Archive for February, 2012

“Networks and New Media” Jeff Rice ENGL 516

I want to address the conflict that Rice calls upon, “That one can study and work with a body always in flux, always unstable, and always shifting is a paradox because higher has meant the mastery of mostly stable body of information” I want to contextualize this statement, even though I have a tendency to agree with it in some respects. I want to examine how composition is stable? Historically, the English language has seen several cultural movements, such as the humanism, romanticism, realism, gender theory….etc. If we know that there are several perspectives we can slip in and out of to study text, then how is it that we instruct and assess in a way that is conflicting with the very way we associate ourselves with the field and how come this conflict doesn’t initiate action?

I think it is because of the whole reason why we eventually opened up other literary lenses: the strong arm of Patriarchy. For too many years (and texts) we have been subjugated so much so, that the reasons for the onset of literacy are still pervasive to the field’s study, even today. This was/is educating for mass manipulation: to process a text that aids Westernization and religion (forms of control), only today, this manipulation is found among institutions that desire constructing who is permitted to be among these institutions and how they are accepted.

Thus, after contextualizing this conflict, it doesn’t seem all that complex. The conflict is there, not because English and composition studies is more complex than the effort to teach it, the conflict isn’t about pedagogy at all, it’s about control. The reason the paradox applies so naturally to what Rice calls, “The network” is because institutionally, a body of power cannot control the web. This calls upon policy that is debated on Capital Hill as I type: the attempt to control what one can access on the web. It’s proof that we aren’t looking to set standards to our composition, it’s that those who feel threatened by allowing the average writer to access other “average” writing that empowers. Thereby, removing the power inherent in education’s binaries. “Those who write and those who can’t” leaves no room for those who choose to. The binary is a view point that advocates the control of educating, specifically how we educate. The world wide web is uncontrollable, and as such, those in control will always fight to keep what they have controlled for eons under close watch.

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Discourses of Writing-Ivanic ENGL 515

I really like the way Ivanic stresses through out this piece that her theory is meant as a process at work: a framework to work from and not necessarily a model. I like this idea, because once we attribute paradigm characteristics to a theory, it seems to suggest that the theory is sound enough to utilize for research methods and so on. Of course the knowledge that we accumulate about literacy and writing in general is obtained in this fashion, but I believe that some ideas are meant to be nurtured and revisited, so that the theory can be trialed among classrooms, students, and teachers first, making the theory recursive. It’s preemptive to test something on the basis of effectiveness when it’s in its pedagogical infancy. If we use certain strategical examples of literacy in a way that allows the model to expand and grow, then testing it first wastes resources, especially when some theorists are too quick to label something a failed model of literacy, instead of understanding that certain strategies can be utilized so that a theory, like Ivanic’s identification of the six discourses, can grow and expand our knowledge about writing and the teaching of writing, and eventually develop into a framework that can represent a model of teaching writing. She claims, “However, in the conclusion, I discuss how the framework can be applied to the study of a range of data concerning the learning and teaching of writing, and the discourses at work in these practices, and suggest how it can be extended to apply to the study of pedagogy where the teaching of writing is not separated from other aspects of literacy” (221).

The aspect that I want to articulate most and bring to the fore are italicized here, because writing, for so many years, has been separated, as though it is a skill that is something obtained in passing as the student makes their way through their education. In some way, we have approached teaching writing in a way that makes it a secondary skill to reading. We emphasize reading as the main aspect of ones education, and it makes sense why we would do this, because obviously one needs to be able to read in order to comprehend what their work is asking of them. However, I believe that reading and writing must be taught as a pair. In a perfect world (which I’m aware that this in not a perfect world) I would like to think that my students are devouring their reading assignments. I would like to assume they are doing so with passion and motivation. As I stated, I know this is not a perfect world, so to assume they are doing this is a mistake on my part. Thus, with that in mind, how can we assume that students are going to develop a voice in their writing, when the voices that they’re reading, are not speaking to them. The reason I say these voices are silent is because the students are not accustomed to attributing primacy to writing, so how can they have the skill of hearing voice, when they have not found their own?

