Being Wrong (but not about the iPad; it kicks @$$!)

I haven’t had a chance to get back to my blog mash-up series for over a week now. I have been thinking a lot about it, but not necessarily in productive waysmaybe I am letting it simmer too long. Honestly, I have spent the past few hours (and some of yesterday too) trying to figure out what to write and where to go with it. The kids are out of school and I started another blog project with STA. I am also struggling a little as I try to negotiate the different writing styles required for blogs and academic journals. Oh well.

I am now taking a break from it for the rest of the day. Time for some fun writing. A few days ago I purchased my very first iBook for the iPad: Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. I found out about this book in a New York Times review. I was drawn to it because of my serious interest in troublemaking (and the trouble that being wrong and failing to be right causes). To me, being wrong seems a lot like being uncertain, which is also a lot like staying in trouble. To be wrong is also to come up against one’s limits of knowing what to do or how to do it. This reminds me of Foucault and his discussion of the limit attitude in “What is Enlightenment?” Now, I don’t think Foucault would describe this as being wrong, which seems to be a judgment, always made in relation to its opposite: being right. However, I think Schulz’s ideas about the value of wrongness do share some similarities with Foucault and his promotion of limits and problematization (or problem posing). But, in the interest of keeping this entry on the light side, I won’t get into those similarities right now. I am trying to work on the value of problem posing in relation to repair and care for my mash-up and I am still struggling with it.

Check out a few passages from the book (and what I have read so far) on:

the value of being wrong

Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error [as failure] might well top the list. It is our meta-mistake: we are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, imagination, conviction, and courage. And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world (12, in iBooks version).

the pedagogy of being wrong

…however disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are (12).

the connection between being wrong and imagination

We already say that “seeing the world as it is not” is pretty much the definition of erring–but it is also the essence of imagination, invention and hope. As that suggests, our errors sometimes bear far sweeter fruits than the failure and shame we associate with them. True, they represent a movement of alienation, both from ourselves and from a previously convincing vision of the world. But what’s wrong with that? “To alienate” means to make unfamiliar; and to see things–including ourselves–as unfamiliar is an opportunity to see them anew (35).

So far, I am really enjoying this book. I want to spend some more time thinking about the ways I agree and disagree with her assessment of being wrong. For right now, I am happy to be reading a book that sees value in erring or, as Schulz eloquently puts it, “fucking up.” Cool.

I’m reading this book on my iPad. I really like it. Let me list just a few reasons why:

  • It turns the page like a real book. I know everyone mentions this feature. There’s a reason why they do; it’s pretty damn cool. Not only does it look cool, but it feels cool and makes it really easy to flip back and forth between pages. It’s like a “real” book, but better. And much better than kindle books (yes, I have the kindle app too).
  • It has a useful bookmark feature. Sure, many people complain about how the bookmark feature doesn’t bookmark anything (unlike the Kindle). Instead, it highlights text. While I agree that calling this feature a bookmark is rather strange, I happen to like that it highlights (and in at least five different colors!). I used it to keep track of the passages that I cited above. I anticipate using this feature a lot during the semester.
  • It can download books instantly.
  • It lights up so that you can read in bed. I don’t have a bedside lamp right now and I have been lamenting the fact that I can’t read much at night. That is, until now. I can read the iPad all night if I want to (which I don’t) and, if I’m feeling considerate to STA (which I usually am), I can dim the light a little so that I can still read without blinding them. While I have never used a Kindle, I’ve been told (and have read) that it doesn’t have its own light. What’s the point, then?

But, of course, the iPad and iBooks aren’t perfect (not even close. But, if you have been reading this entry you will hopefully recognize that I don’t mind when things fail or when things go wrong). Here are a few things I don’t like:

  • As others have suggested, the iBooks selection is pretty pathetic right now, especially for academic books. Does it have any books by Judith Butler? No. Sara Ahmed? No. Jasbir Puar? Yeah, right. Michel Foucault. Just one: Abnormal. If the selection doesn’t change in the next few months, I won’t be using iBooks for my classes at all. Now, the Kindle app for the iPad does have quite a few choices. Several Butler books. One by Ahmed. Tons of Foucault. While I don’t like the Kindle app experience quite as much, I do appreciate their selection of books.
  • You can highlight text but you can’t take notes in iBooks. At least, I don’t think you can. I know that you can on the Kindle, but I don’t see how in iBooks. Any iPad users out there?

