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Launch of the #WritingRace mini-MOOC

I am pleased to announce the official launch of our #WritingRace mini-MOOC.  Congratulations to all of you for pulling together an impressive collaboration!

Each of you has been tirelessly reading and researching new materials, engaging in challenging conversations, gaining new digital literacies, and growing more confident each day in this arena of networked learning.  The learning involved in our experiment is certainly multifold.  We are now live!keep-calm-we-re-going-live

As we move forward, please remember our plan to grow our network by reaching out to our individual friends and colleagues.  Also, remember to tweet about our project regularly, tweet any new resources you find regarding our broader conversation, and start posting on our google+ community chat board.  You will notice that there is a twitter and a google + share button at the top of each mini-MOOC page, so you can periodically tweet out our content quite easily.  (A shout out to Nikki Dreste for her site support!)

Our first public networked event for our #WritingRace MOOC will be your live twitter feed for Dr. Sonia Nieto‘s lecture next Tuesday in the STEM auditorium.  Dr. Nieto’s most recent publication is entitled, Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds: Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Practices in U.S. Classrooms (2013).  The topic for the lecture will be, “Why We Teach Now: Teachers’ Stories of Hope and Resilience.”

On our to do list:

1.  Read the diverse content you have all shared on our #WritingRace mini-MOOC site.

2.  Get the word out! This is when the rubber hits the road…  -Send regular tweets of the link to our homepage on the course site.  -Send your email invites.  -Post new content on twitter and google+.

Build our conversation.  Build our network for this project.

3.  Now that the site is up and is ready to be shared publicly, we are entering into “phase two” of the course.  With each of your upcoming class presentations, we will take a deeper dive in discussing race.  We will explore together each of the topics you have identified as significant to you.  We will open up our minds (and hearts) while we continue to learn from each other.  I have definitely been looking forward to phase two.

Once again, congratulations everyone.  You should be proud of your work.  I most certainly am.

Dr. Zamora


The Countdown: 1 week until #WritingRace mini-MOOC


We are in the final stages of preparation now.   We will take this conversation public with a new #WritingRace course site which highlights 5 special topics to consider and 5 public/online events.

You are all now putting your finishing touches on your group “Homepage”.  Each unit homepage is meant to jump-start a conversation about a particular topic: “Race & Identity”; “Race & Popular Culture”; “Race in the Classroom”;  “Race in the International Context”;  and “The Politics of Language & Race”.

Some tips while working on the final draft of your unit homepage:

1. Compress and edit a concise  statement of what you would like to discuss as a unit.  Clear and simple is good.  What questions are you setting out to explore together?

2. Think from a design standpoint.  Too much dense text is off-putting.  Design a unit home page that is engaging to a visitor.  The content you choose to share can be provided via embedded links.  Share just enough material for the curious participant to get thinking about your topic.

3.  Make your unit home page both visually appealing and easy to read/navigate.

4.  Remember there is a big difference between your class presentation and this unit homepage. The unit homepage is more streamlined and is easily “digested” by someone who surfs their way to our site.


Your “to do” list for class next week:

1.  The FINAL DRAFT of the unit homepage must be completed before class on 3/31.  It should be inserted into the #WritingRace website that colleague Nikki Dreste has sent to each of you.  Each of you has been given administrative access to the site.  I recommend you set up a working editorial schedule for your small group for this week’s completion of your unit homepage.  ****Suggestion: perhaps you can each contribute/edit to your working document up through Saturday, and then on Sunday you can work on final editing together at an appointed time for everyone in the group.  I am thinking of an “online meeting” as you edit together in real time.  Please note:  This work CANNOT be left to the last minute.

2.  Think about our PR plans for this project.  This is an OPEN experiment.  Open means welcoming, being warm and sharing, anyone can join at any point.  It is ok to stop by and check out our site briefly, or to join our community actively through our social media events.  Anyway someone wants to explore this issue with us is perfect.  That is the heart of true openess.

Who would you like to invite to check out our site?  Personal invitations really matter.  Make a list of some people you will share this work with.  Who will you encourage to participate in our public events?  How can we get “groups” to join our community?  Other classes? All of your ideas are welcome.  Let’s cast a wide and diverse net.  We will outline a comprehensive PR plan in class next Tuesday.  Everyone should come to class with a “short list” of potential “invitees”.  Get ready to get your “twitter on” soon.  It is time to grow our network guys ;).  This work will matter more if we connect with others who want to think through these issues further.

