Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

more on wikipedia

The Wikipedia essays have come and gone (now I'm mired in research papers) and many if not most have been published. The essays were based on this assignment, which in turn sprung from a couple of interesting developments: 1) students used and cited Wikipedia frequently; 2) students didn't really understand why academics would have a problem with it; 3) I had trouble explaining it; 4) I thought this would be a good thing for them to know, on their way up into academic class, which is the next step for most of them. On top of that, it's an interesting topic, one I don't mind reading 30+ essays on.

Their essays, those that have been published, can be viewed in their weblogs, which come off of the template of the class blog, where they complain about overload and talk about technology in general. Their opinions range from Wikipedia is useless (Aziz) to Wikipedia is useful (Jun Dong), but, in all honesty, it is hard to know whether students actually believe what they wrote, since the point of the exercise is to use the quotes effectively, and one has to organize according to what one can find to say. Several have admitted that they didn't know much about Wikipedia before the exercise, but lots of other interesting anecdotes have come out. For example, one student mentioned that the Korean Wikipedia has lots of important popular Korean singers and stars who would otherwise never be covered by standard encyclopedias. Another told a story of using an online dictionary and paying heavily for it in a high school class.

I've also mulled over the primary sources, some of which were anti, and some pro. In addition a comment on the Parry article by Paul Hamann sums up what is perhaps most democratic about Wikipedia: that it can overthrow an entrenched lock on received academic knowledge, when the academy has in fact strayed from a realistic view of what happens. My field, linguistics, has perhaps more than any suffered from this problem, so I find Wikipedia very attractive for that reason alone.

On the other hand, it clearly can suffer from both purposeful "vandalism" and just general incompetence. The best example of purposeful vandalism would be the Seigenthaler controversy, well documented, which misrepresented a poor guy for months. But my son, in high school, reports another: students there have found out that they can plant little crusty comments on obscure articles, which will last at least until someone finds them and eliminates them. His example was someone putting "eat my shorts" on an article about Bastille Day. This is akin to writing on the high school wall- thoroughly expected, in any case in which it would actually be possible.

The other kind is best represented by something I noticed a while back: that on the SIUC page, Wikipedia had claimed that SIUC had the best CESL in the nation. I didn't want to complain about this of course, and didn't, but, having pointed it out in my blog, can only wonder now if that was the reason it was removed...lo and behold, it has, now, been removed: the present entry is much more careful.

I actually consider this to be a kind of well-intentioned incompetence, because, while it's well known that we have a good reputation here at CESL, such a statement is unprovable, thus inappropriate for any formal encyclopedia. Though it has now been removed from Wikipedia, ironically, the claim survives in dozens of copy sites and mirror sites, for example this one; apparently lots of sites are on the Wikipedia bandwagon.

When I tried to find evidence of what had happened within Wikipedia, in the inner workings of Wikipedia itself, I found that someone had submitted an innocuous entry on Faner Hall (it includes the Philosophy and Anthropology departments, etc.) which had been rejected as unverifiable. Getting sensitive, Wikipedia? I have no idea. I can say that Wikipedia is itself apparently more careful than it used to be, more on top of its own information, if nothing else.

As for me, I'm keeping my eyes open, and the coffee brewing. The Old Man and the Stack...I'm about four papers into it.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008


I don't have time to go into it now, though I have a small window between Practice Finals and Research Papers that might give me a few hours of weekend evening this weekend. I doubt I'll spend it on Facebook, but, it's interesting to me anyway. I have several questions:

1. Somewhere in here (in links off of the Blackall post) I've read that for whatever reason a birthdate is extremely valuable information to identity thieves. My birthdate is no secret but it's especially no secret in Facebook. I'm not sure how it happened, but everyone in my Facebook friends registry is now informed of it, and not only that, but somehow I've accepted some people into there who I wasn't clear about; I was pretty sure they were former students, or at least married to them, but now I'm not even sure of that. Is this trouble?

2. The Hirsh article says that essentially businesses are involved in a partnership to all know what kinds of purchases you make online, and all work together to collect information about it. Facebook is at least considering being all over this situation, enabling businesses, informing them, selling them your information, etc. What's up with that? Am I the only person whose idea of "friends" stops at the line marked "corporations"? Not that I have anything against MasterCard, mind you. I don't steal from big ones, small ones or the government. But, I also don't want them stealing from me. I'm not telling anyone my favorite movie anymore.

