Category Archives: Academics

The Book Whisperer Examines a Book for Book Lovers


My friend Judy sent me a copy of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. Publisher’s Weekly in a starred review calls A Gentle Maddness “an absolutely fascinating tale and an engrossing, essential book that no book lover should be without.” In 1995, A Gentle Madness was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Basbanes has received numerous awards for his writing of nonfiction books and articles for a variety of newspapers and magazines such as The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and The Smithsonian.

A Gentle Madness pays homage to book lovers, book collectors, and book history. Obviously, Basbanes tackled a monumental job in chronicling the history of books and their collectors. The book is 638 pages long with 39 pages of notes, an extensive bibliography consisting of another 37 pages, and finally an index of 25 pages.  A Gentle Madness is a scholarly work.

Basbanes has also included a number of illustrations to accompany his work. Sir Robert Cotton, 1571-1631, is noted as an “antiquary and collector.” Another picture of interest is of the statue of John Harvard, 1607-1638, “the Puritan clergyman whose gift of books established the first library to be formed in British North America.”

The chapter titles are intriguing. “Balm for the Soul,” “Rule Britannia,” “Brandy for Heroes,” and “Infinite Riches” will keep readers moving from one page to the next.

In Chapter 13, “The Blumberg Collection,” the first line spoken by FBI Special Agent W. Dennis Aiken will intrigue book lovers: “I really don’t know why you want to come out here. All you’re going to see is seven rooms stacked to the ceiling with old books.”

Clearly, I did not read all of A Gentle Madness. It is the kind of book one keeps on hand to dip into again and again and then to pass it along to another book lover as Judy has done.

Nicholas Basbanes maintains an extensive Web site:


The Book Whisperer Discovers Miss Thistlebottom, a Grammarian



Theodore M. Bernstein wrote seven books on grammar and English usage including Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Language. Bernstein created the fictional Miss Thistlebottom, an eighth grade English teacher at an all boys’ school and supposedly his teacher.

Bernstein begins with “A Word to the Whys” in which he explains the title of his book: Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Language. He maintains “a belief that a title so hard to pronounce and so hard to remember will be difficult to forget.” He goes on to report that the title is designed to denote the contents of the book. He wishes to “lay rest to the superstitions that have been passed on from one generation to the next by teachers, by editors and by writers — prohibitions deriving from mere personal prejudice or from misguided pedantry or from a cold conservatism that would freeze the language if it could.”

“A Word to the Whys” concludes with a list of references Bernstein cites in Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins. A few of those include the following: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The Verbalist by Alfred Ayres, Write it Right by Ambrose Bierce, Syntax by George Curme, The Oxford English Dictionary, and A Grammar of Present-Day English by Eric Partridge. The last book was published in 1947.

In the prologue of Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins, we find a letter from Bertha Thistlebottom to Bernstein in which she says that “the disparaging remarks you make about me in several places hurt me.” At the end of the letter, however, she writes, “Despite all, however, I am of a forgiving nature and I am content with the thought that I must have taught you something right if you were able to turn out that book.”

In his reply to Miss Thistlebottom, Bernstein concludes that “as in so many endeavors in life, in the use of English an avoidance of extremes is the way to achievement and excellence.” Perhaps this bit of advice is the most important in the whole book.

The table of contents should pique any language lover’s interest. In addition to the ones already described, Bernstein includes “Witchcraft in Words,” “Syntax Scarecrows,” “Imps of Idioms,” and “Spooks of Style.”

In his letter to Miss Thistlebottom at the beginning of “Imps of Idioms,” Bernstein writes: “Idioms, it must be remembered, are sports in the linguistic garden.” Sentences such as that abound in Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Language. Those who love language can enjoy Bernstein’s wit and his understanding of the English language. Following his introduction to idioms, Bernstein goes into an explanation of some commonly used idioms. He gives a bit of history to explain the idiom even if “the label for [so long] must be ‘origin obscure’.”

In “Spooks of Style,” Bernstein explains about puns. He says “puns are the easiest form of humor, but it does not follow that they are the lowest form.” Bernstein cites Charles Lamb in a letter Lamb wrote to Samuel Coleridge: “A pun is a noble thing per se. O never bring it in as an accessory! … it fills the mind; it is as perfect as a sonnet; better.” Bernstein ends “Spooks of Style” with this bit of advice about using you to refer to readers: “A few cautions are necessary. One is not to overdo the you device; that same caution applies to any writing advice. A second is to avoid shifting from one person to another. A third is to avoid seeming to talk down to the reader.”

