Wednesday, September 12, 2007
We'll be talking about academic literacy issues in the two-year college. I almost even remembered what I intended to say about it when I saw my title yesterday.
I'm sorry I've been out of touch with the blog world lately. I posted a little about that yesterday over at my Drupal place. I still intend to consolidate my various blogging efforts over at the other site eventually, but I still have some work yet to get that one up to speed. This blog is a comfortable old friend. I'll probably keep posting here for a time until I feel like I have things in place a little better on the other one.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Then we got past the bridge and skirted the city to make our way to the airport. I knew that things were in shambles. I'd spent a lot of time looking at the shambles. Still, the plowing up of one person's shambles while someone else's still just sits there empty and irreparable is almost too hard a thing to take in. Even Walmart is abandoned. Walmart. I don't know why that bothers me so much, but you have to know that if Walmart can't bounce back the little guy doesn't stand a chance.
I had only recently returned from a conference in Biloxi where it was the absence of a beachfront Waffle House that irked me. Don't ask me why. I'm just weird that way. I've always been drawn to the things that were a little out of place to begin with, and I loved that Waffle House that looked out at the water in one direction and the antebellum homes in the other.
People like to talk about the sense of place in the South, and I can tell you that when absolutely every familiar landmark is gone or changed or damaged, it physically disrupts every fiber of your identity, every ounce of being in you that understands who you are. I no longer have an accurate map in my head of entire towns I've known my whole life. It feels like amnesia.
I was glad to meet Daisy in New York. I very much appreciated her discussion of Katrina and the New Orleans bloggers--the way the blogs filled in where the mainstream media failed, the way people have continued to blog as a means of healing and of activism.
It's so easy to forget. If you even drive a few miles away where things are better, you can forget just how far New Orleans and many other coastal towns have to go. It's far easier to forget than to remember, but we can't afford to forget. Next year CCCC will be in New Orleans, but it will be in an area that will appear to be okay, mostly. "The Isle of Denial," people are calling it. Don't let it fool you. Don't come and go from New Orleans without getting out to see the real story. It will, even a year from now, be far from over.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Not only has the norm started to greatly exceed desirable levels, but
significant numbers of instructors are teaching well above the mean. The
survey found that more than 20 percent of writing instructors
at community colleges teach between 111 and 130 students each semester.
And 9 percent report teaching 131 to 150 students a semester.
These numbers sound just plain easy to me.
Of course this is a travesty. Of course the students are not getting the best instruction they could. Of course we need to all be fighting to bring the course loads and class sizes down.
It's also interesting to me that the very people who teach argument are often the first to address an issue from only one perspective.
There are factors beyond the ideals of the best possible instruction. This is also an economic issue. Who/how/where do the funds come in to accomplish reducing work loads for instructors? We're not talking about chump change. Not only would my school need to hire more people to bring down class sizes, we'd also need new facilities. Lots of expensive new facilities, buildings which would in turn necessitate the aquisition of new property.
Of course that money should be invested in our community colleges. Of course it's worth it to build new buildings and hire new teachers and adopt more technologies and bring our numbers closer to ideal or even to average.
It's a poor area, a rural area in which many students struggle just for gas money to get to class.
Do we want to increase tuition? Do we want to reduce salaries? Do we want to increase taxes?
Out of which turnip do we extract the blood to make our preferred move?
Part of the mission of the community college is to bring education to the home grown, to those who might not otherwise be able to afford a college degree. We have to consider the economy of this reality even as we reach to improve the circumstances through which we teach.
Community college teachers for the most part, I believe, are very grounded in their realities, and they work very hard to give their students the best education they can in the conditions they have. Like my colleagues, I too like to vent about my lot in life, but I am constantly reminded that this is the life I chose. I serve my purpose, and I do my job, and I do the best I can where I am and with what I have to work with. It's hard work. It's often frustrating because I know I can't always do things the way I think they ought to be done, and I don't always have control over decisions that I think ought to be made one way or another.
It's also very rewarding, though, and people who don't see it that way should probably choose to do something else.
Work for change. Work to raise awareness. Work to promote proper funding for our community colleges. Just don't whine about the stupid administrators who don't understand how they ought to be staffing our classes without stopping to consider the financial difficulties involved.
