Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 Report - Technology Counts

Education Week posted a study today that is something to glance over. Addressing digital curricula and changes in how schools function, the report ranks states and makes suggestions for tomorrow's schools.

A link to their report can be found by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jan Baetens

Baetens, J. (2003). Comic strips and constrained writing. Image [&] Narrative; Online magazine of the visual narrative. Issue 7. retrieved on 10/29/08 at


To constrain my thinking here, and this thinking evolves out of Jan Baetens, comic strips are exemplar models of how one is confined to a discourse to make meaning:

But the significance of comic strips for literary theory goes far beyond this. A second and probably much more important debate to which the analysis of comic strips can bring much clarity concernc [sic] the status of one specific type of constraints which literary theory often considers as "false" or "lacking of significance", namely the many material and institutional "obstacles" that are mostly defined as mere "handicaps" and almost never as creative tools. In the low-art field of comics strips (ruled less by Creative Geniuses than by the culture industry) obstacles of this kind are much more ubiquitous and drastic than in the high-art field of literature. Their example, however, could compel literary theorists to seriously reconsider what it means for creative production that a book is commissioned, edited, published, distributed, etc.

The creative mind, the artistic mind, the rebellious mind, the thinking mind, the abstract mind, the quirky mind and the innovative mind has always been in battle with the constraints of traditional discourses and what is deemed acceptable form, distribution, layout and structure. The comic strip, however, seen as "lower art" (cough cough. this is b.s.), brings to the forefront the tensions of what occurs when a thinker is contained and constrained within the shaping of one's discourse.

Humans make meaning by recreating their worlds into text-forms, art-forms, and verbal-forms. To take a Tao approach, writers wouldn't write, necessarily, because they would let the world simply "be" as the world is. Yet, in a competitive, Western tradition, the game becomes how one recreates the world in text form. All writers are contained and constrained by the tools they use, and the traditions of their discourse. Comic strip artists are no different.

She concludes: on the one hand the fact that a constraint is modified by the work on which it is imposed; on the other hand the fact that a constraint also modifies the form, the status, and the position of the so-called "remainder" of the work, i.e. those elements which are not directly linked with the operation of the constraint (but which the constraint inevitably produces during the elaboration of the work). One could even say, and this will be my conclusion, that an expanded vision of constrained writing (and comic strips make it more easy for us to envision such an expansion) not only establishes a less schematic definition of what a constraint really is and means, but also, and maybe even more so, changes the status of the non-constrained elements of a work which can now be analysed as negative constraints in their own right.

I conclude, too, in this frame.

Robert Watkins - using Scott McCloud

Watkins, Robert. (2006). Words are the ultimate abstraction: Towards using Scott McCloud for teaching visual rhetoric.

Watching Watkin's video parallels the points I've tried to make with the few videos I've made: What Does Visual Literacy Sound Like? and Graceland. I agree, "multimodality and visual rhetoric are emerging genres of which compositionists should take note" Robert Watkins draws on the "pedagogy of punk = change" movement and notes that writers and compositionists should pay attention to this. In visual rhetoric, there might be the power that can change worlds.

He draws on Keith Kenny who says there are three things we do with visual texts: we identify its function, we access how well that function serves its purpose and we evaluate its legitimacy. We create the meanings from the shapes we use to communicate. This is why I feel Watkins work is important.

Interestingly, Watkins asks, "How do I show visual punctuation?" I would argue it is the same way movie makers have made their points within the cinematic discourses they use and that writers should pay attention to this. Times are exciting, indeed.

Using visuals, spoken word, music and video creates a multimediated text that challenges traditions while upholding them just the same. Written word has a lot of power. But, today, people create "mixes" of different sounds, different genres and with different formats to realign the power they use to argue. "AN ARGUMENT IS AN ARGUMENT. The underground can spew forth amazing pedagogical opportunities. Aren't we all just trying to spread understanding?"

Multimodal communication is another way to understand a multimodal world.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Scott McCloud

In 2004, several students approached me and an art teacher at my school and wanted to create a "comix club." Interested in story telling (and art), I obliged and every monday afternoon, several students, the art teacher, and I would meet, doodle, and try to create "framed" ways of knowing. Scott McCloud's insight, advice and brilliant illustrations brought all of us closer to the genre/discourse we were trying to perfect.

Through this work, I became interested in revisiting Art Spiegelman's Maus, David B.'s Epileptic and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis I & II. What I learned from this work is that being concise in comic strips is a brand of genius the traditional linguist, English teacher and academic does not know enough about. It is the visual literacy that I've grown to love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What does Visual Literacy Sound Like? (Intro)

Distracted last night, I somehow opted to cut up a project I did over the summer and to post it on another blog I've been keeping. The twenty-minute video is meant as a podcast, but as I asked myself what "visual literacy" sounds like, I realized I couldn't divorce the visual because I am a visual creature. Both text and images are interconnect here and I think the project is what I was after when I set out to ask such a necessary question. I failed at making a podcast, however.  I made a videocast of my thinking (which, at the University, has to be academic), instead. Even so, I think it makes sense. If you are intrigued by the introduction, you can watch clips 1 - 19, and the finale at my RETHINKING VALIDITY blog that was created for Dr. James Rolling in Art Education at Syracuse University. This project, which makes me happy, couldn't have happened without his influence, nor the wonderful mind of Kathie Maniaci, who had me thinking overtime this summer about the importance of visual literacy in America's classrooms.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Comstock & Hocks: Voice in the Cultural Soundscape

Comstock, M. & Hocks, M.E. (accessed 2008); Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies,

Here's a quote from Comstock & Hocks that I love, "we argue further that sonic literacy changes and transforms how we view text and images. Therefore, teachers of composition need to begin developing sonic literacies just as we have with visual literacies--by starting small and encouraging our students to do the same. In the following discussion, using research in film studies, music, psychoacoustics, and audio technology as a starting point, we will focus on what our students and our own experiences with creating voice-over narratives and musical soundtracks tell us about the process and effects of sonic literacy in the composition classroom." - BINGO. Let's extend this a bit to the high school classroom. How would encouraging students to write the audio of their life benefit the writing goals of a k - 12 program? How do we bring our schools to update themselves to the 21st Century? Better yet, how do we stop horrible State assessments and exchange them with performance writing that is more in line with what students in 2008 do?

To Comstock and Hocks, "sonic literacy" is "a critical process of listening and creating embodied knowledge, of understanding our soundscapes as cultural artifacts, of achieving resonance with particular audiences, and of developing the technological literacies involved in recording, amplifying, layering, and mixing sound."

In the age of the i-pod, and the history of NPR radio, why aren't we totally going hog-wild about the potential of teaching writing for audio outlets!?

They conclude, "Adding sonic literacy to the composition curriculum does not substitute for textual or visual literacies, however; instead it relies upon and enriches them."

I wish I could read this to you so you could hear it instead.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Krause - Broadcast Composition

Krause, S.D. "Broadcast Composition: Using Audio Files and Podcasts in an Online Writing Course"; Eastern Michigan University;

I tried a podcast over the summer. Bought a mike, hooked up my Mac, and gave up. I was too stupid for Garageband. Correction. I was too chained to the clock on my cellphone - I couldn't teach myself in the two week span. The result was a visual podcast called, "What does Visual Literacy Sound Like?"

Krause is addressing podcasts (thankfully), and is setting a definition. Nice job. What I link onto, however, is that students need a script before they set out to cast themselves in the pea-pod world of audio technology on the web and this is what intrigues me. The question becomes, "How do we teach our student writers to be better planners for a technological audience?" In other words, what awareness do they need to address audience awareness, but also audio expectations for a podcast."

I am a huge fan of downloading NPR's podcasts because I'd rather run to news and stories than to music. No, I'm not Rocky and there are no eye of the tiger in my step. Even so, I love listening to the stories because I like to think about how a writer must anticipate a reading, but also plan a story that is to be heard. Amazing and exciting if you ask me.

