Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

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Oh, What a Tangled Web!

posted: 11.14.14 by Donna Winchell

I don’t share a lot of articles on Facebook. In fact, I share more cat and dog videos, usually in private messages to family members. When I ran across a posting of some remarks made by Ben Stein about the term “Holiday Trees” versus “Christmas Trees,” though, I thought it made some good points and naively shared it. One friend had already complained about how limiting Stein’s view of prayer is when I took the time to read some of the many comments that have been posted in response to the piece. I still think the article can be used to discuss argumentation, but I also discovered how much it has to offer as a means of teaching the dangers of trusting what you read on the Internet. [read more]

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Categories: Uncategorized
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Multimodal Mondays – Fight Club and Social Media: Teaching Students the Importance of Conceding

posted: 10.13.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Eric Stephens is a graduate instructor at Utah State University. His research interests lie where popular culture, religion, pedagogy, and writing center theory and practice intersect. He has presented his work at several university symposiums and plans to present his most recent research at the International Writing Centers Association conference. You can reach Eric via his website and follow him on Twitter @eric_james86.

When I taught argumentation, the importance of conceding evaded my students. After some reflection, I realized I needed a new plan. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Guest Bloggers
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Is Facebook Making Us Stupid?

posted: 10.27.11 by Andrea Lunsford

Nicholas Carr’s provocative 2008 Atlantic article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” answers that question largely in the affirmative:  Carr is interested in—and concerned about—the way he feels his memory is changing. He can’t concentrate very well any more, can’t do “deep reading” as he used to do, and feels as though someone or something is “tinkering” with his brain. He goes on to enumerate the dangers associated with fragmented attention and superficial thinking, and he links these effects to the Internet.

I have resisted Carr’s argument since in my work every day with college students I find them still able to engage texts in a highly critical and fully sustained manner. Thus while I do believe that technological innovations affect the way we organize and interact with information and, indeed, with the way we think, this has always been the case—and will continue to be the case.

Carr’s article and later book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, continues his critique and handwringing over technological change and its relationship to corollary cognitive changes that Carr sees as threatening or detrimental. Many others, however, see these changes as simply part of the evolution of humans and the tools they create and use.

This infographic created by Online PhD sums up several studies about student use of Facebook (one of those distractions Carr is so critical of).  The infographic’s creators note:

Facebook has changed the way college students do everything—how they make friends, date, share stories, and increasingly, get an education. FB use doesn’t taper off much at the graduate school level either—PHD students seem to be just as into social media as undergrads.  Some studies say Facebook is beneficial to students while other say it’s harmful; but taken together the research suggest it all depends on how students use it. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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Paying the Piper

posted: 7.28.11 by Jack Solomon

When teaching popular cultural semiotics—especially with respect to the mass media—perhaps the most crucial point to impart to your students is that the way mass media is financed determines the nature of its content. That is, the mass media in themselves (from the Hearst newspapers to the Internet) are only conveyors of information, and therefore ideologically neutral technologies, but their content is not neutral and is determined by the motivations of those who control them.

It is easy to presume that all mass media follow the American model, which is a commercial one financed by advertising and marketing, but that is not always the case. British radio and television, for example, were at first financed by a governmental agency that we know as the BBC. Programming was determined by public servants, who happened to believe that radio and television should be employed to inform and culturally educate the British public. Broadcasting costs were paid by the government, and funded by the licensing fees paid by purchasers of radios and televisions.

From the start, American radio and television were funded quite differently. One only had to purchase a radio or TV and the rest was free. Broadcasting costs were paid by the commercial sponsors who bought advertising time. This apparently trivial fact is of profound significance: with the motive of reaching the largest possible audience/market, commercial American media content was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This is why, scarcely a decade into the television era, American TV was already being referred to as a “vast wasteland.” [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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On “The Facebook Mirror”

posted: 6.30.11 by Andrea Lunsford

An article from Inside Higher Education, Lisa Lebduska’s “The Facebook Mirror,” led to an animated and instructive discussion on the WPA listserv recently—about the pitfalls and potential of Facebook, about student writers and their audiences, and about teachers’ responsibilities to foster both old and new literacies.

