Friday, June 1, 2007

Spring Coda

The quarter's end has arrived (not soon enough for some, I'm sure), and it's difficult not to let one's thoughts stray to summer. However, before we shelve the past ten weeks into the libraries of our memories, I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to reflect upon just how much writing and reading we've done this quarter. The blogs themselves offer considerable volume, but add in the draft work for the essays, the Short Writing Assignments, and studying for the grammar and style quizzes, and we will observe a hefty amount of text, all pregnant with inferences and implications for our brains to negotiate.

I have been fortunate to read every assignment--that is my job after all--and have learned a lot from both the students in the class and our visitors across Electricblogland. However, you need not be a participant in the class to observe the growth in ten short weeks. Of course, writers improve somewhat just by following through on the hefty amount of writing and reading I assigned. I also think we can thank the public comments from strangers for partly keeping us on our syntactic toes. Before we do close the book(s) on this quarter, I'd like to leave you with some end-of-term thoughts.

  • You are responsible responders to all texts. Language is powerful; language gathers armies, changes laws, sells us crap we don't really need. Make sure that you continue to work on your ability to read all texts with a critical eye. Take nothing for granted; consider everything. Assigned texts in classes can be suspect, while the homeless guy on the corner may have something valid to say between his ravings about cosmic peanut butter. Stay alert by reading between the lines. People are looking for suckers to just go along with the crowd or not to bother to check the fine print. Don't be one of those suckers. It takes longer to read critically, but your soul will be freer for doing so.
  • You are writers. And don't let anyone tell you different. Even if you don't like doing it, or don't want to do it regularly, you DO do it, and do it increasingly well. Look at these class blogs for proof.
  • Dissension is okay. We learn when faced with ideas, theories, beliefs that are new to us or different from the way we understand the world. It's one thing if people are arguing to just to get a rise from you or just to be difficult; it's quite another when they earnestly have different opinions and are effectively trying to communicate those to you. But before you agree to disagree, see if you can come to some understanding.
Well, that's it: the Springer Final Thought of the last class. I hope everyone has a great summer, an enriching school experience, and a life lush with learning.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Interviewing the Man Mirrored in the Computer Screen

For this week, I assigned the 109.02 class to write blogs based on truncated interviews like the ones found in Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-workers. While not part of the blogging elite after a mere nine weeks of publishing their thoughts online, the students can speak from some degree of experience, and—let's face it—have immersed themselves in the wonderful world of weblogs by writing, reading, linking, analyzing. I am asking my students to defend (or decry) the blog topics that they chose in week one, and I am asking them to ruminate on the past nine weeks of public journaling. Should be a hoot to read the replies. Following is my—very brief, for a change—response to the assignment.

Why did you choose to have the class read and write blogs for the quarter?

I feel that a lot of great expression and rhetoric can be found online, in increasingly specialized texts. For example, I was thrilled to recently discover a well-maintained blog on baseball cards, an interest in which I have never been able to shake from my starry-eyed youth. Blogs are fresh, organic texts that lend voice to those who may otherwise not be heard in public. Thus, I feel that they are wonderful texts for freshman writers, particularly those who have had some struggles with writing in the past. They give a chance to get real, instantaneous feedback from people who are not paid to read their writing. Plus, there is a lot of liberty for the topic and content of any individual post. By linking, students get an idea of the importance of using resources and synthesizing their thoughts with that of the resource. And hey, it’s been a blast.

How has blogging changed your life?

I’ll be extremely careful not to omit verbs when posting comments to other blogs.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Rhetorical Questions

In lieu of commenting on a classmate’s blog, for this week I’d like again for you to post a comment to my blog. This time, I’d like you to write a quick rhetorical analysis of one of the blogs that I asked you to look at for this week.

What is a rhetorical analysis, you ask? In brief terms, it’s an evaluation of a text’s diction, tone, assumed audience, and purpose. I’d like you to briefly comment upon one of the blogs I provided links to last week, considering these aspects of the blog to get an idea of the character—the driving ethos—behind the blog. To do so you should consider who the assumed audience of the blog is and what the overall thesis (purpose) of the blog is. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What topics does the blog address?
  • What is the substance of a standard post? Consider length, format (links, video, text), tone, and language, among other things.
  • What stance—if any—does the blog take?
  • What other blogs does this blog link to?

