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Citations are rhetoric, plain and simple. Each time you cite something, you are employing a rhetorical device. When you employ the device erroneously, you make the case to your reader that you don’t understand what you are trying to say. The most common rhetorical citation device I see is the consensus citation. A consensus citation is when you make the case that a whole bunch of scholars agree about something. For example, multiple citations on a given point express how pervasive the consensus is among scholars. Here is an example: Scholars agree that asynchronous communication is democratized (Chun & Plass, 2000; Gunawardena, 2004; Howard 2012; Johnson, 2006; Stockwell, 2007; Warschauer, 1997).
The same sentence with only one citation is not just a case of fewer citations, it’s actually a different rhetoric altogether. It suggests the author is the one make the point, the first one to coin the term, or the only one that you happened to encounter that mentions such a thing. For example, consider if you had the same sentence from above with just one citation, “Scholars agree that asynchronous communication is democratized (Howard, 2012)”. This sentence means that Howard (2012) claims that scholars agree about this, but you as the author of the piece, may or may not agree. If you had the sentence, “Asynchronous communication is democratized (Howard 2012).” Then this would suggest Howard (2012) coined the term, you read that original wok, and you are using the meaning as he described it. It’s a kind of reference to the reader that if they want to knew more about this concept, they should go read Howard (2012) because you have no interest in explaining the concept again. Contrast this to the meaning of three or more citations in the same space that suggests consensus. These are two different rhetorical moves, both made via the use of a citation.
A problem arises when you cite a work that cites a work. If in Howard (2012) you followed a discussion built on Vygotky (1975), then you could employ some sort of “as cited in” phrase, but elegance plummets. Along with your elegance, your rhetorical style goes with it. I have not yet encountered a one-size-fits-all solution for this predicament. Typically, a writer is referred to the original source for accuracy.
A small but worth mentioning error surrounds coining a commonly used term, or laying ownership to something that’s not really own-able. Sometimes we find a writer will inadvertently credit a concept when they mean to credit an explanation. A direct citation or a paraphrased citation credits an author with a concept, but some scholars inadvertently credit an author with a concept when the author has simply used the concept or tern and then explained it. Sometimes that explanation is so elegant that grow to own simply because of this error. To resolve such cases, we have the rhetorical device “see” within the citation space. If the author simply explains the idea but doesn’t originate the concept, add “see” to make that clear. Thus the erroneous sentence, “This will be a Criterion-Referenced Assessment (Mager, 1997) to measure my students’ knowledge.” mistakenly credits Mager (1997) for creating the concept of criterion referencing. More correct would be, “This will be a Criterion-Referenced Assessment (see Mager, 1997) to measure my students’ knowledge of each subject area based on the Common Core Standards.” This lets the reader know that Mager (1997) is a good place to find a discussion of this concept, though Mager is likely not original author of this insight. In other words, this first citation says the author (Mager) coined the term, or that the author is using an interpretation of the term that is drawn from Mager because there are other ways to interpret the term. In the second example, Mager simply explained the term, as suggested by the rhetorical “see” prior to the citation. For a concept like criterion referencing in test design, a large number of scholars worked on the concept over an extended period of time. It strikes me as foolish to credit one person with the idea.
The rhetoric of citations can also backfire on you if the relationships between the written work and the argument are unclear. If you have used a section in a way that exposes faulty logic, you can evidence that you don’t understand what you are talking about. For example, I sometimes find advanced learners use citations in such a way as to imply an implausible logical relationship, such as a causal relationship that actually does not exist. For example, look at this construction, “Participation has been argued to be an intrinsic part of learning,” (Wenger, 1998; Hrastinski, 2008) therefore the videos provide clients and their staff opportunities to learn about the features of the software during the course of integrated authentic performance assessment.” This means that because Wenger said it, the learners will learn. But of course the learner neither care nor heed what some obscure educational researchers say, so the reader dismisses the writer as misinformed, or worse. What a tragedy when the student is actually an insightful designer explaining complex designs! Had the writer used citation rhetoric more accurately, their insight would have shown through. A revised statement might read: “There is moderate consensus that participation is intrinsic to learning (Wenger, 1998; Hrastinski, 2008). Therefore, with this in mind, we designed the videos to provide clients and their staff opportunities to learn about the features of the software during the course of integrated authentic performances assessment.” With the questionable logic removed, the writer’s insight becomes far clearer. For this reason, I ask that none of my learners attempt to finish direct quotes in their writing. The rhetoric can too easily run amuck. The same goes with direct quotes with two authors, which is impossible, and unfortunately, more common than I would hope.
