Archive for the ‘Emerging’ Category

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3e Progress

posted: 1.28.15 by Barclay Barrios

I’m happy to say that we’re pretty much done with the bulk of the work on the readings and apparatus for the third edition of Emerging.  Whenever I go through a revision cycle I am reminded of just how much work it can be to put together a textbook.  Fortunately, I am also reminded of just how much fun it can be, too. [read more]

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Categories: Barclay Barrios, Emerging, Readers
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Ikea the Argument

posted: 3.22.12 by Barclay Barrios

One of my favorite class activities is Draw the Argument. On the first day that we discuss a reading, I have students get into groups and “draw” the argument of the essay, locating quotations that support their visual interpretation. The activity is always a success, whether because it switches registers to the visual, draws on the power of groups, or simply feels more like art class than writing class I can’t say. I just know it works.

Last semester I created a new version of this activity using furniture assembly instructions from Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant. Because of Ikea’s global reach and “assemble it yourself” approach, these instructions are designed to be read by a global, polyglot audience. I begin by showing the class a set of Ikea instructions (usually the ones for the Billy Bookcase).  We “read” them as a class, interpreting the pictograms and the sequence of steps. Then students separate into groups and create a set of global “assembly instructions” for the reading we’re working on.

The activity is great for all the reasons that Draw the Argument is great—but it adds more. Students must think about organization and sequence, both within the essay and within their own writing. I’m planning on using this one a lot more in coming semesters. If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

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Categories: Emerging
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Behind the Textbook: Student Workers

posted: 12.21.11 by Barclay Barrios

I try not to think about all the work still to be done on Emerging, particularly in terms of the apparatus. Speaking solely in terms of numbers, the revised edition is about double the size of the previous one. That is, we’re adding in so much that it’s almost like doing a whole new book.

I’m adopting a strategy I used the first time around: enlisting graduate students to help. All of these students are also teachers in the program; they’ve also all been a part of this revision project from the start by helping me to find, evaluate, and test new readings. For these graduate students, this is all valuable CV experience (and when possible it’s also a little extra cash); for me, it’s the collaborative help I need to get everything done in time.

But in spite of all their help, everything still needs to pass by my eyes so the work load, while lightened, remains. But I know I couldn’t do it at all without those students.

In a grad program with only a two-year MA or three-year MFA, we don’t often have opportunities for students to fill out their CVs. I wonder, how do you offer students professional and professionalizing opportunities at either the grad or undergrad level?

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Categories: Emerging
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Behind the Textbook: Student Work

posted: 12.14.11 by Barclay Barrios

The revised introduction for Emerging is finally completed. And the missing pieces—sample student work from my class this semester—have been eased into place.

There are a number of challenges with using student work, even setting aside the intellectual property questions (for the record, students get an honorarium if their work appears in the reader). The greatest challenge for me is finding the right kind of student work.

On the one hand, I want student work that truly demonstrates the topic at hand—a response to a reading or a sample argument, for example. On the other hand, student works that’s too good can seem completely out of reach for someone picking up the text for the first time at the start of a semester. The trick is to find that balance: work that is solid and shows what might be done but that also needs some improvement (as all writing always does) so that it feels achievable to a spectrum of students.

I think we’ve found the right pieces this time, and thankfully the students have all agreed to let us use their work. One more item to check off the punch list!

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Categories: Emerging
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Behind the Textbook: Permissions

posted: 12.7.11 by Barclay Barrios

My editor John and I just finalized the Table of Contents (TOC) for the next edition of Emerging. On some level it feels very early for me—I’d love to have more time to consider a couple of the readings, and get just a bit more feedback from teachers in our program as well as other reviewers. But we needed to set the TOC because Bedford needs time to get all the permissions in place.

If you’re using a reader and your students ask you why they cost so much, you can assure them it’s not to fund the author’s extravagant lifestyle. Ever since I started working on this book in a custom published edition, I’ve discovered that the bulk of the cost for any reader comes from permissions—the monies paid to the authors of each essay used in the reader.

The world of permissions is, simply, bizarre. In Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property, Susan Bielstein describes the labyrinth of permissions in the art world. I believe it’s much the same in the world of print. I remember the costs coming in for the custom reader: obscure pieces that I thought would be cheap ended up being exorbitant; popular pieces I thought we could never afford were perfectly reasonable; some pieces we couldn’t get because the literary agent in charge wouldn’t respond.

A lot of people have asked me about a digital edition of Emerging. It’s not impossible but, from what I understand, one of the major stumbling blocks is the question of the permissions. Take a labyrinth and twist it in on itself into the fourth dimension and you have digital permissions.

Hrm…the entire question would make a good article: permissions lie at the heart of textbook costs (for readers, at least); the cost of transitions from print to digital; the value of intellectual property; and so on.

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Categories: Emerging
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Behind the Textbook: Language Matters?

posted: 11.30.11 by Barclay Barrios

I mentioned in an earlier post the Language Matters questions that are included in Emerging.