Remember that when imagining an audience for this blog, you must go push beyond notions of what the audience may favor reading. You should also consider how the posts assume the audience’s education, background, etc.

Write at least 100 words—chances are you’ll write much more. Since this is an in-class writing assignment, I’m not overly concerned that the posts be expertly organized; however, you might want to compose in Microsoft Word first and then copy your response and paste it into the comments section. Have fun deconstructing!

Friday, May 11, 2007

109.02 Students: The Blogs You Should Visit for Wednesday's Class Discussion

Please take a good look around the following blogs for class discussion on Wednesday. Glance at a few posts, check out the comments sections, get a feel for the point of the blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Things Students Should Know before Entering the College Composition Classroom

My friend Michelle Potter, who teaches English at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Illinois, recently made a request of me: “Can you give me a short list of ‘things you wish your writing students knew before they entered your writing class’?” I have long enjoyed making lists—and have taken it to extremes: my brother, friends, and I used to write the occasional “Top 100 Professional Wrestlers” list in the late ‘80s—so that part of the request wasn’t going to be a problem. It was the “short” part that had me worried. I am a loquacious sort by nature, and, really, there’s no fun to a short list. Nonetheless, I’ll try to keep the list as painless and as informative a read as possible. I may even throw in a professional wrestling reference in somewhere.

1. In Order to Look Sharp, You Must Have a Point: I am so intent on impressing upon students the importance of having a main point—a specific, significant take on a subject, issue, experience—that I’m willing to result to poor puns. Nothing is so frustrating for a teacher whose class is bent on student expression and dialectic than the words “I don’t know.” There are certainly things students don’t know about composition, rhetoric, and communication (and it’s my job to help you grasp those concepts), and most of the time when a student tells me that she doesn’t know how she feels about a situation, I believe her. However, “I don’t know” offers no absolution. I believe that schooling exists in large part to challenge you to think about things you haven’t thought about before. In writing courses you are encouraged to think about things political, social, and cultural so that you may work on how to best respond to these exigent stimuli (that is to say, stuff that needs to be addressed). I’m not looking for the right answer, but I am looking you to dip your oars in the water and attempt to make some sense of things. Remember always that the root meaning of the word “essay” is “trial” or “attempt.”

2. “All Right, Mr. Boczkowski, I'm Ready for My Close-up” or Narrow Your Focus: One way to make sure you have a point is by following a principal rule of the board game Risk: don’t try to cover too much territory in one fell swoop. Chances are there are books—or at least long scholarly articles—written about the topic you chose. Trying to cover a book’s worth of material in three to five pages will get you a D quicker than you can say “You sunk my battleship!” (Sorry, but there are no comparable pat phrases shouted out in games of Risk.) However, unlike the hubris that thwarts the overextended Risk player, most students keep their focuses broad because they feel they can’t flesh out a narrow topic. Trust me on the crazy composition economics of this one; it’s easier to write more about less.

3. What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Pilcrow: I tend to think of paragraphs to be like the little minions of the Snow Miser and Heat Miser in the holiday special A Year without a Santa Claus: mini-versions of the bigger unit (whether an essay or a weather god),The Heat Miser and his little paragraphs and at the bigger unit’s service. This is not a perfect metaphor, as the little minions would need to assemble in Voltron-like fashion to compose the larger body, and let’s face it; that would just be ridiculous. But back to paragraphs, it’s important to remember that each paragraph is trying to prove its own main point. Whereas on an essay level this point is the essay’s thesis, at the paragraph level, these points take the form of topic sentences. And sometimes little Claymation dudes with flaming hair. Whatever—if you have either more than one main point or none whatsoever in your paragraphs, you should consider revising. Or at least laying off the Rankin-Bass specials for a while.

