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Bon Voyage English Department!

Once again, the semester has flown by and is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful experience to contribute to this blog. I have been able to narrow down the endless list of jobs available to English majors, but have yet to find my calling. While next semester will be my last, I am indifferent of my feelings of leaving. Once I graduate, I will be left to fend for myself in the dog-eat-dog aspect of the real world by leaving the somewhat sheltered life of a college student. There is always the possibility of graduate school, an idea that will remain as a viable option. Despite my apprehension of leaving the safety net of college, I do believe my time here at UTA has given me the knowledge of navigating life outside of school. I can only hope for the best once I graduate.

Merry Christmas!

Meowy Christmas!!

Published in:Lauren McManus, Uncategorized |on December 12th, 2013 |No Comments »

WomanBecause a poem be like a pearl in the midst of your papers, findeth inscribed below another offering in the style of John of the Donne wherein Master Zachary Sandri compareth love to your modern device of moving portraits.


Celluloid (A Kiss in Times Square)
(A Petrarchan Sonnet Inspired by John Donne)

by Zachary Sandri


I’ve been to see my love a dozen times,

and each time features of her flesh do change.

In all my searching, love hath rearranged,

yet every time my mistress stands sublime.

Rosy cheeks reflect mirrors free from grime.

Spirit, here confined; images estranged.

In mine hungry eyes, a body is exchanged

for celluloid, my heart’s great petty crime.

On screens in cinemas my love doth wait.

We share a kiss twixt dancing Times Square lights

or lay prostrate in emerald fields of fate.

Alas, with absent warmth it feels not right.

My love in paper lights doth glow and gleam.

My lips press up against the movie screen.

Published in:Uncategorized |on December 6th, 2012 |No Comments »

Getting it Donne

DonneThe students of the olde history of the much esteemed literature of Britain be writing poems in the style of John of the Donne this finaltide.  And forsooth they are most deserving of an audience more broad and be-steeped in learning than their instructress, and for this reason find inscribed below the words of Hannah Coble, who hath wrapped the mystery of love within a comparison to the new-fangled device of minstrelsy y-cleped I-pod.


The Bottle

by Hannah Coble

Send back my iPod home to me,

So that I may have music while I’m at sea;

I’ve nothing left to listen but the waves,

Who afford one tune,

Come sunlight or moon,

That it were

You prefer

Keep it then, else our playlists due their graves.


Send back my yellow earphones then,

Which we shared time and time again;

Though given their use of you and they,

To divvy him,

By use of them,

And ru’n both

But I’m loathe

To do more than toss, so keep them anyway.


Neither iPod nor earphones do I want back,

To listen and endure and remind of that I lack;

Too easy it’d be to lose myself in song,

As I was lost,

In you then crossed,

They would too

Empty as you

Would merely linger, as another you did wrong.

Published in:Uncategorized |on December 4th, 2012 |1 Comment »

Hated words

The post below was written by Alexandra Boyd-Rogers, an undergraduate in 4301 History of the English Language.  This semester the students are posting their language observations to a course wiki. You can read more here–https://wiki.uta.edu/display/ENGL4301/Home

moistThis weekend I had interesting individual conversations with my grandmother, my mother, my sister, and my father about which words we hated most in the world (each independent of the others, so that each hated word sprang to their heads apart from any outside influence, including my own).  I noticed quite a few commonalities and thought maybe I might try to make formulas of distaste for some of them.

For myself: Moist. Ointment. Coccyx. Melancholy. For the first two I determined that I have an inherent distaste for [ɔI] preceded or followed by a nasal.  This remains true for me in the occasions of ‘annoyed’ and ‘coin,’ but not in the occasions of ‘boy,’ or ‘Lloyd.’ Both my mother and my sister independently brought ‘Moist’ to the table as well.  ‘Coccyx’ can be readily explained by the proximity of the [ks] sounds, though I can’t think of another word similar to it to compare my reactions to it. Melancholy has more to do with the sheer stupidity of the word relating to the feeling that of the actual sounds in conjunction with one another.  The word could just as easily have been ‘cantaloupeterrier’ for all the gloom it brings to the sound.