I am confident that we will all be proud of what ensues from our efforts henceforth.

See you next Tuesday night,

Dr. Zamora






Building a #WritingRace mini-MOOC!

imagesSo, it is official.

After a bit more discussion & reflection last week, we have decided to take our project “public” by turning our #WritingRace course into an invitation.  We will open up our conversation about why race matters to anyone who would like to join us.   We are turning our course into a mini-MOOC:  all of you are designing the “units”, the course materials, and the ways in which we can connect with others.  This decision grows out of our collective aspiration to make our work matter in the world.

I am quite confident that we will have a meaningful exchange of ideas concerning race & ethnicity with what remains of our course.  That’s a given.  But by inviting others into our conversation, we all aspire to extend this conversation beyond our own classroom walls.  We are now seeking a more networked learning experience.  Imagine the possibilities:  -making new connections, -meeting new colleagues and friends, -discovering new tools and resources, -building new coalition, -discovering new forms of collaboration.         I, for one, am excited.img_collaboration

We determined during our last class that we would take our mini-MOOC course website LIVE on March 31.  We have a couple of weeks left for you to finalize the course content.

With this in mind, here is your homework for next class:

-Write a rough draft of your unit as it would appear on the course website.  Think of this document as a group blog post with multi-modal content for your co-learners or course participants to read/watch/consider.  Please create this rough draft in a shared google doc.  Each of your group mates should have editorial access to the document, and you should be adding content and editing together over the course of the next week (before 3/24).  If you need help opening up a shared google doc for your group, just email me.  (Here is a link to a “unit” from a MOOC called Connected Courses that I facilitated last Fall.  This might serve as a reference point or a template, although I think this is considerably longer or more dense than yours should be.)

-Here is a template of what should go into your group rough draft doc:

1.  Introduction to your unit (an explanation of your theme and why it matters).  What are the key questions you hope to address in this discussion?

2.  Presentation of “course materials” – this can include text, links to readings, videos, interviews, photos, etc.  Think of this document as a “mini-syllabus” for your presentation.  It should be easy to read and engage with, and it should NOT be too long and encumbered.  It can include creative work that you have made, it can include readings that you have discovered that you think are crucial to the topic.  Please be sure to cite everything you are using so readers know where the material came from.

A list of your public events (a schedule) – Will you have a twitter chat?  (what date & time?  will it be at the #WritingRace hashtag on twitter?)  Will you have a google+ chat with specific guests? (what date & time?), etc.  I think there is room here for other creative possibilities.

-Please send me your rough draft google docs by 3/23 so I can make suggestions and offer feedback.  There is no blog assignment for this week.  You work this week is to pin down a solid draft of your group’s course unit.

I am still working on the course “shell” that will house all of your content and materials.  Your drafts will eventually go live in this “shell” site.  I will share with you this “shell” next week and we will consider the course design together during class next Tuesday (3/24).

This is going to be fun everyone!


See you next Tuesday,

Dr. Zamora






A flash of inspiration….


The more I contemplate it, I think that the suggestion to turn our current course into our own homegrown mini-MOOC (…thanks Andre) is a stroke of genius.

If you are wondering what a MOOC is, the acronym stands for “Massive Open Online Course”.  It is a course that is free, offered online, and it is open to the public.  Although there might be a start and an end date, participants can come and go, taking in what they please.  (i.e.  -low commitment barriers, but great potential to grow your professional learning network).  A MOOC is an event that invites people to connect and learn together.  Here is a short video that explains what is a MOOC is:

In short, a MOOC is a free open online invitation to join a community for a networked learning experience.  In a way, we have already laid the groundwork for this context by opening up our class website to a network by going “public” on twitter with our course hashtag #WritingRace.   But we have yet to actively invite others to join in on our ongoing conversation.

Here is an idea:

What if we conceived of your “presentations” as “units” in a mini-course offering that we made available to anyone who might be interested in joining us in a conversation about why race matters.  Earlier in the semester, we all imagined that you would proceed through these presentations in class and then you would drop that content down into a final “digital omnibus” – a kind of repository for your completed group work.  The problem with that concept is that it has less potential for impact and interactivity.  Although the content would be meaningful, it would be dead in the water.  This is why I have been prompting you all to think about how we might make our work matter more in the world beyond our classroom.   So…..

