On Monday, after reviewing the material we covered in the first week of the course, we turned our attention to the newspaper column that you read for class, “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” by Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.
Although Wolf’s Guardian column, like Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” is a newspaper piece, it is not a work of objective reporting. Rather than reporting on the ideas of researchers, educators, and consultants, as Richtel does in The New York Times, Wolf presents the findings of linguists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists whose recent work supports her claim that “[w]e need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a ‘bi-literate brain’ reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums.”
Exposition, Analysis, and Argument
Matt Richel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” is exposition; it’s primary aim is to convey information. Wolf’s column is an argument. In our textbook, Writing Analytically, the authors offer this explanation of the difference between analysis and argument: The claim that an analysis makes is often the answer to the question, what does it mean? The claim that an argument makes “is often an answer to a should question” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 7-8). Similarly, Wolf’s argument is the answer to a need question. Her answer is “[w]e need to cultivate a new kind of brain.”
Matters of Style
In newspaper headlines, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
In MLA (Modern Language Association) style, all words except articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and the to in infinitives are capitalized—unless the word is the first or last in the title or subtitle.
Newspaper articles include a space before and after the em dash.
MLA style includes no space before and after the em dash.
For more examples of documentation style, see OWL, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, and Writing Analytically, 255-63.
In class on Wednesday, I will distribute copies of two sample introductory posts for us to examine before we turn our attention to your own blogs.
Ordinarily Wordplay Days are days when we all turn away from our screens, but yesterday I took the opportunity to photograph you as a way of helping us continue to put names with faces. In between the photographs of you and your classmates, I’ve included lists of some first names that are playable in Scrabble (because they are common nouns as well as proper ones). Continue to review these pictures and their captions to learn the names of your classmates, and study the lists of names in between to build your vocabulary.
Al: a type of East Indian tree
Alan: a breed of hunting dog (also aland, alant)
Alec: a herring
Ana: a collection of miscellany about a specific topic
Anna: A former Indian coin
Barbie: a barbecue
Belle: a pretty woman
Ben: an inner room
Benny: an amphetamine pill
Bertha: a type of wide collar
Beth: a Hebrew Letter
Biff: to hit
Bill: a charge for goods or services
Billy: a short club
Bo: a friend
Bobby: a policeman
Bonnie: pretty (also bonny)
Brad: a small nail or tack
Carl: a peasant or manual laborer (also carle)
Carol: to sing merrily
Celeste: a percussive instrument (also celesta)
Chad: a scrap of paper
Chevy: to chase (also chivy)
Christie: a type of turn in skiing (also christy)
Clarence: an enclosed carriage
Dagwood: a large stuffed sandwich (named after the comic strip character who was fond of them)
Daphne: a flowering shrub with poisonous berries
Davy: a safety lamp
Deb: a debutante
Devon: a breed of cattle
Dexter: located to the right
Dom: a title given to some Monks
Don: to put on a piece of clothing
Donna: an Italian woman of repute
Erica: a shrub of the heath family
Fay: to join together closely
Florence: a former European gold coin
Franklin: a nonnoble medieval English landowner
Fritz: a nonworking or semi-functioning state
Gilbert: a unit of magneto-motive force
Gilly: to transport on a type of train car
Graham: whole wheat flour
Hank: to secure a sail
Hansel: to give a gift to, usually to commence a new year (also handsel)
Harry: to harrass
Henry: a unit of electric inductance
Herby: full of herbs
Jack: to hoist with a type of lever
Jacky: a sailor
To learn whether a name is playable in Scrabble, type it in the box on the Scrabble Dictionary page, and click “GO!”
For class on Monday, August 30, read “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” Afterward, compose brief reading notes in your journal. Include (1) the title and author, (2) the main points, and (3) any questions or observations you would like to address in class. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms in the article, look up their meanings and jot those in your journal as well.
Today in class, you identified one of the ideas expressed by three of the education experts featured in Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers”: Douglas B. Reeves, William H. Fitzhugh, and Andrea A. Lunsford. Collaboratively, you paraphrased each idea in a sentence that began with the person’s name and credential. As a model, I offered the example below.
Example: Professor Cathy N. Davidson of the City University of New York maintains that blogging offers students a more relevant alternative to the traditional term paper (ctd. in Richtel).
The abbreviation “ctd.” lets readers know that the idea is cited, or mentioned, in Matt Richtel’s article.
If I had quoted Davidson, rather than paraphrasing her, the abbreviation “qtd.,” for “quoted,” would appear in parentheses to indicate that I quoted Davidson. Both a paraphrase of Davidson’s words drawn from Richtel’s article, and a direct quotation of her words drawn from Richtel’s article are referred to as indirect quotations because Davidson is a source who is cited or quoted in another source (Richtel).
In our discussion of Richtel’s article, I noted that Davidson was a professor at Duke at the time the article was published in The New York Times. One student asked how a writer should address such a change. One option is an explanatory endnote; you can also include it in the sentence itself, as I do in the example that follows.
