March 26 Symposium for Two-Year College Teachers

What is Composition in the Digital Age?
A Symposium for Two-Year College Teachers
1:00-5:00, Friday, March 26
102 Liberal Arts Building
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS

Click here to access the registration form, and here to view the flyer.

Registration is free to TYCAM members. You are asked to pre-register only to help us judge how many to expect.

NCTE and CCCC members can look for articles in CCC by Cynthia Selfe and Doug Hesse on the topic of composition in the digital age as a preview to the day’s discussion.

Presentations will include lesson demonstrations from graduate students in the Composition and Rhetoric program at USM. Panelists will represent both two-year colleges and universities. Please join us if you can. We expect innovative ideas and stimulating discussion in addition to delicious cookies.

The symposium is from 1:00-5:00. We will also offer a morning session on personal writing if enough people are interested. You’ll be contacted with details if you check “yes” to the morning session on your registration form.

And did I mention cookies? There will be cookies. You will not regret taking the time out for this event.

Twitter as Writing Prompt

I personally love the idea of using Twitter as a prompt for blogging. One form of digital writing compliments another. Send students to Twitter to find what people are saying on a given topic and then take some of those quotes back to the blog for responses. They could, of course, simply reply on Twitter, but taking the Tweets to a blog for response allows for more involved reactions and, we hope, more depth of thinking.

Students don’t have to blog to use Twitter for writing prompts, though, not even of the deep thinking variety. They could write their responses in a journal, or they could type them in a word processing document. The act of mining Twitter for ideas and thinking through those ideas in writing will be the same either way.

They might also look for creative writing prompts on Twitter. Photos make great writing prompts, for example, and Twitter is filled with photo-bloggers linking to their sites. One of my current favorites is @unhappyhipsters.

I also love the Twitter-related sites that pull in Tweets for comic purposes, such as the site Tweeting Too Hard. A good creative writing exercise might be to write a scene with a character who might have written one of those tweets (without actually stealing the tweet, of course). Another of these sites that leans toward hilarious is favstar.fm. Not all of the tweets are PG, however. Depending on where you work and how old your students are you may have to select some tweets for them to use as prompts. I believe in standing up for creativity wherever possible, but there is such a thing as asking for trouble.

Use your imagination. Ask your students to apply theirs. The possibilities for finding writing prompts on Twitter are virtually endless.

Twitter and Assignment Management

My previous post talked about making lists to organize the people you follow on Twitter. I was thinking more along the lines of personal and professional networking in that post, but lists can be essential to classroom management of Twitter assignments as well. If you have your classes Tweeting, a list means you can pull up only class posts on one screen. That makes assessing what they are up to as a group actually possible even if you follow a large number of non-students on Twitter. What’s more once you’ve made a list of the students in your class, those students can then follow your list so that they will know who is in their class. Everything class-related can be tied together in a nice package that way.

Another way to manage twitter assignments is through hash tags. Putting a # in front of any term creates a tag for that post, meaning it can be pulled up then within a stream of posts all identified as being about the same topic. In a class researching digital ethics, for example, tags might include #plagiarism, #cyberbully, #timetheft, or any number of other terms students are researching. The tag will become a hyperlink once the tweet is posted, allowing the students to just click to see a stream of posts with the same tag from the Twitterverse at large. It will also allow them to scan through their classmates’ tweets to quickly find information related to their own topics.

You might also consider assigning a class hash tag: #gerald1123 or something that will identify the tweets as belonging to a class group. This could become essential considering that the tweet stream is in constant motion. Unless you are Professor Johnny On the Spot, assessing Twitter projects might be problematic without more than one way to access class tweets.

As with most technologies, the best approaches to Twitter as assignment might be a matter of engaging in a little trail and error to find what works best for you and your students. These few simple items of Twitter literacy could prove very helpful, though, in working through that process.

