Project Ideas for blogs or wikis Friday, Feb 22 2008 

I have saved this list all semester in a draft! It hasn’t changed too much, but here is what I am currently thinking about using as my project for the Weblogs and Wikis class:

  • Thrift store finds:
  • I love finding goodies at thrift stores. There are at least half a dozen in North Fargo and Moorhead alone. Concerns: my budget. my time. a place to put it all. Benefits: this would be fun. There are hundreds of crafty type sites and this is sort of a related niche–junk store finds. I just googled “thrift store blogs” and found this entry. Both the blog and the “research” (heehee) would be a great stress reliever and force me to make time for what I enjoy. What a hoot this would be. In fact, I can start with things I bought in the past (or is that cheating)?
  • Mommy blog
  • Drawbacks: market is saturated with mommy blogs.  I’m lucky if I get to see McK for 5 hours a day during the week. I’m a little schizophrenic about certain aspects of my home and school life and she is one.  When I’m at school, I’m focused on work and my students. From the time I get home until the time she falls asleep, I focus on my daughter. Besides the logistical nightmare of working while a toddler is running around, I sort of like our quality time to be separate from school work of any kind. She can see that she has my attention during those times. I’m also not a great photographer and a blog filled with grainy, out of focus pictures of a toddler easting and sleeping and playing just doesn’t seem to shout “hey read me!” I think, too, that I want my blog or wiki to reflect my professional interests more. Benefits: Two birds-one stone theory. Play with daughter and do homework. That just doesn’t seem compelling enough.
  • The role of literature in composition courses
  • Benefits: since this has been a recent department concern, the research and keeping track of it seems like a logical idea. I am passionate about literature. I think there is a lot of material out there that could be collected into a wiki space. Drawbacks: Somehow this doesn’t excite me as much as thrift stores or the ideas below. I just sense that after a week or two of posting and researching, I’d tire of merely collecting resources that may or may not be useful to anyone but myself.
  • travel literature wiki
  • I am going to be teaching a special topics course in the fall called Travel Lit. Currently, my colleagues have taught Horror and Supernatural Lit last spring and Banned Lit this spring. Drawbacks:  Is this reading that I have time for right now? No. Will I soon? probably. Without the 3x week meetings online and my hybrid course that finishes up in April, I’d definitely be able to re-purpose those time slots for this project. Benefits: I could use a wiki space as a notebook to develop an outline, a syllabus, a reading list, possible class assignments and projects, and to record my own reactions to works I am reading and considering. I have already read a handful of books, so until I have time to read more, I can start writing about what has been considered. Also the wiki could grow as the class starts–students can contribute, etc. Major concern: if I do all this work and the class doesn’t fill–we’ve never run the course in the fall and these are relatively new, unheard of classes. If it is cancelled and I have crunched all this into spring instead of over the summer, will it be a waste of time?
  • Student wiki  (for novel material and student-created content)
  • I think this one has the most practical application so I started it already–will that count against me?
  • When I first heard of wikis, I signed up with pbwiki and then did nothing with it. I recently set up cw1102.pbwiki.com to create an experimental place for my 1102 classes. Two sections (on campus) had the choice of reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which I have used for a couple of years now, or The Kite Runner, which I chose for its modern relevance and the lack of current online material (minus info about the movie, of course). I wanted my students to create their own cliffnotes, so to speak. Future classes will be able to use it. Blog stats indicate that others are looking for Kite Runner essay material 🙂 So far, I students have been in groups discussing the elements of the novels. I also ask some specific questions for them to consider. Then I decided to post this to pbwiki. Since I didn’t ask them to type their first set of work, I am slowly adding the content.  However, for the second group assignment, they are typing which will make it easier for me to post. I hope to soon have students post to the wiki itself but I need to arrange for us to meet in a computer lab and prepare some basic (really basic) instructions on how to log in, edit and save, as well as some ground rules. The will also do a creative, fun group project and can use the wiki space for planning.The benefits are obvious. The drawbacks: I’m not certain this will fit the project for the class. It’s collaborative, but I am merely providing the structure, some resource material and my students are creating the rest of the content. Even if they create it and I end up posting it, it’s still not my writing.

So. Any suggestions? Reactions? If you read any one of these ideas and just say to yourself, “Oh! Hell no!” let me know.

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Tags versus Categories Thursday, Feb 7 2008 

I had to revisit the concept of tags and categories. Lorelle on WordPress gives a good synopsis.

