Congratulations on a beautiful final class project:  ….What richness and depth in exploring the process of writing.  I am so proud of your work, which pays testament to the power of selective solitude as well as collaboration.

In your own words:

AfterWords is a collection of vignettes that highlights how writing can be enhanced in multimodal and digital environments. Created by a group of diverse and dedicated graduate students at Kean University, it is a collage of moments in time when writing mattered. Alone, each moment holds a deep meaning for the individual.  Together, these vignettes memorialize this moment in our collective writing history.

IMG_4429Our last night of class together was a memorable one – a veritable feast and (sometimes heated) deliberation about the frame for this project.  In my opinion, this kind of culmination was indeed apropros with the overall learning dimensions for this course.

As I promised, I will be working to publish this piece in varying venues in the early New Year, and I will keep in touch with everyone about that progress.  In the meanwhile, enjoy the holiday and the well deserved break.

What a pleasure to work with all of you this semester.

I will miss this class!!!

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Zamora

Planning our grand finale….

What a fantastic way to close our discussion sessions this semester!  Thank you Laura for a dynamic and engaging presentation on both Yancey & Selfe’s work, as well as your own resulting reflection on multimodality.  Your presentation was indeed a thorough tribute to what is possible with new digital tools, and it was very well received by our class.  In addition, colleagues in our broader writing community took note:

It was especially instructive to consider Laura’s student surveys side-by-side with our own real time survey results.  Laura’s  videos amplified the nuances of her ideas and were impactful, leaving us all with a layered impression of her own consideration of multimodality.  Thanks for such inspired work.

001So, ….it is sad for me to think that next Monday is our last meeting.  This has been a great class, with a natural chemistry.  Everyone has brought deep insight to each class meeting – as both writers and/or educators – and I have learned so much from each and everyone of you.  I think our last evening together will be memorable.  Let’s be sure to take some class pics so I can post them on this site.  So here is our collective plan for our last gathering:

1.  Unfortunately, we have to do some last minute SIR 2 forms/brief course assessment before we really start with the celebration.  So plan on that in the first 10 minutes or so of class.

2.  Then we will eat!  Everyone will bring some food, and we will have a potluck style feast.  Here is the google doc for our food plan.  Everyone please add there what you are planning to bring

3.  We will start out “formal” proceedings by taking a vote on the final title for your project.  Please remember to suggest a few titles that you think work best, then we can deliberate together (-check Laura’s earlier blog with other title suggestions from a few weeks back or suggest a new one). 

4.  Remember to email Devon the material for the “Who We Are Page” – we need to decide on the three sentence description of your project.  Devon will collect your thoughts and we can deliberate and vote together in person.   Also, send your brief bio to Devon via email (3rd person professional affiliation & interests, your chosen contact info optional).  That way she can get that material up on the site.  We can finalize this together as well.
5.  After those negotiations are settled, each of you will “present” your vignette – this means you will walk the class through what you have posted.  You can read it through, or take us through a navigation of your post.  Whatever suits you most in sharing your final project vignette.  I can’t wait for this!
Finally, you will need to submit your final self assessment portfolio & narrative to me via email by Friday Dec. 18th.  I will post one more time with the link to your final class project, along with some of my last reflections.
Dr. Zamora

Rubrics, research, and formulaic writing

We had a jammed packed yet insightful class on Monday.  Thanks to Jessica for furthering our reflections on assessment practices and  rubrics, and their effectiveness in teaching writing.

rubricThe consensus seemed to be that not all rubrics are created equally, and that the more customized the instrument of measure, the more effective it might be in drawing out constructive feedback for the writer.  It was good to share many of our own rubric anecdotes (as both teachers and student writers).  I think these kinds of accounts shed helpful light on practice.  Such accounts help us all envision more clearly what might work for the writers we know and work with.

imagesThanks to Devon for walking us through the question of research and writing, as well as the paradox of the formulaic paper.  It seems that the academic research paper has inadvertently contributed to thwarting authentic student inquiry.  Young researchers have heard the mandate to emphasize precedent scholarship over their own intellectual curiosity.  But the best research is a beautiful weave of both – a kind of dialogue between the writer who contributes new knowledge to a conversation by considering the preceding arguments that have directed the field of inquiry thus far.  Students seem daunted by such a task, and their tangible fear of mistakes in this context is a clear result of a methodical emphasis on formal citation.  On the other hand, a culture of attribution is a key aspect of intellectual integrity, and the fair attribution of ideas somehow seems lost on many a young student (despite their research anxiety in the academic context).  We discussed a kind of spectrum: intellectual curiosity verses intellectual integrity – and we considered the ways some research paper processes have situated students (problematically) along this fault line of concerns.

