Organization Online and on your Desktop (Week 3)

A few years ago, I worked for a publisher who piled newspapers, books, and glasses like a miniature, decaying New York City skyscraper. This was a man who invested in up-to-date computers to design newspapers completely in black and white. I owe most of my amateur InDesign and computer training to that newspaper, but I always wanted to do something about that desk.

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Maybe your emails, important Word documents, and other online communications are – in the words of Elrond from the movie The Fellowship of the Ring – “scattered, divided, leaderless.” The most important ideas from Scott Warnock’s chapters 5 and 6 in Teaching Writing Online are considering everything we, as teachers, need to take with us into an online environment. As Warnock wrote in the introductory chapter, we are not completely changing our teaching style, presentation or information. He wrote in guideline 2, “You want to think about migration, not transformation, when teaching online” (xvii). I think this guideline applies to organizing information for online classes, too.

Links, information for a syllabus, and emails might look like a pile of canned goods before organization. If you’ve had experience organizing recycling, you might know that each type of recyclable can be organized within your home. For example, my family uses a box system.  We label each box “glass” or “aluminum cans.” The same concept of organization applies to planning for an online teaching structure.

The four most important points I found in Warnock’s chapters 5 and 6 include: title, communication, availability, and planning. When you begin with any document, syllabus or paper, a title is a great starting point. I struggle with creating titles for my creative writing, but – as Warnock suggests in both chapters – a title of the syllabus or in the subject line of an email should be specific and match the course or subject matter (38, 50). For example, if I create a semester syllabus for a ninth grade English 1 class, I might give the syllabus the title “English 1, First Session.” It states the exact title of the class, and lets high school students know which session they are taking. In an online learning environment for high school students, the traditional block or period might change to session. What word would you use?

In applying Warnock’s advice to an online classroom, it is important to me, as a teacher candidate for middle and high school, to think about how the material can be applied to an online or hybrid environment for students. I have read, watched videos, and seen ways in which technology is applied to middle and high school classrooms. But, how much further do online teachers of these students need to take their organizational skills online?

Communication and availability are two of Warnock’s most important points, and it is important to find ways to adapt Warnocks’ advice for an online environment suitable for middle and high school students and teachers. South Carolina Connections Academy, a free public charter online K-12 school, and Calvert Academy, a free online public elementary and middle school, show and tell examples on their websites about how teachers communicate on a consistent basis. The video from South Carolina Connections Academy shows examples in the video.

Courtesy of South Carolina Connections Academy

At one point in the video, the teacher is on the phone with a student. In another scene, a teacher uses audiovisual during a synchronous lesson with an online whiteboard. These are great examples of day-to-day contact between students and online teachers, but how does a high school or middle school teacher adapt a syllabus for the grade levels they teach? I believe everything Warnock mentions in chapter 5 should be considered, including listing times you are most likely to reply to emails, chat rooms, or through a CMS (41). For example, some of the students at the South Carolina Connections Academy are athletes who practice during the day. Their schedule may allow for them to take classes and complete assignments at night. The teacher needs to make sure his or her schedule matches the student’s schedule in the syllabus for a synchronous lesson, phone call, text or email.

In chapter 6, Warnock presents excellent advice about planning and organizing methods. One of the most useful tools I found, and remembered, is creating sub-folders in emails or in a tool like Google Drive. Specific directions should be included in a syllabus on how to do and what is expected for online group activities. If a class or group does a project, Google Drive is a great tool for students to work on a project at once or during their own time. Folders can be created within Google Drive for the Project and then for each of its parts.

For example: The Book Thief Lesson Plan (Folder)



However you organize your materials for online learning, Warnock provides great reminders, new lessons, and tips to staying organized. The best solution is to name everything exactly as it is: Chapter5and6ResponseBridges. Three tips familiar to most learners are using folders, filing, and titles.


 Warnock, Scott W. “Introduction.” Teaching Writing Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of       English, 2009.              xvii. Print.


Warnock, Scott W. “The Writing Course Syllabus: What’s Different in Online Instruction.” Teaching       Writing  Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. 38-47. Print.                     


Warnock, Scott W. “Organization, Redundancy, and Helping Students—and You—Keep Things Straight.” Teaching   Writing Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. 48-57. Print.


Keep it Simple: Take Your Classroom to the Internet (Week 2)


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In my philosophy of education class, the question comes up: Can the profession of teaching have the same prestige as lawyers or doctors?

One aspect professional teachers will require is training with new technologies.

The approach author Scott Warnock takes in Teaching Writing Online chapters two through four reflects a professional, yet keep it simple approach. Teachers need not leave their teaching styles in the physical classroom. As Warnock states in the first chapter, teachers need to think of migrating their instruction online instead of being nervous about losing a part of their teaching.

To make the transition easier for teachers in an online environment, Warnock explains the difference between a hybrid course—taught partially online and then in the traditional classroom—and a 100 percent online course. I believe the hybrid course is a practical example of Warnock’s use of the migration from the traditional classroom to the online environment because the teacher and students are dipping their toes in the water. They are not completely losing comfort level. Teachers are not overly worried about all the technology tools or how to organize their content online through a school’s CMS.

As a student in undergraduate and graduate courses, I’ve experienced hybrid courses that were asynchronous and synchronous. In an undergraduate course, a small group from the class met with the professor in a chat via Blackboard to discuss course material. In the asynchronous environment, professors let me work on assignments during my time. This may also benefit the professor because he or she may experiment with new technology tools. He or she may want to introduce the Web 2.0 tool during the next traditional class.

