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


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 . . .

 

   


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.

 


Reinventing Oneself

    This is the beginning of a new era--at least for IdeaWarehouse! Here I am in Boston, one of the most concentrated capitals of higher education, and for a long time I have identified myself as an academic, though it took me a long time at the beginning to really feel like I was, and it's the first day of classes either today, yesterday, or a week from today. Yet this is the longest time (since I was 14) that I have ever been without a full-time job. So it's time to re-invent myself (btw, does that require a hyphen or no hyphen?--I wonder what Grammar Girl would say?). I need to OWN my job as a writer and writing consultant. 

    Long before I established WW Writing Services as my own writing consultant company, I was doing free-lance jobs in writing and editing. I edited Dr. Dan Shelley's book for K-12 educators on using computers, way back near the time the WWW was being invented (makes me feel like I am from the stone-age era). Then I helped another professor with a master's thesis, which in fact, needed a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, this person must have thought I was doing it just to be nice or because I wanted to be friends or something, but I never got paid! Somehow we got our wires crossed, and I'm sure I could have done something more to have gotten the money, but it was a touchy situation because we had both started working at this college at about the same time, and I had to continue working with this professor throughout the years, so I sucked it up and decided never to make that mistake again (have someone mistake my hard hours of work for "just being nice" and trying to "be friends," especially when there were never any more overtures of friendship being extended after that.)

    Then I had several other miscellaneous projects--for which I always got paid, but the totals never amounted to anything more than extra clothes money, which I always welcome. When I was living in Slippery Rock and commuting 70 miles to Edinboro, I ended up purchasing my own paper for handuts and syllabi, file folders, and any office supplies I used at home, since I did so much there, rather than at the office. So, since Staples delivers for free to businesses, I decided to become WW Writing Services. Ahh, how I miss my spacious office!  ....Okay, I won't go there! I DO have own room within our condo that IS my office still. It's all mine, even though it moonlights as a guest room when people visit. If I didn't have a ROOM OF MY OWN, I'd go crazy, I think. Here in my "Office"--the official home of WW Writing Services, I crank out my projects:

The 1st 3 projects are the most official WW Writing Services projects, while the others are personal writing projects or academic ones, focused on first-year composition and writing center pedagogy. I plan to keep plenty busy and expect to post on this blog at least once a week (usually between Sunday and Tuesday) from now on.

    


Inspiring Fashion Blogs

Until recently, I've never been one to bellyache about getting older (I don't think), but it's hit me all at once in the last year or so. I find myself pinching my chubby cheeks that are all too quickly looking more like jowls and trying to calculate how many years I need to save a few bucks to afford that Lifestyle Lift I keep hearing about. In my earlier years, I was used to casually flirtatious smiles from men, not that I was a terrific "looker," but lately I've noticed that I've become completely invisible. It's not fair that this happens to so many women. I am heartened by those who simply AREN'T invisible EVER! Some women, like my wonderful sister, just look better every year, and glow from the inside out. I dedicate this post to all of you like her who inspire me and many others.  And since I am more of a clotheshorse--ugh, not a flattering phrase--than is good for me, I'll get some of my shopping itch out of my system by posting a list of cool blogs that feature interesting fashion and accessories and general tips and inspiration for women over 30,  40, 50, or older!

Chic at Any Age

Style Crone

Une Femme D'Un Certain Age

Flattering 50

Not Dead Yet Style

Fashionable After 50

What I Wore

Advanced Style

Wendy’s Lookbook

Lady of Style

Not Dressed as Lamb

Fifty Not Frumpy

Susan Huston Fashion Concepts

Blank Stare Blink

Fabulous After 40

 Enjoy!

  

 


Office Time

I wonder when I'll actually get to meet my "phantom office mate," Lorianne DiSaboto? I'm glad that these days, one can check out a person's blog and get a sense of at least one or more sides to a person's personality, but it's also a little weird that it's something we do virtually, and through the mediated space of our computers. I know I sat next to her at the retreat or maybe it was the orientation for new teachers before school started. I was trying to remember people's names, and I had remembered Lorianne's email and name, and so I was trying to remember all the newer ones. Sorry, Lorianne! I probably didn't do more than say hello that day.

Anyway, tomorrow I will finally get my ID card, also. A better time to do it would have been when everybody else did it: before classes. As usual, I had a zillion things to do/places to be, because of trying to cram everything in before Dan and I went to Tim and Suzanne's wedding at the Cape. We had to leave RIGHT after the orientation to get down there in time, so I was running around like crazy. Plus, when it was hot, it was much harder for me to do things. I'd get really tired real fast, and would have to pace myself. I attributed this to my MS, although now I am getting conflicting diagnoses of what these types of episodes might be. Soon, I will get a second opinion, but meanwhile, I'll also concentrate on taking better care of myself overall. I don't know why that is sometimes so hard to do, but it is.

Walking around Framingham State campus certainly gives me a workout, especially since there are so few places to park. It's a beautiful campus, even if it is quite hilly. My office window is huge, letting in a lot of pleasant light, and looks out onto the main building areas, even though it is in the basement of one of the buildings.

 

 

 


Keeping Up with Intelligent Blog Posts

It's not so hard to just write ANYTHING every day or every once in a while. It IS, however, a little challenging to write more intelligent blog posts every day, like a newspaper column, almost. You want a single message to come through. So this post will be about creating significantly-thought-proking posts  frequently. It may take me all day to write this, but probably not.

Well, since today is FEB 2nd, we must defer to the venerable groundhog for our weather predictions: Punxatawney Phil predicted that we would have an EARLY SPRING, and his handlers predicted that the Steelers would win the SuperBowl! Of course, that last prediction is their own preference, but I'm sure everybody in attendance (for the most part), would have agreed with him. Steeler Fever is growing here every day, as game day gets closer. It'll be weird to see the SuperBowl in Boston rather than in the heart of Steeler Nation.

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Apparently, the origins of Groundhog Day lie in its connection to the celebration of Candlemas. Since German settlers came to that region of Pennsylvania, they brought with them their traditions and religious beliefs, one of which was Candlemas. On that day, churchgoers lit candles  for the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, the end of Epiphany, frequently holding a procession with the candles. When Jewish women had children, they were considered unclean for 7 days, and then after 33 days is supposed to wait until the end of that time (40 days altogether) when they  underwent a purification ceremony involving a ritual bath and the lighting of candles. Mary was also expected to bring Jesus to the temple where the priests could dedicate him. After this time, the mothers, including Mary, were allowed to have relations with their husbands.

On a non-Christian level, this was also a time of weather predictions. One site states:

"Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English song goes:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again."

(from http://www.churchyear.net/candlemas.html)

As many Christian and Pagan customs do, we often get a secular "holiday" (if this can be called a holiday), corresonding with the time of a Christian holiday, whether still practiced or not.


Good Blog Book

I just picked up "Blogosphere Best of Blogs" book (shown in the Books I'm Reading List) this weekend.  Spent a good bit of time Saturday and Sunday looking over the various blogs that are listed in it, and then printed the bonus chapters (13 and 14) because they were more useful than the other parts of the book to me. For anyone who feels like they need to fill in some gaps in their blog knowledge, this seems like a good place to go.  I just wish I had a week to just blog things and read others' blogs.  Funny post-script: check out the back FOUND page in Wired this month, note the spine of the book on the left....wonder if that's what the future will hold...?


Blogging, Podcasting, and Wikis

Forgive me, blog readers, for I have sinned. It has been 6 months since my last entry.  But I've been busy helping my students work on their research projects and blogs and plan to (upon being granted permission) link student work on their hypertext research projects to this site, as well. Their projects are due Monday and Wednesday in their respective classes, so within that week, they will be posted. Meanwhile, I've been contemplating how and why podcasting might be employed. Quite a few more of my students live and breathe by their IPods.

Also, I'd like to know what kinds of discussions educators have about the use/citation of wikipeShopwb_imagedia entriess in their students' research projects. More and more entries are becoming quite credible, and I hate to dismiss that obvious area of research. Just as we baby-boomers used to (or at least I did) pore over our World Book Encyclopedias and learn a lot that way, this generation seems to get most of their information from the web and wikipedia info.


Blogging on the Front Page

B1 B2 The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Christmas Day issue featured a terrific article quoting Dennis Jerz and his students and how they are learning about writing in the public realm even when it doesn't feel like they are. Yay! This is a great article! As a former copy editor, I know that the spot they featured it in is the most prime real estate possible for newspapers, and on Christmas Day! wow! People stay at home, read the paper after the gifts are opened, find out about how blogging IS changing the way we think about writing and public discourse. Way to to go, Dennis!! The reporter did a good job with this one.