Monday, October 30, 2006


On Thursday night D and I attended the first Frequency North reading of the year. It was a fun, lively, and pleasant evening. My lovely friend Tara performed, and her boyfriend made an appearance as Captain Danger, frontman for the house band of the Million Poems Show Janice Erlbaum read from her new book, Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir.   D bought the book, started reading it last night, and I don't think she has put it down since.  I have to say, in the almost four years we've been together, I've never seen my girl not be able to put down a book, nor have I seen her tear through a book at this rate of speed.  It's been lovely because we haven't had the TV on for two nights in a row!  I just don't know what will happen when that back flap hits the final page.  It will be a sad moment for both of us, I'm sure. 

On Saturday night we saw Ember Swift play at Caffe Lena.  Caffe Lena is truly one of my favorite places.  You go into this cozy little, cooperatively run venue, get a totally intimate show, eat warming vegetarian chile, and snack on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies while sipping chamomile tea.  It really doesn't get much better.

On Sunday I set up my laptop and my bag of books in the cafe at Borders.  Typically you'll find me in the various little independently owned coffee shops around the city.  And typically I bitch that the corporations have to charge their customers for wifi, but the independents offer it free.  BUT, I have found that working at Borders lends to my productivity because of the fact that they charge for wifi.  When I'm not knocking around the web, feeling sorry for myself and searching for some kind of answer about my project to fall out of the blogosphere, then I'm actually focusing on the document in front of me--my prospectus!  Currently in its eight hundredth revision (and coming soon to a committee near you--really!). 


Blogged with Flock

Foucault and the local (to the rescue?)

Q:  What can be gained from scrutinizing one's own critical position / contextuality? Why is the corporate University a starting point--not as an end?

I just have to rely on and align myself with Foucault on this one.

A:  "Intellectuals have got used to working, not in the modality of the 'universal', the 'examplary', the just-and-true-for-all', but within specific sectors, at the precsie points where their own conditions of life or work situate them (housing, the hospital, the asylum, the laboratory, the university, family and sexaul relations).  This has undoubtedly given them a much more immediate and concrete awareness of struggles.  And they have met here with problems which are specific, 'non-universal', and often different from those of the proletariat or the masses.  And yet I believe intellectuals have actually been drawn closer to the proletariat and the masses, for two reasons.   Firstly, because it has been a question of real, material, everday struggles, and secondly because  they have often been confronted, albeit in a different form, by the same adversary as the proletariat, namely the multinational corporations..." (Power/Knowledge 126). 

Blogged with Flock

Monday, October 23, 2006

owning marginality

In thinking about the practices that contribute to the corporatization of the University, I started thinking about Wesley Shumar's arguments in College for Sale:

Shumar points out the way in which academics resist being classified as temporary, part-time, adjunct, etc. because it delegitimizes them. At the same time, by not naming this delegitimization it allows it to continue. "Denial of power makes it possible to participate in commodifying processes unconsciously. I believe those processes must be brought to consciousness" (11). As much of critical pedagogy and cultural studies seeks to name the object of study and unmask or unveil anything that might be hidden from view, it seems that this consciousness of the power structures at play within the University should be a focal point for the critical pedagogy/cs writing classroom. A point even the most well-meaning of us might need to be reminded of....

I once had a student in a required course for the English major. Apparently it was her goal in life to become an adjunct instructor in an English department. I was not initially aware of this particular student's long-term goal, but when she was interviewing another adjunct instructor as part of an assignment for my class, she was made aware of the conditions in which we work. The adjunct whom she interviewed went into detail about the stress associated with the temporary nature of our positions, the little money we make, the way(s) in which our position leaves us out of decision making processes and can hinder what we might do and/or talk about in the classroom. The student was shocked, having had no idea about these conditions. And I was shocked too--shocked because I found it so brave that this part-time instructor (who also had this student in one of her classes) would step-up and own our marginality, rather than masking it, keeping it from students. She gave up the secret that I myself, even with my in-class discussions about unions, labor practices, and Marxism, had never broached with my students.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

square into a circle

There are days, with this project, that I feel I'm trying to force a square into a circle. And I fear that when I realize I can't do any such thing, then the whole foundation of the project will crumble, and I'll be left with nothing. Hopefully these are common feelings for this process.

