Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fear 2.0: the list

Here's the list of solutions to fear that was generated during our session. I'll post our videos soon.

How do you overcome fear?
  • having the conversation
  • pool your strengths
  • accountability
  • make mistakes
  • new skills
  • understand the problem
  • how to get people to pay attention
  • need a decision-making process
  • make yourself aware of what's out there
  • need a way to disseminate the information
  • appreciating the new role of faculty in embracing technology
  • working with faculty more closely
  • role of students
  • need time to adopt new technology--using students to be a part of the process to build resources
  • discovery--play around with something for a while before incorporating into courses
  • storm the walls
  • overthrow the system
  • experimenting
  • talk to students
  • preparing for constant change--perpetual beta
  • encouraging students to support faculty
  • working together
  • identity
    • know something truthful about the learner
    • learner knows something truthful about us
  • reason to use the technology
  • examples--show vs. tell
  • partnerships among faculty, students, & IT
  • appreciate the technology as a consumer
  • don't feel the need to master everything
  • faculty getting other faculty on board
  • break out of structures
  • bringing diverse people together to talk
  • naming it--find a place for it

Hello from San Antonio

I'm in San Antonio at the Educause Learning Institute annual conference. Highlights so far have been hanging out with some great and interesting people: Barbara G., Barbara S., Leslie, Martha, Brian Lamb, Alan Levine and more. I also saw Henry Jenkins and George Siemens give a couple of interesting talks. My impressions were that Jenkins wasn't provocative enough and Siemens went a little over the edge. Siemens made a pretty significant appearance in my dissertation, so I certainly respect his work, but he lacks the ability, I think to take his theory and explain its practical application. Someone in the audience actually got up and said, "I don't get it." And his explanation was just a rearticulation of the theory. Perhaps he leaves that for others to do. Jenkins, on the other hand, didn't go quite far enough to shake things up. After all, his approach uses traditional avenues--research, white papers, books. Most of what he said I'd heard before. But I do know that there are plenty of people here who need to hear what Jenkins said.

I think a conference like this tries to strike a balance between reaching those who are unaware or only vaguely aware of the bleeding edge and those who are standing right on it. It's certainly better than the main Educause conference which definitely appeals more to administrators and managers than to those working in the trenches (especially those of us working with the academic side of the house). There's still another day and a half to go and of course my talk with the four fab ladies mentioned above happens later today. Our competition: none other than Michael Wesch, whom I met last night and tried to cajole him to go to dinner with a crowd of us. I think he would have enjoyed the conversation. I do really like his work. I'm sad that I'll miss his talk.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ice Cream Rights


Day 24: Ice Cream Rights
Originally uploaded by lorda.
Maybe we shouldn't have given her that book on women's rights. We got a full-blown protest, complete with marching and chanting.

Of course, we said, "You go, Girl!"

Frontline Followup

For those of you not following the comments to yesterday's post, one of the teachers from the show, Steve Maher, has not only commented, but has a good post about some of the issues pertaining to technology and education specifically in response to a review in the Philadelphia Inquirer online.

Even if the show wasn't perfect, at least it's generated a good conversation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Growing up Online: a Review

Last night, I watched Frontline's Growing Up Online. It made some attempt to be balanced by having researchers make some positive comments about the Internet, but it only showed negative examples--a boy who commits suicide, a girl who finds forums for anorexics, another who posts risque pictures of herself, etc. I had to pause the show a lot in order to yell at the tv. First, I was shocked by how many parents had no clue. They hadn't bothered to learn email or word processing much less MySpace or Facebook. To them I say, figure it out. Set up an account. You don't have to use it all the time or at all, but you need to know what it is your kids are doing. I was also surprised by how many parents let their kids have computers in their rooms at a young age. Maybe by mid high school, a computer in the room is okay, but I still think having it in a common area is a better idea. But still, parents shouldn't try to be nosy--respect your kids' privacy. Don't lean over their shoulder every five minutes.

