Blog for my academic interests-- technology, plagiarism, first-year composition, grammar and style in writing, college teaching, reading theory and literacy, technical and business writing, corpus linguistics, digital culture--allowing for an occasional random post related to my personal interests--social trends, pop culture, women's fashion and style, friendships, relationships, family, travel, music, and anything else that I happen to think of. ..

A Notch Above Popular, A Notch Below Scholarly

Whenever I teach College Writing & Research, I explain to students the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals (magazines, or its online equivalents). However, that binary is not as clear-cut as it seems at first, because in reality, more students these days are coming into college classes with far less background in reading and familiarity with a variety of publications than 20, 30, or 50 years ago. Since the 1970's when more colleges became open access, more first generation college students started appearing in college classes. With the advent of so many online college opportunities, like SNHU or any other university's online programs, instructors cannot easily determine whether their students are widely read or, like the majority of high school graduates now, aliterate* and only keep up with the latest technology, hardly aware of the current issues of the day.

When students begin to write their first research paper (at least, for many it is their first), they can only see the college  library's search engine as a glorified version of Google. Already plenty familiar with Google, they tell themselves, "why bother with the more "complicated" version?" Even though scholars in library science and information retrieval are trying to capitalize on this familiarity with the ubiquitous search engine, the process of finding scholarly sources for a college research paper is more complex and multi-layered than having one point of entry.

When I used to take my students on a "library tour," I would often ask them to browse the "Current Periodicals" section, a common mainstay of most college libraries' first floors. Sometimes I would require them to find three periodicals that looked interesting to them and/or related to their major, list all three on a worksheet, then find one article within any of those three, read it, and summarize it, including the summary on the same worksheet, along with comments about what they learned, if anything. After we did this, most of the time the students remarked that it was an interesting and useful experience and said they weren't at all aware of all the magazines and journals out there. Of course, even though no library carries a complete inventory of ALL the magazines and journals "out there," this introduction to the breadth of possibilities was always eye-opening to and relatively painless for the students.

More often than not, students were drawn to a category I would call "substantive" magazines, a notch above "popular," a notch below "scholarly," the typical points on either end of a continuum that instructors explain in terms of intended audience. Sometimes "trade publications" were on the continuum, too, closer to scholarly than popular, or sometimes used as an interchangeable category. I would list Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report in the category of "popular" magazines, with the National Enquirer or Us Weekly on the far end,  the "sensational" category. (To quote an old friend of mine, "Time is for people who can't think; Look is for people who can't read.") But there's another category that is a step above "popular," that includes magazines that appeal to the "thinking person," with articles of such extended length that the aliterate normally shy away from tackling. It takes far too much of their valuable time. Sure, they CAN read it, but why bother?

If you haven't figured it out by now, I use the term "aliterate" very much in the same sense Kylene Beers does. She talks about the "illiterate" (those who don't know how to read or how to read well), "literate" (those who know how to read and often do), and "aliterate" (those who know how to read but choose not to, or at least, not if they can help it). Most high school graduates who don't go on to college tend to fall into the aliterate category, but many college students, even college graduates. could easily fit into that category now, too. People simply get out of the habit of reading and either don't want to read or feel they have no time for it, having grown accustomed to scanning user-friendly websites (read: "soundbite-sized information chunks"). Just like our we need to exercise our bodies, we need to exercise our brains a little bit more, too, or that ability to read more thoughtful and complex pieces will become harder just like our muscles atrophy.

So, if you'd like to rekindle your reading self, here's a list of print magazines that you'll find in any Barnes and Noble newstand section. Following that, I've assembled a list of online "magazines" and blogs that don't directly target people in a particular field as their audience, whose readership could easily be called the "thinking person."

Online Version of Print Magazines

Online Journals

Blogs

Research Data


Last Day of a Term: Teaching Writing Online

Today's the last day of another SNHU term. I have a stackful of papers to grade in the next few days, but I always feel a little mixed when the end day arrives. I keep thinking about what I should have done differently, or thinking that I hadn't connected with this student or that well enough, but when it comes right down to it, I spend more time than most people doing this job. It's low pay, if you consider how much aStack-o-papersctual time I put into it and that's required of me to do my job well. But I like that I can do it from home. The down side of that is that I'm always working, it seems! Last weekend my husband was feeling neglected, I'm sure, because I had the laptop on my lap every time he turned around. Still, I think this term is one of the best terms here I've had yet. 

 


Words and Phrases

Every since I put together that spelling bee pronouncer's guide that I did two or three years ago, I've been fascinated by the amazing array of helps that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website offers. Dictionary.com is useful, too, as are several other sites. I list a few here that are especially interesting and rich.


