Class Report: ENGL 062, 25 February 2019

For the final class meeting of the session, there would have a brief reminder of an administrative note from last week before a short question-and-answer period. The remainder of class time would have been given to student work on the week’s written assignment, a reflective and planning postscript.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. None attended.

The office hour that would normally be held on 28 February 2019 is cancelled.

Students are reminded that the postscript is due before the end of day Saturday, 2 March 2019. The session closes at that time, so no work can be accepted afterwards.

Reflective comments on the session are forthcoming.

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Sample Assignment Response: Reflective and Planning Postscript

For the final sample of the session, I’ll be drafting the kind of postscript that students in the class are asked to compose. They are prompted to look back at their self-assessed strengths and weaknesses in reading and writing, then to articulate in one paragraph how they plan to overcome those challenges that presented themselves during the session before, in another paragraph, noting how they mean to continue to improve upon their performances as they move forward through classes. Students are asked to submit those reflections in an APA-formatted document. Consequently, I’ll be doing much the same.

It seems apt.
Image from Pinterest.

To begin my own work on the exercise, I once again set up an APA-formatted document in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type, with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I constructed my title page and stubbed out my main text as appropriate, inserting running head and pagination as needed. And I then pulled up my own self-assessment from the first week of the session, which I reproduce here from the online discussion:

To offer an example:

  • What do I do well as a reader?
    • Through dint of practice, I read swiftly and deeply. That is, I can make my way through texts quickly, and I both retain much of what I read and assess it against / integrate it into what I already know relatively easily.
  • What do I do well as a writer?
    • I write regularly and often, working to address multiple audiences through multiple venues–and I think I do well at it.
  • What could I improve upon as a reader?
    • I could read more than I do. The past few years have not seen me with as many books in hand as I ought to have–and certainly not so many as I used to have.
  • What could I improve upon as a writer?
    • I could also write more than I do, sending what I write to publication venues that might reject me and would offer more honest critique than I often get.

I look forward to your responses.

With that list before me, I considered how I had worked to address the challenges I’d identified, drafting a narrative report of that work as my first paragraph of response and making sure to include explicit reference to my earlier words to help my readers understand my topic of discussion.

The second paragraph required a bit of adjustment; I’m not enrolled in any future classes, and I am not likely to become so. (I toy with the idea of going after an MBA, but that’s a later concern–if it ever becomes one.) But the fact that I am not in any formal education at this point does not mean that I cannot look for ways to improve my performance further, and reflecting on that allowed me to draft materials for the second requested paragraph.

The materials composed, I worked to make the writing more accessible to my expected primary audience, again acknowledging a consistent issue in my work. Once it was at a place I felt comfortable giving it to that audience, I reviewed my work for alignment with the orthographical standards at work in the course. Finding no deviations, I rendered the document into an accessible format once again, which I present here as what I hope will be of useful service to my students and others: G. Elliott Wk 8 Sample Assignment Response.

This won’t be my last go-around; I’ll still appreciate help.

Initial Comments for the March 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered a class for the March 2019 Session, a section of SPCH 275: Public Speaking, and I’ve accepted the assignment. It’s a class I’ve taught before, though it seems to have changed a bit for the upcoming term–in part because of an institutional push towards larger student-counts in each section that has me balancing on-site and online lecture. So it will be something of a challenge to teach it this time around.

I hope it goes better than this.
Image from Giphy.com.

I’ve not looked at the course in detail yet, but I expect that I will not need to develop specific examples of student work for it as I have done in my recent writing classes. For one, students are likely to be more familiar with speeches and oral communication than with formal writing. For another, I tend to lecture, perhaps more than I ought to, and those lectures are themselves iterations of public speaking. The examples are already provided by the nature of the course itself. (I will reserve the right to change that, though, since I might well find more targeted work to be of advantage.)

The on-site portion of the class is set to meet Thursdays at 6pm in the VCC at the San Antonio campus, beginning 3 March 2019 and running through 27 April; office hours will be online on Mondays at 6pm, US Central Time. I do have some travel and other concerns that will need to be accommodated, but I have every expectation that things will work out well as I have another appreciated chance to do what I have been trained to do.

