Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I formatted this more or less like an outline, with each basic section planned as an individual blog entry:


Introduction Entry

Why blogs?
              -Intersections of public and private writing
              -Exploring audience, genre, and civic participation
              -Community building
  •               Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog
  •               Educational Blogging
  •               Learning to Write Publicly: Promises and Pitfalls of Using Weblogs in the Classroom
  •               The Year of the Blog
  •               Writing and Citizenship: Using Blogs to Teach First-Year Composition

Why place?
               -Place as rhetoric
               -Place and identity
               -Place and citizenship
  • Blogging Places: Locating Pedagogy in the Whereness of Weblogs
  • Rural Voices: Place Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing
  • The Locations of Composition

Blog 1: Prework Entry
  • Category PreWriting
    • Tentative Topic
  • Research Plan
  • Entry Outline
  • Modal Planning/Considerations

Blog 1: Local History Entry

Topic: Naming Athens and Ohio University

Blog 2 Prework Entry
  • Category PreWriting
    • Tentative Topic
  • Research Plan
  • Entry Outline
  • Modal Planning/Considerations

Blog 2: Local Culture/Language Entry

Topic: Scotch-Irish Influences on Local Dialect

Blog 3: Prework Entry
  • Category PreWriting
    • Tentative Topic
  • Research Plan
  • Entry Outline
  • Modal Considerations

Blog 3: Local Issues Entry

Topic: Ohio University Beyond Coal

Blog 4: Final Reflections Entry

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tentative Project Proposal

My proposed assignment asks students to compose multimodal blog entries on a variety of locally-based topics, in order to allow them opportunities for exploring the rhetorical nature of the places they inhabit. They would also be gaining skills and experience in the construction of place-based knowledge and identities, skills Lindgren proposes are necessary for healthy citizenship in a given environment.

As it currently stands, the proposed assignment requires 4 separate blog entries, each one with a topic to be chosen from a specific category:

Blog 1, due week 3: Local geography and history

Blog 2, due week 5: Local language and culture

Blog 3, due week 7: Contemporary social issues (explore, explain, and/or argue a local issue)

Blog 4, due week 9: Reflection

For the final project, I would like to follow through with my proposed place-blogging assignment, completing each aspect from the point of view of a potential student. In doing so, I hope to explore each aspect's feasibility as well as to provide students with a specific example of the kinds of composing I would like them to do for such an assignment.

Specifically, I would be required to do the following:
-freewrite/plan in order to narrow a workable blog topic to fall within each proposed category, consider a rhetorical purpose and target audience for each entry, and decide on methods of research for each entry

-compose and post a multimodal blog entry for each proposed category

My thinking at this point is that for each of the 4 blog categories, I would post two entries. The first would show my prewriting/planning for that topic, along with extended research in the area of blogs and blogging pedagogy. The second would be the polished entry regarding the topic.


Sample Prewrite

Category 1: Local geography and history

I already know a good bit about the geography of Athens County, in part because they're so similar to the rest of southeastern Ohio and share connections with conditions throughout Appalachia. I know less about the specific history of Athens County, such as local settlement patterns, university history, local legends and myths, etc. These are things I would like to learn, and that I think are valuable to feeling like a citizen of Athens County. (I went to a talk Craig Meyer gave about his research on the Civil War experiences of Springfield, Illinois; he claimed that after all the research he felt like Springfield was his hometown, even though it wasn't, simply because he'd learned so much about it. That seems like a very powerful statement about the influence of place knowledge and our interpretations of what it means to feel at home in a place.)
In thinking about the historical conditions of Athens County, I'm realizing that, unlike my home county, I don't really know the story behind the county's naming. I'm assuming that it was named after Athens, Greece, as several locations in this area reflect classical names (Troy, Carthage, and Rome townships come to mind). Is it solely due to the influence of Ohio University? Whose idea was it? Why Athens and not another famous seat of learning (such as Miami University's town of Oxford)? What can we learn about the early county residents from this name choice?