We have all heard much criticism of Facebook and other social networking sites, which—according to their critics—are “dumbing down” their users.  And certainly we can find examples of the jejune, the banal, the utterly narcissistic (hence the mirror analogy) on these sites.  But I think it is a mistake to paint all social network sites and the conversations they contain with the same brush.  Indeed, I see many counter examples produced by young writers I know:  the high schooler who posts really tough questions daily and demands that others engage them; the undergraduate traveler who posts achingly bleak descriptions of the Indian hospital where he is volunteering for two months; the working mom who has built a support network for others like her who are juggling parenting, work, and school.

Social networking sites are, then, what their writers make of them.  They are also spaces for writers to engage audiences of all kinds, to come into contact with people of widely differing backgrounds and assumptions.  My research suggests that students are highly aware of and sensitive to such audiences:  they know that their messages must be shaped to different readers, especially those they want to engage in further conversation.  So if Facebook is a mirror, it is a really big one.  Look in it and you can see not only yourself but all those others you are both addressing and invoking. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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The Dark Side of the Social Network

posted: 6.2.11 by Jack Solomon

Back when I was writing the introduction to a (then) new chapter for the sixth edition of Signs of Life in the U.S.A. called “You-Topian Dreams: MySpace, Your Space, and the Semiotics of Web 2.0,” MySpace was still far and away the most popular social networking site compared to sites like Facebook and Friendster. In the interval between the sixth and the just-completed seventh edition of Signs of Life, however, Facebook has overwhelmed MySpace in popularity, having crossed over what Malcolm Gladwell has called “the tipping point,” and in so doing has become a snowballing international corporate phenomenon rivaling even Google in wealth and power.

The rise of Facebook calls for a thorough semiotic analysis, an exploration that has already begun through the work of such researchers as danah boyd, who has found a startling socioeconomic and racial component in the eclipse of MySpace. (Simply put, boyd’s demographic investigations suggest that MySpace has been deserted by white middle-class users who have fled to the tonier pastures of Harvard-born Facebook.) There will be much more research in the years to come, and this blog is no place for a complete analysis, but I would like to tease out one angle of the decidedly overdetermined Facebook phenomenon that I find to be both significant and troubling.

This signifier appeared in some comments I read recently on an online forum where I spend a fair amount of time. Though the forum is devoted to a particular hobby and the technical gear needed to pursue it, it has evolved into something very much like a social networking site, with members interacting in quite personal ways, referring to each other as “family,” exchanging photographs and MP3 music files, and even raising money when a member suffers an economic reversal. Of course, many members of the forum also have Facebook pages, and they also interact with each other there.

The other day, one member who had not yet joined Facebook did so, and reported the fact to the forum. She also put out a call for “friends.” Immediately, forum members with Facebook pages chimed in and a flurry of “friending” transpired. In the midst of this someone remarked how a certain unpopular member of the forum had only two friends on Facebook, and a lot of virtual giggling broke out. [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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Physical Space and the Writing Process: Classroom Connections

posted: 1.31.11 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

How do our physical surroundings affect our writing? Do our writing spaces lend themselves to distractibility or to sustained concentration? How can we become more aware of our writing environment, and use it to our advantage, even if it is not an advantageous or inviting space? I consider these questions through a writing and revision practice that can help us pay more attention to our writing classrooms—and our needs as writers.

