Teaching Portfolio


I am fortunate to be working alongside accomplished professors in both traditional and new form pedagogy. I study and teach English, composition, and rhetorics (with focus on language and theory). The skillset I’ve acquired helps me to make sense of traditional media, and also allows me to explore interests in emerging technologies. I have facilitated workshops in internet privacy, CMS technologies, digital mapping, data visualization, and game studies. I use code to exploit the possibilities of the classroom — exploring the utility of data-sets to improve the experience of learning.

Observations


ic_remove_red_eye_black_48dp_2x“Students listened intensely to each other, in a kind of open-ended spirit of exploration, simultaneously amused, uncertain, and utterly compelled. Presiding over this was Russo’s calm, quiet voice, his manner utterly relaxed and often provocatively witty: always unpretentious, and wholly with them in spirit …  Russo stayed with and within the exploratory contradictions and unsureties, pleasantly gentle, always sincere, and encouraging as primus inter pares. The result was that every student in the class participated, and often several spoke at once … In summary, Russo’s class mingled the utile and the dulce, the stimulating confrontation of fiercely challenging ideas, with sheer social joy. Both amiable and masterful, Mr. Russo is deeply at home in the exposition of ideas, maintains a climate of quiet control, and is a born teacher. We are fortunate indeed to have him teaching our students.”

Dr. Christoper Fitter | Rutgers University
Read the complete review

“The students had a blast with this. It was like a game, a challenge to reduce the language down. Then [Michael] went around the room and asked [the students] to explain how they did it. Finally, he asked them to use [this technique] with their own next drafts, and yet not lose sight of their unique voices. He wants to help them learn…”

 — Dr. Cynthia Haynes | Clemson University
Read the complete review

Fall 2016


I have been recently accepted as a Ph.D. student and assistant instructor in the RCID program at Clemson University. The program offers a cross-cultural, transdisciplinary curriculum with a conceptual emphasis on knowing, doing, and making — or theoretical, practical, and productive approaches to knowledge. Our students take positions, for the most part, in departments of English and Communication Studies, as well as departments of New Media.

russo.xyz/wiki

wiki_russo_xyz_logoCourses and Syllabuses
This wiki — powered by MediaWiki — is an ever-growing collection of my courses, syllabuses, lesson plans, and materials I’ve used in the classes I’ve taught or assisted in teaching. Outside editing is restricted to prevent vandalism.

RCID    


Rhetorics, Composition,
& Information Design


The first word of the name of the program, “Rhetorics,” is in plural form. It may be peculiar in this form for some readers, but it acknowledges that there is more than one rhetoric, for there is more than one culture. Rhetoric(s)—in its singular-plural possibilities—establishes the conditions for How we discover not only the available means but also innovative forms of living, working, and playing together, across a multitude of cultures, with others.

Courses

# composition & rhetoric

Orality, Literacy, Electracy

Composition and Rhetoric, ENG 1030-071: Orality, Literacy, Electracy, Fall 2017, Clemson University, focuses on critical thinking skills through the teaching of rhetorical strategies in oral, print, and digital environments. Students will learn to critically “read” a variety of texts in different mediums – including speeches, podcasts, films, news media, peer-reviewed journals, and more. Students will also compose three larger rhetorical projects based on issues and research raised in the reading assignments and the in-class discussions. These three projects, along with other smaller assignments, explore the use of rhetoric as a tool of persuasion and conversation

Orality, Literacy, Electracy, foregrounds the evolution of rhetorical culture, from the oral to the written to the digital. The term electracy is borrowed from Gregory Ulmer, and describes the kinds of rhetorical skills and faculties necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. Within the scope of the theme, students are free to explore their own subjects of interest, so long as such exploration meets the standards and expectations Clemson University.

# accelerated composition

Multimodal Rhetorics

Accelerated Composition, Clemson University, focuses on writing and critical thinking by using an approach that teaches rhetorical strategies for reading and composing arguments in both print and digital environments. Students will learn to read texts critically and to recognize the different purposes and audiences for arguments. Students will compose five writing projects based on issues and research raised in the reading assignments and class discussions during the semester. The writing assignments will give students extensive practice in thinking critically and writing according to the rhetorical conventions of an argumentative essay using a range of rhetorical techniques: invention, arrangement, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. Students will also explore the uses of rhetoric as a tool of persuasion in written, visual, and multimodal texts. As well, students will learn how rhetoric works through attention to persona, audience, and persuasive appeals (such as pathos, logos, ethos, kairos).

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
John Dewey

English Rhetorics
and Digital Studies


Digital Studies Center

ic_device_hub_black_48dp_2xThe Digital Studies Center is an interdisciplinary, collaborative research, development, and education center. The DSC helps kick-start, facilitate, support, and promote projects that are made possible by the convergence of digital technologies with the humanities as well as the arts, natural, and social sciences. The nature of digital studies and the DSC is one of collaboration, so it is our goal to bring faculty and students together across disciplines to work side-by-side. DSC Projects result in theoretical, critical, and practical forms. Furthermore, we offer programming in the form of workshops and project presentations. The DSC also offers a Certificate in Digital Humanities to undergraduates of Rutgers-Camden.