I think it would be worth knowing this information for its own sake, but also in order to understand the rhetorical power behind such a name. Living and attending a university in a town and county named for one of the great centers of learning was intended to mean something. It's a responsibility as well as a name. My target audience for this blog entry would therefore likely be a local one, of university and county residents. However, I would like to convey something about the power of naming that could have an effect for readers in multiple locations. Place names are (usually) chosen thoughtfully and with a purpose. Maybe knowing what this purpose is can teach us something about ways to live there.

Modality: In the blog entry, I could include links to any relevant information found online. In order to better illustrate the connection between Athens, Ohio and Athens, Greece, (again, assuming this is the origin of the name), I could include images of the county's founders, the early campus, ancient Greek ruins or famous Athenian intellectuals. If a personal interview becomes necessary in order to ascertain information, I could record and post it on the blog (assuming, again, that I could accomplish this).

Research Plan: My first source would probably be an internet scan, as most counties have a webpage, visitor's bureau, and a historical society that could give me more information about county origins. Beyond that, the reading room at Alden Library's rare book collection has copies of Ohio county histories which would likely prove useful. Failing this, direct contact with staff at the historical society might provide needed information about the county's formation and naming. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conference Revision

Proposal Revision (Thanks, Ashley!) , CEAO Spring Conference, 2011

Amanda Hayes

Place-based Blogging as a Pedagogical Tool

In 2005, Tim Lindgren's article “Blogging Places: Locating Pedagogy in the Whereness of Weblogs” explored the nature of blogs as a means of writing ourselves into specific environments, and of encouraging, even inspiring, others to do the same. Lindgren perceived in such a practice the potential for greater environmental health and well-being available to humans with a cultivated affinity for the places they spend their lives. In this perception, Lindgren joins theorists such as Derek Owens, Sidney Dobrin and Christian Weisser, all of whom have written about the place-based nature of writing and teaching. However, Lindgren's sees the blogging genre's adaptability and wide range of potential audiences making it uniquely fitting as a form of writing adaptable to multiple physical and communicative ecologies.

However, while he explores the genre traits, pedagogical potential, and rhetorical agencies of place-based blogging, the focus of Lindgren's article never quite makes it into the classroom. And if he, along with other theorists, is correct in fearing that we as humans are forgetting how to connect beneficially with our physical and rhetorical communities, the classroom seems like an important place to cultivate these skills.

My proposal is to explore place-based blogging's function in a first-year composition environment, utilizing my experience with such a project to investigate Lindgren's theorized potential for place-blogging as a pedagogical tool. My students' blogs were intended to achieve a greater understanding for themselves and their readers, of the nature and value of place-based knowledge, community participation, and thoughtful living in a unique environment. My presentation will outline this project, exploring the ways in which place-blogging functioned, or failed to function, as a means of rhetorically and physically connecting first-year students with the campus environment, as well as providing a means of place, self, and cultural exploration.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Reflection

I'm noticing that my first blog entry was a bit of a mix between conventional academic format (I included a photo of the book's cover, and made sure I stated the title and author of the work I was analyzing) and more open writing (I notice now that I didn't go for the standard layout—introduction, discussion, conclusion). I think the reason I skipped some of the academic formalities, even though those tend to be my throwback options for unfamiliar writing situations, is that even though I'd never blogged, the blog genre is becoming increasingly pervasive in society. In other words, I'd seen blogging done even without having directly written, or even read, a blog entry myself. I'd read the book The Broke Diaries, which started as a blog, and I'd seen the film version of Julie and Julia, which incorporated blog writing into the plot. This experience of the blog genre was limited to what might be called entertainment blogging; I wasn't sure as to what sub-genres like academic blogging or political blogging within the blog sphere might look like. The result of that uncertainty was an entry that seems to mix academia with less trenchant formalities. Even my graphics echo this mixture. As stated, the first image is a photo of Wysocki's New Media; the second is a still frame from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I'm not sure I ever really stopped mixing genres and styles in my blog writing. (Of course, according to Tim Lindgren, that's what blogging is: an ecological mixture and adaptation from many genres.) I did surprise myself by the tenor of my reflections. In pretty much each entry, I focused on something that I didn't like or that troubled me, rather than something I did like or agree with:

Blog 2: disagreement with Clark's classroom dependence on Second Life—why not take real field trips?-- and her appropriation of “our” cultural identity (I'm pretty sure she and I are not culturally identical)....