Over the years, I have worked with students in developmental writing in many different classroom spaces. My favorite space was under the apple trees at a large research university in the rural mid-Atlantic. It was summer, and I remember apples falling and the first dry leaves crunching under our books and notebooks. The grass served as soft and fragrant carpeting as the writers and I discussed and composed reflections on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I found a very different space for writing in a computer lab at an urban Midwestern university. The students’ computers were arranged in two separate rows at opposite sides of the classroom.  The teacher’s computer was on an island at the very back of the classroom. The room had no center, and the students could not see each other, or me. The computers made a loud and constant humming noise. No windows opened to the outside, and fluorescent lights flickered over our heads. [read more]

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Categories: Developmental
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Wired to Devices

posted: 1.25.11 by Steve Bernhardt

I was at a meeting 7 or 8 years ago with people from instructional technology (IT). Conversations were just beginning on my campus about making whole buildings wireless, and IT was looking for suggestions. I proposed Memorial Hall, the English department’s building that contained classrooms, offices, and the writing center. To me, wireless seemed like a gift. Imagine, I could teach writing and students could just bring their laptops. I would not have to worry about labs and sign-up sheets and reserving times. I could not believe that everyone was not clamoring for it.

Others had to explain to me that many faculty were resisting the move to wireless, and that, in fact, IT was having to respond to faculty complaints about students using various devices in class. I learned that many of our faculty were requesting that they not be assigned to our beautifully appointed classrooms in Gore Hall because wireless had been installed. These kinds of complaints are familiar by now, but back then they took me by surprise. I had not thought much about students using various devices during class to network, cheat on tests, or simply relieve boredom. Our IT folks were worried there would be such a backlash that their plans for a wireless campus would be subverted.

Fast forward to today and our campus is indeed fully wireless. However, there’s still some faculty grousing, and syllabi sometimes contain stern warnings about turning off cell phones (not just silencing!), not using Facebook, and leaving laptops at home. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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The Medium Is the (Text) Message

posted: 12.9.10 by Jack Solomon

When Sonia Maasik and I brought out the first edition of Signs of Life in the USA in 1994, we explained our semiotic approach to popular culture in part by a reference to Marshall McLuhan’s famous proclamation in The Gutenberg Galaxy that the era of print technology was yielding to an aural/visual culture, thanks to the advent of the new electronic media (which at time included radio, cinema, television, recorded music, and film). In the light of that shift, we proposed that semiotics could provide a means for writing instructors to build a bridge between the “textually based enterprise of writing instruction” and a “video-driven world.”

As we work on the seventh edition of Signs of Life, it is apparent that our proposal was an influential one. From the many composition readers devoted to popular culture to the many others that make use of the analysis of images in their pages (indeed a recent Bits post discusses how Ways of Reading makes use of images), it is clear that bridging the gap between text and image has become a mainstay of contemporary composition instruction.

But what I’d like to note is this: something is going on right now in popular culture, which, while not wholly taking the place of the images and sounds of the post-Gutenberg world, is certainly offering a new range of experiences whose effects are yet to be fully understood. [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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Ten New Course Evaluation Questions

posted: 12.7.10 by Traci Gardner

327122302_bbc4a3935b_mNear the end of every term, I ask students to answer a series of official course evaluation questions, like these from Virginia Tech. The series normally presents computer-driven questions with four or five possible answers.

Standard course evaluation questions like these simplify the process of making comparisons among course sections and across the college or university. The problem is that the numbers generated from those official questions don’t give me specific suggestions I can use to improve the course and my teaching.

To get more detailed feedback, I have also asked students to respond to three questions anonymously in writing:

  • What were you most satisfied with about this course?
  • What would you change to make the course more effective?
  • Please share any other comments or suggestions.

I’ve used those three questions for years with little variation. I have modified them slightly and used them for training sessions and conference workshops as well.

Recently however, I began to wonder if they were giving me the best possible information on how to improve my course. How, I wondered, could I rethink course evaluation questions? What could I do to freshen up the questions and still get some useful feedback?

I came up with ten new course evaluation questions, shown below in boldface. Naturally, I won’t use all ten questions at once—three is probably plenty. For each, I explain my goal for the question and the kind of information that I hope to hear from students. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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