At the end of the book, Bernstein includes “William Cullen Bryant’s Appendix Expurgatorius.” It contains a list of words that Bryant wanted writers to avoid. Bryant, though a poet, was also well-known as a journalist and was part owner and editor in chief of the New York Evening Post. The list is too long to repeat here, but it includes some interesting choices such as “over and above instead of more than, artiste instead of artist, casket for coffin, pants for pantaloons, en route, donate, rowdies, and the deceased.” Read Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Language to find the entire list.

Theodore M. Bernstein earned a BA from Columbia University in 1924. He was editorial director of the New York Times Book Division, taught journalism at Columbia, and was a consultant on usage for Random House and American Heritage dictionaries. Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Language is full of good advice and fun to read for those who love language.

The Book Whisperer Scored Books!


At the August Tulsa Community College Retirees’ meeting, the Book Whisperer scored books! Don Mathieson presented a quiz on Oklahoma trivia, and I won! The first prize was How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space? by William R. Pogue. As a bonus, Don also gave me a copy of Oklahomeland (Okla Home Land) by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, 2017-2018 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. Of course, the prizes came with strings: write reviews.


William R. Pogue was born in Okemah, OK. He earned his BS from Oklahoma Baptist University and an MS in mathematics from Oklahoma State University. He also received an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma Baptist University. He served in the Air Force and became an astronaut as well as a teacher, public speaker, and author.

As an astronaut, he was commander of the last crew of Skylab where the members set a record of 84 days which remained unbroken for twenty years. During their time in orbit, the crew completed a number of research experiments.

How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space?  has an introduction by John Glenn. In that introduction, Glenn ends with “I urge all readers to develop an inquisitive approach to the world around you. That is the first step toward solving the challenging puzzles and intriguing mysteries of life.” That’s good advice for all.

Pogue begins the book with answers to questions about himself, airplanes, astronauts, the military, and sundry other topics related to serving in the Air Force and as an astronaut. The whole book is written in question and answer format. That format allows Pogue to cover a wide range of subjects related to his life. That format also allows readers to dip into and out of the book rather than reading it in one sitting.

The appendix covers psychological effects, information on space camps, and recommended readings and other references. For anyone interested in space exploration, the book provides useful first-hand information as well as resources for further study.

And now for something completely different (for you Monte Python fans), let’s turn to Oklahomeland (Okla Home Land) by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. Mish is 2017 – 2018 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. She is an accomplished poet, writer, and scholar with an impressive resume. Find more about her including a schedule of events at this Web site:


Mish, obviously, is a poet; she is also an essayist, editor, speaker, and poetry workshop leader. In Oklahomeland, Mish introduces readers unfamiliar with Oklahoma to “compelling narratives and imagery [that] entice you into caring as much as she does.”

Mish has won a number of awards for her work as a poet and editor. She won the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry, the 2010 Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the 2010 WILLA Award for Poetry from Women Writing the West.

Oklahome includes essays on “Who/What? Oklahomans/Writing,” “A Review of Woody Guthrie’s House of Earth,” and “Looking for (Ralph) Ellison” among others.

Perhaps the most poignant is “The Oklahoma We Call Home.” In that essay, Mish writes about leaving Oklahoma at eighteen “to travel, to live in five other states and visit many others, to stay for extended periods in continental Europe, but I never felt at home in the landscape anywhere other than Oklahoma.”

She continues in “The Oklahoma We Call Home” to tell stories of time spent with her grandfather and of using the words he taught her. For example, she writes, “I call cicadas ‘locusts,’ because that’s what Grandpa called them.” Mish describes her grandfather’s voice as “musical…a soft baritone that felt more like velvet than cotton.”

When Mish goes on to say her grandfather and other men in the family did not talk much because “the women in our family didn’t leave much conversation for the men,” readers will feel as if they are sitting on the front porch at a family gathering. Perhaps a given reader’s own family is much the same.

Near the end of “The Oklahoma We Call Home,” Mish muses, “I’ve been gone from Oklahoma for a long time – most of 15 years. I needed to come home. The land calls me. I missed the trees, the abundant wildlife, the wind – and the smell.” Mish’s writing is evocative of the place of which she writes. She covers the warts in Oklahoma as well as the beauty and the talent.

