Zombies & the Humanities Events Coming This Fall!

I and Ida Yoshinaga at the University of Hawai'i are event coordinators for a series of events coming this Fall semester. We are working with the Drama department on a production called "Uncle Vanya and Zombies." You can check out the website here. We are planning to utilize both campus marketing resources and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully I will be able to apply some of the lessons of iFacilitate to this circumstance as well to draw in students from all of our colleges.

If anyone would like more information, please feel free to post comments and questions below.

Experimenting with Screenr

So I had some students get lost on the way to the computer lab when I taught my lecture on using Google Sites to build Online Writing Portfolios. After my first year of teaching with the bus and my bike as my green forms of transportation, I vowed to never again use physical portfolios--80 students worth of binders is far too much for rush-hour on the bus. This way, both myself and my students could save paper/ink and I could save my sore shoulder muscles. That was when I turned to Google Sites so students could submit online (weightless) portfolios.

 Never again.

This year, I decided to experiment with my new introduction to Screenr by doing a shorter version of my  Online Writing Portfolio How-To lecture. If you might be interested in going from paper to online portfolios
(highly recommended!), then feel free to link to my tutorial videos. The template I designed in the Public gallery is also public as well if you want a more plug-and-play approach to incorporating student programming into your curriculum.

Part One: Getting Starting with Google Sites
Part Two: Selecting a Template
Part Three: Selecting a Design Template & Privacy Settings
Part Four: Editing Tools

If you've tried online portfolios with this or some other application, please feel free to post your experiences in the comments. What worked? What didn't? What did students find confusing about the need for online writing portfolios?

Finally Tweeting–I Fail as a Millenial

So while most of my friends (except the ludites) have been on Twitter for ages, I am today starting my Twitter account. Here we go...

In setting up my account, I start by making an account and naming it (ZombieGrammar). I am prompted to follow 5 Twitter feeds before I can continue.

My Five:
  • Lisa Lampanelli
  • David Lynch
  • Jhonen Vasquez
  • Zombie Research Society
  • BitchMedia

Yay, now I get to Tweet! Oh wait, I need five more? Okay...

Five More:
  • Daniel Tosh
  • Zach Galifinakis
  • Steven Colbert
  • Maya Angelou
  • bell hooks

Okay, now I can start Tweeting. Gads, now I have to add Contacts? This is a lot of work for something that I will be writing 160 character Tweets for... Oh good, there is no minimum number for contacts. My list of contacts is sadly quite short.

If you want to follow my adventures in grammar Tweeting, my account can be accessed as @ZombieGrammar.

Review for ScreenR

This week I will be reviewing a technology application called Screenr for the purposes of giving feedback to students' writing online.

I recorded my initial review using the screencapture/audio recording. You can listen to me verbally fumble with this technology here.

Overall Review:

Mac and PC
Smartphone compatible

Not that I could tell--I recorded the capture with 4 bars of wireless Internet access. I would not even try this kind of recording in my office, where I usually have only 1-2 bars.

Video Quality?
While the preview is not in HD, the final published versions of casts are automatically formatted into HD.

Length of Recording?
Sorry ScreenR, but 5 minutes just isn't enough for me. Please put out an expanded version!

Methods of Sharing?
  • "Like" through Facebook
  • Tweet through Twitter
  • Embed HTML code
  • URL Address
  • Download as an .mp4 file
  • Publish to YouTube

My Preference for Sharing?
I would probably prefer to post these to a teacher channel on YouTube, but for me, that brings up questions of student privacy--even though it isn't sharing a grade. I'm thinking about directly emailing links to students instead.

So all in all, I am still considering this application, but I want to do more research before I marry it.

Comment on Personality matters when teaching online by Tanya

Wow, what a great article! Part of my struggle with the online class I taught was that I thought it was supposed to be low-impact on students to accomodate students who were working full time or had children, etc. I think I am going to change this framing of online classes very drastically for the online summer course I’m slated to teach and I plan to use this article when I am planning out that course. Muchas gracias!

