Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 9

Posted: Jul 18, 2016 09:07;
Last Modified: Jul 18, 2016 09:07


Hi all!

I finally get to start reading this week!!! While I am still not 100% complete in my sourcing of all the books and articles, it is looking as though I will definitely be able to start reading by Wednesday if not earlier.

I also have a bunch of books from inter-library loans that I need to scan portions of. That will be part of my job today.

The database will be ready this week as well. Garret says that there will be a few improvements that he will want to make, but I will be able to start using it this week. All the information that I collect will still be available as the database is upgraded.

You may have noticed that I have switched to blogging at the beginning of the week as opposed to the end. I have found that at this point it is more beneficial to myself to post at the start of the week outlining some goals and then adding an update post sometime during the middle of the week. I am going to continue this model for the next while.

Until next time!



World is a better place 3. Career 0.

Posted: Dec 02, 2015 11:12;
Last Modified: Dec 02, 2015 11:12


The last couple of days have been, by any measure, a huge success.

A visit by Dot Porter to Lethbridge got my DH class revved up and also led to a breakthrough in our understanding of the Visionary Cross project and a blog posting yesterday that seems to be making its way around the DHosphere.

Over the weekend, the executive and members of GO::DH led to the development of a report on diversity and intercultural communications issues that also seems to be hitting a nerve

And finally, there was some cool twitter chatter about my ongoing Unessay research.

Or actually, I shouldn’t say that it was a huge success by “any measure.” In fact, it was a wash, as far as career progress went, since none of these are official citations or refereed publications. Although, as I’ve argued elsewhere, Canadian universities are better than many in their ability to use non-bibliometric measures of success, we’re not that good at it.


Blogging in Moodle

Posted: Sep 04, 2014 16:09;
Last Modified: Sep 04, 2014 17:09


In many of my classes, I ask students to blog within Moodle. Blogs within Moodle are visible to the whole community. It is also possible, using an RSS feed, to broadcast your blog outside Moodle.

There are two parts to using blogs in Moodle: composing blogs and reading the entries of others.


Composing a blog and associating it with a class

Ensuring your blog is associated with the class

There are two types of blog postings in Moodle: blogs that are associated with classes and those that are not. When you are being asked to blog for a specific class, it is important that you associate the blog with the relevant class. If you don’t, your instructor and classmates will have no way of seeing your blog unless they search your profile looking for it. In my classes, I don’t count blog entries that I have to go looking for.

Edited screenshot showing link to add blog entry in Moodle The best way of associating your blog with a class is to use the link found within the class space in Moodle. If blogging has been enabled by your class instructor, you should see a menu block somewhere on the page that looks something like the one illustrated here (in my classes this menu is usually in the top right corner).

On this menu, there are two links that take you to the blog composition interface: “Add an entry about this class” and “Add a new entry.” Of these, the one you should use is the top one, “Add an entry about this class” (highlighted in red in the above image). If you use this, a tag is added automatically to the blog, which groups it with the entries from the other students.

Using the blog interface.

You can write your blog in the provided interface or write it offline and paste it in the text box. I usually use the interface, but it is always possible if you do that that you will make a mistake or there will be a system error and you lose some or all of your work. For that reason it is smart in Moodle to save your work periodically.

The blog interface looks more or less like a wordprocessor. There are also options for working directly with the HTML code (useful for complicated pages, if you know what you are doing) or using various wiki-style markups (e.g. as in the Wikipedia, or using Markdown

Reading your classmates’ blogs

If you use the correct link, your blog will be associated with the class. This means that your fellow students (and I) can find it easily. You navigate to the class blogs using the same menu you used to associate your blog with class (i.e. as in the image above). This time choose “View all entries for this course.”


Introduction to Unessay Research

Posted: May 15, 2013 13:05;
Last Modified: May 15, 2013 13:05


There appears to be a fundamental discord in the way students are taught to argue and the what professors view as a “good argument”. High school students are taught that a good argument is a point that can be evidentially proven, but professors are searching for a more open-ended approach. Students are taught to answer, while professors want them to question.

Yet, the essay seems to be a loose term in regards to genre and its conventions, with variations being prevalent across disciplines. Does “anything go” when it comes to formulaic standards? Some scholars make a distinction between the “essay” and the “article”. But how many students are taught and become truly aware of this distinction? Students read articles, yet are told to formulate essays. This distinction is one that is not often communicated to students. Upon beginning my research of the subject, I myself had never entertained the distinction.

But of course we must have a thesis. Professors require a melding of the genres, into what Heilker calls “exploratory, essayistic discourse” (Heilker 191), to be mixed with a strong thesis proven in a logical and well-supported manner. Indeed, Heilker continues, “[c]larity and order are virtues, no doubt, but overdone they produce prose that is flat, predictable, and boring” (197). But why does a separation of merely rambling discourse and a logical thesis seem so hard for students to come by, and to produce such stilted writing that it pains professors to read it? Heilker states the plight of professors most clearly when he says that “[t]he ideas of pleasure reading and student writing seem contradictory, but it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be that way” (Heilker 197). There must be some model of argumentation that is so often ingrained in students that it requires an extensive remodelling to overcome.

There is also often an absence of emotion in traditional student writing. In my own experience, I know this to be true. As a high school student, I was told to take all personality and all traces of emotion out of my writing, and to produce a technically sound and cleverly written piece of prose. This is easier said than done. University professors and the grades they assigned to me seemed to agree as I realized that my best writing was often produced in a state of passion and emotion. It was the overwrought, overdone, and highly manipulated phrases that came out the most critiqued and awkward.

I loved writing the blogs, because there were quite literally no rules, other than they had to get done. For the first time, I felt liberated from the strictures of removing myself from my work; personal opinion, emotion, and cheering enthusiasm were all tolerated. What a novel experience! Upon beginning the blogs, I never imagined that I would be allowed, even encouraged, to write essays in a similar manner. While I never had any major difficulties in formulating some acceptable argument, I often felt frustrated when it came to conclusions. My essays would often be returned with an exhortation to expand and elaborate in my conclusions, to question and answer the question “why is this important”? “But I thought I did,” I would exclaim. I had neatly summed up my points and provided a short abstract about possible implications for my conclusions. But this was not questioning. This was restating the obvious.

So what is different between secondary and college level writing? What is expected, but more saliently, what is taught? I have had instructors tell me that a brilliant idea argued poorly will earn a much lower grade than a mediocre idea presented clearly. While to some extent this premise makes sense, is this the standard that should be strived for? Based on these standards, good grades earned from essays written begin to become a bit more arbitrary. A’s are earned not because of inherent brilliance written into the student’s work, but because there is nothing overtly wrong with it.

In pursuing this strain of research, I would like to continue to examine the literature on the way essays and argumentation are taught at the secondary and undergraduate levels. I think it would be helpful to speak to professors in the Academic Writing department, and possibly in English and Education, to determine how students are emerging from their high school education, and what is specifically lacking in the arguments constructed by undergraduates. Dan’s Unessay research has already determined what differences emerge when writing and argumentation are approached from a different angle, so I would like to provide the context for why students writing efforts are not living up to the expectations presented in a conventional undergraduate classroom.

Works Cited

Heilker, Paul. “Twenty Years In: An Essay in Two Parts.” College Composition and Communication 58.2 (2006): 182–212.


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