4. T.S. Eliot Was No Wuss: A respected poet, Eliot has written many influential works. However, he wasn’t above being influenced himself; he sought the advice of fellow poet Ezra Pound on much of his writing. Getting help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I find students who come to me to discuss their essays or who take advantage of their school’s tutoring services to be attentive practitioners of writing. It keeps their prose from becoming, ahem, a vast wasteland.

5. Whether or Not You Like It, You’re a Writer: You write papers for class, blogs, e-mails, and lyrics about tragically unrequited teenage love (I’ll show you my journal if you show me yours). Face it: you’re a writer. As a writer, it is your duty to pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses. I can individualize my comments to you sooner in the term if you alert me to what you’ve done well and what you’ve struggled with in the past. So pay attention to what teachers are telling you now, and work at the areas that need it. This is true for the individual essay level too. When handing in a draft, send along comments describing things you want me to look for. You’ll be surprised how often you’re right about the paper’s stronger and weaker areas.

6. Nodding Your Head Doth Not Participation Make: I understand that not everyone is the extroverted type. And no one (except maybe the instructor) likes the class know-it-all who just has to answer every question. But you wanna know the best way to cut down on the chatter from the class know-it-all? It’s to make some meaningful chatter of your own. If you’re the shy, silently-simmering-in-your-brilliant-juices type, fret not: simply note a couple things you may say to contribute to the class discussion (mark passages from the classroom text that caught your eye) before you come to class and share your ideas early, before your thunder is stolen from you-know-who. I want to hear everyone’s voice in class in roundtable fashion, not just a dialogue with the intensely caffeinated smarty-pants.

7. Be an Active Reader; Heck, Be a Full-Contact Reader: Engage in classroom texts with questions, suppositions, and opinions. Challenge the text; hold the author’s observations and experiences up to your own. Scrutinize the logic. Look for deeper meaning. Write your responses in the margins. Trust me; the bookstore will never give you close to what you paid for the book. Don’t just read the printed word actively, but apply it to all media. Apply it to events and landscapes. Engage in textual play, but be safe: always wear your thinking cap.

8. I Know When You Haven’t Been Active: Here’s a neat trick: Student A fails to do the reading, so during class discussion he waits until Student B makes a comment about the text and then latches on to the last thing she said, commenting on how “he can relate” with the issue the subject of the text is experiencing “because one time. . . .” And he’s off. He finishes, smug in the belief that he has earned his participation credit for the day. Hmm, did I say “neat trick”? Because what I meant to say was “lame maneuver.” The fact is that I can tell that Student A hasn’t done the reading, despite his attempts at synergy. How can I tell? Cuz I’m Santa Claus. Well, really, it’s just an old trick, just like, say, slumping down in your seat and averting your gaze to try to avoid getting called on. I do appreciate when students relate the text to their own life, but only when they establish that they know what the heck the text was about first.

9. The Lyrics from the Grammar Rock Shorts: A sure way to ferret out a Word Nerd (someone who really enjoys writing or the teaching of writing) is to start singing “Conjunction Junction” or “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly. Get Your Adverbs Here” and encourage the suspected W.N. to finish the lyrics. If he or she gets through the chorus and starts into the first verse, you’ve probably got a Word Nerd on your hands (mind you, this works best on people currently in their thirties). Now I’m not out to convert the cool or the blissfully uninitiated to my chosen lifestyle, and I’m not arguing that because you are able to sing all the way through “Unpack Your Adjectives,” you’ll never misplace a modifier. But I DO need you to come in with a working knowledge of the basic parts of speech so that you can best understand the comments I leave in your drafts’ margins. When I write “noun,” you should understand it to mean “a person, place or thing.” And if you immediately afterward hear an upbeat, folk-stylized “doo doo doo doo doo,” all the better.

