Today’s class will feature guest speaker Dr. Joanne Altman, Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, who will speak to us about Research Rookies. Founded by Altman in 2014, Research Rookies introduces first-year students to the culture of research. Participating involves remaining active in the program for two consecutive semesters, performing fifteen research-related tasks, and participating in a mini-research project.
Becoming a Research Rookie offers the first step in the path toward undergraduate research. Later, engaging in research as an upper-level undergraduate will provide an excellent opportunity not only to develop your research skills but also your writing and public speaking skills. And presenting your work at undergraduate research conferences—and possibly publishing it as well—will give you an edge when you apply for internships and jobs.
If you are interested in becoming a Research Rookie, please email Dr. Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s class will also include a journal exercise in moving from observation to implication, and time permitting, you will complete a group exercise as a follow-up to your journal writing.
Friday marks our fifth Wordplay Day of the semester. To prepare for class, review the Scrabble site’s “Tips and Tools.”
Next Wednesday, September 29, you will submit your completed Check, Please! Worksheet for the third lesson in the series. (I will distribute copies of the worksheet on Friday.) In class next Wednesday, you will begin writing your midterm reflection. For that preliminary writing, you will need to have paper copy of your analysis revision with you.
In The New York Times article “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 N. 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. Although 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 an implicit preference for the innovations advocated by Davidson and Lundsford.
The opening paragraph of Richtel’s article focuses on the academic paper as a primary cause of “angst, profanity, and caffeine consumption” among high school and college students. In stark contrast to the images of the term paper-induced misery in his lead, Richtel writes in the second paragraph that students may be “rejoicing” because Cathy Davidson—a professor at Duke when Richtel interviewed her—favors replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel refers to Davidson as a “champion” for students and outlines her use of a course blog as a practice that has become commonplace in a variety of academic disciplines. Richtel reports that blogs provide students with a “feeling of relevancy” and “instant feedback,” then poses the question: “[W]hy punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?”
From that question Richtel turns to the argument of defenders of the traditional academic paper, namely that the term paper teaches essential components of writing and thinking that may be absent from blog posts. Yet after letting the advocates of old-school writing have their say, Richtel undercuts their claim with this one-sentence paragraph: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” 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.
Notably, the one-sentence paragraph, unlike paragraphs with multiple sentences, places heavy emphasis on a single idea. It says to readers, this is important. By 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.
Richtel’s reductio ad absurdum paragraph is one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in his article. The other consists entirely of Professor Davidson’s own words. Speaking of the mechanistic quality of the term paper, she says: “As a writer, it offends me deeply.” In addition to devoting that one-sentence paragraph to Davidson’s negative feelings about term papers, Richtel returns to those feelings of hers at the end of his article and lets Davidson have the last word, literally.
In the final paragraphs of the article, Richtel recounts a tutoring session Davidson conducted with a community college student. Though she frowned on his assignment’s rigid guidelines—including prescribed sentence length—she told the student to follow the rules, knowing that teaching him what she deemed the best practice might have led the student to fail. Reflecting on that moment, Davidson said, “I hated teaching him bad writing,” and with those words of hers, Richtel’s article ends.
Along with giving Davidson the last word, Richtel devotes far more of his article to the new literacies she and Lunsford foster in their students. Arguably, the innovative nature of the work could account for the considerable space that Richtel devotes to it. After all, what readers are familiar with—in this case the traditional term paper—isn’t news. But the preponderance of word choices that place old literacies in a negative light combined with a structure that diminishes the merits of old-school writing reveals Richtel’s implicit preference for Davidson’s and Lundsford’s innovations.
Readers revisiting Richtel’s article now, nearly ten years after he wrote it, may wonder how he would respond to the question he poses about the shift from page to screen: “On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?” Richtel wrote “Blogs vs. Term Papers” in 2012, the year deemed the year of the MOOCs (massive open online courses). Once touted as the key to revolutionizing higher education, their success has been hampered by the same issues linked to the learning losses experienced during the pandemic. For the many students who have had little or no face-to-face instruction—writing or otherwise—in recent memory, more technology may not seem like an answer, much less an innovation.