Comment on Personality matters when teaching online by Tanya

Wow, what a great article! Part of my struggle with the online class I taught was that I thought it was supposed to be low-impact on students to accomodate students who were working full time or had children, etc. I think I am going to change this framing of online classes very drastically for the online summer course I’m slated to teach and I plan to use this article when I am planning out that course. Muchas gracias!

Update on Fooducate App

Although yesterday I couldn't get this app to  open, today it works fine. Once the app opened, I went straight to my kitchen and picked up a box of green tea for the cup I was preparing.


Available on Android
Android Market Rating: 4.5 Stars
Created: February 17, 2012 by Fooducate, LTD.
Memory: 3.71 MB
Price: FREE
Updates from Previous Version:
  • Improved alternatives & search algorithms
  • Bug fixes
What It's Supposed to Do--Market Description: "Scan and choose healthy groceries."

Criticisms from the Comments Forum: error messages, needs a bigger product database, cryptic information, can be slow, phone freezes, no grocery list function, snide editorials, trouble scanning codes with (HTC Evo, HTC G2, Sprint Epic, Galaxy Nexus Gsm), no option to save things you may want to buy in the future

My Updated Review: No scan--not in the database. The app then requested that I take 3 pictures, send data...by which I had already moved on the finding something that would be in the database. I settled on a plastic container of Spicy Low-Sodium V8 from my fridge and successfully scanned the label.

Here's where things get weird. The product comes up with a picture of the same produce I scanned, a letter grade based on the app's algorithm for healthiness. This is followed by a listing of the calories/servicing and a small green heart with "93% like"--though where this 93% comes from is unclear from here. When I scrolled to the right tab, Alternatives, a ribbon popped up at the bottom with "5 Better Options." Now was the moment to check the scope of rhetorical reasoning of this app--replacements included orange juice, two entries for different types of canned V8, bottled water, and tap water. Okay, so the algorithm doesn't seem very complex. The definitions it uses aren't very transparent. I can't yet tell if the app gets smarter as it learns what I like, but time will tell. I did learn that canned V8 has 30 fewer calories per serving than the plastic bottle, so I guess I will switch back to canned and now have guilt over the increase in shipping weight, and therefore its carbon footprint. Sigh--just can't win.

One more reason for getting some tomatoes started in a bucket garden eventually...

Below this menu ribbon is a second ribon with a list of icons and phrases. My first scan returned:
For Dieters: Points value is 1
Yippee - No added sweeteners!
Naturally high in Vitamin A
More to 100% juice than meets the eye?
Natural Flavors Added. Learn why
Learn about Citric Acid, found here
Learn about juice concentrate

In the Natural Flavors section, I learned that these are often animal products and should be avoided by vegetarians and vegans. Seems like the kind of app where, once I have read a few articles, then the labels for each will act as a quicker shorthand for the longer treatments of each nutritional factor.

My only criticism (so far) is that the app gives good nutritional information about some products, its database is still being developed and it only supports consumer knowledge of the food itself and not the food's production process. The developers might point out that this is not the primary purpose of the app, but why should an app keep those two streams of knowledge separated when combining them would increase the convenience of shopping both healthily and ethically.

We already have free trade stickers for products--can't we adapt that concept to an app like Fooducate? It seems to me that more people are expressing a desire to eat in a way that is both healthy and ethical. I'm not saying we give up cheesecake forever, but that we and our students work together to figure out what food means to each of our communities, and giving students a non-threatening way to access cross-cultural contact zones.

After all, when my students in the past have chosen to write about a food controversy, like the GMO debates about Hawaiian kalo/taro, or factory farms, or even just after they have watched a documentary like "Food.Inc," they would all have probably used Fooducate if it included information about the methods of production, laborer payscales, livestock conditions, etc. of the actual product in front of us.

I tend to be a bit Derridean at times and this is one--if every story has it's trace, the faint ghost of its influence and interconnectivity with other stories, then this technology could be a new form of storytelling/testifying--one that marks an Event (in Badiou's sense) for students' in terms of a change of consciousness and a devotion to that Event (app).

