Sunday, December 17, 2006

EDUTECH WIKI

After receiving Daniel Schneider's admonitory message and discussing in class about the points to improve when writing on a wiki, the purpose of this week was to modify our wiki contributions on edutech in order to render them more adapted to a standard wiki.
As regards me I made corrections at various levels.

First of all, I tried to paraphrase the primary source through the selection and condensation of the original text, only taking those notions that were absolutely indispensable to obtain a complete discourse. Obviously, paraphrasing means using one's words but without neglecting the original source, which gives your work credibility and reliability.
The paraphrase can also be accompanied by summaries and quotations. The former ones serve to enunciate the principal concepts after cutting a large part of the original text; the latter ones stress a particularly significant expression, sentence or passage. OWL web site suggests the correct procedure to follow in these cases:

1. Carefully read the whole text, trying to gather the main ideas;
2. Summarize each main idea using your own words;
3. Paraphrase all the points worthy of wider treatment;
4. Choose those words, phrases, sentences or passages that you want faithfully to cite.

I chose almost exclusively to paraphrase exactly because I wanted to write a more detailed résumé than a summary, also given the technicity of the subject (the behaviourism) I had selected.
Moreover, when you paraphrase, you can preserve almost the full meaning of the original source without running the risk of abusing quotation. Certainly, as my classmates and I stressed in class, the temptation to copy is always present. In order to avoid plagiarism, you are advised first of all to repeatedly and accurately read the original text and write down the salient points and keywords. Then, after developing your work by starting from the notes, you should verify that you have not omitted any essential information and eventually utilize quotation marks when you recognize any element exactly taken from the source.

Secondly, I divided the text into parapraphs, in order to obtain a twofold aim: on the one hand, paragraphs help the writer to organize his/her work in a more methodic (they focus each essential point of a text) and thus profitable manner; on the other hand, through a schematic thematization, they permit the reader easily to follow the expository thread.
Each paragraph should include one and only one basic idea which functions as a bond for the sentences inserted in that paragraph. In other words, each paragraph represents a topic with coherent internal development.
According to OWL at Purdue, a paragraph should include the following elements:

1. Unity of focalization;
2. Coherence, that is a logical thread;
3. A topic sentence to explicitly illustrate the theme of the paragraph;
4. Adequate development of the content (you should avoid paragraphs with two or three sentences).

Besides the use of paragraphs, another means to make one's text more assimilable by readers is conciseness, which require the utilization of few and emblematic words. In fact, it often happens that a text is full of "neutral words" which could be pregnantly replaced with more evocative and specific words, which by their turn would act as incisive support for readers.

Thirdly, thanks to the consultation of OWL at Purdue, I emended the way of citing electronic sources, in order to clearly guarantee the author fair recognition. In particular, I learned that as regards telematic sources, it would be correct non only showing the address of the web site used as source, but also the author's name, the date of publication and the date of retrieval of the document.

To conclude, I can say that although I made relevant corrections and learnt a lot of aspects inherent not only in wiki but also in the style of writing, I was not able completely to delete the last impurities due to the constant and pressing temptation to copy from the sources; temptation that can easily lead to the vulgar plagiarism.
In addition, the question of the variety and quality of sources remains unresolved: for reasons of time, in fact, it is not always undemanding searching for and comparing a great number of sources, ending up accepting the first source you find.

