Web 2.0h No?

Another FoxTrot that seems to sum up the debate about Web 2.0.

FoxTrot by Bill Amend – September 22, 2006

Not much else to say about this except that I hope we, as educators, decide what to call it so we can begin to talk about it with some continuity. I think that is part of the problem… when people hear about “blogs,” for instance, they think “MySpace.” What can we do to come to some consensus on this?

Some Props for Wikis from the NEA

Aram alerted me to this article from the NEA which gives a pretty fair shake to wikis and Wikipedia. Here is a particularly compelling quote:

But with wiki technology, students can go beyond simply reading sites to helping write them as well, fulfilling the Web’s promise of becoming a fully interactive medium. According to Frey, whether or not Wikipedia is a reliable source is beside the point. Its value, he says, is in its collaborative nature. “It’s an organic product, it’s an interactive product, and it’s a community product,” he says. “You can’t compare it to traditional resources. It encourages us to accept that in today’s world, anyone can be a published author.”

NEA: October 2006 NEA Today – Getting Wiki With It

Speaking of wikis, if anyone wants to help Aram and I prepare for a presentation next week, please check out our wiki page for the presentation. Thanks for your help.

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Wave-Particle Theory and Composition/Rhetoric OR Why Do Mixed-Methods Research? – Gwen Gorzelsky

Another presentation here today, “Wave-Particle Theory and Composition/Rhetoric OR Why Do Mixed-Methods Research?” by Gwen Gorzelsky.

Gwen Gorzelsky will explore the challenges and potential benefits of combining research methods in composition/rhetoric scholarship by describing how she brought together historical, critical, and empirical qualitative methods in her book, The Language of Experience: Literate Practices and Social Change. She argues that mixing these research methods produces both a macro-level view, which emphasizes social structures, and a micro-level view, which emphasizes social processes. At the same time, combining methods involves some important problems. She will respond to one key critique of this mixed-methods approach by explaining how she is revising the approach in her current research project.

