Thursday, June 26, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

from out & around

Yong, E. (2008, Feb. 2). New languages evolve in rapid bursts. Not exactly rocket science weblog., Accessed 6-08.

Lewis, J. A. (2008, June 22). Patois, Bible and translation. Jamaica Gleaner. Accessed 6-08.

Schultz, P. (1998, Oct. 22). Michel Serres: Knowledge's Redemption. Nettime mailing list archives. Accessed 6-08.

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Friday, June 20, 2008


Leverett, T. (2008). Virtual traveller. Global Study Magazine. London, UK.

I'm not sure when this one went to print, if or when it will arrive at my doorstep. It's a very nice magazine-well made. I notice here that I've taken a stand on the spelling of traveller/traveler- a word that my computer is now changing against my natural inclination (shown above). Why I've always had trouble with this word, I don't know; both variants are accepted, but I go for the underdog. I didn't even mean to take a stand, but I did. It's social commentary.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

betty schrampfer azar & the grammar wars

I'm gathering my thoughts on a major project- on Betty Azar, who I consider to be an extremely important and influential person in ESL/EFL. I've done some preliminary research and so far have this much to say:

First, since she started out at Univ. of Iowa and Iowa State, I have two good reasons to like her already. She lived and taught in St. Louis and so could be considered local by those around here- many of whom I know; many of whom helped her on her first books. I have in fact met her though I doubt she'd remember me, but I believe we had a mutual friend, someone from Iowa or here.

Her books have sold by the billions, and in ESL/EFL that's remarkable since there are ten pirated copies, eight in China alone, for every single book sold, I would guess. I have no figures on her book sales- I would like them; I also have no idea where books are pirated the most, forgive my slur. Who knows? I can tell you, they give away bibles in every motel, and there are still more Azars, I bet.

They are especially famous among teachers, many of whom have learned their grammar directly from her. Her role in the field of grammar instruction is the most remarkable. She made textbook writing a science; she wrote what was most useful to her as she taught.

About half of the teachers hate her books, and this is what I find interesting. Students love them. But the book divided the field in half.

Here are some other things I've learned:

-teachers are not beyond copying and pirating books either. China has the worst reputation but who knows? People want to learn English everywhere.
-Betty is well aware of the high degree of influence she holds over teaching/learning ("the textbook author is the middleman in the process") and she's still at it, writing, revising, etc.
-her approach stems directly from finding out and providing what students want: a clear explanation of the grammar. You'd think this would be more valuable, English being one of the most influential languages in the world: but keep in mind, about half of the profession thought this was counterproductive to learning, or at best, unnecessary. A teacher who just watched students carefully, and did what they wanted, always ended up with Azar in hand, though. You can probably see, I'm in her camp on this.
-Pickins are slim on Google, on Azar, except for all the booksellers clamoring to get a piece of the pie. It thins out. There are a couple of interviews with her. There is nobody to my knowledge that directly addresses the question of her role in the field.
-She still can be seen at TESOLs- is still a celebrity- is still doing the celebrity book-signing tours, etc.

There's a story in here- though I don't know if I'm the one to tell it. Maybe I'll just stick with "minor project" and let it go.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008


I learned about Twitter almost a year ago, probably through webheads, and started an account in order to see what it could do. I have friends for whom it became a daily or even hourly activity, and found it very useful in a kind of half-texting, half-blogging sense- different from texting, different from blogging, yet containing constant updating, instant connection and resources, an interesting way to experience different people's lives and views. I found myself very interested from the teaching point of view: what could it do for us? But, personally, I didn't log on five times a day. I logged on maybe five times the whole year.

Now, it turns out that a specific community uses it to share resources a lot- thus it's still a very interesting place, full of resources, full of information. One can go around, see what people are writing about, and, rather than getting lost in the personal nature of details (right now, I'm turning left) - as you would, say, with a cell phone- you can find instead good photoshop software, or, good tips on how to put an excel sheet on a weblog. But you have to know where to find it. Or, how to ask. It's an instant community- well-connected, always there, always online, almost.

Lots of my friends fade- they fail to log on, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Me too. But, I find it an interesting environment, different from all the others- not only in what you can get out of it, but also in what it does to the it messes with your mind. Focus- should I use it for blatant self-promotion? One side of me doesn't mind that at all. Right now I'm uploading pop-art.

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thanks for the mousepad!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

congratulations, Natty & Ethan!



sunset concerts

are coming...Thursdays!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

articles from around & about

small world

Warner, B. (2008, May 21). Google takes on Portuguese, and wins. Times Online. Accessed 6-08.

history of chat

Strom, D. (2006, Dec. 7). Beyond IM: Group chat evolving into e-mail 2.0. Information Week. Accessed 6-08.

