Google+ for You?

In November, I presented at this conference called the Blogworld & New Media Expo.  They have what is called a virtual ticket, and I’m working my way through some of the sessions and taking notes.

Google+ Torgerson

Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki did a presentation on Google+, a social media platform (is that what you call it?) that I’ve largely ignored until now. I set up my profile. I know a couple of good friends are on there.  I check in to see what they’ve posted lately.  That was about it.

Guy says Facebook is for friends and family and Google+ is for those who share your passion.  He says the first thing I ought to do is to search for key words that describe my passion.  Okay, item learned #1:  I can search for key words on Google+.  I can’t do that on Facebook, right?  So I try searching by “writing” and “teaching” and what do I find?  TENURE-TRACK POSITION IN CREATIVE WRITING (FICTION) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA.  It was the second post.  I hadn’t thought about job openings being on Google+.  It would be a certain kind of writer and teacher to find such a post on Google+ as opposed to the pages of The Writer’s Chronicle, right?  Some universities would never post on Google+ and some would most want to find future teachers and writers there.  That’s my guess.  Got an opinion?

Chris says you can click into your circles and just see posts from that circle.  So I could have a “writing” circle and a “basketball coach” circle and take only a look at those things when I want to.  He also says to try  FindPeopleOnPlus.Com.  There, you could not only search by someone’s name–William Torgerson–but also by key words such as “writer.”  Chris says he found 87 farmers.  He plays Texas Hold’em with his dad on Google+.

There’s something called Hangout where you can get together online via video.  I can see possibilities for writing groups or classes to meet virtually. Okay, I’m convinced to do more on Google+.  Maybe tonight I’ll take a look at organizing my circles.

You can read more about Guy Kawasaki here.

And Chris Brogan here. 

Are you on Google+?  If you are, what do you do there?

What do you tell writers who ask for advice?

At the request of Campus Activities I agreed to participate in what is called “Storm Talks.”  It seems the goal of the project is to initiate conversation between students and professors.  I talked briefly on video and invited students to tell me about their writing before, during, and after the first year writing course.  The video was published via YouTube and Facebook.  Questions came in.  Here’s one of them:   “Any advice for a young writer?”

Click Here to Be Taken to Facebook Conversation

I usually answer that question by saying that the writer should read and write a lot.  I suppose it’s a philosophy–PRACTICE– that I used back when I was eighteen years old and cared about my free throw percentage. Okay, I still care about how many I’d make out of 100 if I were to go shoot tomorrow morning, but what I’m getting at is that in order to shoot free throws well, part of that process was that I shot a lot of them.  I remember in Donald Murray’s book, Write to Learn, he quotes writer (and Google fighter) Ursula Le Guin about this notion of practice:

“If you want to be a tuba player you get a tuba, and some tuba music…And you probably get a tuba teacher, because there are a lot of rules and techniques to both written music and to tuba performance.  And then you sit down and you play the tuba, every day, every week, every month, year after year, until you are good at playing the tuba; until you can–if you desire–play the truth on the tuba.”

Right after I suggest reading and writing to the person who has asked for advice (who am I really to give it?) I say that the writer needs to learn how to read.  People often laugh and think I’m joking, but I’m not.   As a student at Georgia College in Milledgeville, a generous faculty helped me to begin to read like a writer.  I learned to see that when Flannery O’Connor wrote “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” she made a choice for conflict in her first sentence:  “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.”  O’Connor had many choices when it came to the beginning of her story.  She could have delivered dialogue, oriented readers to the setting, or perhaps written images for the purpose of developing character.  As I began to read in this way, all of the texts that surround me became my potential teachers, and I can read for lessons connected to dialogue, structure, endings, word choice, and many, many more.

So when asked to give advice I say to read and write a lot, and I say to learn how to read.  That feels like a pretty “DUH” thing for me to write.  Do you think so?  If you’re in position to ever be asks the question, how do you answer it?

Click Here to See Storm Talk Video

Facebook and Blogs as Instruments for World Peace?

from Bruce Barrett founder of IWAGEPEACE.ORG

When I started to make the mental move from basketball coach to writer (not that a person couldn’t be both) the two writer/teachers I began to read were Donald Murray and Peter Elbow.   Many of the professors and teachers around me let me know that these two men were considered to be from the “expressive” school of composition and that if I followed their methods then my classroom would not be a place for political and social change.   In the years that have followed, I have not found the warnings about expressivism’s lack of political impact to be true.

