Personal #writer’s transition: From pen and paper to #digital drafting

Crafting an effective writer: Tools of the Trade {Coursera / MSJC} – Forum question

Think about the process you follow when you compose a piece of writing. Do you follow a series of steps that work for you? If so, share the steps you follow. After reading about the five step writing process detailed in this unit, do you think that your process of writing could be enhanced?

 

 

Whenever I have to jot something down quickly, I just scribble some words on paper. But when there’s an assignment, essay, article or something like that I skip the whole traditional process and fully utilize the media. It wasn’t always like that  for me, of course. I ve had serious trouble accepting e-books and the fact that clicks would take the place of flipping through pages. Still as time goes by, I am getting used to technology enhanced writing / reading.

The stages of writing: 

Inventing:

I ‘ve always started with listing as a brainstorming technique. I like keeping things linear, I am also obsessed with structure – well at least I try to keep it that way. To do so, I usually benefit from a note taking app on my desktop – this is really useful if you re using mobile phones as well – if you see something of interest, note it down on your cell, maybe take a picture. Visuals are great when it comes to supporting your writing. You may even consider writing based on something you saw and captured your attention.

Freewriting usually works too.

Audience and purpose: 

Contemplate what it is you are actually writing about and maybe imagine your average reader (he could take the imaginary form of a tiny avatar for fun’s sake). Post your drafts on a blog and ask for feedback. At first you might get one or two hits, but don’t be discouraged. Once the Internet embraces your presence, you will gradually enrich this process and at the end of the day get your own audience. Most of all, drafting will become a dynamic process.

Organizing:

The crucial think about writing for academia is evidence and that takes a lot of time. Most of the time I prefer to digitally highlight some important ideas from an article / text (bibliography). Bookmarking webpages also works when surfing Internet’s  vast ocean of information.

If it’s creative inspiration I ‘m after, I place a small footnote on short stories or novel pages, concerning what I liked or didn’t like, again using digital note taking tools.

Drafting and Revising:

For me it’s both happening at the same time. I write something, I decide I don’t like it, I write something else instead. I think the most basic point here is: RETURN to your work. I ‘ve personally spent hours on end on a single article. Writer’s block? Maybe. I would probably go with fatigue. Take a rest, press SAVE and then come back to drafting / revising after a day or two. It will still be there but you will start fresh. And that always works wonders for you, trust me.

Editing /  Punctuation  / Spelling: 

Check. This takes seconds. Just open spell checker and maybe a polishing tool on the web. Typos be gone! If you had received any feedback from readers or peers – or your Mom – incorporate it wisely.

Retrieved 12th June 2013 from: http://jsandhouse.files.wordpress.com

 

You can’t really tell if your personal writing process will stay intact forever. I have to admit that as technology advances maybe the current tools I am using will be rendered obsolete in a couple of years. Still, since it is a matter of personal taste, I wouldn’t worry about “formalities” such as writing stages though. Can you really cage creativity?

 

 

 

Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade – Week 2: Writing Assessment {Coursera / MSJC}

Choose two of the sentences listed below to expand by adding logical additional parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases). Your sentence should be at least twelve to fifteen words.

  • The children play.
  • The woman walks.
  • The sharks swim.
  • The flowers bloom.
  • The wind blows.
  • The computer hums.

Expansion attempts: 

The group of great, white sharks swim ominously closer to the diver in circles, while he is trying to capture a decent photo of them, alas in vain.

For days I rove about the soulless plains but, all I seem to be able to listen to, is the cold, northern wind that blows incessantly, humming through the frigid landscape of what was once a city of humans, long before the “Others” arrived in their spaceships, bringing an end to the age of Men on planet Earth. 

ps. That was the most fun and challenging assignment I had so far in a course!

Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade – Week 2: Journal entries 1 & 2 {Coursera / MSJC}

Module 1 Writing Activity

In your journal, write down a list of at least five to ten nouns and five to ten adjectives as you observe a scene at home, work, or in your community.

For the purposes of this assignment I chose a scene from my community, my town called Alexandroupolis situated in Northern Greece.

Nouns [10]: 

  • sea
  • lighthouse
  •  cafés
  • seagull
  • street
  • cars
  • amusement park
  • square
  • fountain
  • street lamps

Adjectives [10]:

  • bustling
  • bright
  • towering
  • local
  • colorful
  • flying
  • seaside
  • cozy
  • luminous
  • azure (blue)

Module 2 Writing Activity

In your journal, continue your list of nouns and adjectives by adding in five to ten verbs and adverbs. Then, write a couple of sentences using your list of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.

