Did you miss me? (A round-up of what I have clearly missed….)

We’re back in town after a family trip out west (which was a lot of fun). I’m actually only going to be here a couple of days before leaving again, but it’s nice to be home just for a bit, awake from sleeping in my own bed, and sitting here and drinking my own coffee at my own desk.

Anyway, here’s kind of a round-up post of some of the things that I have appeared to have missed:

  • There’s a “textual carnival” reading of Richard Fulkerson’s “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century,” from the June 2005 (56.4) issue of College Composition and Communication. My guess is that my copy of the CCCs is in the held mail that won’t arrive here until tomorrow at the earliest. Oh well, I’ll catch up on that one later. I’ll link here to Clancy’s entry on this, but Collin, Jenny, Derek and probably others have posted on this bit as well.
  • There was an article published on the Inside Higher Ed site called “Collegiality — the Tenure Track’s Pandora’s Box” by Mary McKinney. McKinney– who isn’t a tenure-track academic herself (I don’t think) but a psychologist who “coaches” people seeking tenure (?)– is basically suggesting that people seeking tenure ought to work hard at getting along with co-workers. Wow, shocking advice. Nowhere in the article does she point out that a) to get tenure, you should first and foremost do the work required by that particular institution because being the nicest person in the world who doesn’t do the work in terms of scholarship, teaching, and service will still not get tenure; b) the standards for tenure vary wildly, so the tenure-seeking faculty member should inquire about the local standards and not pay as much attention to the “lore” of things like “publish or perish;” c) the idea that one should “try to get along with your co-workers” merely reminds us that being a college faculty member is a lot like actually having a job; and, finally d) McKinney (and the many folks who comment on this) doesn’t mention the fact that (according to the AAUP, I think) something like 90% of folks who apply for tenure actually get it so you shouldn’t stress it too much.
  • I’ve gotten some good feedback from folks on my Chronicle article, which has been nice. The EMU PR folks reported my publication in a mass email to people and they described the CHE as an “international” publication. Well, I don’t know about that, but it’s nice to now that the PR people must obviously read CHE…. Oh, and thanks a bunch to Bob, who sent me a PDF version of my article, which I’ll post here for now and on that other entry later.
  • Jeff and Jenny have been doing a little urban pioneering in Detroit as of late.
  • The TV fan in me enjoyed this post and this post at Johndan’s blog.
  • Mike has a belated post about some of what he saw at the Computers and Writing Conference. He’s excused for being late, though; he’s been working on his dissertation….
  • Dr. B. seems frustrated about this gaming conference she went to. From what she reports, I would be too.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough to go look at for the time-being. Besides, I have to get ready to go to the July 4 parade.

Remembering John Lovas

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.

Thoughts on "Blogs as a Tool for Teaching"

I’m guessing that at least some people coming to this blog for the first time are here because of an article I have in the June 24 Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Information Technology Supplement.” It kind of shows up in the back of that section, so I don’t know how many people have (or ever will) read it. But if you’re here because you did read it, thanks.

This was an interesting writing experience for me in a couple of different ways, so I thought I’d mention a few things about it here:

  • This came about because I was contacted by an editor at the CHE who either read or had heard of an article I had in the online academic journal Kairos called “When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Email Lists, Discussion, and Interaction” and asked me if I wanted to write a piece about teaching with blogs. Considering the fact that the CHE has quite a broad reach and they were going to pay me, I of course agreed.
  • I thought the CHE folks were nice to work with, actually.
  • If I ever teach an undergraduate class at EMU about the “publishing process” as it really happens, I’ll show them the various drafts and the give-and-take with the editors. It’s interesting because where I started this essay months ago is not the same where I ended up. For the most part, that’s a good thing.
  • Regrets? A few, maybe. I (of course!) did not have a lot of space to work with, and there were a few places where the editor was asking me “to explain that more” and I really just couldn’t explain enough. I mean, these things are complicated. As a result, there are a few places where I think the piece reads a bit stiff to me.
  • I have no idea what the deal is with the “drummer boys” graphic on page B34.
  • I still basically agree with the points I think I am trying to make, though one thing I wish I had talked about more in this essay (and in the Kairos piece, for that matter) is the extent to which improving blogging tools make certain aspects of blogging, such as interaction, better than they were. Well, maybe that can be the next essay.

Oh yeah: there’s other essays in this issue, too.

I don’t have any use for it in a small writing class (at least I don’t think I do…), but these “clickers” that are surfacing in lecture hall classes are really interesting. It’s kind of a gimmick, sure, but I bet it really does keep students interested. Interestingly though, some of the other articles are talking about using technologies (video, for example) as a “hook” to keep students (the proverbial “MTV generation?”) interested.

There’s a piece called “Hold a Socratic Chair” that I thought was pretty interesting because I’m going to be teaching an all online class for the first time in the fall. It’s about a guy who teaches at Concord University School of Law, which offers a completely online degree. And then there’s a bunch of stuff I’ll need to read later, a piece by Janet Murray, an interestingly titled essay called “Why Many Faculty Members Aren’t Excited About Technology,” an article about course management tools that might come in handy for a different project, and some other things I’m not going to mention now.

Anyway, go buy it now. Good reading.

Jeff’s question in his comment prompted me to ask the folks at the CHE if I could reprint/repost my essay here. They said I could republish it anywhere I wanted as long as I acknowledged that it first appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. So there ya go.

My scan of the article (saved as a PDF file)
is pretty bad, so if anyone has an electronic version of this from the CHE web site, I’d appreciate it if you could send it to me. Thanks in advance.