Ivanic says, “’Academic literacy is a conceptualisation of literacy based on the beliefs that literacies are heterogeneous, are shaped by interests, epistemologies and power relations, have consequences for identity, and are open to contestation and change” Most certainly! This is what I meant by absence of voice in writing, mentioned above. The academic identity associated with writing is held on the back burner while students attempt to piece through text, and because they have not yet developed their own voice, or even been exposed to understanding what voice is, they read right over it as they are exposed to literature, and this may be where we lose them. They are reading with half an identity, and this is like playing baseball with one arm. One may be able to attempt it, but they very likely will not experience it , comprehensively. The power inherently associated with reading is in need of being transferred to writing, so that one is not privileged over the other. Then, and only then is it to our advantage to create and label pedagogical theories as a “model”.

Interesting Take on Pedagogical Empathy

Copy and paste the link to your browser:

http://mediatedcultures.net/smatterings/why-good-classes-fail/

 

Discussion Lead-Twitter 2/16/12

“The modern search engine has taken on the mantle of what the ancients of many cultures thought of as an oracle: a source of knowledge about our world and who we are” ( Halavais 2).

  1. I thought about what this quote means and realized that online search engines or research needs a different approach. We tend to think of searching the web as a result-oriented activity, and this is usually because when we search the web, we very likely find some type of results. However, I feel that we need to look closely at this assumption. We need to be aware that resituating ourselves within a novel approach to digital literacy means opening up conversations about search activity, and be more inclusive with regard to what means we use to include our students in these conversations. So, that’s a bit if a beast in its idealistic assumption about what we think our students know. So, how can we better position ourselves to find out what they know?
  2. I decided to utilize a resource provided by a colleague regarding Twitter, and how a savvy educator worked with the resources at his disposal to open up a conversation regarding how out-of-class activity can be brought in class, successfully. (Please see my latest blog post)

Activity: Log into Twitter and plug a few recognizable terms in the search engine

  • Query
  • Search
  • Digital Literacy

When students activate their own critical thinking by using social media sites, they are exposed to a specific functional discourse, and their out-of-class life-experience enhances their in class experience. I know of first year composition instructors that assign at least one visit to the campus library to facilitate the type of research skills that many online users develop on their own. So, I say, why not draw students in by using a rhetorical literacy they already know? The example I provided today is not to imply that I believe students will perform better on standardized tests. Rather, I illustrate the opportunity we can provide our classes with, by providing them with an understanding of how certain literary practices can be gained through using some of the applications, programs, or sites that are already relative to their lives. If we keep an open mind regarding how to approach an ever changing digital domain, we avoid getting stuck in one approach and our students are better served.

Bringing Twitter into the Classroom: A Low Budget Approach

Bringing Twitter into the Classroom: A Low Budget Approach

Okay, so I may be a bit biased in my interest for Twitter, because admittedly, I do enjoy my social networking. I enjoy it enough to know that FB is down for this particular semester, but I chose to keep my Twitter afloat because, I mean really, how much trouble can one get into in under 144 characters? Well, I don’t really want to learn the answer to that. However, thanks to a bright colleague of mine, I found a blog for a fellow educator, whom decided to take his lesson plans into his own hands, and likely his budget, to design an engaging activity/assignment for his students.

If you follow the link I have provided here, it will take you to Jeremy’s blog, where not only will you find some insightful educational perspectives, but a crazy idea of utilizing social networking as a classroom tool. No doubt, this idea has to sell to most educators in the sense that the cost of resources is so very low, one can’t afford to just neglect a closer look. However, because this idea is not necessarily an administration’s first choice, possibly frowned upon by some parents, and just plain new to our repertoire, the thought of designing anything curricular using sights like Twitter or Facebook may have some of us shuddering.

Yet, I have to wonder, aren’t we in this class for a reason? Don’t we want multimedia programs and social media sites to be a part of our classrooms, in order to better facilitate the future of our students, and our media literate lives in general? Obviously, balancing what best suits students and what doesn’t isn’t always spelled out for us, and we sometimes have to tweak lesson plans to make certain idealistic aspects of our expectations made clearer to ourselves. We certainly do not want to go in blindly, assuming that the most novel approaches to teaching are the best, but working with the system we have seems only naturally intelligent, and Jeremy’s assignment does precisely this. He utilizes what Halavais refers to as a “giant mass” of information. But, in essence, it is our jobs to make sense of these giant masses and “tame” them as he suggests. I think Jeremy did a pretty decent job of “taming” a pilot activity for his classroom. Let’s just hope what calls for our taming, in this next century, doesn’t tame our senses as well. I like Jeremy’s approach, but we have to remember that our students are not necessarily our lab rats. Although, I’m certain sometimes as instructors, feeling like a mad scientist isn’t unfamiliar :/

