Sunday, December 30, 2007

What is going on with this blog?

Most likely it will be moving, though I have not started the new year, new blog yet. First I wanted to experiment with the "new" customizable templates, because I never really played around with the "new" version of blogger in nor out of beta. But ultimately, all of my other blogging is done via wordpress, and I am finding that I prefer it. I especially like edublogs and am considering starting this personal/academic blog there. I thought to stay here for reasons of readership, but since my sitemeter reports that I don't really have much of a readership (not that there has been anything here to read), I figure it won't hurt too much to start over somewhere new (and improved!).

I took an entire semester off from this blog. During that time I began a meditation blog, administered a blog for the ENG105 faculty at CSR, and of course maintained my course blogs.

Currently there has been an interesting (and motivating) discussion taking place in the WPA listserv regarding "time toward PhD completion." Within that discussion has come the reminder that habit in writing is super important and that daily writing is crucial. As a writing teacher this is obvious to me, yet as with doctors who tell us to eat right and exercise and then are themselves complete couch potatoes, I have been one of those dissertation writers who has not been taking my own writing advice to heart. I feel the pressure when I make time to write that it has be a large amount of time and that it has to produce something momentous (or close to it). But, that isn't always going to happen, and it is better to write a bit each day than to have a few sporadic pressure-filled marathon writing sessions. Daily writing is actually where blogging was supposed to come in -- public accountability always helps too.

A few folk on the listserv have suggested this site -- PhinisheD -- so I plan to spend some time checking that out and commiserating with other ABDs.

So I guess this has kind of turned into a new year's resolution post: to return -- more diligently -- to writing and completing my dissertation and to return to this blog (or this blog at a new location) as part of that more diligent dissertation writing process/habit.

Finally, I have also given some thought to what I want this blog to be. It started out a little over three years ago (!!!) as my attempt to move my work and my voice outside the "ivory tower" and reach a larger audience than my dissertation committee. The blog was to be an account of the research and teaching and teaching as research that my experience as a PhD student was/is comprised of. For the most part I believe that is what this blog has been -- along with the occasional (or more than that?) asides. I realize that some readers prefer to read academic blogs that are strictly that, and I have considered making my own blogging fit more into that strictly academic "genre." However, I've come to the realization that that blogs I most enjoy reading are "mixed bag" blogs -- the ones that move between pedagogical practice, writing theory, most recent movie viewing, and dinner menus. I'm sure it is the voyeur in me, as I believe it is for many of us working, writing, living, interacting in these online spaces who are also reality TV junkies and fans of memoir and the personal essay, etc. Anyhow, I'm feeling fairly certain that this blog will remain a blend of the personal and the academic. A post I read today is of this opinion:
The mix of professionalism, critique, personal obsession. This is the juxtaposition that drives the best kinds of writing.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

online writing workshops?

I spent the morning kicking around the web through a variety of websites, google searches, JSTOR articles, compfaq and CompPile searches, etc. in search of some specifics on online/virtual/electronic peer review (or writing workshops). I spent about an hour and a half. It was an exhausting search and didn't yield the kind of results I was hoping for: suggestions for specific technology, logistics, results. From the tidbits I was able to find, I learned that research favors asynchronous over synchronous peer review. This is making me re-think my original idea, which was to use chatzy, in favor of using wikis. Still, I haven't quite figured out exactly how I am going to do this: have students post a page that is their essay, and then use the discussion section to answer workshop directing questions? Should students be able (in true wiki) fashion to intervene in the original text? My impulse is to say yes, as the author can view the history of changes, but what are the drawbacks to this idea? I'd definitely like to do more reading about this. I've gone ahead and ordered myself the book Virtual Peer Review: Teaching and Learning about Writing in Online Environments, despite it being in hardcover and way to much money for me too be spending right now.

In my online travels I also came across some references to designing hybrid courses, so I'd like to look further into those as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Note to self (but meant to be read by anyone interested)

Do NOT assume that just because you've been assigned a hybrid course of which one credit is digital that you'll be assigned to a computer classroom that allows you to teach the technology necessary to making the digital aspect possible. Such assumptions will hurt you, when, a week before classes start you suddenly check the classroom space and see rows of tables as opposed to computers, and you nearly have a heart attack. These are things you need to ask for and agressively pursue. Please remember this in the future.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

RSS for the Fall

I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning toying around with ideas for how I want to integrate RSS into my classes this Fall. All three of the classes I'm teaching are hybrids -- a new idea that CSR is working with that has one credit of a four-credit course as a digital credit. In some ways I'll just be doing what I've been doing -- having students blog, work with wikis, etc. -- only I'll be able to have that extra credit hour a week to work in these digital arenas as opposed to doing it on top of all the traditional f2f reading and writing that goes on in the classroom. I'm also hoping that students won't be quite as shocked by and resistant to the online work now that it is "officially" a part of the class (though I've always included it in my course descriptions, students have always expressed surprise over the required blogging).

Over the past couple of semesters, I've experimented with different approaches to teaching students RSS. First semester we used flock. Second semester I had them use google reader. My concern is that students aren't checking their readers regularly. This is most important in terms of the class blog, because that is the space with the greatest number of updates and the material pertains to class, assignments, etc. For reading the blogs of their peers, it's okay to sit down when they're ready to comment, login to google reader, and start flipping through posts (although my problem with this is that it isn't the best way to really learn RSS and see the ways in which it can help manage all the web-based content out there).