There was more dissent than consent when it came to our discussion of formulaic writing.  We acknowledged the significant limitations of approaching writing via a step by step protocol.  But we also acknowledged that some young writers really need set of instructions to refer to. The analogy of training wheels seems apt here.  Many felt that as long as there was a moUnknownment where the formula could be overcome (i.e. the training wheels are no longer needed), then the emergence of a more authentic writer might have a chance to blossom.

Next up:

….Last but certainly not least, Laura will conclude our presentation series with a focus on  Made Not Only in Words (Yancey); & The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing  (Cynthia L. Selfe).  Please blog about these two readings for next week.

We will spend the second half of class (from approximately 6:00-7:15pm) discussing/designing our plans for our final class period (i.e. organizing what is necessary to launch your final class project).

Can’t believe we are on the proverbial homestretch guys!  I can’t wait to read and behold your final project.


Dr. Zamora



Writing networks, connections, & plans

First up:  Thank you Colin for a great conversation about the issue of control when offering writing feedback.  As we all know, the question of writing assessment is a challenging one, and it is important to apprehend that their are two subjective agents that make up the interaction – both the reader & the writer.  The “sweet spot” of what might work for the writer in terms of constructive response is a trick, as we all acknowledged.  It was also good to consider the test culture around writing assessment a bit more.

What a fantastic Monday evening Twitter chat that we headed up for #DigiWriMo! Our discussion of “Why Digital Writing Matters” was lively.  Many an insight percolated.  It was a truly a global conversation, with colleagues from Australia to California (and many other diverse locations) piping in.  Before I even attempted to “Storify” it myself, our wonderful #DigiWriMo & #NWP colleague – @Dogtrax a.k.a. Kevin Hodgson – did it for us!  Scroll to see our curated contribution (it is the second half of the combined story):

I think that the #DigiWriMo twitter chat was a perfect lead up to what will be your beautiful collection about writing (as your final class project).  It is my hope that we can continue to expand our online networks as we get to ready share your (soon to be realized) final project.  A key reflection from our #DigiWriMo chat was about  the “magic sauce” in digital writing.  That sauce seems to be the connections we can make through sharing our voices.


Up next for next Monday (11/30):  We have two presenters!  

-Jessica will lead us out regarding her thoughts on Using Rubrics (Bean); Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century (Yancey).  Remember, you have already blogged about these readings.  Jessica will start at 4:30pm sharp, and she will conclude at 5:45pm.  

We will then all take a 15 min break.  

-For the second half of class, Devon will be discussing Why the Research Paper is Not Working (Fister); The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (Wiley).  She will start at 6pm and wrap up by 7:15pm.  Please blog about these readings for Monday.

We will pick up on your vignette design work for the final project on 12/7.  We can touch base about this issue next week in order to plan for the two last classes of the semester.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!!  It is the season of gratitude, and I am grateful for our class community and all that I have learned thus far from our time together.  

…..To much more to come! A Thanksgiving cheers….


Dr. Zamora



Catching up….

UnknownMy apologies for the long delay in my communication.  As some of you might have noticed, I have been away at the National Writing Project annual meeting over the past week.


The meeting was fantastic, chuck-full of inspiring conversations about both writing theory and practice.  I take away a renewed sense of our collective work and an expanding vision for our Writing Program, etc.  The meeting always keeps me extra busy though.  As a result, I had difficulty finding the moment to connect with all of you,  so this post is a “catch up” of sorts.

You have been on my mind for many a reason.  First off, I was thinking of all of my wonderful students last Wednesday, when the Kean University campus was hit with those despicable threats on social media.  Despite the fact that I was in Minneapolis, I was not far in my thoughts, reflections and prayers.  What has happened on our campus is intolerable, and as you can probably imagine I have been so disgusted and saddened.  I have been concerned for our community, and I want you to know that I have been thinking of all of you especially.  It was challenging to take in the news from a far and I felt a bit displaced.  Still, it is of utmost importance to support each other at a time like this.  I look forward to connecting in person tonight for sure.

Tonight, Colin will take the lead by guiding us through  The Concept of Control in Teacher Response (Straub); Looking Back As We Look Forward (Yancey).  Directly after Colin’s presentation, we have our scheduled #DigiWriMo Twitter chat lined up from 6-7pm.

