Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Post That Time Forgot (10/10 readings post)

Allow me to be completely honest. I had a great idea for this post. I mean, we're talking the "woke me up in the middle of the night with its shining brilliance" kind of great idea. The problem, of course, is that I didn't get my lazy butt out of bed to write the idea down; instead, I went back to sleep and (of course) woke up in the morning with no coherent memory of what that idea was. I've been hoping ever since that it would come hasn't, so I need to just buck up and write a frickin' response. Grr, grr, grr.

Two issues, separate but interrelated, stood out to me in these readings. The first is the question of what types of genre and methods of work we value in publication and research, and why. The second is Inman's view of little narratives as defining specific research and publication goals. I'll explore each of them in separate chunks.

As a young scholar, I'm trying to get a handle on the specific types of work that are valued within the field. One thing that already disturbs me is the implication of lesser "worth" in hiring and tenure decisions that is sometimes put on collaborative work. This is tangentially dealt with in our readings for this week, but it's such a related issue (particularly considering the high degree of collaboration we've seen within our course readings so far) that I want to address it. Why might collaboration be looked down upon? Well, some might say that individual authors don't do as much work, and collaborative work should therefore not be valued as highly as works with individual authorship. I admit, some of my objection to this is motivated by self-interest, as I'm engaged in a variety of collaborative work right now, but this just doesn't make sense to me, particularly as many of the people making this assertion also teach writing. Is the total word count from someone what counts, or is it the ideas? Don't we often encourage students to work with one another to varying degrees? If many of us are all about peers working together in the classroom, what does it mean that many aren't as enthusiastic about the same thing in the professional realm?

Issues of genre: along with issues of collaboration, it also boggles my mind that websites or other virtual publications are not as valued as traditional forms of publication. Maybe I just spend too much time online, but I'm very aware of how much work goes into web-based documents, as well as how many people can see them. If someone puts a really interesting bit of scholarship up on a website, where people can easily dialogue with them, growing the conversation, isn't that at least as valuable as putting it into a journal with a limited subscriber base? If someone maintains a blog that dialogues with others in the field, isn't that at least as important as giving a one-time conference presentation that few people attend?

This is where Inman can come in...after all, if we have these separate little narratives going on within the field, communication between those involved in those narratives is vital in order to grow them. Additionally, the communication between narratives is deeply important, in order for all of us to have some idea of what's going on in the field. Wouldn't the web be one of the best ways to do this?

This may not be as coherent as I'd like it to be, but sometimes I'm just confused by things.

One additional note...I have an additional theorycrush on Inman, just for putting that little narratives idea into his piece. It is fabulously geeky, in the best sense: one that understands that the wider picture can only grow when specialists focus on their own areas, instead of entirely diluting their efforts. It makes me feel much better about my work...occasionally I freak out that I need to be developing a grand unified theory for EVERYTHING rhetorical in order for my work to matter. Inman provides excellent reasons why this is not the case, and I kinda lurve him for that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

207 Musings and Incorporating the Benefits of Distance Ed. (10/17 reading response)

(First, I have to mention one thing: I love the reference to "traditional interpersonal email communication" in the Blair/Hoy piece. Email is being referred to as traditional, and that's totally without irony. And I have no problem at all with it. How awesome is that?)

This post might be a little fractured; that's kind of the day I'm having.

I loved reading about 207 in the Blair/Hoy piece, partially because it's just interesting to see scholarly work about a course that I'm going to be teaching soon. It serves as a bit of a reminder to me about the junctures between the halves of my teacher/scholar identity. Thus far, because of my craft/visual/material rhetoric focus, I haven't really been using the classroom as a source of scholarly material. However, in a class like 207, I might be able to do so. After all, I'm planning a good amount of "non-traditional writing" for the class; some of it is most explicitly visual, which might be a place for me to jump off from in research.

Second, I adore the reminders about the usefulness of this "non-traditional" work that this piece subtly brings out. After all, the students in this 207 section were basically using it as a workshop site to bring together pieces of writing that were vital for their continued education. Those pieces frequently included visual rhetoric in a variety of formats. Yet there was no way on earth that someone could successfull argue that this work was artificial or unrealistic, as some have tried to say about class assignments where students designed webpages.

In some other 207-based thoughts, this week's readings really made me consider some of the benefits offered by the type of tech use that occurs in online classes. The durability of asynchronous interaction, particularly when it comes to group work, could really deal well with some of the problems I've noticed with peer review in my classes. Too often, students either rush through these sessions and don't offer significant input, or they focus on one or two papers and run out of time for those of other group members. Also, I like the close connections between instructor and student or fellow students that can be fostered through the heavy use of alternate means of communicating that are forced by the lack of face-to-face meetings in a class.

Granted, I don't think that online classes are without their flaws. However, they clearly offer some unique advantages to students and instructors both. The problem: How does one get these and other benefits into a traditional classroom?