Blog 3: Geoffrey Sirc's colonization of language (You don't see it? Really???)....

Blog 4: Cleary et al's attribution of wiki failures to faults with their students (if students didn't like wikis, it was their own fault, 'cause wikis are great)....

Blog 5: Multimodal Composition's comfort with teachers assigning projects they could not do themselves, which in my case is a good bit....

I think my eagerness to be negative comes from a few sources. For one thing, all my years of critical training have made me, well, critical. However, this isn't the most compelling reason; critics also explore things they liked, whereas I focused largely on the dislikes. Perhaps its because, to a large degree the things I disliked were matters of language, how the authors expressed their thoughts, and not always the thoughts themselves. This kind of analysis, of course, is what I'm comfortable with. I feel less qualified to critique multimodal composition concepts than I do language. So if we're going to get psychological, my guess would be that my technological insecurities make it easier for me to vent my dislikes. Hello, my name is Amanda, and I'm technologically insecure...

I think the most valuable aspect of the blogging assignment, with regard to my personal insecurities, was the responses from my classmates. I seriously doubted anything I could say on the subject of New Media would be worth responding to. When I did my first entry, I imagine I somewhat resembled the scrawny kid in gym class who knows they'll never get picked until the end. Only instead of “please pick me, please pick me,” it was “please write a response, please write a response.” (Of course, I was also hoping for a nice response, but I don't think academics are supposed to admit to that.) The first responses I got were from Matthew and Ashley:

Matthew said...

Like you, I'm drawn to the idea the "new media" doesn't necessarily mean new technology, but instead an emphasis on the materiality and agency inherent in different types of texts / medias.

As you say, this ensures that human thought and insight isn't separated from technology such a definition also inspires us to consider multiple forms of media and communication in terms of rhetorical / material consciousness. How much compositional awareness goes into the production of a particular textual or iconic object. More importantly, how is that object read in terms of materiality / agency.

Good post that got me thinking.

Ashley Evans said...
"For too many people, just that we can (or, I suppose, at least they can) use advanced technology is enough to make it mandatory, without significant attention as to why."

This is so perfectly worded, and it allows me to digress a bit:

There now exist jobs that are devoted entirely to social media. (I have a friend from undergrad who makes OBSCENE amounts of money simply tweeting and making goofy videos for Pancheros.) These people are paid to communicate professionally on the internet. Where are they taught the rhetorical skills--or the grammar or the importance of word choice--that helps them become successful? The composition classroom, of course!

I think my point was that so many people have jumped on the technology bandwagon that it is now unclear who should be responsible for teaching it. Or that what we are already doing in the composition classroom can transfer to any discourse community. Or that learning rhetorical strategies in essay writing can transfer. Something along those lines.

I'll admit, I was pretty close to flying after this. (I don't think anyone has ever told me I worded something perfectly before...happy sigh...) The continuing comments throughout the quarter were similar in tone; this is not to say they were all praising—though I do think I needed that in the beginning—but everything my classmates noted was done kindly and in a spirit of inquiry. In other words, no one ever called me out on my ignorances. (How dare you criticise Geoffrey Sirc?! The man's a genius! was a response I never received.)

I think my blog collection is a fairly authentic representation of where I stand now, as a student and a teacher. I've been exposed to new and unfamiliar ideas, certainly; I've done some forms of composition I never had before. And mentally, I'm somewhere in a middle territory. I've begun the process of learning, perhaps, but I'm not finished yet. Maybe I'm in the Wunderkammer state...