  • Why did I choose physics? It will be non-technical and short…
    • The nature of light isn’t either/or in terms of waves and particles, but both
    • Quantum physics shows that it can sometimes act in both ways because it has elements of both models
    • The dual nature of light is part of everything — light, electrons, bowling balls — they exhibit wave or particle properties depending on the experiment, but we only really see this at the level of atoms
    • Wave and particle can not be observed at the same time, however; whether light appears in this manner depends on what is being observed and with which tools it is observed
    • The light “knows” when to behave as a wave and as a particle, but not at the same time
  • How does this connect to rhet/comp and studies of literacy
    • Plurality of research methods can weaken claims, but offers us a unique set of tools to do our work
    • Helps us understand epistemology — what we can know and how we can know it
    • Today, I am not focusing on combining qualitative and quantitative, but with empirical analysis and critical theory
    • This is the difference between inductive and deductive analysis
  • Why do this?
    • Because it changes our frame of mind for how and why to research
    • There is still, in the field, the presumption that knowledge is theoretical or empirical, but not both
    • This is where wave particle theory comes into play — we can observe measure and document both types, but not at the same time
    • As literacy researchers, we try to describe reality in similar ways, either empirically or theoretically
    • I will talk about the ways in which I want to combine empirical and theoretical work and think about the kinds of knowledge that can come from this
  • About the book A Language of Experiences
    • I am looking at how people use personal efforts and community practices
    • Looking at functional literacy, as well as all kinds of literacy practices
    • I study two historical cases and one ethnographic case to see how people create goals and go after those goals
    • I chose different cases to see the differences — struggle and social movements
    • Three features common in all the cases
      • Each emphasizes individual and group change
      • Each has secular and spiritual change
      • Each emphasizes cultural change and diversity
    • I look at the varied roles for literacy practices and to what ends they can support change
  • Reading background and research questions
    • Various research approaches are different, and one blurry distinction is that theory generally highlights large-scale structures that shape social practices while empirical methods highlight the structures in which they are reproduced (process vs. structure)
    • Think of a picture of traffic at night — you can see the streaks of light, but not the individual drivers, if you look from a helicopter (structure); process would allow you to look at the decisions that drivers make
    • I am talking about what I am seeing as an overall theory, and I know that there are places where this breaks down.
  • What does empirical vs theories of literacy produce
    • Empirical – Scribner and Cole look at how the Vai change their literacies
    • Theoretical – Foucault looking at power
    • I will suggest that historical studies occupy the ground between historical and empirical work
      • If you look at literacy across centuries, literacy can be seen as hierarchical; in the short term it can be seen as empowering for certain cultural groups
    • Empirical studies can play into stereotypes that they seek to understand; they seek to see what is rather than what can be
      • However, theoretical texts often miss the idea of intervening and looking at how we can produce and reproduce cultural reality
      • In contrast, empirical studies reveal the processes, but may not be able to do much about them
    • I am arguing that this is not an either/or — whether or not we see social structure or process depends on how we look at it
      • The problem is that we can’t see it both ways at the same time, we need to switch research methods to get both views
      • We also need to think about how subjectivity helps shape that reality
    • As I collected ethnographic data on “struggle,” I saw that my colleagues expressed pessimism and despair. This concern lead me to explore gestalt psychology theory. It contends that we see in patterns, and the mesh between language use and experience. It happens through habits of syntax and style.
      • Looking at research this way, I was able to think about language and felt experience and think about them as central to social change.
      • I am interested in looking at research subjects experiences, to the degree that we can.
      • One way that I tried to enact that is to put sections in the book that showed how I went through changes as a result of participating in that study.
    • I am arguing that each perspective gives us parts of knowledge, but these are not like puzzle pieces that go together to make a whole. They are different angles that we can use to learn about individual and social reality. Alternating among perspectives can help us go about doing that.
  • One danger is that generalizable knowledge makes us think that things are subject to universal laws
    • This approach erases individual differences
    • But, we need to bring existing knowledge to what we are doing so that we can understand
    • I argue that we can forgo generalizable claims, and instead offer heuristics to investigate a certain case
      • Simple: Who, what, when, where, how, why
      • Complex: Several sets of questions constructed from patterns built across cases and to think about how things function in given contexts
    • This does offer us ways to think about historical and lived experiences
      • I see this attempt to construct the heuristic as both good and bad.
      • I infer historical experience in a problematic way, in that they are parallel to individual experience.
      • I use data from an article to compare to a teen’s experience — I am comparing apples and oranges; written constructions versus the way someone talks about their experience
  • Where do I go from here?
    • Knowledge from historical knowledge is incommensurable with textual analysis of people’s work now
    • To the extent that texts become part of structure, it ignores process
    • I am trying to parallel structure with process, and I don’t think that they can be compared
      • I think that there is a way to compare them.
        • Ideally, I want a case that will allow me to integrate theoretical and empirical knowledge looking at how a newspaper in Penn. worked through an election in the 1930s.
        • In analyzing the rhetorical strategies in the paper, I think about the historical context (steel barons owning most of the town). I wanted to connect this to how people used the newspaper articles, but I couldn’t find any evidence of this.
      • I can obtain a structural view in this case, but I still don’t want to compare apples to oranges
        • I need to look at the heuristic and where/how I drew the parallels
        • How do the texts use discursive and ideological structures?
        • When textual analysis is focused on rhetorical strategies and their effects on readers, it can be paralleled with theoretical knowledge, but not empirical.
      • What I can do, then, is to look at the birds-eye view of structure and the on-the-ground process
        • I can look at the program’s texts and the participant’s text from the qualitative case
        • But, in considering the role of social practices in social change, I need to look at large scale movements
    • Considering cases that look at broad structural analysis are crucial because you can look at social change. Yet, the individual cases show the efforts that they made and missing that view decreases the possibilities for seeing how to change things in our contexts.
      • We can do this by thinking about the roles that we are playing in structure and process. Wave and particle both. Reality is both process and structure and we must study both of them to understand how literacy works and to what ends.
  • Q&A
    • Q: Can one researcher do it and do it well? Mixed methods is the buzz right now, and I think that we need to see researchers who know how to do both working collaboratively than any one person alone.
      • A: I agree, in the perfect world, I would like to do quantitative methods. In terms of scholarship, a richer scholarship would result if this was the case. However, in terms of politics, a co-authored book will not stand out for tenure. For graduate advising, I think that it depends on the individual student and the background he/she brings as well as the context of the institution and what they support and value. How can you do a solid project while navigating the waters?
    • Q: What we don’t have are ways to look at things in interconnected and related ways — we don’t have those ways of thinking. Specialization within the institution.
      • A: I think that is a problem and I have no way to think about how to do that beyond how it happens at the graduate level and the tracks for people’s careers.
    • Q: How do you move the discipline beyond the roadblocks when people are coming out ready to do this work?
      • A: If I think about what I have observed about the institution as a faculty member, I think that this is more about pragmatics in establishing territory rather than the intellectual pursuit. It is about our division between English and Rhet/Comp, too.
    • Q: When you are looking at a town, what kind of texts do you look at to understand the rhetorical context?
      • A: I read at the local and regional level. I looked at the larger history of the unionizing movement and then the local unionizers. I read the basic stuff to understand any historical topic as well as archival materials like newspapers, records from union drives, and all documents related to one union within a certain time period. I wish that there had been records of discussions from meetings, or a reading group, but there weren’t. Some of the articles had been designed to call people to action, and I wanted to know what those actions might have been.