“A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” The London Group ENGL 515

This first half of this article vexes me, because although I have to agree with most of what the authors posit, almost all of it seems very idealistic. For example, right from the start, they claim, “Pedagogy is a teaching and learning relationship that creates the potential for building learning conditions leading to full and equitable social participation” (60). So, where are these particular writers teaching, because although this is a wonderful idea, it is in no way a reality for students that are a part of society, today. Of course we can create the potential for equitable social participation, but we as instructors cannot accomplish this by ourselves. The nature of pedagogy is far rooted in the idea that reading and writing alone is the sure-fire way to instruct, so with that said, literacy is in no way equitable for all, because SES makes it very difficult for all students to be placed in the same educational categories as more affluent students. Their lives are very different, so their skills and experiential knowledge is different as well.

On page 61, they talk about two key points they want to address: one regarding the multifaceted approach to literacy and pedagogy with regard to culturally and linguistically diverse societies and that pedagogy accounting for burgeoning varieties of text, including multimedia technologies. The first point is obvious and I don’t think professionals that I know would argue this point. However, the following point, although valid, is one that we probably wouldn’t argue whether it is valid or not, but would definitely argue that it’s almost impossible to accomplish in one lifetime. I hear many theorists argue that we must account for and meet the needs of our students by providing them with the necessary exposure to burgeoning multimodal/multimedia technologies, yet knowing what the state of education is in this country, and knowing and experiencing the budget constraints, particularly within the last few years, how can we posit such a tall order?

How can we make these demands of the field, when we know that the resources needed to complete this task is not only unavailable, but is almost a farce in its existence? Then, I come across the following:

“The prevailing sense of anxiety is fueled in part by the sense that, despite goodwill on the part of educators, despite professional expertise, and despite the large amounts of money expended to develop new approaches, there are still vast disparities in life chances disparities that today seem to be widening still further” (61). Okay…..DUH!!! This is exactly what I pointed out above. If we know this, then proposing a “programmatic manifesto” is a great resource for us to share amongst one another, especially when designing our curriculum, but our expectations of what this said manifesto can achieve, administratively is somewhat disheartening (73).

However, the article points out some very valuable key terms for me, such as, programmatic manifesto, glass ceiling (already been established via feminist theory, but I like it anyway) civic pluralism, conversationalization, and lifeworlds. I have to admit, lifeworlds encompasses much here in my opinion and I chose to utilize the term in my curriculum analysis, because it is our own lifeworlds that determines how we use literacy and where we internalize it. There is still a copious amount of information to unpack in this article, so I go forth with budding enthusiasm. 

EMU Writing Center Observations

Today was my first visit to the Writing Center on campus. I can’t believe that I was able to compile almost four pages of notes, considering there were only a few visitors, but I think much of my observations consist of descriptions of the center itself, and so on.

The room isn’t very big, but it looks as though the space is used, productively. Right above where I’m sitting, there are sheets of paper taped to the wall and on them are sketches and drawings of different ways of brain storming: tools  for composition inspiration. Some of them are traditional, as in a linear sense, others are a little less so in that they are thought bubbles, drawings, maps of the room, and even simple lists of ways to brain-storm and compose. This was one of the most interesting facets in my observation today, because I think the sketches provide evidence of the varied degree of ways of composing for everyone. It gives students more room for creating and composing. It also gives them a sense of authorship, because they can apply different techniques for different writing prompts, and making these decisions help students discover, for themselves, their own writing identity.

There is no two exact ways of composing for everyone. Even when one class is directed to utilize one type of brain-storming process, there is no guarantee that any particular technique will work as a tutorial for everyone. Thus, these illustrations are great samples for first-year writers to take note of and possibly work into their own repertoire for the pre-writing process. I think this may even be a great way to get first year writers to demonstrate their own perspective of writing. For example, instructors can assign something similar for their class, and it will allow now only the instructor to assess where the student is, academically, but also gives students the opportunity to view the way they see themselves as a part of the composition community. I think maybe even attaching a reflection piece to the assignment, to be addressed later in the semester, so students can see for themselves, the progression of their learning.