If a player, or a team, uses all seven of its tiles in one play, the player, or team, earns fifty points in addition to the points for the words played. Congratulations to the team of Zack Chadwell and Tanner Rothenbereger in the 9:15 class for Scrabbling by building on “trap” with “minutes” (using a blank for the s), and also forming “am” (first-person singular form of the verb “be”) and “pi” (the numerical value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), which later in the game became “pig.”
If the players had not seen the opportunity to form the two-letter words “am” and “pi,” they would not have Scrabbled.
Look for opportunities that two-letter words can offer. There are sixteen two-letter words starting with a, so you have a 62% chance that any tile you put after an a will form a word.
On Monday, as an exercise in developing a thesis or main claim, you and your classmates collaboratively, in groups of four, examined the opening paragraphs of Tom Junod’s Esquire feature “The Falling Man” and crafted a thesis statement. The sample thesis that I wrote in class as a model for you appears below.
Sample Thesis Statement/Main Claim
Esquire writer Tom Junod begins “The Falling Man” with an uncharacteristically long paragraph to recreate on the page the lengthy vertical passage of the 9/11 victim immortalized in Richard Drew’s photograph.
If I were to write an analysis of the opening of “The Falling Man,” I would develop my essay with textual evidence–words and phrases throughout the first paragraph–to illustrate the linear movement of the unidentified man from the beginning of the first paragraph to its conclusion.
The September 2003 issue of Esquire presents the opening paragraph of Junod’s article as two long columns that mirror the Twin Towers in Drew’s photograph on the facing page. (See the image below the title of this post.)
Your Revision in Progress
Today in class you received your handwritten drafts with my notes to you, and you began your revision work on your laptops. As you continue to revise your analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” or “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” keep in mind our textbook authors’ words about effective thesis statements:
“The thesis of an analytical paper is an idea about your subject, a theory that explains what some feature or features of your subject mean. A good thesis comes from carefully examining and questioning your subject in order to arrive at some point about its meaning and significance that would not have been immediately obvious to your readers” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 180).
Also keep in mind our textbook authors’ 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).
More on Tom Junod’s “The Falling Man”
Unless you subscribe to Esquire, the magazine’s paywall will deny you access to the full text of the feature, but you can access it through the HPU Library site by following these steps:
On Wednesday you will submit your worksheet for the second lesson in the Check, Please! course. The assignments that I wrote as models for lessons one and two appear below.
Check, Please! Sample Assignment for Lesson One
In the first lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, introduces the four-step SIFT approach to determining the reliability of a source: (1) “Stop,” (2) “Investigate,” (3) “Find better coverage,” and (4) “Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.”
One of the most useful practices presented in lesson one is what the author terms the “Wikipedia Trick.” Deleting everything that follows a website’s URL (including the slash), adding a space, typing “Wikipedia,” and hitting “enter” will yield the site’s Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia entry that appears at the top of the screen may indicate thesource’s reliability or lack thereof.
The most memorable segment of lesson one is the short, riveting video “The Miseducation of Dylann Roof,” which begins with the narrator asking the question, “How does a child become a killer?” Produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it documents how algorithms can lead unskilled web searchers down paths of disinformation. In the worst cases, such as Roof’s, algorithms can lead searchers to the extremist propaganda of radical conspiracy theorists.
In the second 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 on investigating a source, the second step in the SIFT approach that he introduces in lesson one.
One of the most useful practices presented in lesson two is Caulfield’s follow-up to the Wikipedia strategy that he outlines in the previous lesson. After he reviews that strategy, Caulfield explains how to use the control-f keyboard shortcut (command-f on a Mac). Typing control-f (or command-f) will open a small textbox in the upper right of the screen. Typing a word you are searching for will highlight the first appearance of the word in the text. Hitting return will highlight each subsequent appearance of the word.
Lesson two introduced me to fauxtire, a term for websites such as World News Daily Report, based in Tel Aviv, that present themselves as satirical but in fact serve primarily to perpetuate disinformation.
