Friday, May 25, 2012

Community College success stories

Two days ago almost 1000 students graduated from Hudson County Community College.  The ceremony was the usual, with a speaker, a valedictorian, and the calling out of all the names, which took about 1 1/2 hours.  I knew the valedictorian this year.  He was in my World Lit class in the fall, and plays the judge in the trial of Creon (which you can view on my youtube account 'kosweeting').  He is a success story.  Growing up in Union City, of Spanish descent but not Spanish speaking, gay, and diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, he thought he was not college material.  Teachers persuaded him otherwise, and he was indeed quite successful at Hudson County - earning a perfect 4.0 and becoming valedictorian.  He gave a wonderful speech and is now on the way to New Jersey City University, on full scholarship.

Then there is the 59 year-old woman who got a degree in culinary arts, and immigrants who arrived not speaking a word of English less than 5 years ago, who are now graduating.  Community colleges are open access and equal opportunity, and many students would not have gone to college if not for community colleges.  I love these success stories.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smart phones?

This is the last post in my diatribe about technology.  To buy or not to buy a smart phone - that is the question.  I don't have a smart phone, or at least I don't pay for the privilege of going online on my phone.  Why not, you may ask?  Honestly, mainly because I don't see the need for it.  I have a laptop at home, and I walk to work and have a computer there.  As I spend most of my time either at home or on campus, why would I need a smart phone?

I do see the benefit, but I compare myself to folks who don't drive.  As most people do drive, those who don't can find a ride when they need one 99% of the time.  If I really needed to access a smart phone when I'm out and about, I could borrow someone else's phone.

Here is one example.  On Mother's Day, our whole family was coming home from a nice Columbian dinner.  I was lamenting the fact that the Amazing Race is over, which is a fun show to watch on Sunday nights.  The wife in the winning couple did really well on the tasks, so I mentioned to my family "she was a good competer."  Oh, they got a good laugh out of that one.  "Mom, competer is not a word.  It's competitor" my 20-something year-old son said.  My youngest son stood by my side, and said he thought competer was indeed a word.  I asked my husband to ask Siri - the virtual assistant on the newest iPhone.  Siri came back with 'completer.' No help there.

When we got home, which was in less than a 1/2 hour, my youngest son looked it up on  Sure enough, 'competer' is a word.  Thank God - as an English teacher it's not really fashionable to invent new words, though if Shakespeare can . . .

Of all the technology I am not currently using, a smart phone is probably the one I am more likely to buy -- but not right now.  I'd get it if only to play 'words with friends' with my oldest son, who would probably cream me every time!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Facebook - like?

Most of you are probably on Facebook.  I'm not.  This has been a deliberate choice, for many reasons.  I respect the decision to join Facebook, and who knows, I may join at some point, and I appreciate when others respect my decision to not join.  But I have felt an enormous amount of pressure to join.  And to be honest, the more pressure is exerted, the less inclined I am to join.  That may be my stubborn side, but I don't want to do something just because everyone else is doing it. 

Here are some of the reasons I'm not on Facebook:
1) My privacy is already invaded enough - I'm not comfortable having personal information splashed across the web.  Yes, I know, there are privacy settings.  And yes I know, most of my personal information is already accessible.  But I can control having a Facebook page.
2)  I have enough friends and family to keep up with as it is, so I don't feel the need to connect with folks I haven't seen or heard from in 30 years.  Another pro-Facebook argument is that it helps one connect with folks from high school, or college.  Frankly, I try to be a good friend to all my current friends, and that is enough for me!

3)  It's another thing to 'check' every day.  When I worked as an adjunct, at two colleges, I had 4 email accounts to check every day.  I didn't want something else to have to check consistently.

4)  I prefer to spend my time in person with folks, or even on the phone, rather than online.  I'm old fashioned.  There - I said it.  I'd much rather go out for lunch, or tea, or a walk, than communicate with folks online.