In reflecting on being wrong, I can’t help but think about failure and the seemingly ubiquitous internet meme, FAIL. I know that this has been around for years, but I have never taken the time to explore its origins or meanings. Thank goodness I don’t have to; youtube as done it for me. Check it out:

Speaking of memes, I must present my own FAIL. I recently posted a clip called “The Dramatic Chipmunk”. Well, I knew it was old and had gone viral some time ago. But I didn’t realize it was three years old or that it was the dramatic prairie dog (okay, I knew it wasn’t a chipmunk; I was torn between thinking it was squirrel or a hamster). My bad (and how old is that phrase?). Here’s a youtube video that exposes my (epic?) fail:

Did I mention that I love my iPad?

In a happy coincidence, my iPad arrived on the final day of my classes for the spring semester. Feeling adventurous, I decided to try grading some of my final papers on it, using Aji’s iAnnotate. This app enables you to get pdfs from your laptop, annotate them (with highlighting, underlining, post-it notes, free-writing mark-ups), and then upload them again. I read 5 of my student’s papers on my iPad and was able to highlight their text and make comments via annotated post-it notes. Then I uploaded them back to my computer and sent them as a attachments to the students. While I haven’t heard back from the students yet (I just sent them out last night and this afternoon), I found the experience to be very helpful. Actually, I love reading and grading papers this way. I think it will allow me to engage even more with the student and their writing/ideas. Once (and if) I hear back from students about their experiences getting feedback this way, I will write a follow-up post (or a comment on this post).

Here’s their description of what iAnnotate can do:

And here’s a brief example of my annotations on a document:

I don’t think I will ever read articles the same way again…

Word count: 200

I Love My New iPad

I am writing this blog entry on my new iPad and I love it! I hope to experiment all summer with ways of using it in my writing and teaching. Any suggestions? I can’t wait to play around with the iBooks and the Kindle apps. I am hoping to store a lot of my articles/pdfs here so that I won’t have to print them out anymore. I also am looking forward to experimenting with drawing apps. I just found one thing that I won’t be able to do on this iPad: it looks like I can’t upload images and post them on here. Oh well, I am sure that that is not the first limitation I will find.

A blogging breakthrough?

As I have chronicled in my teaching with blogs section, I have been experimenting over the past year (yes, I have been writing in this blog for almost a year–May 12th is my one year anniversary!) with the blog as a writing and teaching tool. Ever since giving my workshop on “teaching with blogs and blogging while teaching” this past February, I have given special attention to thinking about how to use a blog entry as the foundation for and content of my in-class discussions. I imagine it as an alternative to powerpoint. Why, you may ask, do we need an alternative to powerpoint? Unlike many others, I am not strongly opposed to power point. But for some reason, I have never been compelled to use it. It doesn’t seem to fit with how my brain works or how I want to present and discuss images/video clips, etc. (Note: I am not ruling out powerpoint and am open to suggestions on how to use it effectively. Any thoughts?)

I plan to write extensively about my experiences with course blogs this summer. For now I want to highlight a few entries from this week that have been particularly successful and productive; entries that inspired me to think that I might just be experiencing a blogging breakthrough.

Example One: Thoughts about Happiness, the Unhappy Archives, Gidget, the trouble with dinner, and putting the hap back in happiness

This entry was used as the format for a discussion of Sarah Ahmed’s recent work on happiness in my graduate class on troublemaking (feminist and queer explorations in troublemaking). I used the entry:

  • to reference my own writing on Ahmed and happiness (from this blog)
  • to highlight particular passages from the readings (and questions that I want to discuss)
  • to connect the current readings with concepts/ideas/readings discussed earlier in the semester
  • to post video clips that allowed for further engagement/explanation/complication of some key themes in the readings

I found this format to be a lot of fun (to create and discuss). I am particularly proud of how well the two video clips worked with and against Ahmed’s idea of the feminist killjoy and her discussion of the killing of joy (and the exposing of bad feelings) at the dinner table. I have wanted to do something with Debbie Downer for a while now, ever since I suggested that J Butler might be one in my entry on grief. And I love how bringing in these video clips allowed me to approach the material in a different way–and bring in our discussion about humor and comedy from earlier in the semester.