2015 Theme--Grammar and Style IdeaWarehouse

       Although I have not been posting entries in this blog on a regular basis in the last few years, more like randomly, I have decided that every year I'll declare a certain topic as a theme and have the posts follow that theme throughout the year. The idea came to me partly because I've been slow to get my WW Writing Services webpage back into operation or the Wendy Warren Austin professional/scholarly web page barely more than online either. Meanwhile, as I am hard at work re-learning the ropes of online teaching for the College of Online and Continuing Education (COCE) at Southern New Hampshire University, I will put this permanent virtual space (an oxymoron?) to work for both me and my students.  But then I remembered -- "IdeaWarehouse" will save me! 

    So, in the vein of Mignon Fogarty's Grammar Girl, Sarah Belliston's Grammarist, and dozens of other good blogs about writing, grammar, and style, I hereby declare this blog: XXX IdeaWarehouse--haven't figured out the official re-titling yet.

My first order of business is to start a Blogroll of these venerable writers' links and then to continue adding to it as I find more. Their domain covers both scholarly and popular writing, since I plan to do the same as well, and my background is in both areas. 

Consider this a work in progress . . .

 

   


Currently working for SNHU as an instructor of Composition II and Business Communication (April through June) and loving it! I don't have time at the moment to keep up with my WW Writing and Editing Services website, my Thumbtack or oDesk requests for work or this blog! I'll be back, I hope, in a few months! I am super impressed with SNHU's rigorous and unique program.


Christmas bling excitement!

Christmas tree        Ever since I was a little kid, I've felt the month of December was magical. I was very fortunate to grow up in a happy, intact family. Granted, we were not storybook-happy/Disneyland/idyllically happy, but normal happy, with all the brother/sister fights and imperfections that most families have. As the next to youngest child of five, all of us spread out in age by an average of four years apiece, we had developed traditions already that I was eager to participate in as soon as I could. We'd go with Dad to pick out our Christmas tree, help him get it all set up, get the Christmas tree ornaments out of storage, decorate it with that silvery tinsel that no one uses anymore. (Was that a fire hazard or something?) I know that many people didn't use it even then because their pets might eat it, but we didn't have a dog or cat. In the earlier years, we re-used the tinsel over and over again, but eventually, as manufacturers came out with more flimsy tinsel at lower prices, we'd break down and get a new package or two every year. The lights on the tree had to be strung first before we'd do all that of course, but with Dad an engineer, he always had a certain plan about how to put them on the tree. 

        Also, in early December in our town, the local firehouse would host an event where Santa Claus would ride in on one of the trucks and give out little treats to the kids, if I remember correctly. And I don't, actually; it's all a little fuzzy, but with a warm shiny glow around it, as if were in a snow globe in my memory. Makes sense, though, because it was always snowing when that happened, and it was always dark outside.  Like it still is now, everywhere you go in December, you see colored lights, decorations, and hear cheery, familiar songs playing on the loudspeakers. 

        And the anticipation! That was the most fabulous part about this season! I couldn't wait until Christmas morning when I could finally open presents and see what I got from Santa and everyone else. I always liked wrapping presents and not that many others in my family loved it, so I quickly capitalized on this disparity by setting up our only card table and commandeering all the wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, tags, and the scotch tape and scissors and promptly began to charge everyone for my gift-wrapping services! The bonus was that I got to see some presents before everyone else did! As a generally selfish person at heart, I had a hard time myself giving others things and paying for it with my own hard-earned allowance (or gift-wrapping earnings). I remember one time when I bought this neat $10 pinball game for my older brother that you had to set on the floor with the top of it tilted off the floor about 2 inches, just like the big machines are slanted upwards. With shiny Tabletoppinballsteel balls that rolled easily into the launching spot, numerous flippers on the sides to open or shut trap doors and whack the balls in a different direction on their way down, the machine had flickering lights and a cool headboard at the top end that featured the game's context. After buying it, I had taken off the annoyingly alluring cellophane and hid it under my bed where I'd take it out at night or in the evenings when my brother would be gone and play it to my heart's content, on the self-delusional pretext that I was "testing" the present first to make sure it worked right before I gave it to him. I didn't want to give him a defective present. No, sir! 

