Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Sidebar Gadget: Followers

A new Blogger gadget that I've just added to the sidebar opens another avenue of access to Writing Studio Blog updates. It's down to the right, between Local Favorites and Subscribe via gmail (now Get mailed!) gadgets. It's the green starred item in the sidebar Layout screenshot (right).

The first avenue for notification of updates was subscription via mail functionality provided by Feedburner, which I blogged up last January (Subscribe via Gmail Today!, 2008.01.10). You may have missed that, if you failed to read up on previous posts as I suggested at the beginning of Writing III. Some folks prefer mail notifications; others depend upon handy lists of links to favorite sites in their own sidebars, or feed readers there or elsewhere (for example: Google Reader).

Now signing up to follow a blog generates an RSS feed in your own Dashboard, and there are at least two ways to get started. One works for any Blogger blog (though it doesn't seem to work on Edublogs, at least not right away); you just grab the URL of a blog you want to follow, and "ADD" it to your Dashboard Reading List. Here's a snapshot of the list I've started:

The "ADD" button is at the foot of your list.

The other way to follow a Blogger blog is to find one you want to follow that displays a Followers gadget. You can subscribe through the gadget, and updates from that blog will automatically appear in your Dashboard Reading List. For more info. about following, including private or public following options, I recommend these Blogger Help Center posts:
[279 words]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Writing IV: Portfolio, §§1a & 1c (template)

This portfolio template is for you to:
  • Copy with permission, under license from the Writing Studio Blog (License, below);
  • Paste into a new post on your own blog;
  • Complete with data from, and reflections upon, the body of your writing on your blog for Writing IV, section 1a or 1c; and
  • Publish with the label "portfolios" (plural, without quotation marks).
Your complete portfolio for this semester is due – published and labeled on your blog – by Monday, December 22, 2008 (17:15, JST).

///// Beginning of template (Copy from "End ..." [below] to here.) /////

Student ID: vwxyz
Please replace "vwxyz" (above) with
the last five digits of your student number
(without quotation marks).

Portfolio for Writing IV,
Section 1a OR 1c

[Please delete the unsuitable class section and "OR" (above), along with this line of remarks.]

(See: Note 1, below)

0.0. Overview

Reviews, Posts, Words, and More

(See: Note 2, below.)

[Please embed your proto-portfolios here; then remove this line of remarks, including the square brackets.]

1.0. Essays

(See: Note 3, below.)

Please complete this table with data gathered from essays on your blog. See the Key (below) for definitions of the symbols in row one, and complete columns four through nine with numerical values (0, 1, 2, 3, ...).

1.1. Showcase
Short titles with links

Website review 08.09.29 (375+ words)

Favorite place(-s) 08.10.20 (450+ words)

Mrs. Doubtfire 08.11.04 (500+ words)

Community life 08.11.17 (default length*)

Kumamoto's best-kept secrets 08.12.01 (5+ ¶¶)

Learning with computers 2008.12.15 (6+ ¶¶)

Totals ---

¶: number of paragraphs five (5) or more sentences in length
W: number of words
C: number of comments
L: number of links
P: number of photos or other graphics
M: number of other media included in post
*: "long enough to cover the ... [communities] you choose," Writing Studio Blog, Preparation for Next Essays, 2008.10.29)

1.2. Best Essay

Selection and Assessment: Which of those six assigned essays do you feel is the best that you've written this semester, and why? Remember that a complete answer is better than a short answer, focus on your writing, and give at least two reasons to support your assessment.
  • [Please remove these remarks, including the square brackets, then identify your best essay, and write out your reasons for selecting it here.]


Titles of posts with links
Dates of comments
Numbers of words in comments
Qualities of comments**
2.1. Your first comment on your instructor's blog*

2.2. Your best comment on a classmate's blog*

2.3. Best comment by a classmate on your blog*

2.4. Most comments on:
Titles of posts with link
Dates of posts Total number of words in comments
Qualities of comments**
2.4.1. Any one of your essays* When did you respond to those comments?

--- How did you respond to those comments?