Twittoum: A Poetic (and Twittery) Experiment

Twittoum by Sharon Gerald  
Download now or listen on posterous

Twittoum.mp3 (8597 KB)

Steeped in the tea kettle’s whistle, thinking of the you you made for me,
I toggle my wants and repulsions to the beat of your inattentiveness.
Last night I dreamed I played a flute again and talked, like Yeats, of poetry,
Our love for it and each other large like it was on the day we now call once.

I toggle my wants and repulsions to the beat of your inattentiveness,
Drawing us, each to the pitch of our own uncertainties, toward a single line,
Our love for it and each other large like it was on the day we now call once.
I want to sit for hours in the labor of articulate sweet sound, like this.

Drawing us, each to the pitch of our own uncertainties, toward a single line,
Where we shed the rhythms of the noisy set to keep time with one another.
I want to sit for hours in the labor of articulate sweet sound, like this.
Thinking of the you you made for me at one summer’s end.

***

Thinking of the you you made for me at one summer’s end,
I want to sit for hours in the labor of articulate sweet sound, like this.
Where we shed the rhythms of the noisy set to keep time with one another,
Drawing us, each to the pitch of our own uncertainties, toward a single line.

I want to sit for hours in the labor of articulate sweet sound, like this.
Our love for it and each other large like it was on the day we now call once.
Drawing us, each to the pitch of our own uncertainties, toward a single line.
I toggle my wants and repulsions to the beat of your inattentiveness.

Our love for it and each other large like it was on the day we now call once,
Last night I dreamed I played a flute again and talked, like Yeats, of poetry.
I toggle my wants and repulsions to the beat of your inattentiveness.
Steeped in the tea kettle’s whistle, thinking of the you you made for me.

Posted via email from Just Haphazardry

Twitter is who you follow; Twitter is how you follow

Twitter seems inspire both love and loathing in equal measure. Some crusade to win converts to their tweet streams. Others denounce the practice of tweeting at every opportunity. It’s been called a vehicle for mass narcissism, and that’s one of the nicer descriptions. I won’t deny the accusations can have merit. Twitter can be silly. It can be self-absorbed. It can be boring. It can be an utter waste of time. That depends not on what you tweet so much as who you follow. If Twitter is a broadcasting device, it’s a two-way radio. Talk into it all day long, but if you aren’t picking up good stations in return, it’s probably useless to you.

I use Twitter primarily to discover information. Some people use it more for casual chat, and that’s okay. Still, the main difference in what one person gets out of Twitter and what another person doesn’t get is in who is talking to them. Twitter is enormous. It’s silly to say everything on it is a waste of time. That would be like saying everything in the library is a waste of time because you didn’t care for the first few books you picked up. If you are interested in it, you can find it somewhere on Twitter.

Because I’m interested in discovering information, I follow newspapers, journalists, bloggers, and people who like to share articles on topics important to me. I follow whole networks of people I associate with particular online communities, such as tech rhetors, poets, and Mississippians. The topics are important to me; therefore, the tweeters are interesting to me.

Twitter is who you follow.

This is not to say I haven’t had trouble sorting out what is worth my time and what isn’t in my tweet stream. I have, and I think that issue comes up more if you follow a lot of people, and/or if you follow people who don’t easily fit into a category. I unfollowed someone who is a professor and whose professional tweets are of interest to me because she happened to hate the Saints. I didn’t unfollow everyone who tweeted against the Saints. Only this one person bothered me because she wasn’t cheering for a team. She was just posting anti-Saints tweets every week during Saints games. I decided I wasn’t going to go through a Super Bowl like that, so I just culled her from my stream.

I have no doubt others have unfollowed me for similar reasons. They may have followed me in the first place when I tweeted about poetry, but then they lost interest when I tweeted about Mississippi. That’s okay. Relationships, like information, are transitory on Twitter.

It isn’t necessary, however, to start unfollowing people just because you are having trouble keeping up with the kind of information you want to find. That will all become much easier if you organize the people you follow into lists.

Twitter is how you follow.