Krause is interested in style and technology. Here, he explores audio with his online classes and finds mixed success to humanize the off campus, distant classroom.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Point about Power

Does form own us or do we own form? I ask this, because it seems to me that good form, no matter what that form, will not serve us well if a) we don't know what we're doing, b) what we hope to do is lacking through our preparation, c) we don't edit ourselves with expected questions and critiques and d) we ignore human creativity, innovation and good ol' American rebelliousness.

Powerpoint does limit what an individual can present, but it also helps them focus, get to the point, organize and hook a more visual audience. As a teacher, I learned that I could never assume what one's presentation skill would be and Powerpoint was a part of the learning curve. The way a presenter varies their presentation with such a tool says an enormous amount about the presenter. One thing that Tufte (2006) failed to critique in his The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching out Corrupts Withinis the atrocious habit of some presenters who print out their slides and hand them to an audience to take notes. Why do I critique this? It does the work for participants and conjures the notion, why do they need a presenter.

Tufte claims that "Powerpoint is presenter-oriented, not content-oriented, not audience-oriented, which is odd. Powerpoint is a tool. If a presentation is not content-oriented, nor audience aware, it is the fault of the presenter, not the presentation technology. A good rule of thumb I use when presenting is, "What am I going to do if my technology fails? Inevitably it will fail from time to time?" I answer this question with: I have a back up plan. I don't rely on Powerpoint to be the focus of what I'm there to say. I use Powerpoint as a prop, not as the content. Tufte may not be this creative (although his text, use of visuals, analysis and writing style was highly creative - I challenge him to put it in Powerpoint form to prove my point).

Like Tufte, I hate predictable presentations where bullets design the presenter, instead of the presenter designing the bullets. That is a presenter problem, however, and not a tool problem.

So, I agree with Don Norman (2008): "Bullet point slides often lead to poor talks, but the problem is with the talk, not with the tool." (2). It is a presenter problem because not all presenters present what they know well. That is why teachers must TEACH how to present well and this includes how one uses, if they choose, a technology platform such as Powerpoint.

Ian Parker (2001) quotes Clifford Nass, a professor of Sociology, as claiming that Powerpoint takes away the process. I disagree. Powerpoint and technological presentation: including blogging, building websites, using keynote, creative video, designing podcasts, etc. are a part of the process that educators must now address within their pedagogy.

Tufte, E.R. (2006). The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching out Corrupts Within,
Connecticut: Graphics Press

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Margaret Syverson - What is an Ecology of Composition?

Syverson, M. (1999). Introduction: What is an Ecology of Composition, in The Wealth of Reality; An Ecology of CompositionCarbondale: Southern Illinois Press. pp 1 - 27

Syverson suggests that an ecology is a 'set of interrelated and interdependent complex systems' (3) and the ecology of a complex system is 'a network of independent agents - people,atoms, neurons, or molecules, for instance - act and interact with each other, simultaneously reacting to and co-constructing their own environment.' (3)

Without a doubt, the writing process: thinking, drafting, composing, editing, rewriting, rethinking, revisiting, publishing, etc is a complex system of writer, editors, publishers, audiences, peer reviewers, self, other, bureaucracies, fate, luck and chance - an ecology of much interaction, all the time. yet, the web is vast and it isn't as isolated as traditional writing venues. Time magazine claimed "YOU" were the person of the year, and when I look at that, that means ME. I can write as I wish when I wish to on what I want to and send it out into the great whatever.

I suppose, though, a new question becomes, so what? Do only those who write to be published in traditional venues deserve credit as the genuine writers, or can Sally Mae Wigginbottom of Boise, Idaho, who has kept notebooks and journals since the age of seven and who has never published be considered a writer, too? What should writing instructors really push from their writers? Do we want to push for a power hierarchy like that which already exists?

Syverson notes that our system is also adaptable. It can change.

On audience awareness, Syverson writes this: "...we would take a similar approach to the co-construction of the writing process by readers, who are not merely passive recipients of the text in this ecology of composition but active constituents of it: situated, like writers and texts, in a physical, psychological, social, temporal, and spatial network of relations. Even in this extremely abbreviated overview, we can readily admit that such a view of the composing situation is indeed complex." (7)

There are four attributes to the ecological system that can lend itself to composition: distribution, emergence, embodiment and enaction (7).

"We bring forth a textual world as we are writing it." (16)

Syverson has me thinking on many levels and I love her for that. i will end, though, with "Typically, composition research has posited a triangle of writer, text, and audience and has tended to single out the write, the text or the audience as the focus of analysis." (23). Yet, as Syverson notes, these traditions often ignore the psychological, social, temporal or physical dimensions of writing.

I hear my good ol' friend Gina Amaro screaming, EVERYTHING IS POLIITICAL. Yes, and language is even more political. The fact that I am using cyberspace to think about readings from a class at a Private University where students pay a big chunk of money to attend (and that I come from a place that was outside of the discourse spoken there) is highly political. Of course, I type in English, too, which is the latest in the ever-evolving Western World: post industrialization, post imperialism, post Chaucerian, etc. That I do this is because they did that.

I want to buy this book in its entirety.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wysocki & Johnson-Eilola: Blinded

Wysocki, A. & Johnson-Eilola, J. (1999). "Blinded by the Letter: Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?" Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, pp. 349-368.

It is nice to see someone point out that literacy is much denser and more complicated than realized. It is messy, and the ol' saying, the more we know, the less we know is accurate as literacy arrives as "New Writing" (NCTE, 2008).

They write, "When we speak then of "literacy" as though it were a basic, neutral, contextless set of skills, the word keeps us hoping - in the face of lives and arguments to the contrary - that there could be an easy cure for economic and social and political pain, that only a lack of literacy keeps people poor or oppressed" (355).

Like the invention of a snowmobile to Northern landscapes, literacy is a tool, and once it is introduced, it has a rippling effect on the ecosystem of individuals that become literate (including the power game that language plays in all we do).

They continue, "And when we believe this - that poverty and oppression result from a lack of a simple, neutral set of skills we have trouble understanding why everyone and anyone can't acquire the skills there must be something wrong with someone who can't correctly learn what most of us acquired easily, in our early years in home or school." (355)

Literacy is a red herring, I agree, that is also a diversion of larger social and political situations, in which schools, those powerhouses of measurement, assessment and grading, use literacy as a major tool for advancing a society for tomorrow (This is why social justice makes sense to me -- teaching literacy as a means to create change is optimistic, as opposed to teaching literacy to prove one can be like those before them in history (IE: literary analysis as a means of writing assessment alone).

Literacy is used to "encompass everything we think worthy of our consideration (360).

Big quote: "The connotations of literacy...suggest a process of mechanical and passive individual reception: the book gives us who we are, the book sets the limits for who we allow into realms of privilege. If we understand communication not as discreet bundles of stuff that are held together in some unified space, that exist linearly through time, and that we pass along, but as instead different possible constructed relations between information that is spread out all before us, then...lviing becomes movement among (and within) sign systems (365).

I'm loving this article. Also, "Under this understanding of relationships, then, we could describe literacy not as a monlithic term but as a cloud of sometimes contradictory nexus points among different positions. Literacy can be seen as not a skill but a process of situating and resituating representations in social spaces" (367).

I wish to shout out to Alex Shulz who gave me the task of assigning his classmates an essay prompted by one word. This was brilliant, but it took me a few years to realize this. Connotation versus denotation. Every word has a story, but that story can not be assumed to be true for all story tellers ; ).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lingua Fracta: Collin Brooke discusses Ecology

Brooke, C. (2008). "Lingua Fracta: Towards a rhetoric of New Media" - Chapter 2 in a book forthcoming: Hampton Press

The trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic should be rethought as layered ecologies because "The elaborate dance of competition, cooperation, juxtaposition, and remediation that characterizes our contemporary information and communication technologies has rendered obsolete some of our most venerable models for understanding today's rhetorical practices" (1). Ecologies are constantly changing and fluctuating to create and recreate balance. They are hybrid and intertwined.

