Great Works Project

Center for Teaching and Learning Summer Seminar: Great Works of Literature Cohort Project

Close Reading and Annotation Skills

Annotating/doing close-reading when reading on web pages

Most close-reading guides tell you to “start with a pencil in hand and annotate the text as you read.” How might this be done if you’re reading online? How might different online settings or devices change the age-old practice of annotation? These are questions that came up for me when I read articles online for the seminar last week, and so I was interested in thinking about close-reading and reading comprehension in the online context.

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Com 1010 Project

Comm 1010 Project: Preparing for the speech
Debra Hilborn, Julia Goldstein, Carol-Leisa Gray

Comm 1010 is a scaffolded course where each unit builds upon the preceding one thus lending itself readily to web-enhanced/hybrid preparation assignments. All three activities below facilitate students to engage collaboratively and creatively online, exploring technology to take ownership of their assignments by thinking thoroughly about the process of speech making with peers. This can only make their in-class speeches stronger, more authentic. It can free up the teacher to act as a facilitator coach and mentor.
We firmly believe in preserving the integrity of the course’s emphasis on skills of LIVE oral presentation to physically assembled, real-time audiences.

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Grist for the Mill

Hi everyone:

Reading your posts about the deliverables you’re working on is really inspiring. Maybe it has been a big news week for online education, or maybe I am paying more attention than usual since we’re engaged in this seminar, but I’ve read a few articles in my regular media intake routine this Hybrid Online Learning Guide for Students with our thoughts here.

The Chronicle’s “How Corporate IT Enslaved Academe” echoed “Engines of Inquiry” and further verified the prescience of Randy Bass.

Starbucks announced it would pay for employees to take online classes at Arizona State University.

AT&T teamed with Udacity to create mini-certificate courses for its entry-level job needs.

Jill Lepore decried the lack of research and scholarly criticism around the ideas of disruption and innovation. The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong.

I can’t wait to see your projects!


Digressive thought: I just realized that throughout the day I  have been overusing words that refer somehow to grains (i.e., grist, mill, fodder, chew, cud).

COM 1010 Web-enhanced Assignments Update

Debra, Carol, and I are in the process of developing our respective web-enhanced activities designed to target a (broad) challenge that we’re all facing in teaching COM 1010: how to guide students through thorough and effective processes of researching and developing appropriate organizing patterns for their speech assignments.  We all agreed that critical thinking skills were integral to meaningful engagement with these processes as well.

Here’s an update from each of us, describing where we are in the process of developing our activity:

From Carol:

This blog will focus on how to engage speech students in understanding and using presentation aids, one course goal for Communication Studies 1010, for undergraduate students at Baruch.

Many of our NYC students work full or part-time, and approach their studies from various multicultural and multiethnic world views. This means more than ever that higher ed must incorporate ways to enhance scholarship and build collegiality in and beyond the classroom.

Higher Education can accommodate those differing world views and new realities by utilizing the surge of new technologies to aid creative and engaged sharing of ideas and expanding the traditional f2f classroom to web based or hybrid.

Researching for support materials for speeches, in particular, selecting an aid that emphasizes an idea or point is a struggle for many students because it includes acquisition of and applying critical and ethical thinking skills and new ways to study.

I’ll provide a rational, describe some of the literature, types of aids and technology, necessary ethical and critical thinking skills; a web based activity that can migrate to hybridization; discuss considerations /implications/risks including issues for inexperienced students, and concerned teachers, and offer solutions in technology, checklists, and grading and scheduling; and summaries of links of helpful current news.


From Debra:

Like Zohra with the 3-D printer, I’ve absorbed a lot from recent exposure to Makey Makey technology ( and have been wanting to incorporate it into the COM 1010 classroom. This assignment is very much a work-in-progress right now and I have a number of questions scattered throughout.

For my assignment, students will utilize Makey Makey and VOCAT to develop and organize a process speech with the goal that audience members will be able to perform the process themselves. The assignment will focus specifically on organizing a message, outlining a speech, and supporting main points with visual aids.

Prior to the assignment: students do reading on “Speaking to Inform” and get an introduction to Makey Makey.

