Did I mention that I love my iPad?

In a happy coincidence, my iPad arrived on the final day of my classes for the spring semester. Feeling adventurous, I decided to try grading some of my final papers on it, using Aji’s iAnnotate. This app enables you to get pdfs from your laptop, annotate them (with highlighting, underlining, post-it notes, free-writing mark-ups), and then upload them again. I read 5 of my student’s papers on my iPad and was able to highlight their text and make comments via annotated post-it notes. Then I uploaded them back to my computer and sent them as a attachments to the students. While I haven’t heard back from the students yet (I just sent them out last night and this afternoon), I found the experience to be very helpful. Actually, I love reading and grading papers this way. I think it will allow me to engage even more with the student and their writing/ideas. Once (and if) I hear back from students about their experiences getting feedback this way, I will write a follow-up post (or a comment on this post).

Here’s their description of what iAnnotate can do:

And here’s a brief example of my annotations on a document:

I don’t think I will ever read articles the same way again…

Word count: 200

My Spring Courses

Recently I have been working on my blogs for Feminist Debates and Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking. I currently have 50 students enrolled in my feminist debates course. Yet again I am pushing at the limits of how blogs can work in a classroom by requiring all of them to use our blog regularly. To make the process easier for everyone involved, I have spent a lot of time (maybe way too much) on the assignment and the worksheet that accompanies it.  I am looking forward to seeing how the blog works (or maybe doesn’t work) in such a big class. I wonder, do any instructors use blogs in really big classes–like classes with 75 students or more?

Word count: 116 words

The Blog Experiment: A Success!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been experimenting with blog assignments this past semester. While I made the blog a key part of both classes, I really emphasized it in my Queering Theory course. I made the blog/blog-related assignments worth 80% of their grade. The other 20% would be earned through participation/attendance in class.  I remember when I first thought about doing this in August, I was a little nervous. Would students be willing to do the blog? Contrary to popular belief, not all students are tech savvy nor do they embrace technologies like the blog, so I knew that there might be resistance. Well, having completed the semester, I am pleased to write that the blog assignment was a great success. Some of the students were (understandably) resistant, but they all did it–and they did it well. I am extremely proud of my students’ willingness to stretch themselves and to deeply engage with the readings and the ideas of the class. My goal is to write more about the experience in the upcoming weeks. For now, check out my fall 2009 blogs here and here.

Word count: 194 words

Thank you Mr. Mailman!


Today I received two really cool books in the mail: Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? by Judith Butler (and here is her giving a lecture based on it) and Unbecoming Subjects: Judith Butler, Moral Philosophy, and Critical Responsibility by Annika Thiem. While I have been wanting to get Butler’s book for a couple of months now, I had not heard of Thiem’s book until the other day when I was looking on amazon for something else. Excellent. Yet another book that explores the ethical (and moral) implications of Butler’s work.

I must admit, I was a little disheartened after reading Thiem’s dis(mis)sing of virtue ethics in the beginning of the introduction (that’s how far I am right now). She writes:

Moral conduct cannot be reduced to what we owe others, to duties and obligations, and also not to VIRTUES, which can have equally restraining effects (1).

Oh well, I am still excited to read it and curious to find out how she links Butler’s ethical, political, and moral vision with critique and responsibility.

Oh, and as an aside: My wonderful neighborhood mailman retired today after 30 years. He really did give me a great parting gift!

Word Count: 196 words

Trouble as tonic?

Check out this “Briefly Noted” review of The Generalissimo by Jay Taylor in this week’s The New Yorker. Here’s the line that got me thinking:

Chiang [Kai-Shek] saw himself as central to China’s destiny, yet his years in exile were some of his happiest; as he once wrote, “Trouble is an excellent tonic.”

What exactly does he mean by trouble being a tonic here? It could mean that the trouble that Chiang experienced at the hands of Mao, that is the losing of mainland China and being exiled to Taipai, was not all bad. Chiang’s time in exile was productive and happy and may end up being more important for the success of modern China than Mao’s cultural revolution. What else might he mean? I wonder if this is a focus of the book or just the reviewer’s take on the book? I often find that The New Yorker book reviews are more interesting than the books that they review. I do like the idea of thinking about trouble as tonic as healing, restorative and invigorating. Cool.

Oh, did I happen to mention that I was obsessed with China and read way too many books about it in high school?

Word Count: 200 words