Writing and Design

The Writing and Design Labic_spellcheck_black_48dp_2x at Rutgers University-Camden institutes a new initiative by the English department to help students make better arguments. We not only help with traditional writing assignments, but also teach the affordances and constraints of FOSS technologies and platforms. The goal is to help students become better writers in the multimodal forms that are now commonplace in academia and beyond. Visit our site for more information.

Courses

A selection of current and past courses that I’ve taught or helped to teach at Rutgers University. I endeavor to make classes accessible through the commingling of literary artworks, new media, and non-traditional texts — putting each into the conversation of learning. I construct an environment of participation by employing a diversity of cultural artifacts into every lesson. For a complete list of all courses, syllabuses and lesson plans, see the wiki.

Object Research | Rutgers University | S16
English research and writing course, taught by Michael Russo, and introducing students to systematic processes related to academic and humanistic inquiry. The course highlights the historical, philosophical, political and social significance of everyday objects in the world. The purpose of the theme is to motivate students to think critically about their surrounding environments. Students will explore the political ramifications of material culture by way advanced research. Morever, the theme is meant to show that even the most mundane things can be made incredibly interesting when discussed in the context of rhetorical inquiry.

Start Playing Around | Rutgers University | F15
English composition course taught by Michael Russo with the purpose of inspiring students to become better thinkers, better writers, and better citizens of the public sphere. The class is modeled on the pedagogies of Kenneth Burke (A Rhetoric of Motives), Dr. James Crosswhite, (The Rhetoric of Reason), and Dr. Ian Bogost (Persuasive Games). Students play games, think critically about games, and write critically about games. They also create their own persuasive games

Privacy Reboot | Rutgers Unversity | S15
English research and writing course taught by Michael Russo. The purpose of the theme is to motivate students to think critically about the issue of privacy, whether or not it matters to the human condition, and how perceptions have changed from the time of Wordsworth to the age of Google. Alongside the poetry of reflection, students discuss recent events concerning whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency, and whose actions have had a profound effect on the politics of technological culture. Within the scope of this theme, students research their own areas of interest, so long as their explorations meet the standards and expectations of Rutgers University

Intro to DH | Rutgers University | S15
An undergraduate English course taught by Dr. James J. Brown Jr., with teaching and technical assistance from Michael Russo. This course treats digital technologies as both expressive media and as objects worthy of humanistic study. The goal of the course is to provide students with a space to use digital tools to create things (such as art, electronic literature, games) and also to develop critical vocabularies for analyzing digital objects. No technological expertise is required, and students will be encouraged to experiment and tinker with a variety of platforms.

Literature & Videogames | Rutgers University | F14
Undergraduate English course taught by Dr. James J. Brown Jr., with teaching and technical assistance from Michael Russo. This class examines the relationship between literature and videogames by looking at a range of artifacts: novels about videogames, works of interactive fiction, electronic literature, and modern digital games that take on certain literary qualities. The goal of this class is not necessarily to equate videogames with novels or poems but to instead consider how videogames intersect with and complicate the category of “literature.” Students in this class will read novels, play games, and make games. No technical expertise is required.


In-class activities and conversations are turned into usable data, visualized, and tracked using a customization of Martin Hawksey’s open-source TAGS script (d3.js, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Visualization API). The data collected provides an invaluable resource for the scaffolding and structuring of lesson plans, and for gauging student involvement. Click this link to view the code in action (works best in Firefox or Chrome).

Dangerous Ideas: Dissent & Debate | Rutgers University | F14
English composition course taught by Michael Russo with the purpose of inspiring students to become better writers and better thinkers. Polemic materials are used as prompts in order to motivate students to think critically about their own beliefs and to question preconceptions concerning arguments and argumentation. The class uses classical and contemporary rhetorical models as guides to improve composition in analytic writing.

“Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”
Alexander Pope

Outreach


americorpsAt George Washington Community High School in Indianapolis, I helped to kick-start an open-source initiative that provided more than 50 computers to students in need. I also ran a workshop on open-source publishing and magazine creation. Students created their own newspaper, while I redesigned the school’s website in order to better suit the needs of a multilingual community.


Rutgers-CircleTeaching game development to the next generation of scholars.
Each year, the Rutgers Future Scholars program introduces 200 first-generation, low-income and academically promising middle school students from school districts in our four Rutgers home communities of New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark, and Camden to the promise and opportunities of a college education. I teach introduction to game development and nonlinear narration.


testimonials //

When I saw “Dissent and Debate” on the syllabus, I became worried because I knew I was not good at arguing my ideas, let alone explaining them clearly. However, this class has definitely made me a better writer. Writing essays has always been a painful experience because I could not properly express my ideas. But now it’s not as painful.  — MN

I definitely feel that I’ve improved as a writer from taking this class. Understanding the rhetorical realms really helped me write a kick ass scholarly essay without sounding boring.  — DC

I am going to be blatantly honest. At first, I despised this class, even dreaded it. I assumed that because we did not share the same beliefs that you would make the class miserable for me. And, at times you did. But, about halfway through the semester, I figured it out: you were trying to make me uncomfortable, but not without reason. It was to make me feel something about my writing; it was to help me make stronger arguments and support my claims based on what I believed. I found my voice as a writer which I otherwise may not have found. — KM

philosophy // v.0.1

Dewey famously said that thinking only happens when we’re faced with a problem. If the sentiment behind his words must persevere, then today’s educators need to redefine some terms.