Of course, who knows, I may become a fan and you'll see me with a Facebook page and wonder what happened.  But for now, I'm happy with my choice.  I even have mixed feelings about blogging, but there is more control with blogging, and it's not as personal. 

Let me know why you like, or don't like, or have ambivalent feelings about Facebook.  I'd love to hear your responses.  Part three on my philosophy of technology will be on smart phones.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Philosophy of Technology

I've been thinking lately about my philosophy of technology.  What do I mean?  Well, I have deliberately chosen to avail myself of some of the latest in technology, and have assiduously avoided other fads.  I am very conscious of the choices I make regarding the use of technology, and I want to insure that I rule it, it doesn't rule me. My fear is that technology can creep into our lives little by little, and rob us of our intellectual initiative, our ability to problem solve, even our ability to think.  This is a fear I have for myself, which is why I avoid some kinds of technology, and it is a fear I have for my students. 

Here is one example.  One of my students recently showed me how with Microsoft Word one can enter in information and a parenthetical citation and Works Cited page will be automatically generated.  I teach my composition students how to do parenthetical citations, and how to compose a Works Cited page, and most of them are unfamiliar with this feature in Word.  Hence my dilemma - do I continue to teach them as I have been doing, making them think, use the book or the Purdue OWL online website, or do I teach them the feature in Word, that creates it for them?  Or do I use some combination of the two?  I'm undecided.  A student still must enter in the correct information in the correct places, and find the correct MLA version.

Example number two involves Google.  When a student doesn't know the answer to something, he or she 'googles' it.  I use Google myself, quite often in fact, but I'm afraid that my students are not aware of all the other places one can find information -- books, libraries, other people, reliable websites. 

One last example, for now, is the GPS.  My husband bought us a GPS for Christmas.  I pride myself on my ability to read a map and find my way to places I've never been, and my sense of direction is usually good.  But I have used the GPS, and I must say, I like it.  However, I don't depend on it.  I still have directions, through mapquest, or  a person, or a map, and I use it to make sure I'm going in the right direction, in the vicinity of my destination. 

This is part one of my philosophy.  For part two I will write about why I have chosen not to open a Facebook account or use a Smart Phone.  I'd love to hear about your philosophy of technology.  Or if you don't have one - why not develop your own!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Prescription for writers

As I age, I have more and more doctors -- one for my eyes, my ears, my teeth, my heart, my skin . . . and so on.  And I have discovered that doctors can be a great source of knowledge and encouragement, and not just about health issues.  My cardiologist is a published poet and an aspiring novelist.  He and I both recently finished our first novels, and he has advised me about helpful conferences, and venues to 'pitch' my novel to publishers and agents.  We compare notes about our novels, and are racing to the finish line - publication.

I recently went for my bi-annual visit to my dentist.  Though there are fewer opportunities to converse with a dentist, as he (or she) usually has his (or her) hand (or hands) in one's mouth, but before and after the actual work there is time for brief conversation.  He asked me what my plans were for the summer, and I told him I wanted to finish, finally and completely finish, my book and find an agent.  Lo and behold, he has a friend who is a literary agent and has her own firm.  I was happily surprised.  He asked for my information and told me he'd contact her to see if she might be interested in receiving a query letter from me (a letter aspiring novelists write to entice agents or publishers to want to read the entire manuscript). 

I wrote my email address down for him, and the name Olaudah Equiano - as my historical novel is about the daughter and sister of Equiano.  I figured if the agent knew his name, she would be more likely to want to receive a query.  Later that same day my dentist emailed me - she knew the name Equiano and would be happy to receive a query. Yippee!  I'm fine-tuning my query and the first five pages, and will soon be sending them through cyberspace to a fine literary agency in Florida, in hopes that this agent may want to represent me, and find me a publisher.  I'll keep you updated here on my blog.

So, opportunities for networking can be found in the most unlikely places.  And I have found one ideal place is the doctor's office!  My prescription for aspiring writers, don't neglect an opportunity to talk about your book as you never know who might be able to help you on the journey to publication.