In the writing classrooms I inhabit, my students write in what Murray called a daybook (think writer’s journal) and they use Peter Elbow’s guidelines for sharing their work with one another, and what happens after that often takes on political implications for the classroom and beyond.

What follows are my notes for the reading of a text I choose because I’m thinking about technology, multimodal texts, and how those terms relate to the act of writing.  The text did its work of giving me more to consider, but it also got me to thinking about the social and political change that occurs when people read and write together, whether this happens passing sheets of paper back and forth, posting on Facebook, or creating websites.  If you have any doubt about a blog’s ability to spread any sort of message, take a glance at the map that goes with this blog and check out the location of some of its readers.  Whoa.

Here are some “Golden Lines” and some of my thoughts related to Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words:  Composition in a New Key.” 56:2  CCC. December 2004.

  • “Never before has the proliferation of writings outside the academy so counterpointed the compositions inside” (298).  My students write regularly on blogs and I have them form groups to investigate an issue within writing studies, write a collaborative research paper, and present it to the class via a multimodal text.  While those are activities within the courses I teach, I also talk daily about scholarly sources, signal phrases, parenthetical citations, and an MLA works cited page.  I was just walking to class and thinking about how few of my students will use these “skills” (what else to call them?) after college.  I was also thinking how rarely I use those skills in my writing. If I were a teacher and writer mostly publishing in scholarly journals, I would use these features of writing a lot, but I think of myself as a novelist, a short story writer, and an essayist.  Most of the reading I do does not contain parenthetical citations.  I hang onto to teaching that part of writing because my students are mostly just getting started at the university and I imagine that they will have to do this sort of writing to successfully navigate the university.  If the latter is true (that students will read scholarly sources and write research papers) then I think the quote from the Yancey article that begins this bullet is an observation worth consideration.
  • “How is it that what we teach and what we test can be so different from what our students know as writing?” (298).  I want to take my students beyond what they know as writing.  I want them to think critically about the texts that bombard them.  I want them to equate writing with thinking, to begin to see the phrases that ripple across their mind as revisable thoughts.
  • “At best, it could help foster a world peace never known before” (301).  We weren’t blogging in my courses yet, but this sentence reminds me of my own classroom, where the Jewish immigrant from Russia became best friends with the Muslim student from Pakistan.  These students wrote about the world was set up for them to hate one another but our classroom at St. John’s University became a space where they could work together and become friends.
  • “At this moment, we need to focus on three changes:  Develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise our writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric” (308).  Sentences such as this one cause me to wonder my place in Writing Studies, as a professor with an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English Education.  Writing Studies sounds like something to which I can belong while an Undergraduate Major in Composition sounds more like something within which I will always be slightly unqualified to teach, at least when it comes to my terminal degree.
  • “In composition, we need to learn how to read and write e-texts–synthesizing, questioning, evaluating, and importing from them–databases and catalogues, hyper-texts and archives, Web essays and portfolios” (318).    If you are already trying to teach students to be critical–to question information as it comes toward their thinking–then I don’t think this seems like such a big step, at least the first part.  Read and write online, perhaps watch various online video including documentaries, and apply Yancey’s “synthesizing, questioning….”  As I write this, I hear many of my students telling me how much they hate the “critical lens” assignment.  Many of my students are being asked to do something they despise in whatever they mean when they say “critical lens.”  I don’t think reading and writing have to be things to be dreaded.
  • With regards to technology, especially something such as a set of Power Point Slides, “If we continue to partition it off as just something technical, or outside the parameters governing composing, or limit it to the screen of the course management system, or think of it in terms of the bells and whistles and templates of the PowerPoint screen, students in our classes learn only to fill in those electric boxes–which, in their ability to invite intellectual work, are the moral equivalent of the dots on a multiple choice test” (320).  I think the E-Portfolio has the strong potential for becoming the new five paragraph essay, a prefabricated form which limits thinking.

Does a teacher have any business being on Facebook?

This is pretty interesting considering all of us who have Facebook accounts.  It comes from a Computers and Composition article written by Gina Maranto and Matt Barton.  They report:

“In October 2007, the Ohio Education Association sent out a memo advising its 131,000 union members to avoid joining social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and urging teachers to “complete the steps involved in removing their profile” (as cited in Wildeboer, 2008, para. 1). While acknowledging that “this advice might seem extreme,” the memo claimed that “the dangers of participating in these two sites outweigh the benefits”

via ScienceDirect – Computers and Composition : Paradox and Promise: MySpace, Facebook, and the Sociopolitics of Social Networking in the Writing Classroom.

I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at the above article and some others like it.  What do you all think?