A recent query on the WPA-list (hey, anybody can sign up…they didn’t ask
for credentials) reminded me that weblogs aren’t yet a
widespread or widely embraced phenom in teaching composition or other disciplines. I forget
that blogs are new-ish, that their potential for writing across the curriculum,
for bridging academic spaces and the public sphere, for expanding access and
interaction are still becoming, out there ahead of us more so than behind us.
At the same time, frustrations, abandonments and malevolent mischaracterizations
of weblogs, such as
“Why your MT blog must die” by J.J. over on
kuro5hin.org early this
week, prove a counter tide (undertow?), a critical, if sometimes uncareful,
acknowledgement of a few problematic sides to the proliferation of sites much
like this one. But I don’t want to give J.J. too much credit; instead, I want
to suggest weblogs will continue their ever-widening service of
important, fascinating functions for education, information systems,
entertainment and tech-socialization.
That said, it’s time to share the link for the weblog we’re spinning in EN106
this semester: link.
We’re approximately two weeks into compulsory posts. I’ve been talking
about refinement in asynchronous writing because there are a few IMisms–the
usual informalities in synchronous comm environs. Since this takes our
students’ writing and, inevitably, our teaching fully into view for the tech-using public, I can
imagine potential consequences, cases of quiet disaproval, as in “Did you see what DM is
encouraging/saying/allowing in that weblog?” *pinching nose* But that’s part of
the process; it comes along with most forms of critical contact. I’m
pushing against my compulsions for blogotopia (you think J.J. would like that
clunky term?), and I prefer opportunities for wide-open exchange and attention
from those who have better ideas about how to make all of this work, over the
alternatives of insularity, internal monologue, or disinterested silence. Suggestions and “what ifs,” in other words, are always welcome.
D.’s working on a lesson plan for her second graders on Monday. She’s charged with teaching them to tell time using analog face-clocks, old-style tickers, long hand and short. Which one signifies minutes again? Talking over the lesson with her, I was having fun with the idea that we drill time systems quite early in life. Alphabetic literacy is only few months–in developmental terms, curricular terms–ahead of chronological literacy. And in an ever-busy age, maybe it’s chronological literacy that puts the squeeze on the glee of childhood. What the hell am I talking about?
Coincidentally, I just received an email from G. at Time Lapse Productions. No kidding. The message title: HI. I’ve been getting a lot of those lately. I don’t want to name names or point fingers, but I have a hunch that our IT folks are fertilizing the WWW with stuff to feed the worm, since half of my daily email intake at work (about twenty message each day) has been wormy. They’re pleasant, though. Like this note from G., the message title is friendly. It’s the body of the note that is impersonal: The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and has been sent as a binary attachment. Yes indeed, a title can do a lot to draw a reader into a document.
D.’s lesson. She’s concerned with the rigid points of the curriculum. Students must refer to 30-minutes after the hour as “half past.” That’s the language on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests. So, when we’re talking about the time lesson, D. explained how they only had one day for each hand, one day for fifteen-minute units, one day for half-hour units, one day for five-minute units. Meanwhile, I’m looking at my digital Timex (but still offering up alert, focused attention), wondering *how long until this analog arrangement gets dumped by its own invention?* *how long until there won’t be time to teach time-telling, provided the regimen and pace gain steam in perpetuity?*
She has a fine lesson complete with foldable paper plate clock faces. The second graders won’t need to know about the Benedictine monks or King Charles V who started using the bell-chimes as social organizers in Paris in 1370 (re-reading Technopoly, so I’m not digging too awfully deep for this information). None of the antecedents to formal time structures will be on the MAP tests. I just hope for D.’s sake they pick up the language of time. It’d be a shame for them to call “half past nine” by the name of “nine-thirty” or, worse yet, “going on ten.” Suppose they’ll learn to break form later on.
Claro! (2.7.04) I said I was paying full, complete, undivided attention. Not so. D. read this entry. It wasn’t the MAP test at all. “Half past” is district-speak for thirty minutes after.
