Gibbs/Smith 1106 Syllabus

Course Description – The world in which we live is always asking, What’s next?  We concern ourselves with where we’re going, what we’re going to be, what we’re going to do, where we’re going to live, what we’re going to buy.  To a certain extent this is natural–we plan for the future, not for a time that has already passed.  The premise for this course is that there’s at least a chance we’re too preoccupied with the future and need to spend a bit more time asking, Where are we?  This is a research-based writing class, and so asking the question, Where are we?, is essentially a way to instigate various research projects–after all, research grows out of questions, not definitive statements.  And one question inevitably leads to further questions.  In this case, Where are we? requires us to ask also, How do we know where we are?  This new question helps us remember, or discover, that there are ways to know where we are apart from looking it up on Google Maps; there are, that is, different ways of knowing.  So, in asking, Where are we?, we’re embarking on a research project of tremendous variety.  Our research will take the form of observation, documentation (images, audio recordings, video recordings), and experimentation (trying new food, new activities, etc), but it will also include more-traditional textual research methods, for a particularly important way in which to know a place is through its history.  All this research will serve as a basis for writing assignments, and to help us become more comfortable with writing about where we are, we will read a wide variety of literature focused on place, on how we understand the spaces in which we exist.
Here are some questions to keep in the back of your mind as we go through the semester:

  • Where am I?
  • What am I doing right now?
  • How do I understand this place I’m in in this very moment?
  • How is my experience being structured by my environment?

Required Texts/Supplies:

  • Virginia Tech Dept. of English. Composition at Virginia Tech (2009-2010). ISBN: 0-558-19908-09
  • Mathieu, Grattan, Lindgren, Shultz. Writing Places. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. ISBN: 0-321-31685-1
  • A folder (for turning in assignments)
  • A writing notebook for reading responses and in-class writing

Plan on bringing your books and readings every day unless there is a workshop, presentation, or training/library day scheduled.Assignments – Here is a brief outline of the assignments you will complete in this course. You will receive a detailed description with grading criteria and due dates as they are assigned.

Four Graded Written Assignments

  • Bioregional Quiz: Provide short responses to five questions on the Bioregional Quiz, with a reflection detailing your research process.  This writing assignment will help you discover how well you know the greater Blacksburg area, help you begin thinking about and evaluating your current research method(s), and give you practice thinking and writing reflexively, not only taking the Bioregional Quiz, but also evaluating its quality.  <<600-1000 words »» 5% of grade »» Due date: Feb 1>>
  • Observations:  One important way to know a place is through careful observation.  This assignment is designed to help you move beyond your surface impressions of a park, building, room, etc, and consider the meaning a particular place holds for yourself as well as others.  You will observe three different places in Blacksburg–only one of which can be on campus–and write corresponding short observational essays about each place.  One of these short essays will be developed into a longer, more in-depth essay. <<3 Essays, at least 500 words »» Expanded essay, 1000-1500 words »» 15% of grade »» Due dates: Feb. 8, 15, 22 & March 5>>
  • Iconic Places in Blacksburg:  Examining a place through its icons is a common and important way to get to know that place, for a community’s icons are not only important aspects of its history, they also help us see how communities view themselves.  This assignment allows you to take a closer look at Blacksburg by examining one of its iconic buildings, artifacts, etc, and it introduces you to the use of historical materials in research (maps, newspaper articles, census data). <<1500-2000 words »» 20% of grade »» Due dates: Proposal due March 15, Rough draft due March 29, Final draft due April 5>>
  • Hidden Places/Disappearing Places in Blacksburg: Though one way to know a place is through its icons, that knowledge is often limited to what we might call “sanctioned knowledge.”  That is, iconic markers in a community’s history often fail to illuminate problematic aspects of that history.  Another way, then, to get to know a community is through its hidden and disappearing places.  This is not to say that such places are masked by a conspiratorial shroud, but they often relate to difficult social, cultural, political, or economic issues, problems which a community’s citizens may not feel comfortable displaying and discussing openly and frankly.  This assignment is designed to help you know Blacksburg through its hidden and disappearing places, allow you to use all the research skills you have developed throughout the semester, and help you continue to relate your observation and study of a place with the larger cultural issues that envelop it. <<At least 2000 words »» 25% of grade »» Due dates: Proposal due April 2, Rough draft due April 19, Final draft due May 7>>