Mish is contributing editor to Sugar Mule, “”a long-standing, world-converging website for general readers”:  Sugar Mule offers “fiction, essays, book reviews, all types of prose and poetry.” See Sugar Mule’s Facebook page: for the monthly flash fiction selection.




The Book Whisperer Reviews An Oklahoman’s Boyhood Memoir



Coon Mountain: Scenes from a Childhood in the Oklahoma Hills by Glen Ross depicts a time long gone. He was born 7 August 1929 in “what was once the Indian Territory, during a thunderstorm.” Ross tells his story of growing up in the Cookson hills with humor and honesty. The family was small with only Glen and his older brother along with his mother and father. However, the family often had other relatives living with them from time-to-time.

From reading Ross’s biography, readers will not be surprised to learn that he became a creative writing professor at Central State U in Edmond for years. No doubt, some of the early memories come from family stories, but that fact does not make the story less true. Ross gives readers a picture of the countryside where he grew up along with his observations on the beauty and danger found there.

Ross’s mother, one of twelve children, grew up in Arkansas and remained proud of “her respectable Arkansas upbringing. Though his mother liked to say she arrived in OK via covered wagon, she would admit upon being pressed that the journey was only thirteen miles. Ross tells readers that to his mother “Arkansas stood for respectability and cultural refinement.” Further, she felt that Oklahoma “only pretended to be a state to please the federal government,” but it was in reality still Indian Territory.

Ross’s father was a resourceful man, as one would have to be before, during, and after the Great Depression. When the family moved to their home in the hills, getting water to the house was a major problem. Ross’s father figured out how to get the water to flow through a pipe. That did not provide water in the house, but, at least, the family did not have to haul water up the hill and into the house daily.

Ross describes working in his uncle’s general store. I could relate to his story even though he is somewhat older than I. My paternal grandfather opened a general merchandise store in Parkdale, AR, just ten miles north of the Louisiana state line. I like to describe the store as Walmart before Walmart in that Granddaddy sold everything from groceries to clothing to cattle feed and almost anything else one might need. He just didn’t open multiple stores as Sam Walton did.

While the days of Ross’s childhood are in the past, his story is relevant in that readers get a realistic picture of the time following his birth in 1929 well into the Great Depression and afterward. Kirkus Reviews describes Coon Mountain: Scenes from a Childhood in the Oklahoma Hills as “autobiographical tales, told with elegant simplicity, of a boyhood spent among the rocky bluffs and woods of Cherokee country.” The review continues with “a marvelous evocation, related with Twain-like skill, of a recent past so utterly vanished as to seem ancient.”


The Book Whisperer Reviews The Cherokee Strip


Marquis James wrote The Cherokee Strip: A Tale of an Oklahoma Boyhood at his daughter’s behest. She asked her dad, “Pop, why don’t you write some of the things you tell about instead of what you do write?” James told readers in the preface that he wrote about what he himself knew about the Oklahoma Strip with the “object to give an idea of what the place was like in those days.” William W. Savage, Jr., remarks in the forward that The Cherokee Strip is a “personal book that tells us a great deal about Marquis James. Savage goes on to write that “[Marquis James] was a boy seemingly into everything.” Readers can agree to that notion.

Marquis James was born 29 August 1891 in Springfield, MO. Houstin [sic] and Rachel Marquis James, Marquis’s parents, took the family to a claim near Enid about 1894. Marquis had two much older sisters, Zoe and Nan, and two sisters who did not survive infancy. The two sisters had married and moved to Chicago when Marquis begins his tale of his boyhood in OK.

Clearly, Marquis was a bright child; he learned to read by the age of four and was especially interested in history. His mother had a large collection of history books and Marquis took advantage of those. His father was a lawyer. Their finances went up and down with his father hoping to secure a fortune from striking oil. Sadly, that dream never materialized. The picture below is dated 1910, just a year before Marquis James left Oklahoma in pursuit of his newspaper career.


Marquis met a number of interesting people as he grew up, including outlaws like Arkansas Tom and Dick Yeager. At first, the family lived on a farm; when Marquis was ten, the family moved into Enid. Once they lived in town, Marquis’s world expanded considerably. He found odd jobs all over town so he could earn pocket money. When he lived in the country, trips to town were occasional and his parents would give him money. Living in town proved to be expensive, so Marquis decided he needed to earn money. He swept his father’s law office and other offices, also emptying and cleaning the spittoons in those offices.