Daniele.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

MY WIKI EXPERIENCE

This week for the first time, after many theorical speculations, I have actively entered the world of wikis. Although it was a world that I already knew above all thanks to the frequent consultation of Wikipedia, I had never edited anything in places of public domain such as edutech wiki .
Indeed I had already experienced the use of a wiki, but at strictly academic level ( a cultural exchange with American students), that is with limitations on access and partecipation.
Fundamentally, the two wikis (pbwiki and media wiki) I have proved have the same technical characteristics, apart from some aspects concerning the layout and the toolbar for writing, which certainly do not modify the unitary concept of wiki.
Edutech wiki is a free online encyclopaedia (like Wikipedia) which contains pages totally devoted to subjects inherent in learning processes. Obviously as learning processes concern many disciplinary sectors (informatics, psychology, linguistics, etc.), thus you can range over a vast heterogeneity of terms.
Certainly the date of creation of this encyclopaedia is fairly recent, because a lot of pages are "stubs" , that is entries "that did not yet receive substantial attention from editors, and as such do not yet contain enough information to be considered real articles. In other words, they are short or insufficient pieces of information and requires additions".
Another curious thing concerns the fact that you cannot (or maybe I was not able to) create new pages, but only complete the pre-existing ones.
At first I wanted to create a new page about Intercultural competence (ICC), but given that I was not able to, I prefered to integrate the page about "Behaviuorism", even if I was perfectly aware of the absolute necessity to find information on the Web.
This choice was due to a twofold reason: on the one hand, being this page almost empty, I could write what I wanted without risking to be repetitive or superfluous; on the other hand, as the subject interested me, I desired to expand on it through a telematic search.
The drawback of facing such a technical term as "behaviourism" concerned the difficulty significantly diverging from the source.
If you find a complete and detailed source, you have to be one for carefully vetting on each occasion the opportunity to omit or not to omit the pieces of information on its inside.
However, I think that writing represents a good solution for learning, because you can develop skills and knowledge both practical and theorical: on the one hand, you enhance your writing ability; on the other hand, you have to read up before writing.


Daniele.

Friday, December 01, 2006


THE GENRE OF WIKIS

The term "wiki" first of all refers to a web site in which you have the potentiality to determine the contents of the web site itself through many forms of intervention.
These forms of intervention include the possibility to create new pages; to add, delete and modify information on a pre-existing page; to write comments about the contents of the pages; to generate and participate in special forums.

Secondly, a wiki can even be intended as the collaborative software which allows the working of the web site itself.
The working system is based on the reduction of the HTML language into a simple mark-up language which enables the average user to easily and autonomously edit the wiki pages.
However, when we talk about wiki, we usually refer to the visual product that we find on the Web, to a corpus of interconnected web pages or to a big on-line encyclopaedia such as Wikipedia.

In spite of this terminological vagueness, I think it is possible to stress some salient aspects which characterize wiki as a genre.

Firstly, a wiki represents a cooperative project: volunteers act by virtue of the common aim to generate a collective work which is always perceived as perfectible.
Obviously it is not undemanding to coordinate one's own ideas and manner of writing with other contributors', because many persons proudly do not accept that their work is emended.
For this reason, before starting to write, one should be aware of some basic rules and guidelines (Wikiquette) that the first contributors have freely and tacitly decided on and which represent a starting point for the harmonious development of the group work.
For example, you are asked: to respect your cooperators even when you do not agree with them; to be civil; to keep from making personal attacks; to stay cool when the atmosphere gets hot; to act in good faith and to be open and helpful.
Furthermore, is not recommended: one's signature at the bottom of one's articles; the absence of comments or justifications after making some corrections; the modification to the structure of a page; and the writing or changing of an article without being competent.
In addition, some wikis limit access to members, by virtue of which one has to log in to contribute. The presence of controlled access is due to the desire to avoiding acts of manipulation or vandalism.

Secondly, a wiki has free contents: one can write whatever he or she wants to.
Obviously, in case of wrong or not documented information anyone can make alterations to the erroneous parts, giving birth to a process of continuous search for the reliability of the sources. Hence the problem inherent in the accuracy of information: a wiki cannot guarantee the validity of the contents found in it. It is true that the information is supported by quotations, links, references and bibliographies, but it is also true that it is not exposed to any preventive vetting or censorship. In case of controversy between contributors, besides their good sense, the resolving element is constituted by other members' interventions.

Thirdly, a wiki is based on the concept of community: many wikis are developed by persons who share common interests and who want to spread their knowledge inside a particular group.
As a real community, they can preserve their cultural traits by imposing controlled access through a special password.
In addition, the system of cooperative work represents an element capable of democratically and progressively fixing the shared knowledge.

