Using Zoho Projects as an educator

Penrith mature 1I’m a professor and for the past 10 months, I’ve used Zoho Projects for team projects in my classrooms and for collaborations amongst academics at a distance.

I’d just like to share my thoughts on how I use this tool, the things I absolutely love about this online collaboration application, and things I wish could be worked on.  I’m also sharing this with the Zoho support team on their support forum.

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The Ebb and Flow of Rhetorical Output

Young adults in conversation

Conversational rhetoric (From "img_5070" by bpsusf on Flickr with Creative Commons license)

If you’re a person who writes and speaks full time, like myself, have you ever wondered why there seem to be dry periods when you’re not very productive at the kinds of writing or speech that “count” the most to yourself or the people who evaluate you?

Well it bothers me.  I know I am not the only professor who notices that during Fall and Winter terms while I focus on producing the rhetoric required by my teaching roles, I don’t seem to be as productive in aiming my rhetoric at broader public audiences: conference presentations, blog-writing (!), and publication in journals.  The month of May comes around sooner than it should, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished “anything”– other than teaching, of course.

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Canadian and U.S. Rhetorical Cultures

CBC Cross Country Checkup comment page

Teaching and studying “Rhetoric” in Canada is different from doing so in the U.S. because of Canadian “rhetorical culture” within which we live and work.

Rhetorical study has flourished more in the U.S. because there is less social stigma against using and studying rhetoric in the U.S.

Consider one small segment of our rhetorical culture — among academics.  The rhetoric we are accustomed to use in our colleges and universities as students, teachers, academic colleagues, and academic presenters.  Our cultural context beyond the university/college makes a difference in how we organize and deliver our presentations.  It probably impacts the way we do “small talk” and network and give feedback among colleagues at academic  conferences.

In his blog post on the CSSR (Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric) conference in 2010, David Beard (alias syntaxfactory) describes how his experience at our Canadian association conference differed from his experience of the RSA (Rhetoric Society of America).  He writes,

The feedback was neither agonistic (as so many conference Q&A become competitions between audience and speaker) nor was it skew (as so many conference panel Q&A become about “the paper I wish you’d written instead”).

Why was the feedback not agonistic or skew at the CSSR?  Because that’s a norm of our rhetorical culture.

Thinking beyond our academic worlds to the societies that support them, I often meditate on the differences in the “rhetorical culture” of Americans and Canadians.  There are negatives and positives on both sides, but the Americans have an advantage over us because they actually study their own rhetorical culture in a focused and open manner.

Canadians need to catch up with the U.S. in their study and refinement of rhetoric.  And when we do that, we may actually excel in the quality and broad impact of our rhetorical accomplishments for the betterment of society.

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Google Sites as Course Websites

Screen shot close-up of my Google Site for the course

An increasing number of teachers are becoming web-savvy and are looking for ways to efficiently organize their course information for students through communication technology.

I’m one of them.

For many years now I’ve created a public course website for each course I teach.   Essentially, I have created an area within my own site, an area with 8-20 pages of material: a course home page with subpages for assignment descriptions, a schedule, links, and course-specific research or writing advice.

I’ve done this in combination with the “Blackboard” course management technology that has been adopted at my university, preferring the ability to craft the site the way I want, and display the non-confidential information publicly.

This blog post uses my own course website to explore the benefits and limitations of using Google Sites technology, especially in combination with Blackboard, a technology used for course management at many universities.
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US Universities in recession: furloughs and program closures

Arizona State University campus (Wikimedia commons)

Arizona State University campus (Wikimedia commons)

Canadian universities have often pointed south and claimed that American universities are much better funded by their state governments, but this situation seems to be changing due to the sudden US recession.

For example, the State of Nevada is reducing its higher education budget by 36% (WorldNow and KRNV, Nevada, January 23, 2009), which resulted in a campus rally of 2,000 University of Nevada (Las Vegas) students in January.

Arizona’s major cuts to higher education have also resulted in a student protest of 2,000 students strong (Arizona Capitol Times, January 28, 2009).  Several other states are taking similar extreme measures.

This article focuses on two ways in which some universities in the US are handling budget cuts– Furloughs and Program closures.  In contrast, Canadian Universities facing budget cuts at this time rarely make mention of these strategies (see my Jan. 31 blog article on Canadian university’ cost cutting measures) Continue reading

The Rhetoric of Conference Proposals

Wikimania press conference 2008. Image by Cary Bass

Wikimania press conference 2008. Image by Cary Bass (Wikimedia Commons)

I occasionally get requests from academic colleagues and students to read over their conference presentation proposals.  In this post, I distill some advice about attending and choosing academic conferences, the process of proposal writing, and describe the rhetorical features of a good proposal.

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Useful Technologies for Academics

A class in a medieval university. 13th century. from Wikipedia Commons

A class in a medieval university. 13th century. from Wikipedia Commons

In this post, I summarize the uses of some technological tools for your professional work (teaching, research, service, staff members’ work).   Some of them are very popular already, and some less well known.  Some of these I just started using in the past year or even the past few weeks.


OpenOffice – an alternative to upgrading your MSWord // online file storage // Ucalgaryblogs and Edublogs // PDF XChange Viewer – to annotate PDFs with notes, underlines, marginal comments // using Gmail as backup/archive of another email account // Google Calendar — to view and share many calendars at once, synchronizes with Outlook calendar // Doodle for scheduling meetings with many people // iGoogle – your customized web homepage // Wikimedia and Flickr – how to search for good images with copyright permission to be used in your power points, web pages, and student assignments.

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