Friday, December 19. 2008
If you still don't get what Creative Commons is all about (or you want to have it explained to your students or colleagues), try this video.
It explains Creative Commons using work licensed under CC licenses which provide ways for authors, artists, and educators to easily mark their creative work so that other users know what can and can not be done with their intellectual property.
Serendipity35 has carried a Creative Commons license since its launch. Here's the simple version of that particular license - and the complete version which looks more like what you'd expect for legal talk.
Thursday, December 18. 2008
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
The New Jersey College English Association (NJCEA) is soliciting panels and papers considering a broad range of literary and composition topics for its annual conference on March 21, 2009 at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
NJCEA brings together those interested in language, literature, pedagogy, and other aspects of the teaching and study of literature and writing. Paper proposals are now being accepted for a variety of panels.
I'm putting together a panel on blogging and would love to connect with some English teachers who use blogging as a teaching tool. I'd like to have papers on students as bloggers, teachers blogging for their students, teachers blogging as educators and the pedagogy of using blogs as readings and as writing platforms.
There are panels planned on poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and other topics. You can contact me or any panel's convener via the email addresses on the site.
Full and part-time college instructors, graduate students, and other professionals within the field of English are invited to send panel proposals and 250-word paper abstracts on any topic related to college English. Email submissions should include your name, e-mail address, affiliation, and mailing address.
Wednesday, December 17. 2008
I'm thinking about it...
Tuesday, December 16. 2008
I was sent a link to a blog post on "Seven stupid mistakes teachers make with technology" by Doug Johnson. The audience seems to be K-12 teachers, but I see no reason not to share with the higher education world.
I have to agree with mistakes like "not backing up data" and "thinking online communication is ever private."
But number 7 is the big one - "Thinking technology will go away in schools." Too many educators still seem to treat technologies like online learning, course management systems, ePortfolios and others as if they are just another education fad.
As the post says, "It is stupid to think technology will go away in education. It isn't going away in banking, medicine, business, science, agriculture - anywhere else in society. Thinking "this too shall pass" about technology is pretty stupid."
There are some good additions in the comments section of the post too.
I'll add to the list: blaming the technology when a lesson or projects doesn't work out the way you planned; not being willing to go to training or reading the support materials for new software; expecting technology to improve your teaching on its own; not having a backup plan in case the technology fails.
What would you add to the list?
To be fair, Doug also offers "7 Brilliant Things Teachers Do With Technology" too.
Monday, December 15. 2008
You see a sign on a store window. “Come inside,” it says, “for CD’s, VIDEO’s, DVD’s, and BOOK’s.”
Your reaction is A) So what? B) You see this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes and it causes a gasp of horror.
This post is for those who answered "B."
As Lynne Truss writes in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, those who answer "A" should congratulate themselves for not being a pedant or even a stickler and continue to live in a world of plummeting punctuation standards.
The book was an unlikely bestseller in both the UK & US. The title of her book is explained in this brief story.
You should give her online punctuation game a try. I did not do as well as I expected on it and only received a "stickler" rating.
In this time of text messages, microblogs, and Tweets, it's tough to be a punctuation stickler. Take a look at this excerpt from Eats, Shoots & Leaves and you'll get a sense at the humorous approach of the book.
Remember that sentence that someone used at a workshop and asked you to punctuate?
WOMAN WITHOUT HER MAN IS NOTHING
Supposedly, the women in the room will write something like Woman: without her, man is nothing. The men will counter with Woman, without her man, is nothing. The sticklers start talking about woman versus women and the arguing begins.
I also recall this workshop classic. Separate the words in this sentence: Thejobsarenowhere.
I really enjoyed teaching the novella Flowers for Algernon (made into the film Charly). Charlie tries to impress his teacher by asking her to make sense of: that that is is that that is not is not is that all that is all
Then he does his revision to show her: That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that all? That is all.
Of course, the greatest danger in writing a post like this is that some pedant will find a punctuation or grammatical error in it and smugly post a comment. Luckily, I can edit the post quite easily, and I can even delete the comment. Error? What error? I do love revisionist history.
