Archive for the ‘Jay Dolmage’ Category

Horizontal divider

… And More Writing Prompts

posted: 1.28.13 by archived

Back in September, I wrote a post entitled “Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts.”  I tried to pack that post full of links to sites that offer unique writing prompt ideas.  Today I am writing a sequel to that post, looking at two recent articles I have read about the connection between writing prompts, plagiarism, and the role of the teacher in an intellectual economy in crisis.

In December, as I was grading literally hundreds of essays, I read Claire Potter’s blog post on “Grading in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Potter makes a brilliant but uncomfortable connection.  Every year as we grade, we may joke about bad student writing, or we may complain about the drudgery of the work and how boring student writing is.  But Potter suggests it may be our fault.  She even suggests that if we keep giving the same bad assignments, we can not only expect the same bad writing, but we can likely expect plagiarism too –- and we might be complicit in creating the environment in which plagiarism seems like a logical choice.   Potter ends the post with this:

“Do yourself a favor: don’t assign papers or exams that you don’t want to read… If you are bored reading their papers and final exams, consider this: you may have bored them first.”

I felt like that was a good reminder for me as I looked ahead to my next syllabus.  [read more]

Comments: (1)
Categories: Jay Dolmage
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Catalog Writing

posted: 11.19.12 by archived

It’s catalog season. My mailbox is slowly filling with these glossy little books. I pick through them for the other mail, and leave them to stack up in there. I wish there were a way to stop companies from mailing these catalogs to my house. It’s ironic: When you buy something online, the company then send you their catalog four times (or more) a year. Shopping online could have killed the catalog—but the opposite seems to be happening.

When I was a kid, I got a job delivering catalogs for a major department store. They were heavy as hell. I pulled them behind me in a cart. It took hours to complete the route. A friend from school had a route abutting mine, but he chucked all his catalogs in a dumpster and went off to play road hockey. He got paid the same amount that I did. I’m still not sure what the moral of that story is.

Instead of moving those catalogs out of the mailbox to the recycling bin right now, I’ll write a blog post. About catalogs.  [read more]

Comments Off on Catalog Writing
Categories: Jay Dolmage
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts

posted: 9.24.12 by archived

I’ll admit that I am still a traditional “expressivist” in a lot of ways: I like to write with students, I believe in free-writing, and I am always looking for ways to break up my classes with little activities that spur creativity. I’d like to share a few sites that help facilitate this kind of teaching and that keep me from posing the same questions and prompts from year to year.

A friend of mine recently pointed me toward a great site that collects writing prompts, but showcases them in the form of a Tumblr blog—the prompts are made visually attractive and compelling, some of them rendered using the recognizable language and images of memes. The resulting multimodal texts seem to me to spur thought and invention in ways that a typewritten or chalk-written prompt just doesn’t. You can even submit your own writing prompts, or send just a quote or an image, to be turned into something multimodal. The site is run by Luke Neff, and he also maintains perhaps the coolest Tumblr commonplace book I’ve seen.  (I think I may steal this idea of creating a Tumblr commonplace book in a future class, too.)

Another interesting site is this random writing prompt generator, one of many online. Plinky also offers a full interface for this same kind of random prompt generation, giving you the opportunity to write and share your responses within the site, and even to add video, images, playlists, or maps. Similar to Plinky is One Word. As you can guess, the site gives you just one word, and then gives you just sixty seconds to write about it. Afterward, you can read the responses written by others. While I love free-writing with students and then sharing this writing in class, it is also pretty cool to see how other people from all over the world respond to the same word or prompt. (A similar but seemingly less successful site is Write for Ten, which gives you a window and a clock and asks you to write about anything you want, for ten minutes.)  [read more]

Comments Off on Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts
Categories: Jay Dolmage
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Teaching Through the 2012 Federal Election: More Resources

posted: 8.21.12 by archived

In my last post, I shared some resources that might help structure discussions and assignments around the upcoming federal election.

Today, I want to add some excellent resources that I missed.