2.4.2. Any of your other posts* When did you respond to those comments?

--- How did you respond to those comments? ---

* Current semester comments on essays and other posts
** Please list the most important qualities of comments on each type of blog post. That is, explain briefly what makes them good comments.

2.5. Recent comments display

Does your blog display recent comments from blog visitors in a prominent location, for example, in a sidebar, header, or footer widget? Where, or why not? Please explain.
  • ...

2.6. Additional reflections on comments

  • [Please remove these remarks, including the square brackets; then write out your reflections on both giving and receiving comments here.]
  • ....

3.0. Book Reviews

3.1. Showcase Short titles
with links
Dates ( Words Comments
Vampire Killer



















: Please calculate and list book review Totals for words and comments without including those from the example (above).

3.2. Best Book Review

Selection and Assessment: Which of those book reviews do you feel is the best that you've written this semester, and why? Remember that a complete answer is better than a short answer, focus on your writing, and give at least two reasons to support your assessment.
  • [Please remove these remarks, including the square brackets; then identify your best book review, and write out reasons for selecting it here.]

4.0. Blog Layout, Labeling, Linking, & Media

4.1. Does your blog display an archive?

4.1.1. Does the archive display the titles of posts?

4.1.2. Is the archive organized by month?

4.1.3. Is the archive at or near the top of the sidebar?

4.2. Does your blog have labels displayed in sidebar?

5.2.1. Do your labels include these required labels (typed accurately): ---
  • "books" (plural) AND "reviews" (plural)

  • "essays" (plural) AND "portfolios" (plural, without "proto-")

  • "quickposts" (plural, with no space between quick and posts)

  • "links" (plural) AND "media" (plural)

  • "movies" (plural) AND "websites" (plural)

  • "brainstorms" (or "brainstorming"), "essay prep.," AND "free-writing" (or "free-writes")

4.2.2. Does your sidebar display other labels?

  • How many other labels have you attached to three (3) or more posts?
    • ___ other labels attached to three or more posts
    • Which labels, and to how many posts each? Please list those labels instead of www, xxx, yyy..., and list numbers of posts instead of n, m, o... (in parentheses), below.
      • www (n)
      • xxx (m)
      • yyy (o)
      • zzz (p)
      • ...
4.3. Links & media ---
4.3.1. Does your blog include photos or other graphics?

  • Does your blog profile include a photo or graphic representation?

  • How many of your blog posts this semester include photos or other graphics?
    • ___ posts including photos or other graphics
4.3.2. Does your blog include posts with multiple links?

  • How many of your posts this semester include three (3) or more links?
    • ___ posts including three or more links (including this portfolio!)
4.3.3. Does your blog include other media?

  • How many of your blog posts this semester include other media?
    • ___ posts including other media
  • What kind(-s) of media have you included in posts this semester? Please list the kinds here:
    1. ...
    2. ...
    3. ...


  • What media content that you originally produced, if any, do your blog posts for this semester contain? Please list and explain each item briefly, and add short links and dates ( for reference.
    1. ... (short link, date)
    2. ... (short link, date)
    3. ... (short link, date)



4.4. Overall presentation

What have you done to enhance the overall presentation of your blog? List and explain the three most important content, display, formatting, layout, or other presentation changes that you have made on your blog this semester.
  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. ...

5.0. Additional reflections on your blog and your writing on it

Please feel free to include reflections on both spring and fall semester work, as well as on the content of this portfolio (proto-portfolios, showcases, and reflections).
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...

6.0. Advice and suggestions for yourself, your peers, and your successors

  • ...
  • ...
  • ...

  1. This portfolio template derives from the templates for Writing IIIc and Writing IVc portfolios (2007-08), and Writing III, §§1a & 1c (Fall, 2008).
  2. Please use the same code in section 0.0 that you used to embed your proto-portfolios (PPFs) in the footer of your blog, which you should already have revised to display your 2nd (fall) semester PPF first.
  3. The essays section (1.0. Essays, above) derives from Proto-Portfolio 2-02 (2008).

This portfolio template is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please attribute to "the Writing Studio Blog" (without quotation marks).

