Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Download the free eBook here!

Writing About Literature in the Digital Age is now up and ready to be downloaded. Go here and check it out!

Learning Outcomes of English 295

The 3 C's... what are they? Did we meet them? 

This semester has been spent trying out the new tools of the digital age. To consume the required texts I wanted to use a variety of mediums. I read Vinge's Rainbows End the old-fashioned way, a nice new paperback book. I tackled Darnton's The Case for Books via audiobook and for Card's Ender's Game I used a mix of both the physical book and the audiobook. I came to really appreciate the audiobook format and now I listen to them everyday at work. 

I also learned useful tools for researching in the digital age. I discovered we are not limited to scholarly databases to find useful information about literary texts. Goodreads, Diigo, and Twitter played a key role in my research. Those websites provided great starting points for finding even more information. 

The create learning outcome was essential to this class. Each of us was required to create a blog and produce daily blog posts. I struggled a little with this requirement. I really like blogging but it has been hard for me to get past the mindset of having to compose perfectly crafted pieces of writing before putting it online for everyone to see. I discovered that if I let myself write, spend a few minutes tweaking it here and there and quickly click the "publish" button I can produce relatively interesting content without much stress. 

While blogging is less formal than a traditional research paper it is still very possible to create content that is meaningful and insightful. When the blogging medium is used for more academic purposes the content being created is more likely to be read by a larger audience because of its accessibility. The blogger has to catch your attention quickly before the reader has a chance to click away. Learning to write in this style has been very rewarding.

Connecting with others interested in the work we are doing turned out to be easier than I thought. I am a pretty reserved person so when Dr. Burton told us about this section of the learning outcomes I was a little apprehensive. As the semester went on I discovered how fun it is comment on other people's blogs and how exciting it is to look at the stats of your blog and see who is viewing it and from where.

Connecting to people through marketing our (now complete!) eBook has been a lot of fun. I felt a little bit like an explorer when I was searching for  people who would be interested in what we have to say. When I sent out invitations and got a few responses from people saying they planned to attend, I saw just how important it is to connect with others. What is the point of creating something if it will never reach a audience? It is nice to know that our eBook is accessible to all right now and will continue to be there in the future. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Navigating the Ways of Marketing

Our eBook is finally ready to be brought to the world!

If I had been told I would be involved in producing an eBook in under 3 weeks I never would have believed it. This has been quite an adventure.

I was part of the marketing team. I really wanted to search for real people who I thought would care about our book and the topics it deals with. I got really lucky when I attended the webinar with Troy Hicks and found Anna Smith. Her website led me to people who's work she is following, as well as people who are following her. I sifted through all of them and came up with a pretty good list of contacts. I sent out an email earlier today and also contacted a few people via Twitter.

Can I just say how great Twitter is? I got a Twitter account a few years ago but never really did anything with it. I'm glad I found out what a wonderful marketing tool it can be! For example, I contacted Ryan Rish through Twitter and he quickly answered with a promising response:
When I thought about our webinar I saw such potential but also thought it would only be attended by our friends and family, which is nice, but not as impactful as I was hoping. But contacting people and sending out emails has given me hope. Even with our brief advertising campaign it looks like we are getting the word out.

I'm very excited for our webinar and the launch of our eBook.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Webinars and Marketing

My plan for today was to go to class, to work, then to the BYU CEO Club to get a free J-Dawg. I wasn't really expecting to enjoy myself at the club meeting but I figured it would be worth it for the J-Dawg.

While I was at the club meeting I also attended the Classroom 2.0 webinar with Troy Hicks. Attending a webinar was a first for me so I didn't know what to expect. I liked the format. It was interesting, and at times, challenging to both listen to the speaker and read the chat stream generated by the other attendees. I thought the chat stream was a great way for people to connect instantly with others about the things that were being said. Many people contributed to the chat with links to other sites that they thought others would find interesting.  Overall I really enjoyed it. It was pretty cool to see the moderators take notice of what was being said in the chat window, then address it with their next comments. It showed they were actually engaged with their audience and they cared about what the audience thought.