One of the most interesting sites centering on the election is the Twitter Political Index. This will be the first election in which Twitter will play a central role, and this index will be “a daily measurement of Twitter users’ feelings toward the candidates as expressed in nearly two million Tweets each week.” For more about the index, check out these articles in Wired and the  Guardian. Some commentators are calling this the “Twitter Election.” I believe  it would be interesting not only to track arguments and sentiments on Twitter, but to discuss and debate the virtues and drawbacks of the medium and make an effort to actually track impact, when and where possible.

[read more]

Comments Off on Teaching Through the 2012 Federal Election: More Resources
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Teaching Through the 2012 Federal Election: An Annotated Bibliography

posted: 7.23.12 by archived

As a rhetorician, I can’t help but get a little bit excited about the idea of teaching writing during a presidential election. In the past, I have organized assignments around debates, commercials, fact-checking, and all kinds of other election-based nerdery. In this post, I just want to share a few resources for people who, like me, may be planning now to teach an election-based class or assignment this fall.

The excellent article “Palin/Pathos/Peter Griffin: Political Video Remix and Composition Pedagogy” presents case studies of three student “political video remixes”—this was an assignment the authors used in a class on political rhetoric and new media.” The authors do a great job showing how and why such an assignment works. If this project interests you, look at this similar article on the “Vote Different” campaign from the 2008 election, or this article on political video mashups before YouTube [read more]

Comments Off on Teaching Through the 2012 Federal Election: An Annotated Bibliography
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Do People Change?

posted: 6.25.12 by archived

In first-year writing classes, we ask students to have life stories and opinions, and we expect these compositions to be confidently articulated (most of the time). These stories and arguments, in a way, construct our students—for us and, sometimes, for themselves. But many first-year students are very young—by the measures of age, as well as educational and life experience.  This has always struck me as a problem: Are first-year students ready to be?

The easy answer is that we are all changing all the time, in major and minor ways. But I believe that this isn’t completely true—that changing is hard, particularly changing beliefs and attitudes. So today’s post is about changing.

I want to write about the death of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. I’ve been a fan of the group for a long time, starting with the album Paul’s Boutique. While I was never a great fan of the band’s first album, Licensed To Ill, I thought it was an interesting curiosity. (The album featured songs like “Fight For Your Right (To Party).”)  As I got older, the early albums seemed even more embarrassing, as did the apocryphal stories of the band’s behavior in that era—making fun of fans with disabilities, drinking heavily, insulting women, and making homophobic jokes.  In a way, Adam Yauch and the rest of the group acted like nightmare first-year students, the type of students Lad Tobin and others have written about in sensitive and nuanced ways, and that I myself have tried to understand, but who still prove highly problematic to me (in part because they reflect what I think may have been the worst parts of myself as a teenager and as an undergraduate). My point here, however, is that Adam Yauch changed. As Mark Richardson recently wrote in Pitchfork, Yauch “offered a relatable blueprint for growing up, in both his art and his life.”  As Richardson notes, in the song “Sure Shot,” written eight years after “Fight For Your Right (To Party),” Yauch rapped that “this disrespecting women has got to be through,” basically coming full circle from his misogynistic rhymes on Licensed To IllKathleen Hanna has also noted that the Beastie Boys apologized for past homophobic lyrics in a 1999 letter to Time Out New York, writing that “time has healed our stupidity.” [read more]

Comments Off on Do People Change?
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Wikipedic Knowledge

posted: 4.30.12 by archived

A very long time ago, in one of my first BITS blogs, I wrote about “Steering Around Wikipedia, Instead of Steering Clear.”

I suggested that, generally, if we don’t tell students to avoid Wikipedia as a research source, this is the first place they will go.  And they may gather research that is much too general, or that is not reliable.  Worse, they might plagiarize directly from Wikipedia, or write an essay that sounds like one long paraphrase of a Wikipedia article.  One way to address this is to lie down right in the lion’s den—to actually start research with Wikipedia.

I want to return to this argument and update it a little with a few more resources.  What I am outlining here might even become a lesson plan for a single class.

