Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Peace at a Time

Went to a screening of One Peace at a Time last night; great "database" of innovative solutions currently being implemented to address problems like lack of clean water, lack of opportunity, lack of education, absence of peace in the world. Watch for it in a theater near you.

One of the most interesting programs I learned about from One Peace was that any of us can contribute to. The repayment of loans is almost 100% guaranteed. I just lent $25 to a woman living in Juba, southern Sudan -- one of the most expensive cities in the world -- so she can start a charcoal selling business. She only needs $50 more, but Kiva was only accepting $25 donations, so two more donors would be appreciated. Once the loan is repaid, I can either re-invest or get my money back. Please consider visiting Kiva and look for Omjime Bulen.

One of the projects featured in the film has an NDSU connection. Architecture student Greg Elsner is the Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow on the Mahiga High Rainwater Court project in Kenya. Tremendously innovative vision for building a rainwater collection roof that more than doubles as classroom space, community hall, basketball court, performance center, etc..

The One Campaign was in town for this event as well; they are looking to build membership in ND and MN (everywhere, of course) and they will be partnering with One Peace at a Time to promote the film to One members when it shows in their area. Become a One Member (no donations required or expected) and keep up to date on events in your area.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Andy Mara, Martha Bartels, Matt Pullen: Institutional Policies of Plagiarism

Andy: still teaching high literate practices in electrate world. Authentication: a way that we certify ownership. How do we authenticate in electronic cultures? Passwords? Electronic signatures? Identity theft = stealing words that authenticate people. What's wrong with teaching literate notions of property boundaries in an electronic world? They don't acknowledge the shift to digital, electrate practices. We are missing the chance to reimagine the ways universities authenticate students as college educated. Charette as authentic, event-based learning.

Martha: Why aren't non-profits using facebook? why aren't they taking advantage of free communication technologies. She found from a flood study that FB users are a little skeptical of information they get via FB; she has extended research to see what NPs are using FB (youth-oriented), which are not (older audiences). She is now researching what factors (besides demographics) keep some NPs from using FB.

Matt: did some interesting survey work to show that people are pretty hazy about copyright infringement and fair use right.

John Madden and Maureen Murphy: OLPC and Usability Assessment

John has been researching and using XO, including this article:

John has been running the laptop through its paces. Creates and share documents via email or mesh. Help document now available on wiki, and built into newer versions. Sees a great need for teacher training; notes the tension between the constructionist philosophy of OLPC and the set curriculums in deployments.

Maureen has been working on a usability lab in order to study online pedagogies (and possibly further applications--electronic medical records, for example). Funding and space were an issue; the EMR has been key to space and external funding.

Abram Anders and Dan Weinstein

45% of employers research potential employees; computer-mediated careers are the standard, not the exception. Great ideas for encouraging students to own their real-estate, own the first page of Google, use Google Analytics, keep content fresh, etc.

Dan has his presentation available: (pw: gpacw).
I am wondering if would be a good way to share class plans: outline the activities, leave room for notes, comments, questions, etc. I got playing around on the site, rather than taking notes. Dan did suggest a curatorial bibliography as a tweak on the annotated bibliography.

GPACW 2009: Keith Dorwick's keyonte

GPACW 2009 is starting with Keith Dorwick's keynote address, "Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are! LGBTQ Teens and Twentysomethings' Self-Identification in MySpace and YouTube." Fascinating research project; Keith is collecting videos and analyzing them from various angles: coming out stories, homosocial rough-housing, and other topics. He is planning a book with a DVD that collects excerpts from the videos he is analyzing. Today he is focusing on coming out stories.

Men post much more frequently; men are particularly concerned with time (i.e. I came out on such and such a day), which Keith suggests is a control issue. He also showed one that he calls "take no prisoners": the vlogger says "I'm gay, deal with it." Says that is typical of younger vloggers. He occasionally talks about the community that has formed, the popularity of certain vloggers, etc.. Women to men transition vloggers keep testosterone journals: one talks about being happy with the transition but acknowledges that s/he is is loosing part of his/her identity. Also very specific about time--a masculine trait.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Planning an OLPC course

Book orders are due soon, so I need to commit to some materials for a graduate seminar formally titled "Rhetorics and Poetics of New Media;" the actual course focus will be the "rhetorics" and "poetics" of OLPC.

I'm debating whether or not to assign some broad, background readings like Larry Cuban's Oversold and Underused: Computes in the Classroom, Banks' Race, Rhetoric, and Technology, even Negroponte's Being Digital. The alternative is to dive into the OLPC website materials, the stories in the press, even the blogs, and just figure out: what are people saying about the laptop, the deployments, the mission, the future.

Any suggestions? Feedback?

