/read it later.

Looking at those two objects, the ideas/food are what are wrapped/carried in the package or bowl and if the bowl or package is inappropriate (by type or size or whatever), the food/ideas go bad or do not get properly delivered.

That means that how we present our ideas really matters. Certain key concepts (like a thesis, topic sentence, and transitions) help create the correct carrying case for our ideas.

Can the students make that big of a connection? Or could they make better connections?

What if we had two or three students working together? Synergy and collaboration could lead to the sum being greater than its parts.

The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them by Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica M. Tsang, and Kristen P. Blair

Other Crazy Emails

In my classes, first-year composition and business writing, we talk about appropriate emails. Here are some additional examples I can use to perhaps catch their attention.

Email example 1:
Just got an email from a student at another university asking about graduate school in our department. The email has a range of questions such as:

-Do you like it?
-What’s the department budget?
-What is tuition?
-How do I get funding?

This was sent as a mass email to about half of the department graduate students.

Question: Name two (or five) problems with this email.

Email example 2:
After spending the beginning of two classes teaching and answering questions about citing research sources and providing students with extensive reading suggestions and handouts to help them, I received this message tonight about a major paper due on Tuesday:

[E-mail is prefaced with a note saying student knows the importance of citing information properly. Then…] “I was wondering what format are you looking for? Can I write it like this?

Name of the organization
Name of the person to contact
telephone number

Is that enough? or we need more information?”

Question: What was the student thinking? What is her/his background? Why did he/she write this?

Email example 3:
First day of class, I mention to them that the publisher neglected to include in the new edition of the textbook Chapter 17, on Important Topic, but they should have all noticed that a separate magazine-like thing was shrink-wrapped with their text. This is Chapter 17. Don’t lose it. If you do lose it, it’s available free as a PDF from the textbook’s website. Which has a direct link to it on the course website.

The remainder of the first two weeks, as they get their books, I remind them again.

When we finally get to Important Topic, I remind them yet again.

Tomorrow is the test that covers Important Topic. Guess what I got a voice mail at 8:45 this evening about?

“Uh, hi, Professor Hedgehog, this is Student from your class. Listen, uh, the review sheet said to study from chapters 8, 10, and 17, but in the book there is no 17, so I don’t know how you expect any of us to study something that’s not even there. If you can, give me a call back at 555-555-5555. Thank you.”

At least with voice mail, I can imagine the capitalization and punctuation to be correct.

Other professor’s similar experience
I got a similar email last year, asking how I expect them to do the assignment if the anthology doesn’t even have the full text blah blah blah. The student sent me two or three increasingly frustrated emails, and I still couldn’t understand what her problem was. In the end, I told her to bring her copy of the anthology to class the next day, so she could show me exactly what the problem was. Her last email read:

no. i read the text because i went on line to do so. but i don’t understand how you could possably assign readings that we do not have. the text lines stop at 190. the lines start up again at 703. there is nothing in between to read. so obviously it is not requiered by the school to read or it would b printed in the book. thanks for pointing out my gramor problems though. thats nice to see that when some one trys to tell you somthing you come back with a remark like that

Fast forward to the next class. Before class began, I asked her to show me the problem with her anthology. Since everyone else had the full text, I thought maybe she’d gotten the wrong edition or something. Nope. She didn’t even own a copy of the textbook. Hadn’t bothered to buy it. I guess that would explain why she didn’t have the full text, wouldn’t it?

From the CHE Fora

Introducing Technology

For FYC semester 2, everyone in class writes on the same topic. I was hoping to induce the students to write on technology, which I have seen many good papers on and which is more familiar to the students. Recently I was involved in a discussion on physical manipulation of objects to improve learning so, I thought I would try to make a connection for the students through touch.

As part of the introduction, I brought in everyday objects (including telephones, car keys, and umbrellas) at various tech levels. For example, I brought in a metal car key, a car key with a chip, and a key that doesn’t get pushed into a slot but is only electrical.

I didn’t put the connected ones on the same tables, so folks had to get up and move around. No one could just stay at the table, because they couldn’t collect the various examples of a single type of object. Most of the objects students could figure out the relation. There was an antique lamp lighter and an ultramodern car key that were confusing, so I had to explain what those were.

Then students were invited to talk about the differences in the objects that were related to one another.

It was a fun and interesting day.

The students did not choose to write on technology, though.

This might be a useful exercise to do for some other class. Or I might be able to adapt it to a different lesson.

Maybe if students choose to write on technology I can do this again. Students did enjoy it.

Graduate Preliminary Syllabus: Visual Rhetoric

“When the visual and verbal dance in step, the power of each is magnified.” Kathleen Jamieson

Introduction to the Course
Aristotle defined rhetoric as the faculty of discovering in any given case the available means of persuasion. His inclusion of the phrase “available means” indicates that rhetoric includes modes beyond those of speech or writing, though most rhetorical scholarship and instruction has concentrated on these two modes. The study of rhetoric has always given some emphasis to visual modes through delivery (focusing on, for example, speaker’s looks, textual presentation, and use of visual aids) and style (“showing, not telling” and thereby creating images within the imagination of the audience). Eloquence also was sometimes conceptualized in visual terms, for example as “lively portraiture” (Augustine).