Workshop: Groups (of 2-4?) will devise a unique way to use Makey Makey to operate a program (game, sounds, keyboard, typing etc.) on a computer. They will be given flip cameras to document their process with video and pictures (can this happen?). I envision this as one class period, possibly two (at BLSCI or computer lab?).

Outside of class: The groups will post a video of their process to VOCAT and will annotate the video, using it to identify the main points and sub-points of the process that they would incorporate into a speech outline. From that video and its annotations, groups will create a preparation outline for their speech, attempting to describe the process in 3-4 main points, with appropriate sub-points and details supporting each main point. Groups will also be tasked to provide at least two pieces of visual support, such as clips from the video (questions: can this actually work? How difficult is the process of pulling out sections of the video? Could they use VOCAT to quickly find the places they want to play?), pictures of their experiments, screenshots, etc. for each main point in their speech. Groups will post their outlines (where? to class blog, on later version of VOCAT?) and get feedback from the instructor.

In-class: As a team, students will present a 3-4 minute speech with the goal of giving the audience the ability to perform their action with the Makey Makey by the end of the speech.

Groups will write a short reflection after their speech and post it to the blog/their VOCAT page.

I envision this as a warm-up to a longer, individual Informative Speech that would incorporate research. This assignment practices organizing information and finding support for main points in a contained way, so I’m interested in how it could prepare students for organizing information in a longer speech where they have to gather research.


From Julia:

The need:
In thinking about the research and organization components of COM 1010, I am particularly concerned these days with finding ways of reconciling COM 1010’s “contentless” nature with my conviction that it is impossible to develop meaningful oral communication skills without engaging in a meaningful thought process. In other words, you can’t speak well if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, and clear speech is integrally connected to clear thinking.

I’ve continued to struggle with the course’s informative speaking assignment. Whereas in the personal speech at the beginning of the semester, and the persuasive speech at the end, in which I find that students are motivated to thoroughly explore their topics, in preparing for the informative speech, I find that students frequently get stuck at a superficial level of developing knowledge and ideas. Partially this is because it’s hard to know what to say when the assignment isn’t about making an argument.

I want to develop an assignment that uses web-enhanced techniques to scaffold student processes of engaging with their informative speech topics, developing meaningful knowledge, and thinking critically about the optimal way to organize this content into an informative speech.

The context:
This activity will guide student preparations for drafting their informative speech outline. My informative speech assignment, a group speech, requires students to visit a museum exhibit of their choice and to combine the content of the exhibit with several additional sources to prepare an informative speech that teaches their audience about the content, themes, examples, etc. of the exhibit. While some groups are very successful, others choose simplistic exhibits and/or gather perfunctory information and fail to develop the level of knowledge (and interest) necessary for a successful informative presentation.

The activity:
Students within each group will use an online tool to visually represent the information they have gathered about their topic (from the exhibit and elsewhere), and to share and collectively develop understanding of the topic. They will use this web tool for posting images, sharing observations, asking questions, making connections, identifying themes, and ultimately exploring organizing patterns for turning their shared knowledge into an effective group presentation.

The tool:
My first thought was to use Instagram, but since I have never used Instagram myself, I’m not completely clear on how flexible it is and whether or not it can really do what I want it to do. If not, I’ll need to find an alternative. I started exploring Instagram last night, but it doesn’t seem all that intuitive. This is where I need help. What web tools would allow a group of three people to essentially create an online storyboard for posting images, making notes and comments associated with the images, as well as posting memos not directly connected to a particular image?

The logistics:
I still need to work out detailed requirements. I’d like to avoid micromanaging the assignment, but without guidelines, students won’t have a sense of how thorough I expect their work to be. I’m thinking of requiring something like this:

Each student is responsible for:
• Posting 5 images, with labels contextualizing the image and providing some explanation
• Posting at least three observations about images posted by other members
• Posting at least three questions (factual or more analytical) about images and content associated with them
• Responding to at least three questions or comments from other group members
• Identifying and posting two major themes of the exhibit, writing a few sentences explaining the theme
• Suggesting one possible organizing pattern for structuring the speech (in terms of what each body paragraph will be about, and the order)

Of course I need to fine-tune these directions, figure out a time frame, and decide whether or not this activity will take the place of a f2f class session. To be continued…


Over the next day, the three of us will be responding to each others’ projects and discussing the implications of each.  Tomorrow we will post more developed descriptions of the activities we are designing, accompanied by analyses of their implications for students and instructors.  We welcome your thoughts!