Oh, methodology: Media Ecology.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The long slow pace of MEmorials

I just had an interesting talk with Niles Haich, fellow MEmorialist. He showed me some new pages on his MEMorial, which links Teddy Roosevelt (existing monument) to the contemporary environmental movement (disaster-in-progress). His new pages include a teaching philosophy, in which he realizes that "speak softly and carry a big stick" is an appropriate image for his developing identity as teacher. He also composed a September 11 memorial with his students this fall (2009), and he shared a "playlist profile" of Roosevelt with his students.

Niles, in other words, continues to return to his MEmorial, and he continues to use it. Roosevelt functions as a wide image for him--a career compass, just as Ulmer suggests it would. Niles articulated his experience something like this: "A memorial is supposed to be a place to help you remember, a place to go back to and re-visit, and even as Ulmer says, a place to theorize."

What struck me is that Niles is using his MEmorial like a defiant garden. He could have easily abandoned that web site like most students abandon their websites, but he didn't. He continues to tend that garden, and it grows slowly, now and then. It grows in new and different directions, but it keeps coming back to key themes (chora). He used a social networking tool (Blogger) but he doesn't need a large social network to give his project value.

Ulmer promotes "flash reasoneon" in Electronic Monuments, he offers up his genre and this kind of flash / image based reasoning as an appropriate means of engaging the 21st century public, but I am beginning to think that the crossing of "electronic" and "monument" has resulted in an anti-electracte genre that, never the less, partakes of the electrate.

Put another way, I should definitely abandon my virtual peace garden in second life. It makes no sense. It is expensive, no one goes there, it is hard to maintain,

and yet,

for all those reasons, I want to hold onto it. I want it to be a defiant garden. I want to not give in to the logic of speed, the trendy, the social network. I'm happy being an occasionally visited node. I want to remember where I am from and where I am now (both sides of the Peace Garden) and I don't want to abandon this cause, because I do too frequently abandon projects and move on, and because Peace is too easily abandoned as abstract and difficult to attain.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Looking for Second Life help and community.

I've been sitting on a parcel of land in SL since February. Sarah M (Valerie Danes) has done some wonderful building in that location for me: she built a "Virtual Peace Chapel" as a sanctuary, placed messages of peace, put up a bulletin board so visitors can leave their own message, and she scripted an interactive memorial for victims of stoning. She is still working on streaming some video.

I am looking for additional builders who would be interested in bringing other projects to fruition.
The Peace Chapel and its features came out of a graduate class that explored Greg Ulmer's Electronic Monuments. Other, not yet built MEmorials include a burning car to remember children who die in overheated cars, a computer desk built out of books in remembrance of print culture, a happy meal box and comic book in remembrance of global capitalism's victims, a clothesline with money clipped to it, in remembrance of those without enough water, and a globe with oil flowing over it in remembrance of our environment. The course work and projects can be found at the Virtual Peace Garden website:

If you are a Second Life builder, and want to bring some of these MEmorials to life, please contact me. I will also be getting another set of proposals this fall from architecture and landscape architecture students. If you are a MEmorialist youself, and need a patch of land to work with, please also feel free to contact me. Ideally, a community of builders and users might emerge in the Virtual Peace Garden. I have been working on developing a list of days that could be celebrated at the VPG. Yesterday was International Peace Day--we should have been there.

I realize that many people have already declared Second Life dead, but I was recently introduced to the concept of a "defiant garden:" gardens grown in World War I trenches, German prison camps, Japanese internment camps in the US, green spaces among urban blight, etc.. I'm going to try to stick with SL and the Virtual Peace Garden as a defiant garden because it has proven to me to be an effective space / image to think with. I'm learning a lot about gardens--a kind of public / private space I had not thought much about--and I am starting to see just how important they have been to individuals, groups, the peace movement, the world. Gardening and war, Winston Churchill said, are two defining human activities. I'm hoping to encourage more of the former.

Kevin (dot) Brooks (at) NDSU (dot) edu for those who want to garden.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Online research presentation: Joseph A. Konstan

Attending good presentation about online research. Presenter walking through the complications and frustrations of seeking participants online; also covering 3rd party storage complications like the use of Survey Monkey. SM data not encrypted, link not secured, etc.. Importance of this depends on research being done. Also good perspective on the technical features: how do you skip a question? how do you change an answer? Etc.

Book title: Envisioning the survey interview of the future (or something like this).
Doesn't look like our library owns it.

Closing points: don't over-react. If it would be Ok to do the research in a public park or mall, it's probably ok online.
Don't under-prepare: need equivalent of "locked file cabinet". Online consent different.

