Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How blogging affects the academic ecosystem

Leverett, T. (2007, May). How blogging affects the academic ecosystem. Presentation at 2nd Webheads in Action Online Convergence, including chat at Tapped In, static web site, and weblog with notes.

This presentation was very interesting to me in many ways. I overcame my timidity, knowing I was over my head with the technology that is routine for the online education crowd- and, being somewhat rushed in preparation, had to pull together the notes and the writing linked above in somewhat of a hurry. The presentation was meant to deal with the implications of people like Daniel Drezner and Juan Cole, or even small nobodies like yours truly, who muscle out a public presence (in the form of a blog) in a world that otherwise has a lot to say, and many control issues, around delivery of information and image presentation. Not that I ever experienced any of this pressure from above (I haven't), but, doing research on those who had helped me to some degree face the inevitable perils of embracing public dialogue and public fame (notoriety), should either ever come to fruition.

Like others, I came into blogging from the point of view of feeling that it would be useful for my students; I started doing it myself and got drawn in by the do-it-yourself, personalized media aspect of it, and loved this enough to find out what I could about the perils. I have parallel blogs too- a work one, a personal one, a writing one, etc. which I keep separate and which don't cross each other's paths much. I try to keep personal stuff personal and not hold it out as a model to my students- but nevertheless have been drawn by the power of the ability to speak- at any time, to whomever.

The text chat transcript I have put on the web here as I find myself rereading it for ideas which it is full of. Some of the visitors had read what I prepared and had comments about it; others read it as I delivered it; others no doubt never read it or even looked at it, but stopped by for a chat nonetheless. 11pm our time was rather inconvenient everywhere except CA and here; nevertheless I got visitors from as far away as Australia, Maryland, Phoenix, Sacramento (ever heard it called "Sacratomato"?) and Oregon, and possibly a few others. The online crowd is an interesting community, with a definite perspective and sharp comments about my choice of text-only (positively medieval, said one), no audio, video-cam or whiteboard. They notice the effects of different media on the communication of an event, and mine stood out for its low-tech nature. Later this commenting blossomed into an interesting discussion on the nature of the relationship between speaking and writing- which is definitely something I'm interested in; I may explore this more later in another post.

Sticking to the blogging professional (which we didn't, not at all times), we covered some interesting issues: blogging encourages transparency, and is part of a worldwide transparency movement, which can be seen in many realms. Because nothing is truly anonymous (as one person said, and, as was pointed out later, even erased posts can be recovered (in the wayback archive), bloggers are truly brave (sticking your neck out - part of the turtle syndrome...(though the clever turtle) knows when it is time to pull his head in)...which brings up one of the main themes: although they seem transitory, temporal, blogs are in fact quite permanent....the beauty of a blog is its permanence, said one discussant, though I don't know if I agree. Another said, It's scary to google your name and get homework from a year ago come up...one more mentioned that we should definitely stress this with our students, but, though I agreed, I was more interested in effects of personal blogging, professional out into the world. The permanence of blogs and what is written in them is something I'd like to explore more.

The blog, it was pointed out, is conversational in nature, and therefore straddles, to some degree, the different worlds of speech and text (this brought about the aforementioned discussion of the different nature of each)...And, it was pointed out, learning how to hypertext appropriately is an art in itself- it's a different way of writing entirely...and, there is a different 'voice' required to engage the reader online...though it's like e-mail: it's not more private than a postcard, i.e., NOT private...so, in the end, I was in awe of the utter bravery of those of us who, like Drezner, put ourselves out so often, so regularly. One job applicant was reconsidering earlier posts: I pictured myself as a job applicant who, unlike Drezner perhaps, had not got enough fame out of blogging to raise my own desirability or price as an academic. All this transparency can, in fact, bring up all kinds of emotions, much like the high-school bathroom where they'd ripped out all the stall walls for security reasons. Several disagreed with the assertion that true transparency was occurring or washing over the universe (Everyone is hiding SOMETHING, said one; another said, "I don't see things transparent...indeed...I see things as amazingly atavistic. You can't talk seriously about blogs when half the districts in this country filter them"...). I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but I did notice at one point in my research that someone had commented: some people use them to put forward a false, pretentious front; others, like the ones I'm more interested in, are more seriously committed to speaking to the public about their field of expertise- speaking bluntly, honestly, with a sense of activism and desire to affect change. One only does this if one has an agenda, of course. Or if one is seeking the truth from a kind of collective wisdom.