It should be a fun experiment.  I will briefly explain the general Twitter chat protocol tonight, but here is a blog post that helps explain what to expect as well.  We will start with  5 minutes of quick twitter intros, then we will dive into the four questions of the night, rolling them out gradually devoting about 12 minutes for responses to each of our 4 questions.  When we share out a question, one of us will post a tweet that has the “Q1: ____” designation.  Then everyone in the twitter chat will respond to that question with A1: ____” in their tweets.  Tweetchat is a useful tool or app to use tonight to keep organized for our twitter chat because it allows you to focus only on our hashtag.  We will be using the #DigiWriMo hashtag this evening.  Each one of your tweets tonight should have #DigiWriMo attached to it in order to organize and archive our conversation.

Regarding the four questions we will roll out, here is a “draft” of possible questions, but please edit or make new suggestions if you feel like we could refine these.

For Monday next week (post Thanksgiving) we have both Jessica and Devon on our presentation roster.  We will also need to start refining your final projects in this last stretch of the semester.  More on that to come….

Looking forward to seeing you all this evening!


Dr. Zamora

English Language Learners & Writing

imagesAnother thoughtful evening spent thinking about crucial issues in current writing theory and practice.  Thank you Sabine for guiding us through two readings:  Tutoring ESL Students (Harris & Silva); Teaching Composition in the Multi Language World (Matsuda).  Your opening videos were a powerful entry point for all of us in considering the experience and perspective of an English language learner.  In your first clip, it was clear to behold the anxiety that is inherently a part of translating the world a new (in a learning environment that is indeed foreign to you).  Poor young Moises.  The firm grip on learning requires a constancy of courage and determination, as well as a ceaseless supply of intellectual curiosity.  In other words, the ELL reality is not for the faint of heart.  To learn under such circumstances is a challenge that is rarely confronted comprehensively (whether by educators or institutions). Sabine’s second clip also gave us a sense of being “shut out” by language.  As the couple in the video demonstrated, there are moments when you can grasp a little, and there is body language as a “second text” to read and rely on, but it the end, a lack of linguistic knowledge is indeed an alienating experience.  What remains is a feeling of pervasive discomfort.  I am glad we started our discussion with the psychic truth of ELL experience firmly established.  For any academic consideration of these issues (through theory) should always be rooted in a compassionate understanding of that inherent struggle.  images-3As we have read, Writing Centers, tutors, first year Comp programs often create learning environments where the ELL student is an afterthought.  There is little preparation and even less effective policy that truly supports this vast population of learners.  This truth despite the dramatic diversity of our local context.  Our NJ could very well be more multilingual that the UN (or at least on par).  And still, we have little in place to support this multi-linguistic reality in our shared learning contexts.  Both articles made clear that we need further support from a professional development standpoint.

Some thoughts on what is ahead for us:

1. Please make it a point to share out 2 things with #DigiWriMo (i.e. two tweets over the next two weeks).  Those tweets could be sharing links to two of your blog posts from this course, or the rough draft of your vignette, or some other material you have read that you think is applicable to the #DigiWriMo community.  I would like us to step up our twitter participation as we prepare to host the #DigiWriMo twitter chat about Writing theory & practice on the night of 11/23.

2.  Revise your vignette draft and send to your peer review partner(s) by early next Sunday evening.

3.  Jessica will address both assessment and rubrics next week with two readings: Using Rubrics (Bean); Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century (Yancey).  Please blog your thoughts on these readings.

4.  I will be mindful of our time constraints next class.  When Jessica completes her presentation at 5:45pm, that will give us a moment for a short break.  Then you will all jump right into a more substantial peer review session with your partner(s).  Remember to use the peer review questions as a guide to substantive feedback.

Thanks again.  I really enjoy our class each week.

See you next Monday,

Dr. Zamora


Thank you Tobey for an insightful evening last night as you lead our discussion of revision/rewriting.  The Sommers & Murray articles prompted us all to think more about the key role that revisionary thinking plays in the act of writing.  Murray wrote about revision as a motivating fore that should be embraced in our practice of writing.  He insisted on both the adventure and  excitement that should be experienced when revising.  Meanwhile, Sommers shed light on the problem of linear thinking that is attached to writing.  Born of a problematic conflation between speech and writing, this linear mode of thinking reduces revision to an afterthought in the writing process.   But as Sommers has suggested, perhaps writing begins at the point where speech is impossible.  Writing is recursive shaping of thought through/by language. Said another way, writing is always, also, revisioning.

