Category Archives: Keystrokes

Onion on Apple: Reading and Writing Lives

I love my bright, shiny Mac stuff. But I make my living with letters put in order to make words to make sentences to make paragraphs to make sense. I need to do it quickly and accurately, so I have embraced many tools of technology. But I hang out with many who moan about text messages and internet databases and YouTube. I am an English teacher. To all of my colleagues, who wish monks were still copying in the abbey, enjoy a laugh with the Onion

So know that text lives, Wordsmiths! But if you still doubt, here are some reminders of why text is the best! Look!


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Missed the meeting? Look what I found…

Did you ever hear the expression, “I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting?” Well, no need to give up your species if it was one of these meetings.

These are innovative educational projects, which means that people are trying things without budgets working on the energy of their own convictions. I wonder if they realized that these would be there for all to see. I know I attended a meeting in which I was gawking too close to my camera and generally looking goofy. I will make sure I am spiffed up next time.

Check out the topics. If you wade past the “Okay, testing mikes…where is …” stuff, you can learn not only about the projects themselves, but about how people work. As for flashmeeting, it works really well, from my experience.

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Filed under Around the world while you were sleeping..., Keystrokes, Technology, Tools of the Trade

Ouch, I had to write in someone else’s voice!

Writing is hard enough, but writing to sound like someone else really takes concentration. I was asked to write a blog entry for an international group and I found myself holding back, re-phrasing, perhaps struggling because I knew other people would hold me accountable.

My post is not through the approval yet, but when it does, I will be relieved.

So when my son told me he had gotten me a book by Roy Peter Clark for Mother’s Day, I was ecstatic. No matter how much you write, you will benefit from his tools.

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Filed under Inkwells, Just thinking, Keystrokes

Major in Liberal Arts Mashup

In his 48 minute keynote address at MIT’s recognition of its own milestone – “the complete publication of virtually the entire MIT curriculum, more than 1,800 courses” – Thomas Friedman said, The most important economic competition going forward is between you and your own imagination.” Friedman’s straight talk included his appeal for the US Congress and the White House to get over what he facetiously called their motto of being “Dumb as we wanna be” and instead offering the country a revolution for innovation that includes addressing standards, regulations, incentives and taxes so that we do not miss out on the economic tsunami that is not China, but individuals collaborating with individuals around the globe.

To that end, that Americans must participate in the global economy equipped not only with our work ethic, but also with our imaginations of what could be possible. Imagination will not be enough; we must then make those things happen. To do that, Friedman believes the best educational preparation is interdisciplinary. He feels bringing liberal arts into the equation sparks inspiration and that people should have two specialties so that they can apply the framework of one to the framework of the other – a mental mashup of sorts.

This is good news for those of us teaching literature – all those engineering types better take a poetry course or two. It could be a wake up call too for all those human resources types that write job ads – why restrict consideration for jobs only to potential candidates based only on the degrees they hold? In the future, perhaps all  job seekers will need to build viewable portfolios of their accomplishments rather a textual timeline of what offices they have sat in.

So, I thought that portfolio thing up myself while listening to Friedman’s address on my laptop while correcting essays and paying bills online. Which figures because my mashup is a business degree and and English Master’s. But really, it probably was just common sense that must be occurring to a lot of people. Because after listening to Mr. Friedman, I opened my email to my NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) “Inbox” newsletter that included a link to a USA Today article, that said the following:

Forget transcripts, multiple-choice tests or institutional scores. The surveyed business leaders want faculty assessment of internships, senior projects or community-based work.

“Too many policymakers and educational leaders are focused on the tests rather than on what is really important: whether students are learning what they need to know,” says Roberts Jones, president of Education & Workforce Policy, a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Va.

The survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was released Tuesday by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a non-profit national organization that promotes a liberal arts education.

“We need to invent new forms of accountability that look at such issues as global knowledge and self-direction and intercultural competence, not just at critical thinking and communication skills,” Carol Geary Schneider says. Schneider is, according to the article, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a non-profit national organization that promotes a liberal arts education.

So business leaders want creative thinkers, or so they tell the colleges. But what they really want, if the ads are right, are creative thinkers with math, engineering and science degrees. Leonardo da Vincis may not grow on every tree, yet, but we better start planting the seeds for them in our schools.

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Filed under Keystrokes, Looking forward, Technology

Web 2.0 or How I found Mesh Canada (Uninstalled)

I still don’t know what the Sharp Eco Challenge is because I never clicked on the link and I have no idea what I clicked on to get to Michael O’CC’s Twitter page. I remember the trail from there, however.

I saw the words “big launch” and didn’t want to miss the unveiling of the next big thing, so I clicked on Michael’s blog, Uninstalled. That is where I learned about Mesh Canada, which I immediately found out I had missed, besides which I didn’t read far enough to find out if non-Canadians were welcome. But I did follow the trail to the Mesh 2007 conference news and the You Tube videos from the Mesh conference to see  an almost perfect explanation of  wikis called “Wikis in Plain English.” Since I am a longstanding fan of the Plain English Campaign, I went right to it.

Lee does a great job of showing how wikis work, something the completely uninitiated will appreciate. I have found that they usually are stalled on a more subtle question Lee doesn’t address: what happens to the old versions? What if you prefer an earlier version? Do wiki wars ensue? What if you don’t remember the exact wording of version from before?

The wikis Jeremy has set up for me at Aretao have the versions preserved on the side so you can immediately find and click on an earlier version. Knowing that that function is available usually reassures the wiki phobic.

