The Oprah of Online Education: Rich’s Favorite Things
By Rich Russell
It is upon us, colleagues!!
THE END [of the semester] IS NIGH!!!
I declared to a colleague this week: “If you do not hear from me over the next few weeks, it is because I am swallowed up in the papers; if you don’t hear from me by the New Year, it’s because the papers have won.” So it goes. I thought this week I would share just a few of my favorite links from this past year. Although most are rather Language Arts-centric, I hope there might be something for everyone. (“YOU get a link! And YOU get a link! And YOU get a link!” and so on.)
Here you can sign up to receive part of a novel in your Inbox, either everyday or just during the work week, depending on preference. The site also allows for you to “take a break” from your book should you go on vacation (or be swallowed up in grading: SEND HELP/MORE COFFEE!). This semester, I’ve been re-reading The Scarlet Letter. At moments of greater spiritual/professional distress, I’ve even commiserated aloud with Hester Prynne over our daily rendezvous–iz [sic]: “Hester, I understand! For A is for Adjunct, too, I often find.”
As announced in the epigraph, the writer Ford Madox Ford had a theory: “Open to page ninety-nine [of any book], and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” While I haven’t spent much time on this site (is it Winter Break yet?), readers and writers (published or un-) are able to share their pages ninety-nine with an online community of reviewers. A similar assignment has long been a standard topic for college admissions essays: for example, “Write page 200 of your autobiography.” When I teach Creative Writing next semester, I intend to have students submit an original Page 99 of some work they have in cranial storage, as well as for them to take some classic or contemporary works and see how they fare when given the “old 99.”
I think this site has been around a bit longer than the first two on the list. (I remember using this in my Online Composition I classes last fall.) Like those heart-wrenching commercials on t.v. that appeal for our help in saving abused or abandoned animals (cue Sarah McLachlan), this organization reminds us that “Each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English language. […] You can change all that. Help save the words!” Users adopt antiquated terms and pledge to include them in daily conversations and/or missives. I got a little choked up whenever one of my students would use an adopted word in a discussion response for class. This holiday season, won’t you spare some mental energy to shelter an orphan archaism? Even the Grinchiest of Scrooges cannot help but be moved when the cursor passes over the box of misfit words and the little signifiers themselves cry out, “Pick me! Pick me!”
This site is recommended in the Patterns for a Purpose text I used to use for Composition I, and used again this past semester for two sections of College Writing. Whenever you wonder “What’s that word –– you know, the one that means…?” just type in a phrase and a get a list of possible terms to encourage a clearer, more concise style. For example, enter “antiquated word” and get the suggestion “archaism”!
While we’re off saving words and time spent searching for les mots justes, let’s not forget to save the trees. The WWF has created a program that will convert PDF files into an unprintable format. As my friend Regina notes, this is not only a wonderful way to encourage (require) conservation, but also for sharing model student papers –– so that students can’t print the MSPs and pass them off as their own for another class.
Post your own favorite links in the comments section below.
Good luck with the final days of your semesters! Happy holidays!
About the Teacher in Pajamas: Rich Russell received a B.A. in English from New York University, an M.S. in Teaching from The New School, and an M.A. in English from University College London. He currently teaches composition, literature, and creative writing classes (both online and in person) at Atlantic Cape Community College and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He received the Adjunct Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence from Atlantic Cape in 2010.