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April 30, 2008

One other draft note

One last thing: Just as with your second paper, these aren't commercials for the issue you're focusing on. That is to sya, be careful of being too black and white about things. You can admit weaknesses even in points of view/actions you support, just so long as you feel the balance of evidence supports what you say. Think particularly about how some ideas which sound good in practice might become more complicated in reality. I'll also talk about this a little more tomorrow in class.

Draft notes

I've now returned all drafts that were turned in on time for the final project. I should get to the couple of late assignments by the end of the day. In general, these were rougher than I was expecting. Probably the biggest problem I saw across drafts was a lack of really reliable evidence for the points you all were making. In many pieces, there was a lot of personal opinion or very limited examples. Opinion isn't necessarily bad, but if it's only opinion, you need to have personal authority to back up what you've said. That is, you have to know what you're talking about. When I designed this assignment, I imagined you'd draw on the evidence you used for your second or third papers. These pieces don't need to be highly factual, but offer some facts or stories from those sources here or there to support your opinion. If you've chosen a new topic, then that will probably mean additional research for you. But even newspaper editorials usually rely on some evidence to support what they're saying.

Along these lines, you all will need to introduce yourself early on in these pieces--state your name and whatever background you think is relevant. Otherwise, this will just be a disembodied voice speaking, which doesn't really work.

Citation was pretty rough in these drafts, so that's something to work on as well. We'll talk about wordiness on Thursday.

Lastly, remember that these are audio pieces--meant to be heard. If you haven't already been doing so, speak your piece aloud so that you have a chance to hear what it sounds like. Is it interesting? Something someone would want to listen to for a few minutes? If not, how could you use humor, emotionally engaging examples, or other such devices to make it more so?

April 25, 2008

Week 13 update

Next week we'll continue work on this last argumentative assignment. You'll need to turn in a 1st draft of your script (written only--no audio) to your revision group for Tuesday's class. We'll actually be giving feedback in revision groups during that class time, so come with something posted to share. I'll also be handing out microphones during that class and we'll try to figure out a system where everyone will have a chance to record.

On Thursday, we'll talk a bit about your final reflection, which will be due the Monday of finals week. But you'll have most of the class time to work on your own--either editing your script or working with the audio you've already created. Hopefully you'll find that time helpful.

I've blocked out some times next week where I'll have a room and equipment for you to record if we can't figure out a way for everyone to do that on our own. That will include some of Wednesday afternoon as well as times on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. I'll have a sign up for those times on Tuesday if they're needed.

Hopefully you're finding this a fun and interesting assignment to end the semester. I enjoyed hearing your creations last Thursday and look forward to seeing/hearing what you come up with.

April 24, 2008

Saving audio as an MP3 in Audacity

Today we had a chance to experiment a bit with Audactiy, a free audio editing program. I've put a link to a download page for that program in the Essay 4 folder--it's free and probably the best option of its kind. If you're on a Mac, Garage Band is a better program, I've been told, but it does cost a little money, I think.

When you've created your audio piece, you'll need to save it as an MP3 in order to share it. Instructions for how to do that are posted below.

Important note for Mac users using Garage Band: I believe the default file format for Garage Band is m4a--an Apple only format. You have to use iTunes to convert it to mp3--you can try to google instructions for how to do that. Since mp3s are more universal, that's the format I prefer.

Saving as an MP3 in Audacity
Once you've got your draft in more or less the state you want it, choose "Export as MP3" under the file menu. Audacity needs an additional file (a LAME encoder, in tech speak) to do this, and will ask for that file once you type in a file name to save under. Here's a link to where you can download that LAME file. Once you've downloaded it, double click on the folder, and then again on the next folder that comes up. You should see a file called "lame_enc.dll" Move that file somewhere on the computer you're using (such as in the Documents folder). When Audacity asks you to find that file, simply browse to where you saved it. Then export your file.

