Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Posts from — January 2006

Will e-books finally take off? I hope so.

Terry Teachout‘s WSJ article about the upcoming Sony Reader and what this might mean to reading and publishing renews my enthusiasm about having an ebook reader that’s separate from my computer. For one thing, having most everything I need with me at all times would be great. I’ve got a zillion academic books that I’d prefer to have in digital form, which would save shelf space for all my different editions of Ulysses. 🙂

I can also see subscribing to magazines that way in the same way I now subscribe to podcasts. Wired has also just published a good article on the Reader, with a few pictures. Am looking forward to holding one of these in my hand.

Hmmmm… it seems like Mac users will be left out in the cold with this device. I wonder if Steve Jobs has something even better up his sleeve or if Sony is going to do anything to accomodate Mac users. 🙁

January 22, 2006   2 Comments

It’s not every day UVM gets mentioned in a Canadian MP’s blog!

I just finished a posting on my English 005 blog about an entry I came across on the blog of James Moore, one of the Members of Parliament we met with in October on our class trip to Ottawa. Moore was one of four MPs who took over an hour to meet with us and answer students questions. Obviously, it made an impression on Moore who is even younger than I am and one of the bright lights I saw from the Conservative Party while we were there.

My students were blown away, really, that four members of parliament would take time out of their schedules to meet with us. The students came away with a great impression of how the Canadian legislative system works.

January 18, 2006   No Comments

Teaching Carnival V

Teaching Carnival V is now online here.

These regular Teaching Carnivals are an excellent resource and a great example of how blogging can help us to have meaningful conversations about what we do with people outside of our own institutions.

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January 16, 2006   No Comments

Let’s hope Canadians think twice on 1/23

I’m just about to send in my mail-in ballot for Canada’s upcoming federal election, hoping that it will arrive in time. Not that my vote usually makes a difference in Conservative Alberta, the domain of King Ralph for the last 14 years (!). Nevertheless, the latest polls suggesting that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party will form the next government in Canada have me very concerned.

Watching this all from Vermont, where practically everyone I know wishes their own federal government were pro-Kyoto, pro-same-sex-marriage, pro-public healthcare, and against the war in Iraq, it’s all a bit surreal to think that we’re seemingly about to elect a that has argued the opposite position over and over again. I would be one of the last people to argue that the Liberals have been a shining example of a great vision for the future of Canada, but things like the less discussed aspects of the Conservative platform and the potential for the “shining lights” of the Conservative party to form the next federal cabinet are, needless to say, very worrisome to many of us. Let’s hope that if Harper does win, it’s not a majority.

January 15, 2006   Comments Off on Let’s hope Canadians think twice on 1/23

La BibliothÚque nationale du Québec soon to surpass the 2 million visitor mark

After opening a mere five months ago, QuĂ©bec’s amazing new BibliothĂšque nationale will soon have had more than two million visitors. I’ve been eager to go for some time, but hopefully should have some more time to get up there this spring to explore. Being so close to MontrĂ©al is one of the many great perks of living here in Vermont.

Source: CBC Arts: Quebec mega-library set to welcome 2-millionth visitor:

January 13, 2006   No Comments

A few thoughts on teaching online and the future of hybrid courses

Earlier today, I dropped by the office of a colleague and was telling her how wonderfully the students in my current online class on Margaret Atwood are performing. Each student, and many of them are not English majors, is posting extensively on a daily basis and the level of the analysis that each of them is producing exceeds what I typically get out of students in the face-to-face learning environment. The question that immediately springs to mind, of course, is “What am I doing wrong in the classroom?” I joked to my colleague that maybe I should just set it up so that all of my classes start meeting online and that we get together in a “real” classroom once every week or two to have some less formal discussions about the books.

Tonight, just as I’m about to sit down and read the 27 new posts from my students today — I got smart today and only asked a single discussion question so that I didn’t get 76 new posts like I did yesterday! — I came across this intriguing article by Ron Bleed in the new issue of the Educause Review.

Bleed’s vision of “Twenty-First-Century Hybrid Courses” is exactly what I was talking about! I started to imagine what might happen if I told my students and department that I would be only meeting with my classes in person once every week or two. When Holly Parker introduced me at the blogging workshop yesterday, she jokingly referred to me as the “troublemaker” who came into the CTL one day and asked when UVM was going to start supporting blogging on campus. This might be one of the things I want to save doing until I have tenure, if I’m lucky enough to publish enough before I perish.

Of course, I come by this honestly. When my dad was teaching a communications class for the U of A‘s Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry in the early 1990s, he had his very large class meet twice a week and do the third class of the week as an online lecture and discussion. I think that’s the farmer in him, perhaps. They’re always the first people to figure out the most effective ways to do things. Of course, growing up on the Saskatchewan prairie might make it a bit easier to see the forest for the the trees.

Here’s a bit of what Ron Bleed has to say. LOTS to think about here:

If we in higher education are to be student-centered, we must overcome college and university traditions and move toward a course-schedule redesign that gives greater time flexibility from the student’s viewpoint. The Agrarian Age concept of a nine-month school year consisting of two semesters is not the most effective way to deliver instruction in the nonagrarian twenty-first century. Likewise, the Industrial Age paradigm of fixed-seat-time courses moving through an assembly line of specific curriculum requirements, creating uniformity for the sake of common accreditation measurements and mass production, presents serious obstacles for many of today’s students.

Research I conducted shows that replacing some of the fixed seat-time with technology-delivered content and having physical spaces for socialization lead to improved learning, higher completion rates by students, lower costs to both the student and the institution, and greater convenience for students who are not “captured” on a campus. A 2004 Maricopa Community College analysis of the course-completion rates of our students shows that the course schedule is a significant factor in student retention/attrition rates. Because our students are not “captured,” the type of course scheduling they experience affects their completion rate. The type of course with the lowest successful completion rate was the traditional, daytime, full-semester course with multiple fixed seat times per week. As Diana Oblinger stated before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 2004: “One of the best ways of ensuring that students succeed is to remove the barriers to their success. For many, the greatest barrier is the fixed time schedule of a traditional course.”3

A strategy to overcome this barrier to student success is creating hybrid or blended courses. I consider a hybrid or blended course to be one in which a chunk of on-campus classroom time has been replaced by technology-delivered instruction. The advantages of the classroom learning and online learning are combined and the disadvantages of each are minimized.

Ron Bleed “The IT Leader as Alchemist: Finding the True Gold”

EDUCAUSE REVIEW | January/February 2006, Volume 41, Number 1:

January 12, 2006   No Comments

“Internationalizing” UVM

I just came back from an excellent workshop where many of us at UVM working in the areas of International Studies and other fields discussed the internationalization of UVM. Our focus was on how we could make UVM more connected to the rest of the world and the world more connected to UVM. What we envision must go much beyond simply sending students out on study abroad trips and should focus more on having students graduate with more of a global consciousness. Of course, one of the ways we can do this is by making more concerted efforts to have them study other cultures and languages (a certain country to the North of us immediately springs to mind).

Most of us were caught a bit off guard by this week’s move from the White House to promote the study of foreign languages in schools and universities. It seems on the surface to align itself perfectly with what were talking about this afternoon. Then, I caught this posting on Laila Lalami’s fabulous Moorish Girl blog. She sums it up far better than I can.

Wow–we’re actually going to teach kids here about other languages?!! What a great way to tell them about the rest of the world. But I should have known better. Because the goal isn’t to teach kids another language, but rather:

Bush portrayed the enhancement of foreign-language skills as a way of enlarging U.S. capacity to spread democracy. “You can’t convince people unless you can talk to them,” he said. (…) “When Americans learn to speak a language, learn to speak Arabic, those in the Arabic region will say, ‘Gosh, America’s interested in us. They care enough to learn how we speak,’ ” Bush said.

So the goal of learning the language isn’t to learn something about a different culture, but merely to communicate well enough with the rest of the world to convince them to get on with the program already.

Sigh. Just when you think that guy might finally have a bright idea….

January 11, 2006   Comments Off on “Internationalizing” UVM

Blogging takes off at UVM

What a nice surprise today to walk into a packed blogging workshop here at UVM’s Center for Teaching and Learning. It wasn’t that long ago that few people other than Steve Cavrak had done anything at all with blogging. Now, we have faculty, students, and staff creating blogs and looking at ways to use them in their work. Very cool to see.

I had the opportunity to speak to the group a bit about how I use blogs for my courses and in my own work and directed them to the links I posted in May, the last time I spoke to one of these workshops. It’s great to see blogs really starting to take off here. With the addition of Richard Parent to our department and my colleagues like Andrew Barnaby and Lisa Schnell starting to blog, I can really see blogs a regular part of many English courses as well.

January 11, 2006   No Comments

The Calamari Wrestler

I have a million things ready to blog about, but I just had to put this up first. My pal and guru of technology and weirdness Steve Cavrak sent me this link to The Calamari Wrestler.

I don’t know what I liked best, the guy in the calamari suit or the review of the movie that reads: “The Calamari Wrestler took me by surprise. This movie is a lot of fun and turned out to be a nice monster mash/love story wrestling film that should appeal to anyone intrigued by such a concept. It’s a well made film and finds a nice way to blend humor, action, and a decent storyline. Check this one out.”

January 3, 2006   No Comments