A concise quote about what Web 2.0 can and can't do

In my many conversations about technology and literacy over the past few years – and especially since the Web 2.0 (or read/write web or whatever we are going to call it) phenomenon has taken off – I have heard about the wonders and wickedness of wikis, the boon and bust of blogging, and the power and puff of podcasts.

Also, there is much talk of digital natives and immigrants and what each one of these demographics can or can’t do with technology. Despite the general idea that this dichotomy creates – that kids “get” technology and adults don’t – there is more to it than that.

Thus, this quote tidily sums up the good, and bad, about these technologies as they relate to education.

“Kids automatically teach each other how to use technology,” says Howard Rheingold, author of the influential Smart Mobs and long-time Web observer, “but they’re not going to teach each other about the history of democracy, or the importance of taking their voices into the public sphere to create social change.”

Can Web 2.0 change the world? – The Practical Futurist – MSNBC.com

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Notes from “Journalism and Academic Research on Education”

Another great presentation today. Here are the official details with my notes below:

New York Times education columnist Samuel Freedman will visit the College next week. He will speak on “Journalism and Academic Research on Education” on Tuesday, September 19th at 2:00 p.m. in 252 EH.

Freedman is a Professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism. In addition to his regular Times columns, he is the author of several acclaimed books, including Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and their High School. Small Worlds was a pioneering study of urban education and teaching careers, still major interests of Professor Freedman’s. His talk will feature attention to relations between the kind of journalism he practices and teaches, which shares some of the qualities of academic inquiry, and university based research.

Just last week, Freedman recognized our colleague Lynn Fendler (and former colleague David Labaree) in a Times column on the uses and abuses of “reflection.” The column is posted at the College website. Professor Freedman‚s visit is sponsored by the Spencer Research Training Grant.

Notes from Session:

  • Opening from Steve Weiland: what can we learn about educational research from journalists?
    • Journalists look for their models in every great art, and researchers can look at educational inquiry as literature
  • Freedman
    • Intro
      • I spend much of my time teaching, so I enact education all the time
      • Also, to see my parents go through school and to work with their teachers, sometimes supportively and sometimes critically, I get to see a different perspective than what most journalists might see
        • I am constantly reminded as a parent that their is nothing more important than the education of your own children
      • As a journalist, I have done many different things in my career. Musically, Miles Davis and Neil Young have never done anything the same, and I like to think that I am doing something similar.
        • As a young journalist, I learned that people care about two main things: taxes and children. Education combines bot.
        • When I went to NYT, my various jobs have often brought me back to education in many guises
        • Small Victories was one of the outgrowths of this work.
          • This came about when I began in 1987 as a part of how public education was constructed.
            • A Nation At Risk and the Carnegie Foundation’s report on Excellence in Education
            • These both looked at the unexamined certainty that schools were failing, and that is something that you should always examine in more detail
            • If there is such a paucity of great education going on, I haven’t seen it. So many people who were critical of public education without every seeing it firsthand.
            • I had seen evaluators come into schools for two or three days and presume to evaluate the entire system. I wanted to write about a low-income high school in Manhattan to show the world the day-to-day practice of education.
            • These issues stayed with me even after I finished the book and then the ideal turn of events came 2.5 years ago when NYT asked me to come into the education column.
              • This has reinforced for me the inexhaustible source of materials in education.
              • I want to talk about the intreplay between education journalism and scholarship
    • Educational journalism
      • How do you get the reporter to go beyond simply calling the expert and having some level of mastery of the field yourself?
        • How do you connect with the scholars and the practitioners?
        • We generally go with the idea of being a generalist. We want someone who can be a “quick study”
        • What this celebrates is a facile well-written superficiality
        • It is rare that you get to be on the beat for a long time
        • Just as journalists get to know the beat, they move on or get a promotion
        • One thing that journalists need to do is to be aware of the scholarly discussions going on in the field
          • For instance, the new NCTM standards as an about face from constructivist learning to more directive learning ala Singapore — this is a far way off from the entire story
        • We need to acknowledge, humbly, that those who study and practice the field have something to tell us
      • At the same time, journalists serve a crucial purpose to put theory and practice to the test
        • The goal of a good journalists, particularly in education, is to show how ideas play out at the ground level and to show how thing are
        • You do this by using the journalistic power of observation and questioning
        • You also do this by asking the “experts,” students and then teachers and parents
      • This is not a perfect system, because articles fall into two categories
        • The article that you had enough time to report and not space to explain
        • The article that you had enough time to explain and not enough time to report
      • In Small Victories, I didn’t look at everything, and I couldn’t claim that I knew everything
    • For me, one of the other watchwords about covering education is that I have always imagined schools as a gigantic switchboard. There are plugs everywhere that can be connected. Schools are a social switchboard in which race, class, culture, language, gender, religion — all the parts of human experience — come together in school.
      • This is a great fulfillment in education and a great challenge
      • You can’t neatly divorce home life from school life
    • I have also explored commonplaces and tried to uncover some of the assumptions embedded therein
      • There is some evidence of corruption and failure, to be sure, but what I wanted to show that there were some schools achieving
      • There was great success with teaching and children going to college
      • Many tried to ask me the “gotcha” question about whether I would send my kids there. I said that I would love to have my kids taught by those teachers, but no one should have to be in a school that is at 180% capacity with a roof falling in on itself.
    • I look at many of the policies that the NYC schools chancellor is doing, and I am not trying to take him down a peg, but I think that the orthodoxy is that big high schools don’t work and I want to explore it.
      • There is lots of collateral damage to this decisions — kids get displaced from these small schools and end up in big ones, making them violent and disorderly places
      • Sometimes the small schools got put into big school and it made competition for finite resources
    • Mike Winerip was great at taking the agnostic view on testing, and he was able to show how there were all types of problems with testing
    • Going out and doing fieldwork is not just about the negative though
      • I tell journalists that you can’t ever forget that you are covering something magical; if you lose site of the magic, you shouldn’t be on the beat
      • I try to make sure to come back to pay homage to the magic, as well as to keep people’s feet to the fire
      • Doing the journalistic version of field work can bring back upbeat stories
    • One other question that came up was “who do I see myself writing for?”
      • Good journalism has to speak to experts
        • If it is too simplistic and reductive, then I haven’t done my job
        • It needs a sense of subtlety, nuance, and complexity
      • It also have to speak to the general public, one who might look at the education column casually
        • If it is only for insiders, then it won’t appeal to others
        • You need to pull these people in and invite them to get the knowledge as part of the reading experience
      • I don’t get this in every column, but I try
  • Q&A
    • Q: Spellings report coming out today, what are your thoughts?
      • A: There are some many media reports that come out, and most of them are worthy, but only some of them get the attention at a higher level of visibility. It is a filter up and a filter down system — from the Chronicle of Higher Ed and other aggregators — it works backwards. It goes to scholarly and specialty publications and then starts to spread around. For instance, I missed the report on the NCTM report, but people sent me emails about it. what I find interesting to do is not to simply rewrite the executive summary, but to have them as resources that I can use later to add depth to my writing.
    • Q: Blogs and podcasts in journalism and then in classrooms.
      • A: There are two parts to the blogosphere : as delivery and as value system. As delivery, I have no problem, because experts can give a great deal of information in real time. It lets people get well-researcher ideas out into the world. As a value system, it bothers me that there is no journalistic integrity to it. It can look spiffy, yet their is no commitment to doing accurate reporting or exploring the world. There is a disdain that one can go out and report upon human experience as compared to saying “here is what I think.”
      • I think that it is great that when things happen, good or bad, that people can tell about things firsthand from cell phone pictures and first reports. Items on YouTube from Iraq is just raw material, and that is where a journalist comes in to synthesize and critique that.
      • In the long run, I hope that there is a sorting out that the audience can discern.
      • I know that the schools and teachers are using blogs and even the NYT has teachers writing for them.
      • This isn’t journalism, but this is a fun way to understand the sense of agency that you get with writing.
    • Q: Thoughts on the think tank phenomenon
      • A: You, as a reporter, should know what the think tank is about and report that in your story. You need to point out who has a horse in the race, other wise you are not doing your job as a journalist.

Comments on “Learning a language to welcome the future”

Like many of you, I have read The World is Flat, and — while I agree with many of the points that Friedman makes in the text — I have been searching for a more nuanced argument, beyond reasons of pure economics, about how and why our children should become more technically proficient and multilingual, especially if that language is Chinese.

I was looking for a way to articulate points that the New London Group argues for in their seminal essay, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures,” as it relates to recognizing linguistic diversity, both within and across languages, and understanding technology and new literacies from a critical perspective. In other words, we might want to teach our children another language because it can make them a well-rounded person, one who is better able to communicate in a variety of contexts not just a money-maker. That is my approach to literacy as it relates to technology and, I feel, a perspective not shared amongst the dominant discourse of literacy learning in American schooling. Our lack of K-5 foreign language offerings is proof to that.