The worst parent was the woman who was the PTO president. She educated herself alright, by buying into the media hype about online predators. Then, when her son went to a concert among several hundred teenagers who were drinking and video-taped and photographed themselves doing so, she emailed all the other parents. As she said, about 50% of the parents thanked her for pointing out the material that had been posted online. Those parents were the clueless ones. The other 50% said either, "Mind your own business" or "What are you? Naive? This stuff happens all the time." After that, her son wouldn't talk to her, wouldn't tell her anything that was going on. In essence, she'd turned something private--an issue she had with her son--into something public, by emailing all the other parents. Ironic, I'd say. I was with the son. One commenter on the Frontline site said they thought she was doing a good job. However, I thought snooping and asking for passwords was the wrong way about it. She should have just talked to her kids. There's really not a need to pry unless you suspect something bad is happening. If you're talking to your kids regularly, you should know when something might be going on. She never said she suspected her kids of anything. She just figured they were doing bad things because the media told her so.

The discussion on the Frontline website goes back and forth about kids' rights to privacy or not, with some saying that they have no rights and others asserting that they do. I fall decidedly on the side of kids having a right to privacy. And hello, if your concern is what your kids are doing in public, then Google them, or search for them on Facebook or MySpace. That's public. And if you find something you don't like, talk to them about it. The suggestion many make about taking away the cell phone or the computer won't work. They'll use the library computer or their friends' computers. And then you'll settle into the false idea that your kids aren't online.

There was also a little bit on education and technology, with one teacher shunning technology altogether. I was rolling my eyes at her. On the other hand, I didn't appreciate the technophile saying he need to be an entertainer. If you're just using technology to entertain kids, you're doing it wrong.

All in all, I didn't think there were enough positive examples. Where are the kids who are doing creative things online? Who feel disconnected, but find good friendships online? Who use their online world to help them work through problems constructively? I think there are plenty of these. We just don't hear about them because parents aren't going to call the news show and say, hey, my son created a cool movie online.

I do think it's important to understand that bad things can happen online (just like the real world)--cyberbullying, even online solicitation--and that parents should talk to their kids about their online life. We have talked to our kids, 8 and 12, about being online, about not giving out personal information. We limit their time online. When they're online, we ask what they're doing, who they're talking to. Most of the time, even when playing online games, they're playing with kids who live down the street. When I was 12, I was on the phone all the time. My son is chatting through Runescape, mostly with people he knows. He's also already participated in a boycott online when they changed the game because of a few griefers. For now, I feel his online activity is positive. And I hope that will continue. Perhaps because both Mr. Geeky and I have online lives and we talk about the pros and cons all the time, our kids understand that being in the public eye means being responsible. That's a message that didn't get through in the Frontline piece last night. There really wasn't a middle ground. It was almost like the piece showed these kids as if they were part of another culture that we'd found on a remote island and everything they did was mysterious and odd and needed to be squelched and brought in line. We need to remember: they are us.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

I don't remember exactly when I became fascinated with the Civil Rights movement. I grew up in the south just after the whole thing was "over". My parents didn't talk about it much even though they lived--both of them--in places where it directly affected them. I suspect that my mother didn't want integration or equal rights. She would never articulate that directly, but I know her parents felt that way. She felt (feels) that equal rights are important or modern, but not in any real way. She's not outraged by evidence of inequality. My dad was probably less affected, being in a smaller town. His trajectory was different. The older he got, the more he believed in the importance of equal rights--for everyone.

Going to college in Memphis, I finally got the opportunity to face the history of the south more directly. Our poor working town a little farther north and east wasn't really touched by slavery, segregation, or civil unrest the way Memphis was. On the river, embedded in the cobblestone banks, are the large metal loops used to hook boats bringing cotton to the Cotton Exchange. In my first year, I traveled through Mississippi driving by shack after shack at the edges of now fallow fields. It wasn't hard to imagine what the area had been like a century before. And driving to my grandparents in the early fall, the road was lined with cotton that spilled off of trucks. Harvested mostly by machine, it wasn't hard to imagine the fields on either side of the road filled with people filling bags with cotton.