He became interested in sign-painting and in setting type for the newspaper. Eventually, though he thought working as a typesetter more interesting, he began writing for the paper. At first, he had to write personals such as who visited whom and who painted his barn or put up a new addition to a home. He also wrote poetry which the paper printed. He began with original poetry, but he also did some plagiarizing in that he took published poems and changed a few words here and there and called them his own.

When Marquis was in high school, his father died suddenly and unexpectedly. Marquis and his mother found that their home and other property was mortgaged and his father’s law firm was in debt. His brother-in-law, an attorney in Chicago, stepped in and helped Marquis and his mother. Marquis also took whatever jobs he could to help. His mother refused to allow him to drop out of school, however.

Marquis James included one anecdote after another in The Cherokee Strip.  Readers certainly develop a sense of life during those early years in OK. James left Oklahoma by 1911, so his stories in The Cherokee Strip all predate that time.

When the family still lived on the farm, Marquis saw a picture of a boy who was following a horse along a path beside a creek. The horse seemed to be pulling a funny-looking boat.” When Marquis asked his mother about the picture, she told him the boy was James A. Garfield and that the horse was pulling a canal boat. She went on to tell him that Garfield was “a good boy, who worked hard and studied hard and obeyed his mother and got to be President of the United States.” Marquis felt sorry that he had no canal or horse so he could guide the horse to pull the canal boat and thus become President of the United States.

One of the stories I liked best occurred when Marquis’s father took Marquis to school. Marquis was excited about going to school, but he did not reckon on having to wear shoes! His father told Marquis that he would get Marquis “boots—red-topped, copper-toed boots.” His father went on to say that he himself had had such a pair of boots and had worn them everywhere.

Marquis got into trouble often enough, mostly for little infractions. However, when the family first moved into Enid, they ate breakfast his mama cooked on a gasoline stove in the Cogdal-McKee Building where his dad had his law office. They ate “their dinners and suppers at the Donly Hotel.” Marquis treated his friends to meals in the Donly only to learn that “Mr. Donly’s dinners cost fifty cents apiece.” That put an end to Marquis’s generosity.

In high school. Marquis founded the Enid High School newspaper, The Quill. He went on to become a newspaper reporter, working in such cities as New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York. James helped found the New Yorker Magazine and covered the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. He wrote The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston, which received a Pulitzer Prize in 1930. He received another Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for two books about Andrew Jackson: Andrew Jackson: The Border Captain and Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President.


Marquis James married Bessie Williams Rowland, also a journalist. They collaborated on a number of books, particularly biographies for children. They had one daughter, Cynthia. In 1952, Marquis and Bessie divorced. Marquis then married Jacqueline Mary Parsons in 1954. The two of them collaborated on books as well. He died in Rye, NY, in 1955.


Read about Marquis James at this Oklahoma Historical Society link:


The Book Whisperer Reviews Two Nonfiction Books


Today’s blog covers two books by Dorothea Brande: Becoming a Writer and Wake Up And Live! After reading Nina George’s Little French Bistro, I researched George before writing a blog post about the novel. Nina George mentions Wake Up And Live! by Dorothea Brande as a book that motivated her to strike out as a writer.

Naturally, I became interested in reading Brande. When I looked her up, I also discovered another book of interest by her: Becoming A Writer.

Becoming A Writer was published in 1934. It contains seventeen chapters and a final word called “In Conclusion: Some Prosaic Pointers.” The book is a practical guide for writers, covering such topics as the difficulty of writing, cultivating a writer’s temperament, and my favorite, “Pick Up Fresh Words.” Brande tells her readers to look for useful words wherever they can find them. However, she also admonishes them to be careful that the words fit the rest of the prose. She says that “a thesaurus is a good tool if it is used as it is meant to be.”

Brande reminds writers to read their own work with fresh eyes. Seek changes that will turn the text into “effective, diversified, vigorous prose.” Brande’s advice throughout the book is practical and sensible. She suggests reading one’s own work as if it were the work of a stranger.


Brande intersperses the book with writing exercises as well. For example, in Chapter Three, she describes an exercise for the aspiring writer to try. It involves imagining that the writer is standing by a door. Then the would-be writers ask questions of themselves about themselves and then about whoever may be in the room. Brande reminds her readers that the exercise “is a primer lesson in considering oneself objectively.”