I have encountered some instructors who seem to think that, for lack of better wording, online work isn't "real" work. They add it on randomly, without it appearing on the syllabus, as a "supplement" to the classroom interaction. The problem I've seen with this is that this "supplement" often takes as much, if not more, time than the work that's going on in class and/or the "official" homework. Particularly when we have a lot of material to cover in a class within a limited timeframe, it seems very possible that students could be overloaded and overwhelmed if all this material were added on to an existing traditional syllabus. Additionally, I hate the lack of respect for the validity of online work that this can show.

So do we cut traditional work from the syllabus? Well, honestly, what can we cut? If we're teaching GSW, there's precious little that we can change in the syllabus anyway. If we're teaching another course, we might still have limited options. Sixteen weeks is not a long time. (And I don't even want to consider what quarters would be like. :::shudder:::)

The only other thing I can wonder is whether or not it might sometimes be a good idea to have some days in traditional classes when students don't have to be in the classroom? Might it be an idea for a three-day-a-week class to meet virtually once every week or two, in order to communicate in a different, and possibly more thoughtful, way?

I realize that there are compromise positions that can be taken here...but I'm not yet sure how I want to negotiate them, particularly when I teach 207.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Potential Assignment for 207 based on concepts from "Box Logic"

Note: I'm not sure whether this would be an introductory or a final project...I'm leaning towards final, I think. Before this assignment sheet would be given out, students would have to read "Box Logic," or at least some excerpts from the piece.

Assignment 5
The Writing Box

As you've learned, both from Sirc's "Box Logic" and the rest of your explorations this semester, writing can be approached in many ways. It is frequently a mix of internal resources, outside research, chance conversations, random explorations, and that indefiniable element, "creativity." One particular act of writing can take place within one medium, or through a combination of several media. Writing can be approached by a group, or singly. In short, it's extremely difficult to define.

However, since I have faith in your abilities, I'm sure that you can handle some difficulty. So, here's your question: what is writing?

How you answer this question is up to you. However, I have a few expectations:

1. If you want to work in groups of two, that's fine. If you want to work alone in order to hone your individual vision, that's fine too. For purposes of this assignment, however, no more than two people from this class may work together. You may call on others, such as consultants from Student Tech, for assistance, but I am expecting the final work to be your creative output.

2. You must use at least two different forms of technology as defined by this list: written text, visual art, music, video, web animation, webpage design.

3. No more than 50% of your source text (i.e. whatever material you use to create this work) can be your original creation. You must find other works to include.

4. Whatever uses of other work you do MUST be within copyright guidelines, whether that be fair use, a Creative Commons license, or direct permission from the copyright holder. Also, all works included must be cited in some manner.

Keep in mind that there are no wrong answers to the question you're answering; each person's take on this will undoubtedly be different. I look forward to seeing your work!

Computer-Mediated Classroom Design (9/26 Readings)

Reading these pieces made me think about the computer classrooms I've used...both the ones that I took classes in and the ones that I taught in. I've worked in both proscenium and perimeter settings, but not in a pod, which hardly surprises me, given the difficulty and expense of setting one up.

Here are my thoughts as both teacher and student:

Proscenium: As a student, I've found these to be dull, for many of the reasons given. You really can't see or hear the teacher well; if there's anything that she's trying to teach, it's extremely difficult to follow. As a teacher, trying to get students to follow what I'm doing in the front of the room is challenging, if not impossible. I can go to the back of the room, but students who are bent on websurfing tend to track my movement around the room, in order to open a new, work-related, window when they think I can see them. (Strangely, however, they're never as good at this as they think they are....)

However, whether as a teacher or a student, I do find these rooms challenging in terms of simple navigation. Getting to an individual terminal requires the interruption of several people. Also, as a larger woman, it makes me feel extremely self-conscious, as my chances of getting through a row without bumping someone are minimized. In the majority of these classrooms that I've been in, the desks have been in a fixed position, so there has been no way to remedy this, either for my own comfort or that of others.

Perimeter: I haven't taught in a perimeter-style classroom, but I have been a student in one. I felt extremely isolated from other students; group work with anyone not sitting right next to you is difficult at best in this layout. Also, even as a very confident writer and computer user, I felt extremely exposed to the instructor, as she could walk up behind me at any time. It might be odd, but this really took away from my experience.

Pods: I've seen them, but never worked in them. I'd like to, though, as I think they'd handle a lot of the issues I've seen in other classrooms.

This brings me to the other layout...the godsawful one of our classroom in Hayes. In some ways, it's like the worst of both worlds. We have all the isolation of perimeter, with all of the difficulty of teaching and group work you get with proscenium. Also, if the printer is operating, it's all but impossible for anyone at the instructor's station to hear comments from the back of the room.

I don't know if I'll be designing the layout of a computer classroom anytime soon, but if nothing else, I'm glad that this week's reading gave me the chance to articulate why ours pisses me off. :)