Archive for January, 2012

Little Kids, Big Minds

Four years ago, my son brought home a How-To Origami book from the library. My husband and I found it endearing and encouraged him to read the book, or at least try to. He was only six years old at the time. Everyday, he read a little bit. He would come to us and ask for help sounding out certain words, but after some time, he was able to get through the book.

We thought, even though the book seemed a little advanced for him, that it would be good practice. He seemed so enthralled with the book, we figured the artwork was getting his attention. A few days after he had finished the book, we noticed tiny pieces of paper in his room, on the dining room table, in the bathroom, pretty much in every room of the house that he spends time in. Initially, I dismissed the little folded treasures as play-ground projects that most school-aged children play with. However, I began noticing that these little folded pieces actually resembled things: a duck, a tea-cup (not sure how he was able to do that) a flower that moved to imitate the budding and flowering process. I was absolutely shocked! This kid, my sweet little six year old who loves baseball, bubble gum, and singing in the shower actually created these tiny objects. The kid was performing & creating origami artwork!

You must understand how absolutely ridiculous my husband and I felt, after we sifted through the book and had a hand at trying this for ourselves. I couldn’t do it, I don’t have the patience. My husband is a laborer, and said his hands can’t manipulate these “damned tiny” pieces of paper. We felt so stupid we had to laugh. Then of course, we convinced ourselves that our true passions had never included origami, so we felt slightly better. However, the perspective that I had for my six year old changed forever. He’s the youngest of three boys, but I have a distinct feeling he may be the most challenging. He’s ten now. He’s an average boy, with lots of friends and activities. Yet, for some reason, I can’t seem to categorize the snowflake that he recently brought home to us as being an average snowflake.

He’s a little kid with a big mind….and a big snowflake 🙂

Winner – “Do Artifacts Have Politics?”

In “Modern Times” Charlie Chaplin portrays an average man working to survive in his industrialized world. He is astoundingly on point when he demonstrates how  the ‘average man’ not only struggles to come to terms with the political implications of such a society, because he not only shows how this conflict arises, but also demonstrates from where the conflict originates….within himself. Thus, he becomes a part of the productive working machine, compromising identity and the personal values it contains, for convenience and productivity. Winner’s article raises a number of issues for me, as a student and instructor. As I read through the article, I noticed an important point that I would like to articulate. Winner is not arguing for the benefit or burden of technology, and its advancements within society, he is simply illustrating political conditions associated with opening up conversations about the biases and repercussions of said advancements.

I am a distinct product of pop-culture and the generation X era, where, even though we have been exposed to most modern technology and its said benefit in our lives, we have also been the generation that knows full and well how to get off the sofa to change the channel and how to sit down next to the phone jack, in order to have a telephone conversation. I thought my generation had given me exposure to what it is to be a part of both worlds, until I read this article. It is now clear to me that with all of the advancements that I have been alive to witness in my time, thus far, precisely because they are advancements marketed as making life better and more convenient, I now know that I have looked past the difficulties or inherent political assumptions embedded in these advancements. Although we will, as an industrialized society and progressive nation, have the impetus to forge forward with regard to new and undiscovered technology, I believe it is vital to always be aware of, not just the pros and cons as that seems to simplify our quest, but be vigilant in expressing the biases inherent in our quest.

One example I would like to use here is the on-going discussions professionals have with regard to electronic grading for writing sample assessments such as: GRE, Basic Skills exam, college entrance exams….etc. Since I have entered graduate school, I have heard several discussions regarding these types of assessments and one main factor seems prevalent among scholars, and that is, how can we utilize this feature to its fullest and maintain the highest quality of assessment for our students, simultaneously. A written sample is a standard for most assessments, and regardless of the field one is moving into, students will be expected to provide a cogent and structured argument,which is mechanically on par and polished. This type of writing does not simply require all the right commas, quotations, and citations, but must be clearly stated and well thought out. I’m not certain if I have a problem with programs that assess this material as such, because I am a product of my environment or if I truly believe that technology is incapable of discerning the previous characteristics I mention. However, one concept seems to remain apparent for me, and it’s the fact that we need to have conversations regarding this type of assessment, in order to call forth the implications of its utilization.

We cannot afford to assume that because these programs make our lives easier, are cost effective, and more productive, that they better serve our students than our red pens, because if we do this, then we are making the mistake that I mention in my opening. We are looking past the inherent biases and inconsequential results of implementing this fairly innovative assessment technique. Now, I am in no way arguing for or against electronic writing assessments, because let’s face it, I am a composition professional and I am grown up enough to admit that anything that makes my job more productive is ideal. However, I am stating that the dialogue that properly addresses this subject, needs to be open, inclusive, and realistic about how this technological advancement really advances. I believe, if we jump on the bandwagon of computerized assessment for writing students, we are eventually going to find ourselves tangled within the machine of our own. When we market techie ideas in a way that sells a segment of society wholeheartedly, we are the awkward and fumbling Chaplin….eventually stumbling over ourselves to recreate/sell something with an ideal, not an idea. We become a part of our own machine, and may very well lose sight of the goal with which the intention was sough to begin with.

