Teaching: Course Information and Philosophy

“Knowing that your professor isn’t just reading things out of a book and spewing them back to you is reassuring…Your real life examples are more relatable than any book could be.”

- Kat Kelliher
BSU Communications Studies Major
Investigative Reporting, Spring 2011

Fall 2011 Students: Be sure to visit my class and teaching Web site for course materials and other information about Intro to Journalism and Writing Rhetorically.

Since January 2007 I have worked as a writing and journalism instructor at colleges in Massachusetts, including a one-year, full-time appointment to teach Communications Studies Department at Bridgewater State University. I set my classrooms up to treat my students as working writers and journalists, whether it is a required, freshman writing and composition course or an advanced class on Investigative Reporting. I plan to enroll in a PhD program in the fall of 2012 to continue pursuing my academic research interests, which include journalism, social media and writing for online readers.

To learn more about my work in academia, please download a PDF copy of my latest CV.

I am currently scheduled to teach the following classes at Bridgewater State University in the Fall of 2011 (subject to change):

  • ENGL 101-030: Writing I (TuTh 8-9:15 am)
  • COMM 240-002: Introduction to Journalism (MWF 9:05-9:55 am)
  • COMM 240-003: Introduction to Journalism (TuTh 2-3:15 pm)

I will post the syllabus for each of the above courses later in the summer of 2011. Be sure to check out the posts and links below for more insight on my recent writing and thinking about pedagogy.


Invited Presentations

I am available for lectures, discussions and group training on a wide-range of topics related to writing, journalism, teaching and social media. A sampling of recent speaking engagements and presentations includes:

  • Writing for the Web,” Blog World East, 5/25/2011
  • The Craft of Writing (In The Age Of Twitter),” Southeast Massacusetts Regional Writing Conference, 5/19/2011
  • “Using Social Networking To Increase Student Engagement,” Bridgewater State University Center for Advancement of Research and Teaching 15th Annual May Celebration, 5/12/2011
  • “Scaffolding Semester-Long Writing Projects,” Bridgewater State University Writing Across the Curriculum Program, 3/16/2011
  • “Careers For English Majors,” Bridgewater State University English Department Panel Discussion, 10/6/2010

Five questions to ask before picking a college

I love watching the potential-student tours wander around campus: gawky teens keeping a safe yet awkward distance from their parents (“I’m with them, but not really”), heads bowed in serious shoe inspection as a tour guide – often an outgoing undergrad – discusses life on campus and the chaos of the library during the finals week.


The tours are crucial for students looking at schools. There are a lot of tours in the summer months, but to me it makes more sense to go during the semester. In addition to the tour I’d recommend trying to sit in on a few classes. and, if you have an idea of what you want to major in, see what professors in that department have office hours while you’re on campus and stop by to talk to them.

I’m always amazed how few questions get asked on the tours. A lot of people spend more time asking questions of the Best Buy salesman setting them up with a $300 digital camera than a purchase that may cost as much as $200,000. And, frankly, some of the most important questions to ask before enrolling in a four-year college are things your tour guide probably can’t answer.

Having spent a good chunk of the last four years on the “inside” of academia, these are five questions people should (but often don’t) ask before choosing a college:
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50 Ways To Use Social Media To Teach Writing

I presented at the Southeastern Massachusetts College Writing Conference today. Here’s my presentation and my interactive handout with a few resources and all 5 ideas:

Resources: Set up RSS feeds for these blogs to find other ways to use technology is your classroom:

New York Times Learning Network
Prof Hacker (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
EdTech News Blog (Eric LePage)
Wired Campus (Chronicle)
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Using social media as a teaching tool

Today I’m presenting a session on ways to use social media (and, primarily, Twitter) as a teaching tool at a conference by Bridgewater State University’s Center For The Advancement of Research & Teaching. The more I use it, the more I realize there are good ideas and bad ideas out there (I think sometimes there’s an instinct to use new tools just to say you use them)

What follows are the key points and highlights of my talk. I hope these are good ideas:

Hand out from presentation (MS Word doc)
Presentation notes (MS Word doc)

Twitter’s original catchphrase was “What are you doing?” (it has since been replaced with “What’s happening?”) In our classes, we can use Twitter and other social media platforms to ask our students “What are you thinking?

Once you get the hang of a social network like Twitter, you will realize you can never read or keep up with every single update that comes through your feed, so don’t even try. Instead, use social networking to take a pulse of the topics important to you and see what other people are discussing.

And while social media is a great way to expand our pedagogy toolbox, don’t use it for the sake of using it: sometimes a pen and paper is better than a laptop computer, and oftentimes real-world discussion beats out online Tweeting.
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Free Speech at Bridgewater State and other public universities

I’ve been discussing free expression and the First Amendment in my journalism classes this week, and using free speech (or lack thereof) on college campuses. Public universities, like Bridgewater State University, are required as state agencies to respect the constitutional rights of their students. This is well-established in case law and generally considered a good thing: the free exchange of ideas without self-censorship or fear of reprimand for putting forward an unpopular opinion allows students and faculty members to debate opposing viewpoints and ultimately develop stronger ideas.


This is considered so important that most schools reiterate the rights. On BSU’s code of student conduct, students are told all BSU community members have the “rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.” In the student handbook, the policy is extended:

“Bridgewater State College recognizes the right of individuals to exercise all forms of constitutionally protected expression and free speech without prior restraint or censorship. The college acknowledges that public discourse may include the discussion of controversial ideas, and the college will not limit public discourse based solely on its communicative content.

“Exposure to a wide array of ideas, viewpoints, opinions, and creative expression is an integral part of a college education, preparing students for life in a diverse global society. The rights of freedom of speech, expression, petition, religion, and public assembly are basic and essential to an individual’s intellectual and social development.”

Good stuff, right? The problem is, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, that same student handbook – like codes of conduct at hundreds of other universities and colleges in the U.S. — contradicts itself and lays our harassment policies and policies on where and when students can hold assemblies. These policies, if interpreted and enforced to the letter, would have the exact opposite effect than the mission statement.

Download audio (.WMA) of lecture this post was based on (March 30, 2011 at Bridgewater State University)
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High school heroes, college zeroes: How standardized testing makes kids dumb

“I’m a bad writer,” Jillian told me on the first day of her freshman writing class a few falls ago.

“According to who?” I asked.

“All my high school teachers said so,” Jillian said, resigning herself to a semester of misery in my class.

Jillian, as it turns out, wasn’t a bad writer at all – she was a good writer who just needed some practice and confidence. My bigger challenges that semester teaching first-year composition courses at Bridgewater State College (now University) were the students who had been told by their high school teachers that they were good writers.

Because those students were often not good writers at all. They were good test takers, but in a public education system where everything is measured by standardized testing, students who follow a formula succeed in writing assignments while students like Jillian – who instinctively use writing as a critical thinking tool – suffer.
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