zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jan. 19th, 2012 11:52 am)
For the past several years, I have taught Editing 101 (formally known as "Principles and Practices of Editing") at City College. This is the first or second course that most students entering the editing program take, and it provides an overview of How Editing Works. The students that I or the grammar instructor don't scare away from the program have typically left my nest, to go on and take specialized courses in various editorial tasks, such as copy editing, substantive editing, or proofreading, and topics, such as editing children's literature. I rarely see them again, though a few become LinkedIn contacts or DW friends.

This semester, I was hired by Polygnostic University to teach proofreading. Since PU pays a lot more than City College, I relinquished my position as the 101 instructor with CC—these are evening courses, and I really didn't want to be teaching for two evenings a week. I found another instructor for City College, and thought all was well there.

Of course, Polygnostic got in touch with me in early January to tell me they'd cancelled my course, because not enough students had enrolled (I'm still teaching the online version of the same course, so that's something). At the same time, the coordinator of my program at CIty e-mailed me urgently looking for an instructor for their proofreading course. So, figuring that some paid in-class time was better than no paid in-class time, I offered to take on the course for one semester. 

The first class last night was really neat! It's all students I've taught before, from about the past 3 years. Most seemed happy to see me. But the best moment came as one student walked in.

"Oh great," she said, "Now I know this is going to be hard!"

Poor little duckling. 

(Heh, heh, heh.)
I am creating an online copyediting course. The convention of this course is that each week contains a Discussion topic about which students can post on the class Discussion board.

The topic for Week 3 is Punctuation. So, I get to come up with a punctuation-related discussion topic, for copyediting students.

The hallmarks of a good discussion question are as follows:
  • It must be open-ended, to allow for a variety of opinions. Questions that allow for a simple "yes," or "no," do not really provoke great discussion.

  • It must have sufficient breadth to allow for a variety of opinions. If there is only one right answer, there's not a lot of room for discussion, and the students who post later on in the week can really only say "me too!"

  • It must actually be germane to the topic at hand.

So, Internets, what do you think I should set as the week's discussion topic for punctuation?

The semicolon: marker of an outmoded elite or undervalued shorthand?

Who will save the apostrophe? How?

Who really cares about em-dashes?

All suggestions gladly welcomed. Suggestions that actually provoke discussion will be entertained.

ETA: Stuff like Emily Dickinson's Punctuation: The Controversy Revisited is alas beyond the scope of my course. I am toying with a "how do you balance the needs of your author's artistry with the conventions of punctuation"-type question, but I don't want to have to write an entire idiosyncratically punctuated ms.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Mar. 31st, 2011 12:28 pm)
I have created a new test question! Please test it for me! 

Here's the deal: I'll give you the information you need in order to figure out the answer for yourself. Then you tell me what you think the answer is.


Trade magazine—a magazine that exists for the members of a specific profession or trade, for example Bar Code Quarterly or Canadian Family Physician.

Consumer magazine—a magazine that consumers buy out of interest, for example Model Train Quarterly, Chatelaine, or Cottage Life

Which of the following articles is MOST likely to appear in a trade magazine? 

    1. Sanding Secrets: Getting the Most Out of Sandpaper
    2. Ten Bicycle Helmets That Don’t Make Us Want to Barf
    3. The Silk Weavers of Exurban Anatanarivo: Documenting a Dynamic Tradition
    4. Collaborating With Parents to Implement Behavioral Interventions for Children With Challenging Behaviors

Most of my multiple choice questions test simple recall, so I don't really need to field-test them; this one tests higher-order evaluation and application skills: students need to know the background information in order to answer correctly (which is why I gave it to you), but then they need to think about each of the titles an evaluate which is most likely to fit the mandate of a trade magazine. So it's a bit trickier to know whether it will work as a differentiator.

Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, and is appropriate for understanding the natural world, but it provides only a limited understanding of the supernatural, aesthetic, or other ways of knowing, such as art, philosophy, or religion.1

Here follows a very short rant. Maybe a rantlet.

This bothers me. It's a clear nod to the godbodies—we don't have apologia or disclaimers in the math standards, the history standards, or the geography standards. We don't have to say that an understanding of literary conventions in English will help you to understand and interpret texts written in English and literary traditions that share a similar cultural background, but may not be easily applied to an understanding of the narrative traditions of a non-literary culture (though perhaps we should!).

What do you all think of this?

1 From the Florida Standards for Science Education, Grade 7. It is, of course, not the only standard, nor even the most important.
I spent some time yesterday thinking about why I was so irked by my student's blithe request for Tuesday night's lecture materials—why I felt compelled to argue my own position, why I feel defensive, why I feel so very annoyed, why I went on and bloody on about it.

My hard-nosed nature and my pushover nature were at war with each other, you see.

And on my right shoulder, my hard-nosed nature argued )
My pushover nature tells me that earning a living is a basic need. I've argued for a long time that schools need to recognize the diversity of student needs and acknowledge the reality of student experiences. If we accommodate only a specific group of people—say people who don't need to work, or people who can work from 9–5, then we're excluding other students who might otherwise benefit from what we're offering. So, If I were really committed to a diverse group of students, I'd be working harder to make sure that I was accommodating them—after all, they're the ones paying the fees that make it possible for the college to hire me. And it's not like my student was off frivolling. She was working. So maybe I need to put my time-is-money where my mouth has been all this time.

Not everyone is privileged enough to have a job they can leave in order to go to class. And it's not her fault that I'm not organized enough to have typed notes for this lesson, to have powerpoints,* to do what some other instructors do. I shouldn't penalize her for that.

On the other tentacle, the offhand tone still bugged me, and I do feel that she's not living up to her end of the bargain.

So I e-mailed her back:

And, of course, part of my anger came from feeling defensive about the one lesson per semester that I teach mostly off the cuff. I should be more organized than that.

* I really, really hate making powerpoint presentations. I hate teaching from slides—irrationally, perhaps. In part, I don't like being tied to my plan—some of my best teaching moments come from taking advantage of teachable moments. In part, because fumbling from presentation software to the big-ass full-spread pdfs I project is cumbersome. In part, because my classroom is annoyingly set up, and I don't like being tied to the desk with the pc. In part because slide presentations are inherently one directional, and my teaching style is more interactive than that. And in part because I am old-fashioned and curmudgeonly.


zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)


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