To conclude, we can say that a wiki is a helpful tool in order to improve one's capacity to harmonize knowledge with its social value; and the social value of knowledge is given by the critical receptivity towards other people's work.


Daniele.




Photo taken from: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=wiki&page=4.










Friday, November 24, 2006


PODCASTS

The word "podcast" derives from the union between the brand "Ipod" (the mp3 player distributed by Apple) and the term "broadcasting", that is the transmission of audiovisual programs to a certain group of recipients.
Therefore, a podcast is a multi-media file that is transmitted on the Internet through special file formats and which allows you to listen to recordings either instantly (through the media called streaming) or after the downloading.
The advantage of this type of file lies in the fact that unlike other digital audio formats, it can be downloaded automatically by utilizing special software (RSS, XML RSD, XML ATOM, etc.) able to read feed formats.
With these software you can subscribe in profusion feed channels you are interested in and, as a consequence, continually obtain updated information by means of software called aggregators (Blogline for example) which permit you to manage the feed channels themselves.
It is possible to listen to podcast programs both on one's personal computer and on portable media players thanks to some specific applications (for example iTunes).

It is undeniable that podcast programs represent a useful instrument which versatilely allows you to listen to audiovisual files important for one's learning.
For example, as regards linguists, they can listen to information and news and enhance their listening skills through recordings made by native speakers.
In addition, if you possess a portable media player, it is possible for you to listen to these programs wherever and whenever you want to.

This week I have found three website which could prove themselves to be very fruitful for linguistic learning:

- http://librivox.org/: this is an interesting website which allows you both to listen to English podcasts concerning a lot of literary works and to record chapters of books in the public domain. There is a catalogue in which you can search for a work you are interested in and various feeds you can choose in order to receive on your computer news and updates.

- http://www.englishthroughstories.com/: this website is suitable for advanced learners who desire to enhance their listening skills by means of stories (divided in episodes) recorded in podcast by a native speaker.
If you do not understand some words, you can also verify your comprehension in a written part.
Each English Through Stories Podcast lasts 10-20 minutes, and is composed of three parts: a review or “recap” of the story so far (the previous episodes); a chapter of the story; an explanation of some of the expressions and phrases used in the previous part.
In this way it is possible for you both to extend your vocabulary and to learn the pronunciation of many words.

- http://www.npr.org/: this is a famous website of an American radio. Here you can listen to a lot of news in podcast.
It is stimulating because you can both get information about international facts and improve your listening skills if you study English as a second language.
Besides the possibility to listen to the hourly newscast and the program stream, there is also that of subscribing the web site in order to receive updated information through the software RSS and an aggregator.


Daniele.


Photo taken from: http://www.flickr.com/.




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Sunday, November 19, 2006

THE GENRE OF WEBSITES

As regards the literary purview the term "genre" primarily indicates a particular type of text which has conventional contents (specific themes or settings) and/or a canonical form (structure, style and language).
It is not undemanding to match a text with a genre, because the same text can show features belonging simultaneously to different genres; at the same time a genre is never a homogeneous field, because every theorist injects his/her convictions and parameters into the overall discourse.
A genre can be distinguished from other ones on the basis of different criteria, such as period or country, structure, style, ideology, subject, purpose, audience, etc., even though the number and the name of these criteria are very arguable and the criteria themselves can have more or less prominence.
Nevertheless, people often perceive genre according to their own sensibility and culture, dynamically defining the rules which define it, even though they are influenced by media.
As Daniel Chandler says "the interaction between genres and media can be seen as one of the forces which contributes to changing genres. Some genres are more powerful than others: they differ in the status which is attributed to them by those who produce texts within them and by their audiences".

Genres, under the economic and social push, are continually changing. They are the consequence of a constant redefinition of social stimuli, perennial adjustment between cultural demand and supply, a way to express and inculcate ideologies and moral values.
At present some theorists are proposing to catalogue genres according to their purpose and the consensus they obtain among the audience. For this reason, the formal features of a text serve to create a semiotic system which is indispensable to developing the social communication with readers. Therefore, a text appears as a code which derives from the communicative function allotted to the cultural production.

