Wednesday, August 30, 2006

worried? or just plain paranoid?

My students' first blogging assignment is simply to create their blog. The assignment is now posted. I'm hoping it is not too rudimentary, but of my sixty students only around three or four of them have ever blogged before.


Today at the end of class I was talking to a student about blogging, while the next class was coming in (not sure what class it was). The instructor overheard me and asked if I am using the new blogging feature in Blackboard. I told him no, that we're using wordpress. He proceeded to tell me a bit about the new BB feature. I told him that I am familiar with it, and that it is "quite nice." Why did I say that? I don't think it's "quite nice." I think it limits student creativity and that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Finally I said to him, in barely a whisper, that I'm opposed to Blackboard/proprietary software in general. I whispered as if I have to keep my class plans and pedagogical philosophies on the "down-low." But when I read things like this, I can't help but worry. I mean I've never received explicit instructions from CSR to use only their server/software, but then again it just seems to be assumed that EVERYONE at CSR uses BB. The entire campus community uses it to communicate. Using BB has just become so naturalized. It's frustrating. And it's ridiculous to feel like I need to sneak around to give my students an open source model of education and to simply give them some amount of creative control over their blogs (which BB gives them none).

Monday, August 28, 2006

first day of school

Not a lot to report. Completed one (of three) section of ENG105. My first time teaching in a computer lab, but I'm excited about adding technology to my courses, so it makes sense to have this kind of access. I asked the students to indicate on their questionnaires if they blog--only two out of twenty do, so for most of them this will be an entirely new experience.

I've already caught the start-of-semester-cold, which made it rough to talk at length today, but with three-quarters of the class new to college, I wanted to be particularly thorough in my explanation(s).

I still think wordpress was a solid choice for student blogging, but I'm having my own difficulties with it in that it won't really allow me use code or HTML of any sort. It will only allow me to modify and create using its tools, so I'm having trouble embedding google calendar into my sidebar. I've created the class schedule for the year at google calendar so that they'll have an online version that they can access. For now I've provided links on a separate page. I also need to figure out the best way of posting PDF files.

On Wednesday and Thursday I'll be assigning the students to set-up their wordpress blogs, so I'll have more of an update then.

Tonight it is all exhaustion...and it is deceivingly hot outside, but still I have Dar Williams' "End of the Summer" in my head. It seems that every year at this time I walk around humming this song to myself (hopefully just myself):

The summer ends and we wonder where we are
And there you go, my friends, with your boxes in your car
And you both look so young
And last night was hard, you said
You packed up every room
And then you cried and went to bed
But today you closed the door and said
"We have to get a move on.
It's just that time of year when we push ourselves ahead,
We push ourselves ahead."

Monday, August 14, 2006


I guess I am in what could be described as triage mode in terms of studying for exams. I've tossed the strict text/day study shedules and now keep referring to this map, which I keep playing with, altering, updating, etc. I am using it as a "kind of" outline to writing the second and third chapter sections of my prospectus--trying to ensure that I adequatetly provide the history of critical pedaogy and the connections between critical pedaogy and composition that will be crucial for my dissertation. I'm also using it as a guide to the texts that I need to quickly review, read through, harvest quotes from, etc.

For this revision/studying/review task I am also using a combination of what my friend Tara has dubbed "Tasks Not Time" and the use of an alarm/timer to take breaks that don't extend into long projects. 43folders has suggested this life hack called (10+2)*5. It has seemingly worked for many folk, but for me it is a little too ADHD/manic for me...or at least for this particular task. I can't possibly work on writing my prospectus in ten minutes increments and expect to produce break-through thoughts and any amount of sustained, serious inquiry, so instead I implement Tara's "TNT." I'm sure she could explain it better, but essentially it involves covering up the clock and focusing on the task at hand, getting in the "zone," and spending a seemingly unknown amount of time working on that. As I start to get tired, I set a last minute goal for myself (this is my addition to TNT)--something like getting a particular thought down on paper or reading one more paragraph or page. Then I allow myself my "break." This is where the ever-helpful timer comes in. In fact, I downloaded Pester, which has proved invaluable. My "breaks" involve still working, but not working on my prospectus--so I might deal with email for ten minutes or blog (as I'm doing now).


