Stop the presses! “Visual Rhetoric” fav new phrase for author

Yep. Today, Jon Meacham said his new favorite phrase/idea is “visual rhetoric.” Thanks to this Honors Comp 2 for rocking our class meeting with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He thought y’all were fantastic. And I do, too–it’s because you did your homework, asked great questions, and made everyone look good because of all that. Way to make it look easy.


Who will we be?

Spring semester 2012 is upon us. We cannot turn away now.

So how will we face the next three months together? With grace and dignity and a will to win. I have recently been reading a lot about leadership and philosophy because of another part of my job… There are multiple parts of my job as a university professor. You’d think all I’d do is teach, but no. Not so much.

Teaching is my favorite part of the job, though, and writing with my students is part of why it’s so much fun. Writing in a blog–writing fun x 100.

So writing, leadership, teaching, philosophy and all that. What do we make of it all? The way we lead each other in learning? I truly believe that the best teaching is done by everyone in a class, not just the teacher of record.

An epic win in higher education is more than great grades (though those are super to have–even necessary for some of us), it’s about learning and knowing and being able to trot out our knowledge in ways that matter to us and those in our lives–to make it all better. And by “all,” I mean whatever matters to us: work, home, school, sports, music, cooking, writing, conversation, the perfect cup of coffee.

We’re going to lead each other in intriguing ways and surprise each other with what we think, how we think, and the way we travel through learning: “lead me, follow me, or get out of the way” is a quote from Gen. George S. Patton that I think is apropos for how I want to work this spring–I want to lead, I want to follow, and I want to say: “don’t stand around in the walk path, please, because I’m on a mission and can’t really walk around you if you’re standing in a big clump.” I might amend the phrase for our purposes in this class to read: “lead us, follow us, or get out of our way” as we’ll each bring something unique and special to our class and we’ll each take the lead at one point or another, and we’ll follow and learn… and woe be to those who clump around in our walk path.

Onward, fellow travelers, onward.

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.

Rocking Halloween in an information literacy class

Today, we are sitting in the AUM library taking an information literacy class about how to search through databases, Google scholar, how to find images, videos, books, articles, and more. We started our information search for Civil Rights (CR) playlists by just searching online in Google, Bing, Wikipedia, etc. We began where we needed to begin–with everything in the world online. Now we have specifics: either a specific event that occurred or the overall CR (depending on which part each of us decided to work on first). We also have some songs and/or artists chosen, such as Phil Ochs, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, and so on. (Anything in bold below is work due on Nov. 2–so read on and take note.)

We even get our own research guide to help us continue our research projects. Amazing what we can do nowadays. Sheesh. It’s so the 21st Century.

Our Own ENGL 1017 Research Guide from AUM's Library: ROCKIN'

We’ve begun our information search, and it’s time to think about filter bubbles, so we’ll be watching this video next to understand how internet search engines may be limiting what you have access to immediately when you search through Google, Yahoo, Bing, or whatever. Check this out TED talk for homework and blog 300 words by Wed. Nov. 2: Eli Pariser on Whether Pariser is entirely right or not, I think his talk bears thinking about. Specifically, we need to consider a more active determination to seek information, rather than letting information come to us, especially if it’s being filtered. We need to search deeper in the libraries of the world, through databases, through scholarly sites, to gather more, to know more, to be better informed–to be a better writer for our readers.

We’ll dig around the library again for a class period on Nov. 7 and/or 9, but we’ll meet first in class both times. I’ll let you know if and how we’ll do this, but be aware that this might be a class thing we do.

NOW you’ve read James Purdy’s article and Randall McClure’s articles… And taken an information literacy class. For homework–please blog about your experiences in the information literacy class from today and talk about how it extends your learning from those two articles. Talk about what you learned in this class, what was new to you, what surprised you, what was “old hat,” how you have decided to work on research in ways that are different than you have before (I hope!). Due Nov. 2: 300 words.

Also on Nov. 2, you’ll need to have posted something on a playlist page or as a blog post and be able to talk about what’s up with your last two big projects–either one that you are beginning with (either is okay to start with). You’ll have books, articles, visuals, and more that you will have found to share… I’m so excited about the possibilities for these two projects. I think you’ll be very proud of the work you end up doing: it’s the chance to be innovative, creative, and yet remember what’s been so we don’t do the bad stuff again.

As we are working through this class, I realize all over again how powerful it is to know how to search through a library. The libraries of the world are still the most important places in our culture–the best places to find out about history, literature, art, music, and beyond in every discipline ever. Images, recordings, illustrations, home movies–these are all things you will find in archives, in libraries–places where these things do not exist anywhere else. It’s awesome and daunting and miraculous and amazing. Say thank you to the librarians of the world who have collected and preserved and annotated and cataloged and digitized all of this. “Thank you, librarians!”

NOT everything is on the web, nor is it reliable on the web, not always, anyhow. So love your library. But still love the web. I love the web, too–it’s freeing and open and getting more so all the time, but it doesn’t have everything yet. It will. I know it will.

Still. I love coming to the library. If I worked in this building, I’d never get any work done… I’d be poking around on databases and in stacks all day. I’d so get fired. Once I worked for a library at the circulation desk, shelving books. I took loaded carts to the appropriate location in the library to re-shelve. Usually, this task might take a student working about an hour or an hour and a half, at the most. I took several hours sometimes. I checked out the contents of the books before I shelved them. Then I looked at the books surrounding them once they were back on the shelf. Sometimes, I’d just sit on the floor and read for a few minutes. It was deeply wrong, I know, and I knew it then, but books were like crack. I couldn’t put them up without looking at them… I was addicted. I was fired after three weeks. Well. I wasn’t fired, I was re-assigned to work behind the desk checking books out to library patrons. I was the slowest one on staff. Why?

Because I looked at all the books people were checking out and said things like, “Hmmmmm, this looks great” or “I never knew this author wrote that book” or “Wow, what major are you? This looks like a fun topic.” Again, I got a talking to from the circulation librarian, who really liked me, but who was beginning to understand I was not cut out to work in a library. I stayed at the library at Boise State University for about a month–just enough time to know where everything was, to learn about a variety of books in multiple disciplines, learn how to search for ANYTHING, and find every nook cranny with intriguing things (music, movies, realia, and more–OH, and special collections–be still my heart), and to scope out all the truly great study locations.

We parted friends, me and the librarian, at least I thought so, though I often detected a slight twitch in her right upper eyelid every time we met after that. She smiled, but it looked like it hurt just a little bit.

I loved that job. But the job I really wanted was “reader.” I wanted to be paid to read books and learn and gather information and share and all that. I wanted that job.

And I got it. I’m a college professor.

And I’m teaching a class where all of you get to do all of that. Ah. Heaven.

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.

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.