Writing with Sources

IMG_1183Good Morning from my class,

I am currently sitting in the back of my 9:00 a.m. #Foundations of College Writing course. As I do every semester, I have the #Bloomsburg Writing Center come to class and have them do this presentation for my course. What is evident, both from experience as well as research by the Writing Center director, #Dr. Ted Roggenbuck, many students do not have a very good handle on the ethical or correct use of sources. Most do not intentionally misuse a source, but their lack of understanding, particularly when it comes to paraphrase  or summary, results all too often in unintentional plagiarism. I always do this presentation at the beginning of he semester because I do want to move students beyond the understanding that served them all to well in high school. I am reminded of my own experience with a high school in the area. Those 12th grade students were told by their senior project advisor they did not need a works cited page on their projects. NOT GOOD!!!

I was actually pleasantly surprised in the first class and now in the second one (Yes, it is actually later as I continue to write this. I am now in my 11:00 a.m. Foundations course.), that students seem to be more honest about having some concerns about their writing and ability to use sources. There does seem to be an issue with clickers this morning, but I think we can still work with it. Actually, while I have heard this presentation many times, I always seem to learn something that I might find helpful. I think the point made this morning that most caught me by surprise was when the student presenter said, “If you do not understand the source, you should probably not be using it.” I guess I had not thought of that, but it is certainly a truism.

In addition this morning, I saw my summer student who had some health issues. It was good to catch up and give them a sense of what needs to be done to complete the course. This was a sad situation because I do believe the student is capable, but due to a number of issues, the student could not finish the course. This will, at the very least, allow from completion and receving credit for the summer class. This was a new experience for me here at this university, but because of my own health issues, I know how those issues can get in the way of life. Yet, one still needs to manage the assignments and the work.

We are headed into the Labor Day weekend. This is the traditional end of summer. What I am realizing is the summer flew by; in fact, I am not sure where it all went and how I feel like I somehow missed it. I wrote on my #Facebook page yesterday that we were four days into class and somehow I have ended up a week behind. I hope that is not a harbinger of the semester. Somehow, I am quite sure it might be the case. Yesterday someone asked me about the fall and the return to school. What I remember growing up is an excitement of being back in school. It is interesting the images that come to mind. I think the fall I most remember the excitement of school was in 1977 when I was a student at Iowa State University (#ISU). I still remember walking down Welch Avenue toward the campus and the sounds and smells of the fall. Autumn is certainly my favorite season. I so appreciate the cool nights and the warm afternoons. One of the things I have noticed this past week is how it has gotten significantly later before it is light outside and it is becoming darker much earlier. In fact, at least as far as the calendar, there are only three weeks of summer left, or in another way to think about it . . . we are half way to the shortest day of the year.

Well, I am very happpy for the three day weekend; it will be a catch up and get organized time. Hopefully, next week I will not feel quite as harried.

Thanks for reading,

Michael (aka: Dr. Martin)

Frightened, Excited, Overwhelmed, Underprepared or . . .


Good mid-afternoon from Starbucks in the Library,

I have turned in my old tablet that was my colleague for my first four years here. Now I have a new tablet, which is sleek, high-powered and terrifically sensitive (I am talking about the mouse pad and not its feelings). I thought things were backed up on the P drive and I am realizing that I might have lost some things. I am not sure what to do about all of that. While I do not think I have lost anything all that paramount, it will still take digging some of it out of BOLT. For instance, I think I have lost my prior work for my Writing in the Professions or Writing for Multiple Media courses. The syllabi are probably on file and certainly in BOLT, at least for the last three years. I know they are going to dump things off the BOLT server, so I am going to have to manage that issue quite soon. It is a good thing that has been postponed.

Today in my classes I asked how many of the students in my Foundations classes felt a bit overwhelmed or shell-shocked. The vast majority raised their hands. It is not uncommon. While I do believe we are a quality institution, I do believe that it could be worse had that person decided to attend, for instance, an Ivy League school. That is not to say that there are not some here who have the ability to teach there and probably thrive. What is, however, evident is the realization that it seems our public school system and parents do not good a very good job of preparing them for what is coming. Today in class I addressed the issue of grades and my philosophical premise that college is about a process, but, even more importantly, the product. So many times I have heard a student lament, particularly after receiving a particularly low grade, “But I tried really hard.” Implying that effort is somehow more important than whatever it is they handed in. That is why I took specific time to address that issue.