Group Project: Walking Tour of Blacksburg — You will be broken up into groups of 3-4 people.  In your groups you will come up with a theme around which to organize a walking tour of Blacksburg.   Your tour must have 6-8 stops–at least 2 per group member–and each stop on the tour must be accessible by walking and the use of public transportation alone.  After having three in-class work days, your group will also present the tour to the class. Your final projects will be due on the date you are scheduled to present.

Individual Presentation — You will present one of your last two assignments to the class in a format called Pecha Kucha. Developed in Japan by two architects, this fast-paced presentation format works to curb the tendency for architects to talk on…and on…and on. It is specially designed to work against “death by PowerPoint,” imposing on the presenter the restriction of using only 20 slides, each visible for only 20 seconds; the entire presentation should therefore be 6 minutes 40 seconds long. Presentations will be scheduled the last five class periods. Don’t be nervous about this just yet…more information will be provided near week 11, but if you’re curious, feel free to check out the following:
http://en.wikipedia/org/wiki/Pecha_Kucha
http://www.wired.com/techboz/media/magazine/15-09/st_pechakucha#
http://www.pecha-kucha.org

Participation

  • Map Posting – There will be an online class map of Blacksburg to which you will add text, pictures, and sounds. You will be expected to post at least five items to this map.  At least three items must be text submissions of a 150-200 word paragraph each. The remaining submissions should be of one photo and one sound/video item. You are welcome to post more text, images, sounds, and even videos, but it is not required.  Final postings are due on your presentation day.
  • Quizzes – from the readings each week.
  • Reading Responses & Informal Writing – Reading responses will be assigned with most readings, and periodically we will have informal writing that you will turn in for grades on a check plus/check/check minus scale.

Grade Breakdown

  • Bioregional Quiz: 5%
  • Observation: 15%
  • Iconic Places: 20%
  • Disappearing/Hidden Places: 25%
  • Group Project/Presentation: 10%
  • Individual Presentation 10%
  • Class Participation 15%: Daily Quizzes 5% (10 quizzes worth .5%/each) // Additions to class map: 5% // Additional informal writing (graded on a check plus/check/check minus/zero scale) 5%

The grading scale is as follows:
A+ 100-97, A 96-94, A- 93-90 // B+ 89-87, B 86-84, B- 83-80 // C+ 79-77, C 76-74, C- 73-70
D+ 69-67, D 66-64, D- 63-60 // F 59 and below

Course Policies

  • Attendance – Attendance is expected; no in-class work may be completed for credit at a later time. Three unexcused absences are allowed; a point from your final grade will be deducted for each additional absence.
  • Due Dates – All assignment must be turned in on time – there will be partial credit given for late submissions at my discretion. If there are extenuating circumstances (going on vacation/home is not an extenuating circumstance) that prevent you from turning your assignment in on time, contact me before the assignment is due, not after.
  • Revision Policy – You may revise one of your first three papers for a higher grade (please note: a higher grade isn’t guaranteed). Submit your revision, including all previous drafts, with your final paper on May 7.
  • Virginia Tech Honor Code – The honor code will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered in the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. For a complete authoritative list of all code violations, visit http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu
  • Principles of Community – This class is a learning community, and for it to function effectively we must engage one another in a respectful matter. Please follow the Virginia Tech Principles of Community; you may find them on the inside cover of Comp @ VT, in the classroom, and at http://www.vt.edu/diversity/principles-of-community.html.
  • Students with Disabilities – If you need adaptations or accomodations because of a disability, have emergency medical information to share with me, or need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. For more information, please visit the Services for Students with Disabilities website http://www.ssd.vt.edu