I think conducting a webinar would be a worthwhile use of our time and would definitely spread the word about our eBook. From some of the comments at the webinar, I got the feeling that teachers are very interested in engaging in the digital tools available but are not sure if those tools are considered scholarly enough for some of their purposes. If we hold a webinar to showcase our eBook and the things we have written concerning that issue we can help convince them of its legitimacy.

At the end of the webinar one of the participants, Anna Smith, gave her twitter name so people could continue the discussion. I checked it out and also discovered she had a website that is a companion to a "soon-to-be-published" book, Developing Writers: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. She sounds like someone who would be very interested in our eBook. We should keep her in mind and reach out to her and see if she has other contacts who would also be interested.

After the webinar, one of the speakers at the CEO club was talking about how to find people to market a product to. It seemed like fate that I had decided to attend. The speaker said the trick to marketing is to find one source and then "explode it." He said you just have to go at it with all you have until the source knows exactly what you're offering and gets onboard. We should look into his advice and focus on very specific markets then explode them with information about our eBook.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Online Identity - Ready to be Edited?

Here's the link to the final draft of my chapter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Possible Teaser Pictures?

here are a few I like:

Flickr - grafikspam
(creative commons licensed)

Flickr - Marcin Wichary
(creative commons licensed)
Identity with a scifi flair

Flickr - JD Hancock
(creative commons licensed)

I think I like this one the best. It gives off the vibe I'm going for: science fiction mixed with creating an identity to showcase your personality

I don't know, any suggestions?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Beginning of the Age Anonymity: Ender’s Game and the Question of Online Identity

“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” 
(Card 231)

Today’s digital age easily allows us to make connections with others who share the same interests. This instant communication has forced us to change the way we consume and connect with literature. Gone is the conventional research paper written for an audience of one. We are able to quickly spread our ideas about a piece of literature and receive meaningful feedback. With the emergence of the internet, and its prominent place in our lives, it is almost mandatory to create an online identity for one’s self. Whether that identity is similar to your own or not is entirely up to you. Our online identities and the way we communicate with each other set the stage for all interactions on the internet. Students studying literature are responsible for sifting through these identities and using the best sources for research and learning. 

Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, Ender’s Game, was groundbreaking. Amid the story line of a six year old boy, named Ender Wiggen, who leaves his family to train at the Battle School in preparation of the third and final war with the alien race called the Formics, or Buggers, Card created a world where people interacted with each other through the “nets,” a forum-based digital environment where people met to discuss important political and social issues. Students were also given handheld desks used for school research as well as for sending other students private instant messages. While Card got a few of the details wrong (he wrote his novel five years before the first web page was launched (Source)), he successfully captured the essence of what is happening in our digital world today; from the importance of establishing an online identity to the multi-channeled way we tend to communicate. (better transition..)

Instead of focusing on the main character Ender, I wanted to examine two of the minor characters in the story, Ender’s older brother, Peter, and his sister, Valentine. Peter and Valentine have extremely opposite personalities. From the first mention of Peter the reader senses the rocky relationship between Peter and Ender. Card artfully uses Ender’s thoughts to easily develop Peter’s character, a much more effective device than reading an outsider’s description. We immediately pick up on the fear Ender feels and the obvious resentment Peter has toward Ender from the negative connotations and short flashbacks he experiences as he thinks about Peter, “I’m practicing piano, Ender. Come turn the pages for me. Oh, is the monitor boy too busy to help his brother? Is he too smart?” (Card 2). Peter is motivated by his thirst for power, and is ruthless and extremely intelligent. He will use whatever force or leverage necessary to achieve his goals.  “[Valentine] couldn’t think of anything so terrible that she didn’t believe Peter might do it...[but] he would only do it if the advantages outweighed the risks...he always, always acted out of intelligent self-interest,” (Card 125). 

