Missouri et al trip recap

It’s funny because while I haven’t been here for the last week, I spent plenty of time online here, here, and here. In the real world, I was off on the every other year Krause family summer get together in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.  Here’s a set of pictures on Flickr; here’s a few highlights:

  • Spent the first night in St. Louis, where we enjoyed fried toasted ravioli and red sauce Italian food.  The next day, we went to the Arch (of course) and then City Museum, which I have to say is actually the “must see” attraction of the two, IMO.  There was some fun and funky stuff in St. Louis; I’m looking forward to going back when the CCCCs is there in few years.
  • My parents rented a house on the Lake of the Ozarks for the 10 adults and eight grandkids.  On the plus-side:  the house was pretty much big enough, pretty nice, had great views, and the water was accessible down many many stairs.  On the down-side:  it was down a winding road,  another winding road, a gravel road a gravel/dirt road, and finally a “holy shit, you want me to drive down that?!” gravel/dirt road.  Which meant it was about 35 minutes from the main road, which was where most of “civilization” was located.
  • The other down-side (which wasn’t exactly a surprise) was there was no easy internet access, which made teaching my online classes somewhat challenging for the week.  Surprisingly though, I think I pulled it off with a couple of trips to a Panera’s and the iPhone.  I did finally start playing around with iPhone internet tethering, which worked fantastic for me but which makes me paranoid.  I’m just worried I’m going to get some kind of huge charge added to my bill.
  • We had fun with the family (Will especially had fun playing with the cousins), the weather was much cooler and more reasonable than I was expecting, I got a chance to play golf a couple times, everyone but my father and me got a chance to go out on the water on a rented boat, had a lot of fun going to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, and we had some nice views of the lake.  Having said that, Lake of the Ozarks seems mostly a place to go and get on a boat, drink beer, and go “wooo!”  A little country/hillbilly-ish for my tastes, generally speaking.
  • Then it was off to Chicago.  Went out with Troy and Lisa on Friday, which was great though our effort to get into Frontera Grill was thwarted by a 2+ hour wait.  Maybe next time.  (BTW, fun fact I didn’t know until I visited his web site:  Rick Bayless did at least some PhD work in Anthropological Linguisitcs at U of M.  Go figure).  Instead, we went to Vong’s Thai Kitchen, which was quite nice.
  • Got up the next morning and had a run/walk through Millennium Park as I went and picked up breakfast stuff for Will and Annette.  It was one of those mornings that made me think living in Chicago would be pretty cool.
  • Then onto the Museum of Science and Industry, mainly for Harry Potter:  The Exhibition.  I’d like to tell you to check out the pictures I took, but there was a definite NO PHOTOGRAPHY rule.  Despite that, it was a pretty cool collection of costumes and props and set stuff from the movie, probably more for the “hard core” fan (like my wife and son), but still enjoyable for the likes of me.  One of the tour dudes there told us that the movie makers working on something actually came back to get something from the exhibit, I guess to work on the current film.  The only down-side was we once again were not able to see the coal mine exhibit– or maybe a better way of putting it is we weren’t willing to wait in line for an hour or more.  Again, next time.
  • Managed to spend some time getting lost in some of the less desirable neighborhoods on the southside and near the Chicago Skyway Bridge, got stuck in traffic in Gary, etc.

All in all, a good trip.  Now it’s a couple weeks of “normalness” at home before the Traverse City experience.

The square-foot gardening continues

Square foot garden It’s been a pretty busy spring and summer this year, but we’ve still had time to have a fine and successful square-foot garden experiment on the side of the house. Back in mid-April, it was pretty much just a plot with dirt.  Now here we are in mid-July, and the garden is going mad.  Here’s a link to the set so far; a few highlights:

  • The peas Will and I planted from seed back in late April/early May have come and gone– we got two good meals worth of stir-fried snow peas (with other things, of course).
  • The lettuce was great too; I think we must have gotten at least a dozen salads out of that. We’re about to leave town tomorrow, but I think that Will and I are going to plant a mix of green beans and carrots after we get back.
  • And those tomato plants are freakin’ huge! We’ll see what the actual tomatoes look like though.

“A Facebook teaching moment”

In the NY Times Ethicist column “A Facebook teaching moment,” Randy Cohen responds to a query about an eighth grade teacher who has a Facebook account where she friends students and where she sees things about under-age drinking, drug use, and school cheating. He suggests that the teacher ought to make students aware that she is aware of their bad behavior and about the less than private nature of Facebook:

Strictly speaking, when these students gave her access to their Facebook pages, they waived their right to privacy. But that’s not how many kids see it. To them, Facebook and the like occupy some weird twilight zone between public and private information, rather like a diary left on the kitchen table. That a photo of drunken antics might thwart a chance at a job or a scholarship is not something all kids seriously consider. This teacher can get them to think about that.

I generally agree with this advice, though it seems to me that since these students are eighth graders, the teacher might a) have a different obligation to report bad behavior to the proper authorities, and b) not want to be Facebook friends with her students. It’s one thing for me to friend my college-aged and legal adult students; it’s quite another to friend tweens.

I also think it’s worth mentioning/remembering that this lack of privacy of Facebook is a two-way street, and some of the most explosive Facebook problems in K-12 schools in the last year or so have involved teachers who forgot that their Facebook accounts were public spaces.

