Monday, April 24, 2006

CCCC 2006 Review(s): "Network Literacy"

Across the Disciplines, an e-journal for "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning, and Academic Writing" has just posted reviews for a variety of the outstanding panel presentations at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication. The panel I chaired for the conference was among those selected for review, and I'm thrilled! Here's what Randall McClure had to say:

Network Literacies: First-Year Composition Instruction for the Digital 21st Century

This panel was comprised of three members of the first-year composition program at Purdue University and who shared their vision for 21st century composition, or composition in the digital age.

In her presentation, "Networking: Realizing the Composed Self," session chair Mary Godwin discussed her belief that the world must be brought into students' writing in order to realize better writers in the composition classroom. Here, Godwin relied on the notion of critical literacy that sees students as agents making sense of the world; therefore, they must be writing about it. Further, Godwin believes that digital networks empower student writers toward such critical literacy ends, and that these networks explore all four worlds of writing: personal, academic, professional, and civic or public. Bringing these ideas together, Godwin poses, "What does it mean to write oneself into meaning?" As members of the digital age, Godwin responds that students are writers realizing themselves as composed texts in search for connections as part of, borrowing the term from John Trimbur, the call to write and as part of the rhetorical triangle. Further, Godwin notes that these realizations result best from explorations of digital networks as the "interconnected architecture of participation" that allow students to realize their multiple (digital) identities, again based on notions of critical and computer literacy. Godwin then applies her theoretical talk to the digital design of her composition course along with student responses to it. In these student voices, Godwin believes that she has achieved her goal-realizing better writers writing in the digital age.

Following Godwin, Alice D'Amore presented her own awareness narrative, but this awareness was a realization of a much different sort. In stark contrast to Godwin's positive assessment of digital technologies in the teaching of writing, D'Amore presents, in her own words, "the pessimistic view of new media and digital literacy," especially for the composition classroom. Technologies such as blogs, D'Amore argues, fail to develop the sense of community idealized in the literature of digital rhetoric as well as fail to provide a heightened sense of student ownership of writing. To illustrate this point, D'Amore details her experiences or attempts at involving digital and visual media into her composition classroom. At first, D'Amore notes that these technologies were somewhat successful at fostering community until issues of sexuality became a focus and then an immovable force. D'Amore provides several poignant examples of new media gone wrong as she laments that students today are unable to distinguish images and advertisements on the web from the manipulation of them. Further, the focus on network communication and students' comfort with it combined with the lack of face-to-face communication creates a resistance to both critically analyzing and taking ownership of writing. As she argues, "Blogs and other technologies have been assignments, not opportunities." D'Amore concludes that community was not achieved through the use of digital networks in her composition course, though it may be more appropriate to state that the community that was achieved or realized was not at all what D'Amore wanted.

Marc C. Santos concludes the session by recasting these narratives through his own theoretical approach to the networked classroom. Santos begins by noting that he chooses to achieve his goals in the composition classroom through images, as they are more open to analysis (much like they were in D'Amore's class). Santos then focuses the rest of his presentation on his current project-having composition students revise previous students' digital compositions. Such a project is built on the hermeneutic aspirations of rhetoric and the ethical dimensions of knowledge, and it is further reliant on notions of time and space, kairos, and situatedness, according to Santos. Networked environments create a space, an ambiance, an ethics of decision for students composing in the digital age; therefore, Santos' composition classroom relies on these environments and expands the boundaries of how teachers and students realize and write themselves in them.

Morsels: Harper's Index, March 2006

Harper's Index for March 2006 (excerpts)
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006. Originally from March 2006.

  • Number of U.S. counties where more than a fifth of “residents” are prison inmates: 21
  • Number of these that are in Texas: 10
  • Percentage of Democrats and Republicans, respectively, who say the Iraq war was “worth fighting”: 4, 84
  • Total projected cost of the war per U.S. household, based on a January estimate: $19,600
  • Amount that one of Saddam Hussein’s military uniforms sold for at auction in December: $16,000
  • Number of suicide bombings known to have been carried out by Iranians: 0
  • Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfeld’s vacation home: 25
  • Percentage of African-American families that have zero or negative net worth: 31
  • Chance that the family of an African-American child is too poor to qualify for the full U.S. child tax credit: 1 in 2
  • Number of half-siblings who have found each other on a website for children of anonymous sperm donors: 1,316
  • Greatest number of them who have the same father: 21
  • Minimum number of registered sex offenders who evacuated during Hurricane Katrina and cannot be accounted for: 2,000
  • Percentage of Americans who believe that China will be stronger than the U.S. in a decade: 42
  • Amount paid in January for one of William Shatner’s kidney stones: $25,000
  • Number of U.S. states whose constitutions require that public officials believe in a supreme being: 4
To check sources, follow the link above to the original online posting.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Running Late Again?

