Archive for September, 2009

Here are some free programs you can download to work on the third phase of the project:

Image manipulation

Photo slideshow: If you make a slideshow of photographs, you will need to upload it to YouTube in order to embed it on your blog. If you need help with this, let me know.

  • Windows Movie Maker
  • iMovie
  • DivX Author
  • Zamzar (tutorial on zamzar.com) (This application lets you convert YouTube videos to files you can use in other programs, like Windows Movie Maker)
  • YouTube


3D Image Creation

In addition to these options, sites like osalt.com list open source alternatives to more expensive programs.

Like I’ve said, I usually learn many of these things via trial and error, and I haven’t used a lot of these. All I’m saying is, you can find stuff for free.

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In an age of distractions, the New York Times comments on early childhood development; it made me think of Danielle’s Ad Council laundry PSA.

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It occurred to me that in all the time I spent articulating what to do for project three, I never really stated why I think it’s important. So, here goes.

First of all, in learning about reading and writing, the visual is often overlooked. Advertisements, billboards, web banners, and other visual texts all use rhetorical situations and design techniques to make meaning and messages that we are exposed to daily, often without conscious consideration. This project, then, hopes to get us engaged with reading (and responding to) visual texts (phase one). This step asks us to be critical consumers of visual texts (specifically Ad Council PSAs that have links to education awareness initiatives), and a lot of class time will be spent using tools that give us ammunition to be critical of the visual texts we read.

The second phase of the project, watching the film, is a way to meet with a group of emerging experts to see and discuss how Hollywood portrays or engages some of the issues that have been currents in our discussion of Gregory Michie’s See You When We Get There and the teacher narratives located in the book.

The third phase of the project switches your role from critical consumer of visual texts to producer of visual texts. In projects one and two, it was, perhaps, easy to imagine ourselves producing these teacher genres (or approximations of teacher genres) in the future. Designing visual texts, however, is something I think of as a hidden teacher genre. As a teacher, you will to use design and technology, from things like setting up or decorating the classroom space to designing activities for students displayed through an LCD projector. You will often not have instruction on or support for using technology in the classroom but will be expected to learn it anyway through a process of trial and error (at least, that was my experience). Even PowerPoint presentations (which have become a ubiquitous classroom technology) blend visual and textual elements, and I’m sure you have seen certain PowerPoint presentations and lectures that wow you with their design and others that are barely functional within that genre. To the best of my knowledge, pre-service teachers (and those of you entering other fields) do not get much experience in composing with technology because the status quo in universities is still print, alphabetic text.

These concepts are the rationale behind creating a visual textual project for a composition course:

  • engage with visual texts, visible rhetoric, and design elements as consumers and producers of these texts
  • learn to use low-tech or high-tech technological devices and design through trial and error that may affect your teaching practice later on
  • continue to engage with currents and issues in urban education
  • have fun and try new things

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NYT Article: Schools Look Abroad to Hire Teachers

UNESCO Education for All: 15 to 30 million more teacher needed worldwide

Is the United States overstepping its bounds by consuming too much of another precious global resource? I’m talking about teachers this time. According to the New York Times, 19,000 teachers are working in the US on temporary visas, and the number is on the rise.

On the other hand, UNESCO’s Education for All initiative hopes to train 15 to 30 million more teachers worldwide by 2015 (six years from now!) to achieve their goals.

Is the practice of hiring international teachers to work in inner city teaching jobs in the US really undermining the push for more teachers in third world, sub-Saharan nations?

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At the end of the day, cliches are as American as apple pie. My writing teachers used to tell me, “when stuck between a rock and a hard place, don’t beat around the bush, use cliches.” At the time I was wet behind the ears and waiting for the cows to come home when pigs fly, so I felt dumber than a box of rocks when I tried to get down to brass tacks. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t tell my ass from a hole in the ground, so I was glad to learn every gray cloud has a silver lining. Writing is feast or famine, so it’s best to just go with the flow.

I felt like a fish out of water when I first put pen to paper, but from humble beginnings come great things. I said to myself “don’t put the cart before the horse, go at a snail’s pace.” Even if your nutty as a fruitcake, there’s nothing new under the sun to write, especially if you’re stone cold sober.

I learned if I just keep on  truckin’, I’d soon have more writing than you can shake a stick at. If you just take it one day at a time, eventually you’ll hit paydirt and write something that will make others green with envy.  If not, shit happens.

So don’t just sit there looking as useless as tits on a bull; there’s no time like the present to try your hand at writing. Then again, maybe cliches are not my cup of tea, and perhaps I’ve only opened a can of worms by giving cliches a place in the sun. Anyhoo, I’ve never been too good at seeing the forest for the trees. Perhaps it’s best to just wash my hands of the whole thing, but you can bet your bottom dollar that every bump in the night can turn an armchair quarterback into an old pro when it comes to writing.

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Judging by some confusion expressed by many students on the blogs, I wanted to mention that no research is required for project two. The first two projects are focused on examining your ideals as future teacher and present student.

When we begin project three next week, however, we will be doing some investigations into the realities of teaching in urban environments. Reading Gregory Michie’s book is the first part of that investigation. The books you checked out will hopefully help you to get ahead a bit on that research, rather than having to do it all within the confines of a project.

We went to the blog because the majority of you expressed interest in class to learn about the library and its research potential; we went on Tuesday because that is when Professor Sharkey had time to work with us.

One point that perhaps needs to be made explicit is that the print resources of the library (books), though vast and visible, are not the primary research tool for scholarly work anymore. The “Hidden Web” resources Professor Sharkey described are the most valuable resource the library has now. In that sense, the site of the library is more virtual, more of an idea (although Milner is obviously a real place).