The Virginia Tech Writing Center is located in 340 Shanks Hall. Regular appointments in the Center are available and are the best way to improve your writing and communication skills throughout your entire career at VT. Visit the Writing Center website for more information: http://www.composition.english.vt.edu/wc or call the Writing Center at 540-231-5436. Appointments in the Writing Center are free.
Tentative Schedule (stay tuned to Scholar for updates)

January
Week 1
20 – Go over syllabus
22 – Introductory readings on place. Readings due: “To the Student” (WP xv-xvii), “Where are We From” (WP 1-4), “Where Are We” (WP 57-61), “Defining Place” (Chapter 1) from Place: A Short Introduction by Tim Cresswell (reading on Scholar). Take Bioregional quiz in class. Hand out Bioregional Quiz assignment specs.
Week 2 – QUIZ 1
25 – Readings due: Becoming Native – Jeffrey A. Lockwood (WP 139-147); A New Geography of Hope – William McDonough and Michael Braungart (WP 227-238)
27 – Readings due: The Orbits of Earthly Bodies – Rebecca Solnit (WP 192-195); “Invisible Technologies” (Chapter 8) from Technopoly by Neil Postman (on Scholar); possibly the Owens reading or something from Kunstler
29 – Readings due: “Common Traits in Perception: The Senses” in Topophilia by Yi-Fu Tuan (on Scholar); “By Dawn’s Early Light” by Ron Fletcher (WP 81-84). Hand out Observation assignment.

February
Week 3 – QUIZ 2
1 – In class: Hand out group project information // Go over Google Maps basics // Hand out individual mapping project info. Assignments due today: Bioregional Quiz.
3 – Readings due: “Taking Notes as You Observe a Place” (WP 246-247); “The Coffee Shop” – Andrea Casassa (WP 38-43).  Group work day during half of the class period.
5 – “The Good Pain: Au Bon Pain” from Composition at VT 2008-2009 by Shelby Evans (on Scholar); “King’s Chapel and Burying Ground” by Robin Dunn (WP 116-121); “Interviewing” (WP 242-245)

English 1106 – Spring 2010: Where Are We?


Instructors: Melissa Smith and Jared Gibbs
Office: Lane 323 // Office Hours: MWF 12:00-1:00 (Smith) «» MWF 10:15-11:15 (Gibbs)
Contact: 231-0684 // melism@vt.edu «» jagibbs2@vt.edu



Course Description – The world in which we live is always asking, What’s next?  We concern ourselves with where we’re going, what we’re going to be, what we’re going to do, where we’re going to live, what we’re going to buy.  To a certain extent this is natural we plan for the future, not for a time that has already passed.  The premise for this course is that there’s at least a chance we’re too preoccupied with the future and need to spend a bit more time asking, Where are we?  This is a research-based writing class, and so asking the question, Where are we?, is essentially a way to instigate various research projects after all, research grows out of questions, not definitive statements.  And one question inevitably leads to further questions.  In this case, Where are we? requires us to ask also, How do we know where we are?  This new question helps us remember, or discover, that there are ways to know where we are apart from looking it up on Google Maps; there are, that is, different ways of knowing.  So, in asking, Where are we?, we’re embarking on a research project of tremendous variety.  Our research will take the form of observation, documentation (images, audio recordings, video recordings), and experimentation (trying new food, new activities, etc), but it will also include more-traditional textual research methods, for a particularly important way in which to know a place is through its history.  All this research will serve as a basis for writing assignments, and to help us become more comfortable with writing about where we are, we will read a wide variety of literature focused on place, on how we understand the spaces in which we exist.


Here are some questions to keep in the back of your mind as we go through the semester:

· Where am I?

· What am I doing right now?

· How do I understand this place I’m in in this very moment?

· How is my experience being structured by my environment?


Required Texts/Supplies:

· Virginia Tech Dept. of English. Composition at Virginia Tech (2009-2010). ISBN: 0-558-19908-09

· Mathieu, Grattan, Lindgren, Shultz. Writing Places. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. ISBN: 0-321-31685-1

· A folder (for turning in assignments)

· A writing notebook for reading responses and in-class writing


Plan on bringing your books and readings every day unless there is a workshop, presentation, or training/library day scheduled.