Example: As a professor at Duke, Cathy N. Davidson turned to blogs to offer students a more relevant alternative to the traditional term paper (ctd. in Richtel). Now at the City University of New York, she continues to embrace new technologies.
When to Paraphrase, When to Quote
I could have asked you to quote Reeves, Fitzhugh, and Lunsford, but putting their ideas into your own words requires more thought, and more specifically moves you closer to analysis. As the authors of your textbook note: “You will almost invariably begin to interpret a source once you start paraphrasing its key language” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 221).
Summary and Analysis
A summary objectively presents key points; it answers the question, what is it? An analysis answers the questions, what does it mean, and how is itsmeaning constructed?
Here is the summary that I wrote in my notebook after I read Matt Richtel’s article.
In “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Matt Richtel reports on the debate in higher education on how best to teach writing in the digital age. While some professors have followed the lead of City University of New York’s Cathy Davidson, replacing the traditional term paper with shorter, more frequent blog assignments, their detractors—including Douglas B. Reeves, columnist for The American School Board Journal and William H. Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review—argue that blog writing lacks the academic rigor that fosters critical thinking. For Andrea Lunsford, professor of writing at Stanford University, pitting blogs against term papers creates a false opposition. Rather than replacing term papers with blog posts, Lunsford requires students to produce multi-modal assignments: term papers that evolve into blogs, websites, and video presentations.
Summarizing the key points of the article led me to think about the article’s structure, how Richtel presents Davidson’s ideas followed by Reeves’ and Fitzhugh’s, returns to Davidson’s, introduces Lunsford’s, and ends by returning again to Davidson’s. In the 9:15 class we considered this possible interpretation of Richtel’s choices:
By devoting more of his article to Davidson’s and Lunsford’s practices–and ultimately giving Davidson the last word–Matt Richtel reveals that he favors their approaches to teaching writing over the ideas advocated by Reeves and Fitzhugh.
In the 10:40 class, we considered that interpretation as well as a second one:
Matt Richtel devotes more of his article to Davidson’s and Lunsford’s practices–and ultimately gives Davidson the last word–because she and Lundsford are innovators. Richtel doesn’t need to detail ideas that are already familiar to his readers.
Both are valid claims; the success of either depends on how effectively the writer presents evidence as support.
Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” mentions two common types of logical fallacies to avoid:
Reductio ad absurdum is a form of the straw man argument. It involves oversimplifying an opponent’s argument by reducing it to an absurdity.
False opposition or false dichotomy implies that two possibilities are mutually exclusive. Richtel’s headline–in all likelihood written by a copy editor rather than himself–indicates a false dichotomy. (A term paper can be presented as a blog post.) False opposition is one form of hasty generalization.
For more on logical fallacies, see Writing Analytically, 93-97.
This Friday, August 27, will mark the first of our weekly Wordplay Days. To prepare for class, read the Scrabble Rules and review the Ground Rules for Wordplay posted on Blackboard (and below). To up your game, browse the Scrabble site’s Tips and Tools.
Am I the person who will teach your English 1103 class? I posed that question yesterday as a starting point for analysis, one of the key features of the course.
To begin the collaboration and inquiry that will figure prominently this semester–along with analysis–you worked together in groups to find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the course. Continue to review the syllabus, which is posted in the Information section of Blackboard. An additional copy of the syllabus is included at the end of this blog entry. If you have any questions about the assignments, the course policies, or the calendar, please let me know.
All of you in sections 18 and 19 of English 1103 are required to have the paperback edition of the textbook, Writing Analytically, 8th edition, by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen. Bring your copy to class on the days when the title, Writing Analytically, appears in bold on the course calendar. On those days, we will examine portions of the chapters in class and complete some of the “Try This” exercises.
Your first reading assignment in the textbook is scheduled for September 1, which will give you time to order and receive your copy before you are required to have it in class. (Unlike my copy, pictured at the top of this blog entry, your textbook will not be in a binder.)
Other Required Materials
Class notebook/journal—bring it to every class.
Loose leaf paper (for drafts and short in-class assignments)—bring to every Monday and Wednesday class
Pocket portfolio (for class handouts)—bring to every class
Mask–wear in every class
These required materials are listed on page 2 of the syllabus with the exception of the mask. The mask policy is included on page 5.
As practice in developing your web literacy and writing for a broader online audience, you will maintain a free WordPress blog for the class. As soon as possible, create a free blog at wordpress.com. After you create your blog, email the address, or URL, to me, and I will link your blog to our class page, English at High Point.
You will post to your blog (1) an introduction to yourself (see Blackboard later this week for assignment details), (2) your creative project, and (3) revisions of the essays and the portfolio that you will produce for the course.
You may also be asked to post comments to your classmates’ blogs and to mine. The posts that you publish for class will be public.
If you would like to create additional posts that are not public, keep them in draft form or choose the private visibility option.
For class on Wednesday, August 25, read “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” Afterward, compose brief reading notes in your journal. Include (1) the title and author, (2) the main points, and (3) any questions or observations you would like to address in class. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms in the article, look up their meanings and jot those in your journal as well.