All posts by Mackenzie Bristow

Mackenzie’s M8 Reflection

  • In your own words, describe your interpretation of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), include the three networks in your brief response.

Universal Design for Learning reminds me of the multiple intelligence theory that was popular about 7 years ago. I am glad that the idea of addressing multiple ways of learning, understanding barriers, and needs is still out there.  I define it as a means to develop curriculum that addresses a variety of learners in the planning stage.  In other words aspects of diversity and needs should be put in the front of the planning process, not an afterthought.  In my course I am designing, I would like to put in a stronger narrative of why they need to improve their English. All the students engaged with ELSP have been accepted as PhD students, the question is, why do they still need to work on their English? I think if I can tap into this, it will help them stay motivated for longer. I think also bringing in their fields of study is really important to maintain engagement.  Regarding representation, I have started to include additional videos and handouts from other institutions to supplement my teaching.  I strongly believe that if you hear a concept from many people and in a few different ways, it can really help.  Also, including some video can break up the monotony of always looking at the written word.  Finally, the area the needs the most work, Action/Expression.  Since I am working on a writing class the product is writing. I am having some challenges in thinking of other ways students can demonstrate their writing knowledge without just writing, but I hope maybe you all have some ideas!

Describe a few things that you think you could do to increase accessibility in your classes. (It’s a work-in-progress, do not feel like it’s something that will happen all at once).
A challenge in a writing class is what other types of material would be good beyond just writing. I think I could introduce more graphic organizers to help students write and analyze.  I also think introducing some text to speech software could be useful.  Here is one my colleague uses: . These are a few things that I think could help.

  • What are some questions that you have about this topic?

I feel like we could have an entire class on this topic, in particular areas of disability. The article “Improve Accessibility in Tomorrow’s Online Courses by Leveraging Yesterday’s Techniques” was really exciting because it not only described the problem, but also provided some solutions. I feel often I do not have enough solutions for students with disabilities. I still feel really uncertain in this area.  How would I provide a language class online when a student is blind?  Or what if they are an ASL speaker, they have the right to learn English as a second language, how would I manage that?

Further, I feel this area is really developed by K-12. From the videos and readings I saw the altruistic view of inspiring learners and tapping into their various interests, but at the graduate level, I don’t know how much of this translates. Sometimes what we do has to be done rather than just relying on tapping into the learner’s interest. Although we take that into consideration, it is hard to teach prepositions in this way..some folks are just not that into language learning.

Finally, I do have a fear of losing all the work. Crafting lessons so that they address a number of students is wonderful. But what happens when that webpage goes down?  What if a student gets a new computer and cannot access an old site? I do have some questions about what we can do about that.

  • Take some time to think about where you’ve been, where you’ve come and where you’re going pertaining to teaching in an online/blended classroom. Use images, videos and type of multi-media to tell your story. Describe what resources you have access to and what you think you will need to be successful.

I think before I took this course my view of online teaching was this: A curious user.  I enjoyed playing around with online learning tools but did not have a lot of framework or purpose in using them.  Powered with the new tools from this course I want to make things that will resonate with my students. Ideally I would like to avoid this type of reaction by selecting a technology tool that will reveal my age

However, I know when I consider my audience, get regular feedback and listen I can create lessons and curriculum that will engage and achieve my objectives.  I hope to develop a pronunciation course this summer for learners who are unable to attend regular classes.  I know this will be one of the materials I use:

Our department will benefit from the ample materials already online to support language learning, but I am certain we will need to develop materials to address the needs of graduate students.  I do believe there is a lack of materials the higher the level you go, so we will have our work cut out for us.


Topics get old quickly, thank goodness for OERs

Before this class, I had never heard of Open Educational Resources (OER) as a term. I was familiar with free ESL materials like Randel’s Cyber Listening Lab or lessons on the BBC website, but had never considered them OER.  Overall the materials on the OER databases seemed to favor K-12 or college level ESL material, so for my work with graduate students the materials were a bit easy. However, I did find ample material focused on college writing that I could use.  For example this worksheet on paragraph organization has both clear descriptions of idea paragraphs but also graphic organizers to assist students.  When I am creating materials, this type of worksheet can take significant time, so it is great it is here as free resource. At least in my field this concept has been around and is viewed as highly valuable.  With so many educator’s abroad, publishers were attempting to get material out to English teacher as quickly as possible.  Of course, the majority of textbooks were really expensive, but even as early as 15 years ago ESL professionals has access to photocopial material (although mostly from British publishers. The trend for ESL materials to increase in cost continues and just like topics like science and math the information can quickly age and become boring for students.  I remember when these textbooks by Tapestry were cutting edge, they included CNN videos and hot topics in the news.  Now of course, despite the publisher’s efforts to address general topics, it is dated.   Regarding copyright, that has always been a factor in selecting materials and delivering content so I feel fairly comfortable with it.

My return into the world of numbers and letters

It has taken me a while to adjust back to letter grades.  I attended an nontraditional college in Ohio were faculty provided us with narrative feedback at the end of course rather than a letter grade. I felt that this philosophy was really focused on assessment rather than evaluation. I appreciated it as a learner, and really soared in that environment. For me, I took off the achievement based test experience, and transferred learning into a process and experience.   When I moved into graduate school and encountered letter grades again, I recall being in survival mode. No longer was my opinion or the instructor’s opinion important, it was numbers that took center stage.  As a learner,   I took little time to reflect on what I should be learning and attempted to move from assignment to assignment. It did not help that most instructors did not refer to their syllabus beyond their first day.  Little did I know that I would become an instructor, and I would agonize over learning objectives and assessments just like those before me.