        Then, possibly because I had been observing him a bit more judgmentally since I'd gotten the tantalizing present, he must have done something that made me decide he didn't deserve to have this magnificent thing bestowed upon his unworthiness. So the day before Christmas, I marched down to the corner drugstore and bought a couple 15-cent comic books to give to him instead. I think I eventually showed him the pinball game, but probably not before I broke it by playing it too much. Come to think of it, maybe that's what made me go get the comic books. Hmm....can't quite recall. Well, at least that wasn't as bad (probably worse, actually) as what my younger brother (who was too young for an allowance still and thus had no money of his own) gave the same brother: he swiped one of David's baseballs and wrapped it up for him and put it under the tree! Even though David and I had a hearty laugh at Scott's gift, his present to David certainly had much more tenderness and love behind it than my pathetically stingy offering. 

        Despite how Pollyanna this sounds, I still feel the holiday season is supercharged with magic and specialness, even though nothing that is most special about it involves wrapped presents or how much a person spends. 


10 Things Every Professor Needs for Their Back-to-School Kit

It's now two weeks into September, and college and university classes are in full swing already. Some may have yet to start, but the biggest back-to-school wave has already crested. It might not be until the end of the month until students and professors and institutions FEEL like they're in a routine, and most of the welcome parties have taken place, but within a few days, we'll hit the mid-September mark. If you're not ready for everything, you may get left behind or never feel caught up until next year's (or semester's or term's) opening days! So--what techie equipment do you need? One column I always enjoy reading is ProfHacker from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

  1. OneNote or EverNote. If you take a few minutes to master this notetaking app, it’ll pay back dividends to you the entire semester. Check out these tips:The Digital Professor: "How to Use Evernote for Everything; and Lifehacker: "Faceoff--Onenote-vs-Evernote".
  2. Back-to-School Tote or Messenger Bag (for Professors). Save your shoulders from future rotator cuff surgery—take my word for it! Try something along these lines:
  3. Cell Phone chargers or power packs you can live with. Every single time I NEED my cell phone, it hasn’t been charged properly. If you say this to yourself all the time, too, Get into the habit NOW of charging your cell phone every night! But for those times when you slip, perhaps succumbing to the welcome blankets of blissful sleep after grading one too many papers, here are a few power pack options to stow in your desk and/or messenger bag:
  4. Cleaned-out and Re-Organized Bookmark or Favorites List on Your Browser—Enough Said?
  5. A lined “record” book that you keep in your desk drawer but take home with you at night and write in EVERY SINGLE DAY you work and ESPECIALLY when you interact with others in your office, dept., campus quad, or classroom.
    You need to keep track of the things that happen on a day-to-day basis. This will make you more aware of the wasted time you spent shooting the breeze with Professor Talksalot and capture the accuracy of who said what to whom that may or may not come in handy to know somewhere down the line when or if department factions start causing problems.
  6. A lunch keeper—even better, a mini-frig a microwave. You have to eat. And it is better to eat healthier things than vending machine pretzels and soda. These lunch keepers will save you loads of time walking back and forth to get something to eat between classes, save you money by allowing you to eat the leftovers that you end up throwing out anyway and not shelling it out for drive-through fast food or overpriced, trendy bistro food. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t bring your most smelly dishes! Even if you love, love, LOVE this pungent curry dish you discovered on your last trip abroad, others won’t appreciate having your nasty lunch vapors wafting through the halls for hours on end. If the main department office does not have a refrigerator or microwave, spring for whatever you need to outfit your office most conveniently. It’ll save you money and time in the long run.
  7. Lightweight headphones (not those little earplugs that you can’t see). JetBlue sells flexible but workable headphones for $3 apiece.

    You don’t need these for the obvious reason of listening to music privately; instead you will be using these (or at least have them handy in your drawer) for a rop—to slip on whenever you hear someone coming down the hall when you don’t feel like getting drawn into an endless gossip cycle or pointlessly rehash department politics. Wearing these will indicate that you’re listening to music, a lecture, podcast, whatever, but it sends the sign that you’re BUSY! This way Professor Talksalot will keep walking past your open door, and you can keep on grading or reading without having to shut your office door completely.

  8. A glass bowl or apothecary jar filled with Hershey’s Kisses or Dove Dark Chocolate squares, hard candy, peppermints, root beer barrels, or lollipops---One caveat (learned from embarrassing experience) DO NOT accidentally sit on the chocolate candy! The candy or chocolate is there to make others feel welcome, serving the opposite effect of the headphones.
  9. A writing plan chart with visual measures Just like you kept yourself motivated when you wrote your dissertation, you need—even more now than before!—a visual indicator of how much scholarly work you are doing. If you mark down how many pages you write or how much time you spend researching for work you’re currently doing, perhaps with a bar graph or a milestone chart. Keeping that visual reminder handy will continue to encourage you when your motivation is flagging, and remind you to stay on track.
  10. A subscription to your favorite humor column/comic strip(light humor, not sarcasm)—So you can keep your sense of humor every day.