It seemed at once romantic and horrific to me to imagine slavery. I enrolled in African-American literature classes, reading The Bluest Eye, Meridian, The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and more. The conversations were almost always heated. There were no black students in our class and so the conversations were mostly between the sympathetic and not. Truly academic in many ways.

But then I took a class in African American history. I wanted to learn more about the events referenced in those novels. It was the most memorable class I ever took. I wouldn't consider myself an exemplary student. I did well enough, but mostly I coasted on my natural abilities rather than putting forth major effort. In this class, however, I became obsessed. I decided in my final project to write the history of the integration of our college, which occurred just before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in our city and after the public schools integrated. This required a lot of work on my part. I went to the public library and looked up old newspaper articles on other schools' integration processes, on the sanitation workers strike, on other events going on all around the college related to the Civil Rights movement. I tried to get a sense of what the social climate in the city was like. I interviewed all the first black students to enter our college, tape recording the sessions and transcribing them. I interviewed subsequent entering students. They all told me great stories, especially around their participation in Civil Rights activities. I can remember talking to one man and in the background, the clock was ticking, but otherwise, there was no noise except him talking, telling his story. I didn't interrupt. I barely breathed. I tried to get minutes from the board meeting where the decision was made to integrate the school. I was blocked. My professor and my father (an alum and a lawyer) both tried to help me get them. Our official history stated that on such and such a date, the board decided to integrate. And that was that. No discussion of whether the decision was contentious. Nothing.

That whole experience led to more classes. It led to my applying not just to creative writing programs, but an equal number of African-American studies programs. I continued to be fascinated, to take classes. But it was more than academic for me. I participated in protests. I did what I could to take an active role. I saw connections between feminism and civil rights. I could have just seen the Civil Rights movement as something that happened before my time and that was largely successful. But instead, digging into it the way I did, I understood that people died for their rights and that the untimely death of a key leader shortchanged the whole movement and that there's still much work to be done. People still die over racial issues. It may not be the KKK doing the killing anymore. The fight may not be about the blatant refusal to allow a black man to sit at the same lunch counter. But Civil Rights is as important an issue as ever.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Well, I knew I was out there

Got this via AAYOR

Note that Hillary is near the bottom for me. I've always like Kucinich, but Biden? Gravel? Gravel's kind of a nut.

89% Dennis Kucinich
87% Mike Gravel
81% Joe Biden
80% Barack Obama
79% Chris Dodd
78% John Edwards
73% Hillary Clinton
73% Bill Richardson
36% Rudy Giuliani
30% Ron Paul
29% John McCain
22% Mitt Romney
21% Mike Huckabee
12% Tom Tancredo
12% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Random Tech Stuff I've heard about

  • Apple has a new small computer
  • You can rent movies via iTunes
  • Microsoft products suck
  • Scrabble makers want Scrabulous to be removed from Facebook
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking comes out for the Mac
  • Blackboard bought and emergency notification company
  • YouTube is still huge
  • I still can't believe how much academics don't know about technology

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

RBOL: Too busy to write

Post trip and in the throes of a new school year, I have thoughts, but no time to put them down, so here's some stuff of interest:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Scholarly Collaboration in the Digital Age

I just finished up my part of a panel with Tim and Kathleen and am now sitting in a session being started off by a couple of my Haverford colleagues. The topic of scholarship and digital media or web 2.0 is one I'm particularly interested in; however, I often feel that I can't say anything much about it because of the role I currently occupy. Although I consider part of what I do scholarship, I don't think many others would consider me a scholar. I'm not sure I want to be a scholar, at least not as it's currently conceived--the isolated individual hunched over books (or maybe more contemporarily, the screen). So I think I come at the topic from a place outside of the existing community and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

I have to say that I felt my talk did not go as well as I wanted it to. It followed quite nicely from Kathleen's and Tim's, but I felt that I hadn't quite organized my thoughts in a way that took good advantage of that. I didn't have notes. Most of the time, I can work without notes, but I don't think it worked quite as well this time. But I learned something from it and its juxtaposition with Tim and Kathleen's talks.