Up at 5:00 a.m., straight to work, taught class at 8:40 a.m. All
classes were canceled by 11:00 a.m. Too much snow. All
administrative offices were officially closed up by 2:00 p.m. So why am I
still at work? You probably want an answer. (If you don’t, well, it’s okay
to stop reading here.)
I do have an answer. There’s a women’s basketball game. (Ha!
Basketball…ad delirium.) The team from Oklahoma traveled in last night,
bussing in just ahead of the snow storm that blitzed us with eight inches of
fresh powder since last night. They got refs, so they can play. It’s
that simple. As for me, well, I can’t justify enlisting your pity for
working conditions that I’ve been complicit in creating. Since I’m not
neatly staff, not neatly faculty, I’m still at work. Did have time today
to tote my camera through the flurries, push the shutter button enough to glean
these images. And toiled–with success–over the code for author
images in our class weblog for EN106, which I will reveal soon. Maybe this
FWIW, Sam’s comments yesterday have me thinking about the relationship
between explicit standards and grading practices in ed-blogging. I’ll turn
around an entry on that one of these days.
Read and respond to project prospectuses from online introduction to humanities. | Lunch meeting over bad news about royalties and CMS contract bids.| Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. | Mini-pizza; ham and pimentoed green olives. | What are you playing with? What is that sound? | Many of the HU211 students are choosing option I: Invitation to document human actuality fueled by R. Coles. | Options II–Crazy Dance and III–Humanities (e)Notebook have been much more popular in past terms. Odd. | Puzzling over blogging standards. Not because I’m a grammar hound but because I want the writing there to be done with care. | Stampede Blue versus Lakers tonight at 7:00 p.m. with you know who as acting coach. [Extra: L, 20-17. Yes, it is basketball. Defense first!] | Dinner’s ready. Do you want anything to drink? Ice water, please. Ice water.
Blogging to a trickle this week. Deepdeepfloodload of stuff to do. A bobbing head in an ocean of information. You know?
I know a bad day when I’m having one. But I won’t allow this space to
become cluttered with lamentations and day-to-day annoyances. Everyone’s
enough of that, and while sharing does lend some relief, EWM must not become dark and crabby. I’m trying not to be bothered by the echo and aftereffect of the Super Bowl halftime show. We watched the game with a few friends. One friend is the minister from our church. Don’t worry. It’s a hip, progressive,
contemporary church–multi-denominational with a strong message of peace, so we got to watch the rest of the game without too much hellfire and damnation about sins of the flesh: in case you missed it, Justin Timberlake tore Janet Jackson’s costume-brazier. We all looked at each other and asked, “What was
that?”. Phillip, with his twelve-year-old critical filters for
defining pop culture incidents, savored it more than the rest of us.
I should probably go to sleep instead of blogging into a stupor. Today
was not a snow day. No snowbound writing retreat. No quiet, peaceful
flakiness to put off usual Monday anxieties. I’ve been wondering–as I
paced through another workday–how bad a weather predictor must be to earn a
reprimand. I mean, I know it’s the Midwest. I know the weather isn’t
easy to predict. But they (name your forecaster, your channel, your fancy Doppler
radar system) have all of the technology foretelling the pressures and
humidities. On Friday, they promised 10-18 inches of snow. We got
two inches. Feels like fraud, since our first-Monday-of-the-new-month
staff meeting (a two hour drone about recruiting…ugh!) was not cancelled. Here I go again, whining about workaday life. Promised I wouldn’t. Beg pardon.
This semester is my first using a weblog for a composition course. The
course is EN106; its course description promises this: “The
course teaches students to write effectively for various purposes and audiences.
It also helps to develop further skills in critical thinking and reading.
Special emphasis is given to information retrieval and writing a research
paper.” I decided to make one group blog and to make blog-writing
compulsory. It’s a lot like what takes shape in the online courses I’ve
developed where course requirements call for a kind of double-entry journal from which dialogue unfolds. I like the asynchronous interaction. The
compulsory element calls for a total of four entries each week: one
250-word entry must relate to our course concerns (the questions we’re taking up from the reading and related discussions), one 250-word entry must trace a
selected theme throughout the semester–for thirteen or fourteen weeks.