I-can-see-clearly-with-great-vision_zpsp0jkt75eThanks Tobey for drawing out these key components of Sommer’s research and highlighting her findings with your own interviews of both students and colleagues.  It was a more personalized and layered looked into the heart of writing.  As we watched and considered the interviewee’s comments, it struck me that perhaps we can apprehend writing as deeply intertwined  with our on-going development as agile and creative thinkers.

A couple of action items for next week:

1.  If you haven’t already, please remember to sign up for Digital Writing Month – better known as @DigiWriMo.  In addition, please tweet your (past and/or future) blog posts for this class to the twitter hashtag #digiwrimo.  This way we can all share in the ongoing conversation this month about the nature of writing.  Your weekly blog reflections are perfect contributions to this writerly community.  In addition, we will step up our contribution later this month with our scheduled twitter chat on “Why Writing Matters” (or something of that nature) on the evening of 11/23.

2.  You rough draft of your vignette’s are due next week.  Please include a link to the work you have done thus far in your blog post for the week.  We will have a peer review session next week that will entail the feedback questions that we started to develop last week.  You are welcome to review those questions and edit further as you see fit.  You will break up into groups of three for this work in class next week.

3.  Sabine will lead us through a discussion of English language learners and writing by focusing on two readings:  Tutoring ESL Students (Harris & Silva); Teaching Composition in the Multi Language World (Matsuda).  Please be sure to blog about these readings in addition to sharing a link to your vignette draft in the blog post.

Have a great week everyone.  I will see you next Monday (if not sooner),

Dr. Zamora





On Responding to Student Writing….

megaphone_feedbackThank you to Maria & Quanesha for providing a comprehensive overview of three complimentary articles: Writing Comments on Student’s Papers (Bean); Response to Writing (Beach & Friedrich); & One Approach to Guiding Peer Response (Jaxon).  Our conversation about these readings was insightful.  We drew closer to the student writer viewpoint by apprehending the foundational vulnerability that lies at the heart of learning how to write.  And we also referred to our own formative writing memories to gain that empathetic perspective.  We considered how much room there is for misunderstanding/misinterpretation between the writer and the writing instructor during feedback.

dog welcome homeMaria & Quanesha offered us the chance to freewrite our reflections at two different points during their presentation last night.  Writing-to-learn is indeed a powerful compliment to our open discussion, as it draws to the surface what is unexpected in our collective learning.  It was especially instructive to experience first hand the writer’s lack of clarity regarding expectation and context for writing.  This kind of experience can give us pause and extend our empathy, as it spurns us to strive more in identifying with the writer’s perspective within the construct of a classroom.

Regarding our post-presentation group chat, you identified some tools that captured your attention.  Thanks to Laura’s very useful demo, it seems Wix is in the running for a possible forum for your final collection.  Martha’s Voki sample was a great demonstration of voice files & avatar, and what is possible if you decide to include a “cover page” for each of your individual vignettes.  We also spoke about animoto (a useful video collage tool) and thinglink (to connect a primary image with many “nodal” links).   We also took an initial shot at key questions for your upcoming peer review of your vignette drafts.  Those draft questions are accessible here.  Please edit or add to the questions, as we will be using them in a couple of weeks.

Up next:

Tobey will speak to us about the revision process while addressing two key articles: Revision Strategies (Sommers); Teach the Motivating Force of Revision (Murray).

In your blogs for next week – please respond to both of these articles.  In addition, please include a consideration of the theme and/or title for your final group project (e.g. “Finding Your Voice”, “That Writing Moment”, “Why I Write”, etc).  This need further focus and clarity.  If you all work to narrow down the “organizing principle” for your work, I believe you will have a intriguing and powerful final collection.

Another great week.  Happy Halloween!!  halloween

Thank you all and see you next Monday,

Dr. Zamora



On Voice, & other matters…..

Another great conversation last night!  Thanks to Melissa for leading us through two very different articles on the idea of “voice” in writing:  Bi, Butch and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender & SexualityVoice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries.  With Melissa’s prompts, and through the lens of these readings, we explored the particular contours of the elusive notion of “voice”.

images-34We recognized that voice is connected to both embodiment and subjectivity.  (And we dully noted that voices via bodies are metaphors – marked and read in particular ways, bearing the sway of power and politics.)  We also talked about the link between voice & identity, and the yearning/reach for authenticity and “true self”.   We talked about the important link between voice and empowerment.

But we also conceded that the honing of voice is a crucial skill that needs to be cultivated and must be understood as a tool to be used (in a situational sense).  Ultimately, we acknowledged Elbow’s point about the limits of either/or thinking about this topic, and we admitted that the pro vs. con approach to the importance of voice in writing belies any productive understanding of it’s complex nature.