Verbs [10]:

  •  teem with
  • glow
  • are located
  • squawk
  • discern
  • marvel
  • stretch
  • stroll
  • draw one’s gaze
  • is/are

Adverbs [10]:

  • brightly
  • casually
  • noisily
  • enough
  • typically
  • almost
  • soon
  • virtually
  • surely
  • there

Sentences [8]:

How can you not  marvel at the azure blue sea that stretches beyond the horizon?

A flying seagull squawks noisily up ahead in the distance.

If you look close enough, you could almost discern a small fountain next to the  towering lighthouse.

The bustling street is teeming with cars parked across the lane.

On the left our gaze is drawn by a colorful wheel; an amusement park is surely somewhere over there.

People in the square are casually strolling around or drinking refreshments at the local cafés.

Typically, seaside cafés are located virtually everywhere in Greece; cozy tables of four accomodating groups of friends or family reunions discussing hours on end while sipping “frape”.

As nightfall time closes in,  luminous street lamps will start glowing brightly.

Writing II: Rhetorical Composing {Coursera / Ohio State University}

 

Assignment 1: Getting to Know You

How writing two hours prior to deadline looks like

 

Dear reader,

Language acquisition skills are divided between productive and receptive. Writing and speaking are productive ones; reading and listening fall into the second category.

{Ok, strike out that first sentence; that’s me being a language teacher. Plus I already sound boring. Let’s just take that from the start.}

Writing is virtually everywhere! We write notes when we study; we make lists and jot down groceries or stuff to do; we write our status or clever quotes on social media platforms.

{Wait…what? Noooooo, I am supposed to write an essay on me as a writer – not what we write, what I write is the point.}

Ok, this is hard. I write. I just do. I mean I like it. I can express myself in writing. I am not a native speaker, so I write primarily in another language. When I do write in English, I sound a bit pompous; I look up definitions, I come up with pleasurable {ha! nice one} vocabulary, I make notes of catchy phrases, I overdo it sometimes. Words are like adding salt to your cooking; too much will make it inedible, not enough and it tastes blunt, unimpressive.

Written speech is powerful. Look at the Bible. Or the Quran.  Or Perez Hilton’s blog. Anyway the point is if you can write effectively, you will have an audience to follow you. Readers are a faithful crowd, dear. You are loved and hated at the same time. And the advice, oh, that wonderful word: “feedback”. Who invented editing anyway? I bet ya, the first editor was a man who hated writers. Virginia Wolf’s “stream of consciousness” would be edited. Blasphemous? Perhaps. True, nonetheless.

{Again I digress. Back to writing.}

So, I like writing and I want to have readers giving me their thoughtful advice.  I want to write about fairytales, myths and legends.

{Great now I sound like the narrator from Xena, the warrior princess. Hmm, that’s not so bad, come to think of it.}

I like writing fiction. I want to immerse my readers in magical worlds and mysterious heroes. I want to figure out plots that are more complicated than George R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”.  I want to sound educated and polyglot like Umberto Eco. I want to invent a whole other language like Tolkien did.

{k pull yourself together, girl. And ease up a little bit on coffee.}

I never wrote poems as a kid. Every time I tried keeping a diary – so hype back in those days – I gave up after a couple of entries. I did write a small article for my school newspaper. I can’t remember much though. During senior high school I recall writing numerous pages on essay topics like “the importance of historical context” and “cultural aspects” of  blah blah. I didn’ t like that kind of writing.

I like writing for unknown stuff. I like writing about what’s going to happen, I like writing about novelties or premonitions. In 11th grade, I took part in a writing competition. Two students from the school would get to go to the Parliament and talk about their topic of choice in front of politicians and a youth council comprised of students from all over the country. I wrote an essay on Dolly the sheep (google it) and bioethics. My teacher told me I was too preoccupied with something that was completely unknown to – and utterly insignificant for – the general public. The year was 1996.

I like writing on Facebook. I also tweet. Oh, and I blog. Hey, I like writing on the Web, it’s fun, it’s quick, you got followers (aka readers), cool. People say it lacks syntax or grammar; it’s not academia but it’s explicit and conveys information, whether personal or not, almost instantly.

{That’s 630 words by now. I am out of ideas, anyone?}

I consider writers to be vulnerable. They expose themselves to you, dear reader. They write about their character’s thoughts but in effect they are expressing their own. They inform you of something happening in a newspaper; they are trying to exercise caution and protect you. They write scientific articles about the Higgs boson / particle (again google it); they are making a breakthrough. They are translating the works of others for you; they are preserving literature, memory and culture. They are scribbling short stories or poems; they make you laugh or bring about tearful moments.

I beg of you, do not ask yourself what kind of writer I am. In all honesty, I simply feel like one. You yourself are a writer. They out there are all writers. Whether these people are any good or not, it’s for their readers to decide. So ponder on this, dearest friend: What kind of reader are you?

