Syllabus

“When politicians toe the party line in every instance, sometimes  speaking absurdities in order to be ideologically consistent, audiences, toeing the same party line, accept these absurdities as facts of rhetorical life. In a post-truth world, audiences do not seek information on which to base their opinions; they seek opinions that support their own beliefs. In a world where facts, realities, and truths are irrelevant, language becomes pure strategy without grounding or reference.” (12)

Bruce McComiskey, Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition (2017)

Course description

This course introduces you to college-level reading and writing by asking you to explore our contemporary cultural, social, and political moment, increasingly described by scholars as “post-truth.” As the above quote from McComiskey notes, post-truth is a complex moment wherein emotion, affect, and feeling are problematically more persuasive than reason, logic, and evidence. This poses specific challenges for readers and writers whose realities are shaped by a plethora of media and the cultural, political, economic, and psychological frameworks that undergird them.

As such, we will approach post-truth primarily in two ways: one that is optimistic and focuses on individual responses and another that explores the deeper systemic challenges that makes the future of information more uncertain. With regard to the first approach, you will use Unit 1 to look at how we, as individuals, can learn and adopt media-based literacies like fact-checking to become more responsible citizens. With regard to the second, you will use Units 2 and 3 to examine the many frameworks that make developing counter-technologies and strategies of intervention demanding.

Unit 1 | Fact-Checking the stream [Weeks ~1-2]

Recent research tells us that many people, especially students and older adults, have a difficult time evaluating information on the web. This is largely because digitally-networked spaces require a different kind of reading toolkit than those offered through traditional, print-based literacies.  After a brief introduction to one of the more visible consequences of our post-truth moment — the rise of fake news — you will spend the first two weeks of the course reading Mike Caulfield’s textbook, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers and practicing web-based research such as going upstream and reading laterally. You’ll not only read and research with these strategies in mind, you’ll compose four brief fact-checks shuttling between two popular web platforms for writers: Google Docs and WordPress. Each fact-check will be between 500-700 words. Drafts will be posted on Google Docs and revisions will be posted on WordPress and will include additional embedded media and links.

Unit 2 | Reading reality [WeekS ~3-4]

The second unit aims to provide a deeper context for post-truth and fake news, starting with a critique of fact-checking using the concept of frame-checking. It will then offering five frames (political, economic, cultural, psychological, and technological) while also introducing three methods of annotation, including those designed for print and digital/web texts. You are expected to read and carefully annotate each text and produce two 500-750 word responses from these annotations. During our conference time we will review the annotations and responses, develop them, and consider how and why certain annotation strategies work while others did not. As with Unit 1, drafts will be composed in Google Docs and revisions posted on WordPress with additional media.

Unit 3Strategies of Intervention [weeks ~5-6]

In the final few weeks, you will inquire deeper into the forces affecting our worldview by selecting one of several “strategies of intervention” to study and locating a current or prospective counter-technology — a literacy, tool, or practice that can help users resist, expose, or otherwise ethically mitigate the pernicious forces of post-truth. You’ll produce a short list of works you read and annotated and write a final 1,000 to 1,200-word post that summarizes these forces and evaluates the counter-technology.  Like the other posts in WordPress, your final project will include links and embedded media that enrich your analysis.

Course Structure

WRIT 1340 meets every morning, five days per week: generally, we’ll have three class meetings and meet twice for conferences. All meetings are mandatory, including conferences. During these conferences we will discuss your writing and how it can be improved. Meeting times for conference days will rotate each week, with half of you meeting with me during the normal class time (8:30 AM to 9:45 AM) and the other half meeting with me some time after 9:45 AM. We will create a conference schedule on the first few days of class. NOTE: Conferences are not optional. You are required to be there and be prepared (by having your writing with you).

Learning objectives of the course

  • Develop a flexible approach to reading by experimenting with, and reflecting on, various annotation strategies and tools that respond to different kinds of text(s), situations, and reading goals.
  • Analyze, evaluate, and engage a variety of sites, sources, and voices.
  • Compose arguments and claims by drawing from persuasive evidence and data.
  • Experiment with a variety technologies while also reflecting on their affordances and limitations.
  • Practice managing writing projects by discussing the scale of different tasks and how each plays a role in building cohesive texts.

