Sunday, November 22, 2009


I went to a Forum on Thursday (Nov. 19), partly because two nice young people stopped by my office personally in Faner and invited me. I was interested in this topic anyway, though, and though I can't say I've totally sorted it out, I can at least give some background and point out a few interesting facts.

openSIUC is an online repository of scholarly work; it is supported by SIUC and its administration, the best I can figure, because it increases visibility of the faculty, and expands the impact of its work. It is part of a movement to open up access to information that has been spurred on by dynamic changes in the way information is accessed in general. The traditional journals in many fields are being pressured; because they are not online, their information, and their citations, are in effect hidden.

I missed David Shulenburger's speech, but I can guess that it was somewhat like this one in which he encourages faculty to open up and give the taxpayers what they paid for: the fruits of their labor. Many other faculty readily agree. They not only see the benefit of having everyone access their work right away, but also don't see the point in hiding what is in effect a search for truth anyway. So why wouldn't we just go entirely Open Access, as some other universities have done (or tried? I'm not sure)?

The obvious losers in this picture are the traditional journals, which have apparently been overcharging libraries (the figure of $2000/yr. came up), although that situation is complicated, since journals are often bundled, and the recession means people are losing left and right. But time is a factor too: even though it traditionally took two years for an article to be published entirely, electronic transfer has moved that up; still, as my friend SM said, people are expected to post conference papers these days; also, people want their work to be seen by as many as can, as soon as possible; this encourages idea exchange and saves time. To the question of what will happen to peer review, one answer was that this speeds up the process, but doesn't replace the process.

I have certainly noticed in the fields I'm most interested in that there have been lots of new online academic journals; they jockey for position, based on what they can publish; there is therefore a variety spanning from reputable to less reputable; they as a class are getting all the citations, because people are at their computers and just grab what they can find, often, especially when finding the original or the best source isn't of utmost importance. I myself rely almost entirely on online sources, mostly because I don't have time to walk over to the library, and do most of my writing at night, when I can't.

Wait a minute, say the traditionalists. Free is not a business plan (true)- the traditional journals will go out of business (maybe), as newspapers already have. There is no blind peer review, if things are online already (true- but some say there is no blind peer review anyway)...and finally, in some fields, so much of what is online is low-quality, free, pedestrian, etc. The "good" journals are the traditional ones...Yes, but, in my eyes at least, a wide variety is opening out, and since places like openSIUC put academic weight behind "online" and "free", more and more really good things are "online" and "free". It is now possible to do fairly good and pretty thorough research on many topics online, and this trend is generally increasing, not decreasing. I'm not saying anything profound here, just noticing which way the wind is blowing. An e-Print archive ( is part of this trend, apparently. Entire textbooks are online in most fields; this could eliminate the huge overpricing/monopoly/constant renewal problem we've faced for years with the textbook industry.

It's an interesting world, and it's apparently not sitting still.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

another term flies

As I sit here, we are heading into a Thanksgiving break, and then, another Christmas break, which is really quite long, and gives us a little time to breathe, as teachers who really only have this one season. But I also would like to reflect a little on trends in the field, and what is happening around me.

First, I am lucky, I'm sure, to still be working in a rapidly contracting world, where jobs in particular are flying, and everyone, it seems, is looking for new and clever ways to make a living. I'm surprised more of them don't end up in places like China, Brazil, or Ireland, where they still have an economy and they hire bright people to do cool things. I frankly don't know what will happen to esl/efl around the world; the crashing dollar has traditionally been good for our field, but a complete lack of jobs elsewhere in the country might not be so great.

Second, the rapid gain of technology in all fields is of course both a curse and a blessing. Who has really integrated it successfully? The divide between the online teaching world, and the brick-and-mortar traditionalists, is getting wider, coming to blows even. Teachers are threatened by those who are willing to "do it online" for cheaper, and from any corner of the world, like Phoenix, or 'Smith University.' I actually am not so quick to criticize the quality of online instruction, or quick to ridicule the traditional teachers' fears; both are valid, and there is no way to reconcile them, really. Any talk about a "New Academy" (I've copied the link below a few posts) is a little early; nobody's changing, or if they do, it's over their dead bodies, pretty much. Administrations see the future and try to push teachers into "online development". Teachers see the future and dig in their heels, doing what they've always done. And I'm speaking even for myself, a leader in the technology-integration area. When I'm out of time, and the chips are down, I do what I've always done. It's "teaching" as I know it, and, I'm always short of time.

The static web, and the blogs, for that matter, have the look and feel of foreclosed houses. I've become impatient with my own inability to get around and fix all the broken links, update wherever possible, keep things shiny and useful. The world moves onto Facebook and Twitter, and we, left behind in our old pictures and ancient design, have nothing to say, except, "we've been here forever." The blogs feel so much like "old media" that I have trouble presenting them to students as "fresh;" they, for their part, don't seem to mind, but I have less time to ask them, and we have trouble just getting their skills up to the point where they can really use English with each other, and they of course are seeing things a lot more in terms of tests, and particularly the TOEFL, which they need to pass yesterday if not sooner.

