Welcome

Welcome to EWP 290 Research, Writing, and the Humanities.

In this course, we’ll be using writing to investigate environmental issues. This course has two themes that might seem to be opposite at first glance —

PLACE, NATURE, HOME, THE BODY: Environmental problems are physical; they happen in specific places, with effects that we feel in our bodies. When we talk about environmental issues, we talk about what we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and especially -- where we live. In this course we will be focusing on place. You’ll be choosing a research site that you can actually go to, so that you can experience it with your senses and do some primary research.

THE INTERNET, VIRTUAL SPACES, SOCIAL MEDIA: Environmental solutions in this century will likely come for a community of writers and thinkers, scientists and artists, policy-makers and activists who know how to collaborate, who are creative and playful, who use writing to think through their ideas, who know smart ways of doing research, who communicate clearly in their writing, who connect with other people who are concerned about the same issues, and who think critically. For most of us, the internet is the virtual place that will give us access to that community and a way to participate in that conversation.

Other themes will evolve from our discussions and writing.

Some questions we’ll be asking this semester:
What’s the relationship between place and story?
What’s our relationship to the landscape we live in?
How does where we live shape who we are?
Can caring about place translate into environmental action?
How has the internet affected our relationships to each other, to our communities, to our local landscapes, and to the earth?
How has the internet changed the way we write?
How can writing be used to help solve environmental problems?
What role might the internet play in solving the environmental crisis?

Investigating Place-based Environmental Issues
We’ll be using writing to explore and express the relationship of humans to place, with an emphasis on the environmental issues implicit in that relationship. We’ll be reading a range of essays that explore the way that humans form a relationship with the landscapes they inhabit and the way that place can change who people are.

Sidney Dobrin, the editor of the book Saving Place defines ecological literacy as “a conscious awareness and understanding of the relationships between people, other organisms, and the environments in which they live.” In our readings and classroom discussions, we’ll be looking at both built and natural environments through the lens of ecology. We’ll be looking at the relationship between humans and the environments in which they live, and trying to find patterns that might help us explain, analyze, and solve the environmental crisis.

In addition to reading two books, we’ll be taking advantage of current environmental information that can be accessed through the internet, from websites like Orion to TED talks and webcomics like XKCD. Our discussion of place-based environmental issues will be an opportunity for you to use information you’ve learned in your other ESF courses.

Going Online with Our Ideas 
Bill McKibben is a writer and environmental activist who thinks it’s important to spend time “unplugged” – for him, this usually means hiking in the Adirondack Mountains – and yet, he has also argued that the internet can be the tool that saves the human species from destroying the earth, that the internet can be how we connect to each other and how we can educate each other. He’s been using the website 350.org and social media like twitter for grassroots organizing on a global scale. We’ll watching Bill McKibben and talking about the ways environmentalists can use the internet.

We’ll be using the internet to get information, to collaborate with each other and students outside this classroom, to explore topics, and to extend our conversation beyond just our classroom. In fact, the last ten weeks of this course is an experiment, and you will have a chance to help shape this course. I plan to use my network of colleagues who teach at other colleges; we’ll try to connect with their students in other parts of the country and the world. I’m hoping you will all use your networks as well.

Writing Skills and Practice:
EWP 290 is a course that will extend and build on the writing practices that you learned in EWP 190. Learning to write is a recursive practice. It’s like learning to play a sport or a musical instrument. You don’t go to one practice or one lesson and master the skills immediately: you need to practice the skills over and over again, from different teachers and coaches.

You will be analyzing the audience for whom you are writing, analyzing the purpose of a text and how that purpose informs how you write, using writing as a way of learning, brainstorming ideas, pitching your ideas to classmates, choosing a focus, developing ideas, incorporating research into your writing, organizing your ideas, revising your writing after getting feedback from your peers, collaborating with peers, and evaluating the writing of your peers. Writing, is of course, linked to both reading and critical thinking so those are skills that will be emphasized as well.

This course counts as your humanities general education requirement. Consider this definition of humanities from the Ohio Council of Arts: “The humanities are the stories, the ideas, and the words that help us make sense of our lives and our world. The humanities introduce us to people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may have never crossed our minds. By showing how others have lived and thought about life, the humanities help us decide what is important in our own lives and what we can do to make them better. By connecting us with other people, they point the way to answers about what is right or wrong, or what is true to our heritage and our history. The humanities help us address the challenges we face together in our families, our communities, and as a nation .... As fields of study, the humanities emphasize analysis and exchange of ideas rather than the creative expression of the arts or the quantitative explanation of the sciences …. Literature, Languages, and Linguistics explore how we communicate with each other, and how our ideas and thoughts on the human experience are expressed and interpreted.”