Here's what I learned, or what I'm chewing on right now. The real work of scholarship takes place in isolation and through individual work. From that isolated position, isolated works get created and those works are read only a few people. There are exceptions to this, of course, and the sciences are much more collaborative than other disciplines, although they also are at greater risk of being scooped than humanities faculty, for example. In my work field, instructional technology, much of the thinking and work that looks like scholarship happens online, via blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. And that's one of the things that draws me to the field. I like thinking out loud with others. I feel more comfortable moving the thinking and scholarship that happens online within the ed tech community into formal publication than I would going from online to formal within rhetoric and composition field.

Partly, of course, it's because I've lost touch with that scholarly community and what I know of it from reading and contact I've had with people in the field, it's both going in directions that interest me and in directions that really don't interest me. Honestly, I think to some extent, I'm skeptical of scholarship in many (most) fields. I find some of it very valuable, but the way that scholarship is produced and the reasons it's produced (for the sake of getting tenure and promotion, maybe to forward the field, maybe to say something new) tend to make it less valuable to me personally. Again, I'm speaking from a position where I'm likely to get condescending or patronizing comments. When scholarship is valuable to me, it's when its context is clear, something Kathleen discussed at length. In other words, its links to other works are clear, the links back to it are clear, what people are saying about it, what they think of it are all brought out of the footnotes, out of the scholarly literature and made visible. As it stands now, there's a lot of work an individual needs to do in order to figure that out. I think the reason these links, this context isn't more visible for most works in most fields is not because it's not possible, but because it serves a gatekeeping function.

I think I need to chew on this more and I think the talks I'm listening to are going to give me some more thoughts and ideas. Part of why this is all in my head is not just because I'm at a conference on the topic, but also because I'm thinking about what it means for me to be a scholar. I'm not willing to follow the traditional rules, and as I said in my talk, I feel disoriented as a result.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Because it won't ever look like this again


Day 10: Haircut self portrait
Originally uploaded by lorda.
I took some time to pamper myself and got a haircut. I'm pretty happy with it and it was a nice break.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Small travel glitch

I've left my power cord at home. This may be my last dispatch for a while. Either that, or I'll be headed to a computer store first thing when I arrive.

Update: thanks to KF, I now have power.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

OMG Miss America is so conservative

I got sucked into another reality show: Miss America Reality Check. In theory, the show is about changing Miss America contestants from glitzy, makeup-wearing airheads to something more representative of "the modern woman". I think they have their work cut out for them. Most of the women have been trained all their lives for this one moment, and that training did not involve spending a lot of time on calculus or expanding their view of the world. First, they all wear waaaaay too much makeup. For an athletic event, most of them put on more makeup that I had on on my wedding day. God forbid, they look semi-natural. Now I'm all for looking nice and wearing nice clothes, but as one of the fashion advisers told them, there's a time and a place for glamor and running around a field is not one of them.

In a dinner party where they had to talk about controversial issues like gun control and gay marriage, most of them fell on the conservative side of those issues. I had two favorite moments. One, when the women were discussing sex before marriage and they all said they didn't believe in sex before marriage. I was rolling my eyes at this point. One of the judges asked, "So you're telling me that every single one of you is a virgin?" They all nodded. Like I'm gonna believe a 24-year-old has never had sex?

My other favorite moment came when Miss Vermont was the only one standing up for gay marriage. I love her. One woman said she "couldn't wrap her head around the idea of homosexuality." I'm thinking, what's so hard about it? People love different kinds of people. Sometimes they're the same gender. Big deal. I really don't understand why people get so out of whack about these things.

I'm pulling for Miss Vermont. She's kind of plain looking, but she seems really down to earth and, dare I say it, normal. She also seems smart.

For the record, I really don't like the whole pageant thing, but I'm fascinated by the personalities of these people. I'm curious about why they want to do this. Sadly, I think most of them are gunning for the position of trophy wife. Kind of waste.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why I didn't finish reading Wikinomics

After Christmas, I took a bookstore giftcard and purchased a cookbook and Wikinomics. I started reading it and got to chapter 3, which is a fairly interesting discussion of how IBM came to embrace Linux (among other topics). Then, the authors were writing about a successful female computer scientist/businesswoman, explaining her accomplishments and how much she was respected. But then, they said, ". . . and her looks didn't hurt either." And I closed the book and I'm not going to finish it.

