CEP 810 (Week 8): Reflection

I decided to take the course CEP 810 with a number of goals in mind. I am a first-year writing teacher at MSU, and I wanted to explore further the ways that students can use, utilize, and learn with technology throughout their learning and communication practices. I am currently researching how students understand and create multimedia compositions, and I wanted this course to help me fill in some of the gaps in my own teaching and learning practices.

This course has given me a place to think critically about how technology can and should be integrated into classrooms. This is particularly interesting to me because, as I stated before,  I do not teach technology; I teach writing. Therefore, my goal is not to teach students how to use all the technologies that are available to them. Instead, I should focus on teaching students how to use technologies to enhance their educational experience within my classroom. Technologies are tools, and we should use them as such.

I can easily imagine how these lessons will inform my performance in the classroom, both as a teacher and as a student. I will play and encourage exploration of technologies. I will value independent learning, and I will ask students to re-imagine of the ways technologies can act and behave. I will allow students to scaffold each other share their own expertise.

Despite the experiences that have unfolded for me over the last eight weeks or so, I am not sure how to approach these concepts as a researcher. How do I understand technologies as I watch them inform the work of students outside of my classroom? How can I learn from those students’ understandings of technology? These are questions that I will need to return to as I begin collected data for my thesis this fall.


CEP 810 (Week 7): Stage Four of Learning Zotero

Over the past several weeks, I have been working on a networked learning project for a class that I am taking, CEP 810. You may have read some of my previous posts about this topic, but I wanted to take a moment to show you a video describing my experience and what I have learned. In this video, you will see a screenshot of me using Zotero and talking about what I learned and the ways I learned throughout this project.

My goal with this project was to learn to use Zotero as an organizational tool. As you can see in the video, there are many ways that Zotero is helping me reach that goal. However, I would not have been able to reach this level of knowledge without the learning that I did online. The Zotero website and YouTube videos were immensely helpful to me throughout this project, and I referenced these sources almost constantly as I ran into problems and questions.

For me, this networked approach to learning was great. I could seek help from others at any time of the day or night through the internet, and I developed problem solving skills that I can transfer to new situations. I do recognize, though, that this process was made easier by my class environment because others were learning with me in the same way.

Therefore, I would recommend students try to learn in networked ways whenever possible (after all, I will continue to use these strategies). However, they might be more successful if they have the opportunity to share and discuss their experiences with their peers. As this project has shown me, sometimes people just need to talk about their experiences, whether good or bad.

CEP 810 (Week 6): Cooking with TPACK

This week, I have been cooking with TPACK for CEP 810. TPACK stands for technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge; this theory describes the ways that these three factors interact and intersect in education.

For this specific activity, I was challenged to carry out a random cooking task using only the tools selected by someone else. First, I asked my roommate to choose one bowl, one plate, and one utensil from our kitchen. She chose the blue bowl, the ceramic plate, and the kitchen shears you seen in the video. Next she chose a slip of paper from a bowl, which contained the number 5. This number corresponded to the task of chopping vegetables for a veggie tray, so this is the task that I attempted in the video.

After gathering carrots and celery from our refrigerator and washing them at the sink, I took the vegetables, plate, bowl, and shears to my kitchen table and began recording my chopping adventure. As you can see in the video, this task was challenging but manageable; throughout this task, I kept thinking about how I normally use certain tools and other ways they can be used (sometimes effectively, and sometimes not). The plate and bowl worked well enough for my purposes, but I cannot help but think about how much easier this task would have been with a knife! Feel free to watch this video, think about the ways you use tools in your everyday life, and laugh at my struggle!

CEP 810 (Week 5): Stage Three of Learning Zotero

During the past few weeks, I have had a chance to explore the various features of Zotero and figure out how they can best work for me and meet my needs. In theory, this program can help me become more organized, store my notes and sources in a single space, make citing and syncing documents easier, and offer a free digital space to collaborate and share documents. However, the biggest challenge at this point has been the overwhelming size of the task.

While working on this project, I have been searching through multiple folders on my personal computer, my work computer, my external hard drive, my Drop Box, and my Google Drive. After uploading the documents, I need to go through again and add source material manually or find the article in Google Scholar if the PDF does not contain meta data. Then I need to tag, link, and import annotations into the notes section.