So I've chosen a few comments from those that my director gave me on my revised prospectus, and I've been setting them up as kind of freewriting prompts and forcing myself to write on them:
The first comment I chose to focus on had to do with rhet/comp's adoption of critical pedagogy and cultural studies and the relative inattention paid to the university's structure. My director asked whether this lack of attention "speak to their assumption that the university's structure mirrors that of the larger society as a whole." So he wants to know why I argue for the specific context of the corporate University as so crucial--why I think it should be a starting point, not an end.
I set myself up with this prompt:
What might be gained in scrutinizing one's own critical position/contextuality? In particular that of the corporate University?

And I guess that it just is, isn't a good enough answer.

Comp Convo on blogging

At CSR we have a bi-weekly series called "Comp Conversations" organized by our WPA. Some weeks she presents on a specific topic, and other weeks various faculty members present. I'm using the term "present" loosely here, because as the name indicates, the sessions tend to be casual conversations shared by faculty and adjuncts alike. It's a chance to talk "shop," which for us is pedagogy.

This week, I'm up. My mission is to talk about blogging in the writing classroom. I put together a resource sheet for those who attend, but given the nature of the topic, it seems crucial that there is a place where they can actually click on all of the links I am providing. So here it is!

Various uses for Blogs:
List and explain class assignments; keep class news, announcements updated
Create a class blog with all of the students as the authors contributing to one blog
Continue with class conversation in writing
Use as a place for brainstorming and figuring out ideas
Create photo essays
Have students keep track of and link to current events or other material relevant to the course and/or their studies.
Post reading responses so that they can be shared with rest of class
Give students a forum that they may already be familiar and comfortable with (myspace, facebook users, etc.)
“Theme” blogs—student blogs on a single topic for the semester, creating connections (hyerlinks) between posts

Blogs allow for readership from the “outside” world, pushing the students to think about audience and rhetorical context, as well as creating an opportunity for dialogue that we so rarely get in other forms of writing.


edublogs: this site is a free source for hosting both your own blogs (as an educator as well as students blogs) using wordpress

flock: flock makes blogging easy as it integrates with programs like wordpress, blogger, livejournal, etc. Flock also provides an easy to use RSS reader.

AcademHacK: this is a blog about tech tools for academics. The site sets out to prove that technology should make teaching easier and more effective.

HigherEd BlogCon: “HigherEd BlogCon 2006 seeks to engage the Higher Education community in a conversation on the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, audio and video podcasts, social networks, and other digital tools in a range of areas in academe.”

Blogs For Learning: “Blogs for Learning is an online resource designed for students and instructors who are interested in instructional blogging. The goal of the site is to provide information and resources surrounding the technical, legal, and pedagogical aspects of blogging in the classroom.”

BlogBridge: essentially an RSS reader that helps you categorize and organize the blogs you read.

bloglines: allows you to subscribe to blogs (RSS), share your favorite blogs with friends, colleagues, etc., and publish your own blog as well.

Blogs on blogging:


Good Blog News

Nice article from a few days ago in The Seattle Times: Living: “Teachers are reaching out to students with a new class of blogs”

“Never in 25 years of teaching have I seen a more powerful motivator for writing than blogs,” [Mark] Ahlness said. “And that’s because of the audience. Writing is not just taped on the refrigerator and then put in the recycle bin. It’s out there for the world to see. Kids realize other people are reading what they write.”

Nice way to start the week…

incorporated subversion
      BlackBoard and Blogging

A colleague at an Australian University showed me some details about where they’re going with Blackboard and blogs and oh dearie dearie me… it’s not a pretty place!

