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To Bring Things Full Circle…

Just to end sort of where we began, here’s a New York Times article by Stanley Fish. Fish discusses the deeply intellectual theoretical implications of–The Hunger Games.
nyti.ms/JYcY7B

Enjoy, classmates! It’s been a heck of a semester. Best wishes to you all!

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A Good-bye Present

In honor of our final discussions about our love for the “old- fashioned” ways.  Thanks for a great semester, everyone!

-Meg O’B

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Putting It all Together

Sorry for the late post, I’m a crappy blogger but a good son to my mom : )

In Jerome McGann’s article he discusses the inevitable future of compiling data and scholarship online. As I read this article I thought about several different points that were made. The first is that he describes this future as “sobering.” My initial reaction to this was that yes it is a bit daunting to consider that it may not be much longer before paper and other forms of tangible records and media are digitized and then only created in digital form but at the same time it isn’t. It almost seems a bit naive to think that the future is not upon us, its not rapidly approaching and more and more the digital world becomes the worlds ultimate tool. I’m old fashioned and while I love technology and enjoy reading and writing on a computer, iPad, etc, I also LOVE  the feel of a book. So I get it but I don’t know if sobering would be a word I would use, it shouldn’t be a surprise at this point.

The other point that stood out was the concept of influence in an undertaking such as this. The NDPL says that its for our “cultural commonwealth” butWith so many “cooks in the kitchen” it is not far fetched to believe or expect varying communities to want to exploit a compendium such as this for their own reasons. Of course we (America) won’t have to worry about something like that, because while I love America I do have my issues with out zeal to constantly establish ourselves as the authority on everything known to man. Will we have the most influence? Absolutely. Will we make it appear as if it is a worldwide effort? Of course, who are better diplomats than us? I suppose the conclusion I am drawing here is that I believe that such a tool is a necessary evil. I say evil because with all its good will come bad, what scholars will include what? What will be excluded? Once this is achieved what purpose does print versions of ANY of the documents included serve? Is a classic a classic anymore once its digitized? I think not.

I suppose my only other concern is accessibility. will this be a “go-to” site like wikipedia or will it be a thoroughly deep and expansive research engine like ebsco and the Academic Search Primer? The truth is that the reason we all love and flock to wikipepdia is because its fast, simple, easy and we like the way the information is presented to us. Other sources provide obviously more detailed and more accurate, albeit very specific and obscure information but its not laid out in such away that I can just consume what I please and move on. Nevertheless If such a database is at the worlds fingertips and is easily accessible then all of my gripes are outweighed by the simple fact that more people will be able to learn more faster and easily. I am at this point being a bit lofty in my presumptions but nevertheless these are the questions that run through my head when I see such a project in the works.

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Cash Cow and Funding

Dasenbrock’s article tackles the issue of higher education
during a time of economic hardship.  This
article discusses the financial aspect of higher education.  Is the money that is appropriated for higher
education being allocated in the most appropriate way?  An interesting statistic that Dasenbrock
discusses is the number of students enrolled in higher education.  Even though the country has suffered through
economic hardships, the number of students enrolled in college continues to
rise.  While these numbers are rising,
state funding for the institutions is in decline.  One wonders how institutions can continue to
function at an elite level when there are more students and less money.  What is the trade-off?  What is the first major element of education
that will be lost due to the loss of major funding?

 

My favorite parts of this article were the examples that
Dasenbrock used to illustrate his point concerning the cash cow.  Besides learning how Post-It Notes came into
being, his example of 3M products helped to clearly explain his point.  A cash cow is a product that will
consistently produce financial gains.  A
cash cow is something that a business can rely on to help fund other business
ventures.  Are undergraduate programs
cash cows?  Can they consistently provide
funding for more prestigious programs?
I gathered from Dasenbrock’s information that under the current formula
for financial spending, undergraduate programs are not cash cows and cannot be
treated as such.  Undergraduate programs
cannot be financially abused in order to help finance graduate programs.  Funding has to be allocated in a more
appropriate manner in order to maximize the efficiency of higher education.