April 18, 2008

Week 12 update

Three weeks to go! Next Tuesday the most painful part of the semester is over--you submit the final draft of your third paper. In addition to a printed copy of the paper, you'll need two examples of feedback you gave and copies of most of your sources. An electronic copy of your final draft should be submitted to TurnItIn.com as well.

Also on Tuesday, you have a short listening assignment before class. Pick one of the four NPR Editorials listed in the Essay 4 folder. Listen to it (only 3 minutes or so) and then post in the appropriate Reading Discussions topic. We'll talk about the structure and argument of those pieces in class.

Thursday will be a day to begin working with audio files. We'll spend most of class time becoming comfortable with Audacity.

April 16, 2008

Got headphones?

We'll be starting to work with audio in class beginning a week from tomorrow, April 24th. To that end, you'll need to bring headphones to class with you so that we aren't deafened by the many computers. Let me know if this poses a hardship--Target has them for $10 and under if you don't currently have any.

April 11, 2008

Week 11 update

Only five more weeks to go! May seem like a lot right now, but it will go fast.

Next week will be a bit of a transition. On Tuesday, we'll continue to work on the second drafts. We'll look at a draft as a whole class. We'll also submit your drafts online to TurnItIn.com, a plagiarism detection service. Lastly, we'll revisit grammar issues again.

On Thursday, you'll meet in revision groups. In addition to that, we'll begin talking about your last assignment, the audio commentary. We'll go over the assignment, listen to a few brief examples, and begin brainstorming in class.

April 9, 2008

Thursday conferences

These will be held in 276 Appleby Hall. Come with questions about your paper. A missed conference counts as a late assignment.

Important disclaimer: My son woke up with a fever today, and there's a chance I might need to help take care of him for part of the day tomorrow, which would mean rescheduling/cancelling a few things. For now, I'm planning on everything going according to schedule. But I'll send out an email as soon as I know if things change--no latter than tomorrow morning at 8.

Thursday, April 10:
10:10 John F.
10:20 Abdulla A.
10:35 Arsenio W.
12:00 Natalie C.
12:15 Grant G.

April 8, 2008

Clarifying the assignment

[Note: I wrote this post for my other two sections, who are a little ahead of you. But my guess is it may be relevant for our class as well. Sorry for the length!]

Based on what I saw in the drafts this week, it seems clear we need to do some more work clarifying the expectations for this assignment. There were some positive things: for the most part, for instance, I was happy with the sources people were using. I think the research aspect of this assignment is coming along well. Unfortunately, though, many of these drafts were mostly informative summaries of tinformation on the topic, not a more critically minded literature review.

Broadly speaking, the difference between those two is that summaries simply state the information in your source. In a literature review, you're comparing sources, categorizing them, and thinking critically about their strengths and weaknesses. You give a lot more attention to the sources themselves, talking about them explicitly. Let me outline a few places where that came out.

#1-Thesis/Introduction
The first paragraph of your essay introduces your topic. In many cases, that introduction focused only on your topic--saying that the paper would provide more information on an important issue. Here's an example from a first paragraph:

Malnutrition is especially significant for children whom require a high calorie diet as a key building block to growth and development. Underweight is attributed to 53 percent of deaths in children (Onis 2600). There are children literally wasting away in some countries while children are grossly overweight in others. The international community and non-governmental organizations are working to end malnutrition with new ways to address the issue.

Note that here the focus is on malnutrition as an issue and what governments are doing. There's nothing about the actual research into this subject--whether it's focusing on agricultural, economic, or political factors for malnutrition, for example. That first paragraph sets the tone for your paper, and you need to think early on about describing how you see these sources fitting together. That doesn't mean that you couldn't say that many articles focus on the need for government action, but it needs to be the articles themselves that you ultimately focus on, not the larger issue.

#2 Critical thinking
Remember that when I'm talking about argument and critical reading with this assignment, I have two things in mind. First, I'm expecting you will look for connections between sources--places where they agree or differ, where they take a different perspective on an issue. You need to be explicit about those--don't just use the information from the source, but talk about them. "Source x approaches this issue by focusing on... In contrast, source y pays more attention to..."