What if we flipped that paradigm?  What if we dropped the presentation content down into a special “course website” first?  The digital site would then be designed for the purpose of our own mini-MOOC offering on “Why Race Matters” (or whatever title you guys want).  Then your presentations would roll out in class, and we would use this material as an anchor for further explorations together.  All of you would serve as the facilitators of this open mini course.  We could advertise the course on twitter and send invitations to key folks (i.e. that class in VT that was mentioned, any other classes or groups we might want to connect with, Kean University colleagues, colleagues in the broader field that we admire, professional contacts, friends, etc.).  Anyone would be welcome to share in our content (your presentations) that make up our discussion, and we could include a few “live” events so people could connect with us  (i.e. -twitter chats, -google hangouts, etc.).

I know this might seem daunting, but if we front load the digital website first (as a mini-course) and then we rolled out the presentations in class a few weeks afterward, we could really engender more connected conversation I think.  I have some notion of how we could achieve this, and perhaps I will start by sharing some of that in more detail with you when we meet for class next Tuesday.  Here is a link to a MOOC I facilitated in the Fall.  Admittedly, this course was indeed a massive and global enterprise with some high profile people involved.  But it can serve as a design reference for our own project.  In a way, the task we identified has not changed (i.e. your group work).  The only difference would be the delivery of that work and a slight tweak to our proposed course schedule.

Blog #5:  Please ruminate on this proposal, and by all means respond with ideas/concerns/questions via your blog post for the week if you feel the calling.  Otherwise, blog an update on the details of your individual contribution to your group project.

I look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday evening,

Dr. Zamora




Building momentum….


Last week’s class was yet another inspired discussion.  Those who chose to share their experiences and their understanding provided us all further evidence that race matters.  The class notes document served as a kind of outline for the topics covered including: microaggressions, the invisibility of whiteness, race in the current cultural moment (i.e. #oscarssowhite, #racialicious), race & representation in the classroom, code-switching, etc.  The conversations continued with passion and fervor after break, although unfortunately we had little time for you to work together on your small group topics.  After taking an informal poll, the consensus was that you would all like to have the full class period next Tuesday to work in small groups.  I think that there is considerable momentum building (in terms of your collaboration for presentation).  I agree that next Tuesday should be devoted to your small group work.

backchannelPlease note that the “back channel” (#WritingRace) for our class is becoming more robust.  There is so much food for thought there.  Thanks to everyone for sharing material that strikes you as important to our overall endeavor.  And thanks to those who are responding to that material in earnest.  I, for one, am learning from these conversations.  Remember to check out each other’s blogs on the “Student Blogs” tab of this site.  You are sharing some remarkable insights and reflections there.

A couple of questions I would like to address on Tuesday night:

-Do we want to plan a field trip?

-Should we start the “frame” for our digital omnibus earlier (now)?  We could then drop content down into it as we continue on our journey together.

-Should we start to aggregate our digital resources and materials?  There is already so much we have discovered and shared with each other.

 Blog #4:  The following is your blog prompt for next class.  Hopefully the reflections that unfold from this prompt will inform your small group conversations and planning on Tuesday:

Why do we need to have these conversations about race?  What can we do to shift the tides towards justice and change?  How can we connect to make our projects matter in the world outside our classroom?


Progress! We have a calendar and a course plan.

imagesWhat a productive evening we had! ….said admittedly, with some relief 😉  As a summary – we have settled on five working groups.  Each will be collaborating together on a particular course theme.  The five course themes (and the corresponding groups) are as follows:

Race, Ethnicity, & Identity (Tobey, Jayme, Tameika, Maria, Kathy, Kim)

Race, Ethnicity & Popular Culture (Stina, Justin, Nikki, Sharyn)

Race & Ethnicity in the Classroom (Larissa, Abiola, Kate, Antoinette, Ann, Mariella)

Race & Ethnicity in an International Context (Jon, Neil)

The Politics of Language – Discourses of Race & Ethnicity  (Tempie, Andre, Vince, Eloy)

Each group will design a learning experience (which brings to life their course theme) for one night of our class.  Each group will also make certain projects together which will result in specific contributions for the class “digital omnibus”.  Please note that I posted the course calendar as it stands for now.  There will be further articulation of these plans (i.e. the details of presentations and projects) during our workshop time over the course of the next two weeks.  I will also select a few readings for us to discuss together soon – these will provide a “common vocabulary” or theoretical foundation for the rest of our class activities and discussions.  We have agreed that your group presentations will start directly after our Spring Break.

