Month: March 2013

The Linguistics of Formative Assessment

We know from research how important formative assessment is to instruction and student learning. But sometimes questions and statements we make as teachers fail to elicit a verbal response from students. When this happens, we can try to use non-verbal cues to gauge student understanding for a response. We might also consider how the kinds of language choices we make may not function in ways we intend. Perhaps one of the most notorious phrases that fails to adequately assess students’ formative knowledge is:

(1) Does that make sense?



4C13 from afar: Be Careful What You Start

Anson: “In higher ed, we often think that if students are disconnected and unmotivated in class, it’s their fault.” Poignant call. #4c13 -@chris_friend via Twitter retweeted over 20 times

Chris Anson’s speech, live-tweeted by… well just about everybody at 4C13 with a Twitter account, was an inspiring speech that set a good direction for the field of Rhet Comp. I was, however, concerned by the above statement when considered in the context of similar sentiments expressed within K-12 education.

A Cautionary Tale

When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed in 2001, we began an age of accountability for students and teachers in K-12 education. Students were accountable to educational standards in all states via standardized tests and, barring “flexibility” (will get to that in a minute), schools and teachers were accountable for student performance. If students did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for a given number of years, state intervention could force the school to close and reopen under new leadership and faculty. Anson’s remark implied that FYC instructors were on some level accountable for students being “disconnected” or “unmotivated.” This seems in line with the move toward accountability in K-12. Since we know from research that teacher effectiveness is a predictor of student success, this is not unreasonable. The next step is, perhaps, more uncomfortable.

Literacy Education: Mobile Eye-Tracking Software and Reading Rate

Recently a few stories have been discussing the Samsung Galaxy S IV’s eye-tracking function that allows users to scroll through pages using their eyes. There was some concern raised about the privacy implications of this technology if it did, indeed, track eye movement. However, it appears that such concerns are somewhat unwarranted. Mashable reports that the eye-scrolling feature relies more on “facial recognition and tilt” and can pause video when your head turns away. Eye-tracking this is not–or at least, a very primitive form of eye-tracking.

Eye-Tracking and Reading Research

So it’s a false alarm. But the idea of eye-tracking software is not too far-fetched, as it appears Swedish Tobii may be developing other forms of the technology. The issue of eye tracking could have multiple uses, and at some point someone is going to suggest it can cure reading problems. Eye movement studies in reading date at least back to Huey, almost a hundred years, although thankfully we’ve moved on from the “dark ages” form of reading research. Huey tracked eye movement by placing a “cup” made of plaster of Paris on the cornea (numbing the eye with cocaine to alleviate discomfort) and attaching a thin aluminum “pointer” to the cup, which then transferred the movements to paper. Samsung’s limited eye movement technology just takes your picture.

4C13 from afar: Twitter & Collaboration

In lieu of a more complete, short essay (coming soon), I offer today a few thoughts on the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Twitter is my CCCC News Wire

I get all my news on the conference from the 4C13 hashtag on Twitter. I also have been browsingthe resources uploaded onto the NCTE site for the convention. I’m indebted to the fellow scholars tweeting about it, especially @webbsusa, who tweeted a fascinating talk by Dr. Victor Villanueva entitled: “Toward a Political Economy of Basic Writing Programs.”

Collaboration between Rhet Comp and Education

Villanueva discussed the need for Basic Writing (and Rhet Comp) to engage in more collaboration with other disciplines. While it seems Villanueva may have seen this need as a way to legitimize the course and empower its students, I contend that this collaboration needs to happen because related disciplines have a lot to offer Rhet Comp and vice versa. Education and Linguistics are the first places where more collaboration needs to happen. (more…)


I am planning on revamping my main page into an academic blog of sorts, sharing ideas about research I’m interested in, its implications, and things I’ve found on Twitter and other venues that need more than 140 characters to explicate. My goals for this enterprise are to engage more in the academic blogosphere and Twittersphere, hone my research program, and, as I discovered via my first encounter on Twitter, learn more about my strengths and weaknesses as a research and emergent scholar in the field of English Education and Educational Linguistics. Hopefully this will not be as short-lived as the poetry project of last year. Looking forward to make connections.