Class Report: ENGL 062, 18 February 2019

After making an administrative note–student evaluations are open–discussion addressed questions from last week and earlier classes, as well as about previous work. It then moved to concerns of student writing and workshopping student papers before noting upcoming assignments, as below.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. Two attended; student participation was reasonably good.

An online office hour will be held online on Thursday, 21 February 2019, at 1800.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 17 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Active Reading and Polishing Your Essay (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 7 Reading Exercise (online)
  • Week 7 Quiz (online)
  • Essay 2 Revision (due online as a Word document)

Sample Assignment Response: Revised Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I posted a sample of a response essay, another piece working to emulate the work my students are asked to do. I felt obliged, for several reasons, to address a slightly different prompt than that offered to them, but I still feel that the model offered was useful. But there is more to do, both for the students and on the piece I offered, for which reason I proceed now to narrate my process for arriving at a model for the revised essay expected of students and to provide the model arrived at. I do so in the continuing hopes that my students and others will benefit from my efforts.

Sometimes, you succeed beyond expectation.
Image from Giphy.com.

The week’s assignment asks students to take the draft provided the previous week and expand upon and revise it with comments from the instructor. While the previous week would have admitted of a partial draft (I did not offer one), the current exercise requires a completed draft, albeit one admittedly brief. Aside from the expectation of fuller development (“fuller” instead of “full” because every piece of writing can be refined further), requirements follow those of the previous week’s work.

To mimic the exercise, I began by opening the previous week’s assignment and saving it under an updated name; doing so allowed me to retain a base copy in case things went strangely during revision while still letting me make updates–and helping me to find them. Then, as with a previous revision exercise, I printed out a hard copy of the text on which to make my initial edits. (I might note, too, that when I review my own work in hard copy, I rarely use red ink, preferring blue ink or pencil. Both stand out from the black ink of the printed pages while avoiding the glaring sense of “problem” that arises from red ink. Pencil allows for more adjustment, though it tends to smear a bit, while blue ink tends not to do so.)

As I went through the earlier draft, I did so looking first for ways to make the content more accessible. I expect that relatively few of my students–my anticipated primary audience–are familiar with the content I discuss, so I have a particular burden to make that content clear and understandable. Additionally, as I reviewed my work, I found that I was not satisfied with how I had transitioned into a couple of paragraphs, so I adjusted those transitions, as well as making the aforementioned changes to content.

With my on-paper notes ready, I moved into adjusting the electronic text. As before, I worked from the end of the paper back to the front, so that my changes did not move others that would need making. And I made sure to save my work repeatedly; I’ve lost papers before, and even so brief a work as the present exercise would be an annoyance to redo. I also reviewed the text for readability; again, accessibility to the primary expected audience is a concern, and I know my tendencies well. But the document tested out as at an acceptable reading level while still reading how I would have it, so I accounted it good enough.

The essay revised, I gave it another quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it, too, will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 7 Sample Essay.

Seriously, please help me keep on doing this!

Another Rumination on Roleplaying Game Design

In an earlier post, I make mention of focusing my tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) design efforts on a mechanical system that uses six-sided dice for ease of reference and access. It’s not the only such piece I’ve put together, though; for example, I drafted one on Rich Burlew’s work for another venue, and it is with Burlew’s comments in mind that I proceed. He makes the comment that mechanics and story should interact meaningfully; they should fit together, rather than one being a vehicle for the other or added onto it. Things should make sense together (despite the fact that the broader world does not, not by half). And since narrative requires milieu, and RPGs are narratives, the mechanics need to integrate into the milieu smoothly.

Shiny.
Image from AnimatedImages.org.

That notion in mind, and knowing that I mean to use six-sided dice, I started looking for convenient “natural” sixes. Two emerged in short order: cardinal directions and numbers. The former might seem to be counter-intuitive; as typically represented, the cardinal directions are but four: north, south, east, and west. But up and down are also to be considered, making six principal directions and offering six points of reference: north, south, east, west, zenith, and nadir. It’s obvious upon being pointed out, really, but it’s not often pointed out that I’m aware of, so it seemed a useful beginning point.