 

{and that’s 817 words *cheers*}

Tools to accompany your MOOC study regime in a MMOG manner

I realized only recently that the amount of work MOOC students are burdened with is huge; especially if you are enrolled as a “hardcore” Mooc player (over 4 MOOCs at the same time). [ as opposed to a “social” MOOC player < participating in 3 MOOCs or less ].

Imagine an average World of Warcraft raider. He needs time to raise up professions (make money to buy gear), go through rep(utation) quests and dungeons ( justice / valor points to get gear) and finally endure the raid finder process (again, better gear). At the same time he is speaking to his guild mates and in the server central forum. He seeks guidance, helps out (or gets into a fight with immature brats, but I won’t go there)

{Notice I am using “he” as a pronoun. Girl gamers just claim they are indeed female. They are shipped to raiding teams immediately. :p}

Imagine the sought after gamer  gear being knowledge for MOOCers (is that really a term?). Now a MOOC student, watches video lectures. Lots of them. So there’s your time.  Naturally he keeps notes, stores PDF files, studies online webpages and articles, answers quizzes and produces written homework. That’s his way of preparing for “end-game” content. Then he is into forums and social media groups, discussing and giving / receiving feedback (or rage, this is really like Wow come to think of it).

Both cases exhibit dedication on behalf of the player. In the end however things are different. Gamers get to keep tokens of their time, efforts and contribution:

  • screenshots or videos to remind them of their best moments in-game.
  • Bank slots and void storage, where their gear (well if it’s pretty enough or rare) is safely stored.
  • Achievements that are -again – bookmarked in their profile
  • The sense of sheer “epicness” when they finally achieve taking down the raid boss.

What do MOOC students get in the end? A lousy digital certificate. Well played, Coursera, well played.

Students immerse themselves as much as an average gamer does. So why not add to that experience and actually keep memoirs of your work? It’s not just a seminar, it’s a legitimate online undergraduate course. I would encourage you to think about the following:

  • All those notes and post-its hanging around on your desk or online, these assignments you worked so hard for, interesting video excerpts or your recorded own voice should go somewhere that matters (not just your desk or OneNote)
  • Start making a e-portfolio with samples of your work and ceritfications. Try Europass or new start ups especially tailored for continuing education. Add those courses to your CV. Try making a visual CVImage, even better.
  • All those interesting articles that appear in the readings section of the course need to be bookmarked and tagged so you can find them later – believe me you will need to.
  • Use the social media hubs wisely: instead of spending hours on end on the course’s facebook group, search what’s effectively going on on the entire Internet based on that particular course using hashtags.

These are only minor examples of what you can use to boost your productivity and mostly end up with all your study time saved effectively. MOOC is not about a damn certificate. It’s the journey that counts.

PS. Wouldn’t it be nice to display that “journey” to potential employers too?

English Composition I: Achieving expertise {Coursera/ Duke} assignment – Critical review (final)

Rozalia Zeibeki

Professor Denise Comer

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

15 April 2013

 

Review:  Coyle, Daniel (2009).  The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam (Extract from Chapter I)

Greatness and its shortcomings

        The human boundaries of excellence in various areas of expertise continue to stretch beyond our expectations. People nowadays are getting faster, stronger – perhaps even more intelligent – and overall better at what they are tasked to do. Given this context of continuous antagonism and effort, certain people always seem to stand out in the crowd: those who are actually better than average, the gifted ones. What makes them arise from mediocre state? One would assume innate, inexplicable “talent” is the first answer that comes to mind; judging by its title, Coyle begs to differ in his book The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

      In the first chapter of his book, based on his copious research along nine so called “talent hotbeds” [12] or as a friend more colloquially suggested “chicken-wire Harvards” [11], Coyle delves in the matter of talent and its components. Carefully trying to assign a definition to the term, Coyle introduces us to the world of sports, psychology and flight simulation; the results in all cases seem to deter the notion that talented people are miraculously so. Along with the brief descriptions of his endeavor coylethat took him on what his daughter compares to an alternative “treasure hunt” [12], readers of his work actually come to realize that perhaps the term “talent”[11] is highly overrated; perhaps it does exist in terms of a being prone to a grandeur in certain fields – mainly athletic – but it should be more properly substituted by the term “deep practice” [16]. For Coyle it’s nothing more really than “practice makes perfect” motto reinvented. In page 18 Coyle defines this as a paradox since”… experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.” Indeed after skimming the first pages of the chapter it seems quite reasonable to the author and the audience as well, that through constant effort we redeem ourselves through our mistakes; we actually become better at what we are trying to do by doing it wrong at first – it is in the human nature to strive for perfection amidst fallacy.

