Monday, 18 May 2009

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Reflecting on my personal learning environment...
Hi everybody!
Today I'm going to discuss a very important topic, i.e. my personal learning environment. Since we're at the end of our English course, and of our academic career in general I think it's really useful to reflect upon the ways we have to maintain our language. Unfortunately, learning a foreign language is a complex matter because it requires time and effort every day otherwise you lose and forget it. This is the reason why tracing a mind map pointing out 'informal' ways of learning is fundamental to become aware of how we can avoid forgetting our English. Thinking of my personal learning environment, I listed all the means I usually adopt to improve my English. Then I divided them into different groups according to some criteria. The result was a mind map made up of four categories of learning activities: formal education, leisure activities, information retrieving, and interactive learning. In the first group I put academic lessons and lectures, grammars, books and dictionaries – especially monolingual dictionaries – my teachers suggested to use during my university career or that I chose to use to study for my exams; in the second group I put all the ways I have to practice my English outside University and that I enjoy very much, such as listening to music, reading books for personal interest, listening to the radio, watching movies. In the group concerning the ways I use to retrieve information I put again listening to the radio and books, and added the Internet through websites and weblogs, and reading magazines and journals. Finally, by 'interactive learning' I mean all those activities where I learn and improve English by interacting and communicating with other people, be they my peers and colleagues, or my teachers. As you can see, some activities can be put in more than one groups. It depends on how I consider them. For example, listening to the radio can be considered both as a leisure activity when I listen to it without particular purposes, just to practice, and as a way to retrieve information when I listen to news or some specific programs with a particular purpose. I would like to explain why I put the Internet in the group of 'information retrieving' rather than among leisure activities. I hate using the computer and the Internet even if I know that nowadays they're very important means of communication. However, I try to use it only if necessary. What is certain is that I don't consider using the Internet a leisure activity, I prefer other ways of relaxing much more... I really hope to go on improving my English, and that this map can help me do it!
For now that's all
Michela

Thursday, 7 May 2009

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To trust is good, not to trust is better... Isn't it?


Hello everybody!
Last Wednesday we discussed a very important issue, i.e. the risks of using the Internet. We listed them together, and came to the conclusion that the Internet, as just any other communication or knowledge tool, should be approached critically since it has pros and cons.


As far as I'm concerned, I don't like using technological tools in general: working on the computer, and particularly using the Internet, has always been frustrating for me. However, in modern society it's too important to use it, and if you don't use it you risk to feel alone. Particularly, the Internet is the most commonly used communication means: it allows people to exchange information and collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously.


I must admit that to protect myself I tend to use the Internet only when necessary, for example when I have to retrieve some interesting information, or for learning purposes - like in this case. I don't use Facebook or similar social network, and I avoid even writing emails because, if I have to say the whole truth, I don't know many people living distant from me, and I prefer seeing my best friends and speaking with them instead of reading their messages in front of a computer. I know, I'm a bit traditional but in so doing I have no problems with the information I put on the Internet. Obviously, I don't think that the solution to this problem is avoiding using it. As I've just said, there are too many activities in modern society that are linked to the use of this tool. I think the proper solution is to try to be responsible users, to learn how to take advantages from it instead of being damaged. We should avoid to put personal information on it because we know there's always the risk that other people use it. Finally, as concerns plagiarism I think that we should put restrictions to our work when we publish it. Our IPR should be respected, too. I'd react very negatively if I found out that someone has used my photographs or copied my original written work.


In short, the only thing we can do is to be careful, and always think twice before putting information on it. Remember that you're never really alone!

Here you can find some further information about how to use the Internet properly in order to protect yourself. Have a look at it! It's not a waste of time at all!


For today that's all!
See you next week!
Michela




Thursday, 30 April 2009

4 comments
Why you should use Google Docs...
Hello everybody!
Today I'd like to write something about Google Docs, and in doing so, I'll try to be as more concise as possible!I know that perhaps I tend to write too long blog posts!
We already know how to create and save bookmarks on the Web by means of Delicious, and we realized how useful this is. Now we also learnt how Google Docs works. The advantages of using this tool are the following ones.
  • First of all, it's a service where you can save and privately share documents with friends and colleagues, that is not anyone can read or edit your documents, but just those people you decide to invite to.
  • Secondly, since this is a Web service, you can easily have access to your documents all the time, and work on them using different computers.
  • Next, more than one user can edit the same page at a time, and when this happens you should see who's working on it besides you.
  • Finally, I think that Google Docs can be really useful when working with people who are physically distant from you. When it's impossible for people to gather in the same place and work together, Google Docs is just what you're looking for!

