Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trip of a Life Time essay available.

I published a personal essay, "A Trip of a Life Time Doesn't Need to Come to an End," in the NDSU Magazine. The hard copy has many great pictures, not just the one at the top of the page.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

When I told friends and family members I was going to southern Sudan as part of a documentary film crew and humanitarian aid project, many asked me in different ways, "Do you think this trip will change your life?" I always answered with confidence, "no." I was just hoping to survive the trip without getting sick, shot at, killed in a plane crash, or stranded in a remote Sudanese village. I was pretty sure the trip would be memorable, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but not life changing.

Of course I was wrong.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Study Abroad Notes: Field Research on the XO program

I am attending a Study Abroad meeting, learning how I might set up and run a faculty-led short-term study abroad program. I just learned that I need to start working with International Program Office 9-12 months in advance; also learned that I could have gotten emergency evacuation insurance much more cheaply through the IP Office than I did commercially last year! Costs are likely to be significant, perhaps prohibitive. Need to be upfront and realistic about costs, including the $500 in shots and medication, airfare, visas, etc. If enrollment goals are not met (costs not covered), would need to decide whether to go at a loss or cancel class.

I'm trying to imagine an appropriate study abroad experience for English majors (ugrad and grad) that would take them to Africa. I am particularly interested in making this into a research class that might set up a study of something like an XO Laptop program in Rwanda. Students would presumably do a little of observation, interviewing, perhaps teaching, maybe an introduction to video research. Probably a course that would make sense to graduate students; might seem too foreign for u-grads. Maybe I need to try this research out myself, first.

Found a blog by Dan, who traveled to Ethiopia to assist with the first XO deployment in that country.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Floating some ideas

Many project thoughts of late; wondering which ones I should pursue. Wondering if anybody wants to help.

1. A "global development / connections" initiative for the 7CS. Been thinking a lot about how to develop better connections with universities around the world, but why limit such projects to a pair of schools; let's get a lot of fish swimming!

2. Wondering about "Teachers without Borders." Heard about the tremendous need for teachers in Rwanda and Ethiopia, familiar with the tremendous need for teachers in Sudan. Start a local chapter? Join the global movement?

3. My idea for a Virtual Peace Garden in Second Life is still very much in the incubator; need to get some significant technical help with this baby. Maybe the Computers and Writing theme for 2010 will drive some traffic my way.

4. McLuhan's 100th Birthday is coming up: 2011. Occurred to me today that I ought to propose some sort of digital book happening for the Computers and Writing community. Need to look up the digital press. Anybody want to contribute to this unformed idea?

Must now turn computer over to son. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

African Soul, American Heart Premiered!

I should have been much more active blogging the lead up to our documentary film premiere, but I can at least report on a very successful day. We had over 300 people attend 2 showings; we had great questions from our audience, and lots of interest in our project.

More photos on Flickr. More news to follow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My GPACW Panel contribution

The Modal Divide: It will pass, but we still have lots of work to do.

Quick answer to the prompt: how will the modal divide by decided? The modal divide is largely generational and will become moot.

I don’t worry much about the modal divide—our program has room for teachers who want to explore with their students what it means to compose, but more traditional instructors can also stay within their comfort zone.

Our TAs are trained to teach in our genre-based, rhetorical program; we moved away from the essayist, text-only approach in 2003. They are trained to teach multimodal assignments like:
• Ppt music videos
• Visual commentaries (on the page and for the screen)
• Audio essays
• Weblogging as invention and reflection
• Print-based assignments with strong design elements.
Many TAs creatively and confidently develop their own assignments and approaches. We are constrained by some of our institutional limitations: access to video cameras and video editing software is the most obvious example.

Our more traditional instructors have shown an interest in design assignments, and they are interested in being pedagogically progressive via problem-based learning and service learning. They do a great job for us, and I’m convinced that requiring them to step outside their comfort zone would not make for better classes or better student writers.

So, the modal divide will become moot b/c todays TAs will become tomorrow’s faculty, but a text-based, word-focused approach will still be with us for quite a while, and as one slightly resistant colleague puts it: students need much more help with their words than their design. Staying committed to words-only, however, will simply not be possible; to do so would make compositionists anachronistic, and almost completely out of synch with our environment. One set of things computer do especially well is combine all modes of material, facilitate design, and deliver compositions in the broadest sense; why wouldn’t we want to be a part of such exciting work?

I would even like to be so bold as to say that the discipline has more or less made the multimodal turn; there is still lots of interesting work to be done—the how—but as this conference theme implies, we are pretty close to being done with questions like “should we make the turn?”

Marshall McLuhan and IA Richards pointed out 40 years ago that there are two other things that computers do really well; and it seems to me that we are further behind in taking advantage of these capabilities than we are in taking advantage of the design capabilities of computers. These two capabilities are perhaps not as obviously about “composing,” but the first one is a grand vision of networking, the second a call for the kind of database supported composition programs now in place at Texas Tech and University of Georgia.