For Nana: Wasps. Desks. Armoire. Mirror. Puberty. My nana is originally from South Arkansas and thus has some interesting speech quirks; she chose words she has trouble pronouncing (which has been the delight of my family to poke at since I can remember). ‘Wasps’ and ‘Desks’ were chosen also by my sister (and indeed are words I also dislike), for the [sps] sound at the ends of them.  Terribly thought out by whoever made them up.  The plural should be ‘waspi’ or should always be singular as ‘pants’ and ‘scissors’ are always plural, i.e.: ‘ten desk.’  My father chose ‘Armoire’ as well, I think as much because of the lack of relation between sound and spelling as the phonetics of the word itself.  ‘Mirror’ is like a word I’ll address a little bit later – it follows another hate-formula my sister helped me discover.  And Nana simply cannot say ‘puberty.’  We don’t know why.  She can say each of the parts individually, but when she attempts to put them together, we inevitably end up with [pjubərtri].

For my sister: Rural. Mirror. Waymond Warren. ‘Rural’ is a word that I maintain not one person in the world, no matter the accent, can produce without sounding completely ridiculous.  I couldn’t even begin to guess at the vowel sound of the confounded word (any guesses, anyone?) – all I know is that that vowel sound coupled with the [r] sandwich just sounds utterly ridiculous.  This is the same reason my sister (and Nana) both dislike ‘mirror.’ Waymond (yes, WAYmond, not RAYmond) Warren was the name of one of my mother’s friends, and my sister and I have always had a particular problem saying the name – more often that not we get entirely tripped up and say either ‘raymond roar-en’ or ‘waymond wawwen.’ What on earth were his parents thinking?

My mother came up with some doozies: Boil. Dwayne. Rory. Secretion. Mucous. The issue with ‘boil’ is the issue she has with all [ɔI] + [l] combinations (oil, coil, Doyle, &c.). In Dwayne, the d and w smooshed together make an unnatural sound, which to her (coupled with the [eyn] like in ‘pain’) make, for her, an incredibly awkward-sounding name (and while we’re at it – is awkward not THE most awkward-looking word to see spelled-out?). ‘Rory’ contains the same type of issue as ‘rural’ and ‘mirror.’ Secretion is a word I think is less-than-popular based mostly on its connotative meaning, though that impression is perhaps aided by the sibilant hiss of the word. Mucous is just a gross word. Ew.

My dad: Hysteria. Poop. Squash. My father tends towards looking at Latin roots in his determination of whether a word is obnoxious or not.  In the case of ‘hysteria,’ he finds it utterly ridiculous in common-use, since it originally applied to the condition wherein a woman’s uterus wandered through her body, thus causing emotional episodes.  It means ‘wandering uterus.’ I rather take his point.  Dad feels that (what he terms as ‘slang’) ‘poop’ (I think its in far too common use and has been for far too long to be considered just slang anymore, but he’s a doctor and therefore thinks it should always be called ‘feces’ or ‘stool’ [which I think is a stupid term for it – one of the definitions you are intended to sit on, the other you most definitely want to avoid the same action…] or some other some-such scientific-sounding term) is a word that does not embrace the spirit of the thing it signifies.  My mom and I disagree whole-heartedly and are fully in the poop-camp.  And the final – ‘squash’ – is something my father feels is disgusting as an item in-and-of-itself, and that the name does it no favors with its [skw] beginning and its squishy ‘sh’ ending [ʃ].

So basically, my family is nuts.  We talk about words we like and dislike regularly.  We very passionately argue the case of our favorites (for me, ‘palpable,’ for example) and we fall into hysterics (sorry, Dad) laughing more often than not. My family has bonded over Waymond Wawwen and squash and poop and ointment (thank goodness not the signified objects themselves). In my interviewing them for this assignment, we’ve been beside ourselves laughing.  Language and our opinions of language are important to how members of my family interact with each other.  My mother actually just called her aunt and said, “you know what struck me? I really, really, really hate the word ‘boil.’” The response: “OH MY GOODNESS, ME TOO!” (exclaimed over the phone so loud I could hear it across the room.)  I guess there’s no need to guess at where my love for language genetically comes from – it’s all around me.  It’s something we can all share.