Five canons of traditional, classic rhetoric are invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. The three proofs are ethos, logos and pathos. The web makes us reconsider these, in particular because it "resuscitated the question of delivery" We may need more for delivery with visually rich media.

Brooke notes "ecology" works because an ecosystem is in constant motion like the web. Noting that at conferences more than usual texts are being discussed and read, it seems logical that more should be invented from writers within such surroundings. Keeping weblogs, or instantaneous places for writers to write, seems appropriate and a good use of time.

Brooke suggests a more recent trivium: code, practice, and culture. Code is comprised not only of grammar but includes "visual, aural, spatial, and textual elements, as well as programming codes" (17). The shift moves away from what a student is to master and into an ecology where one is surrounded by and practices within it (noting that language is only one of the media forms within). Cultural refers to the interfaces of interpersonal relations, competing ideologies, and multiple contexts that any one exchange can create. "...acts intervene simultaneously at several levels" (18).

Overall, I follow Brooke's conversation here and feel it parallels a lot the ecological arguments made by Yong Zhao discussed earlier on this blog. The rhetorical conversations rooted in academic traditions are somewhat new to me even though I've been teaching writing for several years successfully without the discourse for what I was actually doing. I keep thinking back to the piece I wrote for Arts Based Research Methodology called "Before It Had a Name." So much of what I achieved as a practitioner existed without fancier names for it. It makes me question the power-play of knowledge as it intersects between k - 12 schools and Universities. K - 12 schools are responsible for 100% of America's youth, where as college/universities only contend with 30%. Is education, then, all in how one uses their rhetorical skills?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Diana George - Visual Communication

George, D. (2002). "From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing" in CCC, 54.1, September

Because of the debates that typically surround the teaching of writing in terms of visual literacy, the kinds of assignments limit the imagination for composition. There's more to be accomplished with using visual communication in the composition classroom. Drawing, again, on the New London Group (1996) and multiliteracies, George encourages the use of visual communication. Specifically, she writes, "I actually believe that some tug of war between words and images or between writing and design can be productive as it brings into relief the multiple dimensions of all forms of communicatio" (14).

This argument is the same being made by Arts Based Research Methodology and one I explored at Rethinking Validity.

Students have grown up in a "visually aggressive culture" (15) that should be addressed in composition.

Visuals assist writing with a purpose and so George asks students for a "visual argument" (28) that "make a claim or assertion and attempt to sway an audience by offering reasons to accept that claim" (29). History has traditionally linked words to high culture and visual to low culture (31)

George concludes, "For students who have grown up in a technology-saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them.

Anne Frances Wysocki; The Multiple Media of Texts

Wysocki, A. F. (2004); "The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media"
in What Writing Does and How It Does It; An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual
, Ed. by Bazerman, C. and Prior, P.; New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

In Chapter Six, Wysocki asks readers to think about the relations of visuals/material presentations within our texts and the values placed upon them. Whereas words are seen as "serious" are visuals/material presentations meant to be "non-serious"? Wysocki notes, "All page and screen based-texts are (therefore) visual and their visual elements and arrangements can be analyzed" (124). Because there are associations between genres of writing and the way such genres are visually arranged, the visual arrangements do some of the work for the genre. These arrangements do "persuasive work" (124), too, but "Attitudes toward the visual aspects of texts change over time" (125). Modern readers expect quick and efficient reading experiences and the layouts help readers get to what they want, faster (125).

Wysocki is asking for new arguments about visual representations and what these arguments will look like if allowed to academic pages. Noting that "The visual aspects of text are (therefore) to be understood not simply in terms of physiology but also in terms of social context" (126)

Further, Wysocki writes, "Composing a visual text (thus) involves choosing strategies for shaping what is on a page or screen to direct a reader/viewer/browser's attentions, within the context of other texts" (126). One who uses visuals must make choices about the visuals they use to attract desired audiences and to deliver to them.

She goes on to discuss shapes, colors, photographs, drawings and paintings, charts and graphs, animations, visual transitions, video and sound and asks to explain:

1. the visual elements in a text
2. the design relationships among those elements
3. how the elements and relations connect with different audiences, contexts, and arguments. (137).

Readers must, then, learn "to observe well" (159).

Janangelo and the Hypertext Collage

Janangelo, Joseph (1998); “Joseph Cornell and the Artistry of Composing Persuasive
Hypertexts” in CCC; 49.1

The onset of computer technology as placed students into the pre-figurative era where adults learn from young people and where change is so rapid that finding models aren’t readily available.

“Discussing hypertext in terms of a collage is understandable because both forms make use of readymade materials.” (27)

Writing with hypertext offers a reader a collage of ideas: “..hypertext scholars are intrigued by this complex matrix of intertextuality and postmodern monumentality, they also realize that, when it comes to written discourse, these same features can complicate acts of reading. One complication involves size.” (29). Reading a text with hypertexts imbedded as departure points can “..turn a reader into a wanderer” (30). Such “mutability and ambiguity have important consequences for composing and interpreting text” (31). The result is that readers (viewers) must “have a specific knowledge base in order to appreciate the meaning of the seemingly disparate texts he has linked” (35).

The result of thinking of Joseph Cornell’s collage-pieces as a metaphor for hypertext writing is two fold. The first is with the ways of composing persuasive, nonsequential texts (45) and the second is with pedagogical responsibilities and opportunities (45). Educators can work to assist students to navigate such written texts by reconsidering the links they design.

Three writers revisit Joseph Janangelo’s Joseph Cornell piece from 1998:

Wysocki, A.F. (2007); “It is Not Only Ours.” in CCC, 59.2/December.

Anne Frances Wysocki writes “This article models how writing teachers can help the people in their classes makes texts that fit the expectations of our academia while also helping writing teachers understand that and how some new compositional logics might be made to fit…when we build texts, the relation towad others that the texts shape should not go against what they expect; as readers, we are to expect composers to make their ideas fit us” (279).

Wysocki draws on the multiliteracies discussed by the New London Group (1996).

In addition, Wysocki writes, “It is not only that technologies for designing, producing, distributing, sharing and consuming texts make possible new compositions; it is that these compositions can give us new positions for seeing and for criticquing and reworking Available Designs” (282).

Of important note, here, is Anne Frances Wysocki’s discussion of Audience and Ethics. She writes, “How does one take audience and audience expectations into account in such composing, given the contexts surrounding the text’s production and reception, as Sonja Foss considers in her writing about how visual appeals in particular need to balance the new and the expected if they are to succeed? In an audience expects an academic text, and one’s purpose suggests that strict academic structures hinder one’s purposes, how to design and compose a text that addresses those expectations and justifies not meeting them? What ethos, what arrangements and other logics, and what emotional connections will help a composer construct a text that an unexpecting audience will not dismiss out of hand as stupid or incompetent simply because they do not get it?”

Brooke, C.G. (2007); “Joseph Janangelo and the Analogics of New Media” in CCC, 59.2/December.

Collin Brooke discusses the metaphor of the collage and, perhaps, that hypertext essays don’t accomplish what an academic essay requires, or perhaps the traditional essay, and the institutions that regard it have flaws that need to be considered. Janangelo’s essay was one that began a conversation of more literacies before composition studies found it more common to discuss them.

Rice, J. (2007); “Networked Boxes: The Logic of Too Much” in CCC, 59.2/December.

Jeff Rice asks an interesting question, “How, in the age of information overload, do writers account for an endless growth of ideas that are encountered on a daily basis and that are now foregrounded on the Web…the Web’s vastness has opened writing up to an enormous amount of information, connections, and applications. But how has this challenge been addressed in the teaching of writing? How has writing instruction accommodated the sense of “too much” to which Janangelo draws attention to in his essay?”(297).

