Oct
2014

Blogging: Becoming Visible and Attracting Audiences

Today I’m presenting at The Teaching Professor Technology Conference in Denver, CO. While I have presented on my use of blogs in the classroom several times over the years (see this Prezi for a precursor to today’s work), this is the first time I’ll be able to share student responses from my Curious Stout Innovator [CSI] project. Also see here for the Blog Rubric I use as well as the ENGL121 Blogging101 assignment itself.

Background:

When I started my doctoral program at the University of South Florida in 2003, I was required to create a blog as part of my Rhetoric and Technology course. That first course influenced my entire program of study, my dissertation project, and my pedagogy. My project for the Curious Stout Innovators [CSI] program illustrates these ongoing efforts.

In the Fall 2012 semester I taught ENGL 335: Critical Approaches to Digital Humanities, the first course offered in the Digital Humanities concentration of the Professional Communication Emerging Media [PCEM] program. The course was a hybrid one that relied on Tegrity to “capture” the face-to-face meetings and share those recordings with the online students. However, to increase student engagement, I asked both groups of students to participate in “virtual Fridays” where they discussed readings and course goals on a WordPress blog, http://engl335digitalhumanities.wordpress.com/.

Some may critique assigned or “forced blogging,” a term defined in 2004 by Dennis Jerz as follows: “Since a ‘real’ weblog is a license to write whatever and whenever you want, an instructor who assigns the topic, frequency, or length of blog entries (in order to facilitate grading) violates the spirit that draws voluntary bloggers to their avocation.” However, this exercise was intended to emulate the burgeoning field of Digital Humanities, which defines itself as a social one composed of people with “a shared interest in texts, and the use of computational technologies to explore and understand them (as opposed to merely creating or distributing them)” (Alvarado).

This first cohort of Digital Humanities students flourished in their “open” posts, the ones that were to draw their classmates’ attention to online artifacts related to course goals; meanwhile, their posts designated to react to the assigned readings lacked originality and often were not even proofread. As such, my work with Renee Howarton in the CSI program initially aimed to create a set of best practices when using the course blog again in the Fall 2013 semester, this time with the added intent of networking with Digital Humanities students at other universities.

Due to lack of enrollment, however, I ended up not teaching ENGL 335 again in Fall 2013. Instead, I was assigned two sections of ENGL 121: Intro to Professional Communication, the first required course all PCEM majors.

Previous instructors of this course have asked students to create blogs, and given my personal experience and research history with blogs, I was excited to include a blogging component and this switch ended up working in my favor. Not only did I have a greater data set, but at the heart of the course was the goal of “understanding how technologies mediate communication.” For freshman and transfer students new to the major, frequent and focused blog writing and commenting upon the writing of others in the class opened their eyes to a new genre, one that offered them the space for much more depth and engagement than other social media profiles, i.e. Facebook statuses and Twitter updates.

As a result, I revised my CSI research project to investigate the extent to which weekly blogging showcased these PCEM majors’ creativity and helped cultivate their professional online presence. For several years now industry and academic experts in the field of technical writing have advised students and young professionals to create and maintain a blog, citing the ways it can help with a job search.

Today’s presentation, see the Prezi and resources that informed it below, shares the details from the project and the data collected, not from students’ individual blog posts, but from responses to the Final Exam Questions. I am pleased to see reflective comments that support my hypothesis that weekly blog writing pushed them to craft and design posts that were both meaningful and professional.

Additional Resources

These videos also help start the discussion on blogs and their history and varied uses:

Hope to see you at my #TPTech14 session later today!

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Feb
2014

tenure!

Because of the way my uni separates promotion and tenure, I honestly wasn’t that freaked out when, at the end of our January department meeting, the time came for my tenure vote. (I can elaborate on that once the official Board of Regents letter comes in the mail, but suffice it to say promotion is a demoralizing university-wide ranking system while tenure is left to the colleagues who know you best, your Department).

I’ve also been majorly distracted now that I’m in a new position as Interim PCEM Program Director, which continues to cause anxiety because of all the new information and crazy amounts of email.

But when it came down to it, I felt confident about my tenure vote because I’ve had “Above” evals since I started at UW-Stout in 2008 and have continued to serve my Department, the University and the Profession diligently and enthusiastically. To get a sense of my statement you can read my Tenure Portfolio Narrative 2014 or check out this wordle:
tenurewordle.jpg

In brief, the vote came in “All in Favor” and there were handshakes and hugs all around!

Yay!