If you want to only read tweets from Saints fans during a Saints game, make a list of Saints fans, and watch only that stream while the game is on. Likewise, make a list of people who share your professional interests to refer to when you are looking for job-related information. Make as many lists as you need to organize your stream into manageable categories.

Twitter is one long continuous conversation, but if you’ve ever sat in the middle of a big dinner table trying to hold a conversation with everyone in your immediate vicinity, you’ve probably felt that slight sense of disorientation that comes when one conversation is really several overlapping conversations. Twitter can be disorienting like that. It can also be stimulating and informative. Making lists is just one way to help control which it becomes for you.

Types of E-Portfolios

The term e-portfolio is enjoying a lot of press these days in education, but I think sometimes there’s confusion over what exactly it means or what exactly is expected when people are told to start using e-portfolios in the classroom.  The truth is it doesn’t mean just one thing.  Portfolio has always been a term applied to a diverse set of purposes and practices.  Adding the e makes it even more so.

Here are just a few ways we might think of e-portfolios as serving different purposes:

A Project Portfolio:  Whether for a class project or a professional project, a portfolio might certainly be devoted to a single topic, such as a research project, an advocacy project, a public service project, an oral history project, or a literacy project.  Even a reading response journal when put together as a blog, a Google Document, or a podcast feed becomes an e-portfolio.

A Class Portfolio:  Students have been producing portfolios made up of the best of their work for a given class for many years now.  Most teachers are probably familiar with the concept of the class portfolio, at least most teachers in skill based or artistic disciplines.  When that portfolio is composed and submitted through electronic means, it becomes an e-portfolio.

A Student Career Portfolio:  Some colleges now are tracking student progress throughout entire academic careers by having them maintain portfolios with artifacts posted from a variety of classes, reflecting their growth and their range of educational experiences over time.  These portfolios then offer the students a solid web presence and a solid stance from which to apply for jobs or graduate schools upon completion of their degrees.

A Professional Portfolio: In an age when people Google names to find out if they are willing to hire a person on for even a short term contract, traditional CVs are hardly enough to be competitive on the job market.  It’s absolutely vital that those seeking professional positions have a web presence that speaks well of them.  Even those who are not on the job market need e-portfolios as networking tools.

An Artist’s Portfolio: Visual artists, writers, and musicians have long kept compilations of their work to share for professional purposes.  Technological advances mean it is more important than ever that they have something on hand and online to demonstrate their skill levels.

We might think of other examples as well, but the point is the need for a portfolio might take any shape; therefore, the appearance of a portfolio might take any shape as well.  For teachers, this means we serve our students best by exposing them to a variety of opportunities to think about the why and the how of an e-portfolio.  They can’t approach this as simply learning steps in a process.  They need to invest some thinking skills into figuring out how to match their purpose with their product.

This is, of course, not a new idea, but the fact that the available tools change so often does mean it is more important than ever that we help students see the tool as just a means to an end.  The ability to envision what they need, why they need it, and how to make it happen is the part that matters.

Using Visual CV to Create E-Portfolios

VisualCV is perhaps the easiest way to approach e-portfolios.  You only have to sign up for a free online account.  The program guides you through the steps of creating a CV, and in case you need a little extra help, the site provides its own tutorials.

See Brian Stroka’s VisualCV.  He was my student last semester, and he created this for our class. You can see that he has turned an online resume into a portfolio site by adding pictures and writing samples.  He now has this online presence potential employers can peruse.  And if all he needs is a resume after all, he can download that part of his portfolio as a pdf file to print out.  It’s really a perfect system.

VisualCV provides fewer design choices as a portfolio platform than a blogging system like WordPress might.  Still, the result is simple, clean, attractive, and professional.  It’s a wonderful tool for students and professionals alike.

Video Portfolios

I ran across a  nicely done video cv from a teacher.  That sent me off on a YouTube investigation.  It seems there’s quite a trend toward video portfolios now, particularly among welders from the UK.

I’m not sure a video portfolio is as useful to me as a website in terms of efficiently sharing information, but they certainly have a cool factor.