~Alexandra Boyd-Rogers

Published in:Uncategorized |on September 20th, 2010 |No Comments »

Pulp Free

As we gear up for a new semester, some of us are likely lamenting the recent moratorium on paper. This isn’t so surprising. We’re English people. We love books. We love the smell of the library stacks, the sound of swiftly flipping pages, and the weight of words within. Paper is associated with a sense of accomplishment — generating a stack of newly completed pages is often a hard-won battle over the difficult task of writing a journal article or new short story or brand new syllabus. The printer and copier opened new pedagogical opportunities allowing us to share duplicated pages with students and colleagues alike, a technological advance we’ve happily enjoyed for a mere three decades. We have loved the tradition that is represented in print, passing on the printed word for each new class of students to cherish. I, too, have a sense of attachment to the page and worry for a future that lacks such a wonderfully tangible pleasure.

Still, I welcome the departmental shift to paperless classrooms. Granted, it isn’t much of a shift for me, since my classes have been mostly paperless since 2005.  I made the switch out of personal necessity: faced with a killer travel schedule one spring, I would have been forced to cancel a lot of classes if it weren’t for the convenience of WebCT.  Soon I noticed my students did different things in our online class activities than they did in person: The student who quietly listened to in-class discussions suddenly found her voice online; the usually dominant voices were tempered and mediated in their digital form; conversation as a whole explored new territories and pushed boundaries as students found it easier to speak frankly when shielded by their computer screens. Before long, I realized my students learned in new and different ways in this digital medium. Thinking and writing online engages students, encouraging exploration and self-assessment that a paper-turned-in-to-the-teacher just doesn’t allow. I was a convert.

I write this hoping it will inspire more paper-lovers to embrace the moratorium as an opportunity to evolve, to re-imagine the possibilities of education within a multitude of new medium. In order to facilitate this emergence from the paper cocoon, I offer the following tips and tools for digital learning. First, the tools:

ZoteroZotero is a free downloadable extension for Mozilla Firefox and basically turns your browser into the smartest and most efficient notebook ever, one that can be accessed from any computer.  Often with one click, capture nearly every imaginable resource in your digital library. Zotero automatically recognizes UTA Library databases, WorldCat, Amazon, and Google Scholar and captures all the metadata available for any record.  With Zotero you can write extensive notes, link related items, tag keywords, create an infinite number of “libraries,” and generate bibliographies in any citation style and multiple formats (html, rtf, etc). A must for those doing extensive research!  Oh, and if all that isn’t enough, Zotero also integrates with Word so you can cite in-text directly from your libraries and quickly create an accurate Works Cited page. Too cool.

Edublogs – If you want students to try online discussions or writing in a public sphere, check out Edublogs. A single blog is free and anyone can sign up (edublogs.org). Unfortunately, the free version does include advertising. But upgrading is really inexpensive, and in my opinion, totally worth the tax write-off at $36 for an entire year. The Pro version allows you to group as many as 50 blogs, create multiple group wikis, and link them all together, thus creating a networked virtual classroom rather quickly. Or, if you prefer, you can simply bulk add your students as contributors to a single advert-free blog. You can adjust privacy settings to go public or keep the group on the down-low, class members only. The interface (WordPress – same as UTA) is very easy, as simple as e-mail, and has loads more customization features than UTA blogs. I have used Edublogs as my course home page, discussion forum, and message board. Plus, I have created a complete blogging component to my course in lieu of traditional reading journals and discussion leader assignments. My students seem to get much more out of the interactive/collaborative nature of this medium: On the blog, reading journals become academic discourse in action. Check out my class blog at Revisionary.edublogs.org to see for yourself.