Sometimes, the citation is the right rhetorical move, but the rhetorical value of a citation does not trump a first-hand account; rather, the citation is another perspective altogether. For example take the erroneous, “I noticed learners tended to complete online discussions only in the final hours prior to the deadline (Howard 2012).” By adding the citation, you have effectively told the reader that you are crediting someone else with what you saw. This makes no sense and is at the same time, a common error. If you witnessed it, that is evidence enough that it happened. If the phenomenon is also witnessed by another researcher, you’re free to say so. However, one must separate the two perspectives or your point will be lost and the reader confused.
The date is part of the rhetoric of a citation; without a date there is no citations. I simply do not buy into the idea of “no date” or “n.d.”. The rhetorical value of the date has meaning on many different levels. For example, by citing a much older publication, a researcher can show that a concept has been churning through the mind of other scholars for quite some time. For example, “Design precedent (Lawson 1990) is a concept integral to our understanding of design Learners might grow in their understanding of how to design (Boling 2010).” Scholars often change their position on something over the course of their career, so the date is as important as the name. Also, if there really is no date, it is wisest not to include the reference unless you’re employing a rather complex rhetorical strategy, such as mocking public opinion. For a detailed discussion of this, see my blog post on citing Wikipedia. But in general, I advise my learners that if there is no date, it is not worth citing at this point in their learning.
I often find myself suggesting to authors not to put citations in the first sentence of a paragraph. The reason I advise this is because, in such a position, the rhetorical value being employed by the citation is unclear. The topic sentence needs to lead the reader to the evidence behind the argument. When we have a citation in the topic sentence location, the typical role of citation as evidence can’t be used, so the reader goes searching for what the paragraph is actually about. But the topic sentence is supposed to say what the paragraph is about. This confuses the reader. I am sure there may be cases where putting a citation in the first line of a paragraph could be employed advantageously, but those cases are rare. In my 20 years of teaching writing, i have found that figuring out what the paragraph really means in the context of the larger thesis necessitates a broader statement in the topic sentence location.
Citing advertisements is very tricky business, and in our digital world, advertisements are progressively more disguised. Websites’ about pages, or product pages a firm produced about its own products, are a form of advertisement. They are there to promote, not really explain in the same way a non-biased review might be. Citing an about page, or assuming it as matter of fact, makes the claim that you, as the researcher, trust an advertisement as much a scholarly paper. I can’t think of any scholarly context in which this strategy could be viewed as rhetorically sound. For example, the reaction one might fetch from this citation is easy to predict, “YouTube is arguably the best website ever known to mankind (YouTube, 2015).” Other citations from product literature, be they from web sources or elsewhere, are effectively the same though they may be even more stealthily disguised. I strongly encourage my learners to question the source and never take a company’s literature at face value. I would not trust any corporation to give me an unbiased evaluation of its products in an advertisement, which is basically what an about page is.
If you have other citation rhetoric insights, I would love to hear them. Please send me a comment. This post has been revised and expanded several times as I find new and more complex citation issues. Last update: November 2019.
Universities, colleges and other types of learning institutions often pursue projects that initially start as non-credit bearing activities until they grow into accepted pedagogical practices and can become courses, or components of courses, and carry credit. These initiatives are how educational institutions transform. These are often the kinds of initiatives that make news, and often affect real change, even if that change is not readily apparent at the onset of the project. In each case, it takes multiple players to make institutional change into institutional reality.
