Peer Review Speed Dating

Something new I tried this past semester in all of my classes was “Peer Review Speed Dating” for paper revisions. I saw a presentation at a conference about it once, but Prof Hacker’s post about it in November was the primary catalyst for adding it to my courses.

Here’s how it worked for me: I asked students to bring two printed copies, or their laptop, of their paper. On our Mt. Laurel campus, classrooms are already set up in long rows, so setting up “stations” wasn’t a problem, but in Pemberton we had to move chairs to set up eight stations. I assigned a student to each station and told the other students to move to each station every five minutes. I kept a timer on my cell phone. After a student passed by each station, they would release someone at a station so that student could go around. At the end, each student end up at my station, where I looked over their paper.

I thought this went really well. A lot of underperforming students were able to get advice from not only me, but from others in the class. In a few classes, long lines formed at certain students’ stations that were deemed by the class to be doing well in the course. Sometimes I think it is important to hear something needs improvement from not only an instructor, but from another student as well.

Problems: In some courses, I had a lot of students skipped the session. I have decided in the future to make participation in this session part of their course contribution grade. I also had two students in one class slip out after I looked at their paper. Some late students did not get a chance, depending on their class size, to get around the room all the way. I did not have much sympathy for those students or those who forgot to print their paper and had to waste time running to a computer lab.

For my Composition I classes, I had three different class sizes, so I could see different ways that this can be done in the future. In the first one, I only had nine students show up (that is about how many passed as well), so we just passed papers around the room at the five minute intervals. The informal nature of this setting really worked with that group. Two of the classes were around 15-20 students and easily got everyone in during our longer final exam week schedule. My English Literature I class had over 20 (probably around 25) show up, which complicated matters a bit. We decided in that class to put two students at each station, which allowed more students to get around the room before the time expired.

New Posts @ Blogging Woolf + Prof Hacker

Now that we are caught up on conference notes (which will begin again next week after ThatCamp Philly), I thought I would announce some recent blogging I have done in other places. I have a post up on Blogging Woolf about plagiarism accusations against Woolf after the publication of Mrs. Dalloway. I also have a new post over at Prof Hacker on stocking a teaching tool box before beginning your first job.

Hopefully, I will have more for both blogs soon.

Hacking The Academy: Lessons Learned From 15 Years of Hardcore-Punk Shows About Hacking The Academic Conference

I’m not sure if this is exactly the style they wanted, but here is my contribution for the Hacking The Academy collection. Last week, a CFP went up on Prof Hacker to put together an edited volume of essays in different forms of media about, well, hacking the academy. Among those putting this together is Dan Cohen from Zotero. I decided to write about what attending and promoting hardcore-punk shows for the past 15 years taught me about academic conferences.

Lessons Learned From 15 Years of Hardcore-Punk Shows About Hacking The Academic Conference

A lot of this I’d already deciphered by the time I was 15 years old. I spent my youth attending hardcore punk shows in, primarily, the tri-state and Delaware Valley area. I had a lot of ups and downs in regard to this, but a lot of the experiences, both good and bad, prepared me to “hack” my experience at academic conferences. Like hardcore shows, I only attend a handful of conferences per year. This is due to a variety of concerns: finances, lack of ability to travel, and a strong tendency towards being antisocial keep me at home or on campus most of the time.

I was originally drawn to the digital humanities because it encompassed a lot of the things I wasn’t seeing fully actualized by DIY hardcore. While underground and outside of the mainstream, although that is unfortunately changing, hardcore-punk is often very slow to change and evolve. Fans sneer at new means for communicating, producing and distributing records, and changing attitudes about digital media. The digital humanities are constantly changing and innovating, progressing in new and interesting ways. “Unconferences” like #thatcamp and forward thinking meetings like Digital Humanities 2009 are how I have always envisioned conferences being, but never had seen before. Projects like this one, where a book is compiled over a week, are much more “hardcore” than the ridiculous, conservative, nonsense which passes for it music wise.

When I first began attending conferences about five years ago, I drew from years of attending hardcore shows to make my experience much more interesting and productive. Here are some of the lessons I can offer for “hacking” the academic conference:

  • You don’t have to attend every conference (aka just say no): I go to, maybe, a handful of hardcore shows a year. By December, I have attended around the same amount of conferences. As a teenager and in college I wasted a lot of time, energy, and money going to hardcore shows “just to go,” or because a friend of a friend’s band was playing, and other stupid excuses. As an academic, if I even remotely feel like my attendance at a conference is due to a circumstance like this, I am not going. If the money isn’t there, the schedule is bad, the presentation you want to see is the metaphorical headlining band and you can’t see yourself waiting, just say no.
  • If you don’t go you can still keep in touch: The first half of my senior year of high school, I barely attended any shows because I was working every weekend at a crappy job as a dietician in a nursing home. Back then, 1996, I got caught up on shows and other concerns via IRC. I would wait up until my friends logged on at night and get all of the information I needed about the show. These days, this can be done in near real time via applications like Twitter and FriendFeed. A great example of this was the Twitter stream from Digital Humanities 2009. I did not attend, primarily because of a lack of financial resources, but I was able to follow the conference due to the #dh09 hashtag on Twitter. Many attendees live tweeted the conference, posting notes and comments about the panels they attended. Interested parties, like myself, could not only follow that stream, but offer questions for attendees to ask panelists. I could also comment and interact with those who attended and participated, offering my own thoughts and ideas as the conference progressed. Many new friendships and connections were also formed during this process.
  • People who seem totally cool online can and will be jerks in real life: Attending hardcore shows for years, one of the most heartbreaking things for me was finding out someone in a band or a fanzine editor, or other sort of important scenester was a jerk, sexist, homophobic, etc. I took this personally and often brooded on drives home about how IMPORTANT it was to notice and point out their jerkiness. Eventually, I concluded, not soon enough, that hardcore was just like the real world. There were cool people, there were plenty of jerks, and many were very insincere. A lot of popular scenesters and band members had bloated egos or serious delusions of grandeur. At the Modern Language Association’s annual conference in Philadelphia at the end of 2009, I met a lot of friends who I had known from my weblog, Twitter, and other social media. I also encountered a certain person who is very prominent in the digital humanities. They are someone I have interacted with online and had been a fan of their very popular weblog. After I introduced myself, this person couldn’t have been a bigger, egocentric, asshole to me. Totally dismissive, self important, and uninterested in anything but himself. In the past, I would have been distraught and agonized over this, but now I just shrug it off and move on. Just because someone is an awesome theorist/blogger/podcaster, doesn’t mean they will be a good person. Nor, however, does it take away from their art.
  • Save ephemera: I run a website called Hardcore Show Flyers (and it’s sister website Hardcore Punk Misc) which archives show flyers from the mid to late seventies to a few months from now. I’ve been in the habit of saving flyers, folders, handouts, and other ephemera since I was a child. The first scanner I bought in 2000 allowed let me to begin digitally archiving a lot of what would become the roots of Hardcore Show Flyers. Since becoming involved with attending, and putting on, conferences and symposiums over the years I have saved and scanned a lot of things which I hope one day will be useful or interesting to someone. I’d rather spend the time now and save something, than wish someone else had later.


Guest Blogging: Prof Hacker + Blogging Woolf

I want to highlight a few guest blog posts I have contributed in recent weeks:

First, I contributed to Prof Hacker’s big #mla09 wrapup about the role of social media at the conference. There is a lot of great information and ideas in that post. I tried to come at it from a different angle that hopefully supplement the other ideas.

Secondly, I wrote a post about the role of intertextuality in Mrs. Dalloway for the Blogging Woolf weblog. This coincides with the Mrs. Dalloway Online Discussion Day that happened a day later as part of Woolf In Winter. Hopefully, in the future, I will be writing a few more posts for Blogging Woolf.


Links & Kinks In The Chain: Collaboration In The Digital Humanities

One of the best panels I attended was on the role of collaboration in the Digital Humanities. I got to meet up with some friends from Prof Hacker and Twitter like Jason Jones and Bethany Nowviskie, who were both on the panel. I also caught up with other friends who I have known for some time as well.

My notes aren’t really detailed, I suppose, but here is what I wrote down during the panels:

Jason Jones

  • What does collaboration mean?
  • Social media role
  • Twitter is a crowd sourced search engine
  • Institution based models of collaboration are 20th century

Laura Mandell

  • Two point of views about collaboration
  • Hybrid scholar: Interdisciplinary scholar who begins in English, but ends up in computer science
  • Hybrid field: Experts in discipline come together (Example: An English professor and a java scriptor) to work on a project
  • Hybirds don’t have fit in modern university
  • Modern universities prioritizes those in ensconced fields

Bethany Nowviskie “Monopolies of Invention

  • Consider institutional status (staff, adjuncts, etc) “can’t afford to make trouble”
  • Digital Humanities can fix intellectual property problems
  • UVA must tell patent office about new patentable DH


End Of Semester Roundup

Prof Hacker’s end of semester checklist post suggested writing some sort of “End of the Semester Roundup” post so I thought I would write one up. This semester was one of great advancements for me. I taught my first college level courses and had a great time doing so. Originally, my schedule involved teaching two sections of Composition I but during the first week of the semester I ended up adding a section of Composition II as well.