Friday, December 12. 2008
The end of the year always brings top 10 lists of bests and worst. Some researchers at Oxford University have compiled a list of the top 10 most irritating expressions.
The researchers who compiled the list monitor the use of phrases in a database called the Oxford University Corpus. That's a database that compiles texts (written and spoken) in electronic form. Containing over 200 billion words of 21st century English, it gives evidence of actual and contextual language usage worldwide. The database documents various forms of the English language ranging from literary novels, specialist journals, magazines and newspapers to blogs, chat rooms and emails. It's a way to reveal variations of words, uses of jargon, changes in word form, patterns in closely associated words and the progression of misusages into accepted, standard language.
Jeremy Butterfield, lexicographer, is the author of A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare which contains the list.
I've got a few on my own list that irritate me.
It's not just that I taught English for 25 years, because I know the rest of you also have your lists. My list would include those out of context uses of “ironically” and “literally.” Add to the list people who make everything into a bad simile with "like" plus getting rhetorical for no reason by adding “you know” to sentences. Extra irritation points for "like, you know."
My current most irritating and overused word is "basically." Listen to students, presenters, media celebs and almost anyone and you might hear a string of them - "Well, basically, what we need to do is innovate basically all of the infrastructure." It's more than just a filler word (um, ah). I think it's a sign of the effects of PowerPoint, bullet lists, short form news articles, microblogging, attention deficit disorder, Sesame Street, and a large helping of laziness.
Thursday, December 11. 2008
Malcolm Gladwell has a new book out called OUTLIERS:The Story of Success. It's full of interesting pop sociology. Why are a disproportionately large number of professional hockey and soccer players born in January, February and March? Gladwell will try to convince you that the best hockey players are not only talented and hard workers but they benefit from some largely unexamined and peculiar ways in which their world is organized.
What do Bill Gates, the Beatles and Mozart have in common besides talent and ambition? Each had the opportunity to intensively cultivate a skill.
How much of an opportunity? One of his points that has gotten a lot of attention so far is the idea that you need 10,000 hours (10 years) of time devoted to a skill or discipline to master it and be successful.
So, is he saying it is all about hard work? Is the secret of success nature or nurture? In Gladwell's book, it leans heavily towards nurture. Individual merit takes a back seat to culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck.Gladwell is good at this type of writing. I read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and enjoyed the ideas there, but I'm not totally convinced about the validity of the ideas.
I was reading an interview with Gladwell on GoodReads where they asked him about recent "tipping points":
How about election night? That's the obvious one — it will probably be one of the biggest tipping points I'll see in my lifetime. I'm not a student of politics, so I don't know what pushed it. But one of the themes of the stories I tell in Outliers is that it is never obvious at the time. You only see patterns in retrospect. I don't think we know yet. I think I'm right in thinking that the election of Obama is a tipping point, but how and why and for what purpose, we have no clue. We won't know for many, many years.
The iPod is also clearly a tipping point (and I'm not quite sure it is a wholly positive development), because it is a revolution in the way that we consume creative property, which I would call art. It has radically changed the relationship between the artist and the audience, how money changes hands, and how much money changes hands. Music was the first, and books are coming next. The Kindle or some form of electronic book is clearly inevitable, and it will massively reshape how books are sold, who pays for them, and how they're consumed. It is going to be really fascinating. We're going to have to remake the whole world of publishing in the next 20 years.
In the world of statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data. Statistics derived from data sets that include outliers may be misleading. That's the feeling I get from many ideas in this book. Take his look at why Asian children score higher on math tests. He looks at the tremendous labor required to cultivate rice as it has been done in East Asia for thousands of years. It's a long way to say that the Asian children have a cultural bias to just work harder. I realize that Gladwell is using "outlier" more as a way to describe people and phenomena that are outside normal experience.
Gladwell's success with his earlier books has probably pushed some other Idea books like The Wisdom of Crowds (by another New Yorker writer James Surowiecki) and a book that I thought of immediately when I started reading Outliers, the bestseller from 2005, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt.
