Category Archives: Logistics

Peer Feedback Assignment

This Friday, you’ll email a complete rough draft of your longer multimodal essay to two of your peers—and you’ll receive rough drafts from two of your peers. By next Wednesday, October 29, at 11:59 p.m., you should email those two peers with clear, useful feedback on their drafts. Please be sure to include me in all email threads related to this assignment.

In the emails to your peers, you should:

  • Briefly describe your understanding of the essay’s argument and paraphrase the claim of the essay. If the claim has major issues—if it’s not contestable, for example, or supportable with evidence—politely point out those issues.
  • Identify at least one place in the essay where you see room for disagreement with the author or complication/qualification of a point. Do any observations/points of analysis in the essay feel incomplete? Are there any holes in the argument?
  • Briefly point out two strengths of the essay
  • Clearly and directly describe TWO ways the author might improve the essay in revision. If the point of improvement occurs throughout the essay, cite one example of the trend from the essay’s text.

I will email class rosters, with email addresses, on 10/22. The two students you are responsible for responding to will be the two students below you on that list (if you’re at the bottom of the list, circle back around to the top).

Recording and Reflecting On Your Pecha-Kuchas

After you’ve presented in class, you’ll record your pecha-kucha as a narration and make it into a video for the web. Doing so means that this presentation persists, becomes useful outside our classroom, and potentially reaches a wider audience.

Once you’ve recorded your p-k, it should look something like this:

You should not record yourself presenting in front of a screen, but should instead present the p-k as a series of images with a voice narrating them.

The procedure for doing so differs in Mac v. Windows (and each platform has some advantages and disadvantages). If you want to explore other options for recording than the ones described here, for example using screen-casting software to record it, you are welcome to. At the end of the process, you should have a YouTube video that can be embedded on your class blog.

On Windows

Best Option

Your classmate Jeff, from section G2, has prepared a useful set of instructions for recording a screencast of your PowerPoint using free Open Broadcaster Software. Those instructions are here.

Less Desirable Option

Follow the instructions for recording directly in PowerPoint provided by Microsoft here. There are two basic steps:

  • Recording a narration for your presentation and
  • Exporting the presentation as a video.

You will probably need to click to advance your slides using this method… if that is the case, don’t worry about each slide occupying precisely 20 seconds (as long as your presentation is somewhere in the vicinity of 6:40, you’re good to go).

On a Mac

The process here is a bit different. You use QuickTime Player to record your screen as PowerPoint automatically advances your slides. The output here is a video file that can be uploaded to YouTube. Follow these instructions—make sure you select the appropriate microphone before you begin recording.

On Both

If you have any trouble recording, please visit me at office hours or at another time—I’ll get you set up in a quiet room to record. Once you have recorded, you should upload your video to YouTube. If you want to leave it public, feel free to do so. If you prefer to keep it private, set the privacy setting to “Unlisted,” then password-protect your blog post with your section’s password (which I’ll remind you of on Wednesday 10/22).

Reflecting On Your Process

You should embed your video at the top of a new blog post, then offer a 400-500 word reflection on the process of making it. In your reflection, include at least two images from your presentation—explain how the image works in relation to the narrated part of the presentation, and explain how you are doing something with the visual imagery that you couldn’t do in text.

Beyond these close explanations of two slides, write about other aspects of your process. Don’t view this set of questions as a catalogue to be answered in full, but as a series of ideas for aspects of your process you might reflect on: How did you select a topic? How did you narrow that topic? How did you develop an argument based on that topic? How did you select images for your presentation? How did you prepare to present in class? How is the version  of the presentation in class different from the presentation on the web? Did you have to answer challenging questions? How did the focus of the pecha-kucha change as you worked on it? Would you approach any aspects of the project differently if you had to do the assignment again?

Post your video and reflection to your section’s blog by 11:59 p.m. one week after your presentation. If you presented on 10/17 or 10/20, you may have a bit more time—post the videos by 10/28 at 11:59 p.m. In WordPress, mark the post with the category “Pecha-Kucha.”

Links for Today’s Rhetorical Analyses

Here are the links for the Google Slides presentations for today’s class activity:

Section A

Section J1

Section G2

In your groups, analyze the assigned artifact as a rhetorical object. Think about ways the object uses ethos, logos, and pathos, and consider the varied purposes of the rhetorical object. How might its purposes vary when it is viewed/used by different audiences? Some of these objects will seem “neutral,” but what aspects of them have an agenda? Include some images on your slides that point to specific, important details/evidence from the rhetorical object at hand. You might also consider how/whether the object at hand affects your view of data-driven education reform.

Revision to Blog Commenting Assignment

We worked in class today to make our blog conversations more productive. In particular, we’re trying to foster more actual substantive discussion in the comments—we don’t want them to be random text strewn into the ether for the sake of fulfilling a set quantity.