I guess I love these questions best because I never seem to have time to address issues of language and grammar in my classroom. So any issues always seem more pressing: understanding the reading, forming an argument/thesis, working with quotation, structuring organization—sometimes there just isn’t room for the apostrophe. I often feel pulled between competing pedagogical aims: teaching writing and teaching grammar.

Do you know what I mean? How do you negotiate the two?

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Behind the Textbook: My Faves

posted: 11.23.11 by Barclay Barrios

I’m excited about so many of the readings in Emerging. It’s hard to pick favorites, but if I had to, I think I would choose the following:

  • Arwa Aburawa, “Veiled Threat”
    This is an article about Princess Hijab’s “guerrilla graffiti.” It is interesting considering the move of several countries to prevent women from wearing hijabs in public. What’s also interesting is that her guerilla art is read as both ultraradical and ultraconservative. That she is not Muslim only adds to the controversy.
  • Malcolm Gladwell, “Small Change”
    The essay addresses why social media’s weak connections don’t foster the strong social bonds that bring about social change. Gladwell argues that the civil rights movement created change because it was rooted in strong ties.  Social networks promote weak ties.  hese ties, however, can also be useful. Gladwell is directly responding to the notion that “the revolution will be twittered.” (I’ve been wanting to include a Gladwell piece from the start, but he tends to be so hard to excerpt.)
  • Rachel Kadish, “Who Is This Man, and Why Is He Screaming?”
    This article about a shy photographer who no longer owns his face also includes images. Having uploaded a picture of himself to Flickr, Noam Galai suddenly found his face used on t-shirts, in revolutions, and at rock concerts. This is a great piece about technology and privacy, images, and technology and art.
  • David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster”
    This essay on the Maine Lobster Festival focuses on the ethics of boiling a live creature for the consumer’s pleasure; it also discusses the lobster’s sensory neurons. This is a fun essay to read but the meat of it comes at the end, when Wallace looks at the ethics of food and eating.
  • Bill Wasik, “My Crowd (Experiment: The Mob Project)”
    This essay, written by the guy who invented flash mobs, shows how and why they work. It examines the origin of the “meme.” This is a fun piece—breezily written but engaging some really portable ideas. And let’s face it, flash mobs are cool.

Have you used any of these selections in your teaching?

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Categories: Emerging
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Behind the Textbook: The Question of Questions

posted: 11.16.11 by Barclay Barrios

After the headnotes, I’ll work on the “apparatus”—the whole set of questions that go with a reading.  In the next edition of Emerging we these questions comes in five flavors.  First, there’s a set of pre-reading questions, designed both to get students thinking about the issues of the essay and to help them keep an eye out for key terms and ideas.  After the reading, there are a set of questions called “Exploring Context,” which use technology to place the reading and its ideas in the larger context of ideas circulating out in the world.  Then it’s time for writing, with questions that get students thinking about how the reading connects to other selections in the book as well as directed questions for writing about the essay at hand.  My favorite questions (and the hardest ones to write) are “Language Matters,” which use issues of grammar as tools of analysis.

That, my friends, is the real work of putting together a reader.  I’m trying not to think about the totality of it or the looming deadline.  I’m just trying to make the best reader possible.

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Behind the Textbook: What’s in a Headnote?

posted: 11.9.11 by Barclay Barrios

My editor and I just finalized the new table of contents for the second edition of Emerging. Now the real work begins and, logically, it begins at the beginning:  it’s time to work on the headnotes for the new readings. I have a pretty basic formula: the first paragraph gives some background on the author of the selection, the second paragraph contextualizes the selection, and the third paragraph telegraphs the argument. It sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot of research and reading involved.

I often wonder if students even read the headnotes introducing the essays they’re about to read. I don’t assign them to my students per se, mostly because I assume they’ll read the information since it appears just before the readings. Assumptions, of course, are never reliable. Perhaps I should assign the headnotes—but I’m wondering, do you? Do you use them in your class? Do you think your students read them? Please let me know.

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Behind the Textbook: The Challenge of Early Semester Testing

posted: 11.2.11 by Barclay Barrios

Just over a dozen of us are testing out new readings this semester. Given the production schedule for the second edition of Emerging, we’re all incorporating the new material into the early assignments of the semester. But as I grade these early papers, I am struck by the particular disadvantage of this schedule. In our course, we ask students to do at the start of the semester what we don’t expect them to know how to do until the end of the semester: that is, we ask them to write academic papers with clear arguments and sufficient support from textual engagement from the very start, even though those are the skills they will learn throughout the semester.

What this means for class-testing readings is that we can’t be entirely sure how well the readings will work because students are still learning how to work with them. It’s a challenge, for sure. Yet I do know one thing: a reading that’s a stinker will reveal itself quickly. And those are the ones we need to toss as soon as possible.

Results will be in next week I hope. I’ll keep people posted on how this testing phase is proceeding.

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