Published: Aug. 14, 2014

PWR Instructor Michelle AlbertCU Boulder Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) instructor Michelle Albert believes in preparing students to write, "... in the 21st Century! ... This is what I like best about teaching."  Last year, students nominated Albert for an ASSETT Outstanding Teaching with Technology Award for her teaching of Writing 1100.  The class is designed for first year students who could use extra help with extensive writing and is capped at 15 students.  "Good writing needs small group work and one-on-one ..." says Albert.  "[Students] feel like they can experiment and explore and try new things and know they'll get support."  In nominating her for the award, one student wrote: "[Albert] introduced me to Google Docs, iMovie, Prezi, Wordpress, and she really made it a successful class and gave me a lot of confidence in my writing abilities."

As she designs her classes, Albert considers, "What does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century? ... What literacy practices do students need to be able to use to communicate effectively now?"  So guides her courses: "The emphasis is ... on composition meant to be read in a multimedia environment," says Albert.  She explains that, "One of the PWR's overall goals is to ... learn write for a variety of audiences."  Therefore, Albert coaches students in making digital creative presentation choices.  She says that she is, "... helping [students] develop useful academic skills that they can use in the rest of their college career ... I think that it's a crucial skill for students to leave college knowing how to compose in various digital environments."  Albert encourages students to create their own YouTube videos, Prezi presentations, or Wordpress websites when appropriate: "In the intro class [Writing 1100], I introduce [students] to Prezi and web design tools ... and show them a range of tools and have them choose a tool for their purposes."  When students are deciding which medium to use in their own writing, she asks them to consider: "'What am I interested in? ... What audience are you appealing to, and why?'"  Albert tells students that, "A public audience can be real if you choose," and students often choose to create websites or YouTube videos that they share publicly.

Creating Class Websites

Screenshot of Wordpress website with daily updates and a page for students to postAlbert also creates her own class websites to communicate assignment guidelines.  "I use Wordpress for my class management tool," says Albert.  "It helps keep the class clear and organized."

Albert's class websites also serve as the venue for her students to share their writing online.  Albert assigns topics for blog posts, and, "[Students] can all write posts and comment on each others' posts."  Keeping in mind the digital environment, she may set a minimum number of hyperlinks for students to include in their writing.  On creating a class website, Albert explains, "It takes time and saves time;" class websites require the instructor to spend some time before the semester to set up, but they also help students keep track of what's due when!  She still uses D2L for confidential correspondence about grades, attendance, and personal feedback.

When Albert is not teaching students, she serves as the PWR Information Literacy Coordinator.  Albert shares best practices for teaching with technology with the department.  "I design materials to help professors integrate those digital literacy tools into their classrooms."  She leads, "... new faculty trainings," and ongoing instructional sessions about information literacy for instructors.  Albert says that she enjoys balancing this coordinator position while teaching small writing courses: "I like the combination, and they both inform each other ... I can learn a lot about where students are coming from and what they know and don't know.  I like variety."