Thursday, September 28, 2006

no time for anything...except to take this personality quiz

You Have A Type A- Personality

You are one of the most balanced people around
Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want
You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back
Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!
You live life to the fullest - encorporating [sic] the best of both worlds

Saturday, September 23, 2006

balancing act

I found this post helpful in reminding me that it is possible to balance teaching, having a life, and writing a dissertation. I'm still pretty much in awe that people can throw (poor word choice) having a baby into the mix!!!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

fun home

I'm so psyched that Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch out For fame (or as much fame as you can get writing a lesbian comic strip) has a new book out. It's actually a memoir/graphic novel. Turns out that Bechdel grew up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad. Though a dark tale it might be, I'm sure it is packed with Bechdel's incredibly smart humor. I'm a huge fan of Bechdel's, and as someone who has been missing Six Feet Under since that final episode, I'm hoping this will satiate my desire for quirky, dark, funeral parlor humor and gothic coming of age stories.

Friday, September 15, 2006

dream about Blackboard: a.k.a. avoiding some tough revisions

Last night I had a dream...or was it a nightmare... about Blackboard. I don't remember it clearly, but I do know that in the dream I was *forced* to log into CSR's blackboard site for some documents that I absolutely needed and there no other way to get them. I remember I was very confused because it had been awhile since I'd been on there, and I could not navigate with ease. I was very frustrated and hated blackboard.

Translation = scary stuff.

the project runway life hack: a.k.a "make it work"

I am going to apply what I'm calling "the project runway life hack" to my draft/revision that I must have done by tomorrow evening.

When the contestants on Project Runway get their challenge assigned to them, they often need to have it done in two days (just like my critical pedagogy chapter/outline draft!). They spend the first day looking at fabric, buying fabric, changing their minds, draping the fabric in different ways, maybe changing their minds again, receiving feedback from Tim and occasionally their peers. But on day two comes "make it work time." The runway show is upon them and no matter how much they want to add, subtract, rework their project, they can't. They have to take what is there and "make it work."

That is my plan. Today I'm allowing myself to get caught up in discussions related to my project that aren't necessarily part of my lists. I'm taking notes, adding things to the draft, rethinking what I've added, reading some more...maybe the reading makes me change my mind.... But tomorrow. Tomorrow is "make it work" time. Take that draft, focus on that draft, and make it suitable for its runway walk... or a read through by my diss director.

(Oh yeah...the key here is...whether or not it is perfect. If I need to tape a seam for now, then I'll have to tape a seam for now...).

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I vowed to *really* notice fall this year--to notice the color of the leaves, to feel the chill in the air, to breathe in the wood stoves and fireplaces. So often it all slips past me, as I launch myself into the new school year.

The past few weeks of Ultimate frisbee have been cut short, as darkness falls a few minutes earlier each day. The players seem to be dropping off as well.

Tonight it is raining. Rain makes me feel cozy. But also lazy. I try not to fight against the dwindling hours of daylight, but my productivity seems to drop off drastically. Most noticeably--I have not been very active this week. Tomorrow we'll hit the gym (for the first time this week). I hope to mountain bike over the weekend (Sunday). And I really should find a yoga class to join. I'll probably have to wait for my second "real" paycheck for that though. I got my first one today. It's amazing how fast the government can burst *that* bubble.

Today I bought a new paper journal. It has been a long time since I've journaled on paper. I spend so much time writing in other forms that it has come to seem like an additional task, but I think that my anxiety (and crabbiness) rises in relation to the amount of time that I spend away from pen and paper.

The garden is abundant, but sometimes I miss the farmers market. Every Tuesday from 4-7 is the farmer's market in my neighborhood. Each week I pass it on my way home from work. My instinct is always to stop, but then I think--what will I buy there? Tomatoes? I'm giving those away myself. Leafy greeens? We've been eating lovely mixures of broccoli and swiss chard. The only thing I could really purchase there are the sweets, and considering the fact that I baked both chocolate chip cookies and banana bread over the weekend, it seems that we don't need more of that either. (Especially not more of that!!).

