Friday, September 03, 2010

105 arrives

It's a busy time; I'll be the first to say, I'm letting this poor blog rust a little in the fall dew. A lot of personal issues keep me occupied; at work, I'm the new grammar coordinator (see below) which brings an enormous material-shuffling responsibility which I'm not quite caught up on. For a variety of reasons I'm way behind on everything, but I thought I'd comment on the aspects of the world that I see rushing by like rocks in a river that one is rafting on.

Google docs - my first apology is for not putting my writing on google docs better, more clearly, more cleanly; I need a lesson, and haven't had time to get it. I'm a fan of google (this blog remains, years after others have faded or become unavailable)...and I've found no better place to put things. But I haven't had time.

Facebook - CESL Facebook continues to be quite a sleepy spot, with few new pictures and an occasional ungrammatical post. As some students post great pictures on their own sites, I don't even link to them or point them out. Why should I? Would this really help CESL? Or are we better off having a sleepy, but decent, spot?

In the larger picture, Facebook now has a "Places" option and once again makes you part of it whether you're aware of it or not, and you have to be well aware of all the privacy controls on the inside of your account, to change anything. With this "places" option any of your friends can know exactly where you are (and why, again, would I want this?)...and this of course assumes that all our friends have secure accounts, which are not subject to the kind of tampering that makes one of my friends, already, try to sell me some kind of spam junk. No, I'm sure all my friends are ok, and so are theirs, and theirs, although I'm also aware that quite a few accounts have been broken into. But, again, why would I want all these people to know where I am, all the time?

Grammar as a discrete topic - We remain one of a minority of programs which teach grammar as separate from writing, speaking, etc. Our students remain grammar-challenged at the top, whether that be because they were grammar-challenged to begin with, because a discrete class doesn't help them (and even hurts them???)...or because whatever we've been doing, we haven't been doing well. I intend to find out and advocate for the best solution (furthermore, I'm interested in your opinion). I have the chance to put into practice several fundamental aspects of my philosophy: 1) grammar is more about applying principles when making sentences, than about filling in the proper form in a blank; 2) grammar is not rocket science; if the vast majority of American children can understand and learn it, adults can too; 3) when adults learn a complete system, questions about the big picture are inevitable, but answering these questions is basically a distraction from the problem at hand, which is stated in #1; and, finally, 4) every class must keep the big picture in mind, even while rushing through minor grammar points, pressuring the students, getting them to learn single isolated patterns; the big question is, are they taking everything they have learned, and using it successfully? I say, if we haven't applied these principles successfully, then we haven't tested out whether a discrete grammar class can help a program. And I intend to try.

Self-organized system theory - I've done virtually nothing about this, being too busy. Too bad. It's a theory dying to be spelled out. And it may have to wait until I retire!

Google Wave - Came and went, without me even trying it. Too bad! If I had designed it, it would have had more pop art in it, I suppose.

Nings - seem to be out of the picture. Again, I barely knew what they were. My yahoo e-mail address was cancelled, because I didn't log on enough. Free things are taken away, faster than you can sign up for them. My new philosophy is: simplify! Either that, or log on regularly, just as a matter of course.

TESOL 2011 - Love New Orleans, love TESOL, might miss them both. Sorry! I did make proposals. But I always do, and my faith in their innovative character is running a little low.

Weblogs - I still use them. But there is so little interest from the rest of the faculty that I barely keep them current. I am having trouble, in fact, keeping them presentable, when students more often post on the wrong ones than the right ones; when students confuse it with the moodle, etc. To me there is still great benefit in making work public. The light and the air hit it. People see it and read it. It becomes part of the scenery; it shows what we do, what we read and what we write. I'm proud of that. But I apparently am a voice in the wilderness here. And even with the advent of mass spamming (which plagues the blogspot system), it's still worth it.

Moodle - a great system here has spared me from whining and moaning about Blackboard and its monopolistic byzantine system. Instead, full professors are whining and moaning about Blackboard, and we are using a system called Moodle which is working well, downloaded for free. It's kind of like the way the university switched over from a private e-mail server that cost tens of thousands, to g-mail, which was free, and wondered for years how that was even possible. But it was, and they did it. This system also is plagued with some spamming; people need to figure out how to get these porn junkies off of the interstate. But in every other way, it seems to be a huge, and wonderful, innovation in the world of education. It's a system, a meeting place, a glass window showing everyone everything. Both enlightening, and dangerous.

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