10. Don’t Sell Back Your Handbook: Yes, it’s an intimidating collection of composition and grammar convention, and, yes, its heft can lead you to believe that you’ll get a pretty penny for it at thee bookstore (see item #7). But within that book are the—often-arbitrary—answers to the greatest riddles of drafting, usage, documentation, and style. If the handbook is a map to good writing, then I am your sherpa. Maybe the payoff isn’t always the top of the mountain or the mines of King Solomon, but at the very least, together, referencing the map, we should be able to direct your paper to some treat-promising destination, perhaps the essay equivalent of a Dairy Queen. And who doesn’t like soft-serve?

11. When Aiming for Good Research Writing, Be Sure to Turn on Your Cite: Another crummy pun, influenced by the hunting culture in which I find myself immersed here in Central Ohio, but it is really important to give proper credit for the concepts you are sharing in the paper. A lot of plagiarism—most that I have encountered—is done unknowingly. Nonetheless, you should strive to understand what constitutes plagiarism and what does not as soon as possible. Unsure? Come talk to me or a writing tutor. And while I may be willing to differentiate between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, there are probably instructors at the school who won’t bother with such distinctions. If you think the worst punishment you can get for proven plagiarism is being put in a twelve-step program where you are forced to give credit for any outside influence in every significant moment in your life (“Thanks, Coach Kostner, for teaching me sex education in my seventh-grade health class”), think again: plagiarism can be grounds for suspension or even expulsion (usually after a second proven offense).

12. Writing for College Does Not Necessarily Mean Writing More Words: Sure, the papers get longer and you’ll learn some new terms. You’ll probably even be encouraged to combine shorter sentences to embed clauses, which often makes for strong, sophisticated writing. However, teachers usually laud grace and economy in writing, and oftentimes lengthening words (for example, nominalizing verbs) and sentences (adding words for no apparent reason, writing in passive voice) will work against these concepts. I call such attempts to sound more hoity-toity “college speak.” Sentences like “The suggestion that in actuality they should be released from class was made by the students” tend to make my brain melt. Instead, try something like the following: “The students suggested that the teacher release them from class.” If you’re worried about word count, add concrete detail I can sink my teeth into, not the quicksand of abstraction, into which I, teeth and all, would sink.

13. You Must Sample from the Smorgasbord of Language: Railing against abstractions aside, I don’t want to discourage any attempt to write beyond your comfort zone, not at all. In fact, I want you try on new words like they were Skechers, seeing how they fit and what kind of reaction they get. Try using a new word in conversation each week. When writing, experiment with alternate styles of punctuation (it is college, after all). Look for examples of symbolism on your commute to class. Create an appropriate metaphor for the cafeteria’s blue plate special. Move beyond the cliché. Okay, I’m going to stop before this begins to sound like one of those “life is swell” feel-good books you get as a birthday gift from people who don’t like you enough to figure out what you really want.

14. I Don’t Get My Jollies Giving an F Grade: I have met the occasional instructor who I felt was a little too eager to exact revenge on a student, but even these cases were often specific to an individual student (who had somehow become a particular thorn in the instructor’s side), and I’m happy to say that many of these folk are getting up in years and going the way of the dodo. Honestly, most teachers I know fret slightly over failing students (unless the students make it easy, like by never showing up—which reminds me: be sure to show up) or at least meet the prospect of failing a student with solemnThe always-dancing Koko B. Ware and his 'pet' Frankie evaluative resignation.  Please note that I don’t really “give you” an F in my class; you earn it. But, boy, I much prefer when students earn As and Bs. And when I give copious high grades, I have been known to dance The Bird like the flamboyant World Wrestling Federation grappler Koko B. Ware. (It took until the last item, but I snuck a wrestling reference in there!)

So there you are, Michelle. Or, Mrs. Potter, for when your students read this. There is a list of 14 things I’d like my students to know before they set foot in my college composition class. There still is plenty for us to cover in the courses themselves. I’m sure there is more sage advice that colleagues of mine could offer, or perhaps some may suggest amendments to an item or two listed here. I’ll find out by inviting them to share. I also am going to ask my students from my current class to weigh in with something they wish they knew before they started taking college English courses. I am hopeful that we can perhaps create a first-year writer Survivor’s Guide of some sort, although I would be fearful that if we succeeded, it would get published and mass-produced. And then my grandma would give it to me as a birthday present.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Six Butterflies Flap their Wings in Newark. . .

