Engaging in OLI Conversations and Research

This portfolio artifact represents a highlight of The OLI Principles: the importance of engaging with a community of experts in online literacy education.

GSOLE’s OLI Principle 4 states, “Educators and researchers should initiate, support, and sustain online literacy instruction-related conversations and research efforts within and across institutions and disciplinary boundaries.” To put this principle into action, I recently attended one of GSOLE’s webinars: “Teaching Writing Online: Translingual and Antiracist Pedagogies,” led by Cristina Sánchez-Martín, an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, on October 9, 2020. Reflecting on Sánchez-Martín’s presentation, I can see how we can use current and past literature as well as current events and pressing topics to help shape our learners’ experiences though, ultimately, I disagree with her conclusions.

Sánchez-Martín presented about restoring language equity, unlearning white monolingualism (i.e., “white mainstream English”), and disrupting the notion of “good academic writing” in the online first-year composition course. She explained to participants the need to move away from the traditional view of writing as process and product to more of a cultural history activity theory, incorporating the person (writer) into the writing activity, and she argued that the value given to standard academic English is based on racist structures and ideologies. 

“Language equity” is generally recognized as ensuring that English Language Learners (ELLs) are afforded fair opportunity for learning and success.1See Tung, R. (2013). Innovations in educational equity for English language learners. VUE (Voices in Urban Education), 37, 1-5. https://www.annenberginstitute.org/sites/default/files/VUE37.pdf; Alrubail, R. (2016, July 7). Equity for English-language learners. Edutopia. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/equity-for-english-language-learners-rusul-alrubail; and Powell, M. (2017, October 16). Language is an equity issue. Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ). https://www.teachingquality.org/language-is-an-equity-issue/ “White monolingualism” can be defined as the opposite of bilingualism (i.e., encouraging the usage of, and learning in, native languages).2Leiding, D. (2006). Racial Bias in the Classroom: Can Teachers Reach All Children? Rowman & Littlefield. P.120. Retrieved from http://www.elegantbrain.com/edu4/classes/readings/depository/294/leid_rac_edu_nativ_asia.pdf 

Sánchez-Martín emphasized restoring language equity and avoiding white monolingualism on a larger scale, focusing heavily on culture rather than ethnicity or nationality. Gonzales & Butler (2020) also emphasize the importance of separating language from race and focusing on the whole person, “honoring the multiple, intersecting identities of multilingual writers.” Sánchez-Martín argued that bringing the person (i.e., the student writer) into the writing process and rhetorical situation makes the learning of writing more of a “cultural history activity.” Witte (2018) and Woodley et al. (2017) agree, calling for instructors to incorporate students’ previous life experiences as we design courses and plan learning activities. Ensuring language equity and avoiding what Sánchez-Martín argues are racist structures and ideologies would certainly align with OLI Principle 1 which states that “Online literacy instructions should be universally accessible and inclusive.”  I have had a handful of English-as-a-Second-Language learners in my face-to-face classes over the years but regularly have such students in my fully online classes.  One way that I try to incorporate student prior experiences is via a pre-semester or beginning of semester survey. However, that leaves me unable to plan too far ahead because I often don’t know what I’m teaching until right before term starts. So my class planning has to be broad-strokes — I know the concepts I want to cover but can’t plan the actual activities without knowing more about my students. This is never ideal but is easier to accomplish in the face-to-face setting versus the online setting when course design and learning management systems come into play. 

Sánchez-Martín also emphasized helping students understand how to navigate (and pass) in problem areas while undoing the value traditionally placed on “standard academic writing.” Problem areas are often spotlighted in the online learning environment; Harris et al. (2014) point out how moving to online learning often highlights struggles with understanding written text given the larger literacy load. Further, Cleary et al. (2018) encourage us to “adjust our expectations of what counts as ‘learning.’” I noted in my initial response to the Cleary reading that I worry some might interpret “adjusting” to lowering while others would argue we are already lowering expectations across disciplines enough as it is. Sánchez-Martín argued for removing “standard academic English” from learning outcomes because, she said, it is more of a social construct than a genre. All three schools I teach for have some form of “standard academic English” in their programmatic course outcomes; I interpret those outcomes as referring to the genre of academic writing — one that incorporates research in an appropriate style and tone for the particular rhetorical situation.

Overall, I enjoyed Sánchez-Martín’s presentation and certainly learned from the different perspectives of the webinar participants. Educators must consider their students just as writers must consider their audiences. However, ultimately, I disagree with removing the focus on writing as a process and with no longer encouraging students to learn to write according to genre-specific norms and conventions.


Cleary, Y., Rice, R., Zemliansky, P., St.Amant, K., & Borgman, J. C. (2019). Perspectives on teaching writing online in global contexts: Ideas, insights, and projections. ROLE: Research in Online Literacy Education, 2(1), http://www.roleolor.org/perspectives-on-teaching-writing-online.html 

Gonzales, L. & Butler, J. (2020). Working toward social justice through multilingualism, multimodality, and accessibility in writing classrooms. Composition Forum, 44(Summer). https://compositionforum.com/issue/44/multilingualism.php 

Harris, H. S., Lubbes, T., Knowles, N., & Harris, J.  (2014). Translation, transformation, and ‘taking it back’: Moving between face-to-face and online writing in the disciplines. The WAC Journal, 25(2), 107-135. http://wac.colostate.edu/journal/vol25/vol25.pdf#page=107

Witte, A. (2018). ‘Why won’t Moodle. . .?’: Using genre studies to understand students’ approaches to interacting with user-interfaces. Computers & Composition, 49, 48-60. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2018.05.004

Woodley, X., Hernandez, C., Parra, J., & Negash, B. (2017). Celebrating difference: Best practices in culturally responsive teaching online. TechTrends 61, 470–478 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0207-z