Perhaps the most memorable portion of lesson two was the side-by-side comparison of the websites for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Pediatricians. Though at first glance the two appear comparable, using the Wikipedia strategy reveals their profound differences. While AAP is the premiere authority on children’s health and well-being, ACP was founded to protest the adoption of children by single-sex couples and is widely viewed as a single-issue hate organization.
Turning from summary to commentary is a move you made in your Check, Please! worksheets and one that is similar to the move you will make in your analysis.
The authors of your textbook note that “[s]ummary is important to analysis because you can’t analyze a subject without laying out its significant parts for your reader” (6).
Your Check, Please! worksheet assignments require you to begin with a brief summary or presentation of the lesson’s significant parts. Summaries are objective by definition. They present the subject, not the writer’s opinion of it, and they do not include first- or second-person pronouns in singular or plural form (“I,” “me,” “we,” “us,” or “you”).
In the second paragraph of your Check, Please! assignments–and any subsequent paragraphs you include–you turn from summary to commentary. After answering the question, what is it? with your summary, you comment on the lesson with answers to one or more questions, such as these: What was most useful? What was most memorable? What was most instructive?
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
And from Summary to Analysis
Similarly, in your analysis you will turn from summary to commentary but your comments will require a more sophisticated move. In your analysis, you will turn from laying out your subject’s significant parts to an analysis, or close study, of how some of those parts contribute to its overall effect. In your eyes, what does it mean, and what evidence can you offer to support your claims?
Backtracking to Notes
To begin the process of developing my analysis, I reread “Blogs vs. Term Papers” to look for patterns. What struck me as I reread Matt Richel’s article was the difference in the amount of the space devoted to old- and new-school writing practices, the contrast in the diction, or word choice, in the passages that addressed the two, and the article’s movement from old to new to old to new again. From there, I developed a tentative thesis that follows the summary in the paragraph below.
Introductory Paragraph Ending with a Thesis
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. Although Richtel’s article appears to present an objective report on 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 Professors Cathy Davidson and Andrea Lundsford.
On Wednesday, you will submit your worksheet for your second Check, Please! lesson and you will begin revising your analysis in class.
What if you begin a game of Scrabble with only vowels? The image above shows what could be the first three words played in a game in which no player (or team) has a consonant. None of the three words yields many points, but the “e” in “oe” offers the opportunity for a player to score a double triple. Playing “be'” or “me” and another word vertically would earn the player eighteen points for the “b” or “m” alone; playing “h” or “w” would earn the player twenty-four points for the “h” or “w” alone.
Often playing a vowel-only word brings opportunities for high scores later. Here are some of the words you can play if you find yourself without consonants:
aa: a type of stony, rough lava
ai: a three-toed sloth
eau: water (pl. eaux)
oe: a whirlwind off the Faero islands
oi: an expression of dismay (also oy)
In class someone asked about the pronunciation of aa. It is pronounced ah-ah.
Congratulations to the team of Braeden Thompson and Nate Alleman in the 10:40 class. Braeden and Nate scored a 126-point double-triple play with the word “evaporate,” which they formed by adding the letters “e,” “a,” “t,” and “e” to the word “vapor” played in a previous turn.
In class on Monday, September 13, we will explore ways for you to proceed with the revision work that you will begin in class on Wednesday. For class, read the overview to Chapter 2 of Writing Analytically and bring your copy of the textbook to class.
Today in class you began planning and drafting your analysis longhand. If you devoted more time to planning than drafting, you are not off track. Both steps are important Your aim was not to reach a conclusion today but rather to begin a process of discovery that will lead you to an analysis, one that you will continue to craft for two more weeks.
Move 2: Define significant parts and how they are related.
Move 3: Make the implicit explicit. Push observations to implications by ASKING ‘SO WHAT?’
Move 4: Look for patterns of repetition and contrast for anomalies (THE METHOD).
Move 5: Keep reformulating questions and explanations” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 16).
Friday marks our third Wordplay Day of the semester. To prepare for class and to up your game, browse the Scrabble site’s Tips and Tools.