Screen-Capturing is seriously helpful in creating and managing the paperless classroom. While Generation M, generally speaking, tends to be technologically fluent, many of the specific classroom tools and resources are unfamiliar. Preemptively, I created demos for some of the basic electronic functions they will need to know, using the built-in screen capturing application on my iMac. This is a fabulous tool that I learned about in one of Dr. Guertin’s incredibly useful technology workshops.  For example, I have one entitled “How to Post Blogs and Comments” and another called “Turning in Your Assignments.” This is a new experiment for me because last fall I just about went nuts answering repetitive questions. With a Mac, it’s a piece of cake to capture a screen, a window, or even action on the screen using the Grab application (located in Utilities folder). There are also several free downloads that enable Windows-friendly capturing (AviScreen, Jing).

GoogleDocs is kind of “old school” at this point, but still very useful for cutting down on the paper exchange inherent in group projects and peer review. Several students can edit any Word, pdf, PowerPoint, or Excel file in real-time and changes appear instantly. My students have reported that GoogleDocs really helps with group projects, particularly when organizing face-to-face meetings proves difficult. Students can meet virtually to create and revise synchronously, or work asynchronously whenever it’s convenient. Comment feature and multiple font colors make it easy to keep track of editing and revision suggestions from several peers.  GoogleDocs has proved useful for me when collaborating with distant colleagues on scholarly proposals/articles as well.

Word’s Track Changes and Comment features make grading student work completely paperless. Students submit electronic versions of their essays.  (See below for tips on collection and digital organization.) As soon as you open the file, turn on Track Changes. All changes will now be recorded and differentiated from the original so that they are easily identifiable to the student. You can insert comments in the margin and write an end note just like you did on paper. (See below for speedy grading tips). Save the document as a Word file or print to PDF and the changes are automatically preserved for the student to review on her own computer.

Tips:
Via lots and lots of trial and error, I have learned to simplify and unify whenever possible to make the paperless classroom more manageable. Here are a few tips that may not be immediately apparent to the newly initiated digital teacher:

  1. Do not collect papers via e-mail. You will drive yourself bananas opening and downloading each file separately. Instead, set up a group collection system that enables you to download (and upload) in bulk. I have successfully used MavSpace for the last several years and will gladly show anyone how to set up and manage course folders.  Edmodo is another option (recommended to be by Christy Tidwell) that is kind of like WebCt/Blackboard in that you create an assignment and student work is collected, filed accordingly and linked to a digital grading platform. With MavSpace or Edmodo you can bulk download student work and bulk upload feedback.
  2. Use a consistent filing system and make your students do it too. I suggest requiring a specific file name for submissions, like “LastName-Assignment-Draft-Date.doc.” This will help you stay organized, especially when dealing with multiple sections and multiple drafts. Plus, proper naming helps you “stack” papers as needed to maintain motivation for grading =) Students learn quickly that I will not grade files that are incorrectly named. In addition, create folders for each assignment and possibly sub-folders for multiple drafts. When bulk downloading, simply browse for the right file and drop ‘em all in one spot. Easy peasy.
  3. Use digital tools to simplify, rather than complicate, grading.  Grading is as repetitive digitally as it is on paper, given that students seem to require the same comments over and over and over….. I keep a “grading clipboard” with all my frequently made comments listed, such as “Use MLA style in-text citation for all quotations and paraphrases, including the page number,” or “Excellent focus on the primary text with well-chosen quotes.” I simply copy the applicable phrase from the clipboard and paste in a new comment box. So much better than re-typing the same old thing every single time. As soon as I find myself repeating a suggestion, I copy it and add it to the log to save for the next grading go-round. I also save common end-note/summation advice to use again and again.
  4. Some assignments translate well to online medium and some don’t. Most will require significant rethinking to yield desired results. For example, it will not work to ask students to write an “online essay” that is simply a web page version of an existing prompt. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. There is no audience and context for an online version of the OneBook essay and only the most gifted will divine your intent and meet your expectations. Similarly, assessment should be reconsidered for online specific projects – grading a video essay is quite different than the traditional form. See below for a few handy resources for assistance in rethinking learning and assessment in digital environments.
  5. Use what is readily available whenever possible.  The department has several options for making pretty much anything digital. The newer copier scans to pdf and saves to your flash drive. However, it does not have a bulk scan option, meaning if you want to scan several things at once, you would need to name each file separately – a pain in the you lnow what. I have found it’s far simpler to make one giant pdf copy of everything and “extract pages” in Adobe Pro, which is on many, if not all, of the e-Create machines, to create smaller of material for student reading.

