Saturday, March 13, 2010


Lights flashing, horn blowing, crowd waving... a pause between notes, not the string of sound, contains all the spirit of the tune.


As I was trying to watch a video on-line I received the following message: “ you have watched 72 minutes of video today”, “please wait 54 minutes or click here to enjoy unlimited…” .

And what else would come to my mind besides my kids? You know, that whole “work-life” balance I wrote about a couple of weeks ago… yea, I can’t even not think about my students when I am trying to watch a damn show on-line. Anyway…

I am no expert at on-line anything, however I am pretty sure I know why this site would do this:

They are counting on the fact that their target market has a well developed ADD from being too accustomed to internet connectivity speeds of greater than 35kb/sec and commercials that flicker images at a rate of too many/sec. What this means is that these impatient lads will either opt to buy the unlimited package or get the hell off the site and stop taking up the bandwidth. They certainly do not expect a person to WAIT for the 54 minutes to continue viewing; well, they did not expect a broke-ass teacher who has papers to grade while he waits patiently until he can resume viewing, to take up their precious bandwidth. Ahahaha! Mwahahaha!

So, back to the kids. If basic marketing strategy for this form of entertainment is aimed at precisely the target market which abounds my classroom, then I can deduce that attention spans are being actively and purposefully shrunk by our mass media conveyer-belt-Jewish-mother like feeding machines. Information is more available than ever, though it is less reliable than ever, and no one under the age of 21 can possibly be hassled to go to a library and retrieve valuable, reliable information – information which takes more than 20 seconds to absorb. Unfortunately, until Google gets off its ass and takes over everything we know and do, most books are not yet electronically available – not the ones you need and definitely not for free!

This makes an academic writing class (based on non-fiction research) a hostage to information available on-line and the innate (or threatened) desire of the student to find it elsewhere.

So far the class is hungry, scared and there is little sign of negotiations making any progress.

How do we slow down and still keep up?

My students look only at bullet points, time-lines or headings; they find main ideas and think them details, they write only what comes to mind the moment a question is posed or information presented – they do not stop to think whether what they are writing is relevant or even accurate. They glance over paragraphs, they seek out websites that provide summaries, summaries, summaries; they love to read paraphrased thought, as long as it is shorter than the original text, but they are not willing to stop and paraphrase themselves.

“but mista, you give us mad work!”

“mad work? Guys I’m here to get you ready for college, this is nothing compared to what you will be expected to do when you get there (if you get there).”

“yea, but we aint in college mista”




Air sucking through teeth as though a piece of corn has lodged itself in there and is hanging on for the long fight, “sir, we aint in college”

“I know, but don’t you want to learn this now, make mistakes now, with me here to support and teach you, because I care, professors for the most part do not. The college will take your money, give you an F along with no credit and send you on your way! I don’t want that for you”

“yeah, but, we already get homework from other teachers”


“we don’t have time to do all of this”

“I assign you work for a week that a professor would assign you for a day! You want to go to college don’t you?”

“of course!”

“then you can appreciate that I am trying to keep you from falling behind, failing classes, getting placed on academic probation, losing your grants… IDON’T WANT WHAT HAPPENED TO ME, TO HAPPEN TO YOU!”


Slightly deflated, “anyway, this is not empty work, this article is from a university on how to write well academically, you want this information, just take the time to read it, it’s not even that long…”


One week later: “please take out your homework…, …, … one person?! Where is the rest of your homework?!” “do you guys even want to learn anything? Should I just play a video?”

“yeah! Yeah!”


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