When we switched gears to talk about your group project, we did a little bit of scheduling and organizing.  Your draft for your individual vignette is now set for November 9th.  The night of the 9th we will also do some peer review for feedback on your draft.

DigiWriMo-Logo-6-MU-Colors-e1350322001433We also spoke about the role that Digital Writing Month might play in the development of your work and your overall learning.  Please sign up if you haven’t already.  I think it will be both useful and instructive to expand our conversation beyond our immediate learning community, as we share with others the ideas we are exploring.  #DigiWriMo offers a perfect opportunity to do just that.   Therefore, I think that we can participate in two ways:  1. The first is to share out draft versions of your vignettes as they are developing, with an eye on possible feedback and/or connections.  2. The second is to conduct the twitter chat on November 23 from 6-7pm.  I think we will all have some fun with this event, and we can “Storify” our conversation afterward.

Up next:

Quanesha & Maria are teaming up together to lead our discussion of Writing Comments on Student’s Papers (Bean); Response to Writing (Beach & Friedrich); & One Approach to Guiding Peer Response (Jaxon).

-Please blog about the reading, and please check out this list of DIGITAL TOOLS.  Start to think about what tools might be useful to you as you develop your own vignette, and what tools might be useful for the final collaborative piece.  You can share your initial thoughts about these tools in your blog for next week.

After Quanesha & Maria lead us through our discussion of next week’s reading, we can first “talk tools”, and then we can have a speed round share-out of your early “vignette” ideas.

See you next week,

Dr. Zamora

Evaluation & Grammar; #DigiWriMo

Thank you to Martha for leading us through a discussion of Ranking, Evaluating, & Liking (Elbow) as well as Grammar, Grammars, and Teaching Grammar (Hartwell).  We were able to share our many insights about Elbow’s formulation of ranking vs. evaluation, and we all thought further about the role that grammar might play in the acquisition of writing skills.   At the heart of general discussion was a focus on pedagogic strategies, and the consideration of such strategies in creating an effective environment for learning and growing as a writer.

alternative-teaching-certificationI thought it was a timely experience for Martha to receive that “unpracticed” missive as a prelude to back to school night from her son’s English teacher (i.e. his open grading policy and his dismissal of accountability with learning stakeholders).  Coming on the heels of our Elbow reading, this unpracticed move on the part of the teacher illustrates the pitfalls of conflating “open practice” with free reign.  I am quite sure that Elbow did not have an implementation that looked like this letter in mind.  The teacher’s mistake also illuminated the shortcomings of implementing theory without considering the people effected in practice.  It revealed a lack of experience.  Ultimately, what becomes more clear to us is that a thoughtful incorporation of progressive forms of evaluation must be built on certain understanding within the learning community (i.e. their shared values, their shared purpose).

TeachLearnBlocks1One take away for me: further reflection on the challenge of being a teacher. Teaching is a dynamic practice that is at the heart a negotiation between people.  Teaching is hard work – a teacher cannot think or act in static assumption if they are truly going to engender a space for authentic learning.  As we continue to attempt to bridge the gap between theory & practice, it is “real life” moments like these which tend to illuminate the stakes at hand.

Regarding your final group project: I sense some consensus emerging as you tinker with your design ideas.  I think that you are now reaching for an open forum to address “Finding Your Voice” or considering “Why I Write”.   You spoke about a collection of vignettes capturing the spirit of this inquiry.  Each of you will create a unique contribution to this discussion, sort of like a piece of patchwork.  The diversity of your contributions will be woven together like the vivid colors of a beautiful quilt.

Some exciting food for thought:

November is Digital Writing Month, better known as @DigiWriMo or #DigiWriMo.  Please subscribe here.  If you are teaching, consider having your own students join in as well.  Follow the hashtag to receive updates.

We have been invited as a group to participate formally in whatever way we would like:

In short, we can plan for our own form of participation.  This is the perfect venue to gain audience for your forthcoming work! I thought this would be a great way to highlight your project to a broader scholarly community.  In addition, @DigiWrimo is sponsored by Hybrid Pedagogy – the journal that I had in mind for showcasing your final project via publication.  Therefore, it makes sense to build upon your project by contributing and connecting here.

Up next:

Melissa will lead our discussion of Bi, Butch and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender & Sexuality; Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries.  I look forward to this class as we will further our group reflection on the notion of “finding voice”.  

Please remember to blog about these readings, and please include in your blog post some thoughts on the group project as it stands, and how we might be able to participate in #DigiWriMo while continuing to develop your final class project.  

See you on Monday!


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