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Now that we visited the library and heard Professor Jennifer Sharkey’s lecture on research, I’m interested in hearing your response in a 321 Response. Please compare and contrast what you did to reserach writing assessment with the information Professor Sharkey presented to us.

  • What did you learn that you did not know before?
  • How does what you do naturally to research a topic compare with the scholarly strategies your professors might expect?
  • How will you be able to apply what you learned immediately, both in 101 and your other classes?
  • Did you expect to learn anything that was not covered by Professor Sharkey’s presenation?
  • What book did you seek out? Did you find it? What other book did you find while in the stacks seemed interesting?
  • How might you imagine the books you got fitting into upcoming projects?

Thank you for participating, and I look forward to seeing your blog responses.

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Ron Lieber, a personal economics columnist/blogger for The New York Times recently weighed in on why college costs continue to rise in a time of deep economic recession (private colleges were proud of last year’s 4.3% increase, the lowest in 37 years and only slightly higher than inflation) in a “Your Money” blog piece.

While my jaw drops to know that high-end private schools cost $50k a year or more and I shudder at the notion of possibly accepting a job at a college or university whose price tag has to, almost by default, classify the school as elitist, I found myself really burned up by some of the article, mainly the way Lieber re-purposes the university as a place of “basic education.”

First, Daniel H. Weiss, president of Lafayette College, and Lieber blame tenured faculty as obstructing the ever-more-common corporate restructuring model in US colleges:

“In some ways, higher education is more like a political environment than the management of a private corporation,” Mr. Weiss said. Except that thanks to tenure, it is difficult to vote anyone out of office. Still, he added, “Alienating some of your faculty members, if you can avoid it, is something you shouldn’t be doing.”

Lieber goes on to endorse the department-cutting model that has been popularized by recent cuts in public education at the elementary and secondary levels in the so-called expensive and unnecessary subject areas of fine arts, music, and agriculture.

Then again, the article argues that “An English student, however, is generally a profit center.” English students, under a traditional notion of English, does not require much cost, as the trend is to have English courses in traditional, technology-free classrooms. Doing English, in other words, doesn’t require the money it takes for the lab work of the hard sciences or the one-on-one training of music. (This same idea has been a part of the rise of MFA writing programs, which can also be a cash cow for struggling private colleges, but that’s a matter for another post.)

In addition to departmental restructuring as part and parcel of the new corporate university, Lieber goes on to question the workload of most tenured faculty members, who at Lafayette teach a 3/2 load in order to allow time for faculty to do research in order to stay current on departmental trends.

Of course, the question of whether research and the sabbaticals (to which faculty are accustomed) make them better teachers remains an uncertain issue. In the corporate university, the obvious answer is that these concepts do not make financial sense, as qualitative, humanistic ideas like recharging one’s vigor for and interest in their discipline cannot be translated into dollars and cents.

Lieber fails to account for the current misuse of adjunct faculty populations, a seemingly disposable work force for higher education. Adjunct professors, possibly once imagined as part-time positions, are now prime for exploitation as full-time adjuncts are sometimes forced to teach 7 or more classes per semester, often at several different institutions, without benefits, in order to make ends meet (at about $1000 per class on the lower end).

Lieber argues that universities are running into a kind of financial ceiling by pricing themselves out of reach for most Americans in the contemporary economic environment. Other factors contributing to the problem are the rising cost of non-faculty salaries (administrators) and security costs in the wake of tragedies at Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech, to note only the most prominent.

In the end, Lieber offers the solution of faster graduation times, which leads to the mentality that the college experience is more of a “degree mill” rather than a time period for holistic development of students, involving educational and social aspects as students transition from parental support to being independent citizens.

Lieber’s questions to end the article is an important one:

The question all of us have to ask now is whether the price of that transformative experience is simply too dear — and whether a basic education ought to be the highest (or maybe only) priority.

This notion matches up with the notion that the days of high school education sufficing for what is required of the average US citizen are gone (I read elsewhere that people with a BA can expect to earn 73% more than those with only a high school diploma over their working life, dang it if I can remember where).

The way things are now, a college degree of some type is almost essential, and this is the site of political struggle, as entire college departments are developing strategic plans to assert there own necessary-ness, entrenching themselves in the emerging university. These plans tend toward serving the college student as a customer, rather the old notion of the university as a place to pursue a depth and breadth of knowledge, moving to extend the boundaries of that concept.

How do you view (your) higher education? Is it a service you are paying for (money + student + classes + degree = career)? Are you here to expand your horizons and change yourself by exposing your mind to different viewpoints and ways of knowing? Are these concepts mutually exclusive? Is college the new high school in the US education system?

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Steven D. Krause, a professor at Eastern Michigan who specializes in in compsition, rhetoric and blogging, recently weighed in on the Obama school speech controversy, relating how the immediacy of communication disrupts the traditional notion of rhetorical situations. Read it here.

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Class will be meeting in Milner Library on Tuesday, September 15 during the normal class time in room 164D (downstairs from the lobby). In order to be ready for the session:

  • please do some research into writing assessment practices using whatever method of research you already know and feel comfortable with
  • use the references section from See You When We Get There (p. 202-205) to choose a book to read for upcoming projects (he also mentions a number of books in the chapters themselves)
  • we will be doing an additional research exercise in the library stacks following our training session on Tuesday
  • FYI LC5131 on the sixth floor is the section of books on urban education

Thank you in advance for doing this preparatory work, and I’ll see you in the library on Tuesday.

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