Some version of justice

From MSNBC (via my Google account though, actually) comes this news, “Teachers’ porn conviction overturned.”

A substitute teacher was granted a new trial Wednesday after her conviction for failing to prevent students from viewing pornography on her computer raised thorny questions about who is ultimately responsible for screening unsavory online material.

The woman, Julie Amero, 40, of Windham, Conn., adamantly denied clicking on pornographic Web sites that appeared on her classroom’s computer screen in October 2004 while she was teaching seventh-graders at Kelly Middle School in Norwich.

Amero was convicted in January on four counts of risk of injury to a minor, but computer security experts and bloggers across the political spectrum rallied to Amero’s defense when evidence later emerged that her computer had been infected with spyware that caused pop-up ads to take over the screen.

First off, I don’t quite understand the way the law worked in this case– was this thrown out on appeal? Did a judge look at the jury’s decision and say “oh, this is just stupid,” and call for a new trial? It kind of sounds like the second one happened.

But second, I’m glad that someone came to their senses. I’m too lazy to go back and look at those articles now, but the level of dumb bunny -ness demonstrated by the jurors and other participants in the last trial on all this was startling. So Amero is getting a version of justice here for sure, but jeez, what an awful year or so it has been for her.

C&W 07: My Presentation

I presented at the very last session on Sunday, May 20, at the recently completed Computers and Writing conference in Detroit. To be honest, more people showed up to this session than I thought would, mainly to support the other two presenters, I think. Still, it was a marked improvement over my “crowd” at the CCCCs.

In any event, I am making my presentation available at this web site with three basic versions:

  • the script of my talk with a few key slides pictures included (the version I’d recommend for most readers);
  • just the script with numbers where I inserted the slides; and
  • the Keynote slides saved for the web.

I’m also going to be sharing this presentation to the community since, after all, it’s about them. We’ll see what they have to say about all this.

Computers & Writing, Days 3 & 4: Another Bulleted List

  • I was planning on attending the 9 am session on Saturday morning, but things around the house and traffic held me up. These things happen.
  • Went to a session called “Mediating Literacy: Plugging Latour into Computers and Writing.” I learned a few things about Douglas Engelbart and his invention of computer interfaces, and also about a student project involving partially cooked chicken, but I didn’t learn a whole lot about Latour. Oh well; I did work on my presentation during all this.
  • Met up with Bill HD and one of his grad students for lunch, though we cut out before the presentation to do a little roaming about and shopping. I bought a lovely T-Shirt.
  • Went to a round-table on Ong to celebrate the 25 years after the publication of Orality and Literacy that was pretty decent. Hawisher and Selfe were sitting behind me and making me feel inadvertently guilty about multi-tasking.
  • Steve B. and I took off the last panel and went over to the Detroit Institute of Art, which is getting ready to close for the next six months for the final stages of renovation. As a result, there wasn’t much of the collection open. But we did spend a fair amount of time with the Diego Rivera mural “Detroit Industry,” which was worth the minimal admission. Pictures don’t really do it justice, but we did take a few. Pictures are forthcoming, I promise.
  • We went over the the African American History museum after this, quite a bit early, but we didn’t have anything else to do. The folks setting up the dinner said we could take the tour, so we did. It’s one of these museums where you have to go through a linear/historic path: first Africa, then the slave trade, then the Civil War, etc. Pretty interesting exhibit.
  • By the time we were done, the crowd was gathering for the banquet. Excellent food for this, too.
  • The room/lobby/whatever where this was being held was a dome/rotunda sort of structure, and the acoustics in there were bizarre. Conversations taking place halfway or more across the room bounced off the ceiling and marble floors/walls so that it sounded like it was right behind me. I thought I was hearing voices. I mean more than usual.
  • Ended up sitting with a lot of BGSU folks, which was good, especially with Kris Blair winning a technical innovator of the year award. What’s interesting to me about all this is that C&W was my first presentation, back in 1994, and I remember that me and Mike/Mick Doherty, John Clark, and Bill HD road-tripped to Missouri from BGSU. We were it. This time around, I’ll be there were 10 or more current and former PhD students there. Things have changed for the better.
  • Congrats to everyone who won various awards, but once again, I have not won anything. Actually, I’m not sure who the person(s) is/are who won the ward for best blog, to be honest. But congrats to them, too.
  • The keynote speaker was Richard Doyle, and he was, um, interesting in places. I think he was anticipating having internet access; I’m not sure. Doyle was pretty entertaining and funny, but as far as saying anything that was important or interesting or whatever: I thought he vacillated between making some good points and just rambling. Maybe he was hearing voices in his head from the dome/rotunda too.
  • Thanks to the directions from Nancy A., I didn’t get lost on the way home, which was nice.
  • Up and at ’em this morning, I drove back in and moderated a panel, “Virtual and Audio Teaching: Three Instructors’ Tales: Creating Environments for Varied Student Populations,” also made up of former BGSU grad students. A small group, but a good conversation.
  • Then it was time for my spiel. Funny story about tech and about the conference: there wasn’t a projector in the room I was presenting in. This was not good. So I went down to the check-in table and very calmly said “I need a projector in the room where I am presenting.” A couple of Wayne State-types show up with a projector and a computer, feverishly pushing buttons with mixed results. They leave. I hook up my computer, push the power button on the projector, and we’re in business. A link to my presentation is coming soon, I promise.
  • Kudos to Robin Murphy (BGSU) and Kimberly Lacey (Wayne State), the PhD students I prsented with and who did great things in their talks. And congrats to Robin on defending and going on to join the ranks of the tenure-track, too.
  • And then time to go home. All and all, an okay conference. I got a lot of good book project ideas, and a lot of inspiration for getting my act together on all that very very soon. The “home game” aspect of the conference was fun, though I have to say that I’m looking forward to C&W in Athens, GA next year. Bill HD and Steve B and I are contemplating road-tripping down there and playing golf along the way there and back. But that’s next year.