Specifically their “blog journal… [&] e-portfolio for teaching in the Autumn semester” is somewhat limited by the fact that:

“each blog will be subject bound (and it even has less functions than Blogger back in 2001) so at the end of the subject it all vanishes…..there’s no publicly published works - all secured behind the limits of students enrolled in that subject… [and more]”

Dontya just love the fact that they’re using a ‘blog journal’. I’m surprised they frickin didn’t call it a ‘blogg journal’ or my alltime favourite ‘BLOGG’ like it’s an acronym ;)

As my contact also points out the University in question is also somewhat seriously strapped for cash, and yet evidently has no problem heaping it out for these tools rather than taking the lead of many other excellent institutions and using open source tools.

And no, it’s not my place… As it happens some pretty exciting things are happening here in the OS social software sense… hope to be able to write more on that soon, it’s surprising where perseverance + time can sometimes get you!!!

Why Not Blog?
      Teaching Literature with Blogs
      The Urge to Link

(my blogs!): the most cake
      my blogging in ENG105 philosophy

(dan nester’s blogs): Daniel Nester’s Teaching
ENG105 blog Spring 2006

LCC2400 (thanks dave

Examples of a blogging portfolio:

4040 blog

My First Attempt

What some students have to say…

“Well okay I haven't released my name or anything, but now I'm more open to expressing myself andtalking about me and what's important to me. I have even decided to keep my blog after the class is over.” -- Pen and Ink

Monday, October 16, 2006


Yesterday I received a marked-up copy of my prospectus. I read the e-mail from my director, but have yet to open the actual document (that is what I'm supposed to be doing now). The e-mail refers to two "big-picture" revisions that I should be thinking about: 1) The intro: The intro should serve to introduce a coherent set of problems rather than duplicating the chapter sketches the come later, as I get to each individual chapter. 2) Unpack what I mean by "corporate University."

I actually thought my intro was the strongest part of my prospectus, so I'm a bit disappointed by the need for some major revision. At the same time, I can see his point and am willing to give it a go.

In addition, I need to make clear what I mean when I talk about the "ruins" (Bill Readings' term). How am I defining these ruins?

The rest of the bad news: The e-mail expresses concern the the amount and type of comments on the document might be overwhelming (hence the unopened attachment).

The good news: My ideas for qualitative research on the use of proprietary software by writing instructors sounds promising. And, finally, "To my mind, this version indicates that you're ready to schedule the exams."

In my mind I feel that I've done more revisions of this prospectus than the average person. Last night I had nightmares about the whole process. In the week that I haven't been working on this project and have only been focusing on my students/teaching, I have been quite happy. Now it's just all about over-coming fear and focusing on the the end of the tunnel, of course.
Okay, I'm going to go open it now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

short growing season

I know that the Northeast has a short growing season, but in the three seasons that I've been gardening (pretty limited experience, but still...), I've never had such an abundance of green tomatoes. Yesterday we attempted to "rescue" these tomatoes from impending frost. Not sure what we'll so when they all turn (if they all turn) at once. Salsa anyone?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Call for Comments

In thinking further about the issues that have been cropping up with my students' blogs, I've decided that it might help if their blogs were able to gain more "outside" readership. While a couple of students have had the experience of readers who aren't their peers or teacher leaving comments, most have not, and I find that their sense of writing for a larger audience is dwindling. This is something I will address in class, as one of my original goals for the project was to have students think about a reading audience that extends beyond the immediate classroom. At midterm this point seems to need reiterating and further discussion. But in addition to talking with them in class, I would love it if anyone reading this post might consider browsing, reading, and possibly commenting on my students' blogs. You can find them listed under blog roll @ our class blog site: expos-i-story.

I also think that if students come to the realization that additional readers are actually reading their blogs, this realization could further their investment in this type of writing/this forum, rather than seeing it as merely an exercise to fulfill an ENG105 assignment. In addition, I think this will further illustrate and meet the goals of the open source model that this project is based upon.

While some might argue that this isn't the most "natural" way or that I'm "manipulating" the "open-sourceness" and goals of this project (or maybe these are my own arguments), this is often the way we find blogs to read--by cross-posting/referencing and following links. This is representative of how the sphere works. Something else that I believe iis important for my students to think about as they continue to produce entries and read around on the blogs of others.