I've been thinking about a SL study that might not be problematic, but I should probably be thinking about things like the impact /effect of asking students to come into SL. Is it right to "experiment" with students? with education? I also need to think more carefully about surveys if I use them.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Catching Up: Ethics of Aid and Mr. Mentality on Monumentality

Not much time for blogging, twitting, or status updating lately, but I did come across two "must blog" media events last week.

1. "The Ethics of Aid" on NPR's Speaking of Faith challenges all of us who think we might be doing good in Africa to think again. This caution, however, feels like a cliche at this point: of course everyone doing aid work in Africa needs to think carefully and ethically about the work they are doing, and of course mistakes will be made. I do cringe a little bit about tenor and approach of some aid projects (a new one about children and Uganda seemed to be more about concerts and t-shirts than politics and aid), so this reminder and response is understandable, but why do we not hear more handwriting about the billions wasted on the corrupt and collapsing western economy? Why do we not hear more about all sorts of corporate aid wasted on economic development in the west? Those concerns circulate, too, but I'd much rather western governments "waste" a billion dollars in Sudan than waste it in Texas.

2. Greg Ulmer posted the pilot episode of Mr. Mentality in which he explains to his sons the function of monumentality and mourning by explaining that in the US, we value pets so much that every year millions of them are put to sleep because we need an oversupply to ensure we meet the demand. Their deaths are a sacrifice this nation is willing to make. His kids are horrified when they learn this fact, but seeing Mr. Mentality explain this point to his kids, and seeing their visceral reaction, probably helped me understand this point better than I have in the past couple of years while working on electronic monumentality. The mourning has been elusive to me. Side note: there are twice as many dogs in America as there are people in Canada.

These two points must be related in many ways. Millions of African lives have been sacrificed to western progress, and yet we culturally do very little to mourn these losses. We have no monuments to the loss (that I am aware of), only monuments to imperialism (see Brussels). Perhaps one challenge of monumentalism is that it tends to celebrate / mourn the local and the national, but seldom the global. Where do global monuments get built? Everywhere? On the Internet? in Second Life? And is Binyavanga Wainaina saying in his interview on Speaking of Faith that "We don't want your aid or your mourning?" Rwandans have been actively trying to figure out how to properly reconcile themselves to their neighbors; I wonder if the gacacas (the public hearings) have been more effective than the monuments?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the Hour of Signs by Jamal Mahjoub

In the Hour of Signs (African Writers Series) In the Hour of Signs by Jamal Mahjoub

Fascinating weaving of tales from multiple points of view: the Sudanese temporary ousting of the British in 1885, followed by British re-capturing of Khartoum in 1898. Interesting echoes with Iraq invasion--the easy fall of the city, followed by disaster. Mahjoub really knows how to pull threads together with great lines like "he [Kadaro--a boy who grew to a man in the novel:] understood then that the battle was not between men of different colours or faiths, but between two different ages. The world beyond, a world he did not know, existed in a different age--an age that was much faster than that which he knew and so much wiser. This was a war between yesterday and tomorrow."

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Poured Fire On Us From the Sky

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Alphonsion Deng

My rating: 4 of 5 stars Interesting weaving of three stories; key moments told from three points of view. Many readers seem to prefer They Poured Fire to What is the What because readers don't seem to trust Dave Egger's narration, but What is the What covers a lot more ground: extensive stories from refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, lots about life in America. Fire is still a compelling, chilling read, but for the "whole" story, go with What is the What. View all my reviews >>

A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Compelling narrative; would have appreciated a bit more political / historical contextualization. I'm interested in the discussion of authenticity and craft around books like this; some nice weaving of flashbacks into the book, especially after Beah got away from the fighting.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A future article? Sudan's Story by any means possible?

As I have been immersing myself in the memoirs, fiction, films, and work of the southern Sudanese, I'm always (by necessity, by training?) trying to craft an article, an argument, for a paper. For a long time I have been stuck: sure I could do a kind of bibliographic or survey article, which might be useful, but I don't see pieces like that getting published in the journals I read. Perhaps I am just reading the wrong journals.

A more likely approach for College English or Rhetoric Review just occurred to me as a browsed the new College English special issue on Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinidad. A survey of the southern Sudanese texts (in that broad post-structuralist sense) with a focus on both the mediums and the rhetorics employed would be of some appeal (I hope) to those in my discipline. I do think the southern Sudanese (like many refugees) have resettled with the goal of telling their story, but they seem to have been more successful than most recent refugee groups in getting their story told, and using those stories for rebuilding efforts in their villages and regions.

Similar things might be going on with other groups that I am unaware of; the Congolese have "Friends of the Congo" disseminating their story in the US, and a few films and documentaries emerged in the past few years. I'm not aware of as focused an effort within the Somali community, or the Hmong community, although I know of a few books and films about each. Maybe a comparison / evaluation isn't even necessary; I could just focus on what I see being amassed by the Sudanese.