 

I do not know much about the hierarchy of higher education
teaching, so this was an interesting article to help explain the process a bit
better.  On page 208, Dasenbrock
discusses the course load for graduate programs.  He stated that a reason faculty members want
more graduate programs is because of the lower teaching load.  He has a negative view towards the current
balance between teaching and writing.
According to Dasenbrock, there appears to be a gray area on the cost of
lower teachings loads.  Are these lower
teacher loads financially beneficial or harmful for the institutions?  Dasenbrock seems to believe that there are
better ways to allocate funding.  He
compares the allocation of money to Canada,
Japan and Korea.  These countries have a higher rate at which
people between the ages of 25 and 34 are being educated.  Dasenbrock makes the point that these
countries are not spending more money on education than we are, so the problem
has to be in the allocation of money.
The problem is not the amount of funding, but rather how the funding is
being allocated in higher education.

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Thoughts on Jerome McGann’s On Creating a Usable Future

Jerome McGann’s essay, “On Creating a Usable Future,” addresses the massive undertaking that is the NDPL (National Digital Public Library). This online research database, which since McGann’s initial writing has undergone a name change to DPLA (Digital Public Library of America), is tasked with being the go-to scholarly resource on the Internet. As the title of the title of the essay indicates, the future of scholarly research–like the seemingly inevitable fate of paper books, films, video games, and other media–is online. The challenges of such a task are many, but the benefits greatly outweigh the obstacles.

McGann specifies one of these obstacles in a question towards the beginning of his essay: “Who would have access to what, and how could the materials be engaged and perhaps repurposed?” (183) Differing communities–national and international–would have different objectives in this endeavor. The newer title of the database, DPLA, indicates that, like much of the Internet, America would have a larger influence on this database than emerging countries and global regions. This American influence would certainly influence which information is included in this “complete” database.

On page 185, McGann indicates another problem with NDPL (or DPLA–even the name shift is indicative of the shifting priorities of this undertaking): “book culture will not go extinct,” the author claims. “Human memory is too closely bound to it,” McGann claims. The books will still be there after they are digitized. I wonder how true this statement is. How many original copies of Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey still exist? None. That’s because the “originals” of the works were composed orally. Sure, someone decided to transcribe these timeless stories; the question is: how much was lost in translation? One version of the tales was decided as “the” definitive version of the text. This effect will happen with such varied works as Shakespeare’s quarto and folio editions, Walt Whitman’s vastly different 1855 and 1892 versions of Leaves of Grass, and even McGann’s own professed passion play, the works of Dante Gabriel Rosetti (McGann references his own online literary database creation, The Rosetti Archive, on page 188; this was a peculiar reference for me because I didn’t know to which Rosetti the author was referring: Dante, or his sister, Christina, or both. Very vague. McGann’s own database seems privileged and edited.). McGann claims that paper versions will remain; I’m not so sure these editions will all survive.

Despite the negatives of such a seemingly comprehensive online database of human knowledge and scholarship, the benefits to such a compendium do exist. Even if there were no quantifiable positives (access, speed, availability, convenience), the inevitable trend towards digitization is here. Barnes and Noble is digitizing with the Nook; Borders couldn’t compete in this medium, and they are now a bygone memory. Newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post are increasingly marketed towards their online readers. Encyclopedia are now almost entirely online, and even still, most people access Wikipedia. Print publishing houses are increasingly becoming extinct. As McGann notes, scholarship, too, is increasingly trending towards online research sites. Out of thirteen sources for his article, McGann includes only three print sources; the rest are all digitized.

What does this online database mean for scholarship? How will NDPL/DPLA compare with JStor, Project Muse, and the unmentioned Google Scholar? Will this new construct finally supplant Wikipedia as the go-to site for quick knowledge–or does “complete” not necessarily mean “preferred?” There are many questions. The future is, of course, uncertain. Any predictions, classmates?

