Friday, September 15, 2006

Webboard fun and first year composition reflection

Here's the computer lab assignment for today at my class' Webboard, available at:

http://webboard.engl.niu.edu/?boardid=glocascio

"Go to www.technorati.com and browse around the site. Find a blog that interests you and write a paragraph about why it interests you, what drew you to it, its subject matter. Or, pick a topic in the blog and write a paragraph about that topic, quoting the blog on the topic. Post this paragraph along with a link to the blog as a reply to this topic. DO NOT create a new topic. "

Here is my reply:


http://jdsblog.com/domainers/2006/09/15/lonelygirl15-is-no-mystery-shes-a-youtube-formula/
What I'm writing about is actually a link from the filter-style blog above. The article I read is at: http://jdsblog.com/domainers/2006/09/15/lonelygirl15-is-no-mystery-shes-a-youtube-formula/

I scanned through You Tube recently at my parent's house and saw Lonelygirl15 as one of the most popular videos on the site. Though I didn't check it out, I remember seeing it. The Chicago Tribune article points out that LonelyGirl15 is a hoax, a creation of some Los Angeles production company, and LonelyGirl is neither 15 or lonely. She's really:

"Jessica Rose, a New Zealand native living in the Los Angeles area. She was outed in a cascading series of revelations, beginning with a publicly posted note from "The Creators" of LonelyGirl admitting it wasn't real and claiming they'd invented a "new art form. Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story, a story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the Internet."

I think it is fascinating how people are using video streaming technology to create their own reality-style TV shows. The article claims that this style might become as popular as the serial novels of Charles Dickens in the 19th century. It is compared to these serial novels because the video clips people post on YouTube are short, usually less than three minutes.

********

The instructions for this assignment were too vague for some in the classroom who desire much more specificity, i.e. handholding. Even though specificity would reduce the number of queries, I also feel it would diminish the variety of responses. My students have a difficult time with abstract thinking. They tend to focus more on grades and outcomes, rather than processes and creativity. I hope to instill in them that inquiry, debate, disagreement, vagueness, are all challenges writers face. There is no ONE way to write an essay.

In the reflection on their first essay, many of the students, after receiving my first marks on their papers, wrote something along the lines of, "Now I know what you expect in our writing." Yes, one must consider their intended audience, but, no, don't pander to teacher expectations. I want them to find their own voices as writers and in that process of discovery I will guide them through the many pitfalls of grammar and style that plague beginning writers.

The class is going really well. I do not have any discipline problems and my lesson plans, for the most part, have gone off well. My students are all freshmen, 18 or 19, and brand new to Northern Illinois University. My class meets at 9 a.m. MWF. This means that for most of them, the first class was literally their very first college class.

My teaching style is very informal and conversational. I can be their friends, unlike my experiences as a high school and middle school teacher. My authority is establlished by my mastery of the subject matter, not some artificial power trip. I spend a lot of time and energy preparing lessons, grading papers and staying a couple steps ahead on the readings. Students can tell if you're not on top of your game.

Wednesday, during the group exericse, there was a palpable energy in the classroom. The students argued, laughed, and worked together on a difficult group task. It made me feel all fuzzy inside that my lesson went off so well and they embraced it enthusiastically. Moments before, a brainstorming idea I tried backfired. I posed a question and got crickets and tumbleweeds in response. This worked out, though, because they needed the entire rest of the period to do the group exercise.

So far, this first year composition experience validates my career-changing decision to become a teacher. God, it's hard work. I'm overwhelmed. But it's worth it. My colleagues are a great support network, and many have become friends. I feel part of a community again.

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