Monday, March 2, 2009

Blogging by the Wayside?

What a relief to have finished the QP!!  Now I am excited to be a doctoral candidate at IUP and am able to look forward to what the future will bring with my studies.  For the first time in a long time I feel that I am able to return to this blog and post an update.

When I left IUP in August I was on a high.  Completing four 3 credit courses in ten weeks is no easy feat and I was thrilled to "come through" the experience in one piece.  I was pleased with how much I learned during those ten weeks and how much more insight I had into the field of composition studies when I returned home.  This experience is definitely worth it and I found that I was able to apply what I had been learning as soon as I returned to work at the end of August.

There are a few months between now and the start of the summer session.  I plan to present a paper at the Computers and Writing conference at UC Davis in June and will work on revising that paper this spring.  There are other revision projects to tweak, more reading and research to do and I'm very curious to see where it all leads.

It seems that much of the country has become more contemplative about the circumstances of our lives as we experience these uncertain economic times.  Really, though, what certainty is there?  Perhaps we've been living with some illusions for too long and we're about to see some major changes.  I wonder how this will impact summer studies at IUP and how this might impact all jobs in academe further down the road?  Looking forward to commenting on that one in the future...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

One Down, One to Go!

This is really the home stretch and I'm pleased with the way that things are going. Yesterday afternoon I was able to conference with one professor and wrapped up all of the work for Teaching Writing. Since then, I've been able to turn my full attention to completing my paper for Rhetorical Traditions. Ok, I admit to taking breaks for food, more food, and a decaf iced latte, but the general routine from now until tomorow morning is work, work, read, write, marinate, write more. And it only seems natural to pause for a moment to post to this blog. The night before a paper is due, when dealing with a limited period of time, is "cauldron-esque." Yes, I wish that I had more time to develop this particular paper because I really enjoy the topic and all of the supporting material. I'm doing an analysis of the visual rhetoric in fashion magazines and am able to draw from many of the sources that we've been reading in class (Aristotle, Perelman & Obrechts-Tyteca, and Burke). By choosing this particular topic I've been able to read more about visual rhetoric, something that I'm fascinated by. This is why being a doctoral student is so much fun and such a priviledge. I had been looking forward to the intensity and concentrated nature of the summer coursework at IUP and I have felt neither disappointed nor overwhelmed. The expectations of my professors have been extremely reasonable and it is possible to balance the work since we're in class for four days per week then have a three day stretch to continue our work independently. What has pleased me about the Rhetorical Traditions course is that we've had new material to read every week including this last week. The learning has been continuous and this has been a solid introduction into Rhetoric. Ok, enough blogging and back to paper writing!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nearing the end

It's been quite awhile since my last post. One consistent thing is that I'm still using my Ott light and it really does help with the reading - no eye strain. Now the only thing that I need would be about 6 extra hours of sleep every day! I find that at this point at the end of the second summer session, I'm running low on sleep and find myself day-dreaming about more zzzzzs. This experience is certainly different than last semester because I have more awareness about the town and how to get things done. But there seems to be little extra energy for blogging about the experiential aspects of the second semester - must...go...write...more...for other blogs....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ott Light Technology

I'd like to share a great piece of technology with all of you readers and writers out there. The Ott Light was first introduced to me in the fall and it has made a world of difference in my reading and paper grading. While I'm trying to resist adopting an advertising tone, I can't help but gush - just a little - about the benefits of using the Ott Light. Eye strain disappeared and the written word was clearer and sharper than it is under other lighting sources. Even grading student papers seemed easier and my mind was more alert to tune it. The Reading Light works well for my purposes but they have a wide range for whatever your preferences are..... Introducing the Ott Light

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Technology and Teaching

Not the radical idea one might think...

The profession that I am “in” offers the chance to be both teacher and scholar. I’m challenging myself to find practical ways to incorporate technology into my pedagogy and research but I have to say that it’s already a big part.

The research project that I’m taking on for Dr. Pagnucci’s class has to do with the AA-320 Fashion Research and Communication class that I teach. Although I hesitate to take this on as a dissertation topic – simply because I have so many other ideas that I want to work with – there is a good chance that this project will be so rich that I won’t want to put it down. By the way, my research topic has to do with introducing blogging into the fashion writing course.

Technology is already a significant part of this course and this is evident because the overhead and the screen are on almost every time we meet. I often email links to myself so that I can whip them out in class for the students to view. We often watch runway video in order to write the fashion report. Students will often refer to YouTube videos in class as well as specific websites that are related to their fashion news topics. And if we need an illustration during our class discussion the students are welcome to pull it up on the computer and show it to the class in order to make a point. We all leave with more knowledge when those illustrations because practical rather than theoretical!