Creative Commons License

///// End of template (copy from here to "Beginning ..." [above]) /////

[87 words (introductory remarks, only; other content derived
from previous templates and related sources)]

People's Choice Podcast Award: Grammar Girl

The winner of the 4th Annual (2008) People's Choice Podcasts Award in the category for education was Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Grammar Girl is 2.5 year old show, hosted once a week by Mignon Fogarty, who is now exploring video podcasts.

I've already added a link to all episodes of Grammar Girl to the Course Links (favorite site list, sidebar). "Arra best," to Jim Smiley of the JALT Materials Writers group for pointing out the awards site (jaltmwsig, message 672, 2008. 12.11).

You can catch a promo. video and live interview with Fogarty @ 12:14-16:02 (that's minutes, not hours) in the 2008 Podcast Awards Winners! video below, or on (December 6, 2008, People's Choice Podcast Awards Ceremony). The top 10 episodes of Grammar Girl focus largely on word choices, but also on grammar, punctuation, and style. Check her out!

(retrieved 2008.12.16)
Blogged with the Flock Browser
Revised in Blogger
[159 words]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Word Borrowed Perfectly: Japanese to English

This post reflects a note I scribbled on a bit of paper while watching television months ago, October 28, to be precise. It was about a word borrowed from Japanese, and - if my ears had not deceived me after two listenings (17:00+ and 21:00+) - perfectly so into English.

I say perfectly, because an NHK News in English announcer's usage of the adopted word represented adaptation of a common, stand-alone Japanese noun generally unmarked for number, to make it into a plural noun marked with an -s, or rather, with the sound /-z/.

Can anyone guess what that word was? There will be a grab-bag surprise for the author of the first accurately spelled guess in a comment on this post by a current Writing Studio participant. You must appear in person during a class meeting to collect the prize.

Here is a bit of context from the note for a hint; the "It" refers to a letter reportedly discovered in Kumamoto:
  • "It had been sent to ...-s [n., pl.] of the Fukui domain."
Good luck brainstorming! Please post your best guesses in comments on this post.
[188 words]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Learning with Computers (LwC): Class Outlines

The class outlines depicted below represent the main points that you should cover in the sixth essay assigned for this semester. We collected main points, topics, and sub-topics from individual lists of ideas that students brainstormed and posted as essay prep., brainstorms and quickposts in class, then combined related items and created hierarchies from them to construct working outlines.

The outline from Writing IV, §1a, is in two overlapping parts; the outline from §1c is in one part. If you click on the images (below), you can get full-size views.
  1. LwC_outlines20081210_1a-1.png,
  2. LwC_outlines20081210_1a-2.png, and
  3. LwC_outlines20081210_1c-0.png
You should feel free to adopt ideas for topics and sub-topics from either class outline, and add your own supporting ideas (anecdotes, arguments, examples, opinions [, reasons {pab, 2008.12.11}]), but make certain to cover all of the main points from the outline for your own class. Details in the outlines, especially "Other...?", you may treat as variables.


If you have questions or concerns about how to use these outlines to compose and organize your essays, please spell them out in individual comments on this post well in advance of the due date (Writing Studio Calendar: 6th essays...). Finally, please remember to label all assigned essays, and only assigned essays, with the label "essays" (plural, no capitalization).
[216 words]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paragraphs for Review in Google Spreadsheet

In this post I'm going to reflect upon and amplify work done online and in class in recent weeks. While I hope that you check your gmail regularly for course-related announcements, a recent reply to a two-week old message shook my confidence that all of you do so. For that reason, I'm posting these notes here, rather than relying completely upon another Google spreadsheet mail notification (forthcoming).

Those of you who reviewed paragraphs in the Google spreadsheet to which you posted them in November may have been unaware of general comments that I had added to row two before class last week (December 3rd, cells 2A-2I). In order to view lengthy comments there, when text wrapping was off, you would have had to double-click in each cell. For example, about titles, I wrote:
Please use accurate and catchy titles! There are confusing, inaccurate, and unnecessary alphanumeric code prefixes in this Title column [column E], for example: MR2-01 and Essay2-02 (no spaces before numbers). There also are titles that reflect assignments, but not the content of particular essays. However, please don't change titles here, unless you already have changed the title of your essays on your blogs, and are copying and pasting the revised titles in here. Titles should reflect content, theme, and focus. Accurate labels, for example, "essays" (... [three] Ss and one A), "movies," and "reviews," should suffice to convey other information instead of code (the exception to this rule is post titles for book reviews, for example: BR 2-01, ... -02, ... -03, ..., BR-12: [+ short book titles]).

