A Change in the Times

I would like to begin this final blog post (yay!) by comparing Cynthia Selfe’s article, “The Perils of Not Paying Attention” to the other two blog posts that we read for this week’s readings. Selfe’s article was published in 1999, and some of the content in the article reflects that. I found it very humors how Selfe explains that many of her English teacher colleagues and students shy away from the use of technology in instructions. Around 1999, as we know, technology was still a child. It had been introduced several years prior, but it was beginning to take hold of our society. Many people were apprehensive about this, as society usually is about change. Selfe says, “After all this time, however, I can spot the speech acts that follow a turn of the conversation to computers-the slightly averted gaze, the quick glance at the watch, the panicky looks in the eyes when someone lapses into talk about microprocessors, or gigabytes, or ethernets” (1999, p. 412). This shows how concerned people during the time were about new technologies.

What I find particularly interesting is that still today, seventeen years later, some people still react this way to technology. My mom is one of them. She has been teaching for over thirty years, so she kind of knows what she is doing. About four years ago her school gave each teacher a brand new, shiny MacBook Pro. SHE WAS TERRIFIED! My mom was a nervous wreck for months. She would break into a profound sweat and her face would instantly turn red whenever someone would mention giving her a computer (it was even worse when she found out that she was also getting a SMART board). This perfectly mirrors what Selfe says about peoples’ reactions to the incorporation of technology.

Luckily for my mom, and everyone around her, she has since learned to use and love her computer. Also like Selfe says, people just need to learn how to use technology. Once this is discovered, technology is not so scary. Also she explains that technology should be embraced. This holds especially true for educators. Selfe says, “I believe composition studies faculty have a much larger and more complicated obligation to fulfill-that of trying to understand and make sense of, to pay attention to, how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education in this country” (1999, p. 414). So many amazing things are available through the computer. It opens our students to amazing discoveries and opportunities. As teachers, it is our responsibility to further learning and literacy extension by incorporating technologies into our lessons, assessments, and day-to-day activities.

One of the ways to do this is to incorporate gamification in the classroom. From what I can determine, it involves incorporating game-like elements into the classroom to engage students in learning. Also, it does not rely on typical A, B, C, D, F grades. Instead, it relies on a badge system. As Mascle says in “Why Gamification?, “Gamification, the use of game-design elements for non-game purposes, interests me because I do not want my classes to be about the grade” (2014). I think this is this key aspect. Not focusing on grades is imperative for student comfort and learning. It also helps us as teachers by saving our sanity!

As Mascle also explains, learning ceases when grades are finally given to students. Students feel as if their goals have been accomplished, and nothing more needs to happen. It is time to move on to the next unit, forget what they have previously learned, and get the year over with. This concept should not be foreign to teachers, as they have been students themselves. The problem is, some teachers are so disillusioned from the memory of being a student that they ultimately forget how difficult and tiresome it is. Think about it, students sit on their butts from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Although that does not sound difficult, it is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. When teachers incorporate different strategies and systems in their classrooms, students are more likely to be engaged. They do not have to deal with the boring monotony of never-changing strategies, and they will look forward to a productive and encouraging learning environment.

In “Students Respect the Badge”, also written by Mascle, she explains in more detail the badge system. In her classroom, a super hero represents grading criteria. For example, the Wolverine represents “sharp and incisive writing,” and Thor represents “impressive in every way.” I love the idea of implementing this as a grading system. Students are often nervous about typical letter grades. Using characters, colors, shapes, etc. is a much less intimidating way of grading.

I also appreciate that Mascle has her students grade their peers’ blogs. I would love to implement blogs in my classroom, but it is a lot to grade. With over 100 students, grading blogs once or multiple times a week will drive a teacher insane and take away any social life he or she has. Instead, as Mascle does, students know and use the badge grading system to comment on the blogs. The teacher can then look at these badges and present a grade. Of course it is ideal to read through each blog, but that is sometimes an impossible feat. Mascle also explains that she only comments when there is an engaging question or thought. Besides this, students are in charge of grading and commenting. I love this idea to get students engaged with their peers.

With typical essays, only teachers read the work. Students must adhere to what they believe the teacher wants to hear. As a result, they are not really learning. Another problem is that students are not getting feedback from multiple sources. If a student is proud of the work he or she has done, there is really nobody to share it with. Having weekly blog posts allows students to showcase their work. This also pushes students to write to the best of their abilities. Intern, this drives students to be better writing. This is, after all, what teachers strive for.

Mascle, Deanna.  “Students Respect the Badge” Metawriting.   15 March, 2014. Web.  8, Dec, 2014

Mascle, Deanna.  “Why Gamification?”  Metawriting.  22, May, 2014.  Web.  8, Dec, 2014

Selfe, Cynthia.  “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention.”  CCCC.  50.3.                      Feb, 1999.  Web.  8, Dec, 2014

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