Making the time to get this written, of course, is the real challenge. Maybe I have said enough already.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Uncertain Business of Doing Good in Africa

The Uncertain Business of Doing Good: Outsiders in Africa The Uncertain Business of Doing Good: Outsiders in Africa by Larry Krotz

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Total impulse buy of a book that apparently nobody else has read. University of Manitoba Press probably doesn't have a bit marketing arm.

Krotz recounts various stories from his experiences working in Angola, Tanzania, and Kenya. I know woefully little about Angola, so Krotz has at least given me a frame of reference for learning more. His take on the UN prosecution of a few Rwandans after the genocide was enlightening and matched up perfectly with the interpretation I have come to get from my Congolese friends. The genocide was obviously a horrific period in that country's history and in the history of global inaction, but to say that the Hutus simply slaughtered innocent Tutsi's is a gross simplification of the back and forth, civil war like dimension of that conflict. Krotz came to believe that the UN went into the tribunal with the verdict already determined, and the one judge who really wanted to get the story straight was removed from the 3 judge panel. So much for outsiders doing good. The account of how the tribunal brought money but also problems to the small Tanzanian city is also enlightening.

About half the book covers HIV research in Africa, and what a rush of scientific inquiry happened on the continent when research dollars became available. At one point, a group of scientists in South Africa abandoned their research because they came to believe that circumcision was so successful in preventing the acquisition of the virus that they could no longer ethically maintain a control group of uncircumcised men. Another team of researchers thought it was unethical to abandon their research until the study was completed. Related issues of IRB interference will be of interest to all academics who wrestle with IRB boards.

Not riveting or heart-wrenching stories, but that is more than okay--insightful, thoughtful, outsider perspective.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mutt Genres and Writing About Writing

I see that Alex Reid has already responded to (or alongside) Elizabeth Wardle's CCC article on "Mutt Genres and the Goal of Fyc." I am sure this essay will get a lot of people thinking hard, again, as she and Doug Downs wrote a much discussed piece on "writing about writing" that came out in the much read June issue of CCC two years ago. Heck, I blogged about that piece, too.

I'm very sympathetic to Liz's arguments because we graduated from the same PhD program although some years apart, same advisor I assume (David Russell), and this article draws on most of the same scholarship (and more) that I usually draw on when thinking about writing courses and programs. I've been practicing and encouraging a modified "writing about writing" approach in our fyc program at NDSU for the past 6 years as Director of FY Writing, but what this article really got me thinking about is the challenge of being Upper Division Writing Director. Over the past few years we have been extending our genre-based, rhetorical approach to 300 level classes in multiple disciplines (as many other universities do), and we have been worrying about both the transfer from fyc into udw and the transfer from udw out into the profession or other disciplinary courses. I do a first-day assessment / review in my UDW courses, and I see that only a handful of students remember the meta-knowledge, the concepts, from fyc. As I teach my courses, I am always painfully aware that I am not really able to teach students, even at the 300 level, how to write in their field and discipline. The nursing students, for example, might want to learn how to "chart," but the nursing faculty have said "don't teach them charting, we'll teach them that." And they are right to do so.

So what are we doing in UDW? To a large extent, "we" (or at least "I") am still teaching my own version of writing about writing (and doing it via mutt genres, I have to admit). I open my Writing in the Health Professions class with a "Health Literacy Report" and end it with a "Medical Report to Media Story" analysis. These assignments ask students to investigate how writing / communicating works in their field, and while I do so via genres like "report" instead of rhetorical analysis, and "public information document" instead of "essay," I know that my students will have to learn how to write reports appropriate to their future employers and I know they won't really write anything like my mutt genre final assignment, but I try to talk to them about how "reading the medical literature" will transfer to their other courses and assignment, and how "writing a literature review" will be a component of some future scholarly writing for some of them. I try to show and help students make some of the connections Wardle says we would need to make if we use the mutt genre approach. I also use portfolios with reflection and a "personal fact sheet" assignment, both designed to capture some of the skills, strategies and concepts from the class so that (with any luck), something will transfer.