The numbering takes a bit more explanation. But if I follow the tendency of RPGs to have human or humanoid player characters–“humans in funny suits,” to borrow one turn of phrase that Burlew is not alone in using–then a five-fingered hand suggests itself. I can count six numbers on one such hand: zero to five. If I add another hand, I can reach thirty-five without working through knuckles, as some finger-counting systems do. And that sketches out a base-six numbering system; zero to five on one hand, then back to zero with a finger raised on the other hand. The place-value even begins to situate itself.

Those two sixes, aligning neatly with six-sided dice, have their own implications. Some move in directions that will bear exploring elsewhere. Some, though, admit of more local treatment. For example, the idea of a body-based numbering system that invokes place-value, which I am told by those who study and teach math was quite a development, suggests that the narrative milieu is one that values arithmetic. It’s a strange thing to have emerge, particularly for the work of someone whose degrees are all in English, and not one that I had expected to emerge.

That’s part of the allure of stories, whether read or narrated along with others and the help of dice, that things emerge from them that had not been expected. There is often comfort in the familiar, certainly, and there is nothing wrong in itself in stories following predictable patterns. But there is something special about new and un-thought-of things popping up out of even basic background work that thrills as a writer. I can hope that, in time, such things will also prove to be to players’ delight.

Care to contribute?

Class Report: ENGL 062, 11 February 2019

After addressing questions from the previous week and before, discussion returned to concerns of summary; a review seemed warranted. Discussion moved on to treat concerns of organization and of paratext after.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. One attended; student participation was excellent.

An online office hour will be held online on Thursday, 14 February 2019, at 1800.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 17 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Planning & Organizing and Visual Literacy (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 6 Quiz (online)
  • Essay 2 Draft (due online as a Word document)

 

Sample Assignment Response: Draft Response Essay

Last week, noted here, I had another instance of encountering an assignment for students that did not demand a new sample from me. I was fortunate to have already developed a number of samples of the kind of work students were asked to do, so I gathered an assortment of them for ease of reference and left them for the students to read through. There was some pushback from them on how I want things done–I am of the opinion that summaries need to identify their subjects, which not all of my students seemed to appreciate–but they seem to have done largely well with the exercise.

Image result for tabletop role playing games gif
It’s like that sometimes.
Image from Odyssey.

The assignment for the present week appears to be another such thing. Students are asked to expand upon their summary work by writing a response to the issue treated by the summarized piece, and the examples of summaries that I had provided to students contain responses. As such, I thought I had already done the work for this week that I sought to do to help the students. But that is not entirely accurate.

For the present week’s assignment, students are asked to write a draft of a response essay. It needs to be in APA format, and it needs to make formal reference to an outside source–in the present case, the article that had been summarized in the previous week’s work. A four-paragraph structure is suggested by the University; introduction, one paragraph relating and explaining personal experience with the subject, another summarizing the article and explaining its relevance, and conclusion. And that expanded structure suggests that I compose a sample to help guide students.

To do so, I began by stubbing out a document according to the APA format template my students and I had developed in the class. That done, I looked at my current-to-the-writing news feeds for an article to summarize and respond to; as is ever the case, I do not want to do the students’ work for them in putting together examples for their use. Nor yet do I want to be too narrowly constrained against future iterations of the class for which I write the examples. Ultimately, I pulled up an article I had long bookmarked for another project; it seemed appropriate to turn to it for the present work.

Having decided upon a piece to which I would respond, I entered its information into the required References list, looking at APA standards to do so. I then read it, annotating it for summary. And it seemed a simple thing to then draft the summary, since I would either be responding to it or prefiguring it, so I did so.

With the summary written, I then considered whether my own comments would precede or succeed it. The former would have the advantage of leading from my own situated ethos to the invented ethos of outside documentation, corresponding to traditional rhetorical ordering by placing what might appear to be a stronger point in the stronger position. The latter, though, would figure my work as a more direct response, moving from the abstract to the concrete in a way that often reads well for students. Given that the piece is meant as a sample for students, the latter course suggested itself more strongly, so I drafted my own comments after giving the summary.