Some things for you to consider for next week:

1.  I will be sending you all an email shortly with suggested “anchor texts” – readings to ground each group’s thematic concerns with some theory/criticism.   Each group can consider incorporating some of this material into the design of the collaborative presentation and projects.  In the end, it is up to each group to decide what texts will inform the overall understanding your collaborative work.

2.  I would like to see more “connected learning” principles at work in your presentation ideas/concepts.  In other words, remember that are our classroom is not bound by four walls.  -We can Skype other students, scholars, activists, -we can create open call twitter conversations, -we can involve the broader community in our efforts/concerns.  In what ways can you connect your evolving plans for presentations & projects to a broader community conversation that matters?  Please consider this question and be prepared to work on this in your groups as you continue to plan your work together.


3.  Please read the contract grading document carefully and email me your grade for the course by 2/28/15.  You will all already know your final grade by 2/28 (barring any breach of contract).  I trust you all to meet the terms of the contract as outlined.

4. Blog #3: Please write a detailed response to the following questions: –What will your part be in your group presentation?  What will you make as a contribution to your group’s final project? (….Yes, you have been writing about this already, but many of your responses thus far have still been somewhat conceptual/abstract.)  I am pushing you further now in Blog #3 to detail what you will bring to the proverbial table.  If you are stumped and you really don’t know yet,….well then, that is your crucial “homework” for next week. You should figure out the specific part you will play in your group’s plan/project and write it down via your blog.  (If you have already articulated a specific plan in blog #2, then try here to add further details regarding your own research process as well as the tools you plan to use in order to execute your project.)  This blog post will be an important reference point for everyone as you workshop together and hash out further details next week.



Your personal projects will map our path to our overall class project!

3a3ff37Our time together last night was a wonderful start to the kinds of discussions that I think are possible throughout this semester.  As a group, you were all thoughtful, collaborative, personal, considerate, and energized.  I know that there is knowledge that exists in our ranks (real life knowledge, besides our book knowledge).  There are most certainly many personal stories (that should inform what we will all learn as community).  I have great hope for the innovative vision and special contributions made during this course.

As you all know, we still have some work to do to pin down the content and schedule for the rest of the semester.  By the end of our next class together (Tuesday evening 2/17), I would like to see a completed schedule and draft of the syllabus (by your own design).  As I have said all along, your work will ultimately be determined by all of you.  I am here to guide and support you all.


You have determined through discussion that a final outcome for this course should be a website, an online space, a digital omnibus of our collective contributions and aspirations.  This is an excellent vision.  How do we get there?  I think we need to identify what we would like to develop as individuals, and then somehow connect these projects to broader course themes and group presentations.  I suggest that a crucial next step is to identify your specific project.  Many of you have already blogged about this in Blog #1.  You have explored the possibilities a bit through discussion.  This time around, I want you to commit to something particular.  What are you going to submit to the collective “digital omnibus”?   Now is the time to narrow down your ideas.

The “action items” for next time we meet in person:

1.  Blog #2:  Your blog should serve as a “proposal”.  I want you to develop an individual project proposal.  There is a difference between “I would like to explore some issues regarding race in the classroom” (way too vague) and “I will make a 20 minute documentary film which includes four different examples of why race is an unavoidable factor in shaping the course of student learning” (much more specific).  Your proposal for your class project should be as specific as possible.  Include details like -the materials you plan to use, -the inspiration (if you have a “model” or reference point that inspires you), -the questions you will be asking, -the probable length of proposed artifact, -the people who might be involved, etc.  Please put on your creative thinking cap.  You have full reign here to do what your heart desires.  Push yourself to articulate (with as much detail as possible) a fun and inspiring project coming from your most sincere interests.  If you have to do a little research to clarify what you are thinking about, then by all means do that.  You can also email me if you would like some feedback as you consider your proposal ideas.

2.  After you have pinned down your project proposal (and written about it in your blog), please sign up in this document for one of the “units” or “themes” for the course.  Place your name and a brief description of your proposal (one or two sentences) into the document.  This will help us in designing the overall class structure/schedule.  You will have to consider what “umbrella theme” your project best fits in.  I suspect that some of your work will fit in a few of these “umbrella” concepts.  Do your best to choose what you think might be the best match.  We will strive for balance in terms of the number of students on each team.