Her scholarship continues to challenge me to take that next step and get students reading the scholarship about writing in their field, and to get them to do research on writing / literacy in their field. I'm not entirely sure what is holding me back, except that comfortable rut I have found myself in as a teacher and administrator.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hospitality and Thermostats

I bet the June issue of CCC is its most read number; definitely the one I always have the most time for. I boldly claimed to Betsy that June 2009 might be the greatest issue of all time--all the pieces are of interest to me, anyway. I have started with Haswell, Haswell, and Blalock's "Hospitality in College Composition Courses" because I have been reading and thinking about hospitality with my refugee resettlement work. They steer clear (more or less) of the philosophical debates (Derrida and Levinas most notably), arguing that they see hospitality as a cultural practice and not a theoretical concept--nice move (708). They offer up three types of hospitality--homeric, judeo-christian, and nomadic--then offer their own choice, "transformative hospitality." I particularly liked their argument that a hospitable classroom is not teacher nor students centered, but inter-active centered, although I wondered about their claim that that the host-guest is an equitable relationship. Although steps can be taken to mitigate the power of the host, that position comes with the power of setting the environment and being "at home." I am always much more comfortable as host than guest.

I expected Paul Lynch's "Composition as a Thermostatic Activity" to give McLuhan's hot and cool a nod, but Lynch is a Postmanite, not a McLuhanite (or so it seems), and while the two overlap considerable, Postman's thermostat seems to not actually use the temperature metaphor. Lynch argues that a thermostatic pedagogy is a pedagogy of counterbalance, and building indirectly on Haswell, Haswell, and Blalock, Lynch seems actually to be arguing for something close to a pedagogy of inter-activeness, although perhaps slightly in-hospitable even as Lynch says we need to "discover what our students need most" (742). The counterbalanced pedagogies unsettles students positions, whether they agree with us or not, and it seems to be Lynch's argument that it is this unsettling that they need most.

The McLuhan take on thermostatic pedagogy (for those wondering) is one that has to do with heating up and cooling off the classroom. Heating up = information rich, whether in the form of a lecture, a dense text, an information rich assignment. Cooling down = participatory activities, students engaging and producing material more so than receiving and consuming. Lynch's essay gives me a nice entre into thermostatic teaching, but still lots of room for exploring / advancing this argument.

More to come as I work my way through the issue.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bill Cope on new media

Bill Cope just outline his talk about new media: will he really be able to get past McLuhan? He sees learning as being about design and synaesthesia, very McLuhan. Agency is new, he suggests; once tidy distinctions are blurred. McLuhan said this. First and second order differences, a new dynamics of difference, sees an increase in divergence due in part to increased opportunities for agency. This is new, goes against some of the grains of homogenous globalization. Shift from character to pixel, but resists (somewhat) the shift from word to image by pointing out the extensive use of writing even on television and architecture. Multimodal inveilgment? Missed that word; got distracted by thoughts of Derrida and invagination.

Cope's discussion of GML, SGML, HtML, XML is very informative; makes the point that we really haven't figure out how to deal with text in a way that makes use of the technology available to us. No wonder he wrote a book (edited?) called the Future of the Book in the Digital Age.

Interesting new information graphic on learning, builds on multiliteracy work. Emphasis on things you do to know.
Updates multimodality through synaesthesia.
Calling for transformative learning; ubiquitous learning.
Imagining a new electronic space in which the workspace is also the evaluation / assessment space, continuous feedback. Cool idea, but technical limitations?

Microphones ruining the q&a again.

Poetry and the database

John Walter "Database Rhapsody: From Database to Geek DJ." Refashioning memory for digital age. Drawing on medieval tradition of not strongly distinguishing between internal and external memory; we don't really understand medieval rhetoric because we understand the history of rhetoric through the handbook tradition, and medieval rhetoric's emphasis was memory. Memory not as rote, but (paraphrasing Carruthers) a library of our life, a matrix (database) for composing. Reminds me of McLuhan's diss.; grammar as database, rhetoric as creative output for database. Pre-electronic databases: oral tradition itself--proverbs and songs--common place things, social common places (could draw on Cliche to Archetype here). Covers good ideas of contemporary databases as invention, the compose with flickr exercise, etc. Wondering how we encourage knowledge management on the part of our students, ourselves.

Rhymes and Reasons for an Academic Poet's Electronic Platform, Brad Henderson and Andy Jones. They identify themselves as Rhet / Comp by day, poets by night; explain a poetry night program that they run in Davis; start with contrast, move towards integration, square peg of prose inside of round poetry. Cover topics from multimedia to publicity; they have interns working for them to help with the publicity--wonder how that works, funding, etc.? Wondering about Poetry Across the Curriculum. Also wondering about their experience with pre-professional classes: the pleasure they finally take in writing. Andy's show available on

Friday, June 19, 2009

fanfiction and the culture of speed

Yukiko Nishimura presenting on Japanese phone novels; showed a video of a novel being read and written. Providing good description; reporting on criticism of amateurism; Nishimura is a linguist, so she is more interested in language complexity. Shows that Keita novels linguistically look a lot like traditional print novels. Grade readability, 6-8; sample novels grades 5-9. Famous Japanese novelist wrote a Keitai that came in with 5th grade readability. Conclusions--went by quickly, but generally positive results. Same issues as most online forms of communication.