The new commenting guidelines all the classes agreed to are these:

  • The persons primarily responsible for commenting each week will be responsible for at least one, rather than the previously specified three, substantive comments. Since the quantity has gone done, expectations for quality go up a bit. Everyone in the class would prefer one really solid, useful comment to ten random, irrelevant ones. You should post on whichever posts interests you, but if there are posts without comments, you should try to find something interesting to say about them.
  • Authors of original posts should respond to some of the comments on their posts by Monday of the following week.
  • At the conclusion of the blog assignment, you will be responsible for showing evidence of your substantive engagement in comments sections, both as a commenter and as an author responding to comments.

Some classes noted that many useful comments posed direct questions to authors, pointed authors to relevant resources, pointed authors to complicating counter-evidence, or respectfully took objection to specific parts of the post. Authors also appreciated comments that pointed to unexpected ways of thinking about images or details the original author did not address in her post. The key goal of the entire class is to make the comments sections useful and interesting.

I have added these changed expectations as an addendum to blog assignment on the Assignments Overview page of the syllabus.

Blog Conventions and Comment Conversations

A couple quick reminders on blog conventions: blog posts should have titles that aren’t just  “reading-response post” or “experiential post,” and they should be categorized as either Reading-Response Posts or Experiential Posts. One aspect of blogging we haven’t discussed much yet is linking: whenever it makes sense, you should be linking to relevant resources. Take a look around at blogs, and you’ll see that most blog writers don’t strew URLs around their posts willy-nilly. Instead, they use links in the text of their posts.

Today, we’ll talk about how to make the blog component of our course better. I hope that by the end of class, each section will have established some expectations for each other about how we can improve it. In doing so, of course, we’ll also discuss today’s reading about Julian Assange, and also some of the great resources students in the class have found in their reading-response posts.

I received a number of comments from students in the anonymous feedback about the blog posts and comments. Three in particular stood out to me:

I’d actually love to see the blog posts and blog comments being discussed in class and not just out of class.

One thing that I do not enjoy about the class is doing the comments on the blogs. I feel like the writers of the blogs never check back to read the comments and the only person who reads them is you.

I think the forced commenting on blogs is annoying because it doesn’t actually start conversation, people half ass it for the grade.

While I’m sure that students have varied opinions on the quality of the blog conversation so far, I think it’s clear that the conversations in comment sections can be better.

We’ll first listen to an interview from the NPR show On The Media with Atlantic writer and blogger Ta Nehisi Coates about  how he curates the comments section on his acclaimed blog.

Then, I’ll have groups take a look at the conversations that have been taking place in the comments section on the blog. What is working? What could be better?

Finally, each group will be assigned a blog post, and we’ll hold a virtual conversation within each group in the comments section of a blog post.

Then, we’ll brainstorm ways to make the conversation on the blog better—more like the combination virtual/real-world conversations we’ve just had. Are there ways to tweak/restructure the assignment a bit differently to foster better conversations?


Calendar-style Schedule

A student in Section J1 suggested that a calendar-style schedule would be easier to read than the list-style schedule, and I agree. I’ve made the change, and the schedules for October, November, and December should now look like this:

Screenshot 2014-09-29 16.32.55

The dates on which students are scheduled to present their pecha-kuchas are also included on the calendar.

Please let me know if you run into any bugs or errors in the schedule.

New, (Hopefully) Simpler Site Setup

In the student feedback I gathered on September 26, one recurring theme was that some students found the course blog hard to navigate, and I realized that I agreed. I realize now that it was hard for students to locate communications from me amid all the student posts. So I’ve set up another blog on which I’ll post syllabus content, assignment prompts, and other content from me. Since I’ll only have to update one site, this will also be a great place for me to answer questions about prompts—just use the comments section for each prompt’s page. Each weekend, I’ll post an update clarifying what needs to be done to prepare for class in the week ahead.

To switch back and forth between this main site and each section’s individual site, use the appropriate link in the upper-left-hand corner of the page:



You can easily navigate back to this main page from roughly the same spot on your individual’s section’s page:


The syllabus, including the full schedule, has been moved to this site. I’ve moved individual assignment prompts to pages here, too, and they can be accessed using the menu in the top bar:


Hopefully, putting these prompts in a more centralized place will make them easier to access. I’ve also attempted to eliminate some extraneous clutter on the section blogs. My hope is that the cleaned-up interface will make the site(s) more usable.

If you have a question about an assignment, please ask it on the blog, even if you do so anonymously. Below each assignment prompt, you’ll see a place for name, email, etc…. but you don’t even need to fill those out if you don’t want to. I prefer that you ask questions here so other students can benefit from the response:

Screenshot 2014-09-26 17.21.42

Screenshot 2014-09-26 17.29.24

I will do my best to respond to questions in a timely manner. If you have any questions about the new blog setup, please feel free to ask them here, in the comments section.