Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blogger post counts may vary

This is a quick post to note that Blogger message counts in your Dashboard and in your Blog Archive (top of sidebar) may vary. For example, when I logged in this morning, my Dashboard displayed 50 posts. After I'd posted a new one, the total at the top of my blog archive showed 48 (50 + 1 = 48?).

One explanation may be that the Dashboard count includes draft posts not shown (yet or any longer) on your blog. Another may be that it takes a while for Blogger machinery to recalculate archive, comment or post counts after you've made changes.

PS: In any case, the folks who run the show are aware of this problem, and have labeled it "outstanding" in Known Issues for the New Blogger (2007.04.23).

Wheedling (or shouting) about typing trial gmail

Please pardon me for again cross-posting a gmail message to an individual participant in the Writing Studio. The problems that he/she is having are general enough to merit sharing this advice with everyone in Writing IIIc.

The message that I'm cross-posting below explains ins and outs of gmailing required typing speed trials. Where you see capitalized words, you may imagine that I am shouting:

... If you haven't learned how to send automated gmail replies, and edit gmail subject lines to update the word count; ask how in class BEFORE you send your next typing speed trial.

Until you improve the timeliness of your gmail messages AND the accuracy of your gmail subject lines - and again type more than one hundred words in five minutes, strictly timed; you won't pass the typing speed trial for this semester. Though in early June I considered failure to submit speed trials up to 15 minutes late as a minor fault (Jun 8, 2007, at 10:46; below [quoted message removed, PB]), that is no longer the case.

To pass through the trials for this semester: You must submit a fresh, raw typing speed trial (100+ words) no later than 09:15 [for Writing IIIc1, or
no later than 10:55 for Writing IIIc2]; it must come in a complete compilation of speed trials on topics set for the class; and both the subject heading of the gmail message and the name of the file attached must be precisely as I have specified. [bold emphasis added, PB]

Otherwise, you'll need to keep doing and sending typing speed trials every Wednesday morning till the end of the semester. Though continuing typing speed trials may detract from time that you might spend blogging, composing essays or commenting on peers' essays; the extra typing practice should make [your] blogging, composing and commenting activities faster, once you get around to them.

(personal correspondence; June 27, 2007)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Avoiding special characters

Source: 1st period FeedBlendr list (May 9, 2007)This is a quickpost to advise everyone again against using special characters in blog titles and elsewhere in blogs. Here is a snapshot of the problem from the 1st period FeedBlendr list (May 9, 2007):

As you can see, the three blog titles on the right range from barely recognizable, if you are familiar with the titles of your classmates blogs, to entirely unrecognizable. To learn more about these kinds of problems with non-alphanumeric characters, and how to avoid them, please see the Writing Studio Wiki (§ 7.1. English Typing) and the Help: FAQ section of the WinK Wiki on Gobbledygook.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Proto-portfolio: Comments section update

This post introduces a proto-portfolio update template. The new template includes two additional level two sub-sections (2.4.-2.5., below) for the Comments section of your proto-portfolios.

While you are extending and updating the Comments section of the proto-portfolio post on your blog, please re-assess previous sub-sections, because:
  • blog comments (both yours and your classmates') should have gotten better, and
  • previous sub-sections (2.1.-2.3., below) now include additional level three details, namely:
    • dates of posts &
    • numbers of words in comments.


2.1. Your first comment on your instructor's blog:
  • Title of post with link: Title+link
  • Date of post:
  • Date of your first comment:
  • Number of words in your first comment: nn words
  • Do you believe that was a good comment? Why or why not?
    • ...
2.2. Your best comment on a classmate's blog
  • Title of post with link: Title+link
  • Date of post:
  • Date of best comment:
  • Number of words in best comment: nn words
  • Why do you believe that is a good comment?
    • ...
2.3. The best comment by a classmate on your blog
  • Title of post with link: Title+link
  • Date of post:
  • Date of best comment:
  • Number of words in best comment: nn words
  • Why do you believe that is a good comment?
    • ...
2.4. The greatest numbers of comments on your blog

2.4.1. The greatest number of comments on any of your essays
  • Title of your essay with link: Title+link
  • Date of essay:
  • The total number of comments on that essay: n comments
  • Best comment on that essay by a classmate: BloggerID
  • Date of best comment on that essay:
  • When did you respond to those comments?
  • What did you do in response to those comments?
    • ...
2.4.2. Greatest number of comments on any of your other posts
  • Title of your post with link: Title+link
  • Date of post:
  • The total number of comments on that post: n comments
  • Best comment on that post by a classmate (Blogger ID):
  • Date of best comment on that post:
  • When did you respond to those comments?
  • What did you do in response to those comments?
    • ...
2.5. Additional reflections on blog comments:
  • ...


