National GIS Day! 16 November 2011

November 16 is National GIS Day… be there!

On this particular Wed., Nov. 16, please “attend” class by going to the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) conference proceedings in the Taylor Center (the big rooms down from the Theatre entrance). We will not have a regularly scheduled class that day, so you can attend a session/exhibit hall.

You are not in a Geography class, but GIS isn’t about geography only–it’s about a way of thinking, a way of understanding the world. Yes, it’s a system for making maps and for disseminating information graphically according to the actual world we live on/in–and you can make pretty maps–but it’s much more than pretty map making. It’s about intellectually vibrant query; it’s about creating knowledge from many pieces of a puzzle; it’s about interdisciplinary quests–the kind heroes undertake, ala Joseph Campbell, in order to fix what’s wrong with the world and save the universe (okay, that’s a bit much, but you get what I mean now!).

Attend one presentation, please, and also visit the exhibitors to pick up some information and learn a bit about GIS. We’ll be looking at GIS and applications to writing and humanities in the spring–it’s a way of thinking, a way to map thinking… and that’s part of what we’ll do in spring, mapping our own intellectual growth. But we’ll also be learning about where we are in the world (Montgomery) and what that means both visually and textually, through maps and thinking. Patterns. We’ll be exploring patterns. What’s happened in Montgomery? What texts exist? What can be mapped? How should it be mapped? What can we do about sharing what we learn? Can we share our projects from this fall and spring through maps online? How might that look?

We’ll be looking at visual rhetoric and visual arguments (through images and maps). We’ll be making maps and playing with maps. We’ll be having some interesting times in spring… You won’t need to learn GIS, just be aware of it–Nov. 16 is the perfect time. (We’ll watch a video about a 19th map soon to contextualize what mapping and learning can do for the world–you’ll love it. Fascinating stuff.)

You’ll need to blog about the GIS presentation you attend (300 words) and also about the information you gather from an exhibitor (300 words)–both by Nov. 18, please. Thanks.

I present at 3:30–I would love to have you there, if you can do it. I’ll be talking about Writing Spaces and GIS.

And enjoy this exploration… if you like, use one of Keri Smith’s exploration prompts to approach what you experience at the GIS Fest. Fun.

For boring title of blog post: click here

I originally titled this post: For Oct. 26 and more. I just couldn’t live with that.

I’m constantly amazed and impressed by the thinking we are getting to do, the talking, the connecting. I love that sometimes, we just learn by doing. Can you imagine what it would be like for me to stand up and lecture every class? I might lecture again at some point… in fact, I have a lecture I might like to give that would be relevant, but it wouldn’t be terribly formal… I think twists and turns in conversation are okay in learning, especially in writing classes.

So we embodied that today–a long and winding road to where we needed to be. We talked about everything and anything and just bonded a little bit, recovering from a few weeks of HEINOUS activity on the part of each of us, some ups and downs, some crises… and we’re taking care of each other as groups are supposed to do.

A list of conversation topics appears below as possible post titles or prompts for Wed. It was all over the place. What fun.

And I tweeted for the first time in class. It was cool. Now I’ll have to see how to follow a few fun folks (like Professor Snape) and some of you. It’s a whole new world for me in the Twittersphere. I’ve resisted because it was one more thing to understand and master, and I couldn’t possibly do that. It always looked real cool and I wanted to do it, but honestly, my world was moving as fast as I could handle as it was… and it just sped up.

Or maybe it slowed down… in a way, Twitter is a slowing down of time, a marking of the passage of time in a way that makes it fuller, longer, more packed in, more real. Maybe.

In the meantime, here’s some of what we talked about, what was due for today, what’s due on Wed. and what to be prepared for next week.
Already due for today, Oct. 24:
•    Commencement speeches
•    Charlie Lowe visit

9 pm—I’m grading blogs—through Oct. 24…

Post about the long assignment coming up—due Oct. 26:
•    Playlist—think about this a lot (you’ll need to have something to say on Wed. in class)
•    Which is coming first for you: part one or the other part; it’s your choice
•    Finding out about your topic
o    300 words

•    James Purdy reading and post—300 words

Possible posts—300 words, please by Oct. 26:
•    Justin Beiber blew up my phone
•    No more ghosts, please
•    Possession…
•    Stalkers…
•    College choices… paths to college
•    Expectations… where I might be going next…
•    Tweet this
•    Who to follow on Twitter
•    Who’s reading me?
•    Calling people up to get baptized
•    My fabulous tweet description
•    Bear Creek Swamp
•    Read and write about scary movies and horror (Stephen King: Why We Crave Horror Movies:
•    Demons across cultures
•    Sexy pirates and zombie cheerleaders—tough Halloween choices
•    Toddlers vs. Tiaras

Oct. 31: we’ll meet in library, instead of our regular classroom, by the reference desk on the 2nd floor of the library… you’ll see me.

You’ll need some thoughtful work finished by this day on your big projects… those will take up nearly the whole of the rest of the term. Be thinking and writing notes and letting the brainstorms come up on you as they need to.

Please watch Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, 17.28 minutes, and write 300 words. Also add to blog post any and all URLS that you find re: music and such for the playlist project.

