Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Watchtower

  After reading Selfe and Hawisher, "The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class," I really started to think about this notion of the www as an omnipotent watchtower.

   I love blogging and making my ideas heard, but I have become so fearful about putting anything online. First of all, I fear that if I post about a similar idea that’s been published under my authorship for the digital textbook company that’s employed me for the past 5 years, then I could possibly be sued for using my own ideas. I’m not sure how all that works, but it is a general fear of mine. Once I sell my ideas/writing, then they’re not mine to share anymore, right?

 Another reason that I fear the omnipotent 'watchman' is that I don’t ever want my ideas, thoughts, or rants taken out of context or ever used against me.  In many ways, I feel like I have to restrict myself so much, that it almost sucks out any inspirational or creative ideas that I have.  My feelings of restriction don’t come from this class, but rather from the notion that these will be public and recorded ideas that could be viewed/shared and/or taken out of context in any way.

   I recently had a colleague send a string of email excerpts about a problem she was having with the administrators’ requests about our department at school, and she included notes from all the other English Experts to use as support for her argument to them. She didn’t present my ideas in any ill form, but the notion that someone was taking excerpts of my emails, and using them in conjunction with other people’s emails, which were not even related to my messages, was completely astonishing. I don’t think she had any malicious intent, but the whole idea that someone can just string pieces of conversations like that together really freaks me out.

   It’s almost like we’re constantly being interviewed, and we know whatever we say could possible be shared publically or easily taken out of context. This notion of the ‘watchtower’ has really made me cautious about many things…

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NCTE Belief: Writing grows out of many different purposes

Some things that are on my mind in relation to P3...

Regardless of the purpose for writing, I think essential criteria for instruction and curriculum should allow choice in order to determine which purpose will best suit a student's mode of writing: 

If the first cardinal rule is “Give students some real choice of assignments so that they want to do them and you can be sure  that any problems will result from true compositional difficulties, not from poor motivation,” the second cardinal rule is “Put writing to some realistic use after it is done, and make clear in advance writing what that purpose and audience are.” Assignment directions and directions should stipulate purpose if it’s not distinctly implied there or elsewhere. (Moffett 25)

There is no reason that all students should be expected to write the same texts in the same way; students must be allowed to make choices that will make them comfortable in their writing endeavors. Also, students must be given the freedom to write pieces that are prevalent to their lives. “Don’t assume that only some books are for the ‘bright’ students and some for the ‘dummies.’…Above all you can have your students make their own selections. Don’t forget that independent reading is one of the goals” (Purves et. al 78). Many of the readings and writing assignments should focus on the students’ opinions, beliefs, and thoughts—while using multiple writing purposes as a foundation. It’s important for students to be able to integrate their own voice and thoughts into their reading and writing practices. 

   Students must also be made aware of the purposes for their writing activities; they need to know why it’s important for them to complete certain writing assignments. “Rather than merely empathizing (or not) with a particular character, for example, students can be taught to question how specific readings are produced, and why” (Mellor  516). Students must be exposed to various perspectives and purposes in writing in order to intrigue their interest of writing functions. Through an increased understanding of writing objectives, students will be able to understand the purpose and expected intentions in their writing activities.

   Good writing style isn’t something that’s achieved overnight; it takes a lot of practice. As with reading comprehension, there is no “one way” to teach writing style. Students must develop their own writing style, at their own pace. If the students are able to identify the main objectives and purposes for their writing, then they will be far more likely to communicate their ideas and thoughts effectively. 

  As with any developed talent, constant practice is the best key to substantial achievement. The more students practice writing in various genres and formats, the more comfortable and confident they will become. Students should be exposed to constant writing practices in order for them to develop an idiosyncratic method of writing techniques, style, and voice.

     Students must be given flexibility with their writing practices. With so many various genres of literature available, it’s essential that students not only read a multitude of texts, but that they learn how to write using various methods of purpose. Also, in order for students to discover their individual writing style and tone, they must be exposed to a broad range of writing practices in various genres; this will allow them to find the genres and narrative perspectives that they're most comfortable writing. Students must learn to write multiple genres of texts for carious purposes and adapt these writing techniques to multiple forms of narratives. Writing isn’t a one-way street; it needs to be an amalgamation of pathways leading to a specific destination.

Mellor, Bronwyn & Patterson, Annette. "Critical practice: Teaching Shakespeare." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (2002): 43(6) 
Moffett, James. "Introduction: Background." In J. Moffett Active Voice (1981): 1-26. NJ: Boynton/Cook
Purves, Alan C., Rodgers, Theresa,  and Soter, Anna O. (1995). "If literature is exploration, what’s the territory and who’s the guide."

