Archive | digital writing RSS feed for this section

Every Annotation Deserves a Response, But Here Lie Only Two

This post covers my responses to two of my peers’ Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation Annotated Bibliography entries. For this particular assignment, I chose to respond to Jenny’s entry on Reilly and Atkins, and Leslie’s entry on Brunk-Chavez and Fourzan-Rice.

I chose Jenny’s annotations on Reilly and Atkins’ article, “Rewarding Risk: Designing Aspirational Assessment Processes for Digital Writing Projects,” as it seems to align very well with the article I read by Eidman-Aadahl et al., “Developing Domains for Multimodal Writing Assessment: The Language of Evaluation, the Language of Instruction.” Reilly and Atkin’s emphasis on the process of designing assessment that did not alienate students (rather, it encouraged them to be a part of the process) was encouraging, especially in terms of “trial-and-error” and students being self-reflective about how they chose to approach the work. Both trial-and-error and self-reflection are tools for people to become aware of their own processes, which can be critical when a person is struggling to learn and master new material and technological tools. Jenny did an excellent job linking the material from the article she read to not only what we are reading in class but also the kind of work and the digital tools that we are all slowly developing skills within. So often, work in the classroom becomes more about a percentage than the skills that are being learned and refined while working through material. I have seen some college professors and grade school instructors who were very concerned with their students proving themselves in a number scale that showing progress in learning course content was placed second. In their assignments, the students seem to come up against assessment that was all or nothing. The process of learning and producing should be even more important than the grading system that only looks towards the final product without any regard for the academic journey of the student. With the rise of digital writing projects and the fluidity with which such technologies can offer students in terms of not only how they produce their texts but also how they distribute them, is going to be very informative in watching students and instructors learn to navigate their changing relationships to texts.

Leslie’s article annotation on “The evolution of digital writing assessment in action: Integrated programmatic assessment” by Brunk-Chavez and Fourzan-Rice was fascinating in that, as a case study, it was concerned with a particular instance of digital writing assessment in a way that Jenny’s article and my article were not. It was fascinating to read about the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) acknowledging that new technologies require the curriculum and instructing practices to adapt so as to “improve student feedback” processes, “professional development,” “improved quality of programmatic assessment and feedback,” and to enable “students to write for a discourse community beyond their instructor.” While the goals of the program are laudable, the concern of students about feeling alienated from their professor (ideally, the one person whose aid is what they come to depend on in terms of learning how to improve and to seek guidance from) as their work is sent to “WriterMiner….[and] then randomly distributed to the Scoring Team, which is made up of first-year graduate teaching assistants,” raises questions not just about the language of assessment as seen in other articles in the Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation, but what kind of structure should be in place so that students learn to work within in a digital learning atmosphere and what kind of network of evaluation would emerge to allow for an efficient “programmatic consistency.” My former university had something similar to UTEP’s process. The course was a required Humanities class taken by all students who had entered into the university with 59 credits or less (Junior-level transfer students lucked out), and was solely online. The course is strictly online and has an enrollment of up to 400 students a semester, divided between instructing professors with a certain number of graders assigned to each instructor. The material for the class was divided into two modules–Art and Music–and each module had designated units, which were based on different styles and mediums. While the class sounded highly efficient, students and graders tended to get lost in the mire. Each grader was generally in charge of anywhere between 40 to 75 students (though some graders could take on a greater number of students, but those were exceptions rather than the rule), so responding to student work was done through general stock comments according to a rubric that was both very specific (in terms of what needed to be covered) and very vague (in terms of how those content items should be covered). The students themselves never met their instructors (as the content of the course did not vary from semester to semester) and dealt virtually with their graders (who were better known as proctors). The course itself became a kind of assembly line of learning and the critical skills required of students in the coursework was meant to be learned elsewhere and channeled into their writing (despite most students taking the class were usually freshmen with no prior college writing classes). The course was redesigned my final year working with the university, but the administrators’ stance was that there should be stricter rules and more of them (many more rules) so that passing the course was a matter of moving through a checklist rather than strengthening critical and creative academic skills. That was a long-winded explanation to make a point that both Leslie’s entry and my experience with that Humanities course is that it seems instructors and administrators are right in the idea that curriculum and teaching styles should adapt to integrate new technologies, but the new technologies should not cause students to feel alienated. As digital assessment and evaluation are newer to the academic environment, some trial-and-error are to be expected, but the ultimate goal should be the encouragement and facilitation of student learning with an emphasis on students’ coming to understand their own progress with the materials and tools.

