Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Things Come Together: #DigiWriMo Comes to AUC

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It’s not often that my virtual “work” directly collides with my f2f work (it happens indirectly all the time, coz I am the same person).

I often share info about open online learning experiences with some other faculty locally and occasionally get expressions of interest but it’s the first time someone actually acts on it in an obvious way. A professor teaching an advanced Rhetoric/Composition course called Writer’s Workshop invited me to visit her class to talk about Digital Writing Month #DigiWriMo with her students.

It’s always difficult for me to speak to people I know nothing about, so I asked the students a few questions about their background and why they were taking the course (it’s an elective). They were from various backgrounds and taking the course because they enjoyed writing.

Before going in, I had sought feedback from people on Twitter on which aspects of #DigiWriMo they would like me to highlight… I did most of what they suggested.

I now realize I never properly explained to students what an open online learning experience was. I have no idea if they got that. I also realize I never really introduced myself beyond being the co-facilitator of #DigiWriMo (mentioning Sarah and Kevin too). No, really! Nothing else about myself. Weird!

I began inspired by Geoffrey’s comparison between NaNoWriMo and DigiWriMo on the Young Writer’s Project. I asked if students had looked at the website and what they found. They had looked and seen multimedia but didn’t get it, which is no surprise.

I started a discussion on the affordances of the digital and loved the answers, particularly when someone talked about the public aspect of it. Lots of discussion on digital literacies subtly came up throughout this convo (students were probably juniors/seniors).

And so from there I talked about Sherri’s piece on being audience, emphasizing the part in Keith’s piece on collaborative/swarm writing. At some point I showed them the untext.

I talked about StoryJumpers and they asked how. How do they create a Google map story? How did Story Jumpers come about? How did we organize and manage it? How will it end? How will we put it all together in some final form that someone could read. And i was thinking, oh yeah…why didn’t we discuss that on #DigiWriMo.

I shared with them about Stephanie Loomis’ students collaborative story (Whistling) across 3 classes and that I had no idea how they went about the process. But the product was better than an episode of Castle (TV series).

I shared different modes of digital expression – they loved Mahmoud’s cartoon and knowing about Nick Sousanis’ thesis being comic based, they asked about tools for creating cartoons and I showed them Terry Elliott’s page on annotation with comix. I even showed them an old #ReadMake video I made using GoAnimate.
I showed them Troy’s piece on Infographics and talked about its usefulness for rhetorical research experssion and they asked for free tools and I shared Piktochart. We talked about annotating SoundCloud and Vialogues (thanks again Terry).

We talked about the Road Trip collaborative music making and SoundTrap. We talked about Simon Ensor’s class. And his choice to speak then write vs Chris Friend who wrote then recorded. We talked about importance of silence. They listened to Chris’s voice a little. They asked to when i said he had a great voice 🙂 At some point we talked about Wendy Taleo’s 6-word poem and how she put together several of those by different people into a long one (too lazy to get the link now; update: Storify here).

We talked about the idea of branching stories and I showed them quickly how to create one on Google Forms and showed them Kevin’s one for DigiWriMo (not a story but a branching thing).

We talked about transmedia and its challenges both technical/logisitcal and accessibility-wise.

They asked about how this was done on Twitter and whether it had its own account. I showed them the @DigiWriMo account and mine and the hashtag. They asked if this could go on after November and I mentioned our discussion of DigiWriMORE or moments or momentum or mojo. I told them I would be happy to connect them with others online anytime because the relationships don’t stop because an event’s time is over. Whether we use the hashtag or not is incidental. It’s the relationships we form around it that matter, and those exist beyond the hashtag.

We talked about student-led Twitter chats by Mia’s and gz’s students. We talked about the potential of livetweeting.

The professor asked me what got me into digital writing and I said the first thing that came to mind. I am hypersocial and my colleagues at work couldn’t handle all my emails with all the ideas. Online I had a bigger audience… Which turned into people I collaborate with and give me further ideas for writing. I talked about how my articles on peer review and the Twitter hearts thing originated as Twitter discussions first.

Whew. I had something like 6 browser tabs open and I kept showing new stuff as they asked for it. I had a Google doc open for them where I kept putting in links for things we “found” together. They saw me make th bit.ly for the doc though I didn’t narrate it… We did talk about narrating one’s process such that we can see the process and not just the product of our thinking/writing.

Writing it all out now I am exhausted and cannot imagine how much of all this any of the students will actually remember… But some of the quieter ones had questions for me at the end (others were interactive throughout – lots of all this came out in response to their questions rather than me just going on and on… Or so I think!)

Through it all I was hyperaware that I was not as deeply involved in DigiWriMo as I would have liked to be. Partly because facilitating involved SO MUCH back channel and pre-work that between sorting out all the guest posts (inviting people, editing their work, posting it on WP, adding images – all of these things helped by Sarah and Kevin who really did so much more work than me) and co-writing newsletters and learning to use MailChimp to send them and managing the Twitter account and… And of course real life, like a week-long symposium with my mentor visiting from the UK and my teaching and my virtually connecting at #OpenEd15 and International Games Day…and oh yeah, I have a family too…

Still. I am glad it seems DigiWriMo has been a valuable experience for some people whether they went all in or just dipped in a bit. It’s wonderful. And I love the student-led aspects of some of it.

Reflecting back on the experience now, I realize how cool of an ending to the month of November that I wrapped up the “month” of digital writing with an offline (well we were online the entire time, really, but just sharing physical space) discussion on #DigiWriMo (I also have a conf presentation accepted for Nile TESOL in January, but that’s another story).

Added later: I forgot to mention I showed the students how to use search.creativecommons.o and Flickr attribution helper – it came about in a funny way. I showed em something on the DigiWriMo website and they noticed the image on top, and i said we the facilitators choose those for all posts… And they asked how we find photos…

Now I need to start teaching my students to use CC images and be careful of copyright!

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