For example, one such design is the reading program started by Alejandro Gac-Artigas featured recently on PBS here. This is instructional design, (by the way, it’s a design case, albeit a rather superficial one) teachers implemented a cooperative summer reading program with parents, a design genre that has been implemented dozens of times before (McCarthey 2000). Innovative or not, this type of attention on an in-school but out of class activity is important for gaining support and buy-in from those whose cooperation is needed to make initiatives succeed. What’s not mentioned in the video segment, but is vitally important, is the cooperative support from others at the institution. If you look closely at the PBS video segment, there are a number of indicators that this intervention is not a single-source project. The sessions happen during summer break; thus administration played a part in getting summer funding to keep doors open. There are multiple teachers teaching this curriculum, thus some other teacher volunteered to help with the teaching. There is non-junk food on the tables to keep parents and kids revved up during the activity; cafeteria staff also had a role. Before I talk about A&M Texarkana’s CATPALs, I will mention two other transformative projects that enlisted many players to transform teaching and learning at institutions where I saw this same type of in-school but out of class intervention transform the institution, in ways large and small.
Kanda University’s Self-Access Learning Centre: In 1998-99, Lucy Cooker wanted to create a space for learners that was less antiseptic, more inviting, and supportive of the motivated learner to really excel though self-paced learning. She talks about in this video. Notice she focuses on institutional support in her talk about the centre, which has now boomed to serving hundreds of learners daily from just a small 2-classroom project. Dozens of instructors supported the SALC during its fledgling years, though not all believed in the idea that a self-motivated learner could do what she was proposing. The SALC now employs several learning advisors and has transformed Kanda University from a school where learning was lock-step, to an institution that can support literally limitless language learning— in fact, several languages if a learner is so motivated. It truly transformed Kanda University in Chiba, Japan.
Indiana University’s Anti-plagiarism Test: in the early 2000’s, a number of teachers and teaching assistants at Indiana University endeavored to create a sustainable pedagogical response to help combat plagiarism. (Key members were: Theodore Frick, Elizabeth Boling, Andrew Barrett, Cesur Dagli, Rod Myers, Meltem Albayrak-Karahan, Joseph Defazio, and Noriko Matsumura). The test was supported by assistant instructors and other teachers who assigned the test, students who volunteered their skills in design, programming, or a myriad of other skills, and the university who supported the overhead. The IU anti-plagiarism tutorial (and test) now serves literally millions of students and teachers all over the world every year.
CATPALS at Texas A&M Texarkana: Committee for Annual Thematic Program and Lecture Series (CATPALS) is a whole-campus initiative designed to integrate multidisciplinary learning and community development at Texas A&M University – Texarakana. It has been spear-headed by Michal Perri, an Associate Professor of History. This year the theme is environmental issues and the University will be having lectures and providing reading materials to go along with the lectures. I will attend all the lectures I can. The projects started off with a free book (way to get professors on board!). You can pick up a copy of the book at Elizabeth Patterson’s office in the Student Success Center, UC330.
- Allen, W. (2012) The good food revolution. Gotham Books (254 pages)
Lecture dates will be publicly announced via the TAMUT website: Search CATPALS @ http:tamut.edu
Here is my challenge: Any student who is taking any course I am teaching can gain a 5% increase on their final grade by creating instruction to go with any lecture material covered in CATPALS. It can be an online quiz, a tutorial, a video (vlog, etc…), or any other form of mediated instruction, but the experience must be accessible remotely in order to get credit. We can host your developed material on our student work webpage. I will share the media with the CATPALS committee. This is a great opportunity to put what you learn in Instructional technology to good use, become a part of the Texas A&M larger community of learners, and create a portfolio item which just could be that missing link that takes you from being a job applicant to an employed instructional designer.
McCarthey, S. J. (2000). Home–school connections: A review of the literature. The Journal of Educational Research, 93(3), 145-153.
I am flattered by the communications I have received over the past couple of years asking for invitation letters to be a visiting scholar under my sponsorship. To expedite the process, please read the following prior to contacting me. This blog post will let you know how i handle the process of a request to be a visiting scholar, and it may help you prepare for the process of obtaining a letter of invitation.