I had always joked that I’d immediately become this guy:

New Yorker cartoon

but when I went to search for that image, this one seemed more accurate:

I’m no poser, but there’s been so much written about the academic “impostor syndrome,” I couldn’t help but smirk, especially considering this piece that lists the first cure for said syndrome is getting tenure!

But what really made me smile, because this tenure thing is finally starting to sink in, is a post from my new favorite Tumblr blog, Precious Academic Moments:

My Reblog

My Reblog

So with that, I can breathe a little easier but still spend my weekends writing and trying to meet deadlines since there’s no time during the week! 😛

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Sep
2012

back to school post

Long time no blog, I know, I know…

After the Spring semester I was exhausted so I didn’t teach this summer [except for working with some thesis-writing grad students] and it made a world of difference on my Fall outlook! There’s so much to catch you readers up on, namely my loss of nearly 25 pounds and new role as a Zumba instructor, but first I thought I would share my Performance Objectives.

I submit these every year to my Department Chair as a way to bring into focus what I intend to achieve during the academic year in terms of my teaching, service and research. Enjoy! [And now you know what keeps me so busy!]

Teaching

  • My ENGL 101 courses, both in the classroom and online, explore the impact of technology, specifically social media, upon our everyday & academic lives. Students are starting the semester by writing technology literacy narratives, will move into readings from their textbook New New Media to create an annotated bibliography that updates the author’s 2008 publication, and then will read the novels Little Brother, Fahrenheit 451 and Feed before writing research papers and creating presentations on the topics of moral responsibility, access to knowledge, privacy, and power, security, and freedom in a post-9/11 America.
  • I’m very excited to be teaching ENGL 335 Critical Approaches to Digital Humanities, the first course offered in the DH concentration of the Professional Communication and Emerging Media program. The course is a hybrid one, so I’m using Tegrity to “capture” the face-to-face meetings and share those recordings with the online students. I’m also asking students to collaborate in writing a manifesto in Google Docs and participate in “virtual Fridays” where the discussion of readings will happen on our course blog. These exercises emulate the field of Digital Humanities, which defines itself as a social one composed of people with “a shared interest in texts, and the use of computational technologies to explore and understand them (as opposed to merely creating or distributing them)” (Alvarado).
  • In ENGL 745, Communication Strategies for Emerging Media, graduate students will contribute to a course blog, write literacy narratives, respond to a midterm exam, and propose then complete a seminar paper. We rely on the following texts from Instructional Resources as well as a long list of PDFs I’ve scanned and uploaded into D2L:  Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, Socialnomics, and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.
  • This Fall I am advising MSTPC student Heidi Decker-Maurer as she writes her thesis about images macros and how they address social issues in the age of participatory culture. I am also finishing up work with Carmen Butt whose thesis was on the role of social media in health care institutions.
  • I foresee advising more graduate students in the Spring if their thesis or field projects coincide with the two courses I teach, Rhetorical Theory & Communication Strategies for Emerging Media.
  • I continue to advise students in the B. S. Professional Communication and Emerging Media program.

Service

  • CAHSS Representative, Planning and Review Committee
  • CAHSS Representative, Racial and Ethnic Studies and Global Perspective Curriculum Advisory Committee
  • Member [perhaps Co-Chair this year], Advanced Writing Committee
  • Member, Editorial Board for the eJournal of Public Affairs
  • Member, Editorial Board of Writing Commons
  • Mentor to new hire Kate Edenborg

Research & Publication

  • I submitted a book proposal/dissertation revision plan tentatively titled Disaster 2.0 to the Acquisitions Editor of the University Press of Mississippi. It is with an external reader for a formal review and I should hear back in mid-October.
  • If that book proposal is accepted, I hope to share my experience and advise current doctoral students either has a mentor at the Conference on College Composition & Communication or Computers and Writing conference. Both meetings hold pre-conference “research network forums.”
  • I recently answered a “Literature of Hurricane Katrina” edited collection CFP.
  • I plan to answer the most recent Technoculture CFP as its third issue is focused on “dead, lost, or underused technologies.”
  • Currently I have no conference travel scheduled, but will be proposing to the Popular Culture Association conference in Washington, DC in March 2013 and the Digital Humanities conference in Lincoln, Nebraska in July 2013.
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Feb
2012

Is Blogging Dead?