In closing, I’d like to leave you, Gentle Readers, with a final thought: Imagine today’s small children growing up in this digital world. If it isn’t already, it will soon be commonplace for these children to “read” interactive versions of beloved children’s books, like Dr. Seuss, on their parents’ iPhones (Mullins). In 5 years mobile media and internet will likely takeover fixed medium globally (Meeker). In other words, there will be more people connecting to the internet and performing tasks via mobile media devices than home computers. So imagine those small children of today, learning to read, write, and think in mobile pixels, growing up with the ability to access whatever they want online, at any time, and from anywhere in the world.  Imagine the level of technology they (and their parents) will expect by the time they are ready for college. While I lament a future without the tangible pleasure of the page, I worry even more for a future where we are no longer capable of serving the needs of our students; where liberal education becomes a relic of an outmoded past. Perhaps there’s an opportunity in this departmental moratorium to take a few small steps towards improving and re-imagining educational possibilities in a digital world?  Oh, and as a side note, I composed and published this post (almost) entirely using my mobile phone.  Oh the places we can go!

~Lorie Jacobs

Additional Resources:

Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press (NJ), 2009. Print.

Frost, Alanna, Julie A Myatt, and Smith. “Multiple Modes of Production in a College Writing Class.” Teaching the new writing: technology, change, and assessment in the 21st-century classroom. Ed. Anne Herrington. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009. 181-197. Print.

Hart-Davidson, Bill et al. “Why Teach Digital Writing?.” KAIROS 10.1 (2005): n. pag. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.

Kist, William. The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin, 2010. Print.

NCTE Executive Commitee. “21st Century Curriculum and Assessment Framework.” NCTE.org. 19 Nov. 2008. Web. 2 Feb. 2010.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, et al. “CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments.” NCTE.org. 18 Aug. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2010.

More tools to try:

  • SurveyMonkey for quizzes, self-assessment, and group or teacher evaluation. Bonus: it tabulates the responses for you to quickly identify trends.
  • Facebook or Twitter for classroom updates, particularly those of a timely nature, like “class is cancelled” or alternate meeting times and spaces. Bethany Shaffer and Wilton Wright use Facebook to help students get to know each other more quickly, helping them put faces to names.
  • Delicious social bookmarking allows students to search resources and share their own, great for group projects, peer-supported research, and collaborative bibliographies.
  • YouTube (as most know, I’m sure) is a fantastic place to hunt for tutorials on pretty much anything. I frequently send students there if they want to learn a specific software tool (i.e. How do I create videos with iMovie?) or need to catch up on the basics, like those who have no idea how to format their papers.
  • Edmodo is social networking for teachers and students, but also a secure and easy space to post assignments, collect student work, and keep track of grades.

Works Cited

Guertin, Carolyn.  “Moving Teaching Online: Screencasting.” University of Texas, Arlington.  Arlington, TX.  8 April 2010.  Workshop.

Meeker, Mary. “Internet Trends 2010 by Morgan Stanley Research.” CM Summit. New York City, NY.  7 June 2010.  Available on Slideshare.net.  Web. 23 Aug. 2010.

Mullins, Scott. “Mobile phones now put children’s books in your pocket.” Tampa Bay Online, TBO.com.  20 May 2010. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.

