Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Day the Third, Virtual (Un)Response, Tao Tutor'g, & Utah in NoCal During Cs

It' officially Day the Third & I'm present'g Blog III...

but where are the comments, the feedback, the virtual social out'g, the blogtail party conversations? I'm absolutely enjoy'g this (perhaps too much?), but my blogs feel they are suffer'g from responsivis limitus, which is another form of commenticus minimus.

(Sigh) & (Sniff) Won't someone share a blogtail today? :)

Act I

So... I did it today. It wasn't the 1st time ever, but I virtually respond'd to a student's paper .

Context: my research writers are diligently(?) writing research proposals & 1 of my students ask'd me if I cd look @ a draft of his work before he turn'd it in. So, being Mr. Niceperson, I suggest'd that he email to me. So, he did. &, rather than handwriting a few constructive comments on it & discuss'g it in person w/ him during class, I went directly to the "add comment" feature in MS Word & litter'd his paper w/ constructive feedback--& sent it back to him. Luckily, by the time class start'd he hadn't open'd his email; so during class, he open'd his return'd document & we discuss'd what I had suggest'd. & he seem'd to enjoy the comments being right there on his computer where he cd work on each one invidually & knock them off 1-by-1 as he work'd through them.

For some reason, it seem'd so much cleaner b/c it didn't involve paper.

I keep think'g that I'd like to get my students in ENG 101: College Writing to start doing this, but... hmm. I'm just not ready for that. I'm sure in time I will be, but for now, I'm just not sure I want students to write comments on papers when the other individual is not sit'g in the same group as the writer. My 1st reason: my 101 students are not in a computer classroom often enough to practice virtual peer review in-class. When we do mosey over to the Writing Center for an hour to use the computer lab there, it is usually mad-dash to get the writing done. We then peer review in our (state-of-the-art) desk lab/classroom the follow'g class period.

Personal Goal: become savvy enough to get my 101s into a computer classroom full-time next semester.

I like the idea of virtual peer review... in most ways. It's cleaner. It seems to be easier to manage for some people (like my researcher who went through the comments 1-by-1. My suggestion for that wd be to save the draft-con-changes 1st, then save the revis'd piece as another doc.). But, for some reason, I'm stuck on the notion that w/o a person right in front of them, writers are apt to say more (mean/ambiguous) things the original writer may misinterpret.

Act Taos

As I said on Monday, I 've been conferenc'g w/ writers this week. & w/ all of these new Crayola clocks hang'g over our heads, I've return'd to my old idea of... The Tao of Tutoring.

For starters, if you've read The Tao of Pooh, you'll really know where I'm coming from. If you've not read it, it's a recommendation. It's... simple. It's very theoretical, yet soooooo easy to read. (And, yes, there are "problematic" areas in the book, but... overlook them for me. Plz.) The book is just what it is... and that's exactly what it is suppos'd to be! (And plz don't think this book has been my only interaction w/ Taoism. I mean, I'm not a Taoist, but I've read a bit about it... or like to think I have.)

I like to think of tutor'g sessions & conferences from a particular Taoist ideal: to be exactly in the moment. Do not regard the past, do not regard the future... just be.


What if I cd just sit down, wait for a writer sit w/ me & let a session go in the direction it naturally goes? What if I cd work from my experiences as a tutor, but disregard my experiences in tutor'g? What if I cd just allow Student Writer to present his/her problems/wants/desires (as a writer, mind you) & not think back to my previous session(S), where we focused mainly on sentence structure? Having work'd for 45 minutes on sentence structure w/ Previous Writer, sentence structure is soooo on my brain--now I'd like to let it go & start this session tabula rasa.

What if we scribbl'd over fungible Crayola clocks & creat'd mosaic epochal timepieces in which time merely flow'd like a river. (Russian River? See below.) What if wu wei (Taoist principle of "action through inaction") were our canoe & we just went through the writing as if this were the 1st time we were look'g through a writing, find'g things we may not have found wear'g horseblinders?

I say this b/c there have been times when my 1st meet'g of the day focuses on Writing Topic A & in each subsequent session, I see part of W.T.A. in there, even if it's not a main concern for the writer or myself. Or, if I've met w/ Writer A before, I bring bits & pieces from Previous Session(S) back into this session with us, wonder'g what future session(S) my be like too. Hmm.

So... to quote an early 90's song by The Sunday's...

"It’s that little souvenir of a colourful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Here’s where the story ends
Ooh here’s where the story ends"
("Here's Where the Story Ends")

Enjoy! (ahem, & respond, perhaps?) :)

Best Email I Received this Week:
A ENG 101 student email'd me Monday morn'g apologiz'g for sleep'g late (b/c his alram didn't go off... again) & miss'g class. His email reach'd me @ 11:34am.

Class start'd @ 11:45am.

Having read this email @ 11:42am, I respond'd to him by tell'g him that I was sorry to hear of his trouble but that he still had time to get to the class he miss'd... & on time, too.