Two Week Review of Using a Teaching Facebook Page

I think it was only two days into this MOOC before I decided to take the plunge and start a Facebook page for my students. For those of you who still refuse to use it--for ideological, financial, temporal, or ludological reasons--a Facebook Page is different from a Facebook Profile. My profile is still kept private this way and the profiles of my students are kept private from me as well. The page is like an organization or club--students can "Like" the page without "Friending" me, so student privacy is kept intact while at the same time engaging students in an online environment that they seem more comfortable with than Laulima with an automatic notification capability.

For many of my students, the idea of going on Laulima everyday is very alien, but the idea of daily Facebooking seems like nothing. At first, I was a bit stuck for what to post, but then I remembered a bunch of writing links and grammar webcomics from The Oatmeal. If anyone else in the MOOC is considering the use of Facebook Pages, here is a link to mine. I'd also love some feedback from others here who felt the same impulse and also started a Facebook Page for teaching.

Muchas gracias!

Challenges with Design in Blogger

I've been messing around in here, changing things, adding things, cutting things that annoy me when I go to other websites. I'm feeling pretty successful with one exception--my link color. In the scheme I've chosen, my links show up in my blog post as a very dark reddish brown that is nearly indistinguishable from the black. Now when a viewer hovers over the link, it lights up and gets underlined, but it is hard to see where to hover.

Since I am legally blind, I am very conscious of visual issues, both for people like me with genetic deficiencies and the deficiencies of age as well (I worked in a nursing home for 3 years). So I would very much like the bright blue color I've seen in other places. I'll probably keep fiddling with it later today. Has anyone else in this MOOC run up against this issue?

Urban Agriculture & Education

This week we had a departmental meeting at HCC--usual stuff. One of our buildings is slated to be remodeled. That go me thinking about the planned remodeling of Kuykendall on the UHM campus and my recent conversations with my friend Bryan about urban agriculture--especially after the Honolulu Weekly published this feature story about the need for urban agriculture movements in Hawai'i.

My bucket list should also be my grocery list.

I asked at the HCC meeting if anything in the current renovation plans included urban agriculture. At the same time that Hawai'i has the 5th lowest obesity rate in the nation, we also have a Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population that is 3.7 more times likely to be obese compared to our Asian populations. Many of my students express a liking for Costco's cafeteria, where a full lunch can be purchased for under $5. This concerns me.

Many of my students are commuters or ride the bus, so transportation time takes away much of their discretionary time that might be used to prepare lunches in advance at home. Ever tried to each a salad after a 45-minute commute? With no access to refrigeration? Many of my students also come from households with financial hardships, or they work two jobs. Many of them have neither the time nor the capital to shop for organic foods--or even fresh foods for that matter.

My students, shoot even I, need a source of free/cheap local, organic produce. HCC has the Kalo farm where students can volunteer, and I see the occasional Papaya trees, but we could do so much more. Most of the objections to urban agriculture come from maintenance sectors, who reasonably want to avoid spoiled fruits/ veggies that attract bugs. However, the HCC language division alone is 40-50 people. If each faculty member invested one hour a week to care for one plant, we could have 40-50 plants. My friend Cara and I ended up chatting about this after our meeting ended.

So to get to my point for this post...I started to wonder if there was an app for that. So I Googled "urban agriculture app" and got 60 million hits. Excited, I clicked the first site that popped up, Food and Tech. Disappointed, I went back to Google when all 5 of the apps reviewed were for iPhones only. After (much) more searching, I found several promising food apps:

Compost News

Available on Android
Android Market Rating: 1 star
Created: February 28, 2011 by Hippyapps
Memory: 10.39 KB
Price: FREE

What it does:
It is a newsfeed on composting.

My Review:
Loaded in less than a minute--however, I could only get it load once before it froze several times. This is one more to try tomorrow.

Why I didn't review Farmbox: This app allows Android users to set up a growing system regulated by a smart phone, but it had a lighting rig rather than using sunlight, as in wall gardens, roof gardens, and bucket/lanai gardens. Since I want methods that use zero electricity and that will work on a large scale (like for a community college campus and a university campus), this app isn't really an option for what I want.