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Looking at Resources as Helpful, Not Taboo

Hi All,

My sincere apologies to whomever is presenting this week!  I signed on this morning to start engaging in the conversation, and when I looked at the syllabus I realized I was supposed to post on this week’s readings, too!  So sorry I am late with this, but here are my thoughts on Purdy’s Wikipedia is Good For You!?

As you all know by now, I work in a somewhat unique school district.  All of my classrooms follow an inclusion model, where students who need 1:1 aides are working cooperatively with those who are battling to be the class valedictorian.  On any given day, there are 1-2 additional adults in my room co-teaching with me.  In addition, my 9th and 10th graders are preparing to enter a rigorous International Baccalaureate Program once they enter their junior year, so the curriculum in the lower grades is also challenging.  Differentiated instruction has become second-nature, and now I am becoming fluent in the language, theory and practice of the Common Core.  Anything that can make learning a little easier for my students, especially those who struggle, is a plus in my book.  But, Wikipedia?  Really?  Isn’t that the source that we all tell our students to avoid?  The one that is unreliable because anybody can decide to change the information that is presented?  The one that makes educators (myself included) grimace when we see it listed on bibliographies?

Purdy would say, “Yes” to all of this.  In fact, he acknowledges all of the apprehensions I listed above in one felt swoop when he states, “As a result of such changeability, Wikipedia articles are unreliable; the article you cite today may not exist in that form tomorrow.  This variability challenges prevailing understanding of how published texts work so cause some anxiety.  Because print texts are (relatively) stable, we expect texts we read (and cite) to be the same when we go back to them later.  Even Wikipedia contributors express worry about the implications of article changeability for citation…” (208).  So, how can Purdy acknowledge all the flaws we see in a resource like Wikipedia and still advocate for it as a useful research tool?  By showing us how it can be a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, accurate and thorough research.

Purdy goes on to explain the many ways that Wikipedia can be used to assist students with research by giving them a place to start.  For most students, research articles that come from scholarly (read: dense) journals are intimidating and lengthy.  Purdy writes, “Rather than a source to cite, it can be a source of (1) ideas, (2) links to other texts, and (3) search terms” (209).   Wikipedia articles are broken down into easy-to-read segments that give students a basis of understanding for the topic at hand, and provide additional resources for students to explore in relation to that topic.  Instead of looking at the article as the authority, students should be encouraged to utilize the article as a pathway to other, perhaps more reliable, resources.

In addition, students should also be encouraged to use Wikipedia as a way to place themselves in the scholarly discussion.  Purdy explains that by reading the discussion page on a wikipedia article, you can “…identify the debates, questions, and absences you find.  In other words, list what contributors (1) argue about (ie: what ideas are contentious), (2) have questions about, and (3) think is missing from and what should be included in coverage of that topic” (215).  For students who are unsure about how to formulate an argument about a given topic, looking at what others have to say about it can help, and Wikipedia’s discussion pages can be a way for students to identify the thoughts of others and decide where they fall in the discussion.  Ultimately, we want students to engage in the academic conversation instead of just repeating information they have read (215).  Showing them how to utilize the components of a site like Wikipedia in order to assist their work may help them understand the difference.

Earlier this year, my administrator held a department meeting during which he shock us all and actually advocated for the use of Sparknotes in our resource rooms and ELA support classes.  My colleagues and I all looked at each other like we were all waiting for the punchline to some bad academic joke.  We asked the same questions of him that I posed earlier in this post:  You want us to tell the kids that Sparknotes are ok?  Sparknotes?  The site that has become an English teacher’s enemy?  The site that  students think they can use as a replacement to the required reading for class?  No way.  He isn’t serious.  But, he was, and he showed us exactly what Purdy is showing us in this article:  ways that Sparknotes can be used as a suppplement, instead of a replacement.  Having students characterize characters in a work, then checking Sparknotes to see what they may have missed, or what insight they have that Sparknotes missed.  Looking at a Sparknotes “summary” of a chapter versus the “analysis” of a chapter to help students understand the difference.  Ultimately, whether it is Wikipedia, Sparknotes,  or any other source that makes us turn up our noses, the lesson here is that there are ways in which we as educators can make these previously taboo sources work for our students, instead of constantly fighting against them.