This talk about the "New Academy" being all more collaborative, also, doesn't sit well with me. I like collaboration; I'm all for it, and feel that when we work together we get the best of all our skills combined. But, I find it hard to set up and maintain. I think there are thousands of wikis out there that are, basically, blogs with 1 1/2 users; actually, there is lots of real collaboration out there too, but I'm not sure a single busy teacher like me really has access to ways to make it work in our favor. My own way of storing information, literally on blogs and static webpages, is hopelessly outmoded, but I haven't had time to explore diigo or even exploit twitter for all it's worth. The collective wisdom is rich and many-layered; but, the free moments of a teacher under pressure are so scarce, it's all I can do to produce my students' grades.

The program has a new Moodle; this is good; we were not doing well in getting Blackboard or getting our students to have access to it. The Moodle is interesting. I, however, have been too busy; I scarcely know it. I'm interested though. If my students can have instant access to all their grades, everything that's happening, everything I know or have to say, why shouldn't I give it to them? I do, after all, teach them English first, teach them how to make sense of this world, second. Sense, that is, as I know it, best foot forward, showing them our world. Our rapidly changing world. Have a good break; I hope you get some rest.

Barone, C. (2009). The New Academy. EduCause. Accessed 10-09.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, November 16, 2009

apply now!

I will be the first to say that when I pointed out an error of the SIUC web system (letting an ApplyPage link go bad on hundreds of templates), the SIUC web people, or somebody, actually fixed it! This all happened in the space of about a week.

Thank you.

For every potential student who, on an impulse of whatever kind, chooses to apply to SIUC, a link will now take them to an appropriate page. I am not sure if or whether my comment caused this, but in any case good things restores my faith in the large and (sometimes) impersonal institution.

Go Salukis!

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grammar checkers for better or worse

Writing teachers are used to the ubiquitous spell-check and the oocasional odd but inapproriate results of its consistent use. They are not prepared, however, to recognize the results of consistent grammar-check use, in two respects. First, grammar-check, even in its most primitive forms, altered the learning and perception of its esl/efl users. Second, dramatic improvements in recent years have changed what technology can do for writers, thus changing both the writer's and the teacher's challenges; for the teacher, the biggest problem is whether to teach to the student's own skills, or to accept the technology as a permanent part of the medium. This session looks at what is default on most computers, what is available and increasingly common on the market, what it does for and to students, and what exactly teachers can do about it.

A CALL-IS Internet Fair proposal
It's what I've been working on; some of
it is here

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Schaffhauser, D. (2009, Nov. 10). Social networking exploding in enterprise networks. Campus Technology. Accessed 11-09.

Evangelista, B. (2009, Nov. 9). Study: Social networks, Google Docs becoming business applications. SFGage, San Francisco Chronicle. Accessed 11-09.

Kolowich, S. (2009, Nov. 5). Tweeting in class. Inside Higher Ed. Accessed 11-09.

The Twitter Experiment- UT Dallas (2009, May 2). YouTube. Accessed 11-09.

Whittaker, Z. (2009, Nov. 3). Google Wave: Has potential, but let loose too soon. ZDNet. Accessed 11-09.

Labels: , , ,


In January 2004, or sometime around then, SIUC tried to make uniform all the departmental webpages by instituting a template requirement; we were to put a red and white striped banner across our main page; it had various links in it, including link to SIUC proper, search, the applyPage (Apply Now, it said), athletics, jobs, etc. Interior pages could have a vertical banner that was simpler but also redder, and had the same links, basically.

Web designers across campus complained that the colors were hard to work with, and in fact, SIUC would not tell how they made the red, so the webmasters had to find other dull colors that made it look good, and not try to match it. They had chosen the design from among many, but it still was unpopular. The clocktower logo that appeared within it turned out to be popular, though; even today people are using that clocktower image in creative ways, and it serves as a fairly good, popular logo for the university and its web designers.

The red-and-white banner page, however, never went over well, and ultimately the university let it go, and gave web designers the freedom to make their own pages without being trapped within the maroon template. Most departments have done so, I'm sure.

There are still hundreds of pages with the banner template and the vertical-bar template, however. Our department has two banners and three or four hundred vertical-bars alone. It's mostly because we haven't upgraded old pages to better templates.

The "Apply Now" links on these templates stopped working in 2007. Perhaps the university web system was reorganized, or a system was initiated that did not honor the capital letter in the link URL. In any case, on our pages at least, anyone who clicked "Apply Now" got a 404 message; this has been going on for a couple of years, apparently. The button at the bottom of the banner template (also saying "Apply Now" is dead also. You would think they'd put a redirect on the applyPage, and send people over to the new one, which is simply applypage.html; redirects are not impossible, apparently. You would think they would warn us, webmasters of the various departments, also. Not that I have time to fix 400 pages, but I'd at least like to know if the main ones have dead links. I had mistakenly considered that banner to be taken care of; it was, after all, imposed upon us.

No such luck. By the way, I can't imagine a good way to solve SIUC's enrollment crisis. We definitely need to get more people to apply to our programs; it would be good for us in general. If they could apply by clicking on those buttons, that would help, I'm sure. Maybe somebody could apply themselves to this situation.


Monday, November 02, 2009

more happening

Diaz, S. (2009, Oct. 27). LA votes to "Go Google"; pressure shifts to Google and the cloud. ZDNet. Accessed 11-09.

MacManus, R. (2009, Oct. 29). Google Wave use cases: Education. ReadWriteWeb. Accessed 11-09.

Baskin, K. (2009, Nov. 1). My Profile, Myself. Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Accessed 11-09.

Dawson, C. (2009, Oct. 26). More e-readers- more misconceptions. ZDNet. Accessed 11-09.

Labels: ,