I don’t think any of us writing and communication instructors would rush to teach another MOOC soon. For now, the technology is lacking for courses in subject areas like writing, which have such strong qualitative evaluation requirements. Too often we found our pedagogical choices hindered by the course-delivery platform we were required to use, when we felt that the platform should serve the pedagogical requirements. Too many decisions about platform functionality seem to be arbitrary, or made by people who may be excellent programmers but, I suspect, have never been teachers. Despite the challenges, we all feel that being part of the early process of testing new pedagogical approaches was instructive and exciting.
There are any number of “productivity” tools for writers available online and off, not to mention tricks and tips in every writing guide and magazine. I ignore those, for the most part, but some discussion around a new tool could be useful for sharing with our students to talk about the impossibility of a “one size fits all” approach to writing (for instance, I openly admit to my students that part of my own process — which seems to be working — includes pausing to play Flash games on my laptop, taking walks, and daydreaming).
In an interview with The Guardian, novelist Helen Oyeyemi said this when asked for a writing tip:
Download the Write or Die computer application. When you activate kamikaze mode, the screen lets you pause typing for about 45 seconds before it begins deleting words you’ve already written. Because, sometimes, fear is the only motivator.
SmartEdit is an automated tool that scans your finished novel or your work in progress and highlights areas that might need closer attention. It runs six individual checks, such as highlighting words or phrases marked by you for monitoring, counting the different dialog tags you have used, counting and highlighting adverbs, and searching out over-used phrases, words and clichés.
It’s not a word processor – its sole purpose is to assist you when you edit your work, much like a grammar or spell checker.
Michael Wesch has been on the lecture circuit for years touting new models of active teaching with technology. The associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University has given TED talks. Wired magazine gave him a Rave Award. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching once named him a national professor of the year. But now Mr. Wesch finds himself rethinking the fundamentals of teaching—and questioning his own advice.
Mr. Wesch is not swearing off technology—he still believes you can teach well with YouTube and Twitter. But at a time when using more interactive tools to replace the lecture appears to be gaining widespread acceptance, he has a new message. It doesn’t matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student. @ mediatedcultures.net
I’ve described both on this blog and in our fall meeting the ways I’m using Google tools in my classes this semester, and I think it’s about time for an update: So far, so good. Honestly, I would have expected more problems or at least hiccups by now (knock on wood), but the introduction of the tools to my students and the use of them so far has gone really well. There have been only a couple of issues: