Tag Archives: Great-Works

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.

Continue reading Great Works Project

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.

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.

The Myth of “Teaching in my Jammies”

Working from Home

This is the image I get when I think of online teaching. Curled up in a chair and feeling quite devilish knowing that I was typing up lectures for students to read on blogs while in my Hello Kitty jammies.

BUT, after the readings and discussions, I see a different way to teach hybrid Eng 28000 [Great Works I] classes online and maintain a sense of face time with the students. What about incorporating video responses? I know we are in the experimental stages so I can just daydream out loud. But what if there were two components to reading responses? One in which they responded on a blog with quotations and analysis. Another form of response, just to keep things fresh and exciting, would be video responses or question sessions. This would not take away from office hours, which I would always keep in person. But I mean what if their assignment was to design a set of questions about the texts and they tag someone in the class to ask and the person tagged responds back in video format. A kind of conversation that happens that allows online friendships to happen. I am in agreement with Meechal, my favorite classes were those that allowed me to build relationships with my classmates and the professor. We may not lose that in a hybrid environment. Perhaps by bringing play into the classroom, we can still create friendships. I have to say that I have made a lot of friends and professional contacts just talking to them in an online setting first then developing it f2f [my fav new acronym btw]. Perhaps this concept of tagging would then allow people to pick on each other — I only see this in a wordpress document with their emails connected to getting notifications, or a system that allows them to see when they are tagged by someone to respond to the questions.

This is only one assignment that I have to play out. But the medium of video and audio may be a nice way to build different kinds of listening and engagement skills. Audio alone is a good separate assignment because it teaches us to listen. These things would be fun and important ways of being connected to one another and feeling like a live [as in lively, noisy, constructively messy] class.

Video, Audio, Writing, and Images would be a way to introduce a variety of forms of communication and analysis strategies. Using these media formats as a way to scaffold toward in class meetings, papers, and a final performance [something that is an important part of my classes] would be actually some fun ways to teach an ancient literature course.

Last night, I watched a one woman multimedia performance “One Drop of Love” by Fanshen Cox DiGiovonni. It was absolutely amazing. The text, the translations was one way to absorb her life history. The audio  interviews with her family members, after she had just done a performance of her mother, her father etc, was powerful. The photos of her childhood and images of U.S. census records were all such an incredible way to immerse the audience in her life history.

I can’t help but think how useful this would be for teaching. How does Gilgamesh come alive? When we see images of Gilgamesh. When we see Cuneiform. When see video of the reception of Gilgamesh:

Epic of Gilgamesh

And students are allowed to role play characters or rewrite and perform [recite and record themselves] then I’d say that they’ve been immersed fully in the text and then can find the lines more alive, and more accessible.

So maybe there is a way to keep the sense of analysis, community, collaboration, and levity in a Great Works class even if it is hybrid. So maybe I shouldn’t be so nervous about hybrid classes… maybe…



All about my Selfie

This past semester I reintroduced presentations to my section of ENG 2850, after taking a semester’s break. Previously, I had organized presentations throughout the year to introduce the time periods of the texts the class was going to be studying (for instance “The Enlightenment,” “Romanticism,” or “Post-Colonialism and Globalization”). Groups of 3-4 students would research the period and come up with a presentation that I hoped would be a fun and informative supplement to lectures that I give to introduce a new unit. Unfortunately, what I had hoped would be fun and exciting (and some were, to be fair), were often drier than what I presented. So, I took a break and reintroduced the group presentation this past semester, but at the end of the term. This time, I asked students to brainstorm on a general question: what is something you think about a lot every day. This brainstorming session gave birth to topics like, Social Media, Sports, Racism, Romance, Feminism, Inequality and, yes, even Selfies. Each member of the group of 2 or 3 drew topics from a bag and among themselves had to select the topic from those choices.  After selecting a contemporary topic, they then had to present how this idea relates to 2-4 works we had studied in the year. As all assignments go, some were fascinating and informative (The social media group created facebook accounts for three literary loners—Frankenstein’s Monster, Sarty from Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” and Gregor Samsa from “The Metamorphosis”—and the ensuing back and forth messages, pulled from quotations from the texts and their own interpretations, wall posts, buzzfeed quizzes showed a great deal of insight into the works and specifically queried the idea of whether or not social media promotes human connection), and others were not (a promising premise of Clarissa Dalloway coming out on an episode of Oprah quickly devolved into reductive thinking about the novel and over-emphasized a discussion of sexual mechanics).

Why do I bring this up as a risk? Well, in my attempt for students to embrace the connection between the great works we study and the lives we live today, I felt more often than not that students equated freedom and creativity with less critical thinking and the urgency to get a laugh. When I approach how I can use hybrid learning and technology to open up the classroom to empower students and harness their own innovative thinking and learning, I fear that the freedom I give them will not produce happy chaos or productive mistakes, but rather their turning a blind eye to the rigors of literary study and critical thinking in favor of navel-gazing. I teach literature today for this reason—I do believe that rigorous creative work helps to transcend time and place and helps us to increase our self-knowledge and what it means to be human.  The presentations of last semester have stuck with me because of the risks they pose—a risk that can bring out strengths in weaker students, produce innovative thinking, but that can also expose how inveterate the coping mechanisms and bad habits are that block learning potential. How do I strike the balance of giving students have more control over their education with hybrid technologies in the deconstructed learning environments, without compromising on my teaching goals of the class?