Collaboration is the thing

For Oct. 5, please read the following from Writing Spaces:

A Student’s Guide to Collaborative Writing Technologies” by Matt Barton and Karl Klint (Vol. 2)

Writing ‘Eyeball to Eyeball’: Building a Successful Collaboration” by Rebecca Ingalls (Vol. 2)

Collaborating Online: Digital Strategies for Group Work” by Anthony Atkins (Vol. 1)

Post one blog entry about what you see in common, what surprises you, what you can use, what inspires you, what you WANT to incorporate in your collaborative lives. AND especially note what might work effectively should you want to create a text with someone who lives in another state, like, say: Oklahoma.

1,000 words please… be sure to talk about your own experiences in collaborative work, good or bad, and the above revelations from the readings. Thank you, thank you very much.

We’ll talk on Monday, Oct. 10, about all of this and that’s when we’ll start serious work on the final two projects for the term.

Enjoy these articles–they are all excellent. Good choice for this reading, y’all (the chapter by Anthony Atkins) which we could then link with the other two. I think you’ll see some amazing connections between these chapters and also be intrigued about working in groups in ways you may not have previously.

Reading like a writer

For next Wednesday’s class, Oct. 5, we’re going to read Mike Bunn’s essay, “How to Read like a Writer” in Volume 2 of Writing Spaces. We’re going to read and then blog about it–about 300 words or so.

But I want to write about it for this class before re-reading it (I have read it before). I remember the beginning of the essay and the detailed discussion of how Bunn worked through one paragraph. I loved that.

I have been considering how to read like a writer for a long time, though–since way before I read this particular essay. I read Frank Smith’s Reading like a Writer a LONG time ago (first encountered in 1987). You can get the .pdf here. I was much influenced by this work as a teacher and K-12 curriculum developer.

Beyond Frank Smith, I was influenced by a French professor who came to guest lecture in a 19th century European novels class I was taking in grad school (wish I could remember her name–but I can’t). We were reading Madame Bovary (a novel I have read several times and recall loving). The professor read the infamous carriage passage where Mme. Bovary bares her hand and begins/engages in an illicit affair. She read it in French… a very fast-paced, exciting, climactic reading that seemed to mirror the action of the characters. Then she read a passage in a boring English translation in which the carriage seemed to plod along–so, too, the characters in the carriage–not very exciting. Then she read another passage in English, with shorter sentences, more vigorous language, staccato, leaving her and us breathless. She talked about pacing as something writers do on purpose.

WHAT? I never had a lesson on pacing before. I got it immediately from this wonderful professor’s reading and thinking and understood something about writing that I never did before. We can learn to be better writers by “reading” like writers. Asking questions: what did the author do here exactly? Why does the text feel this way or that? What rhetorical choices were made? What about syntax and diction? How can I learn from what this one author did and then apply that to my own writing?

We dissected that one passage (in the better English translation), looking at sentence length, punctuation, word choice, word arrangement, and everything in between (including the sounds of words). A writer did that. A writer made decisions to do that (well, in our case a translator collaborating with Flaubert’s text). We learned from that. Writers make decisions about everything–the words just don’t come flowing out of their heads like Athena from the forehead of Zeus–sprung full-grown and perfect. Writers work hard to think about their work and craft what and how it will go. Writers work at writing. Sure, some genius moments occur, but generally speaking, they must work at it and make rhetorical decisions every step of the way.

From that point on… about 1990, I became a reader of writers, not just a reader of stories. I always noticed the use of semi-colons, long complex sentences, short fragments used as textual punctuation, images (not just what they were, but how they were constructed/composed). I watched what I read, as in “paying attention” to how a text was created, the way it existed, and what that meant to me. I read about some author’s writing processes in the Paris Review, I read writer’s memoirs, I became a student of rhetoric and composition–on my terms. I certainly learned a lot about rhetoric and composition in grad school, but I learned a lot more from my Madame Bovary moment.

One result is that I teach literature as a part of rhetorical history rather than as something only to analyze with literary criticism. Literature is writing that a writer created by making rhetorical decisions, not in a vacuum. So my literature classes are about publishing history, rhetoric, authorship, and such like that there.

What a thing to remember as we are going to read this article by Mike Bunn. Now I really can’t wait to re-read his work.

The next big thing on the horizon

So far, we’ve been blogging up a storm. Writing a lot is what writers do. Practice, practice, practice. Sometimes we write with a plan in mind; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we write a long post; sometimes we don’t. Writing every day, every week, every month… got to do that to be better writers. No way around writing a bunch to be a better writer.

Writers also get better by talking about what they write, reading other writers (closely and carefully, reading like writers), and commenting on each others’ texts–as often as possible.

Soon we’ll be transitioning into a the last half of the term and a two-part project that has to do with music and Civil Rights. We live and work in Montgomery–big time in the Civil Rights Movement. Not just a big deal for us locally, but internationally as well. I have friends in England and Italy who entirely understand the significance of our town in the history of civil and human rights. If we’re exploring the world this year thorough writing and making the world our life museum, then we must attend to this history.

We’ll be looking at the music of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s-1960s. Historically. What music, which artists, songs that meant something to the Movement, songs that were written specifically for the movement. Then we’ll be choosing one particular event in those two decades that we’ll each explore in depth and create a playlist for that moment in time–with whatever music makes sense to us for that event/moment. That playlist can be comprised of music now, then, or from whatever period in history we choose. Or we can write our own or remix/mash up our own. Go for it.

One project will be more academically oriented so we can practice the actual business of documenting our research and working on those academic discourse skills (the historical music). The other will be less so–more a long essay that explains our aural, visual, and textual connection to our world. We’ll still bring the attribution thing to the game, but it won’t be as formal.

Rip, Remix, Mash-up, Copy, Transform, Burn, and Learn.