Tonight I spent far too much time in front of the TV--avoiding working on my revision that I have to send to my committee director my Saturday night. But, I tell myself, it's the rain and the darkness, and I haven't yet settled into my "new" routine. But I did put on water for Mint Magic tea. And tomorrow night our Friday night "date" will involve going for coffee and reading. This is what we do in the fall. It's starting...again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

nudity, community art, and composition

My students recently posted freewrites about lies in response to the epigraph from Mary Karr's memoir The Liar's Club. After looking at what some of them chose to expose in this particular genre/medium, Dave reminded me of this community art project--postsecret. Today I opted to show them this website as a lead-in to having them write about what it means to write in a particular rhetorical situation and what that means for what they decide to include and/or exclude in their writing. In other words, I wanted them to reflect upon the context(s) in which people choose to share secrets and lies in writing and why these choices are made.

So I explain to them the concept of this postsecret project (which has also resulted in a couple of books, not just the blog site) and I scroll through a few of the online "secrets." Of course the first one turns out to be about having cyber sex with dad. I don't know what to do and consider not actually looking at the posts--just leaving it at the concept, but I want to show them a little about the types of secrets that come out in this venue, so I carry on. I see a picture of a woman's naked breasts coming, and I abruptly stop (though I know they too saw what was coming) and have them freewrite. It's fine and all, but I wonder at myself. I mean most of these students have probably seen full frontal nudity (at least of women) in movies. They should be old enough to handle looking at art, and yet I stop before showing them this part of a community art project. I feel like I just encouraged a double-standard somehow. Or I acted like a naked woman is an image we should not view.
As far as the blogging goes: One section has a particularly HUGE computer literacy gap that--today--has become very difficult to manage. While some students don't know how to copy and paste (for example how to copy a URL to create a link to it within their blogs), others have already completed the assignment at hand. This is a tough classroom situation to navigate. I can't really move ahead when there are some who are behind and frantically trying to catch up. But, at the same time, those who understand are sitting there bored, half asleep--in short, feelingl like they are not getting their money's worth. The situation gets much more complicated when you take into account that fact that maybe only a portion of the "bored" contingency truly understand, while others have simply shut down.

Today I was talking with a colleague who likened it to her experience teaching in classes that had large population of ESL students. It comes down to a language/literacy gap.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

my project makes sense!!!

Yesterday I met with my dissertation committee chair. When he summarized my project it made sense to me. It sounded really promising. It sounded cohesive. It felt--in short--like a miracle! I wanted to try to capture here that summary, but already--in my head--it doesn't sound nearly as well put together as when he articulated it.

"Radical change will not be negotiated by governments; it can only be enforced by people." --Arundhati Roy

I want this to be the epigraph to my dissertation, or at least to one of the chapters....

Okay, it makes sense, but maybe not yet to me...?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

technology...or my life as of late

Lots of problems with technology in the classroom today. Today I dislike technology. It feels like it is making life more difficult rather than easier. And I'm the moment...feeling the payoffs. Right now I'm blogging along with my ENG105 class. We are doing this in lieu of in-class freewriting. For the first section I actually followed along with the prompt I gave them and posted by freewrite over at expos-i-story.

The main problem today has been with laptop users who downloaded Flock on Tuesday and at the time subscribed to the blogs of their peers. Today, however, I had at least four users so far whose feeds only gave them an error message. None of the feeds were working properly!!! It slowed class down tremendously, as the only way I could get it to work was to have them clear out all of the feeds; save the OPML file for their class to their desktop and import the feeds to Flock. They're working now, but I fear it will happen again.

In the first section I was really into demonstrating the "magic" that is RSS, but after they all posted their in-class writing, many of them couldn't get their reader to update, so they couldn't see the new articles magically load. That was a frustrating disappointment as well. And they kept asking me when will it update, when will it update. For PocketFlock users we tried closing out of PocketFlock and going back in again. That worked to an extent, but many of the blogs still hadn't updated. For Flock users I told them to hit refresh, but it only worked for one person. I can't make sense of any of this.

Two minutes to post time.... Back into teaching mode.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

youtubing teachers

Yesterday's Inside Higher Ed has an article about students putting up videos of their professors and teachers on YouTube. I just find it bizarre that this article about the potential for rights being violated--intellectual property rights, privacy, etc.-- included links to the videos. Not that I didn't click on the links and waste many minutes of my morning in the time-suck that is YouTube.... Still, I thought the article could have done more to explore the "other side," but all it had was this one overly simplified comment:
Among the issues being raised are whether this form of expression — however upsetting to faculty members — is an example of students acting on their feelings and expressing themselves, something composition instructors in particular tend to encourage.

And this idea is taken from discussion of this issue over at the blog digital digs. But again, these blogs that say they don't want to give too much attention to the issue (or the actual videos themselves), give the links to them. We are, after all, the reality show culture, so we want to see "the reality." Show me this stuff really is happenin'. And I am a product of this as well.