Update on Our Dialogue

Our dialogue is continuing, as our explorations coalesce into tangible approaches to creating an initial list of online resources (both student and instructor) for the Great Works courses.   Although we are all navigating this project from somewhat different angles, all of us are very much concerned with how hybridity can increase student involvement with the text.   Our variety of interests have unleashed our discussion into a number of trajectories:  a literary piece as a hypertext that explores character development in innovative ways; using new resources like 3D printing to create more playful, enlivening approaches to the text; expanding the possibilities of research and annotation, both traditional and online; exploring how literary translation can be a viable avenue for deepening comprehension for both instructors and students; experimenting with new ways to connect art and music to the text.

As Miciah explained in his Monday post, we are all examining different ways to think about using online resources to enhance our students’ experience of the hybrid environment, and our disparate methods reflect the complex nature of such an ambitious goal. As a group we seem to agree that keeping the format open is important, as we’re all still laboring to process this very different learning arena that we are stepping into.



Great Works Cohort Project

Today our group has had a lot of back and forth on a separate Google doc about what we could imagine as resources for a hybrid Great Works course. At base the very idea of resource is up for grabs, as we have all chimed in with different expectations, uses, thoughts as to what could be resourceful.

We are treating this project a kind of “beginning” of a compilation that branches out in different ways an topics germane to Great Works. Over the course of the week, we will be brainstorming, reflecting, and hopefully generating a document that offers different ways to spur interest in ways to hybridize the class.  Some of us are thinking of how these resources can be worked directly into possible assignments, while others are looking towards readings that will help instructors frame, model, or instruct students to use a hybrid learning model.

We have broken the resources into these subtopics that we are working on in groups:

Close reading / reading comprehension (Meechal)
Oral presentation
Comparative analysis (Nicole)
Audio and video
Research (Nicole, Cheryl)
Literature and social media (literature on Twitter, Tumblr, blogs)
Literature and visual art:  20th Cent. (Volume F) online/out of classroom resources (Jeanne); Miciah
Literature and music:  20th Cent. (Volume F) online/out of classroom resources (Jeanne)
Literature on the stage
Literature in/and NYC (Meechal, Miciah)
Literary translation (Meechal, Cheryl)

The COM 1010 cohort

Julia, Carol and I met f2f today to discuss our group project.  During our conversation we identified some common challenges in teaching COM 1010, which we feel may also point to opportunities for designing innovative hybrid assignments.  Particularly, we all felt strongly that walking students through organizing and supporting an argument, whether it be for an informative or a persuasive speech, is a critical component of the course.  As Julia noted, being able to internalize the form is necessary for students to later improvise and be creative with it.  Making arguments and constructing outlines of those arguments is also one of the places where students struggle the most/require the most guidance, and where we anticipate that experiementing with innovation and hybrid mechanisms could yield the most return.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to each propose an assignment that addresses the areas of gathering and organizing materials and critical thinking.   We will design the assignments separately, over the course of the next two days, with each group member describing their assignment’s timeframe, technologies, modes of evaluation, and relationship to the learning goals identified.  We’ll send the assignments to Julia, who will post them as our work-in-progress on Wednesday.  The second part of our project will be to provide feedback for each other on the assignments and to work through some of the implications, positive and negative, we see in incorporating these specific assignments into a hybrid course.  We are interested in both the possibilities and the risks of our designs, and in addressing shared perceived challenges.  Carol will post our revised assignments, with context, to the blog on Thursday.

Thoughts on the Group Project

Good morning, Comm1010 folks.

