Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning How to Think

Having a few spare minutes over break - but only a few - I was reading some New York Times opinion pieces, and found Kristof's essay on "Learning How to Think" about the ways people make decisions. And this reminded me of a recent book review of Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide (chapter courtesy of New York Times) reviewed by Steven Johnson. All of this musing on cognition relates to trying to help students think more clearly about their research and writing processes. And this brought me back to a book still on my nightstand, Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett. Here. As our population of international students rises at Oregon State, it's helpful for me to understand how students think and why.

I need more time to think about this. For now it's a stub, as Wikipedia would call it.

Here's a recent puzzle:
If the plural of DOG is DOGS, how can the plural of AMERICAN be AMERICAN'S as we so often get in student papers. Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The long (unending) journey with Information Literacy

OK, despite will publicized lists of competencies or proficiencies for Information Literacy - the skills a successful student should have (OSU, ILAGO) I don't think we can ever say that someone "knows everything" just as no one is ever a finished and perfect writer. What we try to do in our composition classes at Oregon State - from the first term and through second terms etc - is to continue to develop and guide the writing habits and ideas students arrive with, and likewise the information literacy habits and beliefs. This is a huge topic (see my friend Anne-Marie's blog), of course. Here's a clue into the challenge we face. In the Sunday March 22 Oregonian, Kimberly Melton writes about the lack of librarians (and even libraries) in Portland public schools. When I read this, it helped make sense of why freshmen arrive thinking they don't need any further instruction in how to find and understand information - because they have been managing (sort of, badly) on their own and have little experience with the excitement of the adventure of exploring the continually expanding info lit frontiers. OK, I'm getting a bit carried away, but you see what I mean. And if "life long learning" is a goal that universities endorse (and they should), then lifelong intellectual curiosity (with the tools to keep going) should be nurtured. How to do this, though, is the challenge.

Thank goodness for Facebook (and spring break)

If it weren't for Facebook I would never get anything posted at all these days - luckily FB does not expect long thoughtful meditations. Short thought bites is all I can manage and all FB wants. So at least folks know I'm still around. Still, I promise more, and now that it's spring break -- which means I can work more leisurely at home preparing syllabi for spring term - updating and recycling last term's "Writing with Style" and the annual spring practicum for grad students on teaching Business Writing, and creating a whole new (to me) course on Critical Reviewing (books, films, food, fashion, art, architecture, etc). All fun of course and all an excellent excuse to read New Yorker, Atlantic, etc. More coming soon.