3.  The final “to do” is to read your classmates blogs so you are familiar with the other proposals for the course.  This will spurn an amazing class discussion when we meet next Tuesday.

Looking forward to it!

Dr. Zamora



Ps.  Here is some food for thought – an exciting opportunity for this class:

As we start out on our #WritingRace journey

imagesWe have set out on a course to learn together.  You will map it.  Remember – think big (you can design a learning experience that will matter to you), think personal (you can bring your personal passion to the center of learning in this class), think practical (you should think about what you want to make).

Some basic “to dos” for next time we meet in person:

1.  Send me your blog url so I can start to syndicate everyone’s class blog.

2. Send me you twitter address so I can keep track of all of you on our class “backchannel”.

3.  Read and consider the Hack the Syllabus document.  Drop down any comments or notes there – next week we will start a collaborative edit of this document.  Read and consider your Think-Pair-Share 2/3 (initial brainstorming document) from our first class.

4.  BLOG #1:  Write about your growing ideas for a project for this course.  Think of your blog as a journal.  Here you are “writing-to-learn”.  (Often we discover our ideas through the act of writing.)  You can write in any style that suits you, you can use pictures, multimedia, etc.  The medium is more informal than traditional academic writing.  -Please write about your personal sense of what you would like to make in this class.  What would you would like to explore?  -Also, write about your sense of a final collaborative project that the class might aspire to as a whole.  What would be the most powerful way to connect the individual passions to an overall agenda?

Some final comments:

-I am so happy to see our course hashtag coming to life! Don’t be shy.  Jump in there anytime if you feel the inspiration.

-As I read through your Think-Pair-Share (initial ideas) I was struck by how there was consistent emphasis on visual learning (i.e. videos and films as course material, and visualizations to communicate an analysis).  In addition, there seems to be an emphasis on hands-on learning (i.e. making things, either digitally or otherwise).  You also emphasized interactivity as a powerful way to learn, and you all seemed to indicate that you learn when the topic matters to you in a personal way.  Also, some of you mentioned that the act of completion (i.e. a process with a beginning-middle-and-end) was an important part of a learning.  Keep these self-identified learning paradigms in mind as you think about what you want to do.

Some themes have seemed to surface as well: –The role of race in education;  –The issue of race as a personal inquiry (questions of identity); –The role that race plays in how we learn to write (language, power, politics); –Race in popular culture.  I think more categories (or sub-categories) will emerge as you blog for next week.

We all need to discover our shared purpose.  Next week in class we will really start to define that together.  I look forward to it!

Finally we meet for #WritingRace



The snow has delayed us, but finally we will meet for the first time.  I have been looking forward to meeting all of you and getting this course underway for sometime.  For I suspect it will be a memorable one.

This course will be an open (online), connected (networked), co-learning (participatory) experience.  One factor that often leads to boredom and lack of energy in the traditional classroom is the way that learning is perceived as a passive activity—a thing that happens to students. What you learn and how you learn it is decided by someone else, without considering what you care about, what you know already, or what you want to learn.  Part of the idea of an open class comes from giving you the opportunity to influence the course.  And that is exactly the invitation I extend to each of you.   This is an invitation to participate actively in defining the course of your own education.  What do you want to learn during out time together?  What do you want to make during our time together?

Please think of your #WritingRace class first and foremost as a community – a cooperative and collaborative working environment.  Here you will contribute what knowledge you have and locate new information that can help the group as a whole become more thoughtful and incisive.  Through discussion and negotiation we will identify shared purpose and a mutually beneficial learning agenda, we write/compose many collaborative documents, and we will embrace peer-to-peer cooperation and learning.  imagesAnd I embark on this journey side-by-side with all of you.  We will begin with discussion and we will design our learning experience together – and we will consider this a journey where everyone becomes a leader and a teacher.  For many heads are better than one.

During our first meeting we will meet and get to know each other a bit, and we will discuss why we have all chosen to converge for this experience together.  We will discuss what you want to get out of a course like this, and what kind of learning outcomes you would like to emerge with.  You will design the syllabus, you will set the terms and expectations for the projects, and you will ultimately identify this course’s learning outcomes.

Welcome to #WritingRace!

See you soon,

Dr. Mia Zamora