Albertson described a writing assignment that offered enhancements to my own assignments in Composition II. Albertson assigns a non-fiction book to the whole class and leads them through several steps to write a critical review (including literature review) of the work. The assignment starts with a 100-word overview of the book's contents. Instead of traditional peer review, the students post their overviews to the discussion board and discuss which ones best summarized the book and why. In the next step, students conduct a literature review on reviews of the book. Albertson does not tell them to use scholarly sources only, and students discover through discussion and trial/error that some sources are better than others. In the next step, students learn how to organize the literature review. Instead of organizing as "for and against," Albertson has students discover similarities and differences among the reviews: some reviews talk about style, others about concepts, and so on. These become categories, and as a class they color code reviewers' comments. The final step is writing the analysis in which the student recommends or criticizes the book (or some combination).
This assignment is somewhat similar to what I teach in Composition 2, except I haven't used a single book or focused on book reviews. However, I believe that this approach could be quite helpful, and I am considering using this assignment in the beginning of Composition 2.
Albertson, K. (2015). Persistence, responsibility, and flexibility in first-year-writing. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 43(1), 71-79.
Some of my research involves these areas: game studies/gamification (also called digital game-based learning); ethnography (a methodology); and transformative learning. I am specifically interested in the affordances of sandbox games. Since my profession is that of English instructor, many people ask me: Why study digital games?
Research in the area of digital game-based learning has grown immensely since the first text-based virtual worlds grew popular in the 1970s (Bartle, 1990). Recently, scholars have examined virtual world games in terms of pedagogical concerns in distance education, blended learning, and simulated environments (Coffman & Klinger, 2007; Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009; Robbins-Bell, 2008; Salmon, 2009; Warburton, 2009). One strand of my dissertation will focus on the trend of virtual world games, specifically "sandbox" games, and how this digital tool connects with educational technology as a means for facilitating learning.
Virtual world games continue to grow in popularity, and interest in games as educational tools increases (Luse, Mennecke, & Triplett, 2013). As this trend matures, its definition and applications continue to expand. The New Media Consortium (NMC) recently published its Horizon Report 2013: Higher Education in which the term “Digital Game-Based Learning” was updated to “Games and Gamification” (p. 21). The new nomenclature indicates a broadening of the trend and indicates a more detailed understanding of its application. For example, games might be included as part of a classroom curriculum, but principles gleaned from game design might also be applied to learning environments. Indeed, the new terminology “reflects the perspective that while games are effective tools for scaffolding concepts and simulating real world experiences, it should also include the larger canvas of gamer culture and game design” (NMC, 2013, p. 21).
Industry research also confirms the rapidly increasing use of virtual world games (as opposed to traditional puzzle games or drill-and-skill games). KZero (2012), a consulting company that researches the virtual world gaming industry, recently reported rapid growth in the use of virtual worlds. KZero found that approximately 80% of Internet users visit virtual worlds. Industry forecasts for virtual worlds predict continued growth in industry, education, and private sectors (Fenn, 2009; Gartner, 2008). Private virtual worlds are currently peaking in popularity among new media, and within 5 to 10 years, public virtual worlds will become mainstream (Prentice & Fenn, 2010). In 2010 virtual world use grew by nearly 47% in the 10- to 15-year old category; these adolescents and teens will be “well-versed and familiar with virtual worlds” by the time they reach adulthood (KZero, 2011, p. 5).
Clearly, virtual worlds are impacting our culture. Professionals in educational technology and higher education might benefit from examining how people learn in virtual worlds, especially within the next decade as these teens become college-aged adults.
One of the first topics in a composition course relates to understanding purpose, audience, and context. Many text books provide excellent activities for practice revising paragraphs or messages for various purposes and audiences. However, I have found keeping students' attention challenging when working with typical composition texts. I thought I could enhance student understanding if I could appeal to their visual and social media taste. Hence: the infographic. Infographics are certainly useful in helping students convey data concisely and meaningfully. In this activity, however, I started with an infographic and had students create a paragraph based on the data. To further enhance student understanding of purpose and audience, I gave each group of students the same infographic. Next, I tasked each group to write a couple of paragraphs based on different scenarios. Students began with brainstorming about their purpose and audience. They considered tone, appeal, and style. They drafted their paragraphs and posted them to a class discussion board. Students had a weekend to review each group's paragraphs and make comments. At our next class meeting, we reviewed the paragraphs and the writing choices using the projector.
I've found this activity to be eye-opening for students as well as for me. I'm attaching my handout here in case you'd like to try. While I selected a childhood obesity infographic, there are many other topics to choose from; simply search your topic + infographic on Google Images.
Reference for infographic:
GLOBALHealthPR. (2012). GLOBALHealthPR childhood obesity infographic 2012 [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.globalhealthpr.com/ihsms-2-0/