The “stanzas” below and the two paragraphs that follow them are my version of the English 1103 creative project.
A First Sentence
Although many moments of my childhood are lost to me, the memory of writing one of my first sentences resurfaces in my mind because it marks a turning point. Before that sentence-writing exercise, I had recorded letters on a page, but I had not truly written. When I looked at the words on the chalkboard and said to myself, “The pig wore a wig,” I had formed an idea. I composed it in my mind and wrote it on the page.
I cannot return to the pure joy of that moment whenever I sit down to write, but I try to remind myself often that all writing is creative. We always begin with a blank page or screen and create.
At the beginning of class today, you submitted your worksheet for the fifth and final lesson in the Check, Please! series. My version of the assignment, which I wrote along with you, follows.
Check, Please! Assignment for Lesson Five
In the fifth lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, covers the final step in the five-step SIFT approach: “Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to Their Original Context.” Caulfield outlines the process of locating the original context as an antidote to the issues of accuracy that occur when information passes through intermediaries.
One of the most instructive portions of lesson five features a passage in which Caulfield cites a study of how stories evolve as gossip through the processes of leveling (stripping details), sharpening (adding or emphasizing details), and assimilating, which combines the two. In the process of assimilation “the details that were omitted and the details that were added or emphasized are chosen because they either fit what the speaker thinks is the main theme of the story, or what the speaker thinks the listener will be most interested in.” Similarly, leveling, sharpening, and assimilating all figure in the altered photographs and memes in lesson four. The abbreviated speech of the NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, which omits commentary, inaccurately indicates a contradiction in his stance on the presence of guns in schools.
The image of photographer Kawika Singson with flames at his feet serves as an example of leveling. Although the flames are real, they were not caused by the heat of the lava flow where Singson stands with his tripod. Instead, to create the image, a friend of his poured accelerant on the lava before Singson stepped into the frame. The deception wasn’t intentional; Singson simply wanted the image for his Facebook cover photo.
Unlike Singson’s photograph, the altered photograph of the Notorious B.I.G. with Kurt Cobain was created with the intent to deceive. Cropping and merging the two photographs illustrates the assimilation process adopted by photoshop users to appeal to music fans eager to think that such fictional meetings of icons took place. Krist Novoselic, who founded Nirvana with Cobain, replied to the is-it-real question with his own fake photo, making the claim that the hand holding the cigarettes was Shakur’s, that he had been cropped from the right.
Today in class you freewrote on seven prompts to generate ideas for the creative project that you will produce this week. The project is a variation on a literacy narrative, which the authors of our text book refer to as “an acount of how you came to think about writing in the ways that you do” (118).
Your project is a variation on the literacy narrative; it’s a piece of imaginative writing–in prose, verse, or a combination of the two–that recreates a memory of one of your reading or writing experiences and conveys the significance of that experience in your development as writer, a reader, and/or a critical thinker.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will receive the assignment, and you will have the class period to continue planning and begin drafting. Your project is due on your blog Friday morning; the hard deadline is Monday before class. You will not post your project to Blackboard.
Consider asking family members about their memories of your early reading or writing experiences. What they remember may lead you to additional ideas for your project. You might also browse the children’s collection at the Stout School of Education Resource Center.
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Chapter “Thinking Like a Writer.”Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 1116-4
The image above illustrates how the second player’s, or team’s, knowledge of playable two-letter words could enable a Scrabble on the second play of the game. The first player, or team, spelled mosque. By using all seven letters, the second player earned a total of sixty-two points for pointed alone, a word that couldn’t have been played without the knowledge of the five two-letter words that the player formed vertically: op, so, qi, un, and et. The first player scored forty points with a double-word score square. Without a double-word score square, the second team scored eighty-five.
Two of the previous Wordplay Day posts include the first sixty-four of the 101 playable two-letter words, A-E (October 3) and F-N (October 8). Today’s post features the remaining thirty-seven, O-Z.
od: a hypothetical force.
oe: a whirlwind of the Faeroe Islands
of: originating from
oh: an exclamation of surprise
oi: an expression of dismay (also oy)
om: a sound used as a mantra
on: physically in contact with
op: a style of abstract art dealing with optics
or: used to link conjunctions
os: a bone
oy: an expression of dismay (also oi)
pa: a father
pe:a Hebrew letter
qi:the central life force in traditional Chinese culture (also ki)
re:a tone of the diatonic scale
sh:used to encourage silence
si: a tone of the diatonic scale (also ti)
so: to such a great extent; a tone on the diatonic scale
ta: an expression of thanks
ti:a tone of the diatonic scale
to: in the direction of
uh: used to express hesitation
up: to raise
us: a plural pronoun
ut: the musical tone C in the French solemnization system, now replaced by do
we: a first-person plural pronoun
xi: a Greek letter
xu: a former monetary unit of Vietnam equal to one-hundredth of a dong
yo: an expression used to attract attention
za: a pizza
In next Monday’s class, you will begin work on your creative project. Details TBA.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will submit your fifth and final Check, Please! worksheet. If you misplace the copy you received in class, you can download one from the link below.