Next week you will complete lesson two in the Check, Please! Starter Course and submit your completed worksheet in class on Wednesday, September 15. That due date and the ones for your other Check, Please! lessons are included on the course calendar in the syllabus. If you were absent from class today, you can download and print the worksheet from the link below or from Blackboard.
Today in class we will use the “Notice and Focus” strategy as we examine a page of Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus. As the authors of your textbook observe, the strategy “help[s] you to stay open longer to what you can notice in your subject matter” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 17).
We will closely examine the page featured above, write what we notice (not what we think or like/dislike about it), and discuss our observations as a way of moving toward analysis.
Afterward, we will study an analysis of the page that I wrote as a model for my students last semester. An MLA style copy of the analysis can be downloaded from the link that follows. The assignments that you submit to Blackboard–your own analysis and your other major assignments for English 1103–should follow the same format.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will submit your completed worksheet for the first lesson in the Check, Please! series. If you did not receive a copy of the worksheet or you have misplaced yours, you can download and print a copy from the link below.
On Wednesday you will also begin drafting your analysis in class. That prelimary draft and the first drafts of all of your papers will be handwritten in class. Be sure to bring loose leaf paper, a pen with dark ink, and your copies of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and “Skim Reading is the New Normal.”
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
When I am not teaching, you may find me at the theatre preparing for another role. Though I have played an English teacher twice, I am often someone quite different from myself: a seventy-two-year-old bag lady, a medieval abbess, or a Spanish-speaking maid.
When the pandemic shut down live theatre, I found myself performing on a virtual stage, playing the role of Duchess Fredricka in the Shared Radiance Zoom production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Though I missed the face-to-face experience of live theatre, playing the duchess introduced me to performing on camera with a green screen and learning how to carry on conversations convincingly with actors who were invisible to me.
After the pandemic restrictions relaxed temporarily, I found myself performing live again but in a way that was new to me. Goodly Frame’s Finding Shakespeare required me to play three different characters in a fifteen-minute outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Now actors find themselves in rehearsals akin to–but not the same as–the ones of our pre-pandemic nights at the theatre. They don literal masks until they step on stage to wear their figurative ones. I look forward to the days when I will not have to pull off a mask before I step into the light, but for now I am simply grateful for the innovative pandemic-era theatre opportunities I’ve had.
In class today, I distributed copies of two sample introductory posts for us to examine before we turned our attention to your own blogs. As you prepared to study the sample introductions, I asked you to keep in mind the “Cures for the Judgment Reflex” that your textbook’s authors outline in Chapter 1. As a preface to the cures, the authors offer this general rule:
“[T]ry to figure out what your subject means before deciding how you feel about it. If you can break the judgment reflex and press yourself to analyze before judging a subject, you will often be surprised at how much your initial responses change” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 11).
This semester we will follow that general rule each time we examine a text as a subject of analysis.
An additional copy of the exercise (with the two sample introductory posts) can be downloaded from the link below.
Remember that you need to email me your blog address, or URL, so that I can link your WordPress site to the course page. Most of you in the 9:15 class have already done that. Many of you in the 10:40 class still need to do so. If you encounter difficulties creating your blog or your first post, email email@example.com. My students have maintained WordPress blogs since 2013, and no student has ever experienced a problem with a blog that WordPress wasn’t able to resolve eventually. If your blog isn’t up and running, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and email WordPress.
Along with the exercise, I distributed copies of the worksheet for the first of your five lessons in the Check, Please! assignment. Some of you in the 9:15 class left before I handed out the worksheets. If you did not receive one, you may pick up one in class on Friday, or download and print one from the link below.Submit your completed worksheet in class on Wednesday, September 8. That due date and the ones for your other Check, Please! lessons are included on the course calendar.
Friday marks our second Wordplay Day of the semester. To prepare for class, review the Scrabble site’s “Tips and Tools.” Unless you encounter technical difficulties with WordPress, your introductory post should be published before Friday’s class. We will begin examining your introductions in class next week. An additional copy of the blog overview and introductory assignment can be downloaded from the link below.