Becoming a Writer provides good, practical advice to writers. One piece of advice I particularly like is that Brande reminds her readers that “would-be writers are bookworms, and many of them are fanatical about books and libraries.”  Published in 1934, Becoming a Writer does end with some advice no longer applicable: “The professional writer should have two typewriters, a standard machine and a portable—preferably a noiseless portable.” Obviously, that advice is outdated, but the rest of Brande’s advice is spot-on.


In 1936, Dorothea Brande published Wake Up And Live! It has been called “one of the very greatest self-help books ever written.” The book is practical and offers sound advice on finding one’s own happiness and success in life. In fact, The New York Times Book Review calls the book “eminently sensible and practical.”

Brande tells readers, “There is just one contribution which every one of us can make: we can give into the common pool of experience some comprehension of the world as it looks to each of us.” She goes on to remind her readers that “where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”

Dorothea Brande was born in Chicago, the youngest of five children. She attended the University of Michigan where she earned her Phi Beta Kappa key; later, she went to the University of Chicago. In her first job, she was a reporter in Chicago and then circulation manager for American Mercury magazine. She became an associate editor of Bookman magazine which later changes its name to American Review. In those pre-internet and pre-online course days, Brande operated a correspondence school for hopeful writers. In addition to Wake Up And Live! and Becoming A Writer, Brande wrote Most Beautiful Lady and Letters to Philippa, and other fiction.

At the link below, find a video of inspirational quotations from Dorothea Brande




Incorporating Technology


Incorporating technology into our teaching is not always easy or simple. Technology for its own sake does not enhance learning. We need to find the right technology to engage our students and enhance their learning. Another component has to be our own comfort with using the technology. For some of us, that may mean using the blogs and journals found in Blackboard. For others, branching out to incorporate some Web 2.0 tools into our current teaching style, subject matter, and assignments. The technology should not be an added burden, but should be a tool to augment learning and teaching. That it can add elements of engagement and even fun should be bonuses. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, reminds us that “digital learning starts with teachers, whose performance is enhanced by technology—not the other way around.”

I enjoy scouring the Web for innovative tools to share with students and colleagues. In searching, I keep in mind the goal of locating tools which will be easy to use, free, and, primarily, enable students to learn. In several recent workshops, I have shared some tools to aid in teaching and learning.

Last fall and this spring, I have facilitated workshops with new faculty and long-time faculty, both part-time and full-time. On all those occasions, my objective included demonstrating Web 2.0 tools that work well in the classroom and that lend themselves to meaningful assignments.  I choose tools that I have used successfully in the classroom and ones that students have shown they can use easily—and that they enjoy incorporating into their work.

In the recent workshops, I have shared JogtheWeb, InstaGrok, Themeefy, Linoit, Wordle, and Glogster*.  These Web 2.0 tools are free or have a free component, sufficient for our use.


On the home page of JogtheWeb, we learn Jog the Web “is a Web-based tool that allows anyone to create a synchronous guide to a series of Web sites.” What does that description mean in terms of our using it, however? By creating a free account at JogtheWeb, we can collect Web sites on specific topics, add pages with our own content, and share the link with others. I created a jog on Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” a short story about soldiers in the Vietnam War.  The sites collected include O’Brien’s home page, history of the Vietnam War, soldiers’ accounts of their experiences in the war, and a reading guide. I added questions for students. The questions and readings helped students understand the story fully. JogtheWeb also allows students to comment on the sites, another possible component of an assignment.  One of the most enjoyable jogs I have assembled has also offered an opportunity for students to learn firsthand how unreliable information on the Web can be. I chose sixteen bogus sites for that jog. Students in groups of three had to evaluate three of the sites. After we had discussed how to evaluate sites, students turned to the jog, not knowing all the sites were fraudulent. The students reported to the whole class on their sites, explaining why the sites were legitimate or bogus because some of the sites were persuasive enough to make students believe they were legitimate. That assessment provoked yet another discussion about determining legitimacy in sources.

InstaGrok, a search engine, allows users to create a free account and keep track of Web searches. It yields better results than Google, Bing, or Yahoo, but users still must evaluate the sources. The key features include an interactive “concept chart” of results on a topic, history of searches, and a journal. Clicking on a circle in the chart will produce additional results. The searches return Web sites, videos, and images. InstaGrok will also create a quiz on material from the sites. The journal permits users to click Web sites to “pin” Web sites, videos, and images for further study and reading. Perhaps as important, the journal also allows users to write their own notes. The journal gives us one more way to remind students that keeping notes as we read is a useful way to remember and incorporate ideas.