Second, I'm also looking for you to think critically about these sources themselves, just as you did with your first paper. What strengths do you see in these studies, particularly in what they contribute to our understanding of the subject? What's left out of them, especially in comparison to other similar pieces? What important questions do they raise, but leave unanswered?

I'll give you another example:

Exercising through pregnancy is not only allowed, but typically encouraged by doctors. The type of exercise preformed may have to be modified to fit the woman’s body and the safety of the baby. 30 minutes three to four times a week is recommended and there is a large array of activities safe and affective during the nine months of pregnancy (Perinatal Care). Walking, swimming, stationary biking, prenatal aerobics classes are all good choices for expecting mothers (Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby). Exercises to avoid while pregnant are fairly aggressive sports. Skiing, rock climbing, horseback riding would all classify as dangers to the mother and baby (Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby). Also it is important to pay attention to body temperature while exercising. If the core temperature is too high, it can be detrimental to the baby. Stay hydrated and take breaks whenever necessary.

Here there's lots of information about the subject at hand. But it's all reported in a very factual, objective way. The sources themselves aren't talked about explicitly--how they approach the subject, the evidence they draw upon, how their perspectives are similar or different. Or even what's left out. It's just "information" here, without comment. Certainly, you'll have to do some summary in this paper, but I want to see your own voice there as well.

#3-Using more than one source for each topic
Obviously, in this piece, you're dealing with some fairly dense scholarly work. It can be hard to simply understand that, let alone create a critical response. Making sure you have multiple sources addressing an issue can really help with this. Especially with scholarly sources, there needs to be a reason for a new study/article/book on the subject. It's looking at the issue in some new way. So reading multiple studies/articles on a subject can help you see where there's room for different perspectives on a topic.

For some of you, this means narrowing your topic a bit. For example, someone might look at the role of peer groups in eating disorders, looking at children, adolescents, and middle age. But only one study on each. There's probably several studies available for each of those groups, though, and looking at more than one gives you a richer, multidimensional view of where the research is at on that subject. So narrowing down a bit, maybe leaving out a group but including multiple studies on others, might be a good solution.

One main goal for this assignment is for you to not just accept the results of a study, even a highly scientific one, without question. Just because a study says something, doesn't make it so. Don't just present what these sources say as fact--think about them. What do they leave out? What questions do they raise but not answer? How do they agree or disagree with one another? That's the kind of thinking I'm really looking for here.

I apologize for the long post here, but I feel it's important since we don't have class again before our next draft. Let me know if you have any questions about what I posted here.

April 7, 2008

Office hours this week

I won't be holding office hours on Tuesday and Thursday this week due to ongoing conferences. If you would like to talk, send me an email and we can try to set up a time.

April 4, 2008

Week 10 Update

Next week we'll continue work on your third paper. On Tuesday, your first draft is due. We'll use that class time to go over a draft as a class, as well as talk a bit about wordiness and citing. On Thursday, you'll have revision groups to share feedback. Thursday's class will end by noon in order to make time for a few more conferences, which will be held in 276 Appleby.

April 3, 2008

A note about your topic for this paper

I haven't mentioned this in class, but need to. Your final assignment this semester is an audio commentary, similar to a newspaper editorial. The most natural subject for that piece will be whatever you researched in your literature review. So as you're finalizing a topic, keep in mind that this is something you'll be writing a more argumentative piece about in your last assignment.

April 2, 2008

Conference schedule for Thursday

The conferences for Thursday are listed below. All take place in 276 Appleby Hall. Come with a research topic and having done some research already. A missed conference counts as a late assignment.

9:40 Bounkeana C.

10:20 Abe G.
10:35 Mike B.
11:15 Marcus C.
11:30 Doug B.
11:40 Tamika C.
11:55 Gwen R.
12:05 Arsenio W.

1:00 Jason Z.
1:15 Kevin A.
1:25 Frankie A.
1:40 Nick D.
1:50 Danicka B.