In order to back his assumptions Coyle makes use of the scientific world as well as that of empirical data. Professor Bjork, chair of psychology in the prestigious UCLA, provides the very definition of the chapter’s title: “”It’s all about finding the sweet spot,” Bjork said. «There’s an optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do.  When you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.” [19] In other words it takes really more than just one’s time and strength; one needs to be able to do that efficiently.

However, Coyle uses more practical sightings of his ideas and to do so he implements a worldwide beloved sport: Brazilian football and the “supernatural skills” [24] of Brazilian football players. Coyle’s readers actually discover that unlike Maradona and his infamous hand[1], skills of the sort do not necessarily come as God’s gift. Moreover they are the result of another game, which happens to be quicker and more demanding, yet lesser in scale. “Futsal” [26] left Mr. Clifford – a coach from the other bank of the Atlantic – in awe of its potential implementation. He concurs: “It was clear to me that this was where Brazilian skills were born […] It was like finding the missing link.” [26] Baring witness to the Brazilian wonder, Clifford successfully paved the way to young Englishmen, following the example of their Brazilian comrades. They began practicing futsal “developing a soccer program for elementary and high-school-age kids that he called the Brazilian Soccer School. He constructed an elaborate series of drills based on futsal moves.”[28]. Laughable at first yet it actually worked providing Coyle with ample evidence, that he is on to something. These junior stars later defeated their Scottish peers and even took noted posts on their national team. “More stars, Clifford says, are on the way.”[29]

Coyle’s ideas seem refreshing as they are vividly depicted through numerous case studies. Indeed he captures the sentimental insecurity of his readers concerning potential drawbacks in performance and implies that through rigorous training, miracles are possible. Coyle argues that even Air force pilots benefit from the “opportunity to practice more deeply” [24] and as a result not only do they become more skilled but they also implementing – in this case – a life-saving technique.

As in all cases however there is a problematic aspect of Coyle’s assumptions. The empirical evidence used to support his ideas is distracting; we are being told of cases where hard work and training took a toll on talent but the recount of such stories is deliberately in favor of “deep practice”. Coyle mostly observes groups of people (namely pilots, football players) and not one-of-a-kind figures individually. Didn’t Maradona engage in equally hard training with his fellow comrades? We only seem to remember his name, though. Contrary to Coyle’s scientific theoretical approach, the emerging theory of gamification – as the Gamification wiki (2013) defines it – upholds the idea of “…game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”  As such the user becomes effectively a “player”; players are all equal when onboarding a gaming experience or during the process of scaffolding. Yet the “epic win” outcome – and the bonuses attached – is for those selected few, who might have spent equal amounts of “deep practice” but achieved goals more efficiently.

To sum up, Coyle makes a hard case against talent even from the early stages of his book; it is after all an effort of coming up with a self-improvement title, that might sell well. His ideas are carefully pitched and the examples come from various aspects of life so as to cover enough ground. Nevertheless, I cannot seem to stop questioning his intent: are we to dismiss talent? There are certainly things we are good at and then there are things we are great at; we can unquestionably narrow the margin towards greatness by “deep practice”. But being the best at something takes a lot more, I ‘m afraid.

 

References:

Diego Maradona.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Sept.       2001. Web. 14 April. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Maradona

Gamification wiki 2013, ‘What is gamification’, wiki article viewed 15 April 2013  http://utas.libguides.com/content.php?pid=27520&sid=289517

 

 

 


[1] Reference to the 1986 World cup football match. Wikipedia recounts “This match was played with the background of the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and emotions were still lingering in the air throughout the entire match. Replays showed that the first goal was scored by striking the ball with his hand. Maradona was coyly evasive, describing it as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” It became known as the “Hand of God“.

We are all readers. We are all writers. {I am a writer essay prompt for Coursera / Duke University English Composition I}

I AM A WRITER

 

Image

You told me to talk about days past and writing memories of old…Bitter rejections came to mind. Strange what a timeline of memoires can surface in people’s minds. Why is it that we always covet to remind ourselves of happiness and satisfaction? The harder we try the more we seem to drift to painful reminisces of past failures and mistakes in all matters of the heart and mind.

I looked upon my timeline and amongst scarce information I could only detect one or two blissful writing moments. Well, maybe three. Is it writing itself the villain? Am I to blame pen and pencil or that crude electronic device? Or perhaps is it the readers of my writings who pointed fingers arrogantly, my dismissive first grade teacher, my ever unsatisfied mother, my harsh supervising professor, all those criticizing faces…I should stop my “enemies” runt right there. Writing, ladies and gentlemen, is innocent! It’s the reading, the real culprit.

If one reads, one writes. If one knows how to read, one knows how to write. If one appreciates himself as a reader, then he will – I assure you – appreciate another as a writer. Beware of what you write and most of all beware of what you read.