Social media
In this course, we’ll be using twitter and other forms of social media as a way of enlarging the conversation beyond our classroom. Knowing how to use social media is not a prerequisite for the course, so don’t panic if you don’t have a twitter account. You’ll have one soon! We can learn from each other and figure it out as we go along. Your teacher finished graduate school USING A TYPEWRITER so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep ahead of her.

Note: Learning how to use social media (and other digital tools) is a skill that is increasingly valued in today’s workplace. William Ward from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Publication says: "Students with social media certification are getting better jobs and internships. Those who harness social communications are in high demand and have an advantage." (Article here) That’s not why we’re using twitter, but it’s a nice bonus.

Books
The Future of Nature edited by Barry Lopez
Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold
We’ll also be using links to online publications and websites throughout the semester. Be sure that you check this blog for assignments.

More on this course
If you’d like to see some of the theory behind the way this course is planned, check here.Here also are some tools to check out. Another list of tools here. And here.

Unit One

We’ll be investigating place-based environmental issues. You will be

• reading from the book The Future of Nature edited by Barry Lopez
• writing five informal response papers
• reading each other’s response papers at the beginning of each class
• discussing place-based environmental issues
• writing a memo to pitch an idea for a formal essay
• doing some research for your formal essay
• writing about some of your own experiences
• writing a draft of a formal essay
• doing peer review of each other’s formal essay
• revising your formal essay
• handing in a Unit One portfolio that will be graded according to this rubric.

During this first five weeks, we will also experiment with twitter, Google Docs, Storify, and other digital tools that we’ll be using during for the rest of the course. Our task is to figure out how to use the internet to enlarge the conversation beyond just our classroom.

Short papers

The short papers are informal writing, but you should take them seriously as they are a good part of the writing you will be doing for the course. They should show that you are engaging with the readings and the class discussions.

Think of these short papers as a way to add to the conversation we will be having in the classroom. You'll be sharing them with your classmates. We'll spend the first few minutes of every class reading each other's short papers. Sometimes I'll give you a prompt, but other times, you'll have to choose how you want to respond.

Your response could include:
Questions for class discussion
Your opinion on a topic the writer brought up
A summary of what you read
Observations about what you read
A list of topics you think the piece covered
Questions you might have for the author
An interesting tangent inspired by the piece
Something you researched about the author

You could:
Share a relevant experience from your life
Share relevant information from other ESF courses
Share insights you had while reading
Connect what you read to a topic we discussed in class
Go off on a worthwhile tangent
Ask questions about things you didn't understand in the reading
Critique the text
Analyze some part of the text that seemed interesting
Relate the reading to current events
Relate the reading to environmental issues

 Most of the time your response will be a full page of writing, done on a computer. (Single-space the lines, but double-space between paragraphs.) But not always. Your response might be a drawing or a photograph or even an interpretive dance.

Official Policies and Such

Attendance
You are expected to attend all classes unless you are desperately sick.  Most professors will understand if you miss one or two classes over the course of a whole semester, but you would be wise not to miss no more than that. If you are desperately sick and need to stay in bed, please talk to one of your classmates to find out what you missed. Or check this blog. Any student who misses more than two classes will be required to have a conference with the teacher.

Participation
Participating in class means more than merely showing up for class. It means coming to class awake, well-rested, and prepared.

Peer Review
Throughout the semester, you will be reading and responding to each other’s writing. We’ll be using principles from the book Beat Not the Poor Desk by Ponsot and Deen. Giving other students feedback is not simply a way to help out or evaluate your peers, but also an important way for you to learn to edit your own writing. I expect you to take this process seriously.

Documentation
Plagiarism is a serious offense and will be treated as such on the ESF campus. The Council of Writing Program Administrators offers this definition for plagiarism: In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging its source. A failure to acknowledge and properly cite your sources can look like plagiarism. It’s essential for you to think about your sources, evaluate whether or not the sources are credible, and document where you are getting your information from at every step of the process. We need to keep reminding each other about this and figure out ways to give credit even while we're experimenting with new ways of writing.