Betsy Birmingham is presenting on "Bring Smexy Back." Great title! Clearly outlining study and getting laughs at the same time--amazing! Fast cuts, mixed media (not just video but fan art and other things). Calls for mix method: ethnographic, case studies, quantitative. Illustrates strong gender differences: technically and in content, response rates and nature of response to one another, community building, etc.. Final question: why are girls so interested in boys boinking? I'll let her answer that. : )

Lynn Lewis, "Literacy in the age of speed:" Great contextualization of culture of speed; calls for greater awareness of literacy within the age of speed. Makes sense! Analysis of AP exam, the ways in which the clock own the text, determines the writing. [Much like "programs" shape student writing, a test like the AP exam calls forth the writing."] Students have come to understand that writing should be efficient, timely; calls this writing for the logic of the market. Follows up with another example of writing for the network, which subordinates clock time--good point. Going back to Yukiko, however, this speed writing for the network is used as a "between" space. Filling time with writing; interesting.

The Rhetoric of Peace Session

Sustaining Peace: Nancy Barron and Sibylle Gruber.

Teaching a course called “Rhetorics of Peace” as an UDW course. I wonder if we could develop an UDW class called “Writing for Change” that would be promoted as action-oriented, lots of business, project management, etc., etc. Could be pitched to “Engineers without Borders, teachers without Borders, etc.” PoliSci students?

Zinn, Buddha, Day, Thoreau, Emerson, Addams.

Architects of Peace!! Wow. Website and bound book.
Cronkite: skeptical.
Angelou: gets them hopeful.
What does peace look like without war? They start to pay attention to images, to portraits.
Mother Tereasa’s advice: smile 5X a day.
Proposal, feasibility report, writing, presentation. Poster board presentations.
Community got engaged; mayor, Peace Corps, deans and chairs.

When applied at the first year level:
Gee, Hall, NLG, Sturken and Cartwright (look up), Selber.
Developed an in-house documentary about social action – interview with students.
Doc. done by graduate student: logistics?
Central question: what would I do? (students researched volunteer opportunities, had to find a match with their own values).
Senior projects: Midwives and Nurses: Choices for Women.
Sexworkers Unite: A call for unions.
Domestic Violence: A call for awareness.

[connect with God’s child – human trafficking.]
I'd rather teach peace: another book to look up.

Catching up on CW presentations

Attending the 2009 CW conference. Attended the morning town hall, but didn't have my laptop out. Some good ideas from Michael Day about encouraging adjunct faculty to more formally share their own ideas and practices. Other good ideas.

I presented at 9:30; we got a late start so things were rushed, but Kris Blair offered a compelling vision for bringing the whole English department along with technology, engagement, innovation. I talked about the true function of the computer: to program and orchestrate terrestrial and galactic environments and energies in a harmonious way. CJ Jenny talked about disruptive mobile technologies.

Now attending keynote: Barbara Ganley, "Ecotones and Crossroads: Re-imagining the space of learning in an in-between time."
Cool presentation software, interactive style. Supposed to conjure a metaphor from a picture I was given: snow covered chair. Challenging; snow covered chairs are my life. Easy answer might be cool writing, cool sitting. Post card from partner. We came up with a story: I alluded to McLuhan, her post card alludes to Derrida, they both were asking "us" to rethink writing 40 years ago, but here were are in 2009 being asked by a keynote speaker to rethink writing.

Ganley's point: the second writing, the second prompt was better, it directed a conversation, built a metaphor. McLuhan might say the action is at the interface; without the second image, we have no interface, friction, energy. She also encourages these exercises in class to encourage play, to leave the grade behind.

Also encouraged twitter as playful practice. Worth considering. No need to think about sustained twitter use, but just as a warm up exercise. I do need to think about these kinds of activities with visual culture and language and electronic communication.

Interesting phenomenon happening here. The hosts are trying to record everything, but that desire to capture everything keeps getting in the way of conversations and presentations. All questions are supposed to be spoken into a mic; the presenter was clicking so a techie came up and fixed the "problem."

Ask experts to come in. I've been thinking of getting Mary M to be a guest in my online class; I should probably ask Helen O and maybe a professional medical writer (Michael?). Others? Gotta work around the Bb problem. Maybe move to Facebook.

Cool exercise adding notes to flick photos; this exercise definitely works for VCL!
Also a good photo essay exercise sample.

Looks like the twitter # on this presentation was lively. Still haven't gotten the hang of hashing.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Book pitch: would you read Holding on by a Thread?

I've been working on a manuscript for a while now, and I am ready to try out a pitch. Let me know what you think; lots of room for revision.

Holding on by a Thread: The Lives of Refugees (and what individuals can do to welcome them).