Schofield, J. (2002, Aug. 08). Chat to the future. Guardian. Technology. Accessed 6-08.

internet etc.

Ito, J. (2008, May 23). Is mobile Internet really such a good thing? Joi Ito weblog. Accessed 6-08.

Whyte, M. (2008, Jun. 1). Tweet, tweet- there's been an earthquake., Toronto. Accessed 6-08.

Carter, D. (2008, May 2). University nixes web access during class. eSchool News. Accessed 6-08.

Second Life

Dawson, C. (2008, May 8). Second Life is the latest reason our kids are doomed. ZDNet. Accessed 6-08.

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students, technology, evolution

Guess, A. (2007, Sept. 17). Students' 'evolving' use of technology. Inside Higher Ed. Accessed 6-08.

I missed this when it came out; it's an article about a report on students and how they feel about the technology in their life. Maybe it's just as well, because what I really find jarring is the comments. Let's start with the report itself, put out by Educause Center for Applied Research:

-60.9% of students believe technology improves their learning;
-73.7% of students have laptops, but over half don't bring them to class;
-average of 18 hrs/wk on computer, but 6.6%, mostly males, spend over 40 hrs/wk online;
-rise of Facebook, use of all modes, email, chat, & text, but, "students may 'want to protect these tools' personal nature'" and may not want them used in classes. This I found important- it expresses something I'd observed but hadn't put into words.
-40% say they are more engaged in courses with IT components; 20% disagree; the rest didn't say either way

other various findings, all interesting; I encourage you to explore. But here are some comments.

As a student, I’m incredibly skeptical of any claims of technology improving learning. I’ve been told repeatedly that laptops in class are the future of learning, and then that every student should have a tablet PC. I’ve seen massive amount of research being put into an elaborate in-class collaboration system that mirrors the professor’s Powerpoint presentation on the class’s tablets. I’ve seen professors use in-class commenting systems in which students submit questions to them online. It all sounds nice, at least from an administrative point of view, but I don’t believe it for a second. We all know what students really do when they bring their laptops to class. Throwing a tablet in there is of questionable value, yet adds another expense to the already massive cost of tuition. There’s research that shows Powerpoint presentations are very inefficient ways of presenting information, and I’ve been dissatisfied with every class I’ve had in which it was the main tool of the lecturer. And as for the online comment system, why not just take questions in, you know, real life? Technology has its uses in academia, but every single use of it in the classroom I’ve seen so far is either the administration wanting to give the university another selling point ("we have TECHNOLOGY!"), or a way for the professor to technically do his or her job without expending much effort. -Matt

As best I can tell, the most popular and successful professors are still those whose teaching style is simple, direct, and enlightening. A classroom of plugged-in 20-year-olds will sit mesmerized by a good teacher, without any need for bells and whistles. -Thomas

Beware of technology for technology’s sake. Those technologies that add to the teachers workload and the students distraction level while delivering no tangible benefits are best avoided. Those technologies that add fluff and “presentation” while adding no additional learning experience serve only to reinforce the belief that apperance matters more than substance. -Ateacher

Computer-based multimedia course content can address multiple learning styles simultaneously, and is far more engaging and valuable to the students of today (particularly students with disabilities) than the traditional one-dimensional “chalk and talk” presentations of computer-illiterate faculty. -Paul Kopco

This “educational technology” (in reality the correct term is “equipment") is useful in my case because it *is* the curriculum. Under no circumstance would I ever advocate another teacher or school administrator arbitrarily “addding more technology” to their lessons or lectures....In years of hunting, I have not found a single solid non-commercial source of research suggesting that so-called “educational technology” is anything more than misplaced technological enthusiasm and a genuine wish by its advocates that simply adding gadgetry and high-tech buffoonery somehow magically improves a student’s ability to learn. This is utter nonsense and nothing more than a laughable myth perpetuated by ed-tech pundits and their deep-pocketed market sponsors. -Christopher Davidson

As an employee in a liberal arts college and as someone who went to a larger research-oriented university (and not being that old at 28), I question the need to go all out with IT in the classroom. I have been called an “old fart” by co-workers (in a joking manner), but I know what students do when they have class in a computer lab (my office, the Helpdesk, has a window into one of them). They read email, look at Facebook, and chat on AIM. While some might be thinking of a way to use this in the classroom to the benefit of the class, as the article said, the students want this stuff for themselves, not for class. College is about more than just classes and this other technology (social networking, instant messaging, etc) is stuff the students use to keep in touch with friends and don’t want an invasion by their professors into their social life...The best class has something for everyone and every style of learning. While this is difficult with certain types of classes, the more learning styles it reaches, the more students can get out of it. However, just because students are using technology in such different manners in their lives should not automatically mean that professors and colleges should adjust their curriculum. Much of the use of technology is simply to keep in touch with their friends and enhance their social lives. I have about 60 students that work for me and I don’t know any of them who would really use these types of technologies in their classes. Aside from Facebook, email, AIM, and writing papers and doing a little research, most of the students I know don’t really care about technology. -Jim Rizzo

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I'm just beginning an investigation into Blackboard. OK, I've heard it was clunky, had a steep learning curve, buggy, etc. for years. And, they bought out that other nightmare course management system, WebCT, whose name I purposely forget, because of my own inability to manage its interface, and the hours of time wasted.