Published in:Uncategorized |on August 23rd, 2010 |2 Comments »

Is This What You’re Looking For?

f-paper1

There’s one question I hear from students more than any other. Before a big essay is due, or a poetry portfolio or short story, students tend to wander into my office, rough draft in hand, a nervous shiftiness in their eyes as they slide the pages across the desk to me. “What is it, exactly, you want my help with?” I’ll ask. And the answer is almost always, “I just want to know if this is what you’re looking for.” And I never know quite how to answer this question. Yes, we spend several class sessions discussing what goes into a well-written short story (a well developed character with believable dialogue, attention to detail in setting, a clear catalyst, a plot that consists of distinct scenes that build in tension to a clear climax scene where the protagonist finally acts–rather than reacts–and makes a decision from which he/she can’t turn back). And we read chapters in a textbook that also talk about these elements of good fiction (or poetry, or essays). And these textbooks aren’t written by me (the text I use for Introduction to Creative Writing was written by Stephen Minot, for example, and I’ve never had a student come into my office and ask “Is this what Minot is looking for in a short story?”). But there seems to be this idea that what makes up good writing is unique to each individual instructor, and if the student can just manage to puzzle together what that “something” is that each instructor believes to be good writing than the student can ace the essay (or short story, or poem).

I think this is also why, in the hallways between classes in Preston Hall, I’ll often overhear a distraught student complain to a friend, “Professor ____________ just doesn’t like my writing!” There’s something so personal about that comment. It seems to imply that some students believe that writing professors grade in an arbitrary, subjective way (and I imagine the professor in her office, red pen in hand, complaining about how well structured the essay is, and how clear the thesis statement is, but *dang it* the writer uses too many adverbs for the professor’s liking and, so, the essay must fail!).

Granted, those of us who grade writing can not simply go down a page and look to see if the equations add up properly. We can’t run a form through a scan tron machine to tabulate a grade. But I would argue that most instructors of writing are probably going to be able to pick out the weaknesses in any essay, and will (in turn) be in the same ballpark with the final grade for the essay. There is an objectivity to how we grade, even if some of the students prefer to shift the blame of a poor grade on an essay off of themselves and onto the professor. In other words, some students believe that the grade they received was not the one that they earned, but rather the one that was given to them. And another professor–if they could just find the right one!–would give them the “A” they so justly deserve.

When I was in graduate school, those of us about to teach composition for the first time were required to attend a series of “teaching prep” classes, many of which concerned grading procedures. A tenured professor had us read a small pile of student essays and we had to grade these essays (privately, on our own) and then come back to the class and announce the grade we had given each essay and why. We spent hours going over each essay (taking off a certain number of points for a poor thesis, more points for unclear topic sentences, etc.) and by the end of the training–amazingly–the thirty or so of us in the room had come within a half-letter grade of each other. It’s not that we didn’t all understand going into the training what to look for in the writing, we just weren’t sure how many points to take off for each lacking element. And maybe this is that loophole that leads some students to believe that if they could only find the professor that *likes* their writing then they’d be set.

I’m usually suspect of a student that comes to me after receiving a “C” on an essay and complains that they’ve always received “A’s” on their essays before. I find it hard to believe that any two writing professors, when confronted with the same piece of writing, wouldn’t at least come up with roughly the same letter grade. I find it very hard to believe that student can be an “A” writer for one instructor and a “C” writer for another (and I’m not talking about those anomalies where a traditionally “good” writer turns in an uncharacteristically poor essay. Life happens, kids get sick, or midterm pressures pile on, and so they whip something out the night before the essay is due and they don’t look the professor in the eye when they hand the thing in. And I’ve found that these students are aware of the poor writing they’ve done and take responsibility for the poor grade).

But this business of grading isn’t easy. Just the other day, I had a colleague ask if I find grading creative writing assignments more difficult than grading academic essays. And the truth is that I really don’t find a difference. There are still quantifiable, objective elements that I’m looking for. What’s difficult for me is knowing that, on “paper handback” days, a lot of students will leave class disappointed with their grades, and rather than accepting responsibility for the grade that they’ve earned, they’ll find a friend in the hallway after class and will wail, “Professor Kopchick just doesn’t like my writing!”

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick, Uncategorized |on March 13th, 2010 |No Comments »