I’m shocked and saddened to hear that John passed away yesterday at the age of 65. There is a web space at DeAnza college to remember John, a “Festschrift.”
I feel like I knew him quite well as a colleague, and yet I met him in person only once at the Computers and Writing conference in Hawaii last year, and I probably only exchanged a dozen words with him then. This is how fellow bloggers are: we talk to each other through our typing.
John’s posts at “A Writing Teacher’s Blog” were a regular way for me to start my day. I found his writing engaging, inspiring, inviting, and, well, useful. John was a great source of advice and wisdom about the practicalities of teaching writing and it was so obvious that he loved what he did. It’s fitting somehow that the last post he made about a month ago was titled “Beginnings” and is about the challenge, as John wrote, of getting “the student to connect the banalites to real experiences, observations, or recollections. When that happens, there’s a real chance for a paper worth reading.”
I’ll miss John quite a bit and regret that I didn’t have a chance to speak with him more in person, but I’ll always remember our conversations in writing.
In the process of surfing around tonight, I came aross this site, “The Hole in the Wall,” a Frontline story from 1999 or so. I think I had heard about this before, but basically, this computer company set up a computer monitor in a wall in a slum in India. Very quickly, slum kids started teaching themselves how to work the machine. Kinda cool stuff, and maybe a site I can use in my graduate computers and writing course.
Today was the last day of my section of English 121; Wednesday is when we would have a final, but since we won’t really have a “final” in the class, it’s when the portfolio and any revisions are due.
Spring classes are tough because you are trying to accomplish in 7 1/2 weeks what is hard enough to do in 15 during the regular school year. It’s hard on the students, many of whom are taking the class now because they had “challenges” with it before. It’s hard on me because everything moves twice as fast and because, after the regular school year is over, I too am ready for a break.
Anyway, I’m about to take one. I will read through final projects and figure out final grades for students between now and Wednesday afternoon, and then we leave town for parts west of here first thing Thursday morning. It’s going to be a sorta/kinda “working vacation” in the sense that I am going to bring my computer and some work that
I should have finished weeks ago is, er, “pressing.” But to tell the truth, I don’t know what kind of Internet access I’ll have and I don’t know how much time I’ll have, either. I guess I’ll find out in the next week or so.
Here’s a couple of kind of fun and interesting links:
From Inside Higher Ed comes this article, “Duke Analyzes iPod Project.” And, for the whole sha-bang, there’s this, the “Duke iPod First Year Experience.” Personally, I think the whole iPod give-away thing is kind of a gimmick, and kind of a strange one for a place like Duke, if you ask me. “Sure, tuition is a gazillion dollars here at Duke, but hey, you get a free iPod!”
As reported in the Inside Higher Ed piece, there are some things that aren’t too surprising: for example, the greatest use of the iPod was in foreign language and music classes, and there were many “inherent limitations” for using the iPod in teaching, such as tools for mixing audio with images.
But I was surprised about the problem of some of the sound quality of iPod recordings not being good enough to use. I have one of these $50 recording devices for my iPod and it seems to work fine to me. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I for one am interested in doing some podcasting sorts of things for an online class I’m teaching in the Fall; maybe they didn’t have much need for that at Duke.
I also think that iPods are useful (and might be useful for our students at EMU) simply as a portable hard drive. I haven’t tried to hook it up to a PC yet, but all I have to do to use it on a Mac is to plug it into an USB port. Very handy, if you ask me.
Of course, also easy to lose and/or steal, but that’s another story.
Funny what you find when you’re not really looking for it. While trying to find something else with the search phrase “emerging writing technologies,” I found this essay by Jim Porter, “Why Technology Matters to Writing: A Cyberwriter’s Tale.” I’m linking it here because it just might help me to solve a problem I’ve been having with figuring out how to replace the “invent your own technology” assignment in my 328 class. Anyway, this post might only make sense to me, but Jim’s essay in pretty interesting.
I’m not exactly sure if this is going to create one of those unresolveable feedback loop, but here I go:
Here’s a link to John’s post, where he links to a bunch of links that Byron Hawk posted about podcasting, and some podcasting links I had posted to tech-rhet. Got all that?