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Technology

When reading the CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments, one sentence on the first page stood out to me. “The focus of writing instruction is expanding: the curriculum of composition is widening to include not one but two literacies: a literacy of print and a literacy of the screen. In addition, work in one medium is used to enhance learning in the other. ” In What Video Games have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, James Paul Gee is quick to point out that “language is not the only important communicational system.” In today’s technological age, symbols are usually always intertwined with words and to be able to understand meaning, people have to learn how to decipher both words and pictures. This combination or multimodality is associated with different social practices because literacy requires participation. Gee gives the example of learning about law, rap songs, academic essays or comics, when explaining how literacy is in part not only decoding texts and images, but learning how to be social with others in multiple domains. In these “semiotic domains,” people will decipher these different modalities to communicate with each other.
Gee goes on to say that many people (usually older) say that video games are a waste of time. He argues against that point by saying that video games combine “sounds, music, movement, and bodily sensations” as well as encourage active problem solving. He explains that common attitudes about schooling tend to believe that important knowledge is only acquired in school or an academic setting that involve disciplines such as literature, history or science. In contrast, activities that are deemed as entertainment such as video games are “meaningless play” and do not offer any important information. However, when you think about all the new video and computer games that are out there to help teach your children how to read such as Leapster, or math through games with your Nintendo DS console, those tools are aimed at children to both entertain and teach at the same time. He stresses that print literacy is not enough and “If our modern, global, high-tech, and science-driven world does anything, it certainly gives rise to new semiotic domains and transforms old ones at an ever faster rate.”
This active learning is also addressed in Purdy’s article, Wikipedia is good for You!? As much as teachers hate to see Wikipedia used in papers as an actual source, Purdy explains ways that the site can actually be beneficial to students for research-based writing. There are four practices that involve successfully writing an article for Wikipedia that can also help a student with their own writing: reviewing, conversing, revising and sharing. While Wikipedia may not be the most reliable source due to the fact that anyone can change the content on the site, by taking the precaution of verifying the sources and citations on the site, a student can decipher between what is a reliable and non-reliable source. A student can gather ideas from the site and use it to find other, more credible library sources.
Conversing with other users either by questioning their changes to an article or gaining feedback is another way in which Wikipedia promotes active learning because you are connecting with other people. Revision is a huge part of writing and with the ability to edit Wikipedia so easily, the opportunity to review your work and revise accordingly is always there. Lastly, by sharing your work with the public, you are opening it up for feedback and further discussion of the topic. In all reality, Wikipedia is an easy source for students to turn to because it’s easy to understand and represents all sides of any given topic. In this case, the online media is used to enhance the more traditional or written form of literacy. By learning how to turn these devices whether it is a site like Wikipedia or a video game into an effective learning tool, teachers are showing their kids just how to be literate in many different semiotic domains.

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A “Digital” Baby is Born Every 8 Seconds_Using Digital Media in the Classroom

The 21st century is a technologically driven springboard of new entities. Every day countless new “digital” babies are born into this world, whether it be in the form of an awe-inspiring videogame, smartphone application, social website, and/or media forum. Human parents often embrace and adopt these digital offsprings into their lives rather casually because we correlate their existence with entertainment, comfort, and convenience. However, the significance of these digital entities goes far beyond the contentment and relief that is garnered from accessibility. Although we are constantly engulfed in a digital world, we may not instantaneously connect it to our education and the education of our students, even though it may be inevitable.

Today’s educational content is no longer confined to the margins of a piece of paper or the borders of a blackboard. In the CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Writing in Digital Environments it states, “The focus of writing is expanding: the curriculum of composition is widening to include not one but two literacies: a literacy of print and a literacy of the screen. In addition, work in one is used to enhance learning  in the other” (1).  In order to use digital media effectively, the students must be engaged in critical evaluations of information and also be prepared to be reflective practitioners (CCCC 1). James Gee and James P. Purdy, discuss the importance of using digital media to enhance student learning in their respective literary works: “Ch. 2: Semiotic Domains” from What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy and “Wikipedia is Good For You!?” from Writing Spaces.

