Thursday, August 07, 2014

report from Lubbock, Aug. 2014

Another International Teaching Assistant Workshop just ended; this is the one 3-week stretch in which I teach absolutely full-time, but it's a whopper of full-time. There is SPEAK grading, Performance test grading, and six hours a day of teaching, all crammed into this three-week gig, and I more or less have to tell the folks at home that they're on their own. Some observations about the state of ITA's and Texas Tech will be found if you scroll down a little.

First, I want to say a little bit about the relative silence of this blog. In fact this blog didn't really move with me and my professional career to Texas Tech; it has stayed behind, really, as a repository of all good stuff that happened over an 18-year span in Illinois. But it's about time it moved, and I'll tell you why: I seem to be stuck in the process of converting all my interesting experiences into professionally-written, book-worthy ideas, and one reason is that I don't really use this blog actively enough anymore. Instead of pulling, bending, changing, etc., I just took a break and went into fiddling for a while. That has been successful; I have a band, I play bluegrass, I'm happy. But I don't intend to let my professional ideas rot on the vine back here. It's time I dredge stuff up and either publish it or drop it.

Now the nature of a blog is, it's fairly casual, and it's published, whether it's polished or not. I'm ok with that. If this is as far as some of these ideas go, that's ok. But I'm taking the red and gray of this blog and remaking it in the Texas Tech red-and-black soon, and that's because I want to keep it current, and keep using it instead of letting it collect dust. That's my first announcement. Look for some changes here soon in the design aspect. A person has to change once in a while.

Lubbock is at the searing peak of its summer; though we took a break for about a week in the mountains of New Mexico, I am now back crossing my beloved 19th street four times a day and in the process of so risking my life, I've decided to make sure that whatever feelings I have about language, acquisition, etc. I'd better get them in print sooner rather than later. So I'm thinking of devoting some energy to that process in the near future. And I hope you'll see evidence of the following: 1) a book about language as a self-organizing system; 2) a collection of essays and other writing about language acquision, and 3) a book or collection of writings about how technology and grammar intersect. I've been talking about these things for years. The heck of it is, I know where this writing is (on my blogs, in my Google docs, etc.), but it just collects dust where nobody sees it; if it were in book form, I could at least get it out there, where it might do some good. Not that anyone buys my books. But, books collect ideas under one cover. Blogs don't. Google docs simply maintain them. Books publish them.

Walked to the ITA workshop on its last day; walked home; walked to the pool, swam, and now I'm about too drained and exhausted to even do the multitude of organizational tasks I've set out for myself, for my afternoon and what little free time I'll have before the semester comes crashing in. But, I got some pictures uploaded, below, at my home weblog, and my lubbock weblog, and those are really my most immediate organizational task. I'm still finishing my ITA workshop blog, which has three entries. This last one has social media, teaching philosophies, and a tour of world cities. Most of all, in my opinion, it still proves that to me at least, the blog format is one of the best places to simply publish interesting stuff. Nobody takes it too seriously, yet by simply remembering a well-chosen URL, you always have access to the best of people's creativity, the things you can get them to say. Teaching philosophies, in particular, help them to crystallize their feelings about what they're about to do, and, since they are graduate students, they take their writing seriously and give you a good picture of various departments and issues of teaching within them. I'm proud of the work my students are still putting on blogs, and in this case I'll say one thing: in three weeks, all we could do was write the stuff and put it up there, really; we didn't worry too much about "revision." But, organization and perfection were less important than simply getting it up there. Students were coming and going the entire three weeks; this blog represents the time they spent in that classroom, discussing writing and the issues of social media, as well as talking about their own cities. I'm proud of that memory and will fix up the blog to reflect that, as soon as I have time.

Unfortunately, however, I lost the password and even the logon of the last one, which also held teaching philosophies, and this brings up an organizational nightmare of the blog world: one loses passwords, especially if one is ADD or trusts the old pen-and-paper method. I'm working on it, folks, I promise.

Which brings me to my last point. The CESL weblogs, also, are collecting dust, turning into a museum of the era in which we used them. Blogs are ok for that. I guess it's ok if people at CESL simply forget that they're there, and they sit there with all their beautiful pictures and show what people did way back in the early 20-aught years. I have them rigged, I think, so that if anyone jumps in with crude comments, I'll know. As they get stale, they move down on Google indices, and people are less likely to stumble upon them. But even now I use them. Students have research papers on them, and I call them up. They reflect the idea that you can take a corner of a public discourse environment, you can make an interesting project, and you can leave it posted indefinitely, for its creators to use, and for anyone to see and comment upon. If anything, it's making the web more civilized, and calmer. And that's no small change in today's world. My last organizational task is to link up these weblogs, so that one can more easily have access to them, or see them in the order that I'd like you to see them. Look for more on that, here.

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