In my Technical Writing class, I dealt with the reality of a job market that is still sluggish in recovering after the “great recession”. Figures like “450 people applying for every job openning” is certainly an issue, and even more frightening when one is a senior and looking at their last semester or year at school and they have little or no experience. The idea that someone should do an internship, and I do believe they should be paid, or two internships is a significant issue, particularly when many positions have a line about experience.

As I work toward the continuance of the day, I have work yet to accomplish. I am not finished, or more accurately, I am still tweaking the syllabus for the Writing for the Internet class. This class is so interesting, but  because things are so rapidly changing, it seems I can never catch up. It is hard to believe I have already been back from California for more than a week. The days seem to speed up, not slow down. This is another one of those wise things of which my father reminded me.

Well, overall I am pleased with my classes and my students. It appears that it is going to be a good semester.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

A New Beginning

carpe diem

Good late afternoon from Starbucks (the Library version),

My “Life is Good” image is closer to what might have happened last week. As I write this I am realizing there is something comforting to sitting at my middle table where I have sat each year since coming to Bloomsburg University. It is interesting to me how many people I have met initially here and then around campus. Today when I arrived, it was only the first day of classes and four students were waiting for me. That was both surprising and gratifying. Those four students demonstrated to me the concept of “claiming their education” from the outset. They had questions and they were wondering about the best way to manage both the class and the semester. It was interesting and insightful to hear their comments and their inquiries. What was immediately evident is they are intelligent, insightful, and committed. Those skills will care them far.

While it is the beginning of a year, it there really such a clear demarcation from the previous years here? Not really, and that is particularly evident as I am working toward tenure this year. The past four years are an accumulation of artifacts and experiences; it is a time to grow much like we expect of our students. What is it that makes one a valuable member of this scholarly community called Bloomsburg? It is the understood elements of teaching, scholarship, and service, but I believe it is more. It is about potential and about never believing you have made it. There is always room for improvement and for learning, even on this side of the blank stare. As I begin work on that tenure process, my nemesis, the picture of John Belushi on the house in the movie, Animal House, once again rears its comical, but frightening head. I remember the same feeling before my comprehensive exams and defense or before my dissertation defense. Yet, much like I tell my students, if you have managed the process well, it should come out reasonably. There are always those moments where we think “if only I had . . . ” (you can fill in the blank). What I wonder at this point is “will it ever slow down?” My colleagues on the other side note that it does seem very different. I guess I am certainly hoping so because it is still stressful at this point. I know there are other reasons for that, but I have to put those experiences behind me. It is interesting that the changes in the program there continue to be never-ending, or so it appears. That brings up a different point. My friend, colleague and confidant is on sabbatical this fall. It is disconcerting to not have him here. I miss him greatly.

Well, I am almost at the end of the first day of the “new  beginning”. It has been productive. I have gotten discussion boards posted, this blog written and a handle on what I need to accomplish for the day and the week. It will be busy, but prioritizing and discipline to do it all will help manage it. I am excited about all of the stuff there is to do. I began the morning at the gym and that has kept me energized for the day. One last class to visit this evening. It is the business class that most of my Foundations students have as members of the Business LLC. It will be good to see them in that different context.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Food, Wine, Terroir, and Place


Hello from the foothills in the Sierra Mountains,

After another quick trip to WI, I flew on to Somerset, CA, a small town at about 2,300 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I am back visiting my friend, and renaissance person, Marco, his wife, Belinda, and their two wonderful children. My first visit to this place was six and a half years ago. In fact, I often wrote in a previous blog (mysummerclasses.blogsome.com), which has been interesting to read lately, perhaps insightful too.

During the past week, I have employed my colleague, Mark’s advice: “be the plumber” . . .  and it has worked well. I have managed contractors, worked on the aesethetics of the Miraflores Vineyard and Tasting Room, and worked on my own course material for the fall. In the meanwhile, things for a search committee have begun and I have been managing correspondence from three time-zones away.