Available on Android
Android Market Rating: 4.5 Stars
Created: February 17, 2012 by Fooducate, LTD.
Memory: 3.71 MB
Price: FREE
Updates from Previous Version:
  • Improved alternatives & search algorithms
  • Bug fixes
What It's Supposed to Do--Market Description: "Scan and choose healthy groceries."
Criticisms from the Comments Forum: error messages, needs a bigger product database, cryptic information, can be slow, phone freezes, no grocery list function, snide editorials, trouble scanning codes with (HTC Evo, HTC G2, Sprint Epic, Galaxy Nexus Gsm), no option to save things you may want to buy in the future
My Review:
Although this app was a quick download (less than a minute), when I opened it, I immediately got an error message. After several restarts, I kept getting this message. Looks like I'll have to try this one tomorrow.

Garden Guide

Available on Android
Android Market Rating: 3.5 stars
Created: November 4, 2011
Memory:0.93 MB
Price: FREE

What it does: Provides basic articles about growing specific plants and general gardening techniques.

Criticisms from the Comments Forum: missing instructions, unintuitive setup, freezing, crashing, content not downloaded to Droid 2

My Review: Took less than a minute to download the app, but downloaded content and registration took about 3 minutes. Once I got into the app, I found a list of articles about growing various plants and 3 buttons: Crops, Techniques, and Resources. I then realized that the menu was the interface for Crops, so I switched to Techniques. This menu looks the same as Crops, but with articles specifically devoted to the how part of gardening. Resources took me to a bulletin-like page with a somewhat short list of ouside resources, newsletters, software, etc.


Available on iPhone and Android
Android Market Rating: 3.5 stars
Created: February 29, 2012 by Local Dirt
Memory: 2.75 MB
Price: FREE
Updates from Previous Version:
  • CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) information added
  • Photoes, likes comments enables for farms, farmer's markets, CSAs
What It Does: Search for and share in-season, local food. Maps farms, farmer's markets, and CSAs based on your GPS location.

Criticisms from the comments forum: Excessive permissions, frequent freezing on GalNex, missing recipes in recipe section, some freezing/loading issues

My review:
The setup of my profile took less than 2 minutes, upon which I was greeted by a clean and simple interface that included options to "Share" by taking a photo, choosing from a gallery, or used a pic from the app.

The "Forage" option is a Facebook like board where other local users connect to you. This might be a great way to find people dedicated to urban agriculture projects! So far, there are users from Honolulu, Kailua, Kaneohe, Pearl City, and Kahului.

The "Local" button took me to a screen that showed my closest setter today is the Makiki District Park (People's Open Market). Clicking the "Local Sellers" button takes me to a list of several, organized by which are closest to my current GPS location. Users can also choose to sort these results by Farm, Farmer's Market, or CSA.

The " In Season" button on the interface screen showed that Papayas are peaking in season (and reminds me to eat the one I bought at the UHM Farmer's Market this week). Clicking the button takes me to a list that shows what's currently in season and for how much longer. For example, Green Onions, Kumquats and Winter Squash have 4 weeks left from today. When I kept scrolling, I came to a list at the bottom for "Coming in Season Soon." Now that I know the markets will have Okra in 4 weeks, I can plan for making gumbo!

Below the "Local" and "In Season" buttons is "Locavore," which shows the user(s) closest to me in miles.

The "Recipes" button doesn't work--all I get is a message "That's not available right now but will be shortly--check the market for updates!"

The "Me" button takes me to a food profile page, much like Facebook's interface.

Overall, I like this app and will definitely be using it as I transition from busing to biking and will need to shop in smaller amounts more frequently.

Organic Gardening for Beginners

Available on the Android
Market Rating:
Price: $1.34

What it does: This app is basically an online version of a book about organic farmin.,

My review: The "chapters" are very short and might make good reading assignments--particularly in HCC's developmental classes if tied in with service learning.

True Food

Available on the Android
Market Rating:4 Starts
Created: July 7, 2012 by Center for Food Safety
Price: FREE

What does it do? I'm not too sure actually--their website is pretty vague on how this app works, but it sounds like to would help me find GMO products so I can choose alternative brands.