The purpose of a scholarly visit, no matter how long the stay, usually 6 months to one year, is intended for scholarship, not as a precursor to enrolling in our Masters in Instructional Technology (IT Online). If you are interested in our MS in IT, you will find that in our program we have small classes, the program is very affordable, and is also 100% accessible online, and is completely synchronous. That means, the interaction takes place live, via video conference during the evenings, US Eastern Standard Time. The university is reasonably skeptical about requests to simply come here and take classes. However, the university is happy to extend sponsorship to an individual looking to further research in which we are already engaged. Generally speaking, scholars who have not yet published, or who are in the process of forming a dissertation committee, face a series of other questions when asking for a letter.
So far, all the requests I have received have to do with studying TESOL learning. While this is part of my research in general, I focus on rather specific area within that topic—learning in mediated environments. I do not have access to learner data in face to face settings at the moment. To talk about those possibilities at The University of Tennessee, contact Dr Seankum at the English Department. If you are interested in collaborating on studies involving mediated instruction, the first step is to assemble the following documents before you contact me.
- Visiting Scholar Application Form (docx or pdf). This is where the process starts. Please read the whole form prior to sending me email.
- A cover letter describing the purpose of your stay and how my research is aligned with this purpose.
- A copy of your most recent curriculum vitae.
- A 1-2 page research plan including a description of the data, proposed analytical approach and potential contribution to the field of instructional/educational technology, TESOL, or instructional design, and timeline of when you will accomplish these things while you are here.
A few things to keep in mind
Please allow at least 30 days for this process, starting from the time you submit your application package. There will likely be some sort of interview in the process of creating the invitation letter. You will need to have a drivers’ license as Knoxville is not fully accessible via public transportation. UTK may or may not be able to provide an office for the duration of your stay; this is contingent upon space availability. UTK does have on-campus housing, the details of which can be discussed during your interview. UTK can provide access to library resources and there is ample space in the library for scholarly work. UTK can accommodate requests to present the scholarly accomplishments you make while here, and I can provide a letter of completion/certificate at the conclusion of your time with me.
I was asked to review Campus Pack (CP), a Blackboard overlay that attempts to improve on Blackboard functionality. Here are the issues I found.
1. Campus Pack lacks scent trails, or an intuitive design
Intuitive design is the feeling that a device makes sense from the user perspective. Campus Pack seems to challenge the user, and make even the simplest of tasks more difficult. For example, when new pages are created in the wiki, they must be accessed via linked hypertext that only appears on down scroll. Someone coming into a wiki to find new work will be hard-pressed to figure out where to access the work they are looking for. The browsing instructor can search for hours and never find the students’ completed work.
The dashboard is unlabeled and difficult to locate. Campus Pack uses a number of internally created terms which I find, and my students found, misleading. For example, “assignment dashboard” is a Campus Pack internally created term, and is the path to assignments, but it is not labeled as such and it difficult to locate. A Dashboard speaks to me as a selection of instruments gauging progress and present measurements in different areas. This seems to have a different meaning in Campus Pack. For CP, people have access via a dashboard.
Redundant features confuse users. CP contains a “directory” that neither access campus information nor BB information. Instead, it is a class roster that requires students to type in information about themselves. These types of problems plague CP. Campus Pack includes a redundant messaging, which does not disable the standard BB messaging function when activated. Therefore, the instructor may have messages they are unaware of. This duel messaging functionality cause problems because leaners who sent the instructor mail may assume their instructor checks “CAMPUS PACK MAIL” but the instructor may actually never find out about the message. Other pages are redundant and result in confusion. “Campus Pack: Course membership” serves the same function as the Blackboard Roster, but its presence misleads students to thinking that there is an alternative pathway to the wiki’s when there is not. Active hyper-linked pictures lead to spaces that appear as if they are undeveloped wikis, but are in fact a completely different content location. Students can easily be fooled into believing all their classmates’ wikis are empty. CP also includes a large, installable analog clock as a redundant feature for computers that do not have clocks. (I am yet to find such a machine.)