As an example of this, we can consider a genre born out of the recent technological progress, which has inevitably ended up entering the category of literary genres: the genre of websites.
This is a genre which represents the consequence of the global explosion and exposition of information and which, for this reason, appears rather heterogeneous (the distinction between institutional and personal websites needs to be taken into account) .
Therefore, I'll try to identify some of the genre's features through an inductive method consisting in the screening of two particular cases got from the websites advised by my classmates.


The first example I want to analyse is a website recommended by Valentina, the address of which is
http://www.drgrammar.org/faqs/.
This is an educational site which provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) in a very simple and clear way.

Thus the PURPOSE of the website is to give solutions to the most common doubts inherent in English grammar. The solutions are concise and precise at the same time, representing a quick and functional guide in case of necessity.

In order to understand what AUDIENCE the website is directed to, it is useful to look at the bottom of the homepage, where there is the following warning:

"All material © 2001 to James HiDuke. Dr. Grammar grants you use of the information contained on the Dr. Grammar website free of charge if a) you are a STUDENT , faculty member or staff member of an educational institution (K-12, junior college, college or university); b) you are a United States federal, state or local GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE; or c) your use of the information is exclusively at home for non-commercial purposes. If you do not meet the requirements for free use of the information, you may make a request to:James HiDuke; Department of English; Baker 115; University of Northern Iowa;Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0502; Phone: (319) 273-2821 Fax: (319) 273-5807".

The LANGUAGE obviously reflects the educational aim, alternating informal tones and didactic forms. There is a great number of examples and explanations with the underlining of the keywords.
After a brief, colloquial introduction, the FAQs are clickable and shown in an almost exclusively dichotomic and nominative manner in order to render consultation easier.

The second example I want to suggest is represented by a website advised by Daniela, the address of which is http://esl.about.com/.
This is a website which provides you information about learning English at various levels, obtaining certificates demonstrating your linguistic level and finding a job.
The instructional offer includes grammar courses, quizzes, techniques, pieces of advice and exercises to improve one's oral, listening, reading and writing skills, a dictionary, etc.
There are also related blogs and sites concerning language learning.

Thus, the PURPOSE of this site is to give useful instruments to anyone who wants to enhance his/her linguistic ability through a layout that makes it easy to recognize all the opportunities (the topics) put at users' disposal.

The AUDIENCE the site is directed to is constituted generically by anyone (students, teachers, business men, travellers, etc.) who wants to learn English as second language, train in order to get a linguistic certificate, find a job, brush up on some subjects, expand on teaching methods, etc..

As regards the LANGUAGE, we can say that it is fundamentally neutral and descriptive, oriented to effortless comprehension. Obviously, for reasons concerning above all the communicative effectiveness, it is altogether crisp, that is with few verbs and short sentences.

The LAYOUT is well-organized: on the left we can find the topics in the shape of red links; in the middle some particular offers and on the right, in small boxes and in the shape of blue links, blogs and correlated sites.

Daniele.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

SOCIAL BOOKMARKING

Social bookmarking is a service offered by web which permits users to share Internet bookmarks, that is Internet resources recommended by net surfers.
The procedure is simple and functional: you click on appropriate websites like, for example, delicious and carry out a search through the use of tags, that is "user-defined" keywords which informally serve to label a homogeneous group of resources.
You can also register and, through the creation of emblematic tags, put some Internet addresses at users' disposal.
The resources can be shared both publicly (you can also see how many people have advised a particular resource) and in specific networks which include recognizable members.

The usefulness of this system lies in the fact that, unlike matematic search engines, this collection is made by persons who critically judge the content of a resource and who, as a consequence, operate semantically and not algorithmically.
Moreover, the interest of a resource is more and more rewarded through the continuous accumulation of users' approvals; users who can save a resource among their favourites.

It is also true that there can be some disadvantages in this practice like, for example, the difficulty creating a controlled corpus of tags, in the sense that there is not a process of standardization and hierarchization of the tags.
In addition, there is the risk that "ill-intentioned" users utilize improperly and impudently many popular tags to define their own websites and, as a consequence, to render them more visible.

