exploratory writing

Once again, Bean’s chapter was useful, even though I already use exploratory journal writing assignments in all of my classes. I tend to give students directed questions that require them to grapple with some theme of the reading. We then use the journal entries as a starting point for class discussion. The quality of discussion has improved immensely since I began using journals. I collect them on a few unannounced days throughout the semester and grade each entry pass/fail. In the future, I may use Bean’s “Explanation of Exploratory Writing for Students” when I present the journal assignment to my students. I also may try using some of the other kinds of exploratory writing he describes.

For the purposes of my digital project, I might use some of his exercises for topic exploration to get students thinking about the project they’ll be pursuing. For example, I could imagine assigning, perhaps as a journal assignment, elements of his “Generic Exploration Tasks for an Argument Addressing an Issue” (p. 114). I also really like the “Thesis Statement Writing” exercise (p. 115) since many of my students seem have a hard time articulating a thesis.

Here’s my revised project assignment. I’ve taken into account feedback from last week’s seminar and have tentatively incorporated a little exploratory writing. Next week I’ll work on breaking it up into more distinct assignments.


Website Project

In this project, you will work with 1-3 classmates to create a website designed to inform the public about a policy issue related to the content of the course. As opposed to a traditional research paper, this project will be publicly available. Your audience will be the general public and you should approach the project as an opportunity to educate others about an important policy issue. Political and policy issues are best explored with others in public. This website project is one way to initiate such an exchange.

After consultation with you, I will assign each group a general policy area (e.g., employment, intimate partner violence, etc.). As a group, you will then decide on a focus for your website within your general policy area (e.g., comparable worth, mandated prosecution for intimate partner violence, etc). You should read the relevant section in the Chamallas text to get an overview of the area and to begin to generate ideas for your focus.

You will also decide together which tasks each group member will undertake. You will collaboratively create the website and then make a 25-minute presentation to the class about your website. Your presentation should include a discussion with the class about the content and ideas you present. Your presentation will be followed by Q&A with the class. You will use Google Sites, a website creation platform, to build the website; we will go over the technical aspects of this process in class.

This project is meant to develop a number skills, including the following:
-ability to work with a team
-written and oral communication
-digital technology skills
The project will also serve as an example of your work that you can show to potential employers.

Website Components
The website should have a home page and at least three additional pages.
1. The home page should include your team’s interpretation of the topic you chose to focus on in an analytical statement of about 1,500 words [still thinking about the best length]. Along with your group, you will write an analytical statement of about 1,500 words on a specific issue in the general policy area your are assigned.  Use the introduction of your statement to engage your reader’s interest in a problem or question that you would like to address in the statement. Show your reader what makes the question both significant and problematic. The body of your statement should be your group’s own response to this question made as persuasive as possible through appropriate analysis and argumentation, including effective use of evidence. Your interpretation must engage with and explain, at a minimum, two different scholarly perspectives on your policy issue. Midway through the course, you will submit to the instructor a prospectus that describes the problem or question that you plan to address and shows why the question is (1) problematic and (2) significant.
Make sure to include at least 2 visual sources such as images or videos in your analytical statement. Also, make sure to use footnotes to cite at least 7 scholarly sources.

2. You should include a page with a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources, including the minimum of 7 that you used for your analytical statement and 3 additional ones, with links to any available online.

3. Your site should have one page with links to at least 10 other relevant websites.

4. Your site should have one page with a list of discussion-type questions related to your topic. You will use these to facilitate class discussion when presenting your topic.

5. You can also include additional pages of specific relevance to the topic you chose as you think they are needed.

Finally, your team will write a project overview paper, of 250-350 words, and hand it in on the day of the in-class presentation, on the following topics:
1.    Describe what you have learned about websites as sources of information through doing this assignment and how you will approach them differently in the future, if in any way.
2.    Reflect on the usefulness of creating websites as a tool for learning about and reporting on a political topic, in comparison to traditional research papers.
3.    Explain how this assignment impacted your skills and how you think it might benefit you going forward, if in any way, regarding both your college and your post-college professional, civic, and private life.

Your team will choose a few possible topics and discuss your choices in class. You will then decide on the exact topic together. At this point, I will assign some exploratory writing exercises to help you generate ideas. You will share these with your group members.
You will then collaboratively create the website, dividing the necessary tasks among the team members. This includes managing the project and monitoring its timely progress, conducting research, writing the various statements on the site, designing and adding content to the site, writing the project overview paper, and giving the in-class presentation. One person will act as the coordinator, managing the progress of the website project, coordinating the other team members, and communicating with me about your progress. Each team will make weekly two-minute reports to the class on the current status of the project. On some class days, we will have workshop sessions in which we will discuss your progress and workshop a given website.

The website will be graded according to the following criteria:
1.    Up to 50 points for the quality of the analytical statement including citing relevant scholarly sources
2.    Up to 10 points for the quality of the project overview paper
4.    Up to 5 points for a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources
6.    Up to 5 points for links to at least 10 other relevant websites
7.    Up to 5 points for the quality of your discussion questions
8.    Up to 15 points for website layout and clarity
9.  Up to 10 points for your individual contribution to the project. These will be assigned by your group members. (You may receive negative points in this category if you do not adequately contribute to the project.)
10. One group will receive a 5-point bonus, to be determined by a class vote following the presentations to the class.
Your group presentation will be graded separately according to rubric to be distributed in class.

Google Sites Tutorials
Tutorials from Radford University. It includes 4 videos. #1, #2, and #3 are most relevant to your interests:
1) How to Create a New Google Site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1B_q_EiVHI&list=PL9B1A16826A62DD66&index=1&feature=plpp_video
2) How to Edit and Add Media to your Google Site http://youtu.be/HW3OElLssgE
3) How to Change the Appearance of Your Site http://youtu.be/DKXFDdwLLgA

Google Sites Help


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