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Filed under Around the world while you were sleeping..., Keystrokes, Technology

Marketing West Virginia

Recently, I was visiting in Pittsburgh. When I go anywhere, I scope it out on maps to orient myself, to get the feel the place. Headed to Pennsylvania, I felt I should knock another state off on my quest to visit all 50 and slip over the border to West Virginia while I was out there.

Oddly, the local Southside bookstore not only didn’t have a map of West Virginia, it didn’t have any travel books for a place only a stone’s throw away. What bodes even worse for any tourism dollars WV might hope to get from its close PA neighbors, a very helpful store clerk repeated my question twice as is to clarify what I really wanted: “You want travel books for West Virginia? …West.. Virginia?”

I really needed the help, too. Three of my close colleagues had struggled to conceal small smiles when I said I wanted to go to WV. Why take the time when I had the architecture and richness of the Carnegie museums to see? Was I actually making time for, say, the Penitentiary tour? Fair enough questions, but I make my priorities by own standards.

West Virginia, for example has 1.8 million plus inhabitants; since I come from New Hampshire, the home of Life Free or Die and the first in the nation primary, we are comparatively noisy with 1.3 million plus inhabitants. I could find time to hear what WV has to say. Besides size, New Hampshire’s high schools boast students speaking over 60 languages, a fact lost on many when they think about the state. West Virginia has an ethnic heritage page on its web sites; who thinks of WV as culturally rich? The following excerpts tell me some folks found the place from a lot farther away than Pennsylvania:

“In the early twentieth century, there were four Carpatho-Russian communities in the southwestern coalfields. Now there is only one. Carpatho-Russian immigrants came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to work in the mines in Raleigh, McDowell, and Fayette counties and elsewhere.”

“This region is also home to the United African American Artists of West Virginia, the John Henry Center for Culture and History Exchange, the African American Arts & Heritage Academy, the Afro-Appalachian Performance Company, and the Harlem Renaissance Festival.” Search this on the page to find the answer to which region is it. “This region has the significant populations of several other ethnic groups, including Hispanic, Hungarian, and Welsh. At one time, there were Greek communities in the mining towns like in Welch and Gary; a small contemporary Greek community can be found in Bluefield. This region has a large population of people with Polish heritage. Several Asian nationalities are also present in smaller populations, including Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. ”

In fairness to my very, very well traveled and well read colleagues, who have driven the US coast to coast and railed around Europe top to bottom and east to west, West Virginia’s problem is one of national marketing. I felt one of the best places to check out what a fair outsider’s view of the state might be was to search NPR for its take on the state over the years.

The most recent story was a recipe for beans. Another one was summarized, “West Virginia’s residents are consistently ranked among the most overweight in the country, and the state budget is feeling the pinch. Now, Medicaid recipients in West Virginia have a new treatment option: Weight Watchers.” Even when they want to do well, out of towners might get in the way of a bright image for West Virginians. Then there are the countless stories on mining accidents to further discourage visitors, if not a potential influx of new residents. Do the reporters at NPR have more to learn?

So it is 60 miles southwest to Wheeling from Pittsburgh and I am still determined to see it one of these days. Wheeling’s convention bureau promises a good time and its Chamber of Commerce recommends its waterfront and revitalized downtown. I hope to report back if I ever get to go. And as much as I would have like to rely on an old fashioned book to get my information, I had to turn to the internet. I always did intend to go to the Carnegie museums :-).

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Where The Donald doesn’t matter, Sugar does; so does Grace

Dave W’s blog Killing Time “Writing This When I Should Be Writing That” is my latest online discovery. I suddenly felt alright about the fact that I secretly like The Apprentice, but even more so when I learned that The Donald is not the only mogul who gets to do the firing. Apparently, one Alan Sugar across the pond challenges a group of the overly ambitious to prove their business mettle through a variety of mundane challenges relating to coffee and dog food. See what is great about The Apprentice(s) Anglo or American is the utter resourcefulness required to triumph in the world of the ordinary. It soothes me to know that what I need to do to get through my life below the radar is actually talent that were I more ambitious would earn me millions.

What makes the find of Killing Time even better than all that is the Dave W the author teaches writing in what I am guessing is a more prestigious setting than an American public high school (one of the places I teach writing). So, #1, it is possible to be a serious writing teacher and watch The Apprentice. And #2, I find agreeable Dave’s musings on things like the predicted “Death of the Blog” (not). As Dave puts it, “Am I bovvered, as actor Tony Blair might say, that Theresa May MP hasn’t posted since December? Do I give a damn that Melanie Griffiths abandoned the good ship blog in March 2005 (hey, that’s news!) or that Mariah Carey has even been obliterated from the Google cache? No, I couldn’t give a flying proverbial – these people have nothing to say so it’s no surprise that they’re gone.”

My point, to bring this altogether, is that whether it is The Apprentice candidates or celebrity bloggers, there are lots of folks who get attention who don’t really merit it. Thoughtful, worthwhile ideas can come through the quills or keys of unknowns; at least online we get the megaphone for a while. Without the web, we are not heard.

I am off to give a hearing to Are Words Enough, mostly because her item on Peyton Place is on a place I have actually been in a state I know really, really well. AWE playwright wonders, “If only the author (a suspiciously named Grace Metalious) had had the courage to push the envelope even further. The book was going to be banned anyway for many years and she must have known this as she was sitting at her typewriter, so why not stand up and be counted?”

Peyton Place author Metalious was born the same year as my father in the same state in an even smaller town. Standing up and being counted was just not something you did. FYI, she went by Grace Metalious because Grace Marie Antoinette Jeanne d’Arc de Repentigny Metalious was a bit long for a paperback cover.

I am sure AWE and KT will have more great insights for me in the future.

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