Several of the discussants had used blogs for various purposes- and willingly shared them. They mentioned collabrative team reflection practice, mentoring and coaching, organizing and saving notes, and digital storytelling as different functions of their own blogs. It brought up a dilemma I have- namely that my personal reflections and creative writing, though also public, are not necessarily appropriate for my students or necessary to put in front of them at every moment. One person mentioned that this has caused a lack of transparency within herself; another, more active online with chat etc., has a gulf between online self and professional self. A third commented on what it's like when so many people know you from your online writing before they meet you- how writing is now the gateway through which we build relationships.

Some of the interesting blogs shared: Ms. Mercer's reflections; Carole's Baranduda; Nina's blog about blogging and reading blog; Grail action research; Nicholas elementary blog; Monica's class blog.

Which brings up a final point- like the most recent TESOL, and the ILTESOL-BE, this online conference had more than a few k-12 educators with distinctly k-12 views. While most online practitioners agree about a lot of things: that online education is a wave of the future; that the young should learn how to communicate in many environments; that we educators should stay abreast of changes, etc.- in weblogging at least, our experiences are so different as to defy understanding, on my part, sometimes. We talked about using voice-to-chat software in educating the young, allowing them to speak into the computer, and have the computer do the writing (which will be sooo easy, sooo soon)- the movement to get tech standards throughout the schools- and to agree on them- the teaching of keyboarding to the young, etc. I just don't live with these challenges, don't even consider them on a daily basis. Yet I now see people who spend so much time online, who chat and/or text more than they talk, more than they read, more than they do anything else, really. People meet people through text now, hear voice in it, that they might not have, before. And see sides of us that, hey, if you were to meet me, f2f, and only f2f, might be hidden forever.

Some other links coming from the presentation:
Keyboarding in elementary schools
learning.now- Could wikis help achieve consensus on EdTech policy? Jeff Cooper encouraged us to read this and join in the discussion.

The entire transcript of this presentation can be found here.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

jpcl language files

I've written before about, and I need to keep on top of my conscious perception- a certain problem, concerning work on small languages that is endangered. I'm not sure if the languages are endangered, but the work is endangered, since it is now available only on the wayback web archive, which is an incredible and little known service. These files could at least be brought back to the SIUC Linguistics webpages, which I, by default really, am still in charge of, but it would be a time-consuming job. I started the first- a paper on St. Lucien Creole, and realized that it alone, in order to be finished, would entail bringing half a dozen files back, planting them back on our website, and linking them internally together. I had almost forgotten this project- but mentioned one day to Dennis Oliver, who kindly put in a comment in favor of saving it. Thanks are in order here- as it makes a huge difference when one is not doing this kind of thing unnoticed.

But it also brings up a further question. Dr. Gilbert's classes, and Dr. Gilbert himself, did a huge amount of work on these languages. The small corner of it that was clipped of the web accidentally, a few years back, represents only a tiny percentage of the entire work, and material, that was actually done. What happened to it? Who will keep it in the general record of work done on languages? He is, in fact, here in Carbondale, as far as I know, and it's worth at least finding out. It would also be worth it to get it on the web, where it could do the rest of the world some good!

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dawgs & tags

It's back to work after a short break, and a little stomach flu on top of that, but I'm a writing teacher now, so my posts ought to be crisper, clearer, more powerful. I had two goals over the break, but only accomplished one. The second was to start using tags on this weblog-which I did. I went almost all the way back and got almost every post; I'm almost done.

The first is about the CESL weblogs- which we were forced to convert onto the new blogger, and which now encompass about five distinct systems - current (~12), old (~12), teachers (~4), newstalk projects (~2), and linguistics (1). My plan is this: put a saluki in each one. Click on the dawg, and get posting instructions. This will help, because even I often forget whole groups of weblogs, and I've started most of them- or been in on it. Fortunately, the password is the same for virtually all of them. And they may be even further conflated than they are already! Old ones are still accessible from several places- but may not stay that way- it's kind of a management issue. How much does a person want to keep track of?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

WiAOC presentation

How blogging affects the academic ecosystem- my contribution to the Webheads' Online Convergence- was just finished, a few minutes ago. I have promised to send the transcript to all attenders - and will. As in many chats, there were several threads going on at once- and I didn't always keep up with all of them. I was chided a little for not having audio- I will resolve to figure that out for next year- but that highlighted some of the differences between text and audio- and made my presentation stand out a little.

