Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crafting Upper Division Writing Assessment

I've moved from being director of first-year writing to being director of upper division writing, and I am working on a pilot assessment procedure. Our department has expanded its 300 level offerings considerably, and we don't have a history of assessing these types of courses. I'm working from Bob Broad's What We Really Value and trying to craft a procedure that will work for our situation.

That's probably a lot of background information only slightly connected to what I wanted to write about. As I was figuring out the procedure, I started imaging the ideal 300 level portfolio.

1. Students should include everything. Get them into the habit of keeping track of their work, starting a filing system, organizing their electronic work in a coherent and manageable way. We could ask for "everything" in both print and e-format.
2. Everything might include short, non-revisable work, longer revisable projects, and the earlier drafts of those projects.
3. Revision--what do we want to teach? I wonder if we should require that students a) revise their lowest grade and b) revise one document radically. Try to get at a) the process of significant revision and b) the process or remediation, re-genrification (good new word?), transmediafication (another kind of remediation?).

Okay, back to crafting the portfolio assessment. I just wasn't sure where I wanted to store these portfolio ideas.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Valentino Achak Deng's Google Talk

I just discovered Valentino Achak Deng's Google Book talk on YouTube. He is the subject of Dave Egger's What is the What and does a nice job of telling his story--much like Joseph's--in a succinct, powerful, and occasionally humorous way.

Monday, April 21, 2008

For sale: The NEW Education

The new education has to take the form of training of perception instead of learning lists of concepts, so that we equip our young to navigate through entire fields of information. This is to train explorers and innovators, intellectual and cultural nomads rather than sedentary bureaucrats.

Eric McLuhan, "One Wheel, All Square."

Remembering how to teach

This semester has been a struggle for me, and as much as I would like to blame various factors, I have started to realize all the ways I have failed to be a teacher with a pedagogy or a plan. I need to remember:

1. Don’t just assign writing, teach it.
2. Don’t just cover material, interact with it.
3. Don’t just teach the course, teach the students.
4. Get the students to teach; they learn more from teaching than listening.
5. Don’t let the students disengage; confront disengagement.
6. Remember that the classroom is an environment; don’t let the environment deteriorate.

I'm sure the list needs to be much longer, but its a start.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The essays I'd like to write this summer

1. Fathers Playing YuGiOh with Sons.
2. Run Over by The Ambulance.
3. Why Southern Sudan Still Matters.
4. Ulmer McLuhanized--an essai concrete.

If only summer would come.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bill Moyers, Hope in the Congo

Bill Moyer's Journal covered the rebuilding efforts in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Southern Sudan faces many of the same challenges--lack of infrastructure, few jobs, no reliable food source, etc. What really stood out for me, and something that I have heard from Joseph and others in southern Sudan, is that life was good before the wars. People had enough food, kids were going to school, progress was being made and it was being made by the people of Sudan and the DRC. Joseph remembers a good life before the Sudanese Civil war of 1983-2005. Valentino Deng in What is the What describes a good life in his Sudanese village before the war. My Congolese friend Martin says life was good for him, he was going to school, his father had earned a Master's degree and was gainfully employed before the family was forced out of the Congo in 1999. I fear that many in the west assume these African countries are always at war within and among themselves; I fear that many in the west assume life has always been and will always be difficult in Africa, but that isn't an accurate perception. The wars disrupt everything, they destroy everything.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Future of Academic Libraries

I'm listening to David Lewis's talk on the future of academic libraries, based on his paper with roughly the same title. Good stuff! My couple of notes don't do his talk or work justice.

1. Libraries are a means, not an end.

2. Reposition library tools, resources, and expertise.

Can a library buy access to a good handbook? Can we be done with writing teachers using print-bound handbooks?