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February 5, 2016

 

Today, I want to take some time to talk about incorporating technology in the classroom. I know many teachers do this, but a lot struggle with whether or not it is worth the effort. Perhaps I can illustrate how easy it can be. Below is a sample lesson, using smartphones and mobile devices in the classroom. In a sense, it turns any classroom into a computer lab, and helps break some barriers to student writing, namely lack of time and the fear of the blank page.

 

The Assignment: Ask students to write a one-page response to a prompt on their phone or tablet which they will send to you either via email or Dropbox or some other cloud service. I give students roughly twenty minutes to do this. View the submissions right there on the spot, offering quick comments to help them understand how they've done.  Comments focus on the content, or formatting, or argument. The key, especially when first incorporating mobile devices, is to guide your students more. Later, you can have them more freely write, when both you and them have built up confidence in using the medium.

 

For one assignment, I had students react to Eveline, by James Joyce. Here's the prompt: It's twenty years after Eveline left Frank at the dock. She looks back on this, now as a forty-year-old woman. How does she feel about her decision? First, decide in your mind what has become of Eveline. Does she have a husband and kids of her own? Did staying with her father and rejecting Frank mean she ended up alone? Once you've decided this, write a journal entry as Eveline, on a day where perhaps she passed that dock and remembered that fateful night. How does she feel? Does she explain away her fear back then, or get angry because of it? She either regrets this, doesn't, or has mixed feelings. That's all up to you. The journal entry should be two to three paragraphs and give the reader a sense of her state of mind regarding her decision.

 

This assignment could have been written, of course, but I've always found that carrying around papers leads to disorganization. I set up folders for my email or on Dropbox for each class, then a subfolder for each week, or for a major paper. For instance, I have a folder called 'InClass Work' for each class, and this assignment would go there. I create a filter in my email program, and have my students send the mail with a specific subject line, like 'FCWR 151 InClass Work' and the mail automatically goes there. Similar things can be done with Dropbox, or Google Drive, or OneDrive, depending on what you are comfortable with. Feel free to email me if you want some guidelines. Later on, I will put a page up that will help. For now, try this site.

 

I'm advanced in using this medium and actually comment right in their document on my phone or using my tablet or laptop. This low-stakes assignment allows them to be more receptive to criticism and can serve as a confidence builder when they realize they did well and can use their mobile phone to write in their free time. All students benefit from this practice, whether they have a computer at home or not. By teaching students to use this powerful tool, they find they can have a page or two worth of work to start with when they sit down in front of a computer to write their paper, be it at home or in the college computer lab.

Welcome to my website. I am a college English (Humanities) professor and a mystery and childrens fiction writer.

No more Assistant Professor! I am now Associate Professor of English and Director of Technical and Professional Communication at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York. I have received tenure as well and this marks a major milestone in my career. I don't feel like much will change but there is a sense of exhale.

Over the last year, I have worked hard trying to modify classes for online learning. I will spend the summer going over course design and finding ways to make online classes and asynchronous elements more engaging. A lot of it is trial and error but I've found involving students from the beginning effective. Polling them and seeing how a specific class is handling this new modality works wonders.

 

Since I started full-time at NYIT, I have published twelve articles, including several on developing video games for learning in the composition classroom. My project Perchance seeks to re-imagine ancillary literature learning tools like Cliff Notes to become a more usable (and more used) form of learning. Check out the development of Perchance: A 3D Hamlet Mystery here.

 

My teaching interests lie in first-year composition, in introducing students to college writing and finding creative ways to make such courses engaging, and technical writing, as I have discovered these courses attract students of all backgrounds. I didn't like boring classes when I went to school, so I attempt to prevent my students from suffering the same in my classroom.  Technology and its impact on our scoiety as well as the teaching of writing intrigues me, and I spend much of my research time devoted to exploring its uses. I have found, for instance, a direct correlation between the use of technological aids in the classroom and improved student writing, particularly for international students and second-language learners. I have written a paper on using virtual reality (VR) to help students experience and better understand sense of place in writing. It will be published in Computers and Composition later this year. You can see some of my other papers over at Academia.edu They range from using smartphones as writing devices to video games as literature and strategies to make writing more accessible to all students.

 

I find teaching writing helps students across their college careers and life. Formulating an argument or just finding a way to say what we want/think effectively improves all areas of our lives. A quick look around social media can easily illustrate how more of us could use some help here. Students know how to engage, and most merely need a better focus on how to do that more effectively.That's what I bring to the classroom: writing instruction with real-world implications that students can relate to. They work on the skills they will need in their careers while in my classroom. The days of using pen and paper are almost behind us, so I shift the emphasis to the media we all interface with daily. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of digital and social media are incorporated into my classes, and students respond positively to their use in writing instruction. Maybe I am helping improve the Twitter-verse one class at a time. That would be a good start.

 

I write murder mysteries and childrens fantasy books and always look to incorporate my experiences writing in these and other genres into my pedagogy. I believe an intersection lies between creative writing and composition, and try to use this tool to make my classes more interactive. There still should be a strong distinction between the two, but I've found some overlapping really helps students put words on the page. With the addition of using mobile technology to have students writing anywhere and everywhere, I've seen a tremendous increase in student productivity. One habit I have is to show students my early drafts, so they can see that writing, even a big project like a novel, does not involve some magical process or comes from only natural talent. I let them see my imperfections so they can realize theirs differ little. They grasp the writing process a little better after I do this.

 

If you've come looking for my book series, you can head to this page, or click the book tab above that can give you a small sample of my writing.

 

Please feel free to have a look around. I'll be adding new things from time to time, and hope you enjoy your stay. You can always contact me at jmisak@nyit.edu

 

John Misak

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