OK... gotta laugh out loud for thinking how many times this dandy maneuver could come in handy.

Of course, I'm usually the driver who's cut off, stunned, and wondering what just happened ... not! Call it a moment of fun.

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Writing Online at Purdue

Vikram Buddhi, a 34-year-old graduate student at Purdue, posted comments to a Yahoo! message board and put Purdue in the news. He was recently arrested for repeatedly posting threats to the President of the United States (calls for assassination in addition to advocating acts of violence against the vice president, the first lady, and others).

When a local reporter wrote up the story, he drew a connection between message boards and blogging and contacted my son James for comment. James, also a Purdue student, blogs at "Food for the Brian" and was thrilled with the notice and contribution he was able to made to the story. His telling to me made for a great "mom" moment. I'm excited for the responsible representation James made of blogging, student online writing, and a balanced contextualization of factors.

Way to go, James.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

A New "Book" on the Block

The NYTimes (April 20, 2006)

About the size of a pack of cigarettes, the next generation audio book is a single-story, unabridged version of play-on-the-go MP3 convenience that runs on a triple-A battery and keeps for library building and as many follow-up plays as you like.

The name of this nifty new product is "Playaway," and it can be purchased at bookstores, office supply stores, and direct from the company online. Smaller than an iPod, Playaway measures approximately 3 inches by 2 inches wide and is about a quarter inch thick. The device comes with batteries, ear buds, a lanyard (for optimum ease of portability) and frankly, they're just plain cute.

A small screen shows the elapsed time, and the device has buttons for fast-forwarding, rewinding, adding bookmarks and skipping chapters. There's even a Voice Speed button, which compresses the audio slightly, reducing the total playing time without sacrificing audio quality. The devices are available at bookshops, retail stores and online for $35 to $50.

Currently there are about forty titles to choose from. You can check out the listing here.

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Necessary Edits

China's President Hu made an historic visit to Washington last week, ending the four-day event with a ceremony at Yale that was marked by a series of unfortunate "gaffes": a heckler infiltrated ranks of the welcoming committee, a White House announcer misnamed China's national anthem, Mr. Bush awkwardly corrected a misdirected exit by grabbing at the Chinese President's arm, and finally, a state dinner was refused in the interest of withholding the "official" status of a state visit for the Chinese dignitary. All these amount to what the NYTimes was willing to call "small gaffes" while it yet acknowledged the difficulty raised in the accumulation:

The protocol problems may have had more resonance than the nature of the small slights would suggest because Mr. Hu's visit did not achieve any significant breakthroughs and the Chinese always emphasize careful staging of major political events.

"President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many cabinet members have come to China in recent years and they were not subjected to embarrassing episodes of this kind," said Pang Zhongying, a Chinese foreign relations specialist and former Foreign Ministry official. "For ordinary Chinese I'm afraid this kind of thing will not be easy to explain."

The next passage in the report most caught my attention, however: "There was no mention of the incidents in domestic Chinese news media reports, which continued to have an overwhelmingly positive tone, and video clips shown inside China were edited to exclude the miscues."

Do we want to believe that only video clips shown in China are edited to manage reactions that might be prompted by domestic news media? Is it possible that media reports in the United States are comparably "managed"? Is it likely? Do we want to believe it?

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Blogging: Public Relations, Self-Promotion

The Boston Globe served up a refreshingly upbeat view of blogging in this recent story, and the major points of the report reinforce a central theme in the work I do with students in my first-year composition classes at Purdue: online writing (weblogging) gives students an opportunity to compose themselves for professional success.

"Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging give you a way to control what employers see."

The Globe offers eight reasons blogging helps your career and discusses each point, but here are the main points in titles:

  1. Blogging creates a network.
  2. Blogging can get you a job.
  3. Blogging is great training (discipline, writing, attention to details, and tenacity).
  4. Blogging helps you move up quickly.
  5. Blogging makes self-employment easier.
  6. Blogging opens the door to more opportunities.
  7. Blogging could be your big break.
  8. Blogging makes the world a better place. (This one is my personal favorite.)