Addressing “Boxed Writing” Jeff Rice notes, “…the accepted box logic of the typical composition course that stresses formula over exploration, thesis statement over discovery, card catalog-driven research over the collection and synthesis of ideas, is not actually an “in the box” pedagogy” (300). He argues that teaching new media literacy is actually in the box because it is the “cultural condition” that we live in.

Writing is “social” (304).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stuart Moulthrop - Error 404; doubting the web

Moulthrop, S. (2000). Error 404; doubting the web in Metaphor, Magic, and Power, Ed. A. Herman and T. Swiss. New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 259-76.

The web is entertainment and pleasure, but it is also profitable business. It is porn, too. Even so, it changes the way we read. Online reading allows for more options than linear, from point A to point B, thinking.

"hypertext is apt to inspire horror. Not only does this sort of writing expand the scope of the textual universe by allowing links from one body of signs to another, it also invites users to complicate and exfoliate their textual productions. There is more and more text all the time and more discursive volume within the component texts. The burden on critics and editors, to say nothing of ordinary readers, expands exponentially" (

Moulthrop draws on Barringer (1999, Ch. 1) with "Our mass media depends on an audience that no longer exists - a mass audience which is now fragmented."

In a consumer market, those with access to web can locate materials they want for free (well, paying an internet service provider).

With thinking on youth culture who grow up in this "market", I believe students are already navigating online learning to their own desire. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is all games, porn and entertainment, but I also believe that anyone with a question will head to their nearest google and make an inquiry. From here the adventure will take off.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Writing Now

Although NCTE's recent publication of policy research (2008) is a great starting point for English Educators to seriously begin to think about the teaching of writing in the field, I wish to address a few of the more important points they make in their recent publication.

They begin with, "We write differently - often digitally - and we write more than in the past" immediately on page one. Although no one can claim how the internet is changing the way we do things, there is no doubt that it truly is changing the way we do things. As NCTE notes, "...the way we write often predicts academic and/or job success, creates opportunities for civic participation, maintains relationships, and enhances critical thinking" (1). The emphasis is that instructional practices in writing, the genres assigned to write, and the assessments used to score writing needs to be "authentic, varied and holistic"(2).

Educators should be writing across the curriculum with their students, but also writing in the disciplines. From both, vocabulary should be emphasized, but so should modeling of what good writing looks like in the subject areas. Formative writing assessments are more important because they are process oriented: writing on drafts, workshopping, conferencing, etc. The grade is a final project.

"New-media writing" refers to digital writing online (2).

The report dispels the following myths:

Writing assignments should be designed primarily to measure the mastery of content material and writing skills
Instructors across the disciplines agree on a definition for good academic writing.
Grammar drills are the most effective way to improve student writing.
Genre refers only to formal features of writing.
One-time high stakes assessments of writing are the best way to determine students' preparation for college.
New Media writing simply transfers traditional writing practices into a digital-environment.

Finally, the report gives research-based recommendations for effective writing instruction and assessment which includes building a technological infrastructure, makes new-media writing a part of the composing process, and requires funding to support new-media writing.

Kudos to NCTE for offering this much necessary report.

National Council for the Teachers of English (2008), Writing Now, James R. Squire Office of Policy Research, University of Michigan, retrieved from the web at on 21. September, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nancy Kaplan

Kaplan, Nancy (2006). "Literacy Beyond Books/Reading When All the World's a Web" in The World Wide Web and Contemporary Cultural Theory; New York: Routledge, Chapter 11

Kaplan writes "We are, as always, in the midst of a literacy crisis." The hyperstimulation of commercials, games, television, the internet, etc. is a new phase in the fears we have that civilization is falling apart. Going further, she writes, "In elementary schools, the phonics and whole-language partisans battle to control literacy education at its most basic level, though neither side has ever advanced any sound empirical evidence in support of its case. In colleges and universities, the arena is even more vexed since it involves defending advanced literacy, always an imprecise and fungible concepts. According to many professors of literature, the field claiming ownership of advanced literacy, hypertext - especially in the ubiquitous form of the World Wide Web - threatens to erode the ability of young adults to read with acumen and insight"

Kaplan has an interesting point to make: "In this literacy debate, the threat to reading seems to originate in a form of mediation almost indistinguishable from the one that is threatened. In other words, critics of the Web fear that reading is at risk not because photographs or television or Hollywood films or computer games have seduced people away from verbal texts, but because a new and radically different form of verbal text may be taking over the cultural space that printed words have occupied."

Visual Literacy is a new reality and finding its way into the language literacy educators use: for a beginning discussion, see my Rethinking Validity notes. Researchers in Arts Based Research Methodology question the difference between textual semiotics and visual semiotics and offer alternative approaches to doing research and understanding in academic writing.

More to come.

Nicholas C. Burbules

Nicholas C. Burbules (2002); “The Web as a rhetorical place.” Silicon Literacies, Ilana Snyder, ed. (London: Routledge, 2002), 75- 84, read online:, 10. September, 2008

Burbules posits getting lost on the WWW is actually a way to find out a lot that can't be found from knowing where one is navigating. Recognizing it is a contested territory. He wonders whether the use of hypertext and its binary form limits itself to represent the complexity of a multiple, multilayered and semantically complex society, and argues that linking from point A to point B closes a system instead of leaving them open.

Burbles prefers the Web to be called a "rhetorical place" rather than a space, because a space has an objective, locational dimension, and people can move within it: "carving out a more familiar, accessible subset of the Web as a whole, and marking in various ways(individually or collectively) a set of meaningful relations within that zone." The architecture of the web creates places, rather than spaces, because of 1) movement/stasis, 2) interaction/isolation, 3)publicity/privacy, 4)visibility/hiddenness, and f) enclosure/inclusion.

The issue with hyperlinks being to linear is with how they serve as "avenues of movement and as occasions for meaning making..Links contain within them already certain kinds of navigational and semantic possibilities, and they tend to encourage some kinds of interpretation and to discourage or avoid others."

Interesting to Burbules discussion is his mention of 3rd space/hybrid space: "places are not always harmonious with one another...positions that can yield up novel and important insights precisely because they do not fall into handy categories or distinctions".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Culture Wars - Peter Lurie

Peter Lurie who writes "Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left" is a lawyer with a polished education in the traditional sense of pedigree knowledge: Dartmouth and The University of Chicago Law School. His online editorial is sharply written and does stimulate thought. My point of departure with Lurie is with the politics of cyberspace. What's the difference between a democrat and a republican? The way it's spelled. I am unsure if "conservative" and "liberal" constructs can be applied to the online phenomenon, but I understand individuals will try. Why? Authority.

I am thinking about authorship after reading his editorial, because I am reflecting on old school constructs of knowledge (the history of higher education institutions and their ability to control the educated, the empowered, the economics and the thought processes of America - in other words the elite -- at least academically). A multicultural, pluralistic society has not always found its way into the ivory towers. Instead, the non-collegiate majority have labored to create the ease from which the educated minority can spew off statistics, quotes and privileged rhetoric. We are part of a system, and it is miraculous in the sense that it exists as it does. Deconstructing this system to the point of "no meaning" does nothing but promote one's intellectual career (I ask, does a teenager's online angst at Facebook or MySpace differ from a lawyer's intellectual meandering at When all is said and done. an analysis of how we understand our world will not explain how the structures, infrastructures, and social structures, will continue to exist and redevelop because tribal, village, pack and community designs seem to be innate. We can be individualistic, but this relies on rebelling the community: conforming to non-conformity. There are truths and perhaps the most important one is that humans like to have meaning for what they are doing and they make meaning through group interaction. In meaning making, they justify hierarchy, positions and competitive intellect. As dorky as this may sound, texts like Stephen King's THE STAND and Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS explore how structures fall apart and redefine themselves again on the ethics of good and bad.