Holding on by a Thread is an account of the complicated lives of three refugee families in Fargo, North Dakota. Author Kevin Brooks unexpectedly found himself intricately involved with the lives of a young Sudanese man trying to raise siblings and his own family, a Somali couple largely homebound due to war injuries and limited English skills, and a Congolese family of six with big ambitions to succeed in America, but held back by red tape and limited resources during their first 100 days in Fargo. Holding On shares life dilemmas and complications that should challenge readers to ask, “What would I have done in their situation?” and “What can I do to help these families, or ones like them in my own community?” The global village, now more than ever, can be realized through friendships and individuals’ efforts, rather than television or the Internet, and friendship, Brooks learns, is the key to a global education.

Friday, May 08, 2009

What Writing Does

I'm listening to a psychologist, Toni Schmader, report on situational cues that affect student performance, and human performance generally. She just showed a slide that summarized a research study in which boys and girls in middle school wrote 3 types of letters to younger children: an anti-drug message, a learning is incremental message, and a learning is difficult for everyone message. The first message (control message) followed by student math tests returned a significant and stereotypical gender gap. The next two messages raised girls' scores, and put them on par with boys. The key, in other words, was the writing.

Josh Smyth, one time psychology faculty member at NDSU, has done extensive research on the role of informal writing on reducing arthritis and one other medical condition, and I think he has extended that research recently. When I saw him present, however, he said that the prompt, and the nature of the writing didn't make any difference.

Another former colleague did extensive research on the role of writing on helping students come to understand evolutionary theory.

These results intuitively make sense to us writing instructors, I suspect, but I am wondering:
--what would we get from an extensive meta-analysis of what researchers in other fields are finding about writing?
--how could that information help us reframe our classes (i.e. challenge some of the stereotypes; identify the many benefits of writing)?
--what happens to writing (and writers) when we actually focus on teaching writing / writers, because most of these research findings suggest the value of writing when it is used as an instrument for learning or therapy, rather than a skill to be taught?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Griffin, North Dakota

I heard about this guy who is trying to photograph "every dot" on the North Dakota map. He has also done quite a few photos in Manitoba, Minnesota, and elsewhere.

Scrolling through his list, I discovered Griffin (my son's name) North Dakota. Good example of "a dot."

If you go to Google Maps, you can search for Griffin; you won't be able to find it just by browsing the map. I'm not even 1000% convinced that Google is right, because I am not sure the tracks run where Google places Griffin. Guess we will have to check that out for ourselves this summer.

I'm frequently amazed at the creativity and passion (obsession?) with which many people live their lives. I think teachers like me are always trying to capture and bottle this kind of energy and bring it into our classrooms. Sometimes that works, most times the message gets messed up by the medium.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hybrid class article

Gouge, Catherine. “Conversation at a Crucial Moment: Hybrid Courses and the Future of Writing Programs.” College English 71.4 (2009): 338-62.

This articles is one of those pieces that I can’t believe hadn’t been written already, which of course made me kick myself for not writing it earlier. It is basically a call to pay attention to hybrid classrooms, to start a conversations and research on it, which is what we / I should have done three years ago when we moved to classroom instruction. I suppose we could start with interviews of all classroom instructors. The article is certainly right to call for more research.

I was really surprised to read that all reports of hybrid classrooms seem to be positive, and the doubts mainly have to do with doubts about the economic goals of hybrid classes. The last third of the article even focused on the Texas Tech program, so it became about how hybrid classes might be able to support innovative assessment.

The NDSU experience with hybrid classes would look very different. The success stories would be minimal: I had a strong discussion of White Like Me that probably would not have happened in a f2f class—the students even told me that. A few other instructors have reported getting comfortable with hybrids, but I don’t remember why. I think many of us hope that students will become more technologically literate, but we aren’t convinced that they are. Our big complaint is that students treat a hybrid like a 75 minute a week class; they do little or nothing between classes, despite various threats and incentives.

The article does cite a special issue from Teaching with Technology (8.2) that seems worth looking at, and I am now convinced that I need to read Locke Carter’s collection Market Matters.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some ideas for English

I stumbled up on E. Gordon Gee (prez Ohio State)'s recent call for reforming all of higher education. He articulates what I thought we have been trying to do, but perhaps OSU just isn't as cutting edge as NDSU. He did hit a few particulars that resonated with me, some problems that I have not tackled.

1. He singles out things like the "solar car" competition, involving not only teams from a single U but teams made up of members from more than one university. I've long thought "English needs a "solar car" competition.

2. He says U's should make sure all students have passports; students should study abroad, globalize. Agreed, although nice practical suggestion vis-a-vis passports.