This week my classmates and I have collected a good number of recommended resources inherent in the linguistic and blogging learning.
Allmost all these sites have to do with the possibility to improve one's own linguistic knowledge through pieces of advice, online grammar lessons, exercises, chats, etc.
Here are the most laudable results:


- Learning English as a second language (by Alice)
- List of the common English questions (by Valentina)
- Common errors in English (by Francesca)
- E.L. Easton - English online (by Lara)
- Dr Grammar - FAQ (by Isabella)
- English club (by Daniela)

Daniele.

Friday, November 03, 2006

3rd WELCOME MESSAGE

Two weeks ago, when I entered the blogosphere (then I was ignorant about the existence of this term!), I only knew that a blog was a sort of private and informal diary in which an author writes his/her opinions about which he/she receives some comments from the readers.
Subsequently I canvassed and appreciated many features of a blog, the blogging etiquette included, that is a compendium of some accomodating rules which one should respect when writing or commenting a blog (don't forget to sign comments and posts, don't be rude or scurrilous in your writings, quote sources, respect copyright laws, don't publicize gratuitously a website or a blog of yours, etc.).

The blogosphere is very rich. There are a lot of blogs. You easily risk losing yourself because often the blog you find does not reflect your precise expectations.
Moreover, it is not always undemanding to distinguish a blog from a website, by reason of the fact it can happen that a blog does not respect all the codified characteristics which a blog should possess.

The world of blogs also represents a useful instrument in the process of linguistic learning both from an active and a passive point of view, because, on the one hand, when you write you have the possibility to improve your expressive skills; on the other hand, when you read other people's blogs you can come into contact with the informal language, a language which, although it is neglected by universities, it is very rich and versatile in everyday life.



2nd WELCOME MESSAGE


My name is Daniele and my birth dates from 1982. I dwell in Lonigo (Vicenza) with my parents and two brothers who fix the chronological extremes of the children. I'm possessed of a degree in Discipline della Mediazione linguistica e Culturale attained at the University of Padova about one year ago. At present I am enrolled in the second year (the last one) of the specialistic degree course in Lingue straniere per la comunicazione internazionale. The decision to continue my academic career is perceived by me as the result of a dilatory inertial state (characterized by incertitude and difficulty in finding a satisfying job) rather than the sign of a pervicacious and "future-oriented" will. Nevertheless, the prospect of becoming an English (or Spanish) teacher or a translator would not be completely disagreeable. In the meantime I'm trying to enhance my linguistic ability, in spite of the fact that it is necessary (above all as regards spoken language) to sojourn in foreign countries to reach a satisfactory level.
When I'm not at university and I do not have to aid my father in his job (he is a carrier), I like reading (I have not a favourite literary genre), playing trumpet (I played in the town band), watching movies (expecially the old ones), going to art exhibitions and to jazz concerts, playing football and drinking and revelling with my friends.
Politically I could be considered as a sort of anarchist, because I hate politicians and the entire political class as such, apathetic and expensive means of liberticide.
As regards economics I am an anti-liberalist, supporter of the Keynesian policies (now welfare state) and the safeguard of developing countries.
Philosophycally I share the schopenhauerian existential pessimism.

I DECLARE THE MEETING OPENED!

It's fairly satisfying to inaugurate a new personal blog. You feel that you have just created a public gateway to your own thoughts; and that is very stimulating, exactly because communicating is a basic impulse and the more you communicate (or you think you are communicating) the more you see yourself as a protagonist in the world. You are convinced that your words, your opinion, your idea could arrive as far as possible. And therefore you apply yourself to writing amazing, interesting, even shattering things. You have to think about the way to strike people, of conquering their attention, because you are a voice among other voices, a pen among other pens. But this is a "healthy" competition; in this way you are promoting the widening and the comparison of the ways of viewing reality; and by modifying its perception you also are modifying reality itself. You consider yourself a creator of reality and you feel proud of that.