I am babbling, I suppose, but I do wish to quote several pieces of Lurie's editorial that interested me. His editorial self- destructs in that he is using language to show how language is meaningless and so his signifiers of left and right, conservative and liberal, right and wrong, become sort of nonsense. Yet, I understand where he's going:

"The culture wars between the religious, traditionalist right and the liberal, pluralist left have started to look like a rout everywhere but in the larger, coastal cities. Conservatives are recasting communities to be more comfortable with, if not prostrate to, received authority in the form of literalist interpretations of religious and political texts."

I am unsure if the culture wars are that "black" and "white."

"The architecture of the web, and the way users navigate it, closely resembles theories about the authority and coherence of texts that liberal deconstructionist critics have offered for thirty years. Deconstructionists believe that close analysis reduces any text -- novel, statute, religious work -- to meaningless blather. The popular response to deconstruction has always been that it's counterintuitive, that no one reads that way, that it lacks common sense."

Again, I'm unsure if it is that easy to ascribe the demographics of freedom on the web as being a leftist construct in line with what their agenda(s) is/are.

"Unlike reading or breathing, however, surfing mimics a postmodern, deconstructionist perspective by undermining the authority of texts. Anyone who has spent a lot of time online, particularly the very young, will find themselves thinking about content -- articles, texts, pictures -- in ways that would be familiar to any deconstructionist critic."


"A person engages the web in much the same way that a deconstructionist critic approaches a text. Deconstruction, which denotes a process rather than a belief system, shows how novels, statutes and court opinions collapse upon themselves, making their underlying assumptions absurd"

Ah, but deconstructing text is a privileged, time-consuming game of dodgeball for the elite. The fight is nothing more than an instinctual drive to prove oneself inferior/superior to those around us. Does such a linguistic war really matter to the larger constructs of a society?

"The structuralist critic Ferdinand de Saussure set the foundation of postmodern thought by describing language as a system of signs. Each sign was made up of a signifier (the word itself) and the signified (the concept or meaning). [1] Saussure's first principle was that such signs are arbitrary. [2] The letters s, i, s, t, e and r suggest a girl or woman who shares the same parents as the referent, but the idea of this woman "is not linked by any inner relationship to the succession of sounds s-o-r which serves as its signifier in French." [3]"

I'm glad to be reminded of Saussere -- I use him in my own interests.

"Meaning, then, is not contained or conveyed by a word or series of words because it is dependent on what those words do not contain or convey. Meaning is part of a process, in which words are examined with respect to other words, which lend meaning only in relation to still more words"

Meaning does, however, follow a pattern of power designed through the traditions of higher education.

"The Web is a postmodernist tool that inevitably produces a postmodernist perspective."

Only if one is aware of what postmodern is. The majority of people do not get involved with such rhetorical warfare. Education is not a norm, necessarily.

"Its influence is structural rather than informational, and its structure is agnostic."

"The Web invites, even demands that its users go back, forward, around and elsewhere in an associative search for meaning."

The globe is now up to being 7% online. Lurie is editorializing for a position of authority within this 7%. 93% of the globe is not allowed such a privileged position.

"In a pluralist society, then, there can be no consensus regarding good and evil. If it is not quite true that anything goes, tolerance dictates that we must respect the choices that others make, even if they are repugnant to others in the community. "

In a pluralistic society, conversations about right and wrong, whether online or offline are a necessity. Such conversations began way before our times (even if they excluded the truth of a much more diverse world) in Greece. They will continue long after this generation of online ranters. Such is the crux of ethics.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

a video made by Collette Caton, a classmate

Digital Tech and English Pedagogy

Ciccoricco, D. & O'Steen, B; "Digitial Technology and English Pedagogy: From the Traditional Essays to Fabric of Digital Text" from Karois; a Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and PolicyIssue 13. 1,, retrieved 8/5/08

Digitial Technology and English Pedagogy: From the Traditional Essays to Fabric of Digital Text reports there are two significant ways that their class web project exemplifies how reading and writing practices change online: "The first takes place not when students and teachers simply use digital tools but when they learn to use them reflexively, which is to say whenever they become aware of the peculiar affordances (and limitations) these tools entail in relation to other and/or older media.
The second grows out of the rhetorical and navigational stucture of the web project itself, which is intended to incorporate two ways of organizing and presenting information — two ways of writing — simultaneously and toward mutually enhancing ends. Specifically, it places an associative or lateral linking texture over (or under, or in between) a linearly directed (albeit looping) one."

The authors ask: Does digital technology have a place in English pedagogy? re we expected to expand our definition of literacy to include visual, mediated literacy?

Gregory Ulmer is a leading guru on this conversation and makes the point that the printing press also caused a stir amongst scholars in the Humanities.

Drawing on Wilbur Hatfield (1935), a post Dewey thinker, the authors report on experience being the best eduator for a student-centered classroom.
They argue, "Teachers and students should develop an understanding of English as a discipline that includes more than the skills derived from literature discussions and writing essays."

One interesting point made in this article is the digital reality of using images to coincide with text. The authors write:
"The result was that many students devoted a lot of time and energy into searching for and selecting images — even to the extent that it was taking some time away from the task of linking in the final workshop. The students enjoyed this aspect of the assignment, and their choices reflected a genuine and enthusiastic engagement with the idea of creating a dialogue between the image and text."

Perhaps most enlightening from this study is the implications they write at the end:

"First of all, it is an exchange between an English teacher and digital tools: English teachers who are conversant with digital technology can better recognize the changing face of literacy and are able to convey to students that traditional conceptions of literacy and new conceptions of "media literacy" are not mutually exclusive. Second, it is an exchange between the technological and the literary. This relationship is symbiotic and mutually enhancing — after all, as literary production becomes more technical, there is no reason why it should become less literary. Finally, the project is a conversation between students. The Web is a communal and participatory medium. Its application in academic settings should reflect this quality. It is, above all, an open-ended conversation."

I am still back in forth with my thinking about reading long texts online, but also with the way you can navigate from one place to the next. My eyes water and because I'm not built like E.T. with large, optical lenses with rich rods and cones, I get a big buggy about the lighting. This, coupled with the warmth of my lap top also doesn't make for comfortable reading. It does, however, make taking notes online a lot easier.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Digital Literacy?

WIDE (Writing in Digital Environments) Research Center Collaborative; 2005; "Why Teach Digital Writing?" from KAIROS, Volume 10, Issue 1, Fall, 2005:

Why Digital Literacy is a great source for the argumentative rhetoric necessary for supporting the need for writing in digital environments. Although it focuses on the college classroom - and doesn't take into account the public school realm - this writing offers much to the high school writing teacher.

I became most interested in the small conversation of space: "It is near impossible for us to separate the considerations above from issues of space—intellectual space, technological/digital space, institutional space, physical space. We have found, on different campuses and within different institutions, that traditional classrooms work to separate students from teachers, students from each other, and, importantly, tools from production. Traditional spaces constrain our work in intellectual and in physical ways. And, often, the traditional model and layout of classrooms is remediated in computer-based spaces."

Everything is political, and so I'm wondering about the politics of an online, digital community. In so many ways, the mere introduction of such "spaces" changes much of the academic rhetoric and theorizing that has occurred since print-based composition studies began. With this said, I'm sure there are multiple parallels that can be carried over into the new realm of digital communities and composition.

Also of note from this source:

"The process of orchestrating multiple media makes possible a meta-semiotic knowledge of how various sign technologies work together to produce meaning."

I am interested in the cross-sections here with the work of arts based research methodology.

Going further,

"Writing isn’t just scripting text anymore. Writing requires carefully and critically analyzing and selecting among multiple media elements."