Ideas for quickposts from Pukman @ WinK

Are you short of ideas for quickposts? One thing you can do is scan the 2007-1 WinK Superfeed to find out what your classmates and near-peers are writing about, whether what they write about interests you, and whether your ideas might interest them, too.

Another is to check out a list of ideas to use to as springboards for quickposts that Pukman @ WinK has posted for another class in the WinK community (Basic English 3). Since Writing III is an English writing class, and we do book reviews already, I'd like to recommend Pukman's suggestions three, four & five, namely:
  • Website reviews,
  • Reflections on TV programs, &
  • Weekend and vacation experiences and plans.
That last bullet point is really about four different suggestions rolled into one. Please take your pick, and blog on!

More on typing trials & blog development

Once again, I am re-purposing and reposting snippets of gmail that I've sent recently, to provide similar advice to everyone in the Writing Studio.

I am pleased to note that a number of students have undertaken typing speed trials for practice outside of class, and even sent them to me at odd times. Here is how I replied to one such submission and a request that I check it:

Your subject line shows how far along you've gotten - both in typing speed and gmail subject heading accuracy. From now on, however, please send me your typing speed trials trials only during the first fifteen minutes of class.

You still need to practice typing outside of class, but I won't be checking typing speed trials that you do between classes.... Save them till the next class meeting date....

You can repurpose additional typing speed trials that you do as quickposts on your blog - after taking time to correct the parts that Word flags with squiggly red and green underscores. If you don't know why Word flags specific passages, or how to correct them yourself, please ask in class.

See you Wed.
(personal correspondence [emphases added]: June 25, 2007)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Typing Speed Trials for Writing III: All but over

There is less than a month to go in Writing III, and many of you have yet to achieve the typing speed threshold of 100 or more words typed in five minutes. That's 20+ wpm, average, sustained for 5 mins. May I remind you that this is a pass/fail requirement?

Those of you who have passed already need read little more of this post than this reminder that next semester the threshold will rise to 150 or more words typed in five minutes. That's 30+ wpm, average, sustained for 5 mins. That will be a pass/fail requirement for Writing IV.

For those of you who have not passed yet, there are a two basic reasons:
  1. Lack of typing practice in and especially outside of class.
  2. Tardiness, incompleteness or inaccuracy of typing speed trial submissions.
Re: item one - If your typing speed trials are still running in the 40-60 words typed in five minutes range, you probably are overdue in getting the inverse number of hours (60-40 hrs.) of typing practice. If we were a third of the way through the semester (week five), that might mean an average of hours of typing and typing practice per week for the next ten weeks.

However, with only about four weeks left this semester, this now means that hours and hours of typing and typing practice each week may be necessary for you to achieve the typing speed threshold for this semester. I sincerely hope that you will get as much typing practice as you need in the next couple of weeks, and surpass the typing speed threshold of 100+ words typed in five minutes soon.

Re: item two - Read your gmail, for example:
Timely, complete and accurate submission of typing speed trials on the schedule below constitute class attendance:

1st period (IIIc1) Wednesday 09:00 - 09:15; &
2nd period (IIIc2) Wednesday 10:40 - 10:55....

If you are more than a couple of minutes late [to class or starting up your computer], it is virtually impossible to submit a typing speed trial on time. So don't bother trying. Spend what little class time you have on class work, updating your proto-portfolio, writing and revising posts on your blog (book reviews, essays & quickposts), commenting on your classmates' essays and neighbors' blogs, and responding to comments from your neighbors on your blog.

If you miss a typing speed trial, do it yourself _outside of class_ in the most recent TypingSpeedTrial-wxyz document that you have. Then gmail yourself the complete document (to save a copy from a laboratory computer), and use it to compile a complete, on-time typing speed trial for submission during the first 15 minutes of the next class meeting. Your instructor will not check late submissions.