The other two entries can be about anything, any length, etc., including
comments on other entries. This is in addition to six essays and a few other
options, all of which allow the students to make choices about what work they
I went with compulsory posts because I wanted to ensure that the blog caught on. I also wanted to enable students to pursue their own interests in fullness and with sustained attention. In other words, I find the nature of many blogs bring about nuggeted writing–truncated blurbs about whatever notion strikes, a kind of Short Attention Span Theatre of sound bytes. Calling for a sustained theme will induce, I hope, a sense of coherence and continuity and will lead us toward ways of talking about and understanding ongoing research
pursuits (research isn’t all coherence and continuity, FWIW. It’s plenty of digging, sifting, discovery, misadventure and curiosity, too, I’d say).
After our first week of writing in the course weblog, I have the impression that it’s too much writing (right…never mind…there’s
no such thing. Is there?). For now, I think I’ll stick to the pre-cut
path. The rest is wilderness. Good thing we’re not alone.
Narrow window for a brief entry this evening, since sloppy joes are
already started in the other room and, well, an unmonitored stove…blog…unmonitored stove…blog. You see the dilemma. Plus, we’ve scored free tickets to tonight’s KC Knights-Long Beach ABA game. It’s a one-two matchup, but I admit to being basketballed out, and the kids have practice in the morning again. But Phillip’s forever enthusiastic, so we’ll wear smiles tonight and root for the home team. Of course, I was looking forward to seeing Rodman-in-full-madness play one last time, but my friend O. from Detroit (who went to high school with a player on the Long Beach team) told me today that the Worm didn’t make the trip. Bummer!
Been thinking about two essay projects. Got an email about the upcoming
publication for the Greater Kansas City Writing Project inquiring whether anyone
on the listserv was currently publishing student writing on the Internet.
I replied, saying, “Yes. We have a blog. It’s rather like publishing on the Internet.” Then came the invitation to write about it before next Wednesday. Should be no problem as long as we get walloped with snow on Sunday and Monday. I really like the carefree pace of snowbound days, and we don’t get many around here. Usually grey skies and ice storms.
So that’s one project: an essay explaining why weblogs in education. Not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I want to articulate a model of use that dispels the free-for-all mythos of unmediated e-comm while acknowledging the great boon of audience engagement and frequent, visible writing. It’s mainly for K-12 teachers who’ve not ventured far into the craggy terrain of weblogs in ed.
The other essay project (I will not burn the joes!) is for my students, mainly. I need to come up with a way of describing how we might read blogs rhetorically, how we might apply a close reading, seek answers to questions about how blogs connect with rhetorical terms of art. Right…the stove.
Nothing like Lou Reed and Co. to chew through the icy dip of deep winter.
When I re-read yesterday’s post–Creeping Thing–it left me with doubts, planted in me a faint sense of how I was depicting a radically political persona–the breath behind the screen, the blog’s “I.” It felt risky to pronounce such views and brought me back to the questions I had when I first hanged the Open sign on this writing space.
Who will you be? Which you will you be there? On top of that–as if it wasn’t enough to have a bad blogging day at EWM–I went ahead and typed some “hypothetical” drivel at
Kairosnews.org. I don’t usually post there, just lurk. Thinking now that it’s better that way. Lurking. And moods pass.
In class today, I talked about the comparative blog-reading essay coming up. It’s not a neat exercise, since I can’t corral the scope of weblogs and what their makers set out to do. I have students who say that weblogging seems “weird.” Many of them never heard of it before this course. So I want them to have a look, peek in on a few blogs, surmise what’s taking shape there and why it’s relevant. Presuming that, indeed, it is. Sooner or later I’ll link to the blog for our class. It’s in its infancy–an awkward, foundling stage where the posted-stuff is a bit raw, unrefined and in need of greater care. Wait…um…that describes this blog too. Soon enough.