The Writing Center 
Experienced consultants are trained to work with you one-on-one during all stages of your writing projects. Consultants are usually not available for drop in hours; time slots fill quickly, especially during peak times in the semester. Sign up in advance on the schedule located in the basement of Moon Library (look for the green sign) for a 30 or 50-minute weekday, weeknight, or weekend session in the Center. This is a free resource to all students and recommended for all writing assignments in this class.

Academic Integrity 
SUNY ESF’s Academic Integrity Policy holds students accountable for the integrity of the work they submit. Students should be familiar with the Policy and know that it is their responsibility to learn about expectations with regard to proper citation of sources in written work. Serious sanctions can result from academic dishonesty. Further details are available in the student handbook.

Academic Accommodations
Students wishing to utilize academic accommodations due to a diagnosed disability of any kind must present an Academic Accommodations Authorization Letter generated by Syracuse University’s Office of Disability Services. If you currently have an Authorization Letter, please present this to your teachers as soon as possible so that they  may assist with the establishment of your accommodations. Students who do not have a current Academic Accommodations Authorization Letter from Syracuse University’s Office of Disability Services cannot receive accommodations. If you do not currently have an Authorization Letter and feel you are eligible for accommodations, please contact the Office of Counseling and Disabilities Services, 110 Bray Hall, (315) 470-6660 or counseling@esf.edu as soon as possible.

Learning Outcomes from the Writing Program 
Students who successfully complete EWP 290 will demonstrate the ability to:
• Compose texts that investigate a focused topic of inquiry around the environment.
• Successfully complete a sustained research project involving writing and graphics.
• Critically analyze various works of environmental literature and/or creative non-fiction.
• Research and write collaboratively.

The theory behind this course

Here are the texts that have influenced my pedagogy:

Books

Net Smart: How to Thrive Onlineby Howard Rheingold
Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
Beat Not the Poor Desk by Ponset & Dean
Eaarth by Bill McKibben
Teaching About Place edited by Laird Christensen and Hal Crimmel
Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation by Derek Owens Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches
edited by Christian Weisser and Sidney Dobrin
Composition Studies as a Creative Art by Lynn Bloom
Writing Analytically by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Articles and blog posts

Beyond Rigor by Sean Michael Morris, Jesse Stommel, Pete Rorabaugh
Hybridity, pt 2: What is Hybrid Pedagogy? by Jesse Stommel
Hybridity, pt 3: What does Hybrid Pedagogy do? by Jesse Stommel and Pete Rorabaugh
Bring Your Own Disruption: Rhizomatic Learning in the Composition Classroom by Tanyer Sasser
A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs by Mark Sample
Universities are Failing at Teaching Social Media by Ryan Holmes
Let’s Kill the Term Paper by G. Kim Blank
Seeing Composition Three Dimensionally by Lori Beth De Hertogh
Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens
Organic Writing and Digital Media: Seeds and Organs by Pete Rorabaugh
Breaking the University by Chris Friend
Citation Obsession? Get Over It by Kurt Schick
Online Learning: A Manifesto by Jesse Stommel
Robots are Grading Your Papers by Marc Bousquet
“Connectivism” and Connective Knowledge by Stephen Downes

Quote from Downes defining connectivitism: "At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted as though it were some type of communication.”

What’s Wrong with Writing Essays by Mark Sample
How This Course Works by Stephen Downes and George Siemens
Online Learning: A User’s Guide to Forking Education by Jesse Stommel
How to MOOCify Your Course and why you should do it by Dominik Lukes
Courses, Composition, Hybridity by Sean Michael Morris
Grading Student Writing: Making It Simpler, Fairer, Clearer by Peter Elbow
Against Formulaic Writing by Gabriele Lusser Rico
Keep the Research, Ditch the Paper by Marc Bousquet
Forget About Policing Plagiarism. Just Teach by Rebecca Moore Howard
Five Things to Do When You Teach Digitally by Sean Michael Morris
Thinking Context: School is Not the Hunger Games by John Warner
If Freire Made a Mooc: Open Education and Critical Digital Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel
On Not Silencing Students: A Pedagogical How-to by Chris Friend
The Rules of Twitter by Dorothy Kim

Unit 2: Public Writing/Research Project

Public Writing/Research Project

During the rest of the semester, you will be working on a Public Writing/Research Project. You will choose a specific site to explore and research, using both primary and secondary resources. You will be observing, describing, taking field notes, doing research, analyzing, finding facts, reading critically, challenging information, evaluating sources, making connections, synthesizing, presenting information, giving colleagues feedback, writing for an audience, asking questions, fact checking, making your ideas public, and engaging others in the conversation.