Computers & Writing, Days 1 & 2: The Bulleted List

  • Steve B. and I drove into Detroit City late Thursday afternoon. We arrived at the registration table at about 4:50. Some person there said “Sorry, we close registration at 5.” Um, okay….
  • Went to the St. Martin’s sponsored reception at the Detroit Beer Co., which was a nice way to kick stuff off. Good beer, good company. Showed Bob Whipple a bit about Comic Life, chatted with all kinds of folks.
  • Steve B. and I were going to go out for Greek food, but pooped out and ended up at an Ypsilanti institution and EMU hang-out, the Sidetrack. Ah, the pleasures of the familiar.
  • Friday AM, I moseyed in around 10:30 or so. Met up with a former MA student of ours who is now at the PhD program at BGSU. She interviewed me about blogging for a project she’s working on, which sounds pretty interesting.
  • Went to the lunch event, ate with my colleague Nancy Allen (who has been on sabbatical this year, so it was good to catch up a bit) and managed to be close enough to the front to actually hear it. No microphone. But some interesting talks from Metroblogging Detroit, dETROITfUNK, and DetroitYES, bloggers from three very different area blogs/communities. I talked with them a bit afterwards about contacting them later as case study sources, and they all seemed pretty okay with that.
  • Went to an excellent panel, Blogologies with Collin Brooke, Krista Kennedy, Derek Mueller, Donna Strickland, and Jeff Ward. Review forthcoming, but some useful stuff for this quasi-hypothetical book project. Oh, and there I was, right there, when Derek quoted from my “When Blogging Goes Bad” article. That’s the first time I was quoted right in front of me, which was kinda cool.
  • Talked a bit with Collin and contemplated buying a Wayne State cap. I went into the store and didn’t like the selection, though I did like the sweatshirts they had indicated the major of “Undeclared.”
  • The damn Starbucks was closed so no decent afternoon coffee.
  • For reason too convoluted to go into here, I ended up missing Geoffrey Sirc’s speech because I was eating a lovely ruben and drinking fine beer in a place called Saloon Circa 1890. About 10 minutes after Sirc’s presentation was over, the place was full of C&W folks. At least one photo forthcoming. Talked with many other folks like Nick Carbone and previously mentioned folks, and heard tales from Mike Palmquist of his elaborate motorcycle travel from Colorado State U to here.
  • Drove home without incident (which, knock on wood, has been the case so far in my travels into Detroit) and hung out with the wife and child. All in all, a good day indeed.

"Code and Composition"

From ACM Ubiquity comes “Code and Composition,” by Luke Fernandez of Weber State University. I haven’t read it yet, but I like the abstract/blurb info:

“Luke Fernandez’s “Code and Composition” compares the activity of programming computers with the activity of writing. The essay delineates the commonalities and differences in these activities in the context of larger technical and literary divisions that exist within the university.”

C&W 2007: A Home Game, Sort Of

Besides all of this pesky teaching that I have to do this spring, I’ve been busy getting ready for this year’s Computers and Writing Conference. C&W is by far my favorite academic conference, but I don’t always go to it; in fact, I haven’t gone for the last couple of years. Two years ago, C&W was at Stanford, which would have been really nice (and I heard it was), but since the CCCCs was in San Francisco that year, it was out of my budget to go out there twice. Last year, C&W was in Lubbock, and while I again hear it was a great conference, my gut reaction was “Why in the heck would I want to go to Lubbock?”

This year, C&W is at Wayne State University in Detroit. That’s about 42 minutes from where I live and work, more or less (I live about a mile from EMU’s campus). So in that sense, it’s basically a local conference: I’m going to be commuting, arriving when I can and returning home to my own comfy bed and house each night. I have some working knowledge of the Detroit area (see below), and it will be nice to go to a conference and not spend a ton of money. Well, outside of the gas I’ll put in my car.