Response to Annotated Bibliographies: So Now I’m a Node

I responded to Maury’s annotated bibliography of VanKooten’s “Toward a Rhetorically Sensitive Assessment Model for New Media Composition,” and I also responded to Amy’s annotated bibliography of Bourelle’s et al. “Assessing Learning in Redesigned Online First-year Composition Courses.” I appreciated Maury’s conclusion that the model VanKooten offers is plausible because I trust her academic, pedagogical, and professional chops. I appreciated Amy’s intent focus on networking as it related to her chapter because I find her insights about connections among ideas enlightening, sometimes even intimidating, in their complexity and depth. I also wonder if Amy might have politely glossed over the fact that the authors had precious few assessments to offer (in a chapter titled “Assessing Learning…”) of their shift to entirely online composition courses!

In each of my responses I noted my perception that their summaries touched on the practical and pragmatic. Part of my learning curve in this PhD program is the practical applicability of what I learn to what I do. And I don’t refer only to teaching, which I’ve only ever done at the college level in a contingent capacity over and above my full time profession as an online content manager (and sometimes developer) and marketer. Granted, these two chapters focus more specifically on composition pedagogy rather than web development, professional communications, or marketing, but they are part and parcel of a clearly pragmatic theme running through the ODU English PhD program. I am grateful for this focus, as I fully expected to find little of the coursework, reading, or writing applicable to my real world of composition and research pedagogy or professional communications. I am a product of undergraduate and graduate programs focused solely on literary and critical theory with no attempt at application (beyond the literary text) or pragmatism. As a result, I am refreshed and encouraged by the focus on pragmatism in the midst of grounding ourselves in theory.

New media assessment model (diagram)

Crystal Van Kooten’s model of New Media assessment of multi-modal compositions. Courtesy ‘Live Action Network Theory‘ by Maury Brown.

That’s not exactly what I learned from these blog posts, of course. But it’s part of the learning network I feel I’ve become a part of, and this learning network is one to which I am able both to contribute and receive. As a node in this learning network, I am able to tap into multiple genres that inform not only my theoretical stances, but also my day-to-day professional functions. So when I read Maury’s summary of VanKooten’s chapter, I join the discipline’s kairotic moment in theorizing the assessment of my students’ new media compositions. I gain entry into this particular node of the network by virtue of the fact that Maury summarized the chapter, and I read her summary. Her summary motivates me to read the chapter myself and consider applying VanKooten’s assessment rubric in some way. And when I read

Classroom network visualization (diagram)

Classroom Network Representation based on Bourelle et al. Courtesy ‘140 Characters in These Streets‘ by Amy Lock.

Amy’s summary of the chapter by Bourelle et al., I join the discipline’s pragmatic concern about labor practices and centralized decisions made about online instruction. I find myself concerned about ways my own institution centralizes curricular decisions and uses contingent faculty—and picture myself differently as a result.

I am a node in the genre of the response, in the genre system of the assignment, in the activity system of the class, and of the boundary genre of English studies. I love being a part of this network.


Bourelle, T., Rankins-Robertson, S., Bourelle, A., & Roen, D. (2013). Assessing learning in redesigned online first-year composition courses. In McKee, H. A., & DeVoss, D. N. (Eds.). Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. Retrieved from

Brown, M. (2014). “Toward a rhetorically sensitive assessment model for new media composition” — Crystal Van Kooten annotated bibliography entry [Blog post]. Live Action Network Theory. Retrieved from

Lock, A. (2014). Annotated bibliography entry: Burelle et al. [Blog post]. Digital Rhetor: A Research Space. Retrieved from

VanKooten, C. (2013). Toward a rhetorically sensitive assessment model for new media composition. In McKee, H. A., & DeVoss, D. N. (Eds.). Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. Retrieved from

[I am a node! Cropped Popplet visualization of my storage network with my photo added.]