Thanks to any and all who are willing to read/participate!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

what else? mid-term review continued

As I vowed earlier in the season, I really have been enjoying the Fall. We even decorated for Halloween!

I started a new vinyasa yoga class. This week was my second week. I took the class two days ago, and I'm still sore. It's been interesting for sure. I've been away from yoga for nearly two years and have only ever practiced ashtanga. This class's instructor talks about how part of yoga is breaking habit, so it has been effective in that sense, as I try to concentrate on this new style that is similar to ashtanga, but clearly not the same. It is much less flowing, and that for me is proving to be incredibly difficult. The difficulty comes in holding the poses for a lot longer than I'm accustomed to.

I've gone to see two movies in the theater. I have to admit that when I'm swamped with work, one of my favorite breaks is heading over to the Spectrum, getting a green tea and maybe a piece of banana bread, and sitting in the dark theater next to D, and getting lost in film. Unfortunately I would rather have been studying than watching The Black Dahlia. I'd read the reviews, but it still picqued my interest, and it was one of those films about which I just wanted to decide for myself. I thought that at the very least it would be a great escapist film--something I need between revisions of my prospectus and grading student papers. I won't bother to repeat too much of what all the scathing reviews have already said, but it was laughably bad. It is probably the only film in my life that I'd paid to see and wanted to walk out of mid-way through (my fellow movie-goers convinced me to stick it out to the end). I get what the film was trying to do, but it failed miserably at campy, at kitschy, at imitation 1940s film noir...and on and on....

The other film we saw was half nelson, which actually turned out to be much better than I expected--much less predictable than I thought it would be.

Today I just discovered yet another study break--watching the little dot that is Scotty and Fiddy travel across the country. Oooo...looks like they just made it through Montpelier VT. I'm jealous.

And saving the best for project. Well, my revised prospectus is in the hands of my director who happens to be falling behind on grading, commenting, responding, all of that. I'm not sure what that means for my proposed November exam dates, but for now it feels good that it is a little bit out of my hands. Although, this is also a weird space to be in. How to study between now and then? I plan to work on making sure my lists are completely accurate and in doing so figure out what I need to review, what notes might still need to be imported to devon, etc.. That is on the agenda for later today.

ten minute mid-term check-in

Can it really be nearly six weeks since I've blogged? Not that I haven't been completely wrapped up in the blogosphere, but it seems that reading through and commenting on three sections of student blogs has taken away from my own blogging time.

In the past week or so it seems that my students are really lagging behind with their posting. They are either not posting at all, or their posts are not as developed as they were in the beginning. I talked to them about this today in class. I also asked them for (anonymous...well except for the results of the handwriting analysis) feedback on the class in general. A few of the students say they are experiencing problems with Flock, so today in class I decided to have everyone post their freewrite to their blog, so I could double check these issues and try to help out. For the most part the issues seem to be either sporadic--as in, they can post *most* of the time, but not always and for seemingly no reason--or just inexplicable. I have one student running PocketFlock and has been since the second week of the semester, and suddenly now it is running incredibly slowly--not loading his RSS feeds properly, making it really difficult for him to comment on the blogs of his peers. Other students have had trouble with Flock freezing or not opening at all. Ultimately it seems as though I may have reconsider the use of Flock in future semesters.

Aside from Flock, the feedback about the blogging portion of the class has been really, really mixed. I'm trying to be okay with this, but I'm just not sure I'm reaching enough of the students with this one. I find it a valuable project and have tried to articulate that to them, though not all of them seem to see it that way. And I actually really enjoy reading what they have to say. Again, Dave has said that about 80% seem invested, and I want to be okay with that percentage. I want to say that with that percentage, I would do this all again. But the divide between those who LOVE it and are invested and those who HATE it and find it incredibly stressful is HUGE. This weekend I'm sending out e-mails to individual students who seem to be strugging, with the hope of offering advice to get everyone on track (again).

Other than that, I'm thrilled to say that I received numerous requests for MORE in-class freewriting. Not a problem. Coming right up!