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Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP)

The annual ICaP "Showcase" is an opportunity for outstanding first-year composition students at Purdue to present their work to an audience of peers, administrators, and campus dignitaries. Entries to the Showcase are judged for "Best Display of a Project," "Best Project in its Original Form," "Best Reflection," "People's Choice Award," and Dean's Award." The last of these categories, the Dean's Award, is the crowning event and awarded with a cash prize of $400. I am writing this post to celebrate my student, Gilwan Kim, in her selection as this year's Dean's Award winner. In addition, Gilwan's work was selected for honorable mention as "Best Display." Congratulations, Gilwan. I'm proud of you for the work you did. And thanks to Amy Ferdinandt Stolley for her hard work in making the Showcase happen.

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Net Neutrality

"Net Neutrality" means that your connection to information on the internet is not metered or controlled by those providing access. Think of this along lines similar to the national roadway system: companies who build, repair, and maintain the roadways do not have a right to decide which roads you will travel. I can build a road, and I can build a restaurant, but I can force you to eat at my restaurant just because you drove on my road.

David Weinberger does a great job here of saying why net neutrality is so important.

Ken Camp tells us here about an important contest currently underway with Jeff Pulver and associates to compose public service announcements in support of net neutrality, a "save the net" campaign.

Finally, this video clip (worth the listen) makes an attempt to bring the issue into view for those who might be just entering the conversation.

One way or another, do what you can soon (now) to act in support of net neutrality. Compose a net announcement. Enter the contest. Contact your congressional representatives. Inform yourself. Discuss the issue with a friend or with a stranger. Talk. Connection is a basic human need, and connection to the internet needs to be free inasmuch as it is the transportation system for innovation, creativity, intellectual liberty, and democracy. Keep the roadway open and free. Connect America.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Weblog Volume Doubles Again

This report just in from the folks at Technorati: The State of the Blogosphere

  • Technorati now tracks over 35.3 Million blogs
  • The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months
  • It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
  • On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
  • 19.4 million bloggers (55%) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
  • Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour
For more on this analysis, check out the rest of the story from Dave Sifry here.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006


Unlocking new value in practically discarded household items, that's the idea putting Zunafish in the news today. Think in terms of CDs, DVDs, videos, and books that are filling your shelves at home. You've watched them, read them, or listened for as many times as you are apt to listen, and now what? Trade them! There's an investment in the time it takes to list your items (though product codes make the listing relatively automatic), and there's a $1.00 per trade fee assessed in addition to the cost of postage, but in a single afternoon, I turned Bon Jovi into Enya, "A Day Without Rain." Total cost to me? About $3.00.

Got stuff? Wanna trade? Give Zunafish a try!

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Field Goal Attempt : Four Bounces and Out!

I've seen it happen in tennis; the ball hits the tape hard enough to jump into the air and bounce on the top edge of the tape a time or two while the players wait for a final fall. Ok, that's tennis, but have you ever seen that happen in football? Watch carefully. It's a four-bounce field goal attempt. Here's the story on film:

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A Box For Your Bricks

I want one, and it only costs $199.00 from Frontgate. Ok, Hammacher Schlemmer offers a $25.00 white plastic version of a three-unit "brick" storage container, but where's the style, the class, the statement in that? Huh? Mahogany for me, thanks. And besides, "Cufflinks, fountain pens and tickets to the opera can be stored in several small drawers."

(hat tip to Peter Wayner at the NYTimes)
... just because a woman can never find too many places to spend her money. Ha!

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The Tipping Point

The NYTimes is running a story about the new reputation building for New York City: New York as the city of civility. Many contend that laws directed toward improving behavior at the ballgame, on the subway, and in the movie theater are changing the "feel" of the city, helping to maintain the atmosphere of a family-friendly city that still knows when to put the kids to bed. Foremost among the "many" are city council members and boards of supervisors, ball players, and theater owners. It's against the law now to throw things onto the field at Shea stadium, to put your feet up on a neighboring seat on the subway, or to take your child of ten (or younger) to the movie theater after 10:00 ... count me a BIG fan of this last "rule" in particular.

Yet, the focus on social politics has a scarey underbelly for me. As much as I can be drawn to the idea of living into some nostalgic recollection of "the way we were," I worry about the "price tag" of inviting lawmakers to engineer new meaning for the right to privacy, the boundary of censorship, or the responsibilities for adulthood and parenting. I'd pay a fair share more for an evening at a hotel without children in the pool, and if any hotel enforces a "no child" zone after 9:00, I am so there, but do I believe it a good idea for the city/state to make the law? No. No matter the gain or the temptation I endure to trade away my choice for a night of quiet in the halls, I'll leave the negotiation for greater measures of civility in shared space to the exchange between citizens face-to-face.

Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, would agree. He suggests that rather than more legislation, New York might better invest in a public relations campaign. "Good behavior" can simply not be forced on unwilling people, Post would argue. He suggests that we may be recovering a willingness to insist on the right of mutually composing shared public spaces, the right of expecting a civil measure of deference. "I think we've reached a tipping point with rudeness," he says. "Instead of people quietly putting up with rude behavior, they're finally saying, 'I don't have to put up with that anymore.'"

Ok. Ok. But can we make the definition of "rude" sit still for long enough for most of us to agree?

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Richard Feynman on Easter Morning

I teach mechanical engineering technology students to improve their writing, and in return their teacher (and my friend), Mark French, visits my first-year composition class to tell students about the importance of good writing when it comes to getting and keeping a job. Mark speaks to a number of topics during his hour-long visit, and one of those topics is the value of reading. He shares a short list of "must reads" that includes among other titles Green Eggs and Ham, The History of Pi, and The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

Mark's mention of Feynman was an introduction for me, and Mark so enthusiastically invested his recommendation that the Lectures made it to my "must buy" list of books. It was just another title, however, till Norm (onegoodmove) started to post a series of video excerpts of BBC interviews with Feynman himself.

The most recent of Norm's postings ("The Big Questions - Richard Feynman") prompted a rambling consideration for Easter morning. In this taped interview Feynman says,

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live with not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong... I don't feel frightened by not knowing things."

Today is Easter, and I'm thinking about the celebrated resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am thinking about the difference between faith and knowing - about the investigations of science and the claims of religion, and I realize that I am comfortable believing what I do believe whether or not I know it. There is a difference between believing (faith) and knowing (the work of science), a difference between the worlds they compose and support, the lives they prepare us to live, and the expressions of relationship they are allowed to govern. I am comfortable with the difference.

I believe in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As disproportioned as it seems when situated against the reach of a universe or two, I believe that at a particular point in history, a singular expression of God (him-, her-, itself) was made manifest on this planet. I believe that "moment" in time has significance for my well being on some wonderfully eternal line of flight. I do not know this to be true, and you should not follow me to a particular answer. Any answer worth keeping will make itself known to you in time. Until then, keep faith where you can, live if peace if you will, and get comfortable not knowing.

Happy Easter.

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Copyright #154085

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

-Written by Guthrie in the late 1930s on a songbook distributed to listeners who wanted the words to his recordings

(hat tip to Joho the Blog)

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Monday, April 10, 2006

The Conversation Coming Into View

...and now I am seeing the F2C conversation in every direction. That's the magic of learning: it was there all the time, but teach me, and I begin to see.

(Flynn, NYTimes, 04.10.06)

San Francisco is going wireless. Google and Earthlink have won the bid. Details for delivery of service are underway even now, and there's a "war" a-brewin'.

So call this "practice" in a new line of thinking, and see if how I do with getting the questions lined out ... The issue(s) is who has control and what kind of service is (speed) is being provided - what is the cost? will access to information/content be restricted in any way? are consumer patterns of use recorded and sold? privacy issues? do the telcos have first dibs for providing service simply because "they were there first"?

... learning, learning.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Class of 1922 Helping Students Learn Award

Today I took
my place on stage at the Elliot Hall of Music among dignitaries and honored instructors at Purdue University's 2006 Honors Convocation. I was there to receive the Purdue Class of 1922 "Helping Students Learn" Award. This experience was certainly the most exciting I have known since beginning graduate studies at Purdue. I was nervous, proud, and appreciative. I was honored while yet disbelieving. It was a truly awesome day. During introductory comments Dr. Jiscske said, "Excellence is doing common things uncommonly well," and I believe my work in support of student writing fits rightly with his understanding. The work receiving recognition today is entitled "Writing the Works: Improving Writing with a 'Rule of Five.'"

I want to thank Dr. Richard Mark French from the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology for the nomination, Drs. Richard Sheehan-Johnson and Jennifer Bay for their letters in support, and Dr. Arkady Plotnitsky for his contribution as my advisor. In addition, I remember Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, Dr. Nancy Michael, Dr. Martin Tadlock, and Dr. Russell Lee from Bemidji State University with appreciation for the inspiration they continue to be in my pursuit of excellence through teaching and scholarship.