What's Malcolm Gladwell up to next?
I'm back at The New Yorker, and my next story is about teachers and quarterbacks. It is all about what they have in common and also the problem of trying to figure out if someone is going to be good at something before they actually start the job. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out who's going to be a good NFL quarterback, and we do a very bad job of it. We don't really know. And we also spend a lot of time trying to figure out who will be a good teacher, and we're really bad at that too. We don't know if someone is going to be a good teacher when they start teaching. So what should we do in those situations in which predictions are useless?
Gladwell's own web site is http://www.gladwell.com
Video of Gladwell at Pop!Tech2008 - Pop sociologist and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has honed in on a profound new question: what separates extraordinary and average people? Discussing findings from his much-anticipated book "Outliers," Gladwell details how we're squandering human potential everywhere from the football field to the classroom - and what we can do to change it.
Wednesday, December 10. 2008
A group of ninth graders have been using Google Lively as part of a project teaching digital citizenship. Unfortunately, as I have written here, Google has announced it will shut their virtual world experiment down on December 31st.
Their teacher is Vicki Davis. She was someone who worked with Ning to get ad-free student networks. She has been influential in the Web 2.0 education world, and you might know her from her wonderful Flat Classroom program.
They are asking for people to create an account on Lively to get Google's attention.
Can they save Lively? I'm not that optimistic that Google will reverse their decision, but I'm very optimistic about what these kids are learning and doing. Listen to them on the video talk about digital citizenship, copyright, teaching younger kids good and safe Net skills and you know that some important learning is going on in that classroom. Their protest alone is a great piece of real world classroom learning. They would also like to see others start their own Lively rooms, sign the Lively petition, write to Google, blog about this and just raise a virtual ruckus.
This particular issue is also a cautionary tale about using services and applications in the cloud that you can't control. (Of course, how much control do teachers have over ANY application they use?) If all your photos are in Flickr and Yahoo! decides to make Flickr go away, what happens to that photo archive you created? If the host of your wiki or social network goes away, what happens to your content? Not that educators should be frightened away from Web 2.0 or cloud computing. I don't see many real alternatives in some teaching situations, and I certainly want to see educators use the new tools with students.
Monday, December 8. 2008
I was reading a post by Bud the Teacher called "NCTE Brain Dump." I wasn't at the recent NCTE conference in Texas, but I like what he points to from it. [emphasis below is all mine]
That post led me to another by Will Richardson
"...you get the sense that this whole blogging thing may finally, finally, finally be tipping over the edge in terms not just of a tool to publish but of a tool to connect... For as much as I am writing this right now to articulate my thoughts clearly and cogently to anyone who chooses to read it, what I am also attempting to do is connect these ideas to others’ ideas, both in support and in opposition, around this topic. Without rehashing all of those posts about Donald Murray and Jay David Bolter, I’m trying to engage you in some way other than just a nod of the head or a sigh of exasperation. I’m trying to connect you to other ideas, other minds. I want a conversation, and that changes the way I write. And it changes the way we think about teaching writing"
In a course I'm teaching this semester at NJIT, all my students are required to have a blog where they post "assignments" from the course. There were 14 this semester and a few students have done more than that, but most of them have not made the shift to seeing their blog as more than an assignment. Sure, it's "authentic" writing and it has a "real audience" to address beyond myself and the class, but there's more that I want from them. (Of course, they have to want it, not me.)
The blog has been a good way for my students to create a writing portfolio. They seem to quite naturally reflect on their previous posts and link to their own writing and that of others. For that particular course, I'm also using the blog as a visual design tool, so the way they they write for the network (Web) includes more than the words.
The big mistake that many profit & non-profit institutions have made in moving their traditional print materials online is that they often do JUST that - move them online. The press release that they used to mail to newspapers is now a pdf that they email. No color images that can be reproduced, no links to more material or mail links to key individuals. This has been improving over the past five years, but it is still not ubiquitous.
I agree with NCTE that:
Maybe it's time for us to get The End of the Essay back out on the road...
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