Monday, September 18, 2006

endangered projects

I've been very busy, due partly to just teaching a lot and starting a new term, but also due to personal matters: moving to a new house, helping a son with elbow surgery, helping my wife attend a board meeting in Chicago. It's crowded me especially with some of the projects that are most dear to me. And some of them are on the brink of extinction. I have to write them down just to clarify my priorities....

CESL Today, the CESL student newspaper, is compiled from blogs and tedious html programming- both a print ink-and-paper version and an online version which I love to present & deliver. Unfortunately it's hard to scrape six to eight hours together these days, especially since you need a couple of them to be together just to get focused on the code. If I don't do this, though, I can't tell the teachers to keep it coming, keep putting good stuff on the blogs.

SOS project...haven't done a lick of work on this in a while. It's my true love- making an elegant, simple model for language change and development- one that is readable, and at the same time explains why things are the way they are. I have the linguistics background; I know what I want to do, more or less; I just have to do the research & get it down. At least I've started. Don't want it to die. I'm not the only one working on it- but I'm nevertheless putting it together in my own way.

CESL's static web has about 300 pages; 130 or so in active use; 90% of these need updating of some kind or another. An index would be nice. I've been working on it a little, actually.

The weblogs get bigger and carry more weight...and so need updating. Get some new characters in the squares. Develop the CESL history page, the alumni pages, etc. Some of these are quite nice...actually behind that, is a picture collection that needs to be organized, sorted, labelled, etc.

The cesl chat is being upgraded, improved, moving out. Actually I've been trying to figure out how to use chat with my classes without eating up gobs of time on something they frankly have mastered in their own chat-pidgin kind of way, and don't value as much as I do. I tend to see it as valuable for those who don't focus on the pure fluency aspect of interactions- but about half of my students are the opposite, these days, anyway. I'd like to make it an SIU-community thing...not worry about using it with the classes. Open it up. Make it siu-world chat, or something like that, make it come out of the alumni page, jumpstart a community. It's a dream. If I don't do it though, it won't get done.

Finally, the university is flailing around wondering if second-hand texas vision is good enough for southern Illinois, and what exactly does it mean to serve the people, not to mention which people. I have my own ideas, although they are specific to linguistics and CESL. The world is getting smaller. People are moving into new technology and new media at an astounding pace. Chat and videophones are opening up new forms of communication and people are doing very little to determine what this is doing to the language, to the way we operate, make networks, define the world, think about ourselves, etc. An obvious role for a university that has aspirations for making a difference in the future is to place itself in the forefront of a movement to understand and frame the future of language learning, language teaching, understanding and perception as influenced by forms of media and communication- and finally, the evolution of English itself, as it is influenced by its own use in different environments. I would say, again without even reading the relevant documents, that we can no longer use the same sentences someone used five years ago, if we really want a vision that will yank our Studebaker out of the beer-soaked ditch. But I might need some help with this one- I won't be doing it alone. I've got eight kids, a stack-a-midterms to grade, and have to get a drum set out to Kansas....though I may just frame this argument, in my own terms, with more careful wording, if I can rub a couple of minutes together.

And yes, I do have a band, the Parsley & Sagebrush Band, and yes, we're making a cd, which I'd be glad to share when the time comes, and no, I was unable to play in the last gig, last weekend, or even practice much recently, but yes, I play soon (tomorrow), this time for 2-4 year olds at SIUC's CDL, finest daycare in Carbondale, now that's a tough audience, and I'd better practice a lick or two, before I get started on any of the above. Can't miss a beat- and, would like to get a website for that band too- not to mention one for travel stories, which I'd like to evolve into a kind of auto-biography, so to speak...


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