The conference is incredible. Check it out- while you can!

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Monday, May 14, 2007

more on second life

It's well known that I had to choose between Second Life and second wife, and chose the latter- as a testament to marital fidelity, I've stayed off of it. But I'm still working on my two hypotheses:

Second Life (and online environments like it) will change education as we know it, permanently and profoundly, so we'd better pay attention.
Second Life (and online environments like it) will change language as we know it, permanently and profoundly, so we'd better pay attention.

-trying to fine-tune them, give them more depth, be more specific. Be patient!

One interesting thing I found out about Second Life: A guy walks into a bar (this is a true story, though virtual) in Second Life and notices that the chat is empty. It appears that nobody is talking. But in fact, people are using IM to talk to each other privately, and chat, only when they want to yell out and have the entire room hear it. So they are using different media simultaneoulsy for different purposes.

Here are some more articles:

Parker, Q. (2007, Apr. 6). A second look at school life. Guardian Unlimited. http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2051194,00.html. Accessed 5-07.

Woodward, S. (2007, Apr. 1). Virtually Real. The Oregonian, login may be required. http://www.oregonlive.com/O/entertainment/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/1175124333181570.xml&coll=7. Accessed 5-07.

ZDNet focus on Second Life- lots of articles.
NMC- Virtual worlds- explores possibilities of education in Second Life.
Valleywag -Second Life's absentee population- about how there are fewer people than we thought...


more articles

Sorry about the fact that I haven't figured out why these URL's don't wrap (at least, on Safari, when I look at my own weblog). One reader suggested tinyURL. But I shouldn't have to use that...I don't want to hide the URL. I just want it to follow a decent order on my own weblog. As one son said to me once, after I asked him how his first day at kindergarten went: "We spent the entire day learning how to stand in line..."

Kingsley-Hughes, A. (2007, Apr. 10). Copyright laws and piracy- Where do you stand? ZDNet. http://blogs.zdnet.com/hardware/?p=350&tag=nl.e622. Accessed 5-07.

Berlind, D. (2007, Mar. 13). Digital culturus interruptus: Right here, right now, the almighty copyright finally comes home to roost. ZDNet. http://blogs.zdnet.com/Berlind/?p=377&tag=nl.e622. Accessed 5-07.

The Age. (2007, Mar. 26). Walking the streets of Cyberia. http://www.theage.com.au/news/education-news/cyberias-mean-streets/2007/03/23/1174597870600.html. Accessed 5-07.

Douglas, L. (2007, Mar. 25). Chatroom slang irks teachers, Jamaica Observer. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20070324T210000-0500_120831_OBS_CHAT_ROOM_SLANG_IN_SCHOOL_ESSAYS_IRKS_TEACHERS.asp. Accessed 5-07.

Burke, J. (2005, Nov. 28). Hyperlinking could change the writing styles of newspaper journalists. Editors Weblog. http://www.editorsweblog.org/analysis/2005/11/hyperlinking_could_change_the_writing_st.php#more. Accessed 5-07.

Landphair, T. (2006, Oct. 7). Internet goes transparent, literally. Voice of America. http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-10/2006-10-07-voa33.cfm?CFID=107608138&CFTOKEN=45306624. Accessed 5-07.

Sachoff, M. (2007, Mar. 21). Historic American newspapers move online. Webpronews.com. http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2007/03/21/historic-american-newspapers-move-online. Accessed 5-07.

Veneracion, C. (2007, Mar. 27). School as online community. Manila Standard Today. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=connieVeneracion_mar27_2007. Accessed 5-07.

Neff, J. (2007, Mar. 15). Video driving games promote risky behavior in real life. Autoblog. http://www.autoblog.com/2007/03/15/study-video-driving-games-promote-risky-behavior-in-real-life/. Accessed 5-07.

Chronicle of Higher Education. (2007, Mar. 14). Trustees give U. of Illinois's Global Campus the Go-ahead. http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/1931/trustees-give-u-of-illinoiss-global-campus-the-go-ahead. Accessed 5-07.

Gardner, W. D. (2007, Mar. 13). MIT to put its entire curriculum online free of charge. http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=198000568&cid=RSSfeed_IWK_News. Accessed 5-07.