These two items got me thinking: What if The Global Club of English Majors (Garrison Keeler, honorary prez) sponsored something like a "Social Entrepreneur" competition that had as some of its criterias of success:
--number of universities connected.
--number of participants.
--number of continents connected, etc.

I participated in "Congo Week" in October 2008; that seems like a "Social Entrepreneur" model to strive towards. Perhaps "sustainability" would need to be added. Students would need to do this work outside of class; they would need to not only take up a cause, but build a community, probably raise funds, etc., etc.. If "social activism" or "student activism" is obsolete, perhaps its goals can be retrieved through social entrepreneurship. Do I need to invoke McLuhan's "true function of computers": To orchestrate global energies and promote harmony.

As I was reading Gee's piece, an email telling me about "Global Conflicts," an online simulation, came to me. Clearly related, but perhaps another post.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Messages from the International Peace Garden

I put together a short video of peace quotations that line the walls of the International Peace Garden's chapel. I hope to get this video streamed into the Second Life Peace Chapel I am building.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Importing Composition: Three Questions

Just read an article almost 14 years old but newly relevant to my interests in global collaborations. Muchiri, Mulamba, Myers, and Ndoloi's "Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America" (CCC 46.2 1995: 175-98) ends with a provocative set of questions:

Imagine you could pack something of the world of composition, just enough to fit in a small box that would fit under and airline seat. It is not for foreign aid, or for trade, both of which can be exploitive; let us think of it as barter. What would you pack in this box; what is essential in the composition enterprise? That's the fun part. Now here comes the hard part: Where would you send it? And even harder: What would you expect to get in return? (196)

I've been working on setting up an exchange of ideas / stories / essays between NDSU students and United States International University students in Nairobi, Kenya; I don't know if that is the ideal place to "send" this important aspect of the composition enterprise (writing for audiences other than the teacher), but it comes out of a connection / relationship. I imagine most importations of composition will be done on the basis of friendship / relationships / convenience, not necessarily ideal destinations. What do I expect in return? A raising of global awareness, student engagement on both ends, possible faculty collaborations.

How would you answer these questions?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kairos 13.2--some notes

Just skimmed the Praxis article in the new issue of Kairos, "A Productive Mess." The article reports on an interesting classroom collaboration: four classes extended their f2f discussions not by going online in a discussion board, but by putting the four classes together in a drupal site. Smart. Students resist simply carrying conversation online when they talk to the same people all the time.

They authors also used a nifty schema to direct discussion: launch, query, extend, connect. I have tried a few different schemas for directing online discussion, but this one looks better than anything I have used. Of course, it also leads to stilted conversations and, as the authors report, it did not elimate "I agree" kinds of responses and it lead to one hostile exchange.

This article also reminded me that I could use the Virtual Peace Garden as a site for NDSU students to exchange ideas with students at the United States International University in Nairobi. That little project seems to be picking up a bit of steam.

"Rhetorical Velocity" by Ridolfo and de Voss has a nice paragraph on McLuhan; they also have an interesting press release assignment that makes the concept of rhetorical velocity a reality. Are rhetoricians ready to take over the PR world? I do think we have the potential to bring fresh insights and thoughtfulness into that realm.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins

I just learned about The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, a documentary that looks visually stunning and emotionally disturbing. A contemporary artist--part Mappelthorpe, part Pollock, but (post?) feminist--tries to make the first western adoption of two southern Sudanese Twins. She does all this in front of the camera--is it life or art? Is art anything you can get away with, Mr. McLuhan?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who in the world is Tony Schwartz?

I came across Tony Schwartz in Arthur Berger's Seeing is Believing the other day; Berger referenced Schwartz's notion of "the responsive cord" to explain what McLuhan would call "media intensification." The responsive cord seems to be that "shock of recognition" that we get when we see intertextuality and allusions at work, when we see the revisionist history, the gender, race, or class revision. Schwartz, in other words, seemed to be getting credit for a McLuhanism--S.O.P in the media analysis world.

Then I stumbled across a Twitter feed that said something like "If you like Cluetrain Manifesto, you will love Media: the Second God by Tony Schwartz. That post was followed by "McLuhan called Schwartz the "electronic guru."

So obviously I need to find out more about Schwartz, and Wikipedia gives me a nice entry:

It also reveals why I haven't heard of him; he wasn't an academic, The Responsive Cord and Media: The Second God were his only two books, and those were published in 1973 and 1982. Undoubtedly gold mines of antienvironmental insight. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's Official: I'm Rich!

Be sure to check out where you tank in the world. I wasn't surprised at all to find out that I am pretty darn rich compared to the rest of the globe, but I was surprised to find out that even with my modest salary, I am still in the top 1%.

How rich are you? >>

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 57,087,865 richest person on earth!