In Tough Economic Times, Video Games Console

During the Great Depression, Americans flocked to the movies to escape the harsh realities of their daily lives. As the stock market tumbled and loved ones went off to war, Americans disappeared into dark theaters, where Shirley Temple sang and tap danced her way into their heavy hearts. Now, as the nation faces arguably the worst financial crisis since the Depression, video games may be playing the role movies once…

Daily deadlines won't wait for high-tech learning curve

Students in my “Media Projects” class are getting practice learning complex, new systems quickly. We’ve learned Blender 3D, we’ve started on Inform 7, and later we’ll move to Flash. My sister (or possibly her husband, who sometimes uses her e-mail address) sent me a link to an editorial on what it’s like to learn a new software system while you’re also dealing with the daily deadlines that define the news…

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Colleges Should Stand Up to the Entertainment Industry

The technical term is “deep packet inspection,” a process by which universities can examine the contents of electronic files that pass back and forth on their networks to see if they contain copyrighted material like the latest M.I.A. single or an episode of Gossip Girl. It’s the equivalent of requiring institutions to steam open and read every letter that passes through the campus mail. It’s also expensive, slows down the…

Those Who Write, Teach

My provost sent this link to the English faculty, inviting us to share our responses. My father succinctly summarized his feelings about my choice to dedicate my 20s to writing fiction. “You’re not living in the real world,” he said. I reacted with a young man’s defensiveness, but in retrospect his assessment seems less critical than a matter of fact. Which is where teaching comes in. It provides all the…

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Shattering the illusions of texting

An informative review of Crystal’s Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, a book I need to put on my reading list.  I’ve said many times that I’ve *never* encountered a student who absolutely cannot switch between txtspk and standard English.  Thus, to unpack that double-negative, I think students can and do regularly make the shift between social texting and more formal writing  — though I do think I’m seeing more instances of…

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Geek Music for Geeks Who Don't Really Like Music

When I went off to college (late 80s) I bought a handful of very cheap classical music cassette tapes, simply because I needed some music I could listen to on headphones to drown out the noise in the dorms.  I’ve also got a CD of classical marches, but again the reason is practical — I put it on when I have to clean up old papers or my e-mail in-box,…