Comp I was a lot of work, but well worth it. I saw a lot of advancement in my student’s work as the semester went on. I also saw a lot if disappointing efforts from others. Teaching writing and grammar also allowed me to sharpen my own skills and talk about some of the adventures I have had over the years as a student and academic. Check out the class weblog for more information.

Composition II was a great joy to teach. I got to teach a lot of my favourite canonical authors like Chopin, Gilman, and Ibsen. An unconscious theme of discussing gender and women’s liberation became a focus of our close readings as the semester advanced through short stories to plays (A Doll House, Othello) and then to poets like Plath and Dickinson. Immediately, a handful of students stood apart from the rest of the class but I also saw many others slowly begin to contribute more and more as they became more comfortable with their own close reading skills. My focus in class was on what my students wanted to discuss. Of course, I would bring lecture notes with ideas I wanted to highlight. However, after our daily, randomly selected, journal readers I would ask the class where they wanted to begin, what they wanted to discuss, and that is where we would start. I could talk for hours about most of the texts we read, but I am more concerned with what my students wish to discuss.

One student in particular started the semester off very slowly only to eventually be the first to raise their hand almost every class. Another only contributed on Fridays, somehow, but always blew our minds with their ideas. Almost every student in class had a day where they stood out and shone brighter than anyone else.

The week of my classroom observation by Dr. Alexander coincided with my favorite week of the semester: the week we discussed (post)modern authors like Borges, Coover, and Auster. I was very impressed with my students and their ability to tackle these difficult texts. I can’t wait to teach 102 again and hope I get a chance to pick up a section in the spring. Check out our course weblog.

This semester I ran our course weblogs on WordPress and am thrilled with the results. I have run WP on a number of websites, including this one, for the past four years and couldn’t be happier with the results. In the spring I think I am going to try the dreaded Blackboard for my classes. As an offsite alternative, I believe I am going to wade my toes into the world of Drupal as well. I am going to spend some time over break considering my options.

I also guest lectured for two classes in Dr. McCadden’s upper level class ENG203 The Origins of Literature. I presented two lectures: “Telemachus & The Search For the Ideal Son in Classical Greek Literature” and “The Odyssey & Nonlinear Reading.”

Another project I am going to finish over break is the long-awaited draft of my article on Shelley Jackson for The Quarterly Conversation. I was supposed to have this completed for the winter issue, but the hectic nature of the fall semester got in the way. Scott Esposito was gracious enough to give me an extension. I’m hoping to have something to him early in the new year.

I have a handful of journal article proposals that I need to send over break as well. A few of them are spinoff projects from my MA thesis and others are ideas that I have brewed for a period of time. Hopefully some of them will be publishable.

in the spring, currently, I am teaching two sections of Comp I. One is MWF, the other TT. This isn’t the most ideal schedule, but hopefully I will pick another Comp I, a Comp II, or another class. I am very happy to have a few weeks off to get some of my work done and prep for the spring. However, I am also excited to get back to Burlington and begin teaching again.


Twitter & Blogging: The Evolution of This Domain

One of the reasons I have been pretty quiet in recent months is that I am writing a lot more on Twitter (wpwend42) these days. As Jill Walker-Rettberg notes, it is much easier to dump a series of links (what used to be posted here as “weekend reading” or “weekly reader”) and get instant feedback and discussion from peers and friends. I agree with Jill that this does not offer more long-term discussion, like she gets on a lot of posts, but this weblog doesn’t get a lot of traffic so that doesn’t bother me too much.

My concern at this point is with that real-time discussion. I like the idea of having more long-term discussion in comments like Jill gets, or websites like Prof Hacker, but it is not really realistic for here. This weblog has never been traffic heavy and comments are sporadic at best. Twitter allows me to get instant feedback and discussion going about links, topics, and anything else going on at the moment.

Lately, I have thought a lot about the changing focus of this domain. This line of thought began after I read Torill Mortensen’s recent post about the changing focus of her own weblog. My focus has changed from blogging about personal views, commentary about literature and technology, and my own private life to more about teaching, upcoming publications, and other miscellaneous events.

I will still post about literature and technology, and the intermixing of them, from time to time. Linux is in my thoughts, now more than ever, and will get coverage from time to time. In general, however, my focus has shifted and slowed down to focus on my teaching and writing.

Like Torill, I am a bit embarrassed by how actively I used to blog. When I began in 2004 I would set a goal to post at least ____ times per day/week and it led to some seriously silly/embarrassing posts. As the technology changes and we move to more real-time conversation I am sure this domain will continue to evolve and grow with it. Stay tuned.