In “What Video Games Have to Teach Us…,” James Gee offers an alternative perspective on learning and knowing by analyzing the educational validity of children engaging in video games. He believes that many people consider playing video games to be a “waste of time” (Gee 22) because society has constricted ideologies of what is deemed educationally significant. “Important knowledge (now usually gained in school) is content in the sense of information related to intellectual domains or academic disciplines like physics, history, art, or literature. Activities that are entertaining, but that themselves do not involve such learning are just ‘meaningless play’” (Gee 22). To counteract this argument, Gee goes on to explain the true definition of literacy. Literacy goes far beyond being able to decipher the mere meaning of words and images. In order for someone to be truly literate, they must understand the dynamics that are created by multimodal texts, texts that mix words and images. These multimodal texts may also include other components of one’s environment, such as sounds, music movements, and bodily sensations (Gee 17). With Gee’s literacy definition, he recognizes that “language is not the only important communication” (17). Understanding the way language works in semiotic domains, where words, images, and movement are brought to life in ways that are dependent on a group’s particular value system is deemed true literacy (Gee 19).

Upon first glance, it may appear to be a far distinction between video games and understanding the dynamics that exist in the many semiotic domains that encompass reality. However, Gee’s analysis of these semiotic domains is what we as educators categorize as authentic critical thinking. As our students play videogames, they are ultimately learning about “design spaces that manipulate us in certain ways and that we can manipulate in certain ways” (Gee 36). In many of these video games, just as in life, the individual has to learn the social constructs of a world that he or she did not create as well as the rules and regulations that sustain that world. You must analyze, synthesize, and interpret information within the fictional semiotic domain, in order to either get to the next level or  prevent facing your own mortality. Of course, with a video game, you may receive an opportunity to start over and your mistakes may not be finalized; however, Gee goes beyond the simplicity of the game and is able to relate it to the critical analysis skills that one will need to survive in life. As educators, we are supposed to encourage our students to analyze the semiotic domains of various systems, including government, financial structures, group cultures and organizations. The fictional realm of the videogame may give students the opportunity to practice using these skills in various forums, where the stakes are not as high or detrimental.

Due to the saturation of digital media, it is no longer a simple choice whether or not an educator should embrace digital media. If we do not teach students how to filter between the positive and negative aspects of digital media, it will be detrimental to their development. The true question should be how do we as educators teach students the advantages of utilizing digital media to enhance their knowledge, as opposed to stand by and watch them be swallowed up in the pitfalls of nonsensical information. In James P. Purdy’s “Wikipedia is Good for You!?,” he states that students are “going to use Wikipedia as a source for writing assignments regardless of cautions against it, so it is more helpful to address ways to use it effectively than to ignore it” (205). Just as James Gee understands the reality of video games in the lives of students and the dangers in simply dismissing digital media, so does Purdy. The exclamation point and the question mark in the title of his essay (“Wikipedia is Good for You!?) eludes to the positive aspects as well as the questionability of digital media, such as Wikipedia.

Yes, Wikipedia may lack reliability because anyone can contribute to the site, regardless of their background or qualifications and the variabilities in the work offer many inconsistencies (Purdy 207-8). However, Purdy argues that students can be taught how to use the website as a source for ideas and links to texts that may be useful to one’s own research, as opposed to being cited directly (209). Purdy encourages educators to treat the digital media as a tool, as opposed to a setback. Analyzing the distinct qualities of the digital world will help students understand how to make the necessary distinctions in the validity of sources. If we do not help our students to develop this skill, they will remain lost and  unable to successfully navigate a technologically-driven  world. The digital entities never remain in the infantile stages of development, therefore, neither should our students.

*James Gee and James Purdy offer many valid ideas on the power of changing one’s perception about the platform that is used to present knowledge.