Being back has been both relaxing and productive. I have gotten significant work done on my fall classes and I have also gotten some thoughtful work done on some of my own writing. One of the articles over which I have been pondering and on which I have been writing is about the “sense of place”. It is something I have mulled over for some time (actually years). It is both a personal and professional thing. I am indebted to a colleague who shared a book with me titled Aesethetics of Everyday Life. It has helped me structure something I have struggled with for perhaps a decade. When I think about the complexity of place, or what gives someone a “sense of place”. Is it physicality? Is it experience? Is it smell or taste? It is the weather? Is it a length of time? What I believe is it is combination of all of these things, but together they create a sense of attachment, a sense of pathos. What is that attachment or emotional appeal? Is it memory, either good or bad?

As I have been working this past week in the Herbert Zinfandel blocks of the winery, I have listened to Marco speak about terroir, a concept I remember hearing regularly in Peter DeSouza’s Wine and Spirits class at UW-Stout. Terroir is a combination of a number of things: soil, elevation, wind, rain, sun, temperature, care, grape varietal, and the list could go on. One thing that some have begun to consider is the actual wine drinker him or herself. Is this moving into a post-modern concept of terroir? Perhaps . . .

The past two weeks I have had the amazing opportunity to attend a wine and food pairings luncheon. Those who know me, know I love these opportunities. I love good food and the experience of dining. Last week, it was Chef Dan Moore of the National Hotel in Jackson, CA. Today it was three phenomenally talented sommeliers who call themselves “Three CorkDorks”. An amazing Apple Tartin to accompany the Bottricelli wine. Then speaking about memory. I remember an amazing student who tragically passed away in a fire when I taught at Stout. I remember telling her I was a CorkDork. She laughed hysterically. Thinking of you, April. I so appreciated you. It is her picture that graces this post.

What I know is the 10 days here have created new memories strengthed old ones and helped me relax and prepare. I am indebted to so many for making my life better. It is a combination of food, wine, terroir, and place. The next week will be hectic and in barely a week, the fall semester will have begun. In the meanwhile, I will finish my glass of Bottricelli.

Thanks for reading,


Grading and Thinking

ImageGood afternoon from the Fog and Flame,

I was supposed to be in Wisconsin as I am writing this, but another great experience on the airlines has grounded me and left me in Bloomsburg. That is not necessarily without some benefit. The change in plans and location has allowed me to manage some of my workload and has forced me (helpfully) to just concentrate on the work I need to slough through. I have finished by CBE work and I am caught up on my summer class, at least for the moment. This lowers my stress level significantly.  It will also allow me to focus upon and organize the work I need to accomplish for the remainder of the year (and I mean that literally).

This time to actually think about,  or ponder some of my work is really helpful. What I know is that I have so much on my plate from time to time (or most of the time) that I do seem to be living the phrase, “the tail wagging the dog”. The problem is the size of the tail seems to be much larger than the dog. That is a problem. It is interesting that I have been telling my students to continue to blog and use it as a way to manage their work. I find myself doing the same thing. What are those things I need to accomplish? What is the order in which I should attempt to do the infamous list? What are the priorities? If I answer those questions and arrange things,  perhaps I can get more accomplished and the “tail” will lose some of its power.

I have spent this summer again teaching writing and having my students create their own blogs. I have had them create a Google Map. It is an assignment, one that I am also doing myself (I will offer the link when I am pleased with the product) and while their is related to their memoir papers, mine is more independent of anything else, again, at least for the moment. As I have been working on it, however, it has forced me once again to think about my sense of “place”. This is not the first time I have pondered this in a blog, but yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with a college and she has me doing some reading by Andrew Light and John Dewey (yes, that John Dewey). Earlier today I had the opportunity, while sitting here and working, to speak with another colleague about the issue of writing and the teaching of writing. We pondered terms like standard versus non-standard, appropriate versus non-appropriate, and correct versus incorrect. The more I ponder this issue, the more I am aware of the disconnect that seems to be happening between teaching writing (communication) in the high schools and what we expect here at the university. This is significant on a number of levels because it affects those who might be here getting their degrees in teaching writing, it certainly affects our students, and it requires us to think about the work we see in our classes as well as how we understand our pedagogical practices.

As many of you know, I have been going back and forth to Wisconsin to visit and help my close friend, surrogate parent, and amazing neighbor, Lydia. She will be 89 years old on Monday. I wish I was there to celebrate (as 89 year old celebrations go) her day. It will be four years ago the next day, that I got on my Harley and headed here to Bloomsburg. It has been an amazing four years and I am blessed to be here. The picture here is to get me excited for where I will be in a week: Northern California.

More to think about, I guess. Thank for reading.