3. Facebook takes some heat for every little move it makes, every application it allows people to add. That's because a quarter million people are signing up each day....(where did I read this?) I feel like a sloppy researcher as I can't point you to the facts. But a social network researcher has his/her hands full these days, keeping up with rapid changes and their implications. Here are some things to think about: I got onto a "group class experiment" which had been joined by thousands and thousands; it was a Facebook group, and it had dozens of messages from porn spammers right on the top. It made me sick- this is no longer a "friends" network, obviously. Second, people drop movies onto my site which then sit there until I can at least watch them. Some of them, frankly, I don't want on my territory. I was never one for "America's Funniest Home Videos" anyway. How many times can you watch some poor schlub fall off a ladder? Not to denigrate the friends who sent these; I think they just want to give me a laugh, or whatever. I hope I don't offend them if I just delete and move on. They're still my friends, I hope they know that.

More about this later. It's important. It's not all FB's fault. I think this Mark Z. was just a kid, invented a platform, didn't quite know what would come of it. These things take on a life of their own...

Blackall, L. (2007, Dec. 8). Losing my Facebook. Learn Online. Accessed 4-08.

Hirsh, J. (2007, November 14). Beware of Facebook's Beacon? CBC News, Canada. Accessed 4-08.

Stutzman, F. (2006, September 7). How Facebook broke its culture. Unit Structures. Accessed 4-08.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

pictures from new york

These pictures are borrowed from Carla's Flickr, which you can find by looking on the Webheads' New York blog. I agree with Carla totally when she compares the webheads to the Brazilian soccer team, because they're fantastic, they have spirit, they try things, and it's so great just to see them. I'm talking about the Webheads here; I don't know much about Brazilian soccer. Thank you Dennis for the fact that webheads gatherings seem to always have nice flowers, like the rose above. Several things became apparent to me in New York- one, seeing webheads friends was one of the best parts of the trip, although seeing my sister Margot (second picture down) was also big. Also, much of what I know and feel comfortable with, comes from the webheads, though, on a personal level, I still don't have a cell phone, and therefore was kind of lost in New York, unable to tell the time, for example (small towns like Carbondale assume that there are some old-timers around, and still leave clocks on the walls)- unlike webheads I heard of, who, lost in Jersey, were able to use a cell phone, call up Google map function, figure out exactly where they were, and how to get back to where they were going. I, on the other hand, didn't even have a place to store phone numbers, let alone find the time or check my e-mail; awed by big buildings, nice architecture, flash and glitter, etc., all I could do was be there. Thanks, Carla, for the pictures; I'll send a book, as soon as I get an address.

All in all, it was a memorable TESOL- anyway, I won't forget.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

wikipedia- practice final

EAP2WW Practice Final Name _________________

If you are going into academia, you should know about the Wikipedia controversy and why academics mistrust it. The controversy is basically whether students should be allowed or encouraged to use or cite Wikipedia, and it's interesting, if only because it can be seen as a battle between the forces of collective wisdom, the combined wisdom of the masses, and academic wisdom (wisdom that has been reviewed and approved by qualified authorities). Read for yourself; choose any side you like; use three of these quotes in an argument essay. Use at least one quote and one paraphrase. Make a complete reference at the end. You may use the quotes in the introduction or in any of the arguments, but use them effectively with proper citation. A CAR is not necessary. Some of the reference information gives you more than you really need. All sources Retrieved on April 23, 2008.

Meredith Byers, Controversy over use of Wikipedia in academic papers arrives at Smith, Sophian, Smith College, 3/8/07.

Middlebury College, a prestigious liberal arts school in Vermont, recently announced that its history department had banned the citation of Wikipedia for history papers and exams. para. 1

Don Wyatt, chairman of the department, said a total ban on Wikipedia is not practical, as it is too useful of a resource to expect students to never consult it. para.2

Approximately 38 million people visited the English language version of the site in December 2006. Wikipedia is also easy to find; it frequently appears at the top of many Google searches and access is completely free. para. 3

Jason Wolverton, Wikipedia Wisdom, Valley Vanguard, Jan. 22. 2007

While encyclopedias and journals are generally authored by scholars and peer reviewed before publication, Wikipedia articles can be written and edited by anyone at anytime, bringing about a debate over the risk of giving those outside academia the power to create and contribute to articles on scholarly subjects. Furthering this, users can add, alter, or remove information without registering a user account, giving those who visit the site free and anonymous reign over the available information. para. 7