How an individual composes an argument or story or presentation of thoughts, etc. has the potential of merging text with multiple other ways of making meaning -- not only in the rhetorical, traditional argument alone.

And concluding:

"We imagine a pedagogy based on principles:
*Situated in contexts of rich affordances for writing
*Rooted in a rhetoric that is technological, social, and cultural
*Linked to a thoughtful, critical consciousness of technology
*Framed by learning how to learn
*Anchored by multimodal approaches to writing"

We are amidst a great, historical moment in time.

Back for another Semester of Posting

Spending the last six months looking at education and technology policy, it is now time to explore the rhetoric and composition theory of writing in a technological world. Enrolled in Dr. Collin Brooke's CCR 720: Interdisciplinary Influences on Composition and Rhetoric: Computers and Writing, I'm anxious to learn new ways and new ideas about how advancements in technology will alter a student writer's way of knowing.

I've begun by looking at Michael J. Cripps "Hypertext Theory and WebDev in the Composition Classroom" which addresses how hyperlinking disrupts the traditional way of reading a linear text and may alter the ways in which writer's organize their mode of communication (aside: it occurs to me that the hyperlink is actually the "old school" use of a footnote -- it is an aside...a point of reference to continue one's order of thinking, but that is stated 'outside' the essay as that material that brings the writer to the purpose of their writing).

Cripps discussion of visual rhetoric actually parallels much of the conversation being held by those discussing Arts Based Research Methodology and Visual Literacy.

If I am to critique the hyperlink style of composition, it is as follows: Wow. How easy is it to write a document that utilizes hypertext! Boo. Reading hyperlinked text becomes least for me...because it interrupts the linear way of reading that I'm used to. Even so, I'm able to see the point of an essay faster, but get frustrated by moving from thought to back up thought as I try to understand a composition. With this said, I am growing more familiar with the difference in reading traditional print-text copies versus reading online and screen-text. Perhaps a day is coming where one can keep their "highlighted" versions of on-screen text (with their hyperlinked notes from their reading), but as for today, this doesn't occur.

As I build on previous knowledge, I am still in favor of a hard copy in my filing cabinet - but also see how an online filing cabinet might also suffice.

Cripps, M.J; (date-you tell me): "FFFFFF, #000000, & #808080: Hypertext Theory and WebDev in the Composition Classroom";
from Computers and Composition Online; An international journal: Elsevier Publishing:

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Those Schools Who Block YouTube - TEACHERTube

To add new possibilities to the land of possibilities, TeacherTube has arrived to assist educators wish to use video in their classrooms when their school district block other video sites. The future of American classrooms is changing rapidly. Click on the above to explore a little more.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Writing as a means to Life Stories

Plummer, K. (2001). The call of life stories in ethnographic research. In Atkinson, et. al (eds) The Handbook of Ethnographic Research. pp. 395- 406. Sage Publications.

In terms of telling one's life story, one has to consider audience. Who will hear me? Who will read me? How does my recognition of how stories are told influence how I will share my world. Ken Plummer wrote,,

"The dry old tale told by a boring social scientist who hedges the tale in with the dust of theory and jargon will never meet such higher criteria [aesthetic delight]. Writing skills, the craft of telling, art, imagination - all these now come into their own, and help us to distinguish the valuable social science 'life story' from the less valuable one...for such stories to be successful they have to be written to attract an audience (something most social science usually cannot imagine!), to help the reader see the phenomenon, and finally - most importantly - to persuade the reader to hold certain views..." p. 401.

Plummer (2001) points out an important distinction between research writing and the what I would argue is the type of writing placed on most blogs. Blogs are meant to be constructed for the personal aesthetics of an individual thinker, writer and constructor for ideas, life and knowing. Their audience is in their head and even if it is the self, it is someone they feel needs to keep a hold of their life story construction.

EduBlog Insights

Anne Davis, who works at Georgia State University in the Instructional Technology Center in the College of Education, has been keeping an online blog a lot longer than I have. Recently, in a listserv mailing to members of the National Writing Project, I learned of her hard work and intellectual efforts.

Her on-going blog is called EDUBLOG INSIGHTS; Comments, Reflections and Occasional Brainstorms (and it can be reached by clicking on this link).

To highlight my initial perusal of Anne Davis's thinking, I wish to acknowledge why "Blogging is educationally sound for teaching students" -- a list she has compiled on her own site:

*Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Puzzling About Audience Awareness and Blogs

I've perused four more articles that focus on "audience awareness" and how online writing "may" help students push towards becoming better writers. I'm finding studies that parallel my thinking, yet focus on elementary or middle school writers with a specific audience designated before they post their written work onto the web for anyone to find and read. This post will move from a broad conversation addressing the insight of Starr Lewis at the Kentucky Department of Education, and move towards three qualitative studies. Looking at Starr Lewis's thinking is close to home; Kentucky's writing program fostered over twelve years of growth within me as a teacher of writing in Kentucky.

The State of Kentucky is celebrated for its portfolio assessment. In Kentucky, students are expected to be writers, K - 12, and teachers are responsible for keeping writing folders for students every year. In 4th grade, 7th grade and 12th grade, students produce a writing portfolio to be assessed as part of a school's accountability. Starr Lewis, a leader in portfolio assessment in Kentucky and now the associate commissioner for the Office of Academic and Professional Development at the Kentucky Department of Education, reflected on Audience Awareness (2001), as it pertains to Kentucky's advanced writing curriculum. Since 1990, Kentucky has drawn much attention to its portfolio assessment and this attention continues today.

Lewis (2001) states four beliefs about Kentucky's Writing portfolios that should always be on the table: 1. Assessment does affect instruction, 2. All students deserve the opportunity to learn to express their thoughts and beliefs in writing, 3. Education should prepare students for the types of writing they will do throughout their lives and 4. Education should open doors for all students. A classroom that sets goals for writing assessment will be a classroom that fosters better writing instruction. Before the educational reform in Kentucky, students were expected to write for various audiences in the State's program of studies, but they did so very little because it wasn't assessed. She notes that students wrote seldom and when they did, it was always in forms for their teachers to assess. The writing portfolio process introduced students to writing for a variety of purposes and for a variety of audiences, and writing occurs more often in Kentucky, now, because it is factored into the way the State assesses its students.

Even so, understanding "authentic audience" remains a struggle (Lewis, 2001). More specifically, Lewis writes, "Without a connection to the world outside the classroom, there is no audience other than the teacher or classmates. Because the outside connection has not really been established in most classrooms, the best a student can do is to write as if he or she were addressing an audience for a particular purpose." (retrieved: single_ftPES.jhtml). Her point, however, is that a contrived audience is superficial and makes for unauthentic student writing. Teachers should teach writing, then, as a means for real-world experience.

In 2008, using the Internet, especially Blogs, can be one way to push teachers and students to think about ways for writing to transcend classrooms. When teachers and students probe who might read a student's piece of work, why they might want to read it, what criticisms the work may bring, etc., teachers and students enter the irreplaceable conversations of what real writers wrestle with -- conversations that are "remarkable" (Lewis, 2001). In summary, audience awareness is a key factor in developing students as writers. The Internet is a place to initiate conversations about audience awareness and online publishing.

Henderson & Joyce (2005) looked to pre-school and elementary classrooms to determine that students often find an audience for their thinking and writing in teachers, peers and/or other adults in the room. They determined that developing a sense of audience begins with signing an artist's name. Through school sharing and participation, audience construction is started. Understanding what is expected and valued by audience members helps young students to develop an awareness of the types of information, explanations, visual aides, and content audiences expected. The conversations around these relationships is where the teaching occurrs. (There may be a parallel here to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development in that as students become writers, they must grow comfortable, at their own pace, to how their ideas and words are received by those who read their work. Therefore audience-awareness is a developed process).