Friday, May 11, 2007

at the point of need

Recently I reread an old favorite:

Nelson, M. W. (1991). At the Point of Need: Teaching basic and ESL writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

It came out in the heyday of process writing, in the Krashen years. Not that those years are over, but at that time, when I had just finished graduate school and started teaching, the Krashen philosophies seemed like a 100% sauna- everyone was all warm about them. I have mixed feelings about some of them, namely the "language learning device"- but there were some things that rung true for every veteran teacher (this did not include me at the time)- and that was obvious. This book is remarkable in that it doesn't take anything for granted, although it is directly from that era. She makes her conclusions directly from the experiences of the tutors in her writing lab. I have included some of the more interesting ones below:

"Dependence is the legacy of negative evaluation." Our systems have managed to teach and promote dependence when in fact they should be teaching independence. In fact her total focus is on the mind of the writer (where it should be)- and the key, transferring responsibility for a writers' progress to the writer. "Dependence gives way to collaboration, and independence germinates in that soil." DEPENDENCE -> INTERDEPENDENCE -> INDEPENDENCE.

An interesting corollary of this idea is that the student's classmates are a key in the learning process. The student must see and know others who are going through the same process: this weans them from total dependence on the teacher and the guided word.

How to encourage risk-taking: Make sure students are writing about what they care about; make sure they choose it themselves.

Contrary to what Center visitors sometimes assumed, the personal topics students so often chose were not required. In fact, tutors found no quicker way to inspire resistance than to suggest that students "ought to" write more personally. More successful tutors never pressed for personal writing. Instead...they leaned over backwards to prevent students from thinking they expected it. Our goal was to help student writing improve quickly, however, so tutors supported decisions likely to further that end. And because the logs showed that when writers cared more, their work improved faster, tutors encouraged students to write to please themselves, maintained sanctuary conditions so risk taking would feel safe, and demonstrated writing attitudes and writing behaviors that most frequently led to breakthrough levels of success. (p. 174)

Resistance and the blocks it produced were complex and individual. Nor were they easily remedied by direct instruction. (p. 177)....to both tutor and student surprise, the awareness that triggered growth almost always emerged incidentally, from experience, in the process of looking at something else (178). This, it appears, is one reason whole language instruction proved more effective than preventive/corrective drill- it offered multiple lessons simultaneously, and students could connect with whichever ones held meaning for them.

This last paragraph is clearly where "point of need" comes from, though apparently the term was coined by Britton et al.:

Britton, J., Burgess, T., Martin, N., McLeod, A. & Rosen, M. (1975). The Development of Writing Abilities (11-18). London: Macmillan Education.

Her curricular recommendation: Don't worry about showing students every kind of writing (cause-effect, descriptive, etc.). Teach independence and the process of going toward things you want to talk about, correcting the grammar, etc.

It was impressive that the tutors saw enough student writing to recognize "breakthrough" pieces when they saw them. These were pieces in which students tried new things- and, students often felt ambivalent about them, not knowing how new things would work. But improvement came from breakthrough pieces, and these came from risk-taking, and this came from writing about things they cared about.



Thursday, May 10, 2007

cd's for sale

I encourage everyone to come to our band's cd release party- at the Yellow Moon Cafe in Cobden, IL, Wed. May 16th 7-9 or so. You don't have to buy a cd to show up! It's a nice place, out in the country, worth the drive!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Two great YouTube movies!

CESL TOEFL, Newstalk class

TOEFL movie, AE2

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

YouTube survey, continued

I had to put "FINISHED" on the survey results on the NewsTalk weblog, because I know that students want to write their assignments as soon as possible, and the counting is painfully slow. Many questions: 1-11, 14-20, and some on the back, are done or almost totally done, but lots more still aren't done, and it takes about an hour to finish two questions/20-50 remaining surveys; the hours just aren't there.

We seemed to have skipped Q 29 altogether; I'll try to get that up there a.s.a.p. Also, the comments, written out on some of the 281 surveys, are very interesting; I'd like to get them typed and put up. This may take another week, though.

As I stated earlier, I don't find a big difference when I complete the counting; the last 30 surveys usually fall very close to equal in percentage as the first 250 or so. One notable exception is questions 28 and 31, which are the same on the survey; tabulators finished about the same number of responses (232 for Q28, 245 for Q31)- but the percentages fall quite differently for each. I'm curious to know if, when finished counting, we will find that people answered both questions the same. It is interesting that the questions between them, 29 and 30, might lead a reader against government control, and actually change an answer or two. We'll find out.