Cross-posted on the Rhetorical Theory Course Blog

I started to leave a comment to respond to the final statement in Tim’s post, “Blogs have really moved beyond the mindless posts by vain teenagers, and maybe we have Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (is that even still active anymore?) to thank for that,” but then remembered that at the most recent Computers and Writing conference there was an entire session devoted to this. In essence, the panel, entitled “Is Blogging Dead? Yes, No, Other,” asked if, compared to other social media that have character limits, blogs are now the places for “the longer thoughts,” does anyone post those longer thoughts to blogs anymore since they aren’t likely to receive a response? Implied, too, is does anyone even have longer thoughts anymore? 🙂

It also helps that I’ve had the backchannel Dennis Jerz posted from it open in a Google Chrome tab since last May. I’ll talk more about backchannels and how academics use Twitter or IRC both in the classroom and at conferences another time, but it’s pretty obvious from what you see below that lots of opinions were voiced both in the room and via Twitter and I’m so glad Dennis used Storify to archive that:

Since the conference audience was made up of both bloggers and teachers who ask their students to blog, another point raised was if we assign blogs in a course, is that really blogging since it’s usually for a grade, has assigned word counts, etc. The point being, that’s not organic blogging. It’s not livejournal-esque or diary style.

Here’s my take on what we’re doing in this course blog space: Yes, your posts will receive a grade, but as MSTPC students, I hope you see blogging as an exercise that combines critical thinking with document design since, unlike the discussion forums, you  have more opportunities to react to the readings in a visually appealing way. And if you’re ever confused, please refer to the Blogging 101 handout I’ve created and ask questions!

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Jan
2012

I’ll tumble for ya

As predicted, now that school has started, the gym is even more packed. That leads to hotter and sweatier group fitness classes and, if a certain fan isn’t on, very slippery floors. The past two classes I’ve taken I’ve ended up in my sock feet…but it’s always fun and I love shaking it to various Pitbull songs!

Other than working out, I’ve been busy prepping 4 separate course syllabi & course calendars. I’m also directing two thesis projects, so there’s lots of email on that front.

Quick aside:  Ever since I started teaching online writing courses in 2004, I’ve tried to reduce the amount of email by having a “General Questions” discussion forum. Students can post their questions and I can answer it there for the entire class to see, thus preventing repeat emails. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, another student will answer the question first and thus a community is born! Well, that varies from semester to semester, but this academic year I’ve been particularly impressed by my students’ abilities to rely upon each other for feedback & their appreciation of blogs, Skype, Twitter, and Google DOCs.

OK back to the title of this post.

Wait a second… 😛

In addition to having various WORD documents open while course planning, I’ve recently become obsessed with tumblr. And the cause of that obsession? Sherlock Homes. BBC’s Sherlock to be specific.

I won’t go into how brilliant each episode is or spoil Season 2 for you Americans who haven’t seen it yet [I have my sources], but instead focus on the fandom. The #IBelieveinSherlockHolmes movement has been amazing to watch and what I love about tumblr is that, given I have little time or skills to create my own fan art, I can “reblog” it.

Perhaps that’s lazy (and twitter has been considered blogging for lazy people) but look at the variety of ways the tumblr interface prompts you to post:

If I didn’t already have this blog space, which also has imported all of my USF blog posts from 2005-2008, I would definitely use tumblr as my primary blog. But, for now, this space will be for “longer thoughts” and my tumblr will be for spreading the word that #MoriartyWasReal and #IBelieveinSherlockHolmes!

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Jan
2012

my new year’s resolution

I MUST BLOG MORE!

When I was leaving the gym yesterday I overheard an instructor saying how packed the classes will be once all the students come back to town. We were already a group of 50 but the number is bound to rise since we get two waves of new years’ resolution-ers here due to the academic calendar. Classes [university, not gym] don’t start for us until January 23 thanks to the “Winterm” session.

So it hit me:  Why not put the same amount of effort into my blogging as I do at the gym in turbokick and zumba? I average 6 classes a week there but only managed 2 unique blog posts here last semester? WTF?!? Although I did sneak in a few posts over at the graduate course blog, how can I even call myself a blog researcher? Yes, the Catholic guilt crosses over to academia quite nicely, doesn’t it?

The thing is, I have wanted to blog about some new teaching methods and reflections, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t like to go public much anymore. Being on the tenure track means I’m constantly evaluated, and while I’ve received “Above” rankings every year and, so far, have successfully jumped through a number of Promotion hoops, I haven’t wanted to jeopardize things, either by accidentally ranting about students and committee work or expressing my honest opinions on the political scene in Wisconsin.

The fault also lies in social media. Even though my Twitter updates aren’t protected anymore, those posts are more dialogic as are my Facebook posts where comments and “likes” offer me instant response. In fact, now that Facebook won’t be importing the links to these blog posts [their effort to get users to post Notes], who knows how much traffic this blog will receive. But there are things I want to post about…things that show the world who I am and what my interests are.