This might be good for 516 in the winter term.

“We are all writers now”

The ever-readerly Nick Carbone posted this link to some of the usual mailing lists:  “We are all writers now,” in More Intelligent Life and by Anne Trubek. It’s a nice piece, especially in response to that old “we’re going th hell in a handbasket with writing and reading because of these dang computers.”  Here’s a quote:

Go back 20, 30 years and you will find all of us doing more talking than writing. We rued literacy levels and worried over whether all this phone-yakking and television-watching spelled the end of writing.

Few make that claim today. I would hazard that, with more than 200m people on Facebook and even more with home internet access, we are all writing more than we would have ten years ago. Those who would never write letters (too slow and anachronistic) or postcards (too twee) now send missives with abandon, from long thoughtful memos to brief and clever quips about evening plans. And if we subscribe to the theory that the most effective way to improve one’s writing is by practicing—by writing more, and ideally for an audience—then our writing skills must be getting better.

BTW, I wish there was an easy way for me to post the same post to two or three different blogs…. Anyway, this one will come in handy for things like 516 for sure.

Facebook might not be so bad for you

This morning, I’m browsing Bradley Dilger’s delicious site this morning to mine links for my English 444 class— he’s got great links and resources there for me to borrow/steal (and of course, anyone and everyone is welcome to borrow/steal from my 444 class)– and I came across this from First Monday, “Facebook and academic performance: Reconciling a media sensation with data.” I just skimmed it now, and it looks like it would be great reading for 516 and, if I ever teach it again, 621. Here’s the abstract:

A recent draft manuscript suggested that Facebook use might be related to lower academic achievement in college and graduate school (Karpinski, 2009). The report quickly became a media sensation and was picked up by hundreds of news outlets in a matter of days. However, the results were based on correlational data in a draft manuscript that had not been published, or even considered for publication. This paper attempts to replicate the results reported in the press release using three data sets: one with a large sample of undergraduate students from the University of Illinois at Chicago, another with a nationally representative cross sectional sample of American 14– to 22–year–olds, as well as a longitudinal panel of American youth aged 14–23. In none of the samples do we find a robust negative relationship between Facebook use and grades. Indeed, if anything, Facebook use is more common among individuals with higher grades. We also examined how changes in academic performance in the nationally representative sample related to Facebook use and found that Facebook users were no different from non–users.

“Giving up my iPod for a Walkman”

Pretty amusing article: “Giving up my iPod for a Walkman” is about a 13 year-old’s experience with the old skool music player, the Sony Walkman, which came out 30 years ago. My favorite quote:

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

What’s funny to me about this, of course, is how quickly these technologies fade from memory. I’m sure my 11 year-old son would have a similar “what’s that?” reaction. The LPs we have in the basement are pretty much a mystery to him.

A couple of thoughts on “Aurality and Multimodal Composing”

I read/skimmed Cynthia Selfe’s CCC article “Aurality and Multimodal Composing” essay while on the bike at the gym the other day. It’s a good read and something I’ll probably assign the next time I teach English 516 in winter 2010. It made me think about two other things that are kind of/kind of not related to the point she was trying to make:

  • A lot of the piece is historical in that Selfe is discussing how writing pedagogy evolves and emerges out of an 18th/19th century tradition of education where being able to speak well and present one’s self with good elocution skills was frankly more important to college graduates than writing skills. This reminds me of a project I did as a PhD student oh so many years ago about elocution, especially as it evolved as a popular “home learning” and primary/secondary school activity in the mid to late 19th century in the U.S. Basically, as elocution lessons became passe in higher ed, it became popular in the homes, and presumably the homes of people of a certain class who would never go to college. It’s one of those projects that I keep thinking about coming back to, and this article might help me do that.
  • The lingering thought I have with this article and most others in comp/rhet publications (not to mention many/most presentations at conferences like Computers and Writing) is about university departments and divisions. We “do” writing in composition and rhetoric and we “do” reading, writing, and literature in English departments because that’s our slice of the discipline pie. When we then try to do stuff like web design/usability, we’re kind of crossing over into (taking pie from?) computer science; when we incorporate graphics and graphic design in writing classes, we’re kind of taking pie from art; and when we have students do stuff like make movies and podcasts and give speeches, we’re kind of taking pie from communications.

    So, for me, there are two problems with this. First (and this is perhaps an institutional problem that is more acute at EMU than it is at other places), there is a lot of guarding of turf in academia. Two brief examples: we’ve had various challenges over the years in my department proposing courses with the words “communication” or “film” in them because my colleagues in the Communications department basically claim those terms as theirs. We have similar turf claims about terms like “literature” and “writing,” too. Second, as a student I had years ago reminded me, just because you give someone a video camera or a tape recorder doesn’t mean they are going to be able to make a movie or a radio show.

    Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing these things, and I don’t disagree with Selfe at all. We’ve been doing these multimodal and aural compositions for a long time, probably forever. I have my students in a wide variety of classes make little videos, web sites, recordings, etc., etc. In a theoretical and ideal world, these things are all a form of “writing” and the borders we’ve built between text, images, movement, and sound are all fictions. But in a practical and materialistic world, these borders are what defines institutions, academic departments, and individual courses. And in a time of tight budgets and assessing things like who should get what tenure-track lines and on-going funding, those theoretical fictions have a material value of real dollars and cents.