You must submit typing speed trials this semester until you can consistently type 100+ words in five minutes. 100+ word typing speeds are a pass/fail requirement of Writing III. You may need extensive practice; if so, get it outside of class. Next semester, the threshold will be 150+, so even if you have surpassed 100+ already, I suggest that you keep practicing.
(personal correspondence: June 18, 2007)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blog of the Month (BotM) Awards: prizes

Though I posted a call for Blog of the Month (BotM) nominations for blog developments in May (June 6), and extended the deadline for nominations until June 14, I have received no nominations for any of these three categories:
  • Best book review;
  • Best sidebar presentation; &
  • Best third essay (individual choice of topics).
So I have withdrawn the call, and am withholding prizes for May. I will reissue the call for nominations at the end of June; I'll redefine the third category as best third or fourth essay, and accept nominations for best book review in May or June.

If your blog won a BotM award for April, please collect your prize on June 20. If you fail to claim a prize for April by June 2o, your prize will return to the pool for May-June.

Questions to mull over as you browse peers' essays

Here is a list of questions to ask yourselves as you browse and comment on your peers' fourth essays: their original perspectives on Kumamoto (or essays on other topics if their third essays were about Kumamoto).
  1. Audiences: How would you describe members of the primary, secondary and tertiary (or other) audiences of the essay that you are reviewing? Does the author explain to whom he/she is writing in the introductory paragraph?
  2. Purposes: What does the author of the essay expect audience members to know, learn and do with regard to the subject matter of the essay? Does the author express the purposes of her/his essay in the introductory paragraph?
  3. Content: How do the main points of paragraphs following the introduction suit the audience of the essay? How do the main points of each body paragraph relate to the purpose of the essay? Do any of the body paragraphs contain information or opinions unrelated to the topic, purposes and audiences of the essay? What additional information might be helpful or necessary for the author to add, in order to achieve expressed or intended purposes of the essay?
  4. Organization: Does the introductory paragraph of the essay briefly introduce the main point of each of the body paragraphs? Do each of the body paragraphs focus on one - and only one - main point related to the topic, purpose and audience of the essay? Does the concluding paragraph summarize the main points of all of the body paragraphs, in a fashion parallel to their presentation in the introduction?
  5. Form: What suggestions can you make for improving word choices, sentence structures, grammaticality, spelling, punctuation or layout of the essay?

Proto-portfolio updates: additional essays

Below is a snippet of text that you can use to extend section one of your proto-portfolio to include your third and fourth essays. You'll be on your own when it comes time to add your fifth and sixth essays to your proto-portfolios.

Please note the new section number for reflections on your best essay, sub-section 1.5, and make sure that the first four essays you list and link all meet the minimum length requirements. When proto-portfolios are complete, sub-section 1.5 is likely to become the best essays sub-section, number 1.7).

1.1. 1st essay (self introduction)
  • Title of post with link
  • nnn words (in your essay [150+])
1.2. 2nd essay (campus life)
  • Title of post with link
  • nnn words (in your essay [200+])
1.3. 3rd essay (topic of your choice)
  • Title of post with link
  • nnn words (in your essay [250+])
1.4. 4th essay (original perspective on Kumamoto)
  • Title of post with link
  • nnn words (in your essay [250+])
1.5. Best essay: Which of those [four] essays do you believe is [the best] & why?


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If you haven't, please check your blog listings!

It is high time you did!

Last Wednesday, June 6, a student in one class pointed out that the blog link for a student in another class did not work. I was surprised because the student who pointed out the dysfunctional link was in a second period class, and the student whose blog URL was not accurate was in a first period class. He, she or his or her classmates should have pointed out the faulty link already.

That faulty link was on the Writing Studio Wiki, in section 2.3, and Writing III instructors had already copied the faulty link to another list on the WinK community site. We'd also added the faulty link to the blog feeds for that student's class.

So, in effect, one student discovered and pointed out not one but two faulty links, and we (the instructors and site administrators) were able to contact the student whose blog had gone missing, get an accurate URL, and add the correct URL both to blog lists and RSS feeds for the WinK blogging community.

If you find any other faulty links, in course-related blogs, web pages or wikis, please report them to your instructor immediately. Thank you for your cooperation in the past, and in advance!

4th essays: on Kumamoto, due June 18th

As I've posted on the Google Calendar:
The fourth essay topic is Kumamoto. Your essay should cover unusual aspects of the city or the prefecture, or represent more common aspects from interesting, new, personal perspectives.