Here are some parameters. The project will be

Collaborative: You’ll be working in groups or pairs to choose a site.
Place-based: Each group will choose a specific place to research and investigate. You’ll be visiting the place and analyzing the space.
Investigative:You must include some primary research: visiting the place, interviewing people connected to it, taking field notes, etc. You’ll be writing about the place, using observation and description, specific details, etc. You’ll be doing some secondary research on the issue connected to the place, collaborating on an annotated bibliography, presenting sources to the class, asking your peers to help evaluate the sources, and leading a class or twitter discussion about your topic.
Connected to larger issues: The place needs to have some connection to a larger issues which will be part of the conversation we’re having about environmental issues. You need to identify an issue that is research-able and timely.
Public: Five elements of the project has to have an audience beyond the classroom.

Here are some possible topics.

One of our goals will be get people outside of our class involved in the conversation — or rather, to add to an already existing conversation that’s probably far more complicated than we realize. You don’t have to have all the answers or the solutions (it’s highly unlikely that you will) but be ready to present some of your research in a creative way, ask some thought-provoking questions, and enter into an intelligent conversation with people we’ve never met.

Here is what the project will look like:
1) The Idea Pitch Memo: Your group will write a memo to pitch your idea to the class.
2)A Collaborative Field Notes Google Doc: You and your group members will gather field notes, photographs, and video clips from your visit to the place. This document will be a “behind-the-scenes” and informal document, a place to gather and organize data. It can serve as a virtual meeting place outside of class.
3)Planning Memo: In this memo, you will outline which person is doing what research and come up with a tentative plan for the five public elements of the project. You will need to take into account the essential ingredients of the Public Writing Research Project.
4)Individual research documents: You will each write up your secondary research. These are documents that you will be sharing with each other and the teacher. Think of them as journal articles or research papers written for other experts in your field. You must obey the conventions in your field and cite your sources, using hyperlinks or a conventional method of documentation.
5)Public elements: You need to make your research public. This part of the project, which will take place during the last five weeks of the semester, is collaborative. Each group will release one element every Wednesday by linking to it on twitter.

You can be creative as you want with these elements so long as you follow these parameters:
1) Include some substantive text in each element.
2) Include something visual.
3) Make each element public.
4) Analyze your audience and figure out how to cater to that audience.
5) Observe, describe, and write in specific details.
6) Sift through research and figure out what’s important.
7) Analyze something complex and describe the patterns that you see.
8) Connect your topic to some larger, over-arching theme.

 You will need a place to gather your elements, like a blog or a website.

Essential Ingredients

You need to write a memo planning out what you want to do for each element of the five elements, covering everything below. You can be prepared to be flexible and change your mind as you go along, but you should have some kind of plan going in. Here are five things to include:

The Hook: You must somehow convince us that this place is worth reading about. Why would your audience care about it? Is it worth researching? Do you have an exciting details to share with us? Any quotes from a person connected to the place? Figure out how to pull in your audience. Give us a hint of the brilliant over-arching idea to come, such the environmental issue the place is connected to.
The Place: Here’s where you describe the place to someone who has never been there. Choose details that are going to be relevant to your main, over-arching idea. You will want to share your experience visiting the place. What is important about the place that you especially want to capture? You will want to include specific details, but you probably need to choose those details carefully.
The Facts: Educate your audience, giving us some background information about the place and the issue, showing your own credibility by giving us some facts, and get us interested through specific details. (You will need to cite your sources.) This part especially needs to be fact-checked.
The Pattern: Here’s where you analyze something about the place, focusing on the particular issue you care about, getting us to see some kind of pattern or making us think about the place in a new way. Here’s where your analysis of the place gives us insight into some issue.
The Thesis: At some point, you will need a statement of your brilliant over-arching idea and remind us about how it fits into the grand scheme of things.

Some guidelines for your research project.
1) Include some substantive text in each element.
2) Make each element public.
3) Analyze your audience and figure out how to cater to that audience.
4) Observe, describe, and write in specific details.
5) Sift through research and figure out what’s important.
6) Analyze something complex and describe the patterns that you see.
7) Connect your topic to some larger, over-arching theme.