Karchmer-Klein (2007) looked specifically at 4th graders as they moved their writing towards Internet publishing and noticed that ability did not factor in how students used electronic features for designing how their writing looked online (with images, font choice and spacing) and that offering literacy instruction with the goal of online publications increased students' audience awareness. When writers are more able to understand their readers, they are more able to design more effective writing. Through reading and analyzing online texts, a young writer becomes more equipped with what their writing should look like. What is new with online writing, though, is that now a writer must understand how to use online features to create meaning for their readers: audio, font, video, graphics, color, hyperlinks, etc.. Her findings suggest that their is a relationship between literacy instruction and the development of audience awareness while writing for online publication. Her study also notes that further work is still needed, especially when reconceptualizing a global audience who may find written work online. Technology is changing the way educators should be teaching writing and requires innovative thinking that researchers are only beginning to understand.

Garthwait (2007) studied the use of online composition with 7th grade students. Interestingly, she discovered that students were receiving useful instruction in a computer lab class about audience awareness and online writing that was untapped by the language arts teachers who shared the same students with the computer instructor. There is potential for collaborative learning and integration, especially because the computer teacher offered much insight on how posting to the web requires an awareness of what individuals desire to see. Recognizing a multimodal reality of today's student learner, Garthwait (2007) discusses how employing tools that appeal to a wired generation makes sense. Although words are one tool used by writers, the online writer is allowed graphics, video, audio, etc. that also help convey meaning and understanding. Audience awareness shapes composition, and the new space for writing -- the Internet -- opens new conversations about audience.
Perhaps teachers have been lacking with their instruction and guidance on how audience awareness creates good writers (Garthwait, 2007): "Digital writing becomes powerful because it has the potential to meld easily verbal, visual and auditory communication: a see-saw between abstract (lingual modes) and intuitive (graphic arts modes" (retrieved _fulltext.jhtml;hwwilsonid=CE). The computer lab teachers helped students gain electronic literacy skills that other educators need to promote, as well. In the computer lab, students were able to focus on specific audiences with knowledge of strategies used by online writers. There are new semiotic tools used by today's writers that are used to recognize who the audiences are. Students learned a great deal about significant writing skills while learning about computer skills. In many ways, the processes go hand in hand, but at this school being studied, the connection was not yet made.

Garthwait, A. (2007). Middle school hypermedia composition: A qualitative case study. In Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16, no. 4, p. 357 - 375. retrieved 3/24/08,
Wilson Web.

Henderson, S.D. (2005). Developing a sense of audience: An examination of one school's instructional contexts, in Reading Horizons,, 45, no.4, pp. 321-348, March/April, retrieved 3/24/08, Wilson Web.

Karchmer-Klein, R. (2007). Audience awareness and Internet publishing: A qualitative analysis of factors influencing how fourth graders write electronic text. In Action in Teacher Education, 29, no. 2, pp. 39 - 50, Summer, retrieved 3/24/08, Wilson Web.

Lewis, S. (2001). Ten years of puzzling about audience awarenss. In The Clearing House, 74, no.4, pp.191-196, March/April, retrieved 3/24/08, Wilson Web.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PEW, It doesn't smell that bad; actually it's interesting.

Given the the vast majority, 87%, of American youth are now online (Lenhart, Madden & Hitlin, 2005), educators can assume that access for in class, technological conversation should occur. Youth today are likely to be savvy with online work and this work should be addressed, especially in relation to traditional, text-based literacy practices often found in American schools. Since 2000, more adolescents are using the technological boon in their everyday practice, and most of these work from their homes, 74% (Lenhart, Madden & Hitlin, 2005). A smaller percentage, 13%, do not use the internet and this population tends to be African-American (Lenhart, Madden & Hitlin, 2005). With this noted, 77% of African American students DO go online, they note.

Today's teenagers "enveloped in a wired world" (Lenhart, Madden & Hitlin, 2005, p. 11), but they also live active offline lives, as well.

Working with writers, a writing teacher encourages the individuality of his/her students and would tap into the offline lives of their students through encouraging personal narratives from experience and personal essays. Blogs, an online tool, might be a place for teaching audience awareness and the importance of idea development because they are a genuine community where written words can be read by many. With this said, Blogs are a great place to study the offline/online world of teenagers.

Lenhart, A, Madden, M. & Hitlin, P. (2005). Teens and technology; Youth are leading the transition to a fully wired and mobile

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Weekend of Adding Blog Literature - a mini-review

6 more resources (5 worthwhile):

1. Using blogs for English Language Learning at the University level has been documented (Bloch, 2007). Because of its low cost, easy accessibility, and the ability to distribute work to larger audiences, students are more likely to see themselves as authors. Bloch (2007) notes that there have been only two types of blogs: those that deal with issues of social and political importance and those that revolve around identity and more personal issues (p.4). In particular, online discourses foster a social community for bloggers and such community unite disparate backgrounds of English Language Learners (Bloch, 2007). Blogs united readers to writers and writers to readers. Of greater importance, Bloch (2007) reverses the questions teachers often ask when wondering about the uses of blogs. He turns it around and asks, “What problem do we have that blogging might be a solution for? (p.11). In conclusion, blogging is a form of literacy itself (Bloch, 2007).

2. Blog burnout occurs (Nardi, Schiano, Gumbrecht & Swartz, 2004), even if most blogges are aware of their readers(audience awareness). Nardi, et al (2004) acknowledge the five, major motivations for blogging: documenting one’s life; providing commentary and opinions; expressing deeply felt emotions; articulating ideas through writing; and forming and maintaining community (p. 43).

3. Blogging began to emerge in 1997 (Martindale & Wiley, 2006). Martindale & Wiley (2006) discuss that it is a tool that that has advantage over discussion forums (p.59). Because of post-course inaccessibility, course management systems alter the way students post. Blogging is more permanent and students are more motivated to write (59). Martindale discusses his multiple audiences when it comes to content. For him, there are six: himself, students in various courses, students in his degree programs, friends and coworkers, colleagues around the world and unknown readers of the world (p. 59).

4. For girls, weblogs address a dual nature of interpersonal communication and mass communication (Bortree, 2006). Content for girls tends to be talk about the day and what occurred over the weekend (p 30). They write for friends, but also recognize they are aware of the general public who may read their posts (p. 34). Because of the dual audiences, writers must be aware of how their words are presented. For the most part, blogs are used by teens to maintain relationships (Bortree, 2006), but more research is needed, especially with in-depth interviews with teenage bloggers for their insights.

5. In 1999, the total estimated # of blogs was 50 (Drezner & Farrell, 2004). There is currently no official organization to govern the blogossphere, so capturing “ideological consensus” doesn’t occur (p.33). Blogs are influential because they do affect international media coverage (p.34) and both journalists and pundits find what matters from weblogs. Because the Internet allows everyone access to information, those who blog can become instant fact checkers to challenge journalists and what is being reported (p. 37). They are a forum for citizens whose country may not allow political expression (p.38).

Bloch, J. (2007). Abdullah's blogging: a generation 1.5 student enters the blogosphere. In Language, Learning and Technology, 11.2. June, pp.128-142.

Bortree, D.S. (2005). Presentation of self on the web; an ethnographic study of teenage girl weblogs. In Education, Communication and Information, vol. 5, No. 1, March. pp.25-39.

Drezner, D.W. & Farrell, H. (2004). Web of influence. In Foreign Policy, December,
pp.32 - 40.

MacKinnon, R. & Zuckerman, E.. (2006). Gathering voices to share with a worldwide online audience. In Neiman Reports, v. 7, Winter, pp.45-47.

Martindale, T. & Wiley, D.A. (2008). Using weblogs in scholarship and teaching. In Tech Trends, Volume 49, Number 2, pp.55-61.