It should be noted that these new uses of older familiar terms are not defined. While a new use for an old term is in and off itself confusing, CP provides no glossary for their terms. Many items in CP are called “portals.” That’s fine, but few students have a clue what these words mean, nor how it impacts how they do things in CP. I am unclear as well. There is little use for a user to have their menu called a portal, unless the menu somehow functions differently from a normal menu.
2. Campus Pack has limited compatibility
Limited compatibility issues make CP very difficult for users, and limit its value as an addition to Blackboard. Mobile phone integration does not appear available for Campus Pack. Copy / paste functionality is not universally compatible with other programs. Campus Pack support C/P in some browsers, not on others. If your students read online, but write, and edit what they have read, in collaborative writing tasks, this will cause problems for students attempting to complete those tasks. Therefore, the software does not appear to have advantages over the most rudimentary versions of Blackboard. Students will like be unable to do any work on the fly via phones, and they cannot complete writing tasks in some browsers.
Some capability is actually disadvantageous. Campus pack includes social networking gadgets that link outside the interface, and can expose learners’ coursework to the public. SNS integration may appear an attractive feature of CP provide the instructor is protected from any type of related litigation, and does not teach in a public institution where the disclosure of learner information might potentially put the instructor in tenuous legal circumstances. Twitter, Facebook, and Flicker accounts can all be linked via CP.
3. Screen space is poorly used
While not nearly as detrimental as the two topics above, the misuse of screen real estate makes Campus Pack even more difficult to use and should be mentioned. Screen real estate is devoted either navigation, or to work space; the two functions are not integrated in one user interface. This creates problems in work flow. One cannot access, work, and save and move on seamlessly. The tasks must be broken up completely. Thus, you cannot read text in one area and write in another. Rather, navigation stretches the length and height of the screen, occupying all of it. For example, in some areas of the LMS addition, five different horizontal menus are employed while the rest of the screen is dead space.
Noam Chomsky, exposing insights admittedly not purely his own but rather present in centuries of educational theory, told the students and faculty at Arizona State University that if we knew what the outcomes were before we started teaching, it would not be education. Education, he says, is joint discovery that happens among teachers and learners. He stops short of saying what it actually is when we do know precisely what the learning objectives are- but it’s not hard to guess. Mager has made a career of instructional performance objectives. Standards and school districts spend countless hours debating performance objectives. But at what point should the learner move from instruction, to education? I think there is a midpoint, and I call that point stochastic learning objectives.
Stochastic Learning Objectives are a set of competencies or knowledge items that we hope learners with come to in the process of learning, but our instruction is not measured or focused on any single one. Rather, the instructional design is aimed at building a context where the learning of these are likely to occur. A sequence is not dictated, nor are the items contingent upon one another. This same approach is taken in a number of fields. Jackson Pollack is often credited as being a founder of stochastic art– at some point the process will come upon the aesthetically pleasing image (see public domain image to the left). A great example is the use of the word “notion” in PhD programs. In lay speech we find the term “idea” quite often, but when we switch to academic discourse, ideas seem to be replaced with notions. I would guess that notions are less rigid that ideas, but honestly, I would be hard pressed to say anything about “notion” other than academics seems to have about as many notions as everyone else has ideas. Notion is a wonderful example because while I find that graduates of PhD programs have notions, and others have ideas, I have never heard of any course or advisory bullet point directed at teaching PhD students to have notions, not ideas. In fact, it is ludicrous to think of it. Stochastic outcomes are quite common in discourse learning; at least I have had that notion for the past few years, previously I only had ideas.