“Because Digital Writing Matters” – Devoss. Ch. 1

P. 22

Regarding Devoss’s experience on working on this chapter: as I read through her morning ritual, it truly emphasizes how out of touch I am with the technological world. I have a few morning rituals myself, but not as many and as compounded as our author. I suppose that always comes with time, however, I have vowed to find a way to utilize Google docs, because the simple accessibility is amazing. I assume it would have to be an immense benefit for me, professionally. As I read through her list of items for the morning, I now see the usefulness of two monitors as Professor has stated, even though the thought seemed a bit overwhelming, initially. What does toggle mean? Possibly navigating the pointer? These are the little terms and jargon I need to pick up on. Like steps perhaps: one at a time.

P. 24

Resituating the “Digital Generation”- This section brought something to light for me. I utilize my library card and always have, because growing up, we didn’t have much as far as resources in my house. Most of the literature I was exposed to was either provided to me through school or through my local library. Moving on, I have noticed that when I am in need of certain services such as printing, it is hard-pressed to have substantial browsing time on a public PC. The Southgate Veterans Memorial library only allow 30 minutes for browsing to their patrons, I can barely open my iheart account and get my music going in 30 minutes, much less write a paper or do research. I have also experienced the cost of printing, when I run out of ink and do not have time to replenish it. To print page by page at the library is much more costly than it is to invest in ink, .10 a page to be precise. I know I have a print budget at Halle, but getting to campus early enough to print is not always an option for me. Essentially, the resources it requires to not own a PC is almost as perturbing as it is to invest in one. I would argue investing and maintain a laptop/PC is even less expensive than visiting public locations. The digital age is a movement in society, but as I have observed myself, not everyone is capable of taking part in it. I have also railed at how long I have to wait to get on a PC, there are still many people who do not own a PC. This is why ordering my ink ahead is crucial. Printing at home is most certainly a luxury. Thus, fragments of society are not being exposed to this luxury, and it has to affect the way in which they are learning to utilize technology for their own benefit, or lack there of.

 

Reading List: to-do

Why Johnny Can’t Read – Rudolf Flesch

Metaphors We Live By – Lakoff & Johnson

A Room of Their Own – Mary Wollstonecraft

Son of a Witch – Greg Maguire

The Bluest Eyes – Toni Morrison

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone – Fleischer & Andrew

Saving Fish From Drowning – Amy Tan

Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

The Fable of the Bees and Other Writings – Bernard Mandeville

Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks

When and Where I Enter – Paula Giddings

Orientalism – Edward Said (I’ve only read excerpts…)

The Dignity of Working Men – Michele Lamont

The Other Queen – Philippa Gregory

Me: Stories of My Life – Katharine Hepburn

Aeneid – Translated by John Dryden, I have a copy 🙂

Blaze – Steven King writing as Richard Bachman

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative – Mieke Bal

The Rhetoric of Religion – Kenneth Burke

There’s more, but I have to get moving, I have more to-do lists.

 

 

The Despicable Dentist

My husband has a 9:00am appointment with the dentist this morning, and when I told him about it a few days ago, you would have thought I told him that the Golf network was no more. He was not a happy camper when he found out that he had to wake up on a Saturday morning to go to the dentist. Apparently, he has an issue with gagging. He claims just the thought of the dentist makes him do this. I, myself, thought I had achieved greatness when I was able to schedule a check up for all five of us in one month.

Perhaps I understand the issue some folks have with fear, the thought of some overbearing medic gawking into the depths of nowhere mans land. However, I have had a few dental issues myself and trust me when I say, I’d much rather have a team of dental specialists working on my mouth, than ever deal with an abscess. Maybe bearing children has properly prepared me for a limitless pain threshold, but for whatever reason I welcome my appointments. I revel in the fact that I have the insurance coverage that provides it and the fact that I can get the care I need.

In my line of work, I imagine it could be problematic to stand in front of the class, convincing my students that reading and writing is where it’s at, with three teeth in my head. When I had my own previous experience with dental issues, I did some research on what poor dental hygiene can do to ones teeth, and the results were disturbing. How was one supposed to know that cavities can contribute to heart disease, chronic infection, and/or auto-immune deficiencies? I was astounded! However, I am happy to state that so far the old ticker works well, and I will continue to make certain everyone in this household has the same benefit.

 

Books….Dust and All!

Almost all of my friends either received a Kindle/Nook for Christmas or purchased one for someone this year. I have seen several customers at work, using it while having their lunch. I’ve seen folks reading them at the park, at play dates, at doctor appointments…..etc. I realize how innovative and convenient they are, but are we really in an age when a book is an inconvenience? I LOVE books….old, new, broken in, highlighted, scribbled in, I love them all! When I get a new one, I usually open it first thing and smell it, some find this odd, my husband finds it endearing. If I find an old one, I tend to imagine whose hands had it last, what they liked most about it, where they kept it…I’m a bit unusual that way. All I know is I can’t write in the marginalia of Kindle, I can’t smell it, it has no character and who needs to worry about more batteries? I suppose because I’m an avid reader, I will eventually own one, but for now, it’s just me and my books…..dust and all! 🙂

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