This tool is ideal for keeping track of sources as they are collected and used, but it is a huge task to add over a year’s worth of graduate school materials all at once. Throughout this process, I have been switching back and forth between the stand-alone Zotero program, the Firefox plug in, my internet browser with tabs for course information, YouTube videos, and articles I found via Google. This screenshot shows one page of the stand alone program with the information I have added.


The following information, though difficult to see, is highlighted in this screenshot:

  • Purple Arrow: These are the separate collections I have added to Zotero. For now, I have created a separate collection for each of the courses I have taken. The collection that is currently open is for AL 877, Community Literacy.
  • Blue Arrow: This section contains an alphabetized list of the entries in this collection. The entry that is open is nested under the book entry for which this PDF is a chapter.
  • Red Arrow: This information includes the document information such as authors and title. It also includes the date the entry was last modified, links to related entries, and tags for the entry. For this entry, I have tagged the topic description (learning) and the author names (Lave & Wenger).
  • Green Arrow: This is the note section of the entry. I have uploaded the annotation for this PDF that I included in a previous annotated bibliography. This program offers the option for adding multiple notes to each entry, so I could also include notes in other formats within this section.
  • Orange Arrow: This section is not, strictly speaking, part of this program. However, it highlights the number of programs that I have open simulataneously while working on this project. I am currently working in two web browsers, various file folders, Word, Zotero, Notepad, iTunes, and Paint.

As I was working through these different pieces of the program, I found this article to be extremely helpful for learning the technical steps to make the program do what I want it to. This list of tips seems to have been developed based on common questions and problems, and I referenced it often as I managed my resources in Zotero.

This video also helped me learn to sync my Zotero account across my stand alone program and my Firefox plug in. The video is quick, and I found it much easier to follow that a written set of instructions.

Finally, I found a great video describing how Zotero can be used collaboratively.

Interestingly, the creator of this video talks not only about how to use Zotero as a collaborative tool, but also about why integrating technology into classrooms is important. She argues that teachers need to know about various technologies and advocate for their inclusion in the classroom. I watched this video multiple times because the information about Zotero was helpful and because the creator and I share a common perspective about integrating technology into writing instruction. I have started to watch more of this creator’s videos, and I am finding her YouTube account to be a great resource for me.

I have made a great deal of progress in my goal of learning to use Zotero to make my life easier and more organized. However, this job is far from over. At the moment, this program has added some stress to my daily life, but I think that once I have caught up, maintaining the program will help me in the ways that I envisioned. Either way, this project has connected me to some great resources and made me think critically about the ways that I manage and store information. It has reminded me that infrastructure is an important consideration in education and that the resources I have saved are only as useful as my ability to find them when I need them.


Mark. (2013, April 11). 12 must know Zotero tips and techniques. The Ideophone. Retrieved from http://ideophone.org/12-zotero-tips-and-techniques/

Sharing Resources through a Zotero Group Library. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QKF25nmnds&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Zotero: Using Sync to Access Your Library. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiLj4Hgsu2Y&feature=youtube_gdata_player

CEP 810 (Week 5): 21st Century Learning/Lesson Plan

Students are consumers (if not producers) of multimedia messages in their daily lives. They, like most of us, encounter texts in various forms every day. We see advertisements on TV, hear messages on the radio, pass billboards as we drive to work, and we read, watch, and listen every time we browse the internet. While most students will not be surprised by this information, they may be surprised that these aspects of their lives are relevant to their work in a first-year writing classroom.

I have created this Writing Remix Lesson Plan in an attempt to make college composition relevant to the average freshman student’s life. However, I have never written a lesson plan before and will not begin teaching until fall, so this lesson plan was a challenge. That being said, this process has made me think more holistically about how I want to structure my course, what the goals will be, and how each project will connect to specific learning goals. The resulting lesson plan is intended to be a capstone project in a first-year writing classroom, and it should help students be more conscientious consumers and producers of multimodal texts. This lesson lasts four weeks, and it builds upon and integrates skills developed throughout the course.

Though this lesson plan requires students to explore and play with a new digital technology (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Audacity, Garage Band, or My Comic Life), mastering the technology is not the purpose of this lesson. Instead, this lesson will build upon what students have been working on all semester:  developing critical thinking and analytical skills.