The questions really are probably best not put out here; they are somewhat general, but can be inferred from my sources. The sources will hopefully get at how useful it is in general, or whether it's better to wait for something well-made to come along. This has been my argument, but, what do I know? Here goes. I hereby tag thee: Blackboard.

Young, J. (2008, May 14). Blackboard unveils application to bring course updates to Facebook Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed 6-08.

Finkelstein, J. & Pittinsky, M. (2003, Feb.). The evolving role of course management system providers in the transformation of education: An interview with Blackboard's Matthew Pittinsky. The Technology Source Archives, Univ. of N.C. Accessed 6-08.

Briggs, L. (2008, June 4). Gartner: E-Learning market pushing toward open-source. Campus Technology. Accessed 6-08.
Blackboard Resources on ZDNet

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cesl pop art

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

chat sharks

Yes, I'm admitting it to everyone- I'm really into chat. What students do, and what others do. I have several basic reasons.

1. I believe it will be very important in the future, and the future is now. Yes, it's basically moved into business, diplomacy, you name it. In short, our students will be expected to know it and use it. And that means: uploading, copy/pasting, linking, reading & responding, knowing formal from infrml, etc. That's why, I'm chatting with my writing students

2. I actually learn a lot, have interesting conversations with, my students. Every time. I don't know why, cool stuff just comes out. I'm not really saving it up for chat. It's just that, I fill my teaching time with all teaching, 100% teaching. Either I'm teaching, or they're writing, or both. Do we ever talk? Much less than I'd hope. Much more when we chat.

3. Chat is changing the relationship between oral and written versions of the same language- changing the way we use the media as people in our ordinary lives, changing the ways in which we are more likely to use one with strangers, the other for formal occasions; changing the way one does business and relates with strangers. Changing this stuff, beneath our feet, as we speak.

4. My students bring an interesting mix of expectations every time, to the first chat class session. Everyone has chatted before, though not always in semi-formal English. Everyone knows LOL. Some know brb, wb, ty, etc. Here my own expertise begins to fade. I see others: ^.^, etc. Some I know or guess. It happens quickly. Kind of like picking up subtle conversational clues, in a table full of international travelers, at Kennedy airport, in a 2-hour layover.

5. Reading converts to writing, turns over, so to speak. Some of them are not reading...what's up with that? Some are reading other languages, chat slang, all kinds of stuff, reading it fast, like sharks, yet not reading
anything with a vowel in it. Or anything that looks like a legitimate sentence. What's up with that? I guess I'm fairly safe in asking this question, way down here, after a number of full, legitimate and semi-legitimate sentences.

6. I still would like to set up Saluki World Chat, an international alumni-gathering, recruiting phenomenon, at a regular hour, in chat, accessible to all, worldwide. I believe I can get help, at the alumni office, in IT, etc. I need time. I need a logo. I need a listserv for organizers. etc. etc.

7. Facebook has chat now; haven't seen it, haven't tried it, but since everyone has Facebook & a cellphone to access it, it's kind of like an SIU sweater. Ubiquitous is a word that comes to mind. To a linguist in the office I said, yes, of course linguists should be interested (they are, she assured me)...but with the world stampeding onto Facebook, and FB stampeding onto chat, we have, what you might call, running of the bulls.

Life is quick, life is fun, let me tell a story. I use Tapped In, am forever grateful for the opportunity, provided free of cost, by government grant I assume, with intention of getting educational groups involved in technology. But I wondered if SIUC would provide the same kind of "chat client"- the mechanism to set up a chat with my students. Went to the IT webpage- there was a chat window! Asked the guy (presuming gender here)...he answered! I was shocked. When finished, I copied the transcript, if you're interested. Turns out they use Meebo, which I could use too- so could you. Goes on any webpage. Weblogs? Saves transcripts? Puts names into the ID handle without membership? Haven't done my research, I'll admit. I have stacks of 28 papers to grade, and midterms coming. But I'll say this: it was a momentous occasion. They answered my question, right away. Answered it! In chat! Things are happening in chat, that used to happen in other ways. Same English, different venue. Faster, sometimes 2 or 3 conversations at once; usually polite, won't kill you. wht r u wtng 4?

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