First off, we can show students that a Wikipedia entry is itself a remix, a remix of all of the general knowledge about an issue.  But each Wikipedia article also includes all of the material that has been used to make this remix.  For instance, at the bottom of most lengthy Wikipedia entries, you can find a list of “Notes and References” and resources for “Further Reading.”  Students can sort through these references and divide them according to their assumed reliability and authority, and you can help them see that some sources are more useful and acceptable than others—and you can show them why.  Many “Notes and References” and resources for “Further Reading” lead students directly to very reliable full-print texts that they can access to jump-start their own research.

Alan Liu at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has collaboratively developed a student policy for the use of Wikipedia that speaks to and expands some of these ideas. [read more]

Comments Off on Wikipedic Knowledge
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Research
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Today We’re Going to Watch a Movie In Class

posted: 4.2.12 by archived

When I was in high school and elementary school, one of the best sentences you could hear coming out of a teacher’s mouth was “Today we’re going to watch a movie in class.” Nowadays, I very rarely use film in my own classes, but I do try to assign writing projects in which students might choose to use film as part of a multimodal composition or remix. I also encourage students to create or repurpose images, particularly when I teach classes on the rhetoric of advertising, or on web design.

But as someone who believes in making my classes accessible to all students, I’m concerned about the fact that visual mediums can exclude people with impaired vision or blindness. You might say, well, if you have a class that does not include students with vision impairments, then you don’t have to worry. But I have never really thought this way. In my own classes, I never assume that everyone can see (or hear, or otherwise process) clearly and easily.Without my thick glasses (and even with them, a lot of the time), I would be excluded from a lot of highly visual experiences, and so I assume the same for my students. Plus, visual information is processed differently by different people—we all see differently, at different speeds and levels of depth, and vision interacts with our other senses in a manner unique to each of us. Moreover, I want to provide examples in my class that model accessibility as a rhetorical process and a cultural requirement, that show how making things more accessible can also, much of the time, make them much more interesting and engaging, too. I try to make access a critical and political necessity. That doesn’t mean I always get it right, it just means I try. [read more]

Comments: (3)
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

“Never Going to Make You Cry”: Why Students Should Choose Their Own Topics

posted: 3.5.12 by archived

When I was in high school and university, I dreaded writing assignments that didn’t allow me to choose my own topic and approach. As soon as I got a writing prompt in an English class, I would read through the different questions the teacher had provided, scanning for that crucial statement: “choose your own topic” or “write about a theme of your choice.” I realize some of my peers would never have wanted to choose that option; they liked being given clear parameters; and they would be uncomfortable if forced to choose their own subject material.  That didn’t make them lazy, less creative, or less confident writers.  It just made them different from me.

I try to remember this when giving my own students writing prompts. The difference is that I now start with the idea that all students can choose their own topic, but I provide extra help for students who need assistance doing so. I hope that I am accommodating all types of students this way.

A few weeks ago, there was a photo of a student essay making its way around the Internet. In the photo, a student highlighted how, on an essay  submitted for a class, he or she had started every single line with a few words from the lyrics to the Rick Astley song “Never Going to Give You Up.”

[read more]

Comments: (2)
Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived

Horizontal divider

Learning by Writing

posted: 2.13.12 by archived

Some interesting work in composition research addresses the ways that writing represents an advanced form of thinking, conceptualization, and memorization. See, for instance, Janet Emig’s work on “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” Also, a few weeks ago, Wired magazine summarized a recent study showing that students actually study best by writing essays. The study originally appeared in the journal Science. As writing teachers, we often believe in the power of writing—and we try to communicate it to other teachers and to our students. I know I do. But I also know that sometimes I lose sight of an important fact.

Yes, it is so important to see writing “as a mode of learning,” or as a type of “higher-order thinking.” Otherwise, it is too easily seen as just a skill. But look a bit more closely at the recent Wired study. It shows that most students were best able to memorize information about a series of scientific articles that they read when they studied by writing a short essay about the articles. On average, writing worked much better than concept-mapping or other “elaborative studying” techniques. Writing an essay rather than creating a concept map, for most students, even prepared them to create better concept maps when they were later tested. You can’t get much better evidence for the power of writing than that. [read more]

Comments: (1)
Categories: Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
Read All archived