Look, asshats, if you're going to write about the looks of the people you're profiling, fine, but do so equally. You didn't say anything about Linus Torvald's looks or Steve Jobs or any of the other men you discussed in the preceding pages (and there were lots!). When you said that about this obviously talented woman, it became clear to me that you're pretty shocked that an attractive woman is also smart or that it doesn't matter how smart a woman is, but damn, she has to be attractive. And you probably have no idea why women don't read your books or pursue careers in your field. Possibly because they don't want to work with asshats like you.

/feminist rant

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Okay, I'm paying attention now

So, the Iowa caucus had interesting results. Huckabee first? Hilary last? Wow.

We'll wait to see what happens in New Hampshire, but I'm inclined to think we're in some uncharted territory here. Sort of. Seems like every primary cycle offers its share of surprises, but it's certainly true that the MSM is clueless about what really is going on.

First, some thoughtful commentary by others:
What do I think? I want someone who's going to give us universal health care. I want someone who's going to help solve the global warming crisis and get the oil companies, the auto companies, and others on board. I want someone who will really help the middle class and the poor and stop giving tax breaks to people who fall into the top 1% of earners (much of that earning coming from investments) and stop letting CEO's make hundreds of times more than the folks who work for them. I want someone who's going to stop scaring the crap out of people and who's going to rebuild our reputation in the world. I want someone who's going to take religion out of the equation and who will support education with money and resources.

Do I think a president can give me all that? Probably not. I think some of this has to start closer to home with city officials, state officials, and congresspeople. While the president can set the tone, the real work gets done elsewhere.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Politics: Why I don't care yet

I know today is the Iowa caucus, and I know who the candidates are on both sides, but for me, it doesn't really matter. Our primary is in May, too late to have any real influence (usually) on the outcome. So the rest of the country gets to decide who the democrats are running for president. I find this really stupid and unfair. I've been watching the jockeying of various states to move their primaries earlier so that their state gets a voice in the primary. I think it's crazy, but I also understand. The primaries are just as important as the election to a lot of people. Sometimes the differences between candidates are pretty large, so there really is something to decide, and if you're in a state whose primary is too late, then naturally, you might want your primary to happen earlier. Here's what I don't get. Why can't we just all have our primaries on the same day? I mean, really, how hard would it be to have everyone vote in a primary the prior November, or even the prior May. It would boost turnout for local issues and candidates, too.

I'll pay attention if the primary looks close and of course, for the main election. But then I'll get depressed about the electoral college.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Disorganization gender related?

I can relate to this article on how boys have trouble getting organized and how it affects their school work. My organization struggles are not something that truly interfere with my daily life. I find it annoying, yes. I know I could be more efficient, yes, but I function just fine. Geeky Boy, on the other hand, struggles and it means his work suffers. In a school system that values neatness and deadlines over almost everything else, a disorganized student is bound to suffer. It's too bad the article didn't tackle that issue. While it's true that GB should be more organized and that it would be helpful to him, it would also be good if missing a single worksheet didn't have such a huge effect on grades or that neatness wasn't a huge part of a project grade. I'd certainly like for him to be more neat and organized, but I can't force it, and I'm not the kind of mom who's going to do it for him. And, I don't have the means to hire tutors and whatnot to help him either. I just don't see the point when I know he's a bright kid who'll get his act together eventually.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

A quick post to welcome in the new year. Reality sinks in tomorrow when the kids return to school, the Christmas decorations come down, and I start checking my work email. For now, I'm basking in a few more minutes of pure vacation time.

We had an extremely busy day today--brunch and a movie with some neighbors, a walk, a couple of Monk episodes and then getting ready for reality. Frankly, I'm exhausted.

A quick glance around the blogosphere and I see people returning from conferences and other travel, beginning prep for classes, finishing dissertations, making resolutions, and much more. It's nice to hear the chatter again.