Nardi, B.A., Shiano, D.J., Gumbrecht, M. & Swartz, L. (2004). Why we blog. In Communication of the ACH, December, Vol. 47, No. 12, pp.41-46.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


One of the things I love about reading to find out what I didn't already know is when I come across an article that discusses what I haven't been able to find. Tonight, I found such an article:

Grabill, J.T & Hicks, T. (2005). Multiliteracies meet methods: The Case for digital writing in english education. In English Education, V37, n4, July, pp 301-311.

Grabill & Hicks (2005) discuss the why and how of digital literacy importance. Recognizing the call for multiliteracies framework (New London Group, 1996), the authors call on Zhao & Frank (2003) to address the invasive species of technology, but also how English educators need to embrace this tool (p.303). Writing is restored as an immediate need for communication in a technological age. They continue with "audiences and writers are related to each other more interactively in time and space" (p.305). Technology challenges traditional principals and practices of composition because it transcends the teacher as the only reader of possible text. They write, "Writing instruction must equip students with the tools, skills, and strategies not just to produce traditional texts using computer technology, but also to produce documents appropriate to the global and dispersed reach of the web. This shift requires a large-scale shift in the rhetorical situations that we ask students to write within, the audiences we ask them to write for, the products that they produce, and the purposes of their writing" (p.305).

Boom. That's what I write when I find something that resonates with me. Boom Boom Boom.

Grabil & Hicks (2005) continue with the recognition that it isn't the English teachers place to teach writing with computers but to understand how computers as technology are being used as outlets for writing. Students still need to be taught about the traditional modes of writing and why writing matters. Teachers engage students through lessons on audience awareness, conventions, voice, etc. to prepare them for the world they will inherit as working individuals.

Finally, they state literacy should not be considered any longer without addressing technology, too (p.306).

I didn't have this source for my first draft of a literature review, but it offers many links to the points I was trying to make.

"Are Teachers Ready for 21st Century Learning?"

John Norton (2008) has done something new. Instead of creating an article for Teacher Magazine, he cut and pasted reader's responses to the Karl Fisch's "Is it Okay to be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?" blog posting. Through this "editing" Norton carries a reader through the trials and tribulations that teachers have with technology.

Norton (2008) feels conversations on the Internet, Web 2.0 tolls, and though instant communication, coupled with lobbying groups wanting newer skills are changing teaching and learning in profound ways.

I am not the only one perusing the questions I have.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Audience Awareness

I'm feeling engaged with this blog project after talking with Dr. Jing Lei today. Because my work is with English Education and her work is with technology, this experience has been a reeses peanut butter cup commercial where peanut butter meets chocolate.

I've become very interested in the concept of "audience awareness" through research I'm doing in another class. It occurred to me that one of the primary ways "blogs" are good is the audience. Who is it? Why is it? Where is it? How does this change the writing process of students when they know the reader/viewer will be "beyond the teacher"? I think it means a world of difference when a piece of writing transcends a classroom.

Lee (2000) and Garthwait (2007) agree. Both wrote about how audiences changes with hypermedia opportunities for students and, as a practitioner and researcher, they were able to come to different conclusions.

Lee (2000) writes that technology is sexy and sees virtues being extolled (p. 24). In the reality of classrooms, access to technology is often a major stumbling block. She notes that computers transcend the idea of "expensive typewriters" (p. 25) and notes that in her classroom students found voice from creative writing and technology. Ownership of the work was more apparent. Lee (2000) does not address blogging as an outlet for writers, but concludes, "I've discovered that the authentic audience found on the Internet has a profound effect on the quality of student writing in all grades." (p. 30).

Garthwait (2007) conducted a qualitative case study over six months with a 7th grade hypermedia unit. Giving me several leads for future readings, he addresses how "space" (p. 359) is utilized differently by strong writers and this is true for the students who use technological space to express themselves. Because web writing melds verbal, visual and auditory communications, "a see-saw between abstract (lingual modes) and intuitive (graphic arts modes)," teachers need to rethink the way they guide student writing. She found that through conventional cueing device: Naming, Context, & Strategy/Responses used to connect to audience were present.

I'm looking forward to reading more.

Garthwait, A. (2007). Middle school hypermedia composition: A Qualitative Study. In Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16, No. 4. pp. 357 - 375

Lee, G. (2000). Technology in the language arts classroom: Is it worth the trouble? Voices from the Middle. . Urbana: March, vol. 7, Iss. 3, PP. 24 - 32

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cummins, J. & Sayers, D.

Before I begin this post, I have a question. Using the link provided from Blackboard only allows partial viewing of the text. Looking up the text, online, I found that it has different publishers and publishing dates. Why is this? I'm unsure of the exact citation, because the online community seems to have variations. Even so, here are my notes from what I could partially comprehend from the pages the link allowed:

Cummins, J. & Sayers, D. (1995). Brave New Schools; Challenging Cultural Illiteracy
Through Global Learning Networks. St. Martin’s Press, Ch. 3

Key Points:

Inequity in technology resources mirrors every other inequity in distributions of human and material resources, between school districts and between industrialized and Third World countries.

the network of networks, however, provides the possibility of communicating a rapid speeds anyone who wishes to be “connected” (18).

“Unlike academics, researchers, commercial enterprises, and even nonprofit organizations, classroom teachers confront a formidable and often daunting task in their attempts to link students to the Internet” (19).

Communication that transcends class to class boundaries can be advantageous to participating classrooms.

“Distance, in the context of class-to-class exchanges, creates the possibility of collaboration with an unknown but knowable audience, principally through written communication” (32).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Looking at Training High School Educators

Transitioning from classroom teaching to university researching has been more difficult than I expected. Why? It falls along the line of "Publish or Perish" and "#'s and Perish." As a classroom teacher, my intent was to do great work at the pace I was able to keep with the hundreds of students on my roll for six hours a day and the volumes of keeping up with my expectations for them. This, coupled with State crack-down on scores (which I'm proud to say I found success), a more diverse student population every year and then a hit or miss administration style, was cause for a lot of stress. Now, the stress is not as physical as it is mental. At the University, one must "Know" their "field" enough to "profess" it to others in written form. Keeping up with such truth is difficult.

I bring this subject up as it is my intent to be a trainer of teachers and to best prepare them for English classrooms. For this reason, I found R.G. Sultana (2005) to be extremely interesting. His review of initial teacher education programs covers the debate between what is best in preparing teachers. Should the preparation exist more on campus with experts in the research field professing knowledge onto students or should the experience occur in professional development schools where students will get experience in the field to reflect on?

Where I stand on this issue is not the purpose of my post. Instead, I wish to connect a few of Sultana's observations with my thinking on "blogs" as a teaching tool. He writes, "The fact remains that education must be responsive to new societal realities, trends, and "needs" (while remaining critically sensitive to the fact that "needs" are anchored in socially constructed discourse that in never politically innocent" (237). He continues to note that Initial Teacher Education should make "efforts to help prospective teachers make a shift from insular to connective specialization and to socialize them into the habit of lifelong learning...." (237). Perhaps, teacher preparation cannot ignore the changing communities of online interactions, because such cyber-communication is growing normal.

R.G. Sultana leads his readers to the following: "It is nevertheless critical to emphasize the point made by Papert (1987) that the more quickly new technologies of communication have been integrated into teaching/learning nexus, the more easily they seem to have become co-opted in the mainstream educational paradigm, that is, top-down delivery systems that fail to recognize real differences among learners" (239). He makes this point after recognizing that technology has been used to create interdisciplinary learning communities.

My point with this posting is that educators preparing future educators cannot ignore the ebb & flow of technology in the ecosystem before us. With this said, paying attention to blogs this semester hasn't been a waste of time.

Papert, S. (1987). Computer criticism vs. technocratic thinking. In Educational Researcher, 16 (1), 22 - 30.
Sultana, R.G. (2005). The initial education of high school teachers: A critical review of major issues and trends. In Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 1, no. 2, November, pp. 225 - 243.