. . . and you get a dirt devil on one plane of the blogosphere.

Not to get all Glenda Goodhug on the situation—as I believe in the potential of learning from discord and dissension—but I hope that cooler heads will prevail from this point forward.

I want to thank all of those who have joined in on the conversation sparked by what I incorrectly assumed was an innocuous classroom task on Wednesday. I also want to thank Matthew Baldwin from Defective Yeti for managing the surprise attack of compliments and solicitations for blog advice. I didn’t consider that so many students would choose the same blog to comment upon. Nor did I assume that their comments would resemble one another’s and a template of “blog-whoring” (thank you, Dorothy, for the term) besides. We now have a perfect backdrop for our discussion about rules and constraints specific to the genre of blogging, and I’ll get to use the term “discourse community with the advantage of having a real, meaty example to demonstrate the concept. I will certainly encourage more fervently that future classes make their comments more substantial and that they wipe their grammatical feet at the door before entering such a well-kept den of blogging. Live and learn.

For the most part, as a teacher of English composition, I understand blanching at poor observation of grammatical rules, and I think that the lesson the 109.02 students will learn—I hope—is that care should be practiced in all writing acts, for fear of turning others off with our syntactic halitosis. However, it has been my experience that some folk in online communities use debasing a poster's grammar to suffice for rebuttal of the ideas proffered in the post (not necessarily true here). I also find the impulse of pointing out grammatical errors on online communication to be quite bullying in most cases—an attempt to kick virtual sand in the faces of the 98-word weaklings. (Mind you, I’m not accusing those who are posting on Genuine Drafting of this aim; the ensuing dialogue may be a “sizing-up” measure, but there’s no need to involve Charles Atlas). And while I enjoyed spazmatic’s analogy,
However, typing like "wow ur post was awesome comecheck mine out" is the rough equivalent of walking into a restaurant wearing nought but your birthday suit, placing your feet on the table, and then flagging down a waiter with armpit flatulence. Okay, I exaggerate, but it's still rude and a great way to make people stop caring.

the difference is that for the crude diner to stop being offensive to those around him, he need only don a sweat suit, pull his feet down, and get his hand out of his musical armpit. For those who have yet to navigate with great success the choppy seas of Strunk & White, the task is far more time-consuming and arduous. Most of us who have had the privilege of being exposed from the start to “proper” construction take for granted the commitment and, really, immersion in writing and reading needed to master the handbook’s rules. So tired have I become of hearing coprolites bemoan improper usage as if the offender had just torched their Diagnosis: Murder DVD collection. For those of us who have long forgotten, I’m happy to assert it with tongue planted firmly in my cheek here: WRITING GOOD AIN’T EASY.

If it were, I’d be out of a job.

It smacks as elitist, I think, to deride one’s grammar without offering any advice or explanation (I’m sorry to say that there are examples of this in the comment trail on Defective Yeti). I, the flippin’ composition instructor, honestly am flabbergasted by the impulse to call out someone’s usage. And I would like to add, speaking to Dorothy’s and April’s thought-provoking comments about Netspeak, that from what I’ve seen, the comments my students left here are emblematic of comments we often see on MySpace or Facebook, where no one seems to be overly concerned with proper usage. I am keenly interested in how communication in these venues will affect our grammar in other texts we write—although I believe the significant difference between the students’ comments on DY and the entries in the students’ own blogs suggests that there is an awareness of genre, or at least of being graded.

The best we, the neophyte bloggers of the 109.02 class, can offer is to say that we are working on it—and boy are we ever. I’ve been as pleased as Punch with the effort these students—many of whom plan to write as little as possible for their careers—have put into all aspects of this class (a lot of reading and writing to complete in 10 weeks, although maybe not as much as in a 600-level course). There was a little less effort in these particular comments, some of it attributable to my lack of detailed direction of what exactly it was I wanted. The truth here, I believe, is that more time and care in the crafting of the original comments probably would have circumvented much of the chatter that followed.

