Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

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Tweeting in Times of Crisis

posted: 11.15.12 by Andrea Lunsford

When Hurricane Sandy blasted ashore in New Jersey two weeks ago, I had just managed to miss the havoc by changing plans (and planes) and flying back to San Francisco not through Washington Dulles but through Houston, just hours ahead of the storm.  I had been in Philadelphia, Boston, and Raleigh, and everywhere I went people were working feverishly in preparation for what they knew would be a killer.

By the time the devastation began in earnest, I was back in a surreal and sunny northern California where it was hard to imagine what I was hearing from friends and colleagues along the east coast.  A colleague reported that two windows had just blown out of her Manhattan apartment, another that the first floor of  her home was flooded, and yet another that his car was up to the windows in water.  The natural disasters that are piling up in this age of global warming seem to be coming faster and more furiously lately. In such times, people want and need connections, want and need to know what is happening to family and friends, want and need information.

How many of us turned, in this latest disaster, to Twitter?  If you did, then you got a sense of just how powerful that medium of information sharing can be.  Tweets came by the thousands: news as it happens. Right at the moment and moment by moment we could follow the storm and, more importantly, the people experiencing it.  This contemporary form of communication seemed to eclipse ordinary TV and radio because it was so unedited and often so raw.  I felt awash in hurricane-force messages, tossed around by and with them, and grateful for it. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford
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Debriefing the MOOC

posted: 8.31.12 by archived

To start my promised report on my MOOC MOOC experience, I’m embarrassed to admit that, like 90% of the students who enroll in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), I did not complete the course.  (You can find this figure, along with much more info about MOOCs, on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s page “What You Need to Know about MOOC’s.”) Given the general attitude that it was fine to jump in and do as much or little as one wished, this was no big deal, and even my limited participation both taught me a lot and raised a lot of questions.

The speed of the course did me in, with so much to read and watch and produce in a single week. The demands of life that prevented me from engaging as deeply as I would have liked served to remind me of the “real-life” pressures my community college students face.  I also reflected on the usefulness of deadlines: to what extent their pressure is necessary to get work done and how they serve the practical need for students to be at similar places in order to share and reflect on each other’s products, but also how the difficulty in meeting one deadline can derail student progress in the entire course. For my own courses, it led me to think about what interventions I might make to help in these types of situations, that seem so common for my students. [read more]

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Categories: Holly Pappas
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Finding the Best Features of a Text

posted: 11.1.11 by Traci Gardner

When I’m the passenger on a road trip, I have a habit of snapping photos with my cell phone as the car goes down the highway. On a trip last week, we encountered five or six different areas of road construction in about thirty square miles.

At a stoplight, I snapped a photo of some construction equipment. I uploaded it from the phone to Flickr and sent out a Tweet with the link to this image and the title “Construction Fun”:


When I got home and saw the full-size photo online, I was disappointed to find that the upper third showed the reflection of my mother’s cell phone on the dashboard. Clearly, I needed to revise the photo. I launched Photoshop and played with the crop tool until I narrowed the photo to this thinner image:


[read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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My Little Grammar and Spelling Rant

posted: 10.25.11 by Traci Gardner

2I hate grammar police. Their behavior is one of the reasons that when I confess I am an English teacher, people almost always reply, “Oh, I’d better watch my writing.”

Let me explain that I’m using the phrase grammar police to encompass the whole grab bag of folks who torment others for their misuse of language. You can toss in the spelling security squad, punctuation guards, and mechanics MPs as well.

When people get into such hypercorrective moods, they usually end up doing more harm than good. Take the situation from Red River College last year. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported in January 2010, a great grammar calamity is to be corrected:

Manitoba businessman and philanthropist John Buhler vows that he will personally pay to replace a bronze plaque that honours his and his wife Bonnie’s $500,000 donation to the college’s downtown campus.

The new grammatically correct plaque will add a missing comma, correct a dangling participle, and add a hyphen. May the gods of grammar be appeased by this offering.

While I agree that ideally the plaque should be corrected, I don’t appreciate the public shaming and related crusade to get the job done. As I Tweeted at the time, this is why people hate English teachers (and the unforgiving grammarians they can spawn). [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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Congressmen Behaving Badly

posted: 6.16.11 by Jack Solomon

The way things are going, the notorious Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities may have to be renamed the House Committee on Un-Believable Activities. What with Christopher Lee’s and Anthony Weiner’s career ruining escapades involving such online mainstays as Craiglist and Twitter, one might wonder whether they were auditioning for spots in Diesel’s “Be Stupid” campaign. But it is not only congressmen who are posting stunningly inappropriate material on the Web these days; a good number of other people are, too, especially the teenaged girls who have been getting themselves into trouble through “sexting.” Such an outbreak calls for a semiotic examination.

Sex scandals themselves, of course, are nothing new to politics (or any other arena), but what I find interesting is the virtual dimension of the sexting phenomenon. It is the sheer exhibitionism that I find striking, an exhibitionism that does not involve actual contact. Behind such exhibitionism, as is so often the case in American popular culture, lies a fundamental contradiction: that is, while the Puritan tradition in our culture continues to regard the unclothed human body as a scandal and a sin, the capitalist side of the American character finds that same body to be a very good way to make money, either by associating it with all kinds of goods and services through advertising, or simply by selling its image through numerous varieties of visual entertainment. Wherever we look there are images of naked human bodies in our culture, and the images are not restricted to female bodies. Even the Yahoo News home page lets barely a day go by without an image of some half-dressed muscleman selling a bodybuilding product. Even as I write these words, an ad on the Yahoo News page that I am using to check my facts on the Anthony Weiner scandal features a close-up image of the nether regions of a woman in a very brief bikini—not unlike the picture that got Weiner into trouble in the first place. [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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Twitter and Getting Better All the Time

posted: 6.8.11 by Traci Gardner

5785247377_32dbf7917d_mBack in April, I wrote about how to use, a Web site that can make an online newspaper (like the one shown here) out of Twitter updates, and I suggested some classroom activities that used the tool. If I piqued your interest, there’s good news. recently released new features and functionality that will make the tool even better for teachers and students.