Upon further reflection I fear I have fallen into the same formula in my own practice where I articulate the goals of the course and introduce the objectives, but I rarely refer back to them as the course proceeds. I don’t think there has been a time where I linked the learning objective directly to an assignment didactically for the learner.  Normally I just focus on the rubric that has been created for that assignment to guide the learning and grading process. Of course the rubric is aligned to the goals, but I have to wonder, what would happen if I offered both the learning objective and the rubric intentionally linked for the learner when assignments are given and graded?

The course that I have proposed is the second in a series that addresses graduate writing.  In its current form, assignments receive a grade after multiple revisions.  Each revision stage has a rubric.  The end goal is to create a journal that consists of individual academic journal articles that the students have written as well as two collaboratively written articles.  This final product is also assessed through a rubric.  At all stages we are addressing concerns of audience, organization (micro and macro), selecting sources and avoiding plagiarism.

I already feel comfortable creating formative assessments for this course. Already in the in classroom experience we use pre-assessments, include discussions as assessment, and ask student to recall information on a regular basis. This course in particular is reviewing and expanding what was learn in the semester before, the formative assessments work very well.

Along with formative, this course already supports self-assessment well.  One of the typical activities in a language learning classroom is self-editing where the learner is able to use the rubric developed by the instructor to edit their product.  This allows them to critically think about their language selection and organization in the context of instructor expectations.  I think one area of growth would be to include broader self-assessments focused on the language learning experience itself or a post self-assessment where they reflect on their abilities after the course.

I think the course needs improvements in diagnostic feedback and authentic assessment. We do use class time to check in with our learners, but I really like the idea of adding anonymity into the process so that they are not concerned about “the teacher knowing”. I could imagine surveys at the end of each class to see if they understood the objectives of each class.  At the same time, our classes tend to be very small, at times 5 students, so it hard to maintain this safe space.  In the areas of authentic assessment, I recall some of my previous posts on content-based instruction.  For a long time researchers have understand the deep motivation residing in language learning mirroring the reality.  However, here in the ELSP, we serve a huge number of disciplines which limits how many real experience we can recreate without excluding some students.  As a compromise, we aim for general academic English tasks and attempt to provide the learners with skills they can apply in their own fields.  I imagine the online space is an area that I can create more genre specific exercises, or learning objects,that can address this need.

Mackenzie Bristow – M2 Reflections

I am interested in creating online material to provide learners with more flexibility, give me the opportunity to flip my classroom, and finally to consider my audience beyond the US.  Here at Emory, many of the learners who attend ELSP are also pursuing their PhD or are research employees.  It would benefit them greatly to have certain activities or whole courses online so they do not have to travel to attend class.  Additionally, I would like to spend less time teaching certain grammar or organizational points and more time practicing and using them when we have time together. I believe those focused lectures could exist online with ease.  Finally, it cannot be ignored that much of my population is not here in the US.  I would like to reach learners all over the globe and assist them with academic English.

I think there are a few areas that I can perform well taking my experiences into consideration. In Van de Vord and Pogue (2012) instructors reported feeling surprised at the amount of time needed to deliver student feedback within the online environment.  For me, this is the norm. Within my field instructors to provide focused individual feedback on almost every speaking and writing event.   Each learner will experience variations in their language development, and as the instructor we must respond in relation to the language objectives set forth in that particular task. Although we do not fix all the grammar errors, as you might imagine, we may spend an hour on one paper addressing organization, word choice, tone, and clarity.

An additional instructor concern, illustrated in Lin and Dyer (2012), addressed student survival and learning capacity within the online environment.  Understandably this thought has crossed our minds as we experience our own learning curve within this course.  Interestingly enough, we are experiencing firsthand the solution proposed in Lin and Dyer (2012) where the online instructor is omnisciently present though the “Ask the Instructor” discussion forum. As learners we feel assured and supported though this simple feature. Other factors such as the video tutorials and exploratory phase of the curriculum allowed us to smoothly move into the online learning space. Personally, I hope to pull from my skills in scaffolding information to achieve a similar structured environment where students are successful.

I also see opportunities to create dynamic experiences though Content Based Instruction.  This method of creating curriculum has been in the ESL field for a number of years. At its core, curriculum is developed so language learning is facilitated through an extended topic.  It would be useful to create a content based course focused on technology. This would provide the framework to address some of the technical needs of the students and give rise to simulating topics as the course progressed.


An area of concern for me revolves on my reliance to spontaneously address misunderstandings. Although I could articulate my appreciation for tutorial videos and discussion forms above as a learner, I still feel concern as an instructor.  Lin and Dyer (2012) illustrate this reality when describing the role instructor’s play beyond simply delivering content. This general description rings true when I reflect on how aspects of non-verbal feedback, empathetic movement, and paralinguistic sounds ( i.e. the verbal sounds or tones we add to convey meaning) pay a role in a successful language learning classroom. This is in addition to the overwhelming literature on the importance of social interaction when learning a new language.  Solutions for this may include heavy use of tools like Voicethread and Adobeconnect.  Google hangouts might also be useful tool as students could see when other learners were around so they could work together.  I can also imagine the a chat function being very useful with lots of positive feedback from the instructor on a regular basis.

Lin H, Dyer K, Guo Y. (2012) Exploring online teaching: A three-year composite journal of concerns and strategies from online instructors. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration15(3).

Van de Vord R, Pogue K. (2012). Teaching time investment: Does online really take more time than face-to-face?. International Review of Research on Open And Distance Learning. 13(3). 132-146.