Good luck! I'll keep working at this end...


Friday, May 04, 2007

YouTube movie

So our class actually made a movie, to put up on YouTube, and it will supposedly be put up there as soon as possible. At this point I have to trust NewsTalk students, particularly Abdulkarim, who assures me that it will happen. I believe it will. But I looked, and haven't seen it yet. I did notice that: the other CESL (Univ. of Ariz.) has some student-made movies; we certainly aren't the first to use a good best-homemade-video site. It's all new to me, though!

I enjoyed being the lead actor in a major TOEFL drama; it was about five minutes long; it featured a showdown between me and Raed over a cell-phone that went off during a TOEFL exam listening section. It was very interesting and fun. It was hard to keep a straight face.

I look forward to seeing it on YouTube, and voting for it, repeatedly (Illinois tradition)...

And getting my friends to do the same!


youtube survey update

It is now past midnight Friday night, and believe it or not, I'm still pulling together what I can of the Newstalk YouTube survey. I actually enjoy this work, and would like to have as much of it up for people to use as I can. But I'm not sure when I'll get back to the office this weekend, and, when I do, if I'll have time, even then, to work on it. So I can probably say that this is the version you're stuck with for a little while.

Counting is done for many of the questions; any that have close to the 281 total that we teachers have in our hands, most certainly got every sheet counted, though clearly counting methods varied a little. I can tell you that counting the last twenty or thirty or so surveys for each question did not really make much of a difference for the ones that we did finish. Take any stack of twenty out of a group of 281, and the percentages will fall about the same as the rest.

The one thing I regret is that I haven't typed out the comments. Those are interesting, but will take some time. I did get the comments on #25; those are interesting too. Read them!

One thing that I notice is that the post-url for each survey (one posted May 1, and one posted tonight) is the same...I don't know if this will complicate things. If I am able to make another post, it will be called "FINAL YouTube survey post"...and that will have a different URL, I hope!

FINDINGS that I notice right away:

1. It doesn't matter who you are, almost everyone has a cell phone (Q 16)- a stubborn 8% of us (myself included) don't- and that 8% runs through all categories, male, female, old, young...
2. Three quarters of us are walking around with cameras (Q 17) in our cell phones, although us older folks are less likely to be doing that. I've noticed that in my class alone; almost everyone was capable, in theory, of making that YouTube movie. Almost everyone has a camera, on any given day.
3. Still a minority of people (15%, Q 19) actively use YouTube, by putting stuff up there regularly. But 15% is a lot of people.
4. Watch the MOD figures in Q3. These are the people who are going to YouTube more than once a day. I find that interesting. Maybe it's like a portal for them. America's funniest home videos as a place to check in, like your answering machine. It's close to 10%, and especially high for people who are 23-30. Those are actually the heaviest users of YouTube in general, I think...we old people may be aware of it, but are much slower to use it...and the youngest people are too pressed for money or time, maybe, to really take full advantage of it.

I may have more to say as time goes on- I hope you do too! Comments are welcome, both here and on the posts.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

from here & there (ongoing)

Peer pressure
Shea, C. (2007, Apr. 29). In praise of peer pressure, Boston Globe.
People are beginning to use peer pressure to accomplish their ends...they have noticed that people overestimate the amount of drinking that is going on around them- as we noticed in our class. How much drinking is going on around you? Will that influence your behavior?

Schiff, S. (2006, July 31). Know it all: Can Wikipedia conquer expertise? The New Yorker.

Privacy & the net
Dawson, C. (2007, Apr. 30). Privacy is for the ignorant. ZDNet, Education IT. There is no such thing as privacy!

Text messaging
Reuters (2007, Apr. 26). Report: Text messaging harms written language. CNN.Com, Technology.

SIUC Website, siuc.edu
Our Word: New Web site needs to be shaped up. (2007, Apr. 13). Daily Egyptian editorial, SIU-Carbondale

Online education
Stephens, S. (2007, Apr. 10). Ohio cyber school wins over critics. Plain Dealer online, Cleveland.

Self-organized systems
Davies, P. (1989). Abstract- The Cosmic Blueprint. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Williams, L. (2007, Apr. 12). How real life screws up blogging. Learning the lessons of Nixon. "Blogging is making a backup of my soul".

Keen, A. (2007, Apr. 12). An elitist code of conduct for bloggers. ZDNet, The Great Seduction.

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