Today our class will meet in Smith Library where the Head Reference Services Librarian, Lauren Brewer, will offer us instruction in conducting library research.
Where We’ll Meet
The library lab is in the basement. When you enter the building, you’ll see the staircase. At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll see a set of double doors. Go through the doorway and turn left. The lab is the glass-front room with desktop computers.
Looking Ahead to the Final Paper
Today’s library class will introduce you to the kinds of research you will conduct for your final paper, which will include a minimum of three sources. Think of the research ahead of you as the search for an answer you want to find, more specifically an answer to a question about our lives in the digital world (our theme).
If you are interested in the social media issues covered in the recent Facebook Files series published in The Washington Post, you might ask yourself what questions they lead you to ask. One of those questions could serve as your starting point. For example: Should Facebook be regulated to minimize its harmful effects?
On Another Note
In class I will distribute the worksheet for lesson five in the Check, Please! assignment series, due next Wednesday, October 27, at the beginning of class. If you misplace your copy of the worksheet, you can download one from the link below.
Although I have read Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” many times, this semester marked the first time I had studied it as an exercise in analysis. Ordinarily, I include Richtel’s article on the syllabus as a prologue to my students’ own blogging. The article served that purpose in August as well. But as I found myself teaching a different composition curriculum that features an analysis as the first major paper assignment, Richtel’s article served a dual purpose: It not only oriented my students to the role that blogs would play in the class, it also provided them with the opportunity to study the way a writer—in this case, Matt Richtel—presents the ideas of the experts he interviews. By reading Richtel’s article, the students learned about changes in writing practices in college classrooms; by rereading Richtel, they began to see how his writing takes shape. The same was true for me.
The process of crafting a study of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” prompted me to meditate on the similarities between analysis and Scrabble, another feature of the course. The more I examined Richtel’s words, the more details I noticed. Similarly, the more closely I study the words on a Scrabble board and the tiles on a rack, the more opportunities for word building become apparent to me. This semester, the processes of writing an analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and playing Scrabble have deepened my understanding of how those two activities cultivate the focus that leads to the discoveries intrinsic to learning.
One of those moments of discovery occurred for me as I was rereading the paragraph in Richtel’s article where he addresses an argument put forth by experts who frown on replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel reports their claim that if teachers want to reduce term papers to blog posts, why not bypass blogs altogether and ask nothing more of their students than tweets? In my previous readings of the paragraph, I was drawn primarily to the clever mimicry at the end. There Richtel omits letters from the words “Sherman’s March,” spelling it as “Shermn’s Mrch” to imitate the word-shortening technique characteristic of the Twitter platform.
As I studied the paragraph more closely, I saw beyond the intentional misspellings at the conclusion. Subsequently, what preceded the imitation of Twitterese became far more revealing. I noticed that the paragraph consisted of only one sentence—one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in the article—and that Richtel’s presentation of the claim demonstrates a flaw in the experts’ logic: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” Realizing that Richtel presented one of their assertions as a logical fallacy, led me to this point: “To assert that defenders of traditional academic writing carry their opponents’ argument to an absurd conclusion presents those advocates of old-school writing as purveyors of the same flawed logic that their own traditional rhetoric supposedly teaches students to avoid.”
Additionally, I considered the effect of choosing to present the fallacy as a one-sentence paragraph, noting that “[b]y introducing an apparent contradiction in the argument of the advocates of old-school writing, Richtel subverts their claim; and by presenting that incongruity as a one-sentence paragraph, he highlights the issue.”
Reflecting on the effect of the one-sentence paragraph, with its emphasis on a single idea, led me to reexamine the other one-sentence paragraph in the article. That paragraph, a sentence spoken by Professor Cathy Davidson of the City University of New York, underscores the prominence of her words and ideas in Richtel’s article, an observation of mine that led me to the thesis, that “[a]lthough Richtel’s article appears to present an objective account of the disagreements among experts, a close examination of the diction and structure of ‘Blogs vs. Term Papers’ reveals a preference for the innovations advocated by Davidson and Lundsford.”
Rereading Richtel’s article through a writer’s lens showed me details I had scarcely noticed before, ones that now in plain view lead me to ask repeatedly, How could I have missed that? It’s a question I have also found myself asking when a word emerges from a seemingly hopeless combination of Scrabble tiles. Sometimes my students chide themselves for what they didn’t see on the board or the rack, but those realizations are almost always part of the composing process, whether we’re building words with tiles, or pens, or laptops. The closer we look, the more we discover, which is learning in its purest form.