Technology-based goals for the upcoming academic year:

For one thing, I’ll continue working to establish a presence on the web. My teacher webpage should be finished in about a week- something that I’m really excited about. The next step is to get a webpage going for AA-320, the fashion research course. That may be more difficult because of time constraints. The first priority will be to establish my own fashion news blog, which is the challenge that I am issuing to the students and I want to be writing when they are. To practice what I’m asking them to do seems important as I take on this project. Those 3 goals seem like a good start for this next academic year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Post # 4 Literacy

On Literacy

It seems to me literacy is (partially) a process that is influenced by numerous factors: social, economic, technological, and educational. The emphasis here though, is that literacy is a process – it can evolve in different ways as the process is impacted by different variables.

On the surface, literacy has to do with reading and writing, or as a way we label people, either as “literate” or “illiterate.” The natural extension of this is that literacy is something of an operating software that drives individual human lives, the operating systems of society (business and politics), and the formation and transmission of knowledge. The quality of the software, its efficacy, and the speed at which it operates, are all dependant upon social/economic variables. Without this software – without literacy – the world isn’t going to run. (At this moment if I could set some Postman lyrics to music involving repetition of the word CONFUSION, I would. I’m thinking of the state of the world, a broad phrase meant to encompass anything negative, which leads me to think that our varying literacies have obscured rational communication from the political to proletarian level. The flow of info. from politics to the people, I mean.) From these observations, it seems that I connect with Richard Ohmann’s ides on literacy.

It’s isn’t easy to generalize as we see from the scholarship that we’ve been considering in class. In fact as I compose this blog entry I find myself wanting to write pages of text that include highlights from our readings – but WAIT! We did that already. So I’ll limit this, for now, to a few tasty points.

- Freire + Macedo > language + reality are interconnected > all things are texts> reading the world precedes reading the word. Critical perception leads to interpretation, which eventually leads to rewriting the word. Oh yeah!

Finally, to address the person question: How do I understand literacy based on my own experiences? After volunteering with a community literacy program that seeks to read aloud to kids in housing crisis (The Reading Connection) and provide them with free books of their own, I still have more questions than answers when it comes to literacy issues. I’m thrilled to have the personal and practical experience of exposing kids to books, reading, and discussion based on their reading, but also find it difficult to solve some of the ESL barriers that arise. Hopefully some of my readings in this program will help me begin to answer those questions. For now, I’m settling on the experience of reading with the kids and helping them develop a love for books that comes from exposure to many types of reading material (from picture books, to graphic novels, to magazines, as well as traditional books).

The goals of the literacy teacher:
  1. To be aware of both current scholarship in our discipline as well as current research regarding literacy.
  2. To apply both scholarship and research to society/culture and the classroom.
  3. Find ways to empower students to grow in their own interpretation of text as well as the world around them.
  4. Question literacy structures/inequities in the system.

As literacy teachers, it’s a given that we want to empower our students and give them tools that will help them succeed in life. It seems to me that professors can sometimes be gatekeepers of knowledge by controlling the discourse and perhaps unintentionally barring students from entering the discourse. More effort could be made to create discussion with our students where they can learn to deconstruct certain language structures around them. If they are interested, that is. So, at the college level, we want to expose our students to the discourse of our discipline and give them practical examples of how this discourse works.

Post # 3 Thoughts on Technologies

The first week of 808 seemed unreal - since when were students ~allowed~ to "play" with computers as part of the classwork?! This was a great thing to do because it was fun and it helps me to learn different technologies as part of a hands on process.

I'll admit that I might be able to get hooked into Second Life simply because I love exploring things and I'm curious to know what the boundaries are. Second Life is a good introduction since I suspect that the use of avatars will become more prevalent as time passes - if for nothing else than a new aspect in entertainment. (See the USA TV Network's character arcade for an example.)

We've tried a number of technologies other than second life: homepages, blogs, and film. With the exception of a blog that I use(d) to write about my travels, each of these was something that I always wanted to learn more about but never knew how to. It's great to have a class where learning each of these modules is a requirement. The only negative is that I feel restricted with my lack of experience in designing a webpage. How am I going to learn all of these cool tricks? (Remember tricks like up,up, down,down, left, right, left, right, select for Mario Brothers?) Somehow it doesn't seem as easy as playing video games but I already know the answer for why that is.

It's all a matter of time. If I sit here with my laptop for 3 hours tonight, googling for different advice and techniques, I will surely learn. I know that from past experience. Instead of doing that, though, I dedicate those hours to reading, browsing new texts, researching meaning for different questions that pop up in my reading, etc. For some reason, I'm finding it more challenging to carve out the computer time because it's so easy for me to get sucked up on the web and it doesn't seem as dedicated as reading does. Twisted, I see.

There is room in the classroom for these technologies. I've encouraged my fashion students to blog about fashion happenings in our area and one of them took me up on the idea. She used her blog to represent some of her work when applying for internships. I would love to create a homepage that could provide links for my first-year comp. course and also fashion research. I'm not yet sure where these practices fit in at the scholarly level for me. On a personal level I sense that learning and utilizing these technologies will cause me to grow in my thinking and to "keep up" with my students in the world of technological advances.