Contributing to the debate is the speed in which Wikipedia has grown. While many scholarly and academic sources have decades - if not centuries - of history, Wikipedia's popularity has surpassed all of them in a matter of just six years. para. 8

Launched Jan. 15, 2001, it is already the ninth most popular Web site in the United States, according to Alexa Internet, a company that monitors Web traffic. para. 9

It is not the number of articles available on Wikipedia that is up for debate, though. The argument amongst scholars is that the information available on Wikipedia is not necessarily accurate and that the articles themselves are particularly susceptible to Internet vandalism. para. 11

Jim Lengel, Authority, Teaching with Technology, 2/07/2006,

(Wikipedia) is an encyclopedia compiled by the voluntary contributions of hundreds of writers and editors. Anyone can write an article and post it to the Wikipedia; anyone else can come along later and edit the article. It's a kind of open, voluntary, work in progress. As such, it's the most up-to-date encyclopedia you'll find. para. 6

The emergence of the World Wide Web as a source for student research is for many educators a worrisome development. "Anyone can post anything they want on the Web," explained one librarian, "and make it look respectable. para. 1

The Internet will never be like the school library. Nor should it be. It's value as a communication medium lies in its openness and diversity. But these same aspects make it problematic for our students. They, like many of us, were brought up to trust what we read in a library book, or in the newspaper, or on television. These communication channels were for the most part well-mediated, and so over the years developed a respectable authority. para. 12

Now comes the Internet, which appears to be a respectable source, but is in fact unmediated and clearly not all of it authoritative. And it's left to the Internaut (Internet users) to separate the wheat from the chaff, to determine the respectability of each site. Our job as teachers is to prepare our students to make that determination. para. 13

David Parry, Wikipedia and the new curriculum, Science Progress, Feb. 11, 2008,

This website has grown into an immensely useful resource for background information on a wide range of scientific subjects, and can serve as a quick reference for any number of scientific facts. What is perhaps more important and useful, though, is the extent to which Wikipedia also preserves the debate and discourse around a particular subject. para. 6

Literacy in modern society means not only being able to read a variety of informational formats; it means being able to participate in their creation, with Wikipedia serving as the marquee example. para. 9

Edward Bilodeau: Weblog. Academic banning of Google and Wikipedia misguided. January 14, 2008.

As for Wikipedia, I would agree that, for a variety of reasons, it is probably not a proper source for an academic work. Many professors would not accept an encyclopedia entry as a citation in a paper, regardless of which encyclopedia it came from. Some might accept it as a source of a definition, perhaps, but in those cases, it would have to be an encyclopedia recognized in that field. Wikipedia, in a general sense, wouldn't make the grade. para. 8

Academics who ban students from using the web, Google, Wikipedia, or similar resources are doing those students a grave disservice. Students need to learn how to assess the relevance and authority of information sources independent of their media. They need to learn what constitutes an authoritative source, in academia and especially in their field of study. They need to learn how to navigate the complexities and ambiguities of the information at their disposal. para. 11

Nicole Martin, Wikipedia clamps down on 'unreliable' editors,, Jan. 21, 2008, 2007/09/20/wiki120.xml

Under the current system, anyone can edit an entry at any time, which means that people often post inaccurate and sometime malicious information. para. 5

Wikipedia, the internet’s most popular encyclopaedia, has become an online phenomenon since it was launched six years ago. para. 12

Seven per cent of all internet users now visit the site every day. para. 13

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Friday, April 18, 2008

vision YouTube

This is a great YouTube- I recommend it for anyone who is in a large American university.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

making movies & learning English

Ironically, while I was at my computer at TESOL, presumably showing my blogs to passersby and distributing my handouts, I was actually receiving inspiration from an old friend and Illinoisan- she uses i-caught; she sends her students out making movies; and she was very interested in our youtubes, which are now buried and forgotten deep in the midst of the 50 billion youtubes out there. More about this later. Her best one, done by students around Chicago, was called "Thinksgiving" but I can no longer find it. She used "Your three words"- for short productions- though the Thinksgiving one was a bit longer. Her students were featured on this national display- very impressive.

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education in Second Life

Having agreed with my wife not to cross the threshold of Second Life, for fear I would never return, so to speak, I still haven't done it, although I did notice that my computer was on it one day, in the language center, and I almost walked away in someone else's avatar. However, I didn't. I stayed in my own body, and finished my homework.