Example Two: A Feminist Response to the Arizona Immigration Bill (SB1070)

This entry was used as the format for a discussion about the Prison Industrial Complex and “protection: for whom? and at what cost?” in my mid-level undergraduate feminist debates class. The class met this past Tuesday, just days after Gov. Brewer had signed SB1070. The topic of immigration rights, the PIC, and problematic claims of “protection” and “safety” seemed to fit very well with the bill and how it was being discussed by a wide range of bloggers and media outlets, so I decided to make this entry the focus of our class. I used this entry:

  • to provide some context and more information about the bill by summarizing parts of the bill and the discussions surrounding it, and by posting a wide range of links–including a link to the actual bill and to Gov. Brewer’s explanation of it
  • to offer a brief overview of some critical responses to the bill and the implications of it for people living and working in Arizona
  • to connect the reading to an important recent issue and allow students to apply their growing knowledge of feminist critiques of the PIC to current events
  • to post a video clip that encourages students to be curious and to think critically about current events and how they are represented within the news (or the “fake news”–can we call The Colbert Report fake news?)
  • to provide a space, and an example, that could enable students to revisit all of the issues we discussed during the semester and that would encourage them to be curious about the bill

All in all, I think I am figuring out some productive ways for using the blog for my presentation and discussion of key ideas and concepts. In past classes, I have relied (a lot) on extensive handouts. This requires using a lot of paper (especially in classes with 40+ students) and can be overwhelming (and let’s face it, boring) for students. Blog entries enable me to document my notes/ideas/reflections without wasting paper and in a way that is engaging and interesting for many (most?) of the students and for me.

One thing that happened in both classes that I thought was interesting (and cool) was that I didn’t merely read the blog entry from top to bottom. In both classes we jumped around, oftentimes coming back to material again and again. In the feminist debates class the students said several times, “can you scroll back up…I want to talk about how the language was used here or about the idea there…”. The format of the blog made it easy to go back and forth and back again. It also enabled me to jump around, click on links, and bring up new information that related to students’ comments.

One more random thought for today: Does anyone else have problems with boring group (or individual) presentations that seem unfocused and not well-thought out, and that rely too much on powerpoint? This semester in my feminist debates class, I encouraged students to give their very brief presentations directly off of their blog entries (which were a required part of the assignment). So far, the presentations this semester have been more interesting than past classes. A little late in the game (which always happens when I am experimenting), I realized that I should encourage this format even more and give them a sample format. So I posted this entry earlier today. I think that I might require students to use the blog for their presentation next year. I might even provide them with one or two possible formats to use. By making it a structured requirement, I might increase my chances for getting better presentations (that present the material more effectively and that are more interesting). Hmmm….

Learning Exercise: Women’s Studies, Curiosity and the Value of Asking Questions

The following is a learning exercise for use in an introductory Women’s Studies classroom. I have constructed this assignment to be brief–only taking up 12-15 minutes. However, ideally it would serve as the introduction to a longer class session/discussion. You can download an abbreviated version of the assignment here.

Because I am always interested in experimenting with different techniques for using the blogs in (and as) the classroom, I decided to put this learning exercise on my blog. Anyone reading this blog is welcome to do the exercise. Try it out and then tell me what you like/don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work. You can post a comment to this entry or any of the 4 parts of the exercise.

Click on the links in order to “do” this exercise.

A. What makes you curious about this image/object?
B. Why aren’t we curious? Feminism and the importance of curiosity
C. What questions can we ask about this image/object?
D. A Final Exercise

POSSIBLE IMPLEMENTATIONS: This exercise is designed for use in a wide range of classrooms.

In a face-to-face classroom, I envision using this exercise as the introduction to a larger discussion about curiosity and some different ways that feminists are curious about the world. In this version, the students could break up into groups after this exercise and discuss their various questions. Then, as a group, they would report on one question (or line of questions) that they find particularly compelling and we would have a large group discussion about the various questions.

In a hybrid classroom, I envision using this exercise as the foundation for students’ engagement with the lesson for that section. Students would spend time on the exercise, clicking on the various links and reading the articles (indicated here on the final part of this exercise) that are related to the exercise and topic of discussion. They would post an entry on their own questions and comment on other students’ post (at least 2). Finally, we would have a face-to-face session in which we discuss the readings and our questions.

In an online classroom, I envision using this exercise in many of the same ways as in the hybrid classroom. However, instead of meeting face-to-face, students would actively engage more with each other on the blog and through online discussions (of their questions and comments). Students might also be required to post their own links to images, blog sites, media examples that connect with their own questions.

One other important note about the design of this exercise: It is designed to accommodate a wide range of students and their various levels of interest, time and ability. I deliberately provide a lot of information for students who want to learn more, but I don’t make reading and engaging with all of that information a requirement of the assignment. Additionally, I provide a wide range of different perspectives on topics, so as to reach as many different students (and their varied experiences and interests) as possible. Whenever I use assignments like this one, I always try to be clear about this aspect of the design so that they are not overwhelmed by the assignment.