Updated "map":

Exercise in mapping and classifying:

Lineage of Cultural Studies: Hoggart – Williams – (rereadings of/with/through Gramsci and Althusser) – Hall (slightly more marginal figures: Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Angela McRobbie, Jorge Larrain, Stanley Aronowitz)

Compositionists working with Cultural Studies: James Berlin, Richard Ohmann (kinda), Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Alan France, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Bruce Horner (?), John Trimbur

Lineage of critical pedagogy: Freire – Shor – Giroux – Ann E. Berthoff (compositionist) – McLaren – bell hooks

Compositionists in critical pedagogy: Amy Lee, William Thelin, Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Andrea Greenbaum, Joe Marshall Hardin, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Richard Miller, Russell Durst

Texts to review/read through:

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2003.
Fitts, Karen and Alan W. France. Left Margins: Cultural Studies and Composition Pedagogy. Albany: SUNY Press, 1995.
Giroux, Henry and Peter McLaren. “Radical Pedagogy as Cultural Politics: Beyond the Discourse of Critique and Anti-Utopianism.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

organization obsession

So I've been playing around with flock's blogging option because I'm probably going to have my students utilize flock for both RSS reader and blogging. It feels strange to launch my posts from this unfamiliar text window--strangely, makes me feel like I'm going to forget something, but it is surprisingly clean and easy.


Lately I've become obsessed with "life hacker" stuff, getting things done, etc., reading sites like 43 folders, but as I think often happens with these organizational techniques, I start to spend more time looking at options to become more efficient than I do actually doing things. I get on the computer and all I want to do is clean, sort, file, see how fast I can read through my RSS reads, download programs, interrupt myself by figuring out how to deal with interruptions, etc. It's bad. Instead of streamlining my reading, I seem to be adding more and more sites that will "help" me get things done more quickly and efficiently. But is is working I wonder?

Still, as the fall semester rapidly approaches I find it important to get organized. So now I'm thinking about the kinds of folders I will need to purchase...maybe today?

So far I have yet to find any suggestions for what to do on those days when you just *cannot* concentrate. Those days when your mind wanders repeatedly, when you've been on the same line of text since for an hour. My approach is to generally set a very short period of time for myself. Yesterday it was fifteen minutes. I told myself that if I simply read for fifteen more minutes I could leave and take the rest of the day off!!! I ended up reading for about twenty-five minutes.

My BIG distraction is biking. I've become obsessed with biking...and...of course...thinking about biking. I'm in the market for a mountain bike, as I'm increasingly frustrated with riding in traffic and think that unless I'm commuting or doing a long ride somewhere without a lot of cars, I should be off-road.

So I've added some bike blogs to my reading as well, and oil is for sissies is my favorite so far.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

blogging project for fall

I am busy experimenting--getting ready to finally use blogs as a part of the first-year writing courses that I'll be teaching this Fall. I am trying to decide between hosting these blogs directly through wordpress or hosting them through edublogs, so I've set up two blogs to play with, experiment with:


an exposition of writing

I will be documenting the experience--getting set-up, logistics, the pedagogy, etc.

Monday, August 07, 2006

more testing

Chicken Family Green Beans
here is blah blah blah

testing flock

After the bloodiest day for Israel in the Middle East Conflict, the Israeli death toll has topped 75. Twelve soldiers were killed Sunday in the town of Kfar Giladi and three civilians were killed in Haifa. As the world awaits an official comment from Tel Aviv on a long-awaited UN ceasefire proposal, we go to Haifa to speak to Erez Gellar of the Israeli relief service Magen David Adom. [includes rush transcript]

Democracy Now!: radio and TV news

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday dog blogging

the picture we don't see

Read this haunting, beautiful piece from
How Lebanon rescued me by Alia Malek.