The goals of the WRAC department, which houses this course, include helping first-year writing students develop critical thinking skills and multimodal literacies. In other words, students should not only be able to communicate and use various technologies, they should be able to think and talk about technology, the challenges and affordances of various technologies, and the implications for choices about technology use.

This lesson plan places importance on analytical thinking, demonstrated in the 50 minutes of class time devoted to introducing the idea of remix and MAP analysis before the assignment is formally introduced. Students need to be able to think about mode/genre and its impact on audience and purpose before they begin creating artifacts in multiple modes/genres. The project plan was also integrated into the lesson in order to get students to think in-depth about their projects before they begin working on them. By asking students to articulate their goals and objectives as well as the potential problems and logistical concerns they might face, this planning stage will require students to begin thinking critically about their projects.

By requiring multiple drafts, peer review, instructor review, and multiple in-class work periods, this lesson plan reflects the importance of revision,  time, and practice in learning a new communication skill. This lesson plan also allows students the agency to choose the technology they think will be most useful and interesting to them. Though it might require more work, allowing students to have some agency in this project could help it seem more relevant and useful for their personal goals and interests.

CEP 810 (Week 4): Stage Two of Learning Zotero

For the past two weeks, I’ve been alternately joyful and frustrated with my experience of learning to use Zotero. Despite some setbacks and numerous coffee breaks, it’s helpful to look back and reflect on how much I’ve already learned. I have been finding information about Zotero in two major ways: the official Zotero website and unofficial YouTube tutorials.

The main Zotero website has been incredibly useful for learning what functions this program has. This source has helped me to realize the Zotero can do all of the following things:

  • Collect: I can download and store all of my research, readings, and writing in one place. Zotero supports many file types, so I can store PDFs, Word documents, images, audio files, and video files. After these files are uploaded, they can be accessed from various devices and web browsers.
  • Organize: The Zotero library is organized in ways that are similar to iTunes. Files can be organized into collections and sub-collections and tagged with relevant labels. This organization makes the files searchable and connects them in meaningful ways.
  • Cite: Zotero can be linked to web browsers and word processors (I use Firefox and Microsoft Word). This means that importing citation information from the web is simple and outputting citation information into a document is easy. Zotero also streamlines the process of converting references from one citation style to another, which allows me to save time if I want to submit an article to different journals with different citation guidelines (i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Sinc: Documents can be accessed from multiple computers and from a web-based cloud. Documents can easily be accessed and updated from multiple locations, and all files are automatically saved and backed up.
  • Collaborate: Documents and folders can be shared with others, a function that is similar to Dropbox. Folders can be public or private, and documents along with notes and comments can be accessed synchronously or asynchronously by multiple collaborators.

Learning how to actually implement these functions has required a bit more research and experimentation. So far, I have successfully learned to import and tag my readings. Essentially, I have been working on the collecting and organizing functions. I have been able to follow YouTube tutorials pretty easily up until this point, and I imagine they will continue to be helpful as I begin to explore the cite, sync, and collaborate functions in the coming weeks. This tool has already made my scholarly life easier and more organized, and I imagine that its usefulness will expand as my understanding and use becomes more complex and multifaceted.


Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. (2013). Zotero. Retrieved from http://www.zotero.org/.

CEP 810 (Week 4): Getting Things Done with Google Drive

In order to implement some of David Allen’s strategies for getting things done, I have been experimenting with Google Drive. When I realized that Google Docs did not have all of the functionality that I was looking for in terms of sorting, I started using a Google Spreadsheet to “collect” my notes to myself, and I’ve had more success. These spreadsheets allow me to make sophisticated lists with columns for item descriptions, deadlines, levels of importance, and required time. Including these categories allows me to sort and organize in several ways, depending on my current needs.

Having this list available digitally means that I can retrieve it from anywhere I have internet. I can also access Google Drive from my phone, which makes it easy for me to add and check things regularly, even if I do not have access to a computer. The only thing that I do not like about this tool is its lack of visual progress tracking. Deleting items makes it difficult to see what has already been done, and leaving completed items in a running spreadsheet looks cluttered and messy. However, this tool seems to make listing more convenient and dynamic. As I continue to play with this tool, I’m sure that I will find new ways that it can help me get things done.