Looking around

In classes on Monday (1/28) and Tuesday (1/29), I asked students to fill out this survey: technology survey. It’s anonymous, so please be honest! (I’m doing a presentation this March on using blogs with students, and I wanted to collect a little data about students’ initial attitudes and tech backgrounds and then see how and if attitudes change during the course of the semester.) If you missed class, please fill out the survey on your own–it will just take a few minutes.

In class, I also asked students to write a short post on their blog answering the question “What do you pay attention to?” (For example, my seven-year-old daughter paid attention to the color of her teachers’ shoes; I pay attention to where the Big Dipper and Casseiopeia are in the night sky, what the speed limit is on the roads I travel, misspellings in signs and newspapers, calorie counts on packaged food, how many games the Red Sox are behind in the standings–I could go on…)

Ongoing assignment (for the next four weeks). Ten days or so ago I came across this blog post: tweet a squirrel, which describes a writing challenge that I thought would be great for this class.¬†Please read the post by clicking on the link, and also read this page, which the Hoarded Ordinaries post links to: small stones. Your task/challenge is to start collecting your own small stones, with the goal of five per week. My aim here is twofold: to help to get you into a regular writing habit (which is tremendously valuable for a writer) and to give you practice is paying attention to your environment (which is also crucial for a writer–and I hope useful in coming up with topics to write about in the last section of the course).¬† You can choose whatever form you’d like these small stones to take; you can write a single sentence or several sentences or something more fragmentary. The point is to notice something, and then to capture it in words (you may also include a photograph sometimes or occasionally or always, as you’d like). Spend some time polishing your stones, i.e., think about the words you use, trying to create a sharp, strong image.

A couple things to think about as you get started:

  • Think about a way to make this “paying attention” part of your regular routine (as the blogger in Hoarded Ordinaries does by paying attention as she brings her dog outside in the morning). I’m going to try to do it as I drive to school in the morning; if you’re half-asleep in the morning, try some time later in the day, while you’re driving or walking or running. You can notice anything you’d like, but I think the most useful way to approach this for this course would be to pay attention to something in your own community.
  • Decide on where you’d like to collect these small stones. If you’re a paper person, carry around a small notebook or an index card to write down your observation. You could also jot them down on your phone, or you could post them on your blog. If you’ve got a twitter or a tumblr account, they’d work fine too. If you don’t post these online daily (on blog, twitter feed, etc.), please do post them weekly on your blog for the course or post a link to some other feed. In other words, they should be publicly accessible, at least on a weekly basis.

I will not be looking at these daily, but will spot-check them. An assignment later in the semester will ask you to select a handful of your best small stones and ask you to reflect a little on the process.

If you have any questions, please post them as comments below.



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  1. Pingback: Writing about Place (hybrid) - Week 2 work

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