Learning objectives for PSP

The Prefreshman Summer Program provides a foundation that enables students to achieve, many of which are learned, in part, via this course:

  1. Disciplinary knowledge: Demonstrate systematic skills in academic areas pertinent to their programs of study.
  2. Study skills: Exhibit effective study skills and time management strategies.
  3. Engagement in the process of discovery or creation: Demonstrate the ability to work productively and to take initiative, either individually or in group settings, in order to learn from and within new or ambiguous contexts.
  4. Inter-cultural competence: Effectively engage in a multicultural community; interact respectfully with diverse others.
  5. Ethical awareness: Embrace moral/ethical values; use ethical practices in all work.
  6. Self-management: Recognize and evaluate one’s own academic competencies; generate strategies to meet and exceed the academic expectations of Cornell, and to seek resources to support success; be inspired to achieve at the highest levels of excellence at Cornell and beyond.
  7. Community creation: Demonstrate a supportive connection with a community of supportive peers.
  8. Goal setting: Display knowledge of Cornell academic programs and opportunities in order to set long and short-term academic goals and to choose courses of study.
  9. College affiliation: Demonstrate knowledge of one’s own college’s programs, activities, and culture in order to design specific academic goals and to engage in college curricular and co-curricular opportunities.

Attendance

Punctual attendance to our classes and conferences is essential and contractual in the PSP Program; absences are not allowed, and as such, if you are not here, I (or someone from my program) will call Residential Staff during the first 5 minutes of class to check on you. 

About religious absences:

“Cornell University is committed to supporting students who wish to practice their religious beliefs. Students are being advised to discuss religious absences with their instructors well in advance of the religious holiday so that arrangements for making up work can be resolved before the absence. Faculty are encouraged to announce at the beginning of the semester all activities which, if missed, would require make up work.”

The Cornell Faculty Handbook

Conduct

I strive to cultivate an educational environment in our classroom that is inclusive, honest, and congruent with Cornell’s classroom behavior policy. In my experience, such an environment can take time to build, but must begin with an assumed sense of respect and sensitivity, and especially toward those who do not act, speak, or look like ourselves. Toward that end, we will use preferred names and otherwise respect the communicative needs of each person based on aspects of their social identity as quickly as possible.  

Moreover, participation in this environment does not mean simply attending and being available; it means working actively, collaboratively, responsively, responsibly, thoughtfully, and constructively to one another, and generally being a resource for our collective intellectual development.

Accessibility

I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that some of the information on this course site is difficult to absorb. Or you might prefer to annotate printed texts over digital ones. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center, are available to all students.

Students with Disabilities: Please give me your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter as soon as possible this week so that we have adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. If you need an immediate accommodation for equal access, please speak with me after class or send an email message to me and/or SDS at sds_cu @ cornell.edu. If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS. SDS is located on level 5 of Cornell Health, 110 Ho Plaza, 607-254-4545, sds.cornell.edu.

Basic needs & self care

Struggles with basic needs are a growing problem among college students across the country. This statement is intended to help disarm stigma or shame—we all have basic needs, and unless those basic needs are being met, students will struggle to learn and succeed. Relatedly, college life can be busy, overwhelming, and stressful. When your body is run down and you’re suffering from anxiety or distress, it can be difficult or impossible to be an effective student while balancing work, friends, family life, and more.

Any student who faces challenges such as these and believes they are affecting their performance in the course is urged to contact Cornell Health Services. Cornell Health provides on-campus, personalized, and confidential care for Cornell students. Services include medical care, counseling, nutrition, physical therapy, laboratory and X-ray, and pharmacy. The website provides detailed information about services, appointments, and a wide variety of health topics and campus health initiatives.

Included is the Let’s Talk program, which is free for all Cornell students. No appointment is necessary and they offer confidential and informal group therapy sessions. In the summer they are open:

  • Tuesdays, 3-5 p.m. in the Sage Hall Johnson School, Room 201E
  • Thursdays, 2:30-4:30 p.m. in Caldwell Hall Room 341 (on the Ag Quad)

All students who are enrolled in the Student Health Plan (SHP) or pay the Student Health Fee pay a $10 copay for most visits (some visits have no charge). There are no additional charges for procedures, x-rays, and lab tests performed at Cornell Health. Inability to pay should never be a barrier to receiving care. Students who have concerns about health care expenses should discuss them with a Cornell Health care provider or cashier before or during your appointment to learn about options for deferring fees, extending payment, or accessing financial assistance.

They are located at 110 Ho Plaza, next to Willard Straight Hall (Tel: 607 255-5155). To get there by bus, see the TCAT website. If you need a taxi, call 607 277-7777. Cornell Health has arrangements with Ithaca taxi companies to allow students to charge the fare to their bursar bill for a ride to Cornell Health, PT and Message Therapy, or other health care facility. Simply should tell your driver that you are traveling for health care services and show your student ID.