Further questions that can be explored are:

1. Should the use of digital entities, such as video games and Wikipedia, be considered educational tools as opposed to educational setbacks, due to the major influence that they have on our students’ worlds? Explain.

2. How would you utilize digital media within your own classroom, so that the educational validity is clearly evident to your colleagues and supervisors? Explain.

 

Posted in 11 Technology.


From Role Playing to Playing the Role of a Teacher

Our assigned reading this week, an excerpt from James Paul Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, really “spoke” to me.  It brought me back to a part of my educational history I left out of my literacy narrative: my history with video games.  Perhaps I didn’t translate video games as easily to literature as comic books.  Maybe I, too, have my own prejudices, as an adult, about the relevance of video games.  However, Gee’s Chapter 2: “Semiotic Domains: Is Playing Video Games a ‘Waste of Time’?” brought me back–and it brings me forward.

 

Gee’s chapter opens up with a very good point: “Images, symbols, graphs, diagrams, artifacts, and many other visual symbols are significant, more so today than ever. Furthermore, words and images are very often juxtaposed and integrated”(17).  Gee calls these texts multimodal, that is, they mix words and images.  To this, I pose the question: are people who are better at multimodal literacy “better off” in our increasingly internet and sign/symbol-driven twenty-first century culture?  Are video game nerds and comic book nerds, dare I say, better suited for social interaction than, say, graduate students of English who spend hours in the Rosenthal library scrutinizing Chaucer, Henry James, Barthes and Saussure?

 

The thesis of Gee’s chapter is “semiotic domains,” which he describes as “an area or set of activities where people think, act, and value in certain ways”(19).  The author gives the reader several examples of these domains: law, rap songs, academic essays, and, yes, even the beloved superhero comics of my youth.  Gee validates these different communities for their different practices.  They require different modalities (language, signs, symbols, etc.) for communication.  Indeed, all of these “semiotic domains” or to use academic parlance-disciplines-has different rules and requirements for membership.  The question I have here is: how do these “semiotic domains” affect your understanding of the word, “literacy,” which we have been using all semester?

 

Gee makes an another excellent point on pages 22 and 23, where he compares basketball with other domains like math and science.  This analogy illustrates what Gee calls “the problem of content”(22); it’s not that children (or adults, ahem) are not learning when they play video games, but what are these people learning?  Gee lightly touches on the issue that too much focus is placed on content.  If this focus on content were applied to basketball, then a textbook on basketball would be very isolated when read by students who have never seen or played a game themselves.  Gee postulates that we do this with math and physics.  He then describes an extended example involving learning about the theory of Newtonian physics without a practical understanding of said semiotic domain.  I wonder–in our class’ concern about reading and writing, is too much value placed on theory?  What about the practices of reading and writing?  Are we, as teachers, placing too little emphasis on writing in our classes (what of our personal lives)?  What would Sandra Perl, Stanley Fish, and Peter Elbow say about these questions?

 

Are video games a waste of time?  Gee would have us believe not.  This is just another area of “semiotic domain,” one which requires active and critical learning to be successful–just like the disciplines of English or English education.  I grew up loving RPGs–role playing video games: Final Fantasy games, mainly.  I also liked side-scrolling video games where the player takes on a hero role: Castlevania, Mega Man, and the all-too-familiar Super Mario Bros games.  As I got older, I traded my video game consoles for longer, deeper novels and literary theory textbooks.  Perhaps something is to be said for looking “outside the box” involving multimodal literacies.  Hmm.  After all, how many of you have never seen the following words (and you know you’re fibbing if you have to suppress a chuckle): “I’M SORRY BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!”?

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A Very Pricey Pineapple

Hi All,

My principal shared this NY Times article with us this week.  It’s a response to the “Talking Pineapple” question on the recent NYS standardized exam in which the author speaks to a lot of the topics and concerns we were chatting about last week.  Just thought I’d share.  See you all on Monday!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/collins-a-very-pricey-pineapple.html?_r=3&comments

 

 

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