But at-a-distance learners are challenged with this type of bridge between instruction and education. Clear performance objectives and lots of support via examples and supplemental material are common recommendations for online and at-a-distance designs, but instructional designs that lack an element of exploration will stop short of education, stuck in instruction. No amount of supplemental material will prepare learners for some of the learning needed for instructional to become education. The example of “notion” in PhD programs is typical for discourse learning, but other examples abound in other areas as well. For example, a recent activity I assigned asked for learners to collaborate via a wiki. A specific learner, through no fault of her own, experienced some of the less attractive attributes of wiki collaboration, namely her work being saved just moments prior to another student’s saving a different version of the wiki page- effectively deleting her entire contribution. A second experience revolved around incompatibility issues that resulted in her screen showing something completely different from the wiki saved on the server. Both of these experiences strike me as valuable lessons to learn about wikis. While both possible situations could have been included somewhere in the literature I gave learners about using wikis, no amount of preparation can lead someone to recognition these are negative attributes of wikis when one is in the driver’s seat. These must be experienced for the concept to be learned. As a teacher, while I did not intend for students to delete one another’s work, and made some comments hoping to avoid these experiences, I did want learners to learn both the positives and negatives of the wiki. I don’t know how effective my explanation of this was for the learner who experiences the anger of “saving” only to find garble return on the screen. At-a-distance learners are focused, so when the technology fails them, even if the result is solid stochastic objective learning, it’s not easy. They like their learning to be broken up and dished out one concept at a time.
The term itself comes from discussions around my dissertation with two of my four advisers. Elizabeth Boling and Ted Frick both identified that I was trying to teach stochasticly before I did. Teaching discourses, the gateway into communities of practice, is so much the air I breathe that I failed to even recognize how it is different from teaching concepts and procedures. In truth, they were the first to put the terms together, not me. Incidentally, if you would like to stop education altogether, skip instruction, and go directly to the conferring of degrees, Craig Nakashian offers degrees at a significant discount – 50$ for another PhD was a bargain I thought, until I heard the catch. He includes a gentle disclaimed that the degree in conferred without reference to education or instruction. Curiously, Nakashian’s perspective jives well with Chomsky’s, “It doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what we discover.”
I am gearing up to start teaching again and thinking that the how of my approach is going to be just as important as what I have to say to my students. So, I am looking around to some scholars that I really admire and just keeping a note here. Kennon M. Smith has a knack for taking complex ideas and complex situations and making it all seem so simple. I just love the way she presents these complex ideas that I have to grapple with to digest. I had the opportunity to present with Kennon a few years back and noticed that even in responding to questions she could slow down, pick the right words, and delivery them slowly so people could digest what she is saying. In the clip I am linking here, Dr Smith puts instructional design in a larger perspective, situating it among fields of design. This lays the groundwork for thinking about instructional design a little differently than we normally do. I’m saving it here because it’s a great introduction to dealing with these complex ideas of what we call research in instructional design, a course I will be teaching in the fall for Masters Students at Texas A & M.
Another person who says it well, but in a totally different way, is Patrick Lowenthal, an instructional designer at Boise State. He uses media remarkably well, and in this video, he and Joni Dunlap offer eight insights they learned about teaching online through their own experiences. I have taught in face to face settings for over ten years, but only a handful of times online. As part of my preparation to teach online, I am looking for some guides—something to fall back on when I am not getting the results I want. I’ve always been a little skeptical that we can teach with a real connection to students in the online setting. (I talked about this in an Elearn article) and Dr’s Dunlap and Lowenthal seem to recognize this in their prescriptions. What I really like about these prescriptions is that they are not phrased as prescriptions. They are not coming saying “do it this way” as much as they are saying, “we’ve been doing this a while and here’s what we have learned; these ideas guide us, take them or leave them.” I interpret the central message is BE THERE; HERE’S HOW. Do you get the same message?
Just posting some slides from a recent talk. I enjoyed pulling it all together and having a keen audience. Pulling back and looking at the big picture now and then forces one to question what all this study is about and what purpose it is serving. That’s a good thing because I wouldn’t want to get so wrapped up in all my research that I miss the big picture about where it is all going. From where I stand now, i can see the purpose of the PhD spelled out clearly from the time I was a language teacher as a substitute at Gateway Residential High School in Buffalo in 1994 to now. I have always been looking for ways to help people *discuss* better. Here are the slides: The features of Instructional Design(s)