So, I was happy to see the argument that the The Star Tribune developed with the topic, especially since it was on the eve of 9/11. Here is their entire editorial:

Want to do your bit to shape the future? Walk over to your neighborhood preschool and sit the teachers down for a chat: Teaching the kids to sing and get along is great, but what they really need is a daily dose of Chinese. If your listeners blink in bafflement, just explain: Chinese is the language of tomorrow, and today’s tots can learn it in a twinkling.

Preschool is the sensible place to start since children’s brains can easily absorb languages (many at a time, in fact) before age 6.
But it makes little sense to have preschools do this if grade schools won’t continue, and there’s reason to worry they won’t. The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require consistent foreign-language instruction starting early in grade school.

A survey from the Center for Applied Linguistics shows that fewer than 15 percent of elementary kids study a foreign language. The proportion rises to just over half among high-schoolers.

Beyond the educational system’s blindness to the science of language acquisition are a few other snarls: One is the fact that very few of the U.S. students working seriously to learn a foreign language are studying Chinese — let alone Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Farsi or any of the other “emerging” tongues.

And if demand for learning these languages were suddenly to rise, U.S. schools couldn’t come through — for teachers of languages are desperately scarce. Sorting out this situation will require acknowledging with sincerity the merits of multilingualism and a wholesale excavation and recasting of the country’s approach to introducing new learners to foreign speech.

The consequences of the country’s linguistic lassitude have already proven ominous: Because it lacks an adequate supply of proficient speakers, the U.S. government often displays clumsiness in diplomacy and cultural outreach, sends garbled messages to foreign media outlets, fumbles in gathering intelligence and warding off terrorism — and insults nations overseas by staffing our embassies with officials ill-equipped to communicate.

By the time today’s toddlers become globetrotters, monolingualism will compromise not only American pride, but American livelihoods. Before long, competency in Chinese could very well be the key to forging friendships and averting needless enmity. The ability to speak the world’s most common language will likely open doors and job opportunities. And though America’s linguistic layabouts seem not to know it, speaking as others speak has always been the key to opening minds.

Editorial: Learning a language to welcome the future

Now, why did this one really strike a chord with me? Well, today, our daughter started her first day in preschool — half the day in English, half the day in Chinese — as part of a partnership with MSU’s Education for Global Citizenship Schools. As parents, my wife and I wanted her to be a part of this so she could have the experience of learning a new culture and language. As the Star Tribune notes, this is about more than just money; instead we need to view learning a new language as part of the cultural experience of being 21st century citizens.

I know, I know. Even that argument can come back to economics. I am not here to rewrite the rules for what Jim Gee calls “fast capitalism” and to try to subvert the system. I am aware of it, and that, for now, is enough. Besides, I realize, much to my chagrin, that my daughter’s participation in this full program (with a waiting list) just adds to the list of data supporting these types of arguments.
But, just for a day, just for my daughter, I want to believe that this is, indeed, about more than money. I want to believe that it is about her learning another language and culture. I want to believe that she will be engaged as a global citizen because it it ethically responsible, not just fiscally prudent. Before we went into the school today, she told me that she was afraid she wouldn’t understand anything that her Chinese teacher told her. By the time she got home, she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had, even if she only knew how to say “Ni hao.” I believe that this is a start.

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Internet Addiction

Another aspect of digital literacy will be to know when to say when.

For all its utility, it’s no secret the Internet is one of the most effective distractions ever invented. That is more true among the younger generations, who are more comfortable in the online world and more apt to find hours spent surfing sites such as Facebook compelling.
Experts say that distraction is becoming a problem at MSU, as it is on college campuses across the country.
Increasing numbers of students are reporting their extracurricular online activities are taking a toll on their academics. And college officials, more accustomed to encouraging students to go online than telling them to stay off, are still looking for remedies.

In a health survey conducted this year, 18.5 percent of MSU students reported that spending time using the Internet and playing computer games had caused them to get a lower grade on a test, a lower grade ina class or to drop a class altogether.

Lansing State Journal: Internet addiction at MSU increasing

I am not a gamer, but I admit that I am addicted to email, blog reading, tangential research, and the occasional link to YouTube, The Onion, or some other distraction.
Is there any more fitting irony incongruity (I spent two more minutes of my life researching the difference between the two) than the fact that I am blogging this, at home, while I should be writing my dissertation?

Enough said.

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