Assignments – Here is a brief outline of the assignments you will complete in this course. You will receive a detailed description with grading criteria and due dates as they are assigned.

Four Graded Written Assignments

· Bioregional Quiz: Provide short responses to five questions on the Bioregional Quiz, with a reflection detailing your research process.  This writing assignment will help you discover how well you know the greater Blacksburg area, help you begin thinking about and evaluating your current research method(s), and give you practice thinking and writing reflexively, not only taking the Bioregional Quiz, but also evaluating its quality.  <<600-1000 words »» 5% of grade »» Due date: Feb 1>>

· Observations:  One important way to know a place is through careful observation.  This assignment is designed to help you move beyond your surface impressions of a park, building, room, etc, and consider the meaning a particular place holds for yourself as well as others.  You will observe three different places in Blacksburg only one of which can be on campus and write corresponding short observational essays about each place.  One of these short essays will be developed into a longer, more in-depth essay. <<3 Essays, at least 500 words »» Expanded essay, 1000-1500 words »» 15% of grade »» Due dates: Feb. 8, 15, 22 & March 5>>

· Iconic Places in Blacksburg:  Examining a place through its icons is a common and important way to get to know that place, for a community’s icons are not only important aspects of its history, they also help us see how communities view themselves.  This assignment allows you to take a closer look at Blacksburg by examining one of its iconic buildings, artifacts, etc, and it introduces you to the use of historical materials in research (maps, newspaper articles, census data). <<1500-2000 words »» 20% of grade »» Due dates: Proposal due March 15, Rough draft due March 29, Final draft due April 5>>

· Hidden Places/Disappearing Places in Blacksburg: Though one way to know a place is through its icons, that knowledge is often limited to what we might call “sanctioned knowledge.”  That is, iconic markers in a community’s history often fail to illuminate problematic aspects of that history.  Another way, then, to get to know a community is through its hidden and disappearing places.  This is not to say that such places are masked by a conspiratorial shroud, but they often relate to difficult social, cultural, political, or economic issues, problems which a community’s citizens may not feel comfortable displaying and discussing openly and frankly.  This assignment is designed to help you know Blacksburg through its hidden and disappearing places, allow you to use all the research skills you have developed throughout the semester, and help you continue to relate your observation and study of a place with the larger cultural issues that envelop it. <<At least 2000 words »» 25% of grade »» Due dates: Proposal due April 2, Rough draft due April 19, Final draft due May 7>>

Group Project: Walking Tour of Blacksburg You will be broken up into groups of 3-4 people.  In your groups you will come up with a theme around which to organize a walking tour of Blacksburg.   Your tour must have 6-8 stops at least 2 per group member and each stop on the tour must be accessible by walking and the use of public transportation alone.  After having three in-class work days, your group will also present the tour to the class. Your final projects will be due on the date you are scheduled to present.

Individual Presentation You will present one of your last two assignments to the class in a format called Pecha Kucha. Developed in Japan by two architects, this fast-paced presentation format works to curb the tendency for architects to talk on…and on…and on. It is specially designed to work against “death by PowerPoint,” imposing on the presenter the restriction of using only 20 slides, each visible for only 20 seconds; the entire presentation should therefore be 6 minutes 40 seconds long. Presentations will be scheduled the last five class periods. Don’t be nervous about this just yet…more information will be provided near week 11, but if you’re curious, feel free to check out the following:
http://en.wikipedia/org/wiki/Pecha_Kucha
http://www.wired.com/techboz/media/magazine/15-09/st_pechakucha#
http://www.pecha-kucha.org


Participation

· Map Posting – There will be an online class map of Blacksburg to which you will add text, pictures, and sounds. You will be expected to post at least five items to this map.  At least three items must be text submissions of a 150-200 word paragraph each. The remaining submissions should be of one photo and one sound/video item. You are welcome to post more text, images, sounds, and even videos, but it is not required.  Final postings are due on your presentation day.

· Quizzes – from the readings each week.