Music for the Masses:
If there are any Utah Phillips fans out there going to CCCCs next month, here's a possible road trip you may want to take while in SF: Utah's play'g/perform'g @ The Blue Heron Inn in Duncans Mills on Thursday, March 17th. The show is schedul'd to start @ 8pm. Duncans Mills is a small town of about 400 people 90-120 minutes N of SF (depending on traffic on the 101--which is usually bad) & is one of the most beautiful places in the country (dare I say world?). You'll get to drive through Sebastopol, Guerneville, & along the Russian River. So, if you've got some time to get out of the city for a bit, this is one fun thing to do. & if you see Drea Moore there (dancing w/ a feather in her hair--as promised), tell her I said, "Yo!" & if you see me, there... don't tell the group I present w/ on Friday (afternoon)!


At 7:59 PM, Blogger Neal said...

Kevin, you are the blogmeister, comments or no. But your talk of virtual peer review (in the Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch sense) gets me to chime in that I'm doing something odd in my class this term: going from virtual peer review conducted out of class to virtual peer review conducted in class. Yeah, it seems odd to have these writers sitting across the room from each other typing away on the computer, but I also want them to talk f2f about their comments once they're finished. The reason for this change is that we're trying to cut down on the amount of out-of-class work (aren't we nice?). Four of us teach 8 sections of this class (scientific communications sections attached to a molecular biology lab class). I've also gone to as much of a paperless classroom as I can, commenting on my students' work with Track Changes and inserted comments (mostly the latter). It took awhile to get used to and still probably is more time consuming than writing on paper, but it has lots of advantages for me: 1) students don't have to deal with my terrible handwriting; 2) my comments often feel conversational to me (as much as a monologue can, anyway!) in that I'm reacting as I read; it's not so different to when I would respond to my students' essays by reading their writing into a tape recorder and responding as I went along (as well as offering summary response). They get to hear a reader in action; 3) I like having all of my stuff on my laptop (Mac PowerBook G4); 4) I like cutting and pasting comments when I end up saying lots of the same things to many students (usually an indication of something I haven't taught very well).

Speaking of Tao, a must-see movie is "The Tao of Steve" [].

Blog on!


At 7:08 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

Eeyore to Pooh: "thanks for noticing me"

You are doing such a fabulous job at this blog-meister thing. Just give us a little time to learn to swing at your pitches. I, for one, feel a little underprepared. If I could draw a picture of my feelings, it would be like this (you'll have to imagine it):

I am sitting before a whiteboard covered with fresh, rhythmic, and powerful poetry. The teacher says, "Now it's your turn. In the second frame, titled "two hours later," I have before me a page on which I have written only this:

I think that I shall never see
myself as a master of poetry
billy collins billy collins
lend your muse to me

It reminds me of a great cartoon I saw once (Far Side, I think), in which a woman is driving and singing along with Manilow on the radio, "Oh, Mandy, you kissed me, and something something something."

tamaricus milesicus, who suffers from wishiwasapoetitis

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

I am glad to see, though, that you too are overly fond of the parenthesis. I love that little sideways fellow. :>)

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

Now I can't stop. I have an overwhelming urge to blog. I'm having a Sunbelt Golden Almond Chewy Granola Bar at the moment. The Studio is empty. Kevin and Neal, have you read The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity? Well, why not?

I've decided this is a good strategy to start using with my students and even in all my relationships.

"Have you read the story assigned for today?"


"Well, why not?"

"Do you have a thesis statement?"


"Well, why not?" :>)

"Do you love me/appreciate me/understand me/accept me/want to take out the trash/go party/buy me everything I want?"


"Well, why not?"

It's my version of Bartleby's "I prefer not to." Instead of being stuck in passivity, I'll just be stuck in inquiry. Or, according to Kevin, "inquirius maximus."

Seriously, though, the QUESTION is by far the most important element of my tutoring/consulting habits. I set the student up by acting as if he knows the answer to my question. I'm also hoping that students will begin to model that behavior in class.

"Yes, but Dr. Jones, what is the Taoist interpretation of the thesis statement?"

and perhaps Dr. Jones will respond, "The thesis statement is like the sound of one hand clapping." :>)

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Kevin raises good points about the complexities of virtual peer review -- getting students to a lab to do/receive it; clarity of comments written compared to those discussed with a writer f2f; and lurking beneath the first two, a teacher managing the pedagogy of it all.

If you can manage it -- manage getting the technological setting (or working around it via handouts, slide shows in class to show how the thing works); manage some strategies for getting students to write clearer, less ambiguous, but still useful and constructive comments; manage a way for writers to address comments, ask for clarification -- if you can do that, then you'll be getting writers into the kinds of writing technologies and practices they're going to see more of going forward.

When I do review work for Kairos or Writing Center Journal, or feedback work with authors at Bedford/St. Martin's, there's a large dose --sometimes an exclusive dose-- of virtual review.

I don't teach as much as I like to, but when I do now, because my job takes me on the road visiting campuses and attending conferences, I have to respond electronically to students and have get them to do the same in lieu of class meetings.

But it took some time to figure all that out, and it required adjustments in the way assignments were structured and what the balance of time was spent on. For example, early in the semester, when I do get to teach, my students might spend more time in the first few weeks revising their comments to one another than they do revising the essays that are being commented upon.

It's a shift in emphasis, but doing it helps make them better reviewers and readers (and that helps them as writers, both for what they can see in writing and what others see in their writing), and ultimately contributes to their writing improving, which is the larger goal of the course.

But it was a shift that took some time to come to terms with because I was so used to an essay driven pedagogy that said X number assignments with y number of drafts each. I juggled my X's and Y's a bit to make room for the review revisions, and I've had good luck with that.

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