My Review:
Loads the install in less than a minute. The greeting screen has 4 buttons: What's New, 4 Simple Tips, Join the Network, Support Us. I choose to start with joining the network and, once again, get an error message. Looks like this is another one to try again tomorrow.


This week I finally figured out what to call these things that I've been seeing everywhere:

Black and white...digital...squiggly.

Of course, after learning about this from iFacilitate this week, I immediately resolved to find one of these things in real life and try it--it was so easy in the workshop! My first chance came later when I was getting coffee before I taught a class at HCC. The coffee place had a social marketing poster with the typical request to "Like us on Facebook" and a qrcode. I pulled out my phone, found my new redlaser app, and stood around contorting my body to get a steady, straight on shot with the counter in my way and the qrcode stashed at the bottom of the poster. After nearly 15 minutes of trying, I was finally successful in both following the code and taking a picture to post here.

I suppose this makes me think about those moments when I have taught a technological application in a classroom to have everyone following along nicely, and then be bombarded with emails after class about how the process is not "not as easy as it was in class." Tables turned, lesson learned.

This also got me to thinking about how to apply this technology not just to our classroom, but also as a new avenue of professionalization. I'm thinking here of the catalogs we get when we attend a professional conference--names, paper titles, abstracts. I thought of how nice it would be if each presenter also included a qrcode for his/her bibliography. After all, I often advise my writing students to find one or two sources that fit their topic, and then use the bibliographies to help point them to other sources. We are expected to supply our bibliography for publications, but not for presentations?

Now my inner economist-thinker is kicking in and telling me that it would be unfair to provide such intellectual resources to only the attendees with smart phones. However, this same information could easy be put in a website for the conference, offering a resource to people who'd like to attend but can't for time or financial reasons.

I'm also wondering if I could do something like this for handouts - maybe qrcodes on grammar worksheets to grammar sites like Grammar Girl or the grammar webcomics from The Oatmeal...


Since I have a B.S. in Secondary Educational Studies, I am quite familiar with the traditional Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning.
I remember this...
However, this week's materials introduced me to a revisioning of this pyramid that I find much more intuitively appealing.
I want to go to there.
One lesson I took away from the materials was the idea of user-created content and the kinds of environments where this creation is productive for student writers. Every semester, it seems that I encounter the same attitude of writing to the void rather than writing to actual people, yet I know how savvy they can be about rhetorical strategizing when they use it in their lives and social networks like Facebook.
So in the interests of promoting student risk-taking for user-generated content creation, I made a Facebook page specifically for teaching to give my students a place to congregate informally. I also have critical thinking themes with assigned and optional reading lists, and am going to encourage students to also find their own examples each week to post on this page.
Even though I am a fairly young college teacher, students still seem intimidated by me until I've had time to show them that I am not that intimidating. However, I feel this sort of interaction was lacking in my last online class and I want to improve my relations with students in a way that makes them comfortable to engage with the risks of creation in writing.
I am also giving serious consideration to including some form of service-learning element--particularly for online courses where intrinsic engagement is so infrequent. My hope is that including a real-world contact point for applying the lessons from class with increase student motivation, not just to write, but to write for a real-world audience.
Tenia un trabajo!

Electric Paths 2012-02-28 11:48:00

My First Blog (sort of)

I signed up for an online 5-week workshop on teaching in digital environments and this blog is designed to help me think through the materials I will be reading/viewing for the next few weeks. I'm not sure if this blog will have a life after the workshop ends, but I'll worry about that when I get there.

About Me: Right now, I teach writing at the University of Hawai'i and Honolulu Community College. When I'm not teaching, I'm writing for a Veagan blog and working as the Head Editor for the Zombie Research Society. I graduated from the University of Maine with a dual degree in English Literature and Secondary Education Studies. From Maine, I came to grad school in Hawai'i to pursue my MA in English Composition & Rhetoric. I completed my MA in 2012 with a project about meta-ethics in the videogame Portal, which I find funny because when I started college in 2003, I couldn't program my DVD player. I'm happy to say my technological skills have come a long way since then.

My hope for this blog is that I will be able to document my learning in this workshop and maybe provide further resources to my peers on the Internet.

Gracias por su tiempo :)