I read through your posts over the weekend, and wanted to post a couple quick thoughts about some common threads I noticed that might help you with your group project. I’m sure you all have your own awesome ideas, but in case it’s helpful, here are some things I noticed:

  • Maintaining engagement and interaction in the online sessions. While many of you mentioned the inherent apparent contradiction in taking a public speaking class online, you seem confident in the benefits of hybridization. However, many of you expressed concern about what you might lose in a class like Comm1010 in the online space. You all had some great ideas about how to keep students engaged, though, so I wonder if you might want to put together a handbook or guide of ideas about how to do this in Comm1010 specifically.
  • Workflow. While you all had interesting and effective examples of assignments that already break out of the grid structure, you noted the challenges of timing, and wondered how to make the online space work for the face-to-face sessions. It might be neat to design an assignment series that tackles these questions.

Quick Ideas about Deliverables…

Greetings, Great Works faculty. It’s too early for me to come up with a snappy title for this post, so I opted for a rather pedestrian explanatory one.

I’ve been reading through your posts and responses over the weekend, and I wanted to write a couple things that seem to keep coming up that might help you with your group project. I’m sure you have your own excellent ideas, but these are some common threads I noticed.

  • Maintaining engagement, a sense of community, and replicating the magic and pleasure of teaching and learning that happens face-to-face in Great Works online.  While many of you expressed concern about this, you also articulated great ideas about how to do so. Maybe you could come up with a document that brainstorms and advises about how to maintain engagement in hybrid Great Works classes.
  • Negotiating the line between creativity/non-traditional assignments and scholarly rigor/traditional writing assignments in literature courses. It might be neat to see a structured series of assignments that utilize the hybrid format to blend non-traditional and traditional assignments.

Connecting Online with In-class

This past semester, I worked on new assignment for COM 1010 that in some ways points to the opportunities I see in hybridizing the course. A few of us had the chance to do a kind of trial run of VOCAT 3.0. I thought I’d test drive an idea of having students analyze the rhetorical techniques that persuasive speakers use in a particular presentation, with the plan that they would then make their own short presentation about the speech they analyzed, arguing whether or not they thought the speaker was persuasive.

The idea stemmed from a class period the previous semester where we watched and analyzed President Obama’s speech about Syria from September 10, 2013. In that class, I played the video through the projector and stopped and started at points I thought were key, where I’d already identified that the President was using rhetorical strategies like ethos, logos, pathos, or making a particular type of persuasive argument. I asked them what they thought was happening in each moment, and they were fairly good at identifying what I was asking for. However, I was left with the feeling that there was a lot more opportunity for engagement in analysis, that I’d been leading them too much, and that the contact with the material I’d designed for them was a bit superficial and passive.

The new VOCAT allows for students to upload speeches from YouTube, Vimeo and elsewhere, so I tasked them in the Spring semester to find their own videos to upload and analyze, using the annotate feature, which allows you to capture notes wherever in the video you want to. Now they had many more opportunities to make their own decisions, like what video to choose and where to annotate (they had a few key concepts they had to find, like one example each of ethos, logos, and pathos). I think they were able to do much closer, more invested analyses because of this. The assignment ended up scaffolding itself well, as they went from annotating, then pulling those annotations together into an argument, then presenting the argument to the class. In class, students were curious about and attentive to their fellow students’ analyses, and we all had the benefit of seeing clips of a wide variety of persuasive speakers. There are a lot of tweaks I’d make to the assignment going forward, but it definitely seemed to deepen the distributive and critical learning happening in my classes. I would love to continue thinking about how online spaces can support in-class presentations and how they might build upon each other.

In terms of risk, if I think broadly about COM 1010, I fear loss of engagement because of loss of class time. COM 1010, for me at least, works best as a kind of workshop, where we walk through the process of making different types of presentation together and build camaraderie and trust. I see a risk here, but maybe also an opportunity to think carefully about how to reinforce the workshop/camaraderie feel in online spaces so that it can support the face-to-face interaction in class. From reading everyone’s posts, I am struck by the possibilities for experiment and play that hybridization presents. A focus on experiment could be radically beneficial to COM 1010 students (and teachers, too!) learning how to approach the challenges of making and giving presentations.