   A. Purves, et al. How Porcupines Make Love III, (1995):77-88. NY: Longman.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

RFID and the Rapture?

I’ve been meaning to write my reflections on Halavais’s Search Engine Society since I finished reading it, but this is literally the first opportunity I’ve had all week. There were several things about the book that peaked my interest, but the concept that has stuck with me the most is in the closing chapter when Halavais starts talking about RFID tags.

As I read the descriptions of such, I couldn’t help but recall some memories from my childhood… I know it’s not generally polite to speak about religion, etc. in such open forums, so I’m not really sure how to approach this subject, but I’ll try my best not to offend anyone…

Throughout my childhood I was raised in a very strict Assemblies of God household, and through the 80’s there was a huge influx of Evangelistic Christian doctrine whose rhetoric my parents’ deeply adopted. Thankfully, they’ve come to their senses in many ways, and let’s just say that my childhood experiences have made me less than enthusiastic about being religious or about scrupulous conformity in any form.

Anyways, when I was young there was this Christian propaganda film that was very popular, that was based off the book by Lee Kedrie, A Thief in the Night: Unraveling the Mystery of Technology, Prophecy, and Christ’s Return.

In the story the Rapture, or Christ’s return, occurs and millions of people go missing from the Earth. Those who remain will have a second chance at redemption if they avoid any earthly things, repent, and get their heads cut off (yeah, my parent’s let me watch that, but I wasn’t allowed to watch Scooby Doo because there were ghosts and sorcerers—go figure). So toward the end of the story all those who basically choose to “be of earthly things” are given things that are somewhat like RFID tags or identification chips implanted in them. Those who resist the earthly things and chose to repent had to resist the temptation to immerse themselves in such technologies. Without such tags, they weren’t able to buy groceries or be part of any public service or do much of anything. Their resistance was representative of their resistance of the devil.

After so many years of trying to clear my mind of this type of rhetoric and ideologies, it’s strange to hear similar things actually come to fruition.  I wonder if the invention and expansion of such things will only play into these religious ideals and beliefs. I mean I’m sure there are plenty of Christians out there that could easily use these technologies as proof that the end is near.

I also wonder if some of this rhetoric is what makes some people so resistant to technologies? Halavais says that with such tags, almost everything has the potential to be identifiable. I think these technologies can be useful in many ways, but I do see how they can also seem intrusive to our privacy. 

I guess in a sense we’re trading our privacy for some convenience. Who knows what will come in the future. All I can say for now is that my daughter will most learn about things like RFID tags from their emerging presence in our lives, but however she learns about them, it won’t be in the same way I did –that’s for certain. 

P.S. Sorry if I offended anyone, I love you all : ) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Code-Switching—NCTE Belief: Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships

As part of P1, I’ve become a member of the NCTE Ning Page. There is a group about the 11 NCTE beliefs. After reading the belief that, "Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships," I think that literate practices are not only imbedded in complex social relationships, but that all subject area teachers must learn how to view their students and students’ perspectives from diverse points of view. 
Many of the issues dealt with in this belief avoid speaking about the importance of these concepts while developing strong teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships. These beliefs barely touch on the importance of a teacher’s ability to code-switch. As I taught, I found myself constantly code-switching, and I believe it was my ability to do so, which helped me to develop strong relationships with the students and their parents. 

Instruction about the ability to “code-switch” can often be difficult and complicated, but I do believe that there are several things that people and teachers can do in order to become more efficient at doing so. First of all, it’s essential for teachers to read a variety of literature from various perspectives about different cultures, societies, histories and origins. All teachers should become well versed in a variety of world literature and other multi-cultural literature. These pieces will give teachers insight into worlds and lives unknown to them. Also, teachers must become constant learners and listeners. When we encounter people with different cultures, origins, or background from ourselves, then we must take those opportunities to gain insight into other personal perspectives. 

We must learn to get to know people for who they are. We all have common threads in our lives and communities despite our cultural differences, and finding those commonalities can also be a strength in developing code-switching abilities. Teachers must also be willing to listen to the students, and try to see things from a teenage perspective. Teachers often avoid attending to the obvious differing perspectives of age, but that is one of the greatest distances between a teacher and student. 

We must realize that our high school students are not adults, and we can’t be surprised when they don’t act that way. Teenagers might overreact, be emotional, and dramatic, and we shouldn’t just brush it off as if it doesn’t matter. We need to see that their issues, as trivial as they may seem to us, are important and meaningful to them and their lives. Once we begin to understand one another, then we will be able to move ahead with positive social interactions.