Communication technology advances provide new and more accessible means for creating and distributing visual images and artifacts, though the rhetorical impact remains an under-studied phenomenon. It is important to examine what rhetorical theory can offer to our understanding and interpretation of visual rhetoric.

Visual rhetoric encompasses graphic novels and comics, fashion, body art, cosplay, memorials, sculptures, icons, document design, art installations, political cartoons, and more. If you can see it, it can be understood and examined as visual rhetoric.

In this course, students will:
1. Develop an understanding of the concepts and methods used to rhetorically analyze and interpret visual images and artifacts.
2. Demonstrate ability to engage in rhetorical analysis of visual images and artifacts.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical strategies employed in various primarily visual forms of ?communication including photography, visual art, advertising, and public commemorative activities.

Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. W.W. Norton and Company, 2008.

Defining Visual Rhetorics. Edited by Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers, Routledge, 2004.

Writing the Visual: A Practical Guide for Teachers of Composition and Communication. Edited by Carol David and Anne R. Richards, Parlor Press, 2008.

Artifacts: Bring in visual rhetoric that relates to (through agreement, through reference, or by contradicting) the readings for that class. Each student must do this at least once per semester.

Posts and Comments: Once a semester you will be asked to respond to the reading in a blog post. Everyone in the class will comment on this post.

Analysis: Choose an artifact and discuss its rhetorical significance twice in the semester—once as a paper (4-6 pages) and once as a digital presentation (5-7 minutes).

How to read a professor's door

from PhDComics

Visual Rhetoric and Comics

I submitted a plan for an Honors Colloquium (5-week course) last week and it was approved. I will be teaching it Fall 2017. I am very excited.

My notes are below:

Using Comics to Explore Visual Rhetoric/Visual Literacy

Scholarly sources:
Eisner, Will. “’Comics’ as a Form of Reading,” Comics and Sequential Art, Poorhouse Press, 1985, pp. 7-12.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Harper Perennial, 1994.

Amare, Nicole and Alan Manning. “The Language of Visuals: Text + Graphics = Visual Rhetoric.” IEEE Transactions of Professional Communication vol. 50, no. 1, 1 March 2007, pp. 57-70.

Online sources of comics:
Grand Comics Database https://www.comics.org/ = searchable database of comics
Read Comics http://www.readcomics.tv/ = online free reading of popular comics
Comics Research http://www.comicsresearch.org/ = database of research on comics

Additional information:
Writing about Comics and Graphic Novels from Duke University

reading, discussion, online archival research, short response writing, digital presentation

Final project: Students will choose a character from comics, read a scholarly article on that character, and create a digital presentation presenting the visual rhetoric evidence that supports or contradicts the scholarly argument in a 5-7 minute digital presentation.

First version of the ad for students:
Comics aren’t just for geeks. They are used to present technical information (as in PS Preventive Maintenance Monthly)

Have you ever wondered how images create meaning? This class will look at how culture and meaning are communicated by images, specifically images in comics. Comics don’t just include Superman and Wonder Woman, PS Preventive Maintenance Monthly technical communication

Final version of the student ad:
Comics aren’t just for geeks.

Meet fascinating characters from technical communication, film, and contemporary art. Learn their history and how to read and interpret their texts. Join the stream of scholarship on sequential art and visual rhetoric by creating a digital presentation that supports or argues with existing ideas.

The grand finale will be a costume party with food, games, and movies.

Thinking about Morals, Ethics

This conference presentation really got me thinking. I made some notes on ideas related to me, my work, and the talk.

What is my ethical system?

Bible. As I think of it. Not necessarily my main determination.
What do I think of all the time? What is making my choices?

In self-defense or defense of another, killing okay.

Should I be considering motives/motivations for all my actions?
Going to class is ethical.
Skipping class for conference is ethical—if information planned to cover is done.

So ethics for class: Have I done my job? What is my job? What will help my job?

T&P Portfolio

For the next little while my uni is doing the tenure and promotion portfolio online.

My boss said the essay for teaching should be about 20 pages. Mine is 84.

Scholarship is supposed to be 5-7. Mine is 35.

Service is supposed to be 5-7. Mine is 32.

No wonder they moved them online, since they were getting so bulky. Right now my t&p is 173 pages long…

Hmmm. My teaching portion is only 4x as long as they said, while my scholarship is 5x as long. Maybe I need to expand my teaching section.

Note: I went to the CHE fora and found that other SLACs have 500-1000 pages. Maybe I am missing something.

Tenure and Promotion Portfolio

Eight days ago a senior colleague told me that my portfolio was due this year. The deadline for that is tomorrow.

So I stayed up late and worked on it and got up early and worked on it.

Then I found out that, no, it is not due until 2016. However, I thought that since I had already started it, I should just keep going.

My goal was to get it finished by the time it was due and then send it to some folks for review.

While it is not perfect, I think it is much improved over last year. I certainly took the recommendations to heart and worked on significant improvements.

So today I sent the link to folks to have them look at it. Hopefully it will be what people were looking for. (I thought it was last year when I did my pre-tenure review, but it wasn’t.)