20 February 2010

Thing 5: LinkedIn

I spent at least 10 minutes trying to come up with a witty title for this post, something funny and engaging that would grab readers' attention and make them smile as it conveyed how underwhelmed I was by LinkedIn.  Then suddenly I realized that perhaps a better testament to my feelings about the LinkedIn experience was to make the title as boring as possible.  Because that's what LinkedIn is - boring.

I don't get it.  I've looked at other job sites and think they're much better.  I can't really imagine using this to find a job when there are other sites and services that cater to educators and are frankly, better looking (the NAIS site in particular comes to mind).  I recognize that LinkedIn is supposed to be more than just a job seeking resources, that it's also supposed to be for networking and other things, but I really can't see how I would ever use this.  At all.  LinkedIn provides some suggestions from its help section, but not one of them seemed relevant or useful to me.

This is not my best post, but I am completely devoid of any emotional or intellectual response to LinkedIn.  Look for me to start using LinkedIn only in sarcastic and derisive ways.  In conversation, I might say "that's so LinkedIn" and what I'll mean is "that's so mind-numbingly dry, irrelevant and uninteresting."

Thing 4: Are Comments Conversations?

So I've been reading other blogs and commenting more than I ever have before.  In the past, I was more of a lurker (and I think someone else used that term, so I can't really claim it as my own, but I don't remember who), reading and thinking about other people's ideas, but not really responding to them in any official or public way.  Now, however, for lots of reasons, I'm excited to do that.  A big part of that change is knowing more about the bloggers whose pages I'm reading, and it's also significant that I'm reading blogs that say something to me and have real relevance in my life and work.  Of course, I'm also doing it because I have to for the project, but I found myself posting to blogs that aren't involved at all with 23 Things, so it's not entirely a mercenary impulse.

I liked Cool Cat Teacher's page about how to comment like a king or queen.  Some of what she said seemed very common sense to me, like linking to a page you write about in a post of your own, but some ideas were ones I hadn't thought about at all, like using a comment tracking service.  I haven't set that up yet, and I don't usually tag posts or comments, but I totally see the value in doing so.  I have to say, though, that I was more impressed by Sabah Karimi's page on how to write intelligent comments, perhaps because it was significantly more concise (which not surprisingly, is one of the things she advocates in good commenting).

What both pages stressed though, and what I find both fun and frustrating, is that it's the commenting that makes blogging most like an actual discussion, more of a dialogue.  And I see that to a certain point, but conversations tend to be more immediate.  While it's advantageous in certain situations, especially with those who don't know me or my discourse style or sense of humor well, to have time to mull over the exactly right way to phrase something and choose my words precisely, it also precludes some of the authenticity of a spoken conversation.  Spontaneous and genuine reactions are a part of the give and take that happens when people speak to one another face to face, for better and worse, and they're absent from carefully crafted comments.  And of course the catch-22 is that I don't really want to read comments or posts that aren't carefully crafted.  It's not just the artifice or pretense of a drafted, revised, polished response to a comment that bugs me or breaks down my sense of posting and commenting as conversation - it's also the time delay.  I'll admit that I'm disappointed when I don't see responses to things I've posted.  When I do see them left later, I've sometimes moved on from thinking about the subject of my post, and I don't pick up the conversation the way I would were I across the table from someone and it were happening in real time.

Still, I'll continue to comment, and see what kinds of sort-of-conversations there are to have.

07 February 2010

Really? Seriously?

I am connected to the internet ON AN AIRPLANE.  I had no idea this was possible.  After rejoicing (inwardly, lest my seatmates think I'm ridiculous), I began to then get resentful about all the other places one can't get wireless internet service.  I mean, if you can get it in the air itself, why not at every airport (and I'm talking specifically about you, George Bush Intercontinental)?  And every school?  And every home?  

I've read a bit about how far behind other industrialized countries, like South Korea, for example, the US is in terms of being more fully wired, and it's beginning to matter more and more to me.  Obviously, my primary or immediate concerns are selfish ones - I want to be able to connect whenever and wherever I need or want to.  That said, I'm also interested in the principle.  If Web 2.0 is all about deconstructing hierarchies and democratizing the internet, then it needs to be available to all.  I learned about a project in Chicago that was seeking to use grant money to wire neighborhoods in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and distributing computers to residents who completed a certain number of training hours.  It struck me that this was a beautiful idea, and an important one.  When we look at all the different ways that technology is revolutionizing the ways that we work, communicate, network, socialize, organize and distribute information, I think we lose sight of all those who are at risk of being left behind.

But I digress... I'm going to tackle some Things.

01 February 2010

Thing 3: Reflections on Reflections

So finally, I've had some time to read other blogs that were recommended by our project, or those that friends here at school have put up. I'm so amazed by the diversity of opinions on different subjects (especially regarding homework), but also by how much congruence there is between my own professional curiosities, interests and concerns and other people's.

That struck me especially when reading budtheteacher's What's "Print"? post. How murky the waters have gotten on that one! After years of trying to get students to broaden their understanding of texts to include works that aren't necessarily books with pages full of words, but also films, paintings, and webpages, I feel now as if I have come full circle and now need instead to remind them that books count too. Categorizing and labeling resources has become difficult, so much so that the 2009 MLA guidelines now require one to indicate the "Medium of Publication" - Print, Web, CD-ROM, DVD, Film, etc. - at the end of each work cited entry.

What's strange to me is the way that I have a split personality when it comes to my own feelings about texts and books and print. The genesis of the Kindle has challenged me to question my feelings about reading, or perhaps my feelings about what the experience of reading is. While I am totally comfortable with electronic texts for the classroom - I assign lots of reading that's available online, and distribute readings to my students as PDFs instead of on paper - I have struggled to embrace the Kindle as delivery for my pleasure reading. I resist it with passion and zeal usually reserved for some sort of religious proselytizing; as much as I can sit and stare at my screen to read the Hawthorne stories my American Literature students are reading, the idea of curling up and reading Richard Russo the same way is loathsome. I have yet to successfully evince or articulate the reasons why, but that's just the way it is for now. Do I associate computers and technology too stringently with work tasks? No, there are lots of other ways I use my tablet for recreational or social activities. Do I want a paper copy so I can mark it up and re-read sections at will? Not really; I rarely mark books I'm reading for fun, and recognize that I could do that just as easily on a Kindle or tablet anyway. I can't put my finger on it, but it's real to me.

The other blog that really gave me pause was Why I Don't Assign Homework. I don't want to belabor any points that have already been made - many other readers have already elucidated clear arguments for and against dy/dan's theses - but I do think that there are qualitative differences between subject areas that make it very difficult for me, as an English teacher, to fathom this. The homework my students receive involves reading and writing that couldn't possibly be completed entirely in class. When skill acquisition is the primary goal, I can see an argument for better, but not necessarily more, opportunities to practice; independent acquisition of content, on the other hand, warrants time out of the classroom being devoted to schoolwork. The separation of the students from the teacher in this situation is an important part of the means by which we help students develop a pro-active role in their education. And while my feelings about a lot of other things are mixed, I'm 100% sure that that is something I'm all for.