Category Archives: writing

Technology and writing

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I’ve bought, for my iPad, a rather lovely Belkin keyboard case. It is one of several tactics designed to get me writing more. I use my iPad all the time but if I want to write anything substantial I tend to use my laptop because of the keyboard. I don’t drive, but do travel for work, so writing on the move is an important part of my productivity and carrying the laptop, the iPad and my kindle (best for reading, particularly in sunshine, and I get rather stressed without a book to hand!) all start, not surprisingly, to weigh me down. The theory is that now I can just take the iPad and the kindle, and can, and will, write wherever I am (and my chiropractor will appreciate the care I am taking of my back!). I have a terrible fear though that this tactic is just another contemporary version of sharpening all my pencils!

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August 9, 2013 · 2:50 pm

Ramblings about reading and writing and learning

Interesting article about writing and speech: http://blog.oup.com/2013/02/academic-speech-patterns-linguistics/

I am always a fan of reading work aloud to rewrite it, which the author advocates. However, I’ve also marked a number of pieces of work in my life written by students using their spoken understanding of language, and their accents, and pronunciation can lead to some real confusion (‘being’ written as ‘been’ for example, because that’s how it is said in parts of the North East of England). So while I I am a strong advocate of making sense of writing through speech, and writing in far more straightforward ways than many academics seem to favour, I also believe that people also write better if they read. Many of the students who wrote ‘been’ were not readers. They would not normally read novels, or even read a newspaper regularly. They read, with some difficulty the academic texts they were directed towards. They often commented on how these texts and articles were difficult to understand, and in fact when writing an academic critique would sometimes comment on something being ‘badly written’ because they didn’t understand the conceptual thinking the author was expressing.

I would often find myself discussing with these students the challenge of writing about concepts and complex theoretical ideas in simple ways. I would also suggest that reading academic writing was like doing aerobics of the brain – if you practice and practice it gets easier and you get better at it, and your academic reading muscles become much more flexible. However, sometimes I probably agreed with the students assessment – some academic writers were not communicating their ideas very well.

I also admit to a real concern that these same students would learn how to write from these academic articles and from the feedback I and my colleagues provided on their written work. If that is all the input they have on what good writing is, what do they learn?

This seems to me to be an argument for getting students reading non-academic material – in the US some universities have ‘common reading programmes’ for all first year students, often with a book (usually fiction) agreed for all new students before they arrive. These are often novels which provoke discussion and thinking and students are provided with opportunities to discuss the book as a group. Admittedly USA degree programmes are more likely to be 4 years (in England, and much of Europe programmes are usually 3 year), which gives time for the first year to be about orientation and broader education. Whereas a 3 year programme means hitting the discipline ground running, making it hard to get agreement across an institution that taking the time for general reading would have value. But we also face ongoing frustrations from academics who teach about the writing abilities of the students. We can’t expect school (Pre-18) education to do everything, but should we expect them to get students’ reading and writing ready for HE? I’m not sure they do expect this in the USA, and if they do there is still room for ongoing engagement with reading, given their common reading programme. I wonder if we should learn something from this?

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Filed under assessment, books, Higher Education, Learning, reading, teaching, writing

Another go at spine poetry: ‘Star Gazing’

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Spine poetry – ‘The Waiting Time’

Ok, I’m extremely late to the party on this, but I really like the idea of spine poetry, and in a house full of books it ought to be easy. I ran around the house with a rather mad child-like enthusiasm searching for the right lines and regaling my partner with my amazing creativity (I did say child-like!!). Anyway, here is one I created earlier …

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Blogging to write

Just read a blog piece talking about why academics should blog, see http://www.alexburns.net/

What struck me most was the idea that blogging keeps the writing habit going, rather than interrupting other writing – I sort of knew that, and in fact it was part of the reason I decided to blog – but the reminder is still timely. It also promoted the idea of short response pieces. So that’s what this is!

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Writing with personality and passion

This is the kind of blog entry I wish I could write http://leavingcertenglish.net/2011/05/ict-in-education-conference/ It combines style, creativity, work and the personal. It has feeling as well as evoking feeling in the reader. The writer invites us into her learning world and into a sense of adventure. It also acknowledges weakness but not in a self-indulgent way. It is also interesting! It provokes the reader to go away and think about learning. I found myself thinking about the ways in which we make sense of new learning through the familiar and loved, through our own personal worlds. Mostly we don’t talk about that aspect of learning. This blog piece reminded me that learning is emotional and tangled up with life.

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