Multimodal Writing Assessment_Annotated Bibliography

Eidman-Aadahl, Elyse, Kristine Blair, Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Will Hochman, Lanette Jimerson, Chuck Jurich, Sandy Murphy, Becky Rupert, Carl Whithaus, and Joe Wood. “Developing Domains for Multimodal Writing Assessment: The Language of Evaluation, the Language of Instruction.” Eds.  Heidi A. McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. Digital Writing: Assessment and Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web. 30 Jan 2014.

This article, written by the Multimodal Assessment Project (MAP) committee for the National Writing Project’s Digital Is…Initiative, identifies five domains they believe are “vital for the assessment of digital writing offers the possibility that the language of assessment can inform—and build upon—discussions more often associated with interaction, instruction, and text creation than with evaluation”: 1) artifact (“the finished product”), 2) context (“the world around the artifact, around the creation of the artifact, and how the artifact enters, circulates, and fits into the world”), 3) substance (“the content and overall quality and significance of the ideas presented”), 4) process management and technique (“the skills, capacities, and processes involved in planning, creating, and circulating multimodal artifacts”), and 5) habits of mind (“patterns of behavior or attitudes that reach beyond the artifact being created at the moment”). The authors elaborate on the definitions of these five domains by centering each one on a specific example of a student(s) project that they feel best exemplifies each domain. My favorite example was that of context with the example being a class/individual project of creating war poems based on The Things They Carried and the class’ microblog. Each example represents a multimodal project incorporated into a grade school classroom and the strengths and weaknesses that were demonstrated in the final “artifact.” MAP, with its emphasis on the five domains as the focal point, suggest that such projects could encourages students to become active producers of rhetoric and more aware of how they and others are using rhetorical strategies, and be a progressive step towards a better understanding of how to evaluate multimodal projects that go beyond the uniform writing skills that are being taught in accordance with standardized testing.

This article was very surprising in just how creative the grade school multimodal project instructions and productions were. The aim of the MAP committee’s project was interesting in that it founded itself upon multimodality, with an emphasis on how students and teachers were operating within rhetorical genres. I was heavily reminded of the reading by Miller (with her idea of fluid motivations for genres) and Popham (with her dissection of boundary genres and the cohesion and tension such meldings can bring). The Google Earth Historical Figures Tour (not quite the right name for the project, but still) was a fascinating boundary genre because students were drawing on skills learned in history and English courses, using technology as the go-between despite that level of technology being an unexpected surprise to the teachers who had simply expected students to use the more traditional PowerPoint. The article itself presented alternatives to the standardized writing assessments that are lacking in many areas that multimodal writing projects could unveil, such as a student’s growing awareness of situational needs that would play into the rhetorical choices they make with their work. By picking and choosing among existing projects being done in various schools (and even a camp setting at a university) the authors did a nice job of uncovering just how well K-12 grade students can learn to adjust and even thrive with writing assignments that go beyond the traditional print platform and the new skill sets that emerge when rhetorical forms are being engaged by youths who are learning to navigate what can be accomplished with advancements in technology while still retaining and honing skills that can be learned with more traditional modes of communication.

In terms of the Theories of Networks course, this article seems especially useful in that multimodal writing assignments create a network unto themselves between different kinds of technologies, students and teachers, students and students, and students, teachers, and larger audiences involved. One particular example in the article that stood out to me in terms of how a project discussed by the authors became more than just a project but a network of skills and participants/creators was that of the website created by the girls at a technology camp. The girls were broken into groups of 3 and given a short amount of time to create a website that reflected their own emerging digital identities but also that of the camp itself. By collaborating so regularly on specific projects, the girls became a network of shared skills and well as a collective intelligence about the project and camp as a whole. This network then grew larger as the website was put on display as the final project to visiting family members, but then attained a greater sense of network as the aim of the project was to be used for potential campers and their parents. The girls involved essentially created a network between themselves as existing campers, the camp leaders, and anyone interested in the camp as a camper or as the guardian of a potential camper. The multimodality of the project is a physical representation of the collaborative nature of the camp and the relationships between the campers that made the website possible.

Music with Which to Celebrate Multimodality

Annotated Bibliography Entry: Bourelle et al.

Bourelle, Tiffany, Sherry Rankins-Robertson, Andrew Bourelle, and Duane Roen. “Assessing Learning in Redesigned Online First-Year Composition Courses.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation.  Eds. Heidi A. McKee and Danielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, … Continue reading