Cornell Writing Centers

The Cornell Writing Centers (WC) provide support for individuals at any stage of the writing process. It is a free resource available to everyone on campus—faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students—for nearly any kind of writing project: applications, presentations, lab reports, essays, papers, and more. Tutors serve as responsive listeners and readers who can address questions about the writing process or about particular pieces of writing. They can also consider questions of confidence, critical reading, analytic thought, and imagination. All writing tutors have experience working with English language learners. We welcome drop-ins, or you can schedule an appointment here:  https://cornell.mywconline.net/

Summer Schedule:
Klarman Hall, KG42 & 44
Sundays-Thursdays 7:00-10:00pm
June 24-August 2

Grades

WRIT 1340 has an unusual grading system, using an “S” or “U” for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. In an S/U course you must complete all requirements satisfactorily. This includes all four fact-checks, annotations, three reading responses, and one final project. All assignments will be graded on a 2-point scale:

Points 
2Exceeds expectations
1Satisfactory
0Unsatisfactory

You will be able to earn a Satisfactory grade in this course if you meet all the basic requirements listed below. In this case, WRIT 1340 can count as one of your First-Year Writing Seminars. However, if you fulfill the basic requirements, but your writing is still marked by significant problems with language or development, you will earn an “S” for WRIT 1034. In such a case, you will not earn credit for a writing seminar. To earn an “S” and FWS credit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Submit all work on time
  • Show clear evidence of improving your writing to university-level standards
  • Participate in all aspects of the course (including discussion, readings, and presentations)

You should expect my feedback to be constructive and kind both in writing and through dialogue when we conference. I will respond primarily in two ways: according to the learning and assessment goals articulated in the assignment, and as a reader who is interacting with the text you’ve produced. Feedback on your work is the primary means for individualized instruction, so please be prepared for each and every conference. It is here where you will grow the most as a writer.

Technology in class

Most days you will be attempting to complete various tasks using a variety of writing technologies that include laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Some of you will be better equipped to handle these tasks than others. Although some of our tasks will require direct and technical instruction, don’t forget that you are also responsible for your own learning. A small amount of class time will be spent on lecture and demonstration; however, I expect you to come to class having engaged with the material thoughtfully while also being flexible and critical in troubleshooting unexpected problems. If you can’t get into Google Drive, for example, that doesn’t mean you don’t do your work. It means you find another space — digital or otherwise — to produce your work and bring it to our conference.

If you have the means, I encourage you to bring to class any devices that will benefit your learning and composing throughout the course, especially your own laptop. If not, we will immediately explore ways to support your needs. Cornell Information Technology (CIT) offers a number of services, in addition to computer labs. Informational sessions on some of this, including printing, should have been held during the first few days of PSP.

Relying on technology in the classroom can be a double-edged sword: it can enhance learning or frustrate it; it can be a tool or be a distraction. I will help you develop and practice a mindful workflow that allows you to integrate your smart technologies while being as present as possible in class activities, but keep in mind most of the onus for that is on your attitude. This is not easy and so I may on occasion assist individuals or the class as a whole in this practice, depending on how well attention is being managed.

Further, you can expect technology to fail in plenty of ways throughout the semester. To avoid disaster, whenever applicable please be sure to save all of your materials in at least two of the following three ways: (1) to your device’s hard drive, (2) to a physical external drive, and (3) to a cloud-based storage system (i.e. Google Drive). As someone who has used this system for nearly 10 years I can attest to its effectiveness: I have never lost, deleted, or suffered a loss from a corrupted file.

Digital spaces and privacy

In this course, you will be asked to create accounts and generate content that will occasionally circulate openly on the web. Specifically, you will be using the following:

Google Drive. You will create a folder for this class called “FWS” and share it with me so that I can access all drafts and annotations you create within it. While this folder will technically be yours and private, be aware that I will have access to the content within it once you share it with me. Likewise, if you complete assignments but do not put them in the shared folder, I will not be able to access see them. [TOS]

WordPress. Revisions of your four fact-checks will be posted as public blog entries on your own space, and will include links to other sites and embedded media like videos or gifs. Disabling comments can help reduce spam. I’ll show you how. [TOS]

Hypothes.is. You will create an account that will allow you to privately annotate web texts and discuss them with members of this class. To use this account, you will also need to install an extension in a Google Chrome web browser. Our conversations will be managed through private groups, though sometimes student make mistakes and post to public ones so be aware. [TOS]

For a variety of excellent reasons, you may feel uneasy about being identified with/by that content. In that case, you’re encouraged to take steps to ensure relative anonymity for your coursework, while still ensuring a valuable experience. These steps include: using screen names, disabling location services on mobile devices, and using decoy or throwaway accounts on digital platforms. All work created for the course is required to remain published until you’ve received your final grade. Once final grades are submitted, you’re free to permanently delete anything you’ve created for the course. I’m happy to further discuss reservations with you individually or during class discussion.

Academic integrity

All non-original content that appears in your work should be documented using links, citation methods, or direct quotes when using specific phrases or language from sources. Please let me know if you have questions about your citation work in a particular assignment or writing context. That said, I encourage a conscientious application of Fair Use for Education principles. As we are writing for hybrid academic and public contexts, I expect citation to be consistent and visually/functionally appropriate for the medium in which borrowed and remixed work appears. Please be in touch if you have any questions about this. Further, I expect all compositions submitted for course credit to be the work of the student(s) who turned in the work. For more information, please see Cornell University policy.