If I didn’t know better, in fact, I’d think the developers read my list of cons in my first post on the tool as a to-do list for development. First, I complained about the lack of control over the interface or layout of the stories on the page, and the first improvement fixes that issue. When you hover your mouse over a story in your edition, three icons appear in the lower right corner:

  • an up arrow to set the story as a featured article
  • a down arrow to move the story lower on the page
  • an X to delete the story entirely

With these simple buttons, you now have complete control over the stories. You can shift around the links students share in an edition to highlight those on which you want to spend the most time during discussion. I also lamented that the paper can only be as smart as the Twitter search you use, and included a screenshot that showed some gibberish as a demonstration of the problem. Now that there is an option to delete a story entirely, that kind of random issue with a story can be easily fixed with a mouse click. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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Texting IS Writing

posted: 5.12.11 by Andrea Lunsford

Recently, I followed a thread on the WPA Listserv pondering the question, “Is texting writing?”  The thread took off, from Jeff Grabill’s appearance on Inside Higher Education’s “Academic Minute.” Jeff took his minute to  question those who continue to bemoan the state of literacy today. (Since the 1880s, we have had a “literacy crisis” roughly every thirty years in the United States, so the current one is just an echo of many others—just with different technologies as the culprit.) People, Grabill argued, fail to recognize that young generations today are writing—and I would add reading—more than at any time in the history of the world; this is what I mean when I talk about a “literacy revolution.”  Those who view any change as a decline see new literacies, those enabled by digital technologies, as cause of diminished literacy.  Instead, as Grabill pointed out, literacy today is just different than it was 50 years ago, changing and shifting and morphing—as literacy always has.  Students today are particularly good at communicating through text messaging and through the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  And they have an acute sense of audience and purpose, what I think of as rhetorical awareness, though they wouldn’t use that phrase.

Perhaps most of all, they are inseparable from their phones, which Grabill called “the new pencil.”  With these phones, they are keeping in touch with friends and family, taking notes, writing texts of all kinds—even novels. (The cell phone novel has been a phenomenon in Japan for some time now.)  So YES, texting is writing, and we need to be paying very close attention to it and learning from our students how they are using this new “pencil.”  I expect that textual features will change under the influence of this medium, just as such features changed with the advent of print type.  Looking back, we can see the average paragraph length shorten as newspapers became ubiquitous—those narrow columns needed to be broken up to be reader friendly—and over the decades paragraphs in other genres got shorter too.  Trying to understand changes to conventions and patterns of communication is one reason I ask my students to talk with me about the apps they find most useful, about how many different kinds of writing they do with their phones, and about what they think characterizes effective text messages.  They have a lot to say about all these issues, and I for one am ready to listen.

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Categories: Campus Issues, Critical Thinking
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Horizontal divider in the Classroom: Alternatives and Activities

posted: 4.26.11 by Traci Gardner

In last week’s post, I talked about, a Web site that can make an online newspaper out of Twitter updates. Since then I’ve found a some similar resources that I’ll mention, and then I’ll share some suggestions for using these programs in the classroom.

Alternatives to

I prefer using It produces the cleanest online newspaper from Twitter updates and is the only option that arranges the updates into categories. It’s not perfect, as I discussed last week, but to me it seems like the best option.

As an alternative, however, consider The Tweeted Times, which also creates an online paper from Twitter posts. It updates papers hourly, so the content focuses on the latest updates and breaking news. At the same time, the hourly changes make it harder to use in the classroom since the document is constantly in flux. There are only archives of the top news stories, not all stories (which includes), so it’s harder to have a touchstone issue that all students will have read.

PostPost creates a newspaper layout from your Facebook news posts (no Twitter posts). The content is personalized to your friends on Facebook, so it isn’t a reasonable alternative for the classroom. Everyone’s issue would be different. Flipboard and Broadfeed, iPad applications that create similar “social magazines,” have the same problem. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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"The Dumbest Generation"?

posted: 2.3.11 by Andrea Lunsford

I often meet parents, members of the public, even colleagues who agree with Mark Bauerlein’s assessment of young people today as The Dumbest Generation. In his book Bauerlein finds great fault with the digital world, arguing that it is “stupefying” young Americans in ways that jeopardize the future of the United States.

That’s quite a claim—and though Bauerlein makes a few salient points, the major claim is not one that I agree with.  In my view, college writers today are increasingly sophisticated communicators, able to shift gears from genre to genre, medium to medium.  They are also increasingly aware of their audiences, often in quite nuanced ways, and they use that awareness to make strong connections.  I’ve already said that these students are writing more than ever before—in spite of the fact that many of them do not consider all the writing they are doing online to be “writing.”  What this says to me is that we need first of all to engage students in talking with us about their online writing, their digital selves, learning as much as we can about its purposes, audiences, and strategies.  Then we need to help students establish connections between the informal writing they are doing on social networking sites, for example, and the writing they are doing for college.

While there are very clear differences between extracurricular writing and academic writing, I believe that students can learn a lot from what they do well in their informal writing.  Learning to think as clearly about academic genres and academic audiences as they do about online audiences is just one example of what I mean.  In addition, we can help students see that some of the strategies they use in social networking might well be adapted to their classroom writing. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching Advice
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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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