Provost Sally Frost Mason

President Jischke presenting
Mary L. Godwin

Class of 1922 “Helping Students Learn” Award

Annual Award for Outstanding Innovation in “Helping Students Learn”

To improve the educational experiences of Purdue University students and to recognize those who develop innovative advancements in teaching, the alumni of the Class of 1922 have established a fund from which an annual award is to be given for outstanding innovation in helping students learn. If a single recipient is selected, the $6,000 prize will be divided between a $4,000 cash award and a $2,000 academic expense account. All Purdue University faculty, staff, and graduate students who have developed innovative techniques to help students learn are eligible for consideration.


For the purposes of this award, an innovation is defined as something which is new, involving creativity and change, and which has for its purpose helping students learn. It includes any procedure, concept, or format which differs significantly from established or traditional teaching methodology and which purports to help students learn more effectively.

Guidelines for interpreting these criteria include the following:

  1. The test of time may have to overlooked in judging the educational effectiveness of an innovation. Therefore, the basis for an innovation must be theoretically sound. Though the probability of long-range success may be implied, there must be at least preliminary evidence, however, that the innovation works and has a significant effect on learning.
  2. The innovative features of the teaching method or the materials must be operational during the period for which the award is being made even though the method may have been introduced earlier. Creativity in the development of instructional materials also will be considered for the award.
  3. Other things being equal, innovations with broad applicability to other learning situations will be given preference.
  4. The innovation may include economy of resources, but its primary purpose must contribute to the improvement of learning.

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F2C : Freedom to Connect

David Isenberg is the powerhouse behind the recent gathering of great minds discussing "net neutrality" under the banner "Freedom to Connect." David is an amazing man, quietly aware, deliberate, and (pro)ductive in his ability to incorporate the strengths of invested individuals to create a current for social change. I am honored to have been his guest at F2C '06 and to have shared conversation with so many world-class innovators working to expand the field of possibility for digital connectivity.

Many turns in the F2C conversation came and went as speeds still beyond my grasp, but from those I was able to discern, I understood an abiding concern for the capacity of the United States to get its citizens online: as a nation we rank 20th in the world for the percentage of our population now able to log on to broadband access. The battle seems to be between "telcos" who currently benefit from protective support in government policy and an avant-garde of thinkers/application-developers sounding an alarm - a wake-up now call - for the rest of us to understand that connectivity must be regarded an individual right for every American citizen, an absolute necessity for securing a prosperous America in a global 21st century.

The concept was new to me - a jump in logic and an emotional breakthrough, but of course they were right. "They" included: Martin Geddes who spoke gently from depths of knowing that readily invited pause; Doc Searls - a studied, approachable, and purposeful man whose contributions rarely lost sight of shared central values; Jerry Michalski, an unfailingly gracious participant who nonetheless maintained a fast-paced, almost surgical capacity to meaningfully address, question, and/or connect complex threads of conversation; Dean Landsman, a man of kindness in welcome yet a compellingly intense man in business - a "word smith" for the fun of it; Bruce Kushnick who is working even now to reclaim networks bought, paid for, and rightfully owned by the citizenry; and more ... many more in James Salter, David Weinberger, Bob Frankston, Clegg Ivey, and Brad Templeton. Jon Lebowski, also prominent among the "they" attending F2C, helps those of us still chasing understanding to get a better grasp of the concepts with his writing here at World Changing.

I had never before experienced a conversation taking place on this level or at this pace. Picture a theater-sized screen at the front of an auditorium, a speaker's podium situated on stage to the left and a few feet forward of the screen, and an audience of more than 250 individuals each with laptops open, each engaged in the real-time IRChat that rolled freely in the background to question, supportively link, redirect, and/or supplement the information brought by the speaker. It often took all my attention just to read the conversation while most participants were actively contributing. It was exciting; it was overwhelming; it was nearly pure energy. I loved it!

The sea of new vocabulary, ideas, and interests would have been impossible to navigate without the IM support Ken Camp gave "on the side" as the conference progressed. Thanks, Ken, for your help and for the door you opened into the network. Frank Paynter was a friend "on the ground" in D.C. who made it easy to find my place among so many brilliant men and women. Thanks, Frank (and Beth), for the friendship you so generously gave.

F2C was three wonderful three days of firsts and beginnings for me, but there is so much more still beyond my reach. I got a hold of some of the pieces in D.C., and I've already taken the bits I can understand back to my students at Purdue University. I'll be able to carry more as time goes by. Expect to see me again at F2C '07. I'm in the conversation now!

Frank Paynter

Martin Geddes

Dean Landsman

David Weinberger

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