But, oh, think of the learning opportunity we all would have missed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Going Public

The truth is, you have been in the public eye since your very first posts on your blogs. Nonetheless, while the public eye is ever-vigilant, the web is a mighty big landscape, and most visitors prefer returning to their favorite haunts. To truly appreciate the potential of the Internet as a communicative tool, to see how it allows for the expedient dispatch of information and how it fosters a deepening of discussion on important--and not-so-important--topics, one must wander.

The web, I believe, is a postmodern extrapolation of Kenneth Burke's Parlor, which suggests the omnipresent and interminable nature of conversation:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

The Philosophy of Literary Form 110-111

Your blogs won't be the be-all, end-all on your subjects; hopefully, they will be just the opposite, serving to perpetuate and instigate discussion about nursing, crew, stress.

To some extent, you have already been out ramblin' in the Burkean Parlor by commenting on each others' blogs and seeking out others who are writing blogs similar to your own. And by writing your responses to these strangers' entries and posting the responses in your own blogs, you are advancing the dialogue even further. But thus far, it has been a controlled experiment. Now you will be inviting strangers to visit your blogs by posting comments and links to their blogs. You will also be receiving more and more comments from people you don't know, as I send the word around to more people to check you out.

I'd also like you to add your blog to the directory at by following this link, signing up for an account, and claiming your blog. You're welcome to spread the word at the other sites I listed last week, but this is the only site I will require that you to sign up with. As we interact with people beyond the classroom, let's pay attention to how this new sense of audience affects our composition. I say "we" because I'm already registered at Technorati.

Off we go, into the wild web yonder . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In an Instant . . .

I have been exhorting an active effort from you to be graphic in your writing--by showing and not just telling events, experiences, feelings--in order to give your readers a vivid picture, to pull them into your mind as you recall the narrative. However, there are events that we may not necessarily wish to be shown explicitly, yet we feel too compelled to pull away. Such is the case of many of the major tragedies of our lifetimes, including the horrible shootings this past Monday at Virginia Tech University. If you are like me, when confronted by the news of such an awful occurrence, you simultaneously want to know everything and wish you had never heard about it in the first place. You wish to turn away from the reports of terror, and yet you cannot, as you are prodded by a overwhelming desire to make sense of the situation.

In the age of instant news updates, when nearly everyone has the capability to be a reporter, it is even harder to detach from the news and easier to virtually be "shown." Much has already been made about the impact of student blogging, like those sent to the college newspaper site, which offered instantaneous first-hand accounts of the horror of the shootings. These blogs, and those written immediately in the aftermath, have been used as primary sources by news outlets nationwide. And it's not just the blogs. People can glimpse--if you wish; these items may be too graphic or simply just to "real" for some--both an instant message conversation between a Virginia Tech student (who was trapped in a classroom the gunman entered) and his brother and also footage taken by a student's cellular phone (in which multiple shots can be heard). The immediacy of these media-- cell phones, blog, instant messaging--along with the fact that nearly everyone has access to them, speeds up the news and perhaps even democratizes it. We will discuss over the ensuing weeks whether this is ultimately a positive change in how we receive information or if the downsides (like the quick scouring of blogs kept by Virginia Tech students leading to some people to accuse Wayne Chiang of being the shooter based on circumstantial evidence) ultimately outweigh the benefits.

And maybe through the discussion, we can make a little more sense of this mess.

UPDATE (4/26/07): A student in Canada was arrested for remarks he made in his blog regarding the Virginia Tech shootings and threats he made to schoolmates. Apparently, police felt there was the potential of Joshua Bryn Bauman committing copycat murders. Another dimension of blogging: the semi-anonymity can lead to private discussion becoming very, very public.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Linkin', Linkin', I've Been Thinkin' . . .

Hello all. Week three already! Time whooshes, swoops, and soars when you teach on the quarter system. I imagine it may feel a tad different to those of you who are getting graded and not giving grades, but I trust there will be some point in the quarter when you wish you could manufacture a few extra hours or so. Of course, sooner or later, we all run out of time.