Cheap ploy to gain readers Wednesday, Feb 6 2008 

I recently discovered, quite by accident, a decidedly cheap trick to gain readers: post a story title like The Kite Runner and the word essay in your tags, categories and/or posts. Watch your stats jump. Why? Because a lot of folks are looking for a short cut. Or am I being cynical? So far much of the traffic to my class blogs are coming from Google, using “essays on the kite runner” as the search phrase. Sigh.

Legitimacy of Blogs Wednesday, Feb 6 2008 

The discussion about the legitimacy of blogs has been on my mind all day. I don’t know that I can begin to answer that effectively without first setting some parameters. Not all blogs are created equal.  Even the “BloGGa” example, if updated, could be legit to his/her audience if their expectations are met, the blog fulfills their needs, and is read. A serious, academic blog must be judged by different criteria than a celebrity-inspired blog. By “legit” do we mean professional or reliable or something else?

What about my London Blog? Should I not call it a blog since I have not posted regularly or recently? I used the blogging medium, but it was a one-time “project.” My class blogs are probably not legit blogs either as we are not tracking web-sites nor are the students merely posting freely (they are often, but not always, responding to prompts). So am I, again, just using the technology of blogs and really creating a web-page on a blogger site?

I often stress the “credentials” angle to my students when they access resources for research, but Cranky Prof, who is anonymous but claims to teach at a lib arts college, is consistent in her posts about family and job, maintains a particular style and tone (even if it is ranting), and links to relevant information. As a reader who visits her site because parts of it relate to my experiences, who is looking for a laugh or to commiserate, and who often just wants to laugh, I find this blog legitimate.

Some may think a blog isn’t legitimate until it gets an award or other distinction, but so far the only criteria I am willing to dedicate myself to right now is a solid base of returning readers.

Credit Monday, Feb 4 2008 

I have to give credit to two classmates for tips and ideas that I implemented on the blog today–Elizabeth‘s slideshow caught my attention (Nickelback is one of my current favorites) and she had the link to her slideshow, so I set one up to test it out (atleast until I can set up some sort of flickr widget to show my pics). One of the Zachs also include instructions for copying the daybookblogroll.

Pervasive Technology Thursday, Jan 31 2008 

When I read page 3 Rishahls’ book, I kept thinking “Well, of course. who doesn’t know this?”  However, when I started college in ’92, students on campus communicated using VAX/VMS and moved around the internet using commands. I used to huddle in a closet-like room on 2nd floor of Hagg-Sauer and typed in commands like “fi pickles” which would tell me if “pickles” was online or when he lasted logged in. The finger command, I suppose, is somewhat like “poke” in MySpace–or is that Facebook? I get them confused–they blur into spacebook or myface in my head, but I digress. I had never heard of email, never browsed a web-page, and certainly never thought about writing online content. I’m reminded of the exponential growth of computer-related technology and how much it dominates my daily activities. This is not new or earth-shattering, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

A few weeks ago, a speaker on our campus talked about iJustine as an example of the digital native. Last week, I watched parts of Frontline’s program “Growing Up Online.” Then, at work yesterday, a colleague mentioned that she was telling her students about cases of people not being hired for (or being fired from) jobs simply because of their myspace pages, which Risdhal alludes to on page 151. The colleague and I then discussed the… ahem …sultry poses and gazes that dominates many of these photos.

I was curious to see if anyone had written about the photo phenomenon, but a quick Google search revealed a lot of “how to” info for posting myspace pictures. I finally found another blogger who briefly writes about it. Then an ABC News article made me tired of the whole subject of these photos and the arguments for the pros/cons of these sites.

In my own home, my husband and I often discuss how our daughter will have to teach us the technology eventually. At two-and-a-half, she plays Dora games on her computer. Thanks to the DVR, she expects her favorite shows to magically appear “on demand” (thanks, Dish Network) and can’t understand why that doesn’t work at Grandma’s house (or why mommy’s Jeep doesn’t have a TV/DVD player for her like Daddy’s car does).

About a month ago, she found the digital camera and recorded her own little adventure of walking through the house, scaring the cat, and wondering upstairs to find Daddy in the man-cave. While it was more coincidental, it was fun to watch the trip from her perspective. Now she can, to some degree, frame people in the shot. She took a great photo of her uncle and cousins the other day. I wonder what she’ll learn next. Will she facebook? Will she have a second life? Will she attend classes or appear on a screen? Probably none of the above. She’ll be doing things I haven’t even imagined yet (on and offline). Scary.

So there is my narrative post for today. I don’t know how useful this is, how compelling or influential. You are welcome to leave comments though.