· Reading Responses & Informal Writing – Reading responses will be assigned with most readings, and periodically we will have informal writing that you will turn in for grades on a check plus/check/check minus scale.


Grade Breakdown

· Bioregional Quiz: 5%

· Observation: 15%

· Iconic Places: 20%

· Disappearing/Hidden Places: 25%

· Group Project/Presentation: 10%

· Individual Presentation 10%

· Class Participation 15%: Daily Quizzes 5% (10 quizzes worth .5%/each) // Additions to class map: 5% // Additional informal writing (graded on a check plus/check/check minus/zero scale) 5%

The grading scale is as follows:
A+ 100-97, A 96-94, A- 93-90 // B+ 89-87, B 86-84, B- 83-80 // C+ 79-77, C 76-74, C- 73-70
D+ 69-67, D 66-64, D- 63-60 // F 59 and below

Course Policies

· Attendance – Attendance is expected; no in-class work may be completed for credit at a later time. Three unexcused absences are allowed; a point from your final grade will be deducted for each additional absence.

· Due Dates – All assignment must be turned in on time – there will be partial credit given for late submissions at my discretion. If there are extenuating circumstances (going on vacation/home is not an extenuating circumstance) that prevent you from turning your assignment in on time, contact me before the assignment is due, not after.

· Revision Policy – You may revise one of your first three papers for a higher grade (please note: a higher grade isn’t guaranteed). Submit your revision, including all previous drafts, with your final paper on May 7.

· Virginia Tech Honor Code – The honor code will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered in the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. For a complete authoritative list of all code violations, visit http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu

· Principles of Community – This class is a learning community, and for it to function effectively we must engage one another in a respectful matter. Please follow the Virginia Tech Principles of Community; you may find them on the inside cover of Comp @ VT, in the classroom, and at http://www.vt.edu/diversity/principles-of-community.html.

· Students with Disabilities – If you need adaptations or accomodations because of a disability, have emergency medical information to share with me, or need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. For more information, please visit the Services for Students with Disabilities website http://www.ssd.vt.edu

The Virginia Tech Writing Center is located in 340 Shanks Hall. Regular appointments in the Center are available and are the best way to improve your writing and communication skills throughout your entire career at VT. Visit the Writing Center website for more information: http://www.composition.english.vt.edu/wc or call the Writing Center at 540-231-5436. Appointments in the Writing Center are free.


Tentative Schedule (stay tuned to Scholar for updates)

January
Week 1
20 – Go over syllabus
22 – Introductory readings on place. Readings due: “To the Student” (WP xv-xvii), “Where are We From” (WP 1-4), “Where Are We” (WP 57-61), “Defining Place” (Chapter 1) from Place: A Short Introduction by Tim Cresswell (reading on Scholar). Take Bioregional quiz in class. Hand out Bioregional Quiz assignment specs.


Week 2 – QUIZ 1
25 – Readings due: Becoming Native – Jeffrey A. Lockwood (WP 139-147); A New Geography of Hope – William McDonough and Michael Braungart (WP 227-238)
27 – Readings due: The Orbits of Earthly Bodies – Rebecca Solnit (WP 192-195); “Invisible Technologies” (Chapter 8) from Technopoly by Neil Postman (on Scholar); possibly the Owens reading or something from Kunstler
29 – Readings due: “Common Traits in Perception: The Senses” in Topophilia by Yi-Fu Tuan (on Scholar); “By Dawn’s Early Light” by Ron Fletcher (WP 81-84). Hand out Observation assignment.

February
Week 3 – QUIZ 2
1 – In class: Hand out group project information // Go over Google Maps basics // Hand out individual mapping project info. Assignments due today: Bioregional Quiz.
3 – Readings due: “Taking Notes as You Observe a Place” (WP 246-247); “The Coffee Shop” – Andrea Casassa (WP 38-43).  Group work day during half of the class period.
5 – “The Good Pain: Au Bon Pain” from Composition at VT 2008-2009 by Shelby Evans (on Scholar); “King’s Chapel and Burying Ground” by Robin Dunn (WP 116-121); “Interviewing” (WP 242-245)

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