While University is certainly about the acquisition of marketable skills (we want our students to find jobs after graduation), the primary duty of the educator is in constant conflict with this demand. Thinking is not the same as training. Without the freedom to explore the frontiers of creative thought, students have little reason to attend school apart from obligation, apart from some erroneous belief that University equals Ticket to Success. This belief makes it all but impossible to distinguish between student and customer. Consequently the relevance of scholarly experience suffers under the heavy hand of corporatization. Accountability becomes more important than responsibility.

Obviously educators need to be accountable for their pedagogics. Both students and customers come to the classroom with certain expectations (usually listed on the syllabus). By semester’s end those expectations need to be met. Every class should finish with a sense of money well spent. However it’s not the job of the educator to be responsible for rote training. The complete scholarly experience has never been a matter of mere memorization slash indoctrination. Instead teachers must encourage sovereignty of thought, independence of mind beyond the scope of industry. Especially in the humanities, where we shape behavior, the job is as much about inspiration as it is about inculcation.

It’s too easy to dismiss the very idea of inspiration as high-minded pretense. The word itself is meaningless without context. By “inspiration” I mean we ought to arouse in students a desire to question the value behind the very skills we teach, because the usefulness of those skills is only sustainable so far as the student believes in their benefit. Upon graduation our students should possess the abilities to find truth uncovered by independent means.

But how to create inspiration?

Nowadays when a student faces a problem, the answer is usually in her back pocket. With the press of a button the meaning of Dostoyevsky glares back on her retina display. All of the skills she’s learned seem worthless if only she invested in a faster computer. She feels duped and disappointed. The knowledge is there, on the internet, in a comfortable, digestible form.

So instead of demanding rote memorization—instead of demanding the “right” answer—the educator must embrace mistake, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation. The path to truth should be challenging and full of missteps. Yet also rewarding. Finding meaning within oneself, even if it is the “wrong” meaning, is an essential component to academic discourse. Otherwise the very act of thinking is in danger becoming obsolete. It’s just too easy to concede to Google.

I provide students an unrestricted space to play with difficult problems. Every idea is considered so long as it comes from a place of authenticity. I do my best to guide students in the “right” direction, and of course I offer students the traditional rhetorical syntax. But more importantly, I urge students to seek out truth for the sake truth itself. My responsibility as their educator is the preservation of the scholarly experience through the fostering of liberated thought. My hope is to inspire them to see the benefits of education outside of the classroom experience. If I need to ask my students to repeat whatever trivial fact they learned the week before, to test them on whatever bit of information they could have Googled, then I’ve failed them.

The problems I create in my classroom cannot be answered with a quick Google search. I ask students to come to terms with impossibilities. I present them with dilemmas that frequently cause anxiety and cognitive dissonance. Yet I do so in a way that is inviting, never allowing the fear of dismissal to overshadow the free exchange of ideas. My classroom functions as a think-tank in which students engage with the very process of learning. Inside of this environment, I am a guide, always committed to providing the tools students need to organize thought processes they already possess. In effect, I build confident thinkers.

I may teach logic and reasoning, thesis and structure, but more than content or form I try to instill in my students the conviction that these rhetorical tools are critical to the development of both professional and personal identity. In order to keep them interested, and because I’m aware that the skills I teach are applicable across the curricula, I make each class as accessible as possible through the commingling of literary artworks with new media and non-traditional texts, putting each into the conversation of learning. By employing a diversity of cultural artifacts into every lesson, I am able to construct an environment of participation. If my students become better writers and better thinkers, it’s not just so they can meet the demands of the workaday world, but rather it’s the result of a collective search for truth and clarity.

Copylcopyleft //

I am a regular contributor to Wikipedia. I also use the open-source MediaWiki web software on my own domain as a pedagogical tool and content management system. The software allows me to maintain an active community of engaged collaboration, while simultaneously tracking changes in draft and composition. It has a straightforward interface.

Since I sometimes use MediaWiki in the classroom (to foster student learning and to keep track of course scheduling), my own installation is heavily restricted. The core code has been altered to allow for even more privacy. Unlike Wikipedia proper, access to article editing and content creation is restricted. You’ll need to be approved by an administrator in order to participate in discussion.

I believe in the free exchange of ideas, especially in academia. My own content on russo.xyz/wiki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please assume, modify, or redistribute whatever information you find useful. My syllabuses, lesson plans, and other teaching materials are all up for grabs. No copyright.