February 14, 2006

Project Blogroll

Entrance into a new technology necessitates exposure to jargon. To the extent that we can keep track of that jargon and remember what the host of acronyms, coinages, and technical appropriations mean, we can keep up with a technological discourse community. Today’s word is “blogroll.? I first thought it would be some sort of virtual marriage between blogging and lumberjacking, but I was dead wrong. A blogroll is simply a list of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators, aka web addresses) that you can post on your blog. It keeps favorite web haunts handy—for the blogger and her readers.

To facilitate the Public Project Support Community (PPSC) in our class, I’ve posted blog URLs for each student in my new blogroll. They appear in the right hand column below the "Recent Posts" heading (though I'd like to bump it towards the top if I can figure it out). Now it's easy to see what people are doing for their public projects and to keep ideas circulating. Slick.

Posted by ogde0004 at 10:31 AM

February 9, 2006

A Public Project

I've asked you (EngL 3741 students) to set up a blog and to post your initial and tentative ideas for your public project this semester. I thought I might just muse on what I would do if I was in your position. Maybe it will help seed some ideas. Maybe it's just my way of indulging in my own assignment.

Oral Histories
Reading Kozol's chapter on oral histories reminds me of a project I began at the Jane Addams School for Democracy a few years ago. We designed an oral history project that gave youth the opportunity to collect oral histories from their parents, grandparents, or other community members they knew well. We tried a few in the summer of 2002, but the model needed adjustment and schedules fell apart before we could tinker. A great public project would be to work with one or two high school students who participate at Jane Addams and who are interested in oral histories. We could meet for a few minutes each week to check in. We could find transcribers and translators. We could make simple booklets first and then look for other publication opportunities.

Multipurpose Participant Narratives
Another great public project would be collecting anecdotes and narratives from the participants at my site. With permission from the contributors and the appropriate anonymity, those narratives could have lots of different uses. The organization could include them in their grants applications and annual reports to funders. Perhaps they could comprise a very personal orientation booklet to newcomers. Instead of reading just facts & figures and protocols & policies they could "meet the people" they'll be working with. To make it more accessible, I could also capture those anecdotes in audio format and make a CD. In any case, I could create a repository of such honest comments for the organization to use in a variety of ways.

I've noticed that a lot of literacy spaces have poor signage. Newcomers are quickly disoriented and disheartened. I've always been a wannabe graphic designer. A little well-designed signage could go a long way to welcoming and directing people, creating a stylish and appealing image, and dressing up otherwise drab spaces. Perhaps the organization has a modest budget for the signs—or perhaps I'd need to do a little fundraising. In any case, I'm not talking about magic marker on white posterboard. Nothing so ghetto as that. These need to be beautiful, professional quality signs that give respectability to a respectable organization. Thinking about issues of translation and literacy, I bet I could design iconic images to accompany the texts directing people to the different areas of the building and the different programs. These images could become part of the organization's "branding."

These are just a few project ideas that immediately struck me. They all need shaping and scaling to make them purposeful and feasible for the time and resources available. This is just one way you might start to describe possible projects. You might create longer lists with less detail. You might make a list elsewhere—offline—and elaborate on the most promising idea at length. Choose the format that helps you move towards a sound idea.

Posted by ogde0004 at 8:00 PM

An Exam In Sight

My incompletes were resolved in December. I started shaping my reading list immediately. Now I have a tentative exam date: April 25. The oral exam will follow on May 12. Four of five committee members have confirmed. Here's hoping for the fifth.

Although my reading list is still in formation, I have been diligently reading for several weeks now. My Mondays and Fridays are completely clear and completely dedicated to reading and notetaking. I didn't think I would really enjoy this preparation, but to my surprise, it's really satisfying. It stands to reason: I've selected the texts and shaped the purpose behind reading them. It is far more gratifying than reading for seminars. I found myself—week after week—just plowing through books for the sake of completion. I didn't establish an objective or purpose for reading. The process was arduous.

Now that I think of it, I bet my students (who may be reading this) feel the same way. They are assigned readings that come seemingly out of left field. What are they reading for? For some vague class discussion, the direction of which is unknown prior to the moment it takes place? That's hardly motivating. Once again my experiences as a student help to inform my decisions as a teacher. I need to give more direction and purpose for my students' reading.

Here's to impending candidacy—and improved pedagogy.

Posted by ogde0004 at 7:58 PM