Archive for the ‘Campus Issues’ Category

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Design by Committee?

posted: 9.21.10 by archived

I’ve been watching a couple recent videos about Rutgers’ first-year composition (FYC) program via Jeff Rice at Yellow Dog and Alex Reid at Digital Digs. In one, five students discuss their attitudes and writing processes as they go through their first semester of Expos (as in expository): it’s a fascinating glimpse, complete with 2:00 am candy bars, a variety of procrastination activities, and frank discussions of how to BS your way through assignments. Watch it here:

The Expos Five from Expos the Movie on Vimeo. [read more]

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Campus Issues, Community College issues, Holly Pappas
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Using Current Events to Discuss Writing and Visual Rhetoric

posted: 9.17.09 by Traci Gardner

On the local news tonight, I heard a story about a letter sent to all Virginia Tech students outlining the precautions being taken on campus to avoid an outbreak of swine flu. On the other side of the U.S., Washington State University reported that 2500 students have contracted the H1N1 virus since classes started in August. Somewhere on your campus, you’ve probably heard or seen similar news and advice on avoiding swine flu.

All these stories make excellent texts for the classroom. Obviously, we want to share the information with students to help ensure a healthy fall term for everyone. In the composition classroom, these news stories and public notices also give us current texts we can dissect for use of persuasive techniques and visual rhetoric. Combined with similar materials from the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, these materials give students the chance to consider how rhetorical techniques are adapted to fit the times.

I’ve gathered online resources that range from library exhibitions on the 1918 pandemic to current U.S. government materials on the H1N1 virus. You can supplement these materials with information distributed on your own campus and in the local community as well as from the Reuters Worldwide Coverage on H1N1. Here are four ideas for classroom activities to get you started:

  1. Much of the way we think about global pandemic, whether the spread of the H1N1 virus today or the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, is shaped by materials distributed by the government. Explore how these government sites present information on the 1918 pandemic: The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918–1919, Influenza of 1918 (Spanish Flu) and the US Navy, and The Deadly Virus. Ask students to consider how the different sites blend historical facts and figures about the 1918 pandemic with more personal reports of the effects of the disease. Have students consider why these government sites exist and how they relate to the public health efforts related to the current H1N1 virus.
  2. Read these personal recollections of the 1918 pandemic, all in the form of transcribed oral histories, focusing on their use of specific details. Ask students to identify the details in the oral histories that make the stories vivid and authentic and to discuss what the specific details add to the oral histories that more general information would not have captured.
  3. Focus on visual rhetoric by looking at the posters and public service announcements. Use the Visual Rhetoric resources from the Purdue OWL to guide your exploration. For a historical twist, compare the techniques used in posters urging health and safety during the 1918 pandemic to those created for the H1N1 virus.
    As part of your exploration, students might design their own posters or videos.

  4. Tap the language expertise of ESL students you teach. Ask second language speakers to focus on how the same message is communicated in different languages. Are there significant differences? What cultural information must change to communicate the same basic message. Use the Stop Germs, Stay Healthy! posters from King County in Washington or the World Health Organization Documents on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to start discussion.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Campus Issues, Document Design, ESL/multilingual writers, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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What Not Teaching Offers

posted: 8.27.09 by archived

It sounds odd discussing how not teaching can impact our teaching in a positive way — and it feels even stranger to raise the issue.  I love teaching, and I become very passionate when I talk about it, yet I have discovered that with my not teaching in the coming year, I am able to reflect and think about the exact same activities that our colleagues are currently engaged in.  They are writing syllabi, generating lesson plans, answering questions, and attempting to keep their course materials fresh and current.  Many of them are starting to feel the stress of teaching again, wondering where the summer went, and so forth.  Since I am not teaching, I see just how much time I am not investing in those areas and how much of my teaching strategies I cannot see when I’m actually in the classroom.

Even though I only taught for three years, I quickly lost track of how quickly teaching and preparing for classes integrated itself into my life.  Only by not teaching have I really noticed how much of my attention it had commanded.  Now I have time to read, research, and do other things that were simply not as viable or possible when teaching.  When I taught, the work became second-nature and I started to take for granted the time commitment, the endless syllabus revision, and the search for new and engaging readings.  Not teaching gives me valuable perspective on just how much work goes into preparing for classes and the entire process of teaching. This shift also reflects just how easy it can be to assimilate into the lifestyle of teaching and working in academia.

Not teaching also provides distance to step away from my pedagogy and reevaluate just what I think I am doing.  Now as a not teacher, I have more distance from instruction; I think less about specific students, and my tools are much at rest. While it is important to discuss pedagogy and teaching as they are happening so that we can refer to real-life examples and specific details, it is also important to view our pedagogy and our practice while at rest, while not involved. This is akin to having a map that shows where you are and where you are going; every now and then, it is important to triangulate and confirm your location.  If we focus on affirming our location and goals — what our students need, how we teach, what our pedagogy is, or the purpose of education — without confirming our point of origin and our purpose for the journey, we will, at best, waste a lot of effort.  Having a chance to stop, breathe, and analyze why I am doing what I am doing is good: it offers distance from the experience, it allows my brain to relax and rest, and it provides a chance to evaluate my efforts more objectively. Doing so helps me locate my weaknesses and develop them so that my future students will not have to pay for my oversight.

Having time to rework what I think is important about learning and teaching — especially when it comes to writing — is a luxury not available to everyone, especially to adjuncts who are on the financial edge.  However, sometimes we are forced into breaks from teaching or new opportunities take us away from the teaching world.  We can make the most of not teaching by using some of that time away to reflect on the larger pedagogical issues at stake, the role of teaching first year composition in our careers, and, most importantly, how our students are changing so that our teaching can adjust in turn.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Campus Issues, Gregory Zobel, Teaching Advice
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The Body of the Campus

posted: 5.8.09 by archived

Here is an interesting column about managing physical university resources–the campus–more wisely and the impact this can have on the university.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Campus Issues, Gregory Zobel
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Administrative Pay in California

posted: 4.21.09 by archived

If you are up for some depressing news, or if you want to get riled up, read this article about administrative pay within the UC system.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Campus Issues, Gregory Zobel
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