On the other hand, this might end up being kind of a pain in the butt. Those 42 minutes there and back assume no traffic problems, not an easy assumption between here and Detroit. I may very well regret not arranging for some sort of hotel or dorm stay for at least part of the conference. Also, even though I do live in the greater “metro Detroit” area, I can count on two hands (well, maybe 3) the number of times I’ve been east of about Dearborn in the nine years I’ve lived here. We’ve seen some plays and other performances in Detroit, there’s a great used book store downtown called John King Books I’ve been to a couple times, I’ve been to the Detroit Institute of Art, the Detroit Science Center, once to the Eastern Market, and we’ve been to Greektown two or three times. That’s pretty much it.

Typically, my wife and son and I get our various “services” in Ann Arbor or outer Detroit suburbs. I have certainly not “hung out” in Detroit much; in fact, our journeys into Detroit have always been very mission-specific.

I am quite sure that there are many in the C&W community who have the same reaction to Detroit that I had to Lubbock. In my above mentioned and fairly limited experience with Detroit, I think its reputation is both unfair and accurate. It’s “unfair” in that Detroit is not without some of the previously mentioned charms, and the area around Wayne State University is relatively safe. It certainly isn’t one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Detroit. On the other hand, there really are a lot of burned-out and depressing looking buildings in Detroit, a lot of scary places, a lot of poverty, a lot of dirt and grime, etc., and it doesn’t have the sort of vibrant downtown culture of Chicago or New York.

Though I say all of this with limited knowledge of downtown Detroit, knowledge I’ll expand this week.

BTW, if anyone in the C&W world reading this is interested in an Ann Arbor side-trip and wants some ideas and advice, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction if I don’t actually accompany you.

Visuals and Networks

A couple of other good projects to link to that came out yesterday (I mean besides my grand textbook unveiling, of course):

  • viz., from the Computer Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Basically, it’s a resource on visual rhetoric that has some potential.
  • Rhetworks, which is Collin Brooke’s site about his ongoing book project on social networks. What interests me about this is it makes me think about Blogs as Writerly Spaces. Do I want a “new space” or just a category here? I am leaning toward category right now, but….

Some small-town computing

These articles are both largely dated in terms of both content and point– computers come to the K-12 classroom, there are doubters, there are enthusiasts, there are wonders about how to measure success of computers, there are wonders about access for all, etc.– but I’m linking to them for 516 anyway. For one thing, it sort of proves to me that the questions that were out there about using computers in classrooms about 10 years ago remain. For another, both of them talk a bit about chalkboards, which have a soft-spot for me too.

“Classroom revolution from blackboards to computer screens,” from, a Massachusetts publication.

“Computers for Everyone,” from the Sioux City (IA) Journal web site.

"Ditching" Microsoft Apps

Via cyberdash, I came across this article in InformationWeek online, “FAA May Ditch Microsoft’s Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo.” Here are the opening two paragraphs:

March is coming in like a lion for Microsoft’s public sector business. Days after InformationWeek reported that the Department of Transportation has placed a moratorium on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7, the top technology official at the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that he is considering a permanent ban on the Microsoft software in favor of a combination of Google’s new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware.

In an interview, FAA chief information officer David Bowen said he’s taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency’s Windows XP-based desktop computers and laptops. Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. “It’s a different sort of computing strategy,” he said. “It takes the desktop out of the way so you’re running a very thin client. From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages.”

A bit of a poke into Google shows me that the same stuff is available to educational enterprises like this one for free, and the “premier” package is $50 a year.

I’m not familiar enough with these apps at this point to say if Google truly is ready to start charging $50 a year for what you get now, but I’ve been pretty pleased with gmail. I’ve started making the grand switch over, forwarding both of my personal and my school account to gmail, and the advantages of the interface outweigh the disadvantages so far.

The three things I like most about gmail at this point? First, the spam filter is dramatically more effective than what I had through my ISP, through EMU, and through Apple’s mail software. Second, the way that gmail sorts mail into “conversations” has turned out to be pretty handy. It’s taken some getting used to for me because you do have to dig into it a little bit to see what’s going on in a particular conversation, but the advantage is it keeps my inbox more compressed. And third, archiving everything with the ability to search through it easily means I don’t feel as compelled to sort every last email I get into a mailbox. I do label stuff that’s important still and I use that (basically) as a mailbox scheme, but just last night I found some message that I thought was long LONG gone just by sifting through a search. So that’s all been pretty cool.

So who knows? Maybe I’ll ditch MS Word next. I’ve already been playing around with iWork….

Of course, as far as Internet-based word processor or spreadsheet apps go, the disadvantage of having to be online to work with them are pretty obvious– perhaps not a big deal if you are working for the FAA and sitting at a desk all the time, but a bigger deal if you are a student or a teacher with a laptop who may or may not have decent wireless access at different points of the work day.