Jeff Rice in his blog Yellow Dog provides an interesting perspective on this genre of YouTube videos by exploring the conditions within which the teachers are situated. This perspective seems relevant then to the series of comments left under one of the videos where the teacher is screaming at his students during "the pledge." A number of comments are all about how and why this video represents why teachers should be hated and should *not* be respected, but the last comment questions the previous ones, asking what the problem is with a teacher trying to make "a bunch of arrogant jerkoff kids stand during their country's national anthem." And while I'm not sure about making anyone stand during the national anthem--that seems to be missing the point--this comment seems the only one with even minimal awareness of the teacher's situation.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the technology sweat

In the past I've tended to avoid a lot of technology use in the classroom. I have done some small projects like having students edit and write articles for wikipedia, but wikipedia, of course, is already set-up for us. Today's class, however, involved one hundred minutes of computer use that included downloading, posting blog entries, creating links, subscribing to and reading RSS feeds, etc. (For more complete coverage see Dave's posts on classroom blogging over at academhack).

Teaching something that you're not incredibly certain of and comfortable with is tough. Technology, of course, always runs the risk of not quite doing what you want it to do (or maybe a server goes down something...). Anyway, as I'm working on maintaining this open source model of ENG105, I can't say that BB wouldn't have made life a *little* easier, BUT the added pedagogical benefits of doing it this way are worth it. And, as Dave has reminded me, it's the first run-through. We're still working out the quirks. In terms of the pedagogical benefits for the students, I find that BB simply acts as a mask--it obscures real life writing conditions. Writing, as we might tell our students, does not happen in a vacuum, particularly writing that is done online; however, BB is a vacuum--closed off from the rest of the campus community and the rest of the world. It's kind of like buying vegetables at Price Chopper as opposed to getting them from your backyard...or at least the farmer's market.

Today was mostly successful--except for the fact that PocketFlock doesn't allow the option of importing feeds. I had collected and saved the feed for each student's blog in an OPML file with the hope of passing that file along to each student to import to her/his version of Flock, but anyone using PocketFlock wasn't able to do this. In the second section we had everyone (as the majority in that class are using PocketFlock) manually add the blogs to their Flock news reader. This was quite time consuming, however, and we've now decided to build specific versions of PocketFlock that already contain that appropriate feeds.

More importantly though is the fact that students appeared to be "into it"--truly invested in gathering the feeds for their peers' blogs and launching their first couple of practice posts. I'm looking forward to maintaining this energy and exploring the rhetorical situation that is...blogging!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

inside higher ed.

Here is a rather disturbing article about the report from the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which was approved by the members of the American Council on Education in early August. That is, until last week when Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, decided she didn't like the inclusion of references to open source software and open content projects in higher education.

The report's original paragraph (with which Elliott took issue):
The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education.


In terms of local news...that is, my project. I've decided that I want to create more of a two-way street. So far I've mainly been criticizing critical pedaogy for its relative ignorance of/toward the corporatized University as discussed by many scholars including Bill Readings (his specific rendition of the corporate U as University of Excellence is key to my project), Wesley Shumar, Stanley Aronowitz, Michael Apple, and Leslie and Slaughter (to name a few). But in thinking more about this I find it interesting that Readings so clearly wants to distance himself from both critical pedaogy and cultural studies, and yet I think he may have had a rather narrow view of what critical pedaogy does and can do. There are critical pedaogogues out there doing work much like the work Readings wants to see in his "scene of teaching." Joe Marshall Hardin seems to me one example. At the end of Opening Spaces, Hardin spends a good deal of time rejecting oppositional, resistant, and emancipatory discourses and pedagogical approaches, claiming they only serve "to support the hegemony of dominant ideology in a perpetual dialogue of left versus right" (113). To me this seems quite relevant and similar to Readings' idea of a community of dissensus, which "would seek to make its heteronomy, its differences, more complex. To put this another way, such a community would have to be understood on the model of dependency rather than emancipation" (190). This gets a little confusing here because Readings' idea of "dependency" could be mistaken with Hardin's (and Laclau's) formulation of right and left as "dependent on each other; they serve as two sides of the same coin" (107). But all in all, I feel that if Readings had the opportunity to read and/or interact with Hardin (and others like him), he might have a slightly different view of critical pedaogy and cultural studies.