McLuhan, the global village builder, says:
the real use of the computer is not to reduce staff or costs, or to speed up or smooth out anything that has been going on. Its true function is to program and orchestrate terrestrial and galactic environments and energies in a harmonious way. (Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, WPGV, 89)

Richards, the educational programmer says:
The computer can now collect, scan, analyze, and report on learners’ performance amply enough and minutely enough to show the designer of instruction more about what his arrangement is doing than he could have thought possible only a few moons ago. (IA Richards, Design for Escape 24)

Now that we are all multimodal, I hope that we might begin to explore other true functions of writing and teaching with computers.

GPACW 4: Technology and change

Karl Klint from St. Cloud State ("A Position for Millennial Written Language within Education Settings") developing an argument for thinking about text messaging contextually. Running through a short history of communication adaptations to technology (i.e. the telegraph's effect on the production of minimalist prose). Text messaging a by-product of the technologies; sees the likely movement of text-speak into academic settings.

Jennifer Consilio and Michael Kapper, "Playground of the Mind: Online Play with Identity and Words," argue that students can learn (already know?) rhetorical concepts from their web 2.0 experience, which can in turn be applied in academic settings. Six word memoir gets a plug.

Sites to check out: The Shannonizer: converts prose into the recognizable style of your choice.
Worlde: tag cloud generator; word analysis tool.
Twitter: a tool for thinking about the general audience.
Yahoo Avatars. Robust avatar design site.

David Russell is reporting some good stuff on Twitter: "GPACW 4A. Free templates for science posters online. Federal free graphing program online. "

Interesting discussion; made me think about the need to incorporate Facebook profile analysis into job package; relevance of range of discourse for upper division writing, something I have been struggling to figure out.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Session 3: Four Videos and a Paper

The very talented and creative students in my graduate course, "War and Peace in the Global Village: Rhetorical Acts Post 9/11," showed off their excellent work.

Jenn Roos started with the paper, a very interesting "tri-modal" essay in which she juxtaposes Baudrillard (body text), McLuhan (marginal text), and images (including font experimentation) in a way that does not negate some of Baudriallard's bold claims about terrorism and globalization, but it does undercut them with McLuhan's more optimistic statements and images that also resist Baudrillard's reading of the globe.

Bob Becker explored Kenneth Burke's concept of "the negative" to show what GWB and others' rhetoric said about "us" and implied about "them" post 9/11.

Aaron Quanbeck set passages of McLuhan's WPGV to video clips from the 30s, 40s, and 50s in a film he calls "Vintage Modern Problems. "

Landon Kakfa produced a series of 4 spoof advertisements for "Freedom and Democracy," two of America's finest products.

Niles Haich assembled footage from popular movies and concepts from B., M, and others in what is a traditional "wandering" essay--but in video format. Wandering in the best sense, of wondering.

Good Q&A followed; very positive reception for these 5, four of whom were making their conference debuts.

Kathy Yancey's Keynote

Kathy Yancey delivered her usual stellar talk about composing in the 21st century. She argued for a writing curriculum, not just a first-year writing class or program, that would engage students in broadly conceived notions of composition. Her proposal recommends:

--three spaces of composing: print, screen, network.
--a choice of technologies so that composers develop proficiency in many.
--composing for many audiences.
--network literacy
--theory / framework / vocabulary of writing.

The NDSU writing program does most of these things; could probably do more with networking. The theory / framework issue makes sense, but she didn't really grapple with that. Makes a big difference (perhaps?) if one's theory comes from McLuhan-to-Ulmer (electracy) or a more modest theoretical shift from classical rhetoric to the new rhetoric.

GPACW 2: Pedagogies

Les Loncharich from MSU is revisiting the issue of "from analysis to design." Arguing for "visual composition" as distinct from "visual design;" we are concerned with rhetoric; designers less so. Les is sketching a research agenda for himself; looking for feedback from us.

Geoff Sauer's "Teaching with Databases and (Against?) the Textbook," draws on his experience working with Intro to Technical Writing (314); exploring a tension between the clarity and coherence of the textbook and the messiness of real life (e.g. the resume). Eserver provides filtered access to practitioner articles; Geoff argues that rhetoric and composition should be building a similar database that would supplement textbook instruction.

Alexandra Pickens, "The Impact of Media in the Writing Classroom: A theoretical and pragmatic approach." Provided some context from St. Cloud U: mix of smart classrooms and no-tech classrooms; given opportunities to teach in smart classrooms without context. Does a nice job of looking at specific technologies (i.e. a doc cam creates a community reading experience; handouts create isolation).

One of the other presentations going on write now is looking at the potential of Photo Story 3:
Could be useful for the photo essay assignment, although it might smooth stuff out too much.

GPACW 1A: Across Disciplines--Establishing a Center for New Media Studies

Attending the St. Cloud presentation on new media center development. Kevin Moberly is providing the historical context for university disciplinarity, and the challenges that presents for new media scholars and centers. Judy is taking a systemic approach: talking about the administrative support for new media, but how even that level of support came into conflict with the germanic university structures in place. Matt is providing a personal account of how he, as a young faculty member, had to make some identity decisions about his place in (or out) of new media as the university explored the place of new media in the institution and the curriculum.

The presentation then opened the floor to discussion of their new media center plans and new media centers in general. ISU's New Media center is definitely the model those of us at GPACW can look at / look to for a guide. Geoff Sauer recommended Silverback as an affordable piece of usability software: