Rundown (1)

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It’s been a hell of a week. The first part:

Drove to Chicago on Tuesday, and discovered more cheesy sites in Wisconsin. Had to get up before light to drive to Palmer House to register for the conference—I spent a long time talking myself out of going to CCCCs this year. We had to get reservations at a hotel at the outskirts of town we could afford, and I hadn’t preregistered. So many people backed out of the blog workshop that there was a serious problem—there were only five people of the original ten listed actually present. Because I initially retracted, my name did not appear on the printed program. This may be the last of these workshops, primarily because the people who have been doing it for the last few years want to move on and no one has stepped up (that I know of) to recruit experienced bloggers to expose other educators to blogs in the classroom. It’s sort of sad, but organizing bloggers has much in common with herding cats.

My primary contribution was to briefly discuss a dozen or so articles about the social impacts of blogging which I collected in a conference blog. I also described the ways that I have used blogging in the classroom, and it was interesting to me that the three groups we split into had such different attitudes. I was told by a conference attendee that my approach was the least structured, Barclay’s approach was somewhat structured, and the other blogging educators promoted a heavily structured approach. Geoffrey Middlebrook from USC suggested that perhaps one untouched possibility for blogging in the classroom is to decenter traditional ideas of “structured” writing so that it can be reconfigured in new ways. I think he’s right—I’ll be pondering that for a while.

On Thursday, things became even more interesting. The El was just outside the back door of the hotel and I didn’t have any firm schedule to keep so I explored Chicago using public transportation and my feet. I went to the Sheraton to register for the SPE conference, which was about a half-hour walk. There were no real sessions going on there (just portfolio reviews), so I decided to try to find my way to the Palmer House. I wandered aimlessly for around three or four hours, snapping up some sights. I got to CCCC just in time for Steven Krause and Vicki Russell’s panel “iPod Therefore I am: Digital Music and Community in the Writing Classroom.” Steven’s opening detailed the progression from CCCCs proposal to actual paper—in the year that elapses from proposal to presentation, a lot can happen. I thought that was a great way to highlight the difficulty faced by conferences and technology—by the time you can talk about it, it’s really old news. I noticed that the SPE also had a presentation about podcasting in the photography classroom—an equally strange concept to me. I am troubled by the intellectual property and privacy issues involved in students recording and broadcasting each other. I’m not at all sure if I want to go down this road. However, the presentation was a good look at what other educators are doing with it.

After the podcasting panel, I went to see Jim Porter and crew present on “remix” culture. The room was overstuffed, and the audio track of the remixes presented was nearly inaudible. I’ve been using a lot of what they showed in the classroom, but I usually take my iPal with me to make sure that more than four or five people can hear. Again, I am somewhat on the fence about relying too heavily on teaching assembly rather than invention. It’s a fertile (and trendy) area. Lots of complex and nuanced points I can’t do justice to were made, but what I remember most is Porter’s attempt to break down the original/plagiarized binary. It was reminiscent of Lessig’s Google print argument regarding the in/out of copyright status; the majority of all writing is neither purely borrowed or purely new. There is a big gray zone in between. After this stimulating panel, I attended a visual rhet sig which was fun and relaxing.

Friday, I spent most of my time at the SPE. The description of that will have to wait, because I have much Habermas to read for a seminar tonight.