Here are details of the fourth essay assignment, due by noon on June 18, 2007. All essays must:

0. be original;

1. consist of at least five distinct paragraphs:

1.1. three or more body paragraphs each with a unique focus (sub-topic), plus
1.2. a paragraph at the beginning introducing the topic and outlining the subtopics, and
1.3. a concluding paragraph at the end summarizing the main points;

2. be 250 or more words in length; &

3. include resource links or photographs which you have permission to use.

The title of your essays must be original, too. The following titles are only suggestions to get you thinking outside of the box:
  • What I like most about Kumamoto;
  • What attracted me to Kumamoto; or
  • How Kumamoto resonates for me.
If you have concerns or questions about titles, topics, sub-topics, essay organization or paragraph development, please ask them in class on June 13, or post them in comments on this Writing Studio Blog post no later than 17:15, June 14.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Careful constructive comment placement

This post is a follow-up on the peer-to-peer commentary assignment that I made in class on June 6. That assignment, an on-going one, is to make constructive comments on your near-peers' essays.

By near-peers, for this week, I mean the next students down the Class Blogs list on the Writing Studio Wiki. In your comments you should:
  1. Explain what interests you in your peers' writing;
  2. Ask for more information related to the topics that your peers have chosen; &
  3. Make suggestions that your peers can follow to improve their essays.
However, what you explain, ask and suggest may make little sense if you attach your comments to the wrong post.

So I'm writing to remind you about placement of comments on your classmates' and neighbors' blogs. Please make certain that you attach your comments carefully to the post about which you are commenting, rather than to some entirely different post up or down the time line from the post about which you intend to comment.

On two occasions recently, I have found comments on the Writing Studio Blog that I am certain were attached to the wrong post. I've just removed one such misplaced comment, and notified the author via gmail of the comment removal. I've also sent along a clipping of the comment, and encouraged the author to repost it in an appropriate spot.

Monday, June 4, 2007

"Introducing the book" (YouTube)

For a change of pace, I'm embedding a hilarious video from YouTube in this post. Though the original is in Norwegian, this version has English subtitles, so you can read along as you watch and listen.

Source: (2007.06.04)

BubbleShare presentation: Tokyo & Waseda

One of the reasons that this blog has been quiet for the past week is I've been getting ready for a presentation and going to Tokyo to give it. With the guidance of Mr. Lavin (Writing B), Mr. Tomei (Writing A) and I (Writing C) made a presentation at the Japan Association for Language Teaching, Computer Assisted Language Learning Conference (JALT CALL 2007) at Waseda University called CALL and Constructive Disintegration.

Rather than share with you the details of that presentation, which may soon become pubic, I would like to share with you a few snapshots that I took while I was in Tokyo. I've compiled them in a BubbleShare presentation to show you how you might begin/continue to embed various media in your blog posts. Here's the demo.:
This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog

That's that. Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

3rd essays: Suitable topics and essay development

This post is in response to questions that I have received via email about essays, topics and paragraph development. The first question that I'd like to answer is what a good topic is.

I hope another example topic will guide those of you who have not yet chosen a topic for third essays this semester. I also hope that the general advice about form and content in the following paragraphs will guide all of you in essay development and revision, as necessary. In short, I answered:
"Summer vacation is a suitable topic if it's something that you want to write about.... [It should be] something that visitors to your blog will be interested in reading about and commenting on."
(personal correspondence)

Then I decided to share further advice regarding content, form, paragraph division and essay development here - first regarding form: When posting on your blogs, it is important to create white spaces between paragraphs by typing two line returns rather than just one at the end of each paragraph, but no returns anywhere else. The white spaces help your readers identify the beginning and end of each paragraph.

Regarding content, once you have clarified the paragraph divisions in your essay by adding or removing line returns, I suggest that you ask yourself whether each paragraph that you've written has a single focus and is well developed. That is: Is every paragraph in your essay more than one sentence in length? A quick glance should tell.

You should make sure that each paragraph in the body of your essay focuses on a single aspect of the topic that you have chosen - summer vacation, for example: destinations, modes of transportation, educational plans, or rest and relaxation, and that each major sub-topic is in its own paragraph. Then you should make certain that the introductory, body and concluding paragraphs are all more then one sentence long.

The writing guides in the Resources section of Writing Studio Wiki should help you revise, develop and organize your essays. That is especially true about those guides on essay and paragraph development.

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