Monday, March 26, 2007
It was especially good to see the bloggers--Mike, Joanna, Dennis, Bradley, Clancy, Daisy, Timna, Lanette, Sharon (the other), et al. And does it count that I saw the back of Collin's head while I listened to Clancy speak?
I also got to see a little of New York. This is a pretty big deal for a woman from South Mississippi. Let me just say about this that I challenge any of you to keep up with Nell Ann Pickett. She might be 72, but those little legs keep going and going. I think we walked through all of Manhattan on Saturday. Then we went to the Metroplitan Museum and kept walking at the end of the day. A good time was had by all.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I'm just rolling in from two back-to-back conferences, TYCA-SE and CFTTC. Someone please remind me next proposal season that sometimes everything does get accepted, and life just isn't long enough to do everything. But what the heck. Both conferences were wonderful, and I'd fired up and ready to take on the world even if I am too tired to lift a finger.
Something kept nagging at me, though, as I listened to the fervor over podcasting in both places. Inevitably, once anyone started talking about podcasting everyone in the room wanted to know everything they could about it. It seems lots of college presidents have issued the mandate to "Go forth and podcast." People everywhere are anxious to learn. Some are anxious to share what they know. Yet somehow we've also made a kind of cool club out of the word podcasting in which the term itself is used in a spirit that shuts people out.
Over an over I heard people say, "Oh, no. If you only post audio online, that's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files."
I'm well aware that technopurism defines podcasting as both episodic and available by subscription, but there are a lot of other great possibilities for digital audio in education. Many we haven't even discovered yet.
There's nothing wrong per se with limiting the term podcasting to mean only one kind of delivery for digital audio. The problem is that podcasting is the cool word, and we don't have one that sounds as savvy and impressive to bandy about for all of the other things we might do. Hence, we have people saying things like "That's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files." As if anything else is less cool and less important.
I don't mind a little technolitism here and there, but this particular variety of it was a constant at two very different conferences. I found it terribly counter-productive.
I think we can safely assume that most people who go to conferences to talk about technology genuinely want to share their knowledge in a way that is helpful to others. Saying things like "that's not really podcasting," however informative it might be, is not exactly helpful. It shuts people out. It makes people feel like the learning curve is insurmountable. It discourages them from experimenting with one little step at a time on the path to technotopia.
Therefore, Sharon needs a new word. Help me out, world. What can we call non-subscription based digital audio that will sound just as cool as podcasting?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
The controversy might be the most excitement we've had in years. Add to this that the MySpace ban also affected our campus connection to Thomson.turnitin.com, and things have been downright chaotic. My students now joke that anything that goes wrong is a result of the MySpace ban.
It might take a little while, but sooner or later whatever is troubling the rest of world makes its way to Mississippi.
There are good arguments for the ban, though I don't agree with the sheer nervousness over what the students might be up to on there. My only real concession to the ban is that our campus isn't prepared to have massive numbers of students building social lives around our school computers. They were overwhelming our labs. Immediately before the ban, I walked into one of the student labs and saw nothing but MySpace. It was something to behold--a whole sea of social networking probably among people who could have gotten up and walked across the room to speak to each other.
Still, there's a lot to be said for students feeling like they do have a social network at school. In the old days, three or four years ago, we were often told that students who got involved socially on campus were much more likely to stay in school. To our way of thinking way back then this meant clubs and organizations. Maybe it means something else today. Maybe it is time for the campus to reorganize to meet the needs of the students rather than the other way around. Maybe.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
New Blogger is cool. It has drag and drop template editing and other nice additions. It is also associated with Google Accounts, so presumably I could type my stuff in Google Docs and post it directly from there to my blog. I haven't tried that yet, but it's still cool to know I could.
I've also gotten my students on board with the New Blogger. This is a real work in progress, but it's been a fun, productive class, and we all feel like we've accomplished something just by getting everyone signed on to Gmail and Blogger.
So how's it going, blogosphere? I'd say I was sorry for not being more faithful to the blog lately, but I'll just wait to see if I get any better before I bother. Busy, busy days. More later...