This didn't stop me, however, from sitting with a guy, Christopher Hill, from my own native state of Ohio, who knew quite a bit about Second Life, at the TESOL Convention. As we talked, I watched him manipulate his avatar a little and talk about SL's possible uses in education, a topic which he admitted to be still in development.

You may know from reading this blog that I felt almost immediately that SL would have a dramatic effect, both on education and on language; that I'm profoundly interested in both; that as a long-standing practitioner of drama in language education (and other kinds of education) I can think of numerous benefits of a virtual self in the language learning classroom right away. This does not mean that I'm ready to give my students a tour. In fact, I asked him, what if I take a group of students into SL, only to be accosted by rude people, or to see an orgy on the first street corner?

Legitimate concerns, he said, and I hope I paraphrase him correctly. He told us about Ohio State's pioneering efforts a little; you can see their wiki here. He said that there were some language learners in SL, although language learners haven't been flocking to the place, deliberately, knowing that it was the place to be. In particular people have been on there giving both English and Spanish lessons, and those have been received well. He said that in general, finding sexual activity on SL is like the rest of the internet: it's all over the place, yet you have to know where it is, generally, to go there. So you are NOT likely to just stumble upon it, but, who knows? And people use their avatars to make gestures to each other, all of which have their own unique meanings, some recognizable out here in RL.

A number of SL words came out: griefer- one who goes around being rude and causing grief. prim- an object one uses, in its primitive form, to develop something one wants that is not primitive. In other words, you might pick up a crude virtual "shirt" and then go about adding colors, etc. to it.

In general one worries a lot about appearance, since one doesn't want the stigma of "newbie" which is attached if one doesn't. In general, one tends to fly a lot, since it's possible, and has uses that teleporting or walking don't have. To be safe, landmark a familiar place, put it in your inventory (kind of like putting your mom's phone number in your cell phone), and click on it when you feel uncomfortable; you'll teleport home immediately, and start over.

Similarly, if you die or are shot, you just start again. "I try to have some space between me and my avatar," he said, "because it's healthy." He tells the story of when his avatar was shot and killed. He was letting a student use it, play with it, manipulate it and see what it was like, walking around and grabbing stuff. But the student accidentally bumped into someone hard. "Hey," the guy said, "watch what you're doing!" Some basic elemental politeness would have sufficed at this point, a simple apology. But instead, the student panicked. He backed up, twirled around a little, and, still panicking, bumped the guy again, hard. This time the guy said, enough, let's draw; he drew, and shot him.

There's a lesson in here somewhere, but, I'm still mulling it over. While I struggle to put it into words, I'll leave you with this. If you're ever stuck in a virtual box, truly can't get out, can't figure out how it works, just make sure you have good landmarks in your inventory, and click on one of them. It works, so they say. Of course, I wouldn't know.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

tesol cities

Of course I admit I don't know all the parameters: the TESOL Convention needs a good city; it has to be in spring; a place with a good working convention center is best (though they got by with New York); transportation has to be doable from Asia, from the Middle East, from South America; etc. I don't know all of their considerations. I have heard that, after Denver, and then Boston, supposedly it will be New Orleans and then Dallas. I will graciously accept Dallas as at least close to the midwest. And then, admit that really the midwest has no convention cities left in the market. Chicago? St. Louis? Minneapolis? These are all ruled out for whatever reason. Kansas City, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Omaha, Milwaukee, equally unacceptable, I don't know why. But here are a few more:

Montreal: Why has TESOL never been here? Do you think it's too cold in March? Maybe. You couldn't find a better city, in my opinion.

Albuquerque: They don't have a convention center? Don't let that stop you!

San Juan, Puerto Rico: I won a free trip there once, but didn't have a chance to use it. I think it would be a great place!

Mexico City: Apparently they had one there in 1968, but there was a plane crash and the president of TESOL was killed. I may have my facts wrong here, but I guess TESOL as an organization had a kind of organizational superstition about going back. Understandable. But get over it! It's been forty years! There is also, while we're at it, Monterey, Guadalajara, and Veracruz. I have no idea about convention facilities, of course.

El Paso: Worried about March being dismal, cold, rainy, bleak? OK, go to Minneapolis one year, El Paso the next.

Havana: Open up, people. This would beat all of the above, if they made it possible.

Miami: Maybe Orlando has a better convention center. But, who cares about convention centers?