So recently I've decided to take a bit more seriously the claim about email being for old people. Last week I was teaching a group of students between ninth and tenth grade as part of a program called Summerbridge (Philadelphia). We had a sesssion where we met with some admissions counselors, one of whom started talking to the kids about how they tend to communicate. I was actually surprised that all nineteen of the students present have a myspace/facebook account (they seemed so very young to me). Anyhow, the conversation led me to think about ways to integrate RSS with myspace/facebook as part of my upcoming hybrid classes -- with the thought that since these are the spaces that students visit each day, then these are the spaces in which to incorporate any class announcements or updates. The question left ahead of me: How?

For myspace I chose the SpringWidgets RSS reader (widget). And for facebook I finally found the application, myRSS, for feed subscriptions. I think these will work well for staying abrest of the class blog updates (for those who have myspace/facebook accounts). The questions I'm left with: Are these widgets/applications the best way to utilize RSS? Probably not. Are they appropriate for keeping the subscriptions to all of their classmates' blogs? Probably not. What about students who don't have a myspace or facebook?

Ultimately, I think I will have them use google reader as a supplement to these additions on their social networking site of choice. I don't want any of this to seem too cumbersome, because I really want students to see the ways in which RSS can help make their learning, researching, etc. processes more effective and efficient (and more interesting and diverse to some extent). For now I'll continue to play around with various ideas, and on the first day of class, I'll really need to get a sense of how many students have these accounts (and utilize them regularly) that will certainly affect and direct my thinking and practice in terms of RSS (and other digital practices) for this Fall semester.

Friday, July 13, 2007

summer movie watching

Yesterday, I stayed in bed, drinking tea and watching Zizek. I called it work.

Last week we saw Once. I was truly taken with this movie. I think I've thought about it every day since I've seen it. The film is so completely driven by music that D and I could sing the songs upon exiting the theater (which we did). I believe that I keep thinking about it because of how much was kept from the viewer, how much was held back. But Daynah Burnett's review for PopMatters explains it better than I can:
Still, and even though its ethos is decidedly bohemian, the film never lapses into romantic idealism. At no point do the leads make you swoon or root too hard for their union. Rather, they hold so much back from themselves and each other, it’s as though as you don’t know them, but only glimpsed them in passing.

This summer we've also seen Waitress, which is tough to watch without thinking about the murder of writer, director, acctress Adrienne Shelly. And Knocked Up -- hil-arious.

We also watched Lovely and Amazing, which I had never seen. I liked it -- better than Friends with Money (both from Nicole Holofcener).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


national grid has been working on our street since early May (maybe it was late April?). By "working" I mean digging up the street, dumping pounds of gravel in front of our houses, spray painting our sidewalks and lawns, drilling holes, letting their noisy trucks run all day long, asking to get into our basements, and just generally being loud and disruptive. I'm not exactly sure what they are doing, but they describe it as "upgrading the natural gas infrastructure in your neighborhood." From what I can tell, this involves changing the gas lines in a way that gives national grid access to our gas lines outside of our houses (as opposed to inside). While there is no mention of this being "experimental," so far we are the only street (as far as I can tell) to have this work being done. Now, mind you, our street has somewhere around twenty-five houses total. Please note that they have been here since April. How, I wonder, do they intend to do this "infrastructure upgrade" to the entire city? By what year do they expect to finish? But that, of course, is not my headache -- that one is theirs. My headache has to do with the fact that I listen to this racket day in and day out as I am trying, TRYING to work. Yes, some days I leave and work elsewhere, but I don't like being forced to leave my house simply because I can't hear myself think. Not to mention that for about a month and half I had to be guided out of my driveway by the work crew, as on one side of the driveway was a giant hole (that a national grid truck had fallen into, creating an even bigger hole) and on the other was always an eclectic array of gravel, tractors, trucks, orange cones, and the like. Right now all of this drives me particularly crazy because I have only one hour before I have to get ready for an appointment. An hour isn't enough time to really travel somewhere to work, but it is certainly enough time to work from home. If only...if only that jackhammer would stfu (I have no idea if that is really an acronym that anyone actually uses, but I just did).

Naturally this is the first summer ever that I've taken off time from teaching to write and research. Of course.

Well, it feels kinda good to write about it. I haven't been blogging much with the exception of posting bits and pieces of research project, as I attempt to design it. Ranting through writing = good outlet.

my research question

Right now it seems that my research question is: What is my research question? It's maddening.

I'm struggling with it, but this is what I have so far (as with all my work thus far -- special shout out to my friend Kate for looking over all the first attempts, so that my web persona can be just the tiniest bit less vulnerable):

1. To what extent are faculty and students aware of the options available when choosing instructional technology and of the long-term cost considerations (fiscal, ethical, ideological, and otherwise) involved in adopting software for use in higher education?
a. What are the options and alternatives (particularly in terms of proprietary software options in contrast to open source models) available to faculty and administration when choosing instructional technology software such as course management systems (CMS), ePortfolio programs, and assessment software?
b. What are the fiscal, pedagogical, and ideological factors involved in the decision making processes on the part of faculty staff and administration when choosing software for their institution?
c. What are the ethical and political implications (if any) that influence the decisions made by faculty, staff, and administration when purchasing and utilizing proprietary software?

The first question I see as a kind of overarching question of the project. The sub-questions seem to actually be the questions that would have to come first. If that makes any sense at all. (Once again, I'm a bit too close to tell at this point). The other thing I'm stuggling with are the nuances between ideological and political and ethical (and even then, I guess, fiscal and pedagogical since those are both political and ideological...and...sigh). This part feels unruly to me right now. I'm still working it all out, but feedback is welcome. I should just make this a workshopping blog.