Below are examples of forms that I use to acquire crucial demographics about writers.  My approach is thorough because many writers need multiple ‘nodes’ to reference when reflecting about their needs, goals, and expectations for teaching and learning writing.  Furthermore, data collection may be translated into several teaching applications related to decision-making considerations unique to an Information Age.  The following observations, combined with critical scholarship and mainstream reporting on Internet (and especially cloud) security, may serve as a source of critical conversation about organizational definitions of disclosure practices.

Form Distribution

These forms are administered electronically, and the data is analyzed via Google Spreadsheets.  I notify students about how their data will be used, and warn them about its storage in Google Drive.  They are aware that I use complex passwords to maintain the likelihood of anyone ‘breaking’ into the cloud with my account information.  We also discuss how they would like the data to be used for teaching and research purposes.  On the other hand, we consider any possible ways the data could be used against our best interests.  After our conversation, we collaboratively decide on whether or not the file should be saved and encrypted on external storage (e.g. jump or hard drive), or remain in the cloud.  The purpose of this discussion is to draw attention towards shifting ethical standards about information collection, access, and contexts for ‘appropriate use,’  Students should be aware that different organizations have varying policies about ‘openness,’ which may affect them when they join the workforce post-graduation.

Note:  My information sheets abide by FERPA regulations, as no grades or scheduling information is documented.  

Graduate Writing Group Member Information Sheet

McNair Researcher Information Sheet

For the past three summers, McNair scholars submitted this form before the summer research program’s writing workshop component commences. I explicitly communicate with writers about the way the information will be used.  In this context, collecting this information significantly improves our sessions, and with permission of these students, may offer scholars and administrators key sources of information that will enable them to:

  • Develop more comprehensive demographic information
  • Assess student’s attitudes towards academic performance
  • Classify a list of student’s ‘ideal’ careers
  • Evaluate student’s capacity to develop and invent ideas and approaches for refining their writing process

When I teach undergraduate writing courses, students submit an Information Sheet at the beginning of the term.  Similar to the McNair students, they are notified about how the data will be used.  To reinforce the legal protections afforded by FERPA, I encourage students to use hacker names in lieu of their real names.

Hacker Names as Encryption Advocacy

Students are advised to choose a hacker name that conceals their government-issued identification.  This classroom practice builds a knowledge commons that prefers to reflect on one’s deliberate construction of their role in a community.  Hacker names are similar to other online and gaming communities because avatars and screen names provide a foundation for the user’s identity.  We consider how the chosen names influence the content production of the commons.

Individual Consultation Form (For anonymous, data collection of undergraduate writer’s preferences and demographics)

Individual Consultation Form (For your individual and privileged classroom contexts)


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