Using Themeefy, students and faculty can create online magazines consisting of Web sites, videos, images, and their own text. The magazine is attractive and interactive. I created a Themeefy magazine about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The magazine included information on Shelley herself, the story, and other tidbits to enhance the reading for students. For a recent workshop, I created a magazine on hypertension. Themeefy offers another way to pull material together to engage students—and faculty. We can have students create their own magazines on specific topics.

A number of online bulletin boards are available for our use, but Linoit has become one of my favorites. It allows anonymous posts, but I prefer having students create an account so their names appear on their posts. On Linoit, we can put notes, questions, videos, images, and links. We can have boards on the open Web or keep them private. Recently, I created a board for a Comp II class and invited the students by email so only they and I could see and post on the board. I put questions relating to a story they had read and asked them to answer the questions, post a picture relevant to the story, and respond to a classmate’s post.

I am sure you have seen word clouds, groups of words that form an attractive picture. At, we can paste words to develop a picture. I use the snipping tool in Microsoft Office to turn the Wordle into a PNG which I can then insert into Word, PowerPoint or Blackboard. We can have students write their own text and put it into Wordle; then they can identify repeated words, or words that stand out over the others.  While you can think of ways to use word clouds on your own, at 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning by Michael Gorman, read “108 Ways to Use Word Clouds in the Classroom…Word Clouds in Education Series: Part 2.”


Are you tired of PowerPoint for presentations? Try Glogster! Glogster is an online poster site. Users can put videos, links, pictures, and text onto the posters. I created a Glogster assignment so online students could introduce themselves to the rest of the class; students had to incorporate specific items and they received a grade on the Glog.  In a Strategies class, students taught a simple component of the class using Glogster; the students had to consist of an appropriate video, pictures, and text to demonstrate their subject such as note taking, or test-taking skills.

JogtheWeb, InstaGrok, Themeefy, Linoit, Wordle, and Glogsterl allow us to engage students by using technology that lends itself to helping students learn. All of these tools are as useful as we make them. I challenge you to choose two of the tools and create an account so you can fully investigate the opportunities the site offers. We could begin an online repository of assignments we share across disciplines. Attend the next workshop to learn more about Web 2.0 tools; the list of tools available continues to grow, expanding our opportunities to engage our students and enhance learning for all of us. These tools are all part of the social networking that our students use and know, so these tools allow us to meet the students on their own turf. Perhaps you already have your own favorite tools to share.

*URLs for the tools listed:

JogtheWeb:, InstaGrok:, Themeefy:,

Linoit:, Wordle:, Glogster:

End of the Academic Year


Finals are over and graded; graduation has come and gone. Classes began last August with fresh, new faces and a sprinkling of familiar students back for the second year or completing requirements or starting over once again! January brought a new set of students and classes, again with the sprinkling of familiar students. Each beginning allows us an opportunity to work toward correcting the mistakes of the past just as it allows us to make fresh mistakes. We learn from all of those–past and current mistakes. Sandwiched in the middle, we do find successes too.

I start each semester with a plan for each class. Even when I am teaching the same class in different sections, the plans differ slightly while covering the same material. In August, I was teaching Honors Comp I with a focus on Japan. Before classes began, I had an email from a student enrolled in the class. He indicated he had bought The Japanese Mind, our text for the semester; he wanted to know if he should be reading an essay in the book before classes began. I felt then the class would be off to a rolling start. My assessment was correct.

The Honors Comp I was a small class, so we got acquainted quickly. Besides the focus on Japan, I knew I wanted to use Web 2.0 tools to engage the students and help them improve their writing skills. My composition classes also give presentations throughout the semester over their work, so I wanted to explore beyond PowerPoint for the presentations.

As we began exploring for Web 2.0 tools and effective ways of using them, the students and I found tools we found useful and others that did not live up to their promise. Over the course of that semester and with the students who returned for Honors Comp II, we continued our exploration until we had a full-blown research project outlined on use of and value in Web 2.0 tools. The students chose three or four Web 2.0 tools to explore in depth, wrote a research paper on those tools, and gave a presentation to the rest of the class on their findings.

The work from the Honors Comp I and II classes spilled over into my other classes, both on campus and online, sparking interest in other students to use the available technology to enhance their learning. I read blogs and did searches for new material, but the students did too. Together, we forged some new assignments and adapted others.

I look forward to this continued exploration and appreciate all the bloggers who post information about Web 2.0 tools they have found and used.