Victoria, BC: Always nice weather. By the sea. Much better than Vancouver. No convention center? Bah!

Anchorage: Actually accessible, from some places. Not as snowy as it sounds.

That's a few to chew on. There are more, I'll bring 'em on a.s.a.p.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

TESOL 2008

It's official:

Leverett, T. (2008). Teaching writing in online and paper worlds. Writing IS Demonstration, TESOL Convention, New York City, USA. April.

Leverett, T. (2008). Weblog portfolios in an intensive English program. eClassics, Internet Fair, TESOL Convention, NYC USA, April.

What can I say? The presentations went well. New York is crowded but I had a fantastic time. The site and hotels are not ideal for what TESOL does and is, but you can't beat the city for anything. Flying out, the plane circled over the Statue of Liberty, and I saw it all clearly down there in the harbor; also I visited my sister, who is making a fantastic CD. Back home, papers are piled up & I'm behind on everything. More later.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

technology survey

Given in two EAP2 (highest level) writing classes (A & B)

Do you have and use: cell phone
A- yes, 9 - no, 0 - NA, 1
B- yes, 14 - no, 2 - NA, 0
T- yes, 23 - no, 2 - NA, 1

Do you have and use: cell phone camera
A- yes, 5 - no, 4 - NA, 1
B- yes, 11 - no, 4 - NA, 1
T- yes, 16 - no, 8 - NA, 2

Do you have and use: Facebook profile
A- yes, 8 - no, 2 - NA, 0
B- yes, 9 - no, 6 - NA, 1 cyworld
T- yes, 17 - no, 8 - NA, 1

Do you have and use: IM
A- yes, 3 - no, 4 - NA, 3
B- yes, 13 - no, 0 - NA, 3 (what is it?
T- yes, 16 - no, 4 - NA, 6

Do you have and use: Computer videocam
A- yes, 6 - no, 3 - NA, 1
B- yes, 11 - no, 4 - NA, 1
T- yes, 17 - no, 7 - NA, 2

Do you have and use: eBay, online shopping
A- yes, 6 - no, 2 - NA, 1
B- yes, 11 - no, 4 - NA, 1
T- yes, 17 - no, 6 - NA, 2

Do you ever text-message?

A- no, 0 - rarely, 3 - sometimes, 3 - often, 4
B- no, 2 - rarely, 0 - sometimes, 7 - often, 7
T- no, 2 - rarely, 3 - sometimes, 10 - often, 11

Do you ever chat with full keyboard?

A- no, 0 - rarely, 0 - sometimes, 5 - often, 5
B- no, 0 - rarely, 2 - sometimes, 5 - often, 9
T- no, 0 - rarely, 2 - sometimes, 10 - often, 14

If you chat, what is it like? Put % if you do more than one kind. For example, you may do 70% in English, 30% in your native language.


percent who checked it or admitted doing it:
A: 7/10
B: 5/16
T: 12/26

percent who checked it 50% of time or more:
A: 6/10
B: 5/16
T: 11/26

percent who checked it 100% of time:
A: 1/10
B: 1/16
T: 2/26


percent who checked it or admitted doing it:
A: 4/10
B: 10/16
T: 14/26

percent who checked it 50% of time or more:
A: 1/10
B: 6/16
T: 7/26

percent who checked it 100% of time:
A: 0/10
B: 4/16
T: 4/26


percent who checked it or admitted doing it:
A: 2/10
B: 7/16
T: 9/26

percent who checked it 50% of time or more:
A: 1/10
B: 4/16
T: 5/26

percent who checked it 100% of time:
A: 0/10
B: 0/16
T: 0/26


percent who checked it or admitted doing it:
A: 2/10
B: 5/16
T: 7/26

percent who checked it 50% of time or more:
A: 1/10
B: 0/16
T: 1/26

percent who checked it 100% of time:
A: 0/10
B: 0/16
T: 0/26


percent who checked it or admitted doing it:
A: 3/10
B: 2/16
T: 5/26

percent who checked it 50% of time or more:
A: 1/10
B: 0/16
T: 1/26

percent who checked it 100% of time:
A: 0/10
B: 0/16
T: 0/26

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT CHAT? (variety of answers)
WHAT BOTHERS YOU ABOUT CHAT? (variety of answers)
(hard to get OUT of conversations)
(people who cheat)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT FACEBOOK? (variety of answers)
(spelling to find my friends)

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