Keep it simple. Warnock makes it clear in chapters two through four that teachers need not be an expert with all tools. They should familiarize themselves with their school’s CMS (content management system) and think about how they might transfer their teaching style and content online. One of the useful tools Warnock shows is the chart in chapter three. Teachers evaluate exactly what technology tool they can use for a particular pedagogical need, such as discussion, its availability, and if the teacher requires training. This gives teachers a way to self-evaluate what they know and don’t know.

For example, a teacher may plan the section about Chaucer. The teacher wants to have a discussion at some point during this section, so the teacher analyzes possible tools in the content system available to him or her. It maybe as simple as a listserv or email. The teacher may pose a question or even select a student leader to pose a question to begin the discussion.

One of the tools—discussed in chapters three and four—that I would like to further explore is whiteboard space online. I am familiar with some of the basics, but I think it is a great idea to experiment with it, especially if it is a place where teachers can collaborate with students. It can become a space, which is student-centered, and gives the teacher plenty of opportunities to provide individual help or instruction. For example, students could host a workshop editing their first drafts. Students could also work with the teacher during this time.


Can Twitter Expand as a Classroom Tool? (Week 2)


You have 140 characters. Think about what you want to say.

Take your time. You’re in front of a camera and about to “go live,” but when those 140 characters are tweeted, you go live in a different way.

In the introductory chapter in Teaching Writing Online, author, Scott Warnock, quotes a Pew report’s finding that many students do not consider their “emails, instant and text messages as writing.” I have read this before, and think that it extends to Facebook, Twitter, and other online environments. How can teachers use Twitter in the classroom? How can teachers show students that the use of Twitter can be used as a writing tool?

U.S. News reports ways in which classrooms use Twitter in “5 Unique Uses of Twitter in the Classroom.” While the research focuses mostly on the collegiate level, the five uses maybe used in secondary and middle school classrooms, also. The study says that the use of one Tweet helps students write concisely. With only 140 characters, students learn how to get to the point.

Using Tweets to make a concise point might work well when a class is reading a book together. Students can discuss the book on Twitter using a hashtag, getting to the point of a chapter, or raising a question. If the student raises a question, it may cause other students to think of a short, to-the-point answer.

While the article conveys some professors’ uncertainty about using Twitter as a tool for class participation, it does not mean that the use of Twitter cannot grow in the classroom. For instance, one professor in the article stated that he only uses Twitter to report last minute changes to the schedule. Instead of being limited to 140 characters, teachers and students can expand by making their message shorter?


Yes, shorter. By making a Tweet, or microblog, shorter, more people can participate in the discussion. It engages a live discussion while at the same time students are thinking about what they want to say and the point of a chapter or poem. Another article by Samantha Miller (50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom) mentions that teachers can track a discussion with a hashtag.

The U.S. News and Miller’s article both mention the importance of role play for students. U.S. News mentions role play in two different ways. One is to create a brand, which helps students practice by creating a Twitter page for a career in which they’re interested.

Another way includes students personifying characters from books on Twitter. According to U.S. News, students not only imitate a character from a book, but they show their “knowledge of the book’s writing style in their tweets.” For example, the article states that students use the writing style found in Twilight when they write their Tweets.

In place of a traditional round circle discussion, students can get into a character, and for the first time, show their knowledge of the writing style. I believe that is significant because when students sit in a circle, they may talk about the writing style. They do not necessarily put their minds into the style of writing. In the Twilight example, students get into characters’ minds more by displaying understanding of how the book is written.


By Becca Bridges

Projecting Personality Online (Week 1)


That is the beginning. It is a sentence. You and I know the implied noun, you, is there although it hides from the written form. Just because we, as teachers and writers, sit behind keyboards or look down at tablets while typing does not mean our personalities are missing from our text. Scott Warnock makes an excellent case about the persona teachers show in the online environment. In place of facial expressions, we are left to literally read behind the words. As Warnock states on page 1, the “text of those messages created a personality.”  Through Warnock, other authors’ research, and professional workshops, teachers can find ways to ease their nerves and create the right professional personality in an online writing environment.

In a f2f classroom, my teachers and I, as a teacher, have used icebreakers to connect with students. Warnock suggests using the same tool in an online environment. Using icebreakers online is a great idea because you show that the class is not centered around you, but around the students. You are already building a platform on which you are a facilitator because you include the students’ input about themselves.

A Policy Research Brief” by the National Council of Teachers of English presents an important point, which is rarely mentioned in other courses I’ve taken about online teaching and their course content. On page 4, the council writes that teachers need use “explicit instruction” showing students how to avoid plagiarism in a digital environment. I believe in teaching students how to cite online materials as more content becomes part of the academic and media writing world.

As a journalist, my articles and my pictures were published in the newspaper and online. The most important details with those stories was the name of the writer, from whom information was received, and the photo credit. In other blogs, pictures have been copied from other Internet sources without any credit. As students learn how to write online and create hypermedia content, how do we as teachers keep up in showing them how to cite text, photos, and video? To me, writing online is becoming a three-dimensional world in which MLA, APA, and even AP formats must one day translate into a hypermedia platform. One of my questions is how do we do this? How do we, as teachers, make sure our instruction is explicit and up to date in avoiding all forms of plagiarism in a digital environment?

For the schedule and assignments on the class website, I like how every piece of information is displayed. Just like labels and cards, everything has a neat title. It is in order, and I know exactly when something is due.  As a graduate assistant for the director of graduate studies in the education department, I work a lot with new technologies, researching the digital divide, and the latest technologies schools are using. Most recently, my boss and I have been researching Google Chromebooks in place of iPads because most school districts are switching to them. With the Chromebook I learned about a program called Read & Write Google, which is a tool helping ESL and other students with learning disabilities. It reads text out loud, provides a picture, and text dictionary. I would be interested in researching the online tools that would benefit students with disabilities who are a part of the online writing environment.


Becca Bridges