Valentine is his foil. She is full of compassion and would never deliberately harm someone else, but she is also intelligent and understands how to manipulate people and their thoughts, “writing was something Val did better than Peter...[she] could persuade other people to her point of view–she could convince them that they wanted what she wanted them to want. Peter, on the other hand, could only make them fear what he wanted them to fear,” (Card 127). Peter, intent on ruling the world, manages to enlist Valentine to assist him in his plan. They create identities for themselves on the “nets” and use their pseudonyms as a way to share their ideas with others. “They used throwaway names with their early efforts, not the identities that Peter planned to make famous and influential...They were deliberately inflammatory. ‘We can’t learn how our style of writing is working unless we get responses – and if we’re bland, no one will answer,’” (Card 133).  

While Card uses Peter and Valentine’s alternate identities to comment on the capability of  the digital society to manipulate the thoughts and actions of others, he uses Ender to illustrate the need for effective, honest communication. Ender, unknowingly, destroys the Bugger race. We find out later that the Bugger invasion only occurred because of a lack of communication, “We are like you; the thought pressed into his mind. We did not mean to murder, and when we understood, we never came again. We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe... How were we to know? We could live with you in peace,” (Card 321). Effective communication is vital to our society today. Much heartache and confusion can come from simple misunderstandings and the digital age only emphasizes the problem. By applying what Ender learned about communication to our modern predicaments we can avoid similar misunderstandings today.

Connecting to the Digital Age
When I made the connection between what everyone in my English 295 class was doing and what Peter and Valentine were doing, creating online identities, I could hardly contain my excitement. Had we really moved into a time that emulated something from a science fiction novel? I was amazed at the similarities and by the possibilities. Peter and Valentine were children when they gained notoriety, “'Peter, you’re twelve.' 'Not on the nets I’m not. On the nets I can name myself anything I want, and so can you,'” (Card 129), on the internet it is easy to pretend to be anyone...
In the digital age “students exist in both worlds simultaneously with the IOL [Institues of Old Learning] promoting instruction and learning based on a relatively static, restricted set of print texts and using tired, extrinsic motivation approaches tied to narrow, academic, disembodied goals while NLS [New Literacy Studies] and new literacies document  that children and youth are shifting from the page to the screen,” (O’brien). It is important to continue looking toward the future to avoid being trapped in “the increasing gap between literacy practices embraced by schools and policymakers and new literacy practices,” (O’brien). In the digital age, understanding literature goes beyond merely reading and writing about it. We must study and experience it in it's social and cultural contexts. When we do so, we engage with the text and draw more meaningful analysis and conclusions from it. We share these insights with others who are also interested and we become part of an online community. When we interact and share with others our online identities begin to take shape.

Works Cited:

Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLc, 1985. Print.

O'Brien, David G, and Bauer, Eurydice Bouchereau. "Review: Essay Book Review: New Literacies and the Institution of Old Learning." Reading Research Quarterly 40.1 (2005): 120-131. Web. May 27 2011.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Promising Direction

Thoughts I am having about where to take my research:

After learning about many of the new techniques that are emerging for literary criticism in our digital age, I could not help but see connections found in Ender's Game. I found an article that turned out to be an essay book review of the book New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning. I checked it out from the library and, while it is not specific to Ender's Game, I have been pleasantly surprised with the ideas it poses about informing people of the new literacy practices that are emerging from the digital age.

 The article focuses more on how "literacy educators can bridge the gap between New Literacy Studies (NLS) and what we characterize as the Institution of Old Learning." I did a little research and found that NLS emphasizes studying reading and writing within the context of it's social and cultural practices rather than focusing on literacy only being the ability to read and write. From what I gather, NLS is interested in employing ways of consuming literature (print, audio, video, etc.) because it allows more people to be exposed to the literature.

I want to tie the new things I am learning about NLS to Ender's Game and the importance of effective communication in the new age of digital literacy.

 I found a professor at Arizona State University, James Gee, who was involved in the idea of new literacies a few years ago. I want to email him to learn his opinion of the way our uses of digital literacy have evolved.