As I drafted, a thesis emerged for me. I took it, rephrased it slightly, and put it in the “expected” position–just before the body of my essay begins. I then drafted an introduction to move readers into the thesis smoothly. I followed that with a conclusion that moves forward from the thesis into an idea of what can be done with that thesis, a style of conclusion I typically prefer in shorter academic pieces.

The draft compiled, I gave it a quick review to ensure that its orthography was as it should be. Nothing showed up to that review, so I rendered the document into an accessible form that I present here in the hopes that it will be helpful: G. Elliott Wk 6 Sample Essay.

Please help me keep on doing this!

A Rumination on Tabletop Roleplaying Game Design

I have made no secret, of course, that I am and have long been involved in roleplaying games, not only the iconic Dungeons & Dragons, but also Legend of the Five Rings and others. It should come as no surprise, then, that I have thought from time to time about putting together a game of my own; it should also not be a surprise that I have acted on such thoughts in the past. Indeed, my second-to-last undergraduate project was an honors thesis in which I did that very thing, though I did not do it at all well. I was not nearly so gifted an undergraduate as I thought I was, and it shows in how clunky and, well, pretentious the work I did then is.

One way to make it rain…
Image form Giphy.com.

I still toy with the idea, of course. I enjoy playing, and I can’t play unless I have folks with whom to play. And that means I have to make any game I would design accessible to people, both in terms of ease of rules and in terms of cost to play. Playing tabletop roleplaying games can be quite expensive; the rulebooks that typify them are not usually inexpensive, and even if someone can get years of use out of one, the initial outlay is something of a hurdle. I’ve not got a necessarily robust collection of gaming books, and I’ve spend hundreds or thousands on them over the years; those who have more have doubtlessly spent far, far more.

There are dice to consider, as well. One of the most common accoutrements of roleplaying games, dice can be found in extravagant numbers and styles, and they become foci of lore and jealousy, among others. They also become money-pits. My own experience in buying dice–and mine are loyal and good, though not necessarily fancy, as far as such things go–has been to the tune of hundreds of dollars across my time gaming. Again, I’ve gotten years out of them, and I did pick them up a few at a time, but it’s still an investment to get the dice roleplaying games typically demand.

Part of that cost comes from the fact that roleplaying games typically play with different types of dice, not just the cubical dice most familiar, but other sorts typically rendered as Platonic solids plus ten-sided dice. (There are other versions of such dice available, of course; my daughter picked a set that mimics gaming dungeon paraphernalia, for example.) Though they are more and more common now, they are still at a higher price-point, and they are still less accessible than the plain cubical dice that can be gotten at supermarkets and convenience stores.

It is to help get around that concern of accessibility that, when I designed a gaming system, I made sure to base its mechanics in six-sided dice. They are easily had, easily replaced, and familiar from centuries of use in popular culture. And not only as gambling devices, though that is their most common depiction; I remember elementary school math classes that used them for some basic statistics, for example. As such, when I went to set up a system to bring people in, I did so with six-sided dice at the core.

As I’ve found out in the time since, trying to orient other things around sixes has been more of a challenge. But that’s something I can return to later on…

Help fund my bad habits, please!

Class Report: ENGL 062, 4 February 2019

After addressing questions from the previous week and before, discussion turned to concerns of paraphrase and summary. The latter received particular attention, as it comes up in several future classes. Time was given to mechanical concerns, as well.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. One attended; student participation was excellent.

An online office hour was held on Thursday, 31 January 2019, at 1800. None attended. The office hour that would normally take place on 7 February 2019 is cancelled; students needing assistance are encouraged to email the instructor.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 10 February 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Summary Writing and Paraphrases & Parenthetical Citations (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 5 Quiz (online)
  • Summary and Response (due online as a Word document)

This is evidently the 700th post to this webspace. Huzzah!