But while we're all here, I'd like to offer you some suggestions on how to spend a handful of your preciously finite minutes. Specifically, I want to tell you what I'd like you to do to your blogs. I want you to make the blogs more resourceful by adding a list of links or two. First, I'd like you to add a list of links to your classmates' (and my) blogs, like I have in the left sidebar of Genuine Drafting.

In order to do so, you need to click on the "Template" tab at the top of the page, then click on "Add a Page Element" on the template sidebar or bottom. I recommend you add the link list to the sidebar, as fewer people scroll at the way to a blog's bottom. Then choose "Add to Blog" for the Link List option. Title the List "109.02 Class blogs," copy and paste the URLs and blog titles from my list, and you are on your way!

Additionally, I'd like to see you add a list of blogs written by people not in our class. In order to do so, you will need to find jobs with a similar (it does not necessarily have to be the same) theme to yours and link to it. Use Google Blog Search, Technorati,, Blog Search Engine,,,, or other blog search engines to find blogs about like topics.

And when you visit these sites, feel free to peruse what others are saying about your subject!

Friday, April 6, 2007

With Great Blogging Comes Great Responsibility

One of the notions that I tend to emphasize in composition classes is that of the responsible responder—that is, I encourage my students (and constantly remind myself) to practice at being critically engaged with texts that they confront. These texts go beyond the mere printed word; we must train ourselves to be critical readers of television, radio, advertisements, gestures, social events—anything that can be analyzed and interpreted. We must constantly flex these muscles in our brain, lest they become weak and flabby.

Blogging, I believe, offers us a wonderful opportunity to work on the skills we need to cultivate to become responsible responders. This is not to say that all people who blog do so with a critical eye toward outside stimuli (blogs can become purely narcissistic smatterings); however, many bloggers are writing in direct response to news items, cultural artifacts, or other people’s online journals. Not only do these writers continually engage in the critical assessment of texts, but the nature of the medium makes it easier for their readers to do so as well.

By linking to the texts they are discussing, bloggers give their readers immediate access to those texts. This accessibility encourages readers to be more critical (or, at least, to offer better critiques) of the author’s interpretation of the texts he is discussing. We are more willing to take the word of the author of a printed article at face value, simply because, if we are not already familiar with the text (news item, cultural artifact, resource used for support), we are less likely to take the effort to research it ourselves. With instant access to the texts (even video) on the Internet, readers can instantly evaluate if the author’s analysis in one they agree with.

So get on out there and surf, read, write, link: begin responding responsibly!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Blogging is a Game of Inches (well, more word count, I guess)

Well, here we are, on the threshold of (with apologies to Branch Rickey) “the Noble Experiment”: instead of breaking the color barrier in baseball, however, this experiment involves the incorporation of blogging into my composition classroom. I am aware that it is quite possible that the results may fall short of my hopes for the sense of community and sense of process that blogging can engender; I also am confident that there will be technological hiccups along the way (as of this moment, I am not sure of how often we can count on having laptops in our Friday classes, or—for that matter—how many laptops we will have access to). Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the rewards will far outnumber the difficulties. Besides, this practice promises to be a lot of fun. I look forward to reading the weekly musings of all of the students, whether they expound upon the heartaches and the triumphs of the Cincinnati Reds, recount the trials of being a nursing student, or explain the never-ending pursuit of cold, hard cash.

So here we go, a group foray into the wild virtual world of web logging. A good place to start will be to brainstorm ideas for the many directions our weekly entries can take. Remember that we should open our blogs up to consider other people’s experiences, other news stories—anything that in some way relates to our topics. Blogs can go anywhere and do not necessarily have to relate to the papers we are writing. A good idea for a first blog would be to introduce the blog and explain what you hope to say in it over the quarter.

Good luck and good words!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hello 109.02 class!

I am showing you this post in class right now. Am I blowing your minds?

I can add a picture of said mind blowing:

Or I can link to mind-blowing stuff!

Cool, huh?