Today in class you received your handrwritten draft with my notes and you began revising your midterm reflection on your laptop. I am writing a reflection as a model for you and will post it to Blackboard and to my blog before your reflection is due on October 20, the Wednesday after fall break. In the meantime, I am including here, as well as on Blackboard, the model reflection that I wrote for my students in late November and early December 2020.
Also in class today, you submitted the worksheet for the fourth lesson in the Check, Please! course. The summary and commentary that I wrote along with you appears below.
In the fourth lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, focuses his instruction on the third step in the four-step SIFT approach to determining the reliability of a source. Lesson four, “Find Trusted Coverage,” addresses these topics: (1) scanning Google News for relevant stories, (2) using known fact-checking sites, and (3) conducting a reverse-image search to find a relevant source for an image.
One of the concepts Caulfield introduces in lesson four is click restraint, which was given its name by Sam Wineberg, Professor of History and Education at Stanford, and Sarah McGrew, Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Maryland. Click restraint is an activity that fact checkers practice regularly, but many average people do not. Fact checkers resist the impulse to click on the first result, opting instead to scan multiple results to find one that combines trustworthiness and relevance.
Caulfield also considers the issue of false frames and offers as an example the miscaptioned photo of a young woman that circulated widely after the 2017 London Bridge attack. In the photo, the woman, who is wearing a hijab, is looking down at her phone as she walks past one of the victims lying by the side of the road, surrounded by members of the rescue team. Because the woman’s face is blurred, viewers of the miscaptioned picture cannot see the look of shock that is visible in her face in another image taken by the same photographer. Subsequently, her apparent lack of concern for the victim seems to confirm the caption in the infamous tweet.
Choosing a general search term over a specific one is a useful and unexpected tip Caulfield includes in his discussion of image searches. He explains that the benefit of such a bland term as “letter” or “photo” will prevent the confirmation bias that can lead to the proliferation of disinformation through false frames.
Today in class you read and summarized the September 15 article from The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series. The summary that I wrote along with you appears below.
In The Wall Street Journal article “Facebook Tried to Make its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead,” investigative reporters Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz document the social media company’s changes in its algorithms, adjustments that the company supposedly made to increase meaningful social interaction, or MSI. Although data scientists working for Facebook concluded that “[m]isinformation, toxicity, and violent content are inordinately prevalent among reshares,” the company resisted removing the boost that its algorithms gave to content most likely to be reshared by a long chain of users. In essence, the change had the opposite effect of its apparent aim.
And Moving Beyond Summary
Composing a summary seves as a useful follow-up to reading. Identifying the key points in a piece of writing and presenting them in your own words–and perhaps including a brief quotation–demonstrates that you understand what you’ve read.
When you move beyond summary to analysis, you shift your focus from a description of the subject to a close study of what the text means and how the writer constructs that meaning.
The movement from summary to argument–the move you will make in your final essay–involves a different turn. Rather than focusing on what the text means and how the writer constructs that meaning, you are placing the writer in conversation other credible sources on the subject and finding your own place in the conversation.
On Wednesday, October 6, you will submit your completed Check, Please! Worksheet for the fourth lesson in the series. If you misplace your worksheet and cannot print a copy, complete the assignment on a sheet of notebook paper. Be sure to submit it at the beginning of class on Wednesday.
Learning the two-letter words you can play in Scrabble increases your opportunities to form multiple words in parallel play. The list that follows includes the first thirty-three of the 101 playable two-letter words.
aa: a type of stony, rough lava,
ab: an abdominal muscle
ad: an advertisement
ah: an exclamation
ai: a three-toed sloth
al: a type of East Indian tree
am: the first-person singular present form of “to be”
an: an indefinite article
ar: the letter r
as: similar to
at: the position of
aw: an expression of protest or sadness
ax: a sharp-edged tool
ay: a vote in the affirmative
ba: the soul in ancient Egyptian spirituality
be: to exist
bi: a bisexual
bo: a pal
by: a side issue
de: of; from
do: a tone on a scale
ef: the letter f
eh: used to express doubt
el: an elevated train
em: the letter m
en: the letter n
er: used to express hesitation
es: the letter s
et: a past tense of eat
ex: the letter x
On Wednesday, October 4, you will receive your midterm reflection draft with my notes, and you will have the class period to begin your revision work. The works cited list that follows includes entries for some of the sources that you may cite. You are required to quote or paraphrase two relevant sources, one of which may be your analysis. If you choose to cite your analysis, follow the format of the work cited entries for my sample papers, “The Strange Fruit of Sosnowiec,” and “On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.”