Since the focus of that data collection was weakest paragraphs in best essays as of November 19 (BestEssays_Self-Assessments form, item 3.e.), I am going to reiterate and amplify the follow-up questions from the spreadsheet that I announced in class on December 3rd, here, where there are layout options unavailable in Google spreadsheets (automated numbering and bullet points added, below):
  1. Is what you've posted a paragraph?
    • If not, why not;
    • If so, how so?
      • [In other words, what constitutes a paragraph?]
  2. What is the topic of the paragraph [that you felt was your weakest]?
  3. Is the topic [of that paragraph] defined in the first sentence (topic sentence)?
  4. Does all other information or opinion in the paragraph develop and support the topic?
  5. Is there any information or expression of opinion in the paragraph unrelated to, or ... [which does not directly support], the paragraph topic?
  6. Does the paragraph end with a sentence that reflects the topic and content of the whole paragraph?

The purpose of question one (above) was to explore your definitions of paragraphs, in particular, to discover what you had learned about paragraphs from other courses. If you can remember or retrieve a definition of paragraphs from Writing I or II, please share it in a comment on this post.

Question two (above), as we found in one class on December 3rd, also can apply to single sentences that some students posted for the weakest paragraph item (spreadsheet, column I). Once you identify the topics of sentences in question, they can serve as foci for paragraph development. In the first example below, the pronoun "It" reflects the topic from the initial sentence, "home page" (spreadsheet, cell 26I). In both examples below, the phrasing suggestions in square brackets introduce supporting reasons the authors could use to develop their sentences into paragraphs:
  • ¶6 Let's go to this home page! [It is very interesting, because….] (26I)
  • ¶6 I think French is more difficult than English [for three main reasons. First, French....] (32I)
Questions three through six (above) indicate weaknesses common in novice writers' paragraphs, and can serve as general guidelines for paragraph development. I say guidelines, rather than rules, because even experienced writers occasionally diverge from them. For example, in short paragraphs, concluding sentences may be unnecessary to maintain readers' attention, especially if following paragraphs start with topic sentences, and comprise topics that are closely related to preceding ones.

I'd like to close this post with thanks and an invitation. That is, first, with thanks to the students who explained their weakest paragraphs in class last week. I appreciate your efforts to share thoughts about your writing in a language other than your vernacular. Next, to students whose writing did not come to the fore as examples in class last week, I extend this invitation to identify what you see as major weaknesses of the paragraphs that you posted to the Goggle spreadsheet in November. A good place to spell out those weaknesses would be in the new column K on the spreadsheet, where we can all read and compare them. Finally, thank you all for your cooperation in our writing studio, both in class and in various online venues.
[811 words]

Monday, December 8, 2008

Two Exciting Typing Games

Straight away, I'd like to thank Pukman@WinK, indubitable master of quickposts, for pointing out two exciting typing games in recent posts on his blog (Great typing games, and Class of December 5th, both 2008.12.05). One game offers intensive practice typing letters and numbers, and the other[,] similarly intensive practice typing words.
  1. Alpha Attack - letters and numbers
  2. QWERTY Warriors - words
Hopefully you will transcend the kill-the-enemy prompts for both games, yet appreciate both the time pressure and accuracy requirements while you play. If the killing metaphor bears heavily on your conscience, you may wish to try some of the less hostile games at Only Typing Games.

In general, I suggest reading the instructions and starting out at easy levels, after you re-familiarize yourselves with locations of letter and number keys. You also may wish to mute the soundtracks on the games. I find muting the sound helpful in concentrating attention on the typing targets, and on the feel of touch typing. [Here is an example of the feedback from a quick go at one of the games:]

Neither of the games Pukman pointed out allows much time for hunt-and-peck keyboarding. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the challenges.
[198 words]
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