school starts monday!

August 25, 2006

As of Monday, this blog will become the “official” class blog site for all three sections of ENG105 that I will be teaching. Students will use this site as they would use the announcement board, assignment posting, and syllabus access on BlackBoard (or webCT). I’ve decided to host these blogs directly through wordpress. Although there are benefits to hosting through edublogs (including, apparently, good spam-blockers and the ability for students to collaborate through wiki use), the integration of flock and wordpress makes blogging clean and easy–something that is important to this project. Again, as dave and I have mentioned, one of the goals of this project is to take an educator who is NOT tech savvy (myself) and create a writing course that uses technology to make teaching/life easier, while making learning more fully integrated, communicative, and exploratory. The goal is to make technology accessible and usable by ALL educators and students while remaining true to an open-source model.

On that note…there have been a few questions / comments raised about our decision to use flock. Dave has more to say about this choice, as he is handling the technology end of things, but I would like to add to/reinforce his thoughts. It was both a technical/technology choice and a pedagogical one. One of my goals is to have students interacting with the web, finding news sources, assessing them, responding to them, quoting from them. Flock allows them to do this in a very direct way. I don’t want the web to be the thing we are all pushing our students away from for fear of plagiarism. Yes, it is easy to cut and paste, and yes, flock makes it easy to do so, but instead of instilling the “fear of god” (or fear of our policing efforts) in our students over utilizing internet sources, we can work together toward using them responsibly in an open way. I also think the simplicity of the RSS reader feature on flock will be great for my students’ use. (I plan to do a specific (short) lesson on how to read in this unique way–sorting through headlines and excerpts to distill relevant and useful information and then slowing down to read carefully and thoughtfully). I’m sure there are other great programs that allow for this combination of uses (blogging and RSS reader), and I’m welcome to suggestions (I know there are some already appearing on AcademHacK). Again, this is my first semester utilizing these tools and as with any initial run-through, it is, in part, and experiment.

And, on that note, I will be following the pedagogical aspects of this “experiment” on my blog, the most cake.

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In his essay, “Resisting Academics” (found in Andrea Greenbaum’s collection, Insurrections: Approaches to Resistance in Composition), Bruce Horner argues against composition’s resistance to “the academic” and defends academic discourse as having “use value” that is often overlooked in our fixation on “exchange-value.” He borrows from Tom Fox’s ideas in Defending Access: A Critique of Standards in Higher Education and makes the point that the issue we face in composition classes is not “which discursive form to use but how to participate in continuing literate traditions of using a variety of discursive forms, traditions ordinarily hidden from view by the dominant” (182). Horner and Fox argue that just because a certain discursive form is understood by dominant culture to be a certain way and having a specific purpose (e.g. academic discourse can’t be relevant to or address the personal) does not mean that the form is as static, as “fixed in meaning” as we assume it to be. Textual forms–even academic discourse, according to Horner–can be put to a variety of uses in a variety of contexts, dependent, in part, on “the conditions making possible those practices and the work to which readers and writers so situated may put them” (Horner 182).

I am hoping that blogging in first-year writing classes can have the potential to explore, experiment with, and illustrate these arguments that Horner and Fox make. As both readers and writers of blogs students will be exposed to the various textual forms used for blogging, as well as the UNfixed meaning, purpose, and use of these writings. It will be about exploring the conditions that might be involved in producing various types of writing–even though we may not always know them or have access to them. We can at least see our own situatedness as students, readers, writers, etc..

Another pedagogical goal that I aim to achieve through blogging with my classes is to illustrate the ways in which “good” writing is context-bound and to help them understand the ways in which the privileging of certain types of writing is inextricably linked to the privileging of certain ways of knowing, certain kinds of power and authority. The important question to always ask will be: To whose power/authority are we appealing when we write a certain way? Do we want access to that power/authority? If so, why? And more importantly, for what use? Blogging allows for a variation of writing from that of the traditional language of the academy–academic discourse (whatever that may be), and thereby (hopefully) will give a perspective from which to compare the various contexts in which we write (within a context that is getting more and more use each day).

questions of efficiency

August 8, 2006

Right now I am trying to decide if it is better for each section of ENG105 to have their own class blog site, or, because I’m teaching three sections of the same class, keep one site that all three classes reference. If class announcements were to be different from section to section, I could indicate that in the subject line. It might get confusing however. On the other hand, will it get confusing for me to manage three separate blogs while reading sixty-some student blogs plus comments–not to mention all the other elements that the courses entail?

I have similar thoughts about the OPML document that I’ll eventually send to all students in order for them to use flock as an RSS reader. If this part doesn’t make sense, it is because dave of academHacK fame is helping me with the technology end of this little project. He will explain it more clearly, but basically, I will be setting up folders that contain each student’s URL to her/his blog and sending this so that each student will have access to reading her/his peers’ blogs. My thought, though, is to possibly send all three folders (one for each section) to each student, allowing them access to other blogs from other sections (if s/he is so inclined).

thoughts on the pedagogy

August 7, 2006

Proprietary software has a weird, creepy surveillance feeling to it. It is closed off from the world, perpetuating the myth that the walls of academia somehow keep us “safe” from, different than, separate from the outside world. Keeping information and knowledge closed and private continues the narrative of the “ivory tower.” By contrast, blogs and other various forms of open source/free software allow for a shared space, a space that numerous users have access to. The narrative that education is about sharing knowledge and disseminating information stands a chance through the sharing of ideas/writing online in an open forum (such as blogs/blogging). It is for these reasons–in part–that I want to integrate blogging into my writing classes.

Current writing pedagogy is interested in ideas surrounding the publication of student writing. Blogs give a space for self-publication. Utilizing the comments function also allows for an interactive writing/publication space–one where students learn to converse and share ideas not only with their peers and not just for teacher, but with (potentially) the world. It is for this kind of dynamic writing environment that I want to implement a blogging reqirement in my writing classes.

Blogging is easy and managable, while also allowing for a wide-range of user ability. Students can be introduced to technology usage through blogging, but they can also push the knowledge and skills that they already have–learning code, creating and altering templates, changing colors, importing links and photos. Sharing links to other blogs and news events allows students to have their thumbs on the pulse of the web and the world–staying on top of rapid changes in both events and technology.

Finally, as cliche as it is, many of these students in our writing classes (and all of our classes) grew up in front of the computer–and particularly–in front of the internet. Blogging places writing–for many students–in their domain. These are further reasons for blogging in the writing classroom.

welcome

August 7, 2006

This is my first post in what will eventually become the class blog site for one of my three ENG105 sections. By class blog site I mean that this blog will serve as “base camp”–the place to access the syllabus, assignments, and course related news. Ulimately this is the instructor’s blog. Each student will have her/his own blog.

This is my first attempt at blogging in a writing class and my first time using wordpress (my other blog is hosted over at blogger.com). Having a class blog is my attempt at NOT utilitzing the proprietary software (Blackboard) purchased by the institution.

Blogging as I set up the class will allow me to play with wordpress and get accustomed to using it, so that I can teach my students how to use it, although some of them may already be bloggers and may have a thing or two to teach me. Blogging this process also gives me a forum for articulating my pedagogy–both in theory and in practice–explaining myself as I enact what I’m doing and want my students to do.