Turning skeptics into lovers and other thoughts

One opportunity of hybridizing a course like Great Works of Literature is that participation might become more evenly split between oral participation in classroom discussion and written participation on a course blog. This would allow students who don’t excel at speaking up to have another venue for real, active participation that “counts” and is on their own terms. And since you can ask more of students in their blog posts in a hybrid class than we can now when the class is fully f2f (because blogging time in a f2f class is extra, or homework, whereas in a hybrid class it could be the class time itself) that extra amount of writing might really deepen a student’s writing skills. So, you get (at least) two benefits in one: quieter students get the opportunity to participate actively in the discussion and everyone’s writing skills improve because more of the class takes place through writing. And as we’ve discussed already on the blog and as Bass and Groom and Lamb also discussed, this writing is ideally public in some capacity, and so the stakes are higher, and the participation feels more purposeful.

Most of my fears about hybridizing courses are also things I feel confident I can find ways of working around. For example: Too many response papers on a blog = too much grading! Possible solutions: peer reviewing, staggering responses, some students respond, some students comment on responses…

One thing I worry about and that I don’t see a solution for is the loss of the kind of excitement and engagement that can only be experienced in a f2f course (which isn’t to say that different kinds of excitement and engagement can’t happen outside of f2f interactions, but there is a difference). My favorite classes in college were the ones in which I made friends, or the ones with an awesome professor. These were responses to the people and the setting, not necessarily to the material. My fear, especially with Great Works, which is a required class and not one most Baruch students enter enthusiastically, is that they won’t fall in love with the course in the way they seem to do now, because they won’t have as much access to others and to the professor in a live, personal setting. My experience is that at the end of the semester, students tell me that they weren’t expecting to like the class but that it was their favorite one so far in college, or some variation on that statement. I don’t think this is necessarily my doing (though it is extremely gratifying!) and I don’t think they are responding to a newfound love of literature (though some certainly are) — I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of the class itself as it now exists. It’s a smaller class-size, they are asked their opinion regularly, they are asked to challenge  their beliefs and to find ways to challenge those of others, their participation in class discussion matters so much to their grade that they are forced to do it (something I think most students want to do, even if they’re afraid of doing it), they develop friendships in regular group work, they see me being chatty and friendly and modeling a love of literature — in other words, we build a comfortable space in which the students  get a chance to do something I think they all crave:  to think, and to see thinking happen. I’m worried about the loss of this experiential, personal classroom experience, and I’m worried that the course won’t be as surprising and liberating for many students as it is now.  Of course hybrid courses could be largely in person, and maybe a Great Works class would need to be. But what if it was only 30% in person? What would happen to that dynamic that turns skeptics into lovers of literature and writing?

The Pleasure Principle

At this point, I see the main opportunities in hybridizing a Great Works of Literature course to be: 1) more (and more variety of) writing, 2) more opportunities for non-traditional learners and/or shyer students to participate more fully, 3) the space to dig into my own teaching practice, examine my assumptions, and experiment. I will definitely be looking at how I’ve used blogs in the past. I’ve used them in a lot of classes and have definitely gotten better over the years, but I will need to consider what more I have to do to make sure my class blog (or whatever spaces I use) rises to the occasion of a hybrid learning experience.  I want to focus on giving diverse assignments, so students with different skills all have a chance to “shine.”  I always do this, but I feel like the hybrid structure will open up new ways for me to imagine and encourage student success.

The main risk I see–my big fear–is a loss of pleasure. Time flies when I’m teaching. Not all the work associated with teaching (ahem, grading) fills me with adrenaline and joy, but class time does–it definitely does. I’m at the point in my career that even when a class session goes “poorly,” it’s a good experience. I examine it, learn from it, am interested in what happened. Good or bad, class time is an opportunity to get to know my students, be surprised, and learn along with them. It’s just fun.  And it’s what sustains my energies during a semester when some less fun stuff threatens to drag me down. I worry I won’t enjoy teaching as much in a hybrid environment–and that, as Nicole mentioned, I’ll lose the flexibility I’ve learned to build into my classes, which is a big part of what’s fun and DYNAMIC about the work of teaching.

Writing and Reading in a Hybrid Course

I think students in a hybridized ENG2800 course would benefit from the opportunity to write in different (and public/semi public) ways. An article like this for instance considers how new forms of internet-based writing (in which many students regularly engage) could or should change our approach to teaching writing. The article points out that, through the internet, people are writing more — and then asks how a writing class should take into account these different forms of online writing. I think, in a hybridized course, confronting online writing is clearly inevitable, but it does not have to mean sacrificing academic writing. In fact, I think a hybridized class provides a really interesting opportunity to explore these different forms, how they differ, and how practicing public online writing and standard academic writing can be a process mutually beneficial to both. For instance, I know that many of my students come into class with a host of preconceived and often incorrect notions about what academic writing entails (we are all familiar with the essays that begin, “Throughout history, all of mankind….”!). I think writing on a class blog for instance helps to mitigate that type of issue and may even demonstrate why it is an issue in the first place– maybe an “all of mankind” statement would suddenly look absurd to a student imagining it in a blog post! Potentially students feel less pressure when writing on a course blog than they do in academic papers, and perhaps they could learn how to bring that ease into their academic writing.

The issue I see at this point in hybridization is in the reading side of an ENG course. I feel that so much about how to read and how to read closely is a tool acquired in the classroom through discussion and work performed together. This would of course still be done in the F2F time, but that leads me into another worry — I fear putting a lot of pressure on the F2F classroom to make sure we do everything we “can’t” do online, and I’m not sure how, as an instructor, I would know which aspects of the course to move online and the best way of doing so. I think hybrid courses entail a reimagining of the course as a whole, and that leads me to my last worry which is about the level of planning (pointed out in our reading) required for successful execution of a hybrid course. I understand completely why this planning would be necessary, but I’ve always left a certain amount of flexibility in my courses so that we can adjust according to student interest, the pace of the course, etc — would this flexibility be lost in a hybrid course?