Primarily, those things are pop culture-y, so it’s a good thing I’ll be attending the national Popular Culture Association conference this April. I’ll be on the Virtual Identities and Self-Promoting panel, but more on that later.

Til then, I have tons of tv & music things to post because they’ve shaped my 2011 & made me smile, none more than this LMFAO performance.

Battery is dying on the laptop, but you can expect to hear more from me soon cuz “I-I-I-I work out” and blog this year!

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Aug
2011

There’s an app for that

Hello from my iPhone!

With the new semester quickly approaching, I knew I needed to get back to blogging, especially since I’ll be requiring blog posts, as opposed to discussion board posts, of my grad students in ENGL 745, Communication Strategies for Emerging Media. More on that later…

When I saw this tweet from @blogher, I felt my prayers were answered:

“Before this morning, I only had ONE of these. Not anymore! A Blogger’s List of Must-Have iPhone Apps: http://t.co/BW6h7Ba”

So here I am, blogging from the WordPress app! I’m not sure how formatting and hyperlinking will work exactly, but let this serve as my test post with more to come!

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Apr
2011

deadbeat blogger

shakesblog

Sigh.

This poor neglected blog.

I know I need to do a total overhaul of this site…I’m trying to figure out if it should focus on teaching and become more of a portfolio than a blog, but I’m also waiting to hear about a grant that I applied for. If I get that grant, my dissertation research will be back in the spotlight. Given that it’s on NOLA Bloggers, it would make sense to keep this a place to reflect on that and link to my NOLA blogger peeps (and tweeps).

However, given the state of our nation [don’t get me started on the state of my current cheesy state], no one has heard from the grant agency. See here for the most information I’ve been able to find, with my favorite sentiment being, “It’s aggravating, to say the least, but my summer stipend application is hardly the most important thing hanging in the balance as our Congressional leaders play politics with the future of this country.” True, but I still want them to show me the money, honey! And sooner rather than later!

While finding that relieved my anxiety, this NYTimes piece on blogs waning relieved me more. I am not alone in thinking that Facebook and Twitter are better spaces to receive feedback AKA instant gratification. As the article states, “Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.” That is exactly what I’ve experienced over the past few years and I think it will only continue.

However, I don’t think I’ll ever abandon this space. Like I said, it just needs a new focus and I’m thinking the summer will bring that, whether it be in the form of quick book reviews, travel pictures, or new teaching and research projects.

Just you wait!

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Sep
2010

back to school; back to blogging

In case you haven’t noticed, ever since I started my job at UW-Stout in 2008 I’ve hardly blogged. The dissertation [on blogs of all things] consumed me and even though I defended in March, formatted in April, skipped the Tampa graduation in May, and finally received the diploma in the mail in July, I took the summer off from anything over 140-characters.

Doctah Day-Z!!!!!! on Twitpic

Sure, I traveled to NYC, TX, and Italy, and could write volumes on those trips. I even taught a summer course and scored thousands of AP essay exams in June, but I just couldn’t bring myself back to reading blogs until a few weeks ago.

Now, though, I have some fresh new research and publication ideas, which I will post on later this week, so beware: I’m totally throwing myself back in to blogging!

It helps that every course I’m teaching this Fall has a technology emphasis:

  • ENGL 101 is using the textbook New New Media and while these students aren’t required to blog, we will be relying on Twitter [in class only] to generate questions and reactions of assigned readings. 1 section of the 3 is dedicated to a Learning Community called the Google Generation, and I’m excited to see how these students connect our reading and writing to that assigned in the Information and Communication Technologies course they go to immediately after mine.
  • ENGL 495 is a brand new 2-semester capstone course. I have 1 very diligent student, and this semester we’re focusing on research methods with the final project being a proposal and pilot study. I’m having him purchase Research Confidential and Internet Inquiry as well as read a bunch of PDFs that either discuss methodology or put mixed methods into practice.
  • ENGL 745 is a brand new graduate course in our brand new Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program. Students are reading Socialnomics as well as 40+ journal articles/book chapters [including some from Always On, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, and Convergence Culture], all with the goal of “interpreting the ways emerging media and digital technologies affect writing, rhetoric, literacy, and the discipline of technical and professional communication.” If anyone has any suggestions for more tech comm-y texts that I should include, please let me know!Aside from academic posts, I can tell you already that I’m also going to share my opinions on various TV shows since I’ve become quite the fangirl. Between watching stuff online, via Netflix, and now with cable at home, I’ve got quite the list of favorites. To close this post, I’ll share 2 swoontastic pics of my man, Don Draper. Please note, I don’t have a crush on Jon Hamm. It is only Don Draper that makes me weak in the knees.

    suit
    swoon

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