We looked at Blue Ridge Blog as a model. Class ended at 9:55 a.m. Forty-five minutes later I received an email from Marie, the photojournalist whose interesting work populates Blue Ridge Blog. She’d noticed huge spikes in site traffic–rocket-launch,
moon-bound spikes. Among other things, Marie says, “Wish I was a fly on the wall of your classroom.”
Flattering, I think. If she’d been a fly there, on the classroom’s wall, Marie
might have witnessed (en fragmentum–see
her post on pixels) the first student ever to send me an email during
class, about class discussion, while we were in the same room. A teachable moment. The embodiment of Postman’s questions about the future of education: “Now comes the computer, carrying anew the banner of private learning and individual problem-solving. Will the widespread use of computers in the classroom defeat once and for all the claims of communal speech? Will the computer raise egocentrism to the status of a virtue?”
In virtuosity, we were less present at times than the magnificent machines.
During a 4.5 hour meeting today, I daydreamed for just a few minutes about this:
One | Phillip has teamed up with a friend for a social studies project: a two-page essay and a model of the Colosseum (then or now?). Due Wednesday. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Fine. But can a replica of one bit of Rome (clay, tooth picks, styrofoam!) come together in 1.5 days? Working like
fine modern architects, they’ve planned, plotted for two weeks, then forced the material
“making” into the final 36 hours. I, for one, feel worn down by school projects. I vowed to take on a lesser role ever since
our salt dough map of Missouri (delivered in a Papa Johns box, greenish-dough-hardened with flags and labels, Ozark Mountains and so on) scored a
Dream-thought Two | Finished reading Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry on Saturday. Slow for me to start, but really picked up in the
latter half. The notion of grafting in the book got me thinking about metaphors for mixed-mode or hybrid pedagogies, although it’s not a book
on teaching, per se. It’s not explicitly on sexing either, although the beast-woman romps through at least one scene. Intercoursing space and time,
Postlude | From STC: “A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true. And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done. Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identify, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only very little has been discovered” (88).
I left the session–a bureaucratic upside down cake–with 3/4 of a page of notes on strategic planning. Lots of talking, so, accordingly, I feel I’ve used up my allocation of Monday words.
Last night’s evening news presented a segment on an ignition control device
installed in cars sold on credit to “high-risk” consumers. The
device was dubbed “digital repo man” in the news clip (which included
lots of footage of one-handed fumbling with a phone line connection under the
steering wheel). Basically, it works like this:
Car-buyer-with-no-credit needs a set of wheels. Salesperson wants
desperately to serve the consumer by closing the deal. Line of cars have
Digi-repo pre-installed. Deal is settled. Now, each time the
consumer starts the car, a keypad-entered code is required, which tells the car
that the driver is paid up. With each on-time monthly payment, the car
buyer gets a new code–good for the next 30 days. No late payments.
While I haven’t fully mulled over the consequences of such devices, my first
impression is that it adds a layer of complication to common understandings of
ownership for products bought on credit. The role of technology in this
process interests me, too. The electronic gadget becomes a strict,
unwavering control (not unlike in-dash breathalyzers), but the control is tied
to economic status, like an ever-present credit report.
I went online looking for more information about the device, the
company–Pastime–that makes it, and what other surveillance-like mechanisms, if any, they make. I still haven’t found much, even when I search for the company rep cited in the article, Stan Schwarz. Our local news station’s
web site had a word-for-word copy of this brief piece from wnbc.com: Car Not Working? Check To See If You Paid Your Bills.
It’s some kind of thinly attributed article in “Ask Asa,” which, as
fully as I can tell, is a team-written advice column on financial matters.
The WNBC site posted the article in early December. Here, in the deep,
deep recesses of the Midwest, our local news station aired it last night.
Which gives me hope that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King will be in local theaters soon!
My searching wasn’t without a fruitful discovery. I found this link for
a visual thesaurus. I’m not a big thesaurus user, but the visual thesaurus, driven by Thinkmap, is kind of like a fish tank populated by words. The associational glide is oddly seductive, relaxing. Useful, perhaps, for
visualizing the fray of connotations detached from contexts.