I think it does a wonderful job of counteracting the images we are so often given by the media. Even without photos, it paints the picuture we don't often get to see of the Middle East.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

in praise of thought as material/action/activism

Interestingly, after, earlier today, struggling with alix olson's definition of an activist, I returned to an article by Eric J. Weiner, which I'd forgotten all about: "Beyond Doing Cultural Studies," and he reminded me:
Unfortunately, thinking theoretically as a political practice has been denigrated by those on the right and the left and must be re-legitimized as a form of pedagogical praxis. On the right, the logic of the bottom line encourages thought primarily as it applies to accumulating capital. On the left, the production of theory is seen as both a luxury of privilege and an excuse for not engaging in 'real' political work.... Common sense tells both that meaningful 'work' is constituted by the production of material things and is essentially pragmatic. (59)

How susceptible I am to this line of thought--the naturalization of theory as not "real" of thought as not "work"...even when I think I'm not.

alix olson--on the one hand--mac specific programs on the other

I have designated this morning as play around with the computer and try to increase productivity morning. This of course came after watching an episode of work out.

So far I've downloaded: text expander; quicksilver; flock; and net news wire. I think that is all...well, in addition to DevonThink of course. I maybe went a little overboard, setting myself up for frustration in terms of the learning curve, but so far I am quite enamoured TextExpander. It's pretty magical. For example, I get so tired of typing out critical pedaogy and cultural studies over and over in my work. Now I need only type the abbreviation CP or CS and voila out comes critical pedaogy and cultural studies. Flock and NetNewsWire are programs I'm playing around with in order to potentially utilize them in the Fall when I start using blogs in my classes. All of these programs are mac specific, and this all is thanks to my friend Dave over at academHacK (and he has some references to PC equivalents as well).

On the other side of all this computer use and my great enthusiasm for the ways in which it could/can make life easier, is the fact that it also makes me feel a bit ADD, raises my anxiety, and might contribute to depression...? Sometimes I have so many applications running that I forget what I'm doing. Sometimes I surf in haphazard fashion when I should be doing something else entirely. I feel like the fragmented individual that so many have written about. Two mornings ago I went to the library--sans computer--I just read, stayed focused. It felt nice.

Technology offers so many overwhelming possibilities, and I feel the need/want to take advantage of them all--until things like uploading photos to flickr stays on my "to do" list for weeks at a time. Blogging ends up there often as well. Each day it seems I have more little post-its in various places that say "blog this."

In other news...

We went to Brattleboro this weekend and saw alix olson. She was wonderful, as always--even funnier than I've seen her before. I think this is because she is really striving to find happiness, joy, laughter amidst the anger and frustration that art and activism can embody. She had this great metaphor about having a duplex inside of us. In one side is that activist--angry, enraged, paying attention, and frustrated. On the other side of the duplex is the happy, nature-lover, who says lets go canoeing, life is great and wonderful. Often the duplexes are in conflict, but we are the landlord--they have to work it out...somehow.

She also defines an activist as anyone who even *thinks* about what is happening the world today. I struggle with this definition, because I don't know that I agree with it, though I'd like to, as I constantly struggle between the academic/activist parts of myself. I feel like academe is a much safer haven than "actual activism," but again, Olson would disagree with this split--maybe I should take that to heart a little bit.

Exercise in mapping and classifying

Lineage of Cultural Studies: Hoggart – Williams – (rereadings of/with/through Gramsci and Althusser) – Hall (slightly more marginal figures: Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Angela McRobbie, Jorge Larrain, Stanley Aronowitz)

Lineage of critical pedagogy: Freire – Shor – Giroux – Ann E. Berthoff (compositionist) – McLaren

Compositionists in Cultural Studies: James Berlin, Richard Ohmann (kinda), Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Alan France, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Bruce Horner (?), John Trimbur

Compositionists in critical pedagogy: Amy Lee, William Thelin, Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Andrea Greenbaum, Joe Marshall Hardin, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Richard Miller, Russell Durst

This is not so much a comprehensive mapping, but rather an attempt to organize the scholars, theorists, pedagogues whom I will be most often addressing. Still, am I missing anyone? Other versions of these maps/histories?

Now, the difficult part is to revise my prospectus so as to incorporate these histories and make clear the relationship(s) between cultural studies and critical pedagogy and composition.