I don't think I'll use Google Docs very much in the future because I usually work on my computer, and rarely have to work with others and share documents with them. Anyway, if I had to do this, now I know that I can use Google Docs!And I also think that it would be a good idea to save and update a copy of an important work, such as a thesis, in Google D0cs, too...terrible things can always happen when you have to do with technology!!!

For now that's all!

See you soon

Michela

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

2 comments
APA format vs. MLA format
Hello everybody!
In the following post I'd like to point out the main differences between the APA and the MLA styles, which I drew from visiting the links out English teacher gave us. The first difference concerns parenthetical in-text citations: the APA style uses the author's name, date of publication, and page number while the MLA style indicates just the author's name and page number. Secondly, as far as authors and editors are concerned, the APA system lists all authors and editors giving their last names and first initials whereas the MLA system spells out available names, and, in the case there are more than 3, lists just the first one with et al. Another important difference, which partly makes you understand why the APA is used for scientific research and the MLA for humanities category, concerns titles. While the former one italicizes it and capitalizes only its first word, the latter one underlines it and capitalizes every important word in it. Next, as concerns publishers, the APA style uses full names while the MLA style prefers to shorten them. As far as the place of publication is concerned, the APA style adds the state abbreviation when the city is less known whereas the MLA style only lists the city. As regards pages, which have to be indicated always when referring to specific parts of a source, the APA style lists the first page as well as additional ones. On the contrary, the MLA style lists just the first page, adding + to indicate that additional pages were taken into account, too. A further difference is about dates: in the APA aystem dates always follow the author name/s while in the MLA one they're placed at the end of the citation. Finally, as far as indentions are concerned, in the APA style just the first line of each entry is indented whereas in the MLA style it's exactly the opposite: the first line of each entry is flush with the left margin, and the rest of the citation is indented.
Thinking about my BA thesis, I must admit that I used a mixture of these two reference styles. For example, as far as titles are concerned, I wrote them in italics, as the APA style suggests, but I used capital letters with every semantically important word. As concerns the reference list, I indicated the author's name, the title, the place of publication, the publisher, and the date of publication. As for in-text citations I put the author's name and the date in parethesis: so, again a mixture between the two formats. I remember that I had some difficulties in listing references when I had to write my thesis, or when I was asked to write some academic paper. Now I'm becoming even more familiar with the various, different styles you can use to indicate the references of your work. However, I'm still convinced that one of the main difficulty is to decide what style is more suitable for the kind of writing you're working on. Reading further information about the APA format and the MLA format, I learnt that a basic difference between them concerns just the subjects they're commonly used for: the APA style is generally considered to be more suitable for the exposition of scientific research, the MLA style for humanities. Once chosen the format, it's very complicated to follow all the rules it recommends, anyway.
I hope that I'll learn how to use references even better in the future! Writing my MA thesis is going to be a real challenge!
See you soon,
Michela
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"There is nothing in your life that does not have meaning"... but how do we express the meaning of our thoughts? Often with words! So write and speak clearly, if you want others to understand you easily and correctly!
English is a reader responsible language: don't forget it, and do your best to make your message as readable as possible!


HANDOUT 2

Task 1
Reflecting on text structure, I think that blog posts generally follow the 'traditional' structure of academic writing. I maintain that any text should have an introduction, a body and a conclusion to be considered coherent and logically consistent. As we pointed out in class, the introduction serves the purpose of immediately telling what the text is about, what its author aims at; the body is the central part of the text where the writer widely develops the subject; finally, the conclusion reinforces what has just been written or demonstrated, asserting the same contents of the introduction definitively. As far as my blog posts are concerned, I think that I usually followed this structure. I always began my posts with greetings, and immediately placed the subject matter I was going to develop in the message: I believe that I can well call this part an introduction to the whole text. Then I developed the subjects of my posts, trying to always be as logical and concise as possible. This is very important when you write in English since English is a writer responsible language, which means the reader is supposed to make as little effort as possible to understand the message. I also concluded my posts with a final statement summarising the previous contents, and with greetings. So, I think that I always followed this structure when writing my blog posts because I'm convinced this is the most coherent, logical way to organize any kind of text.
As concerns the 'academic' blogs we found in e-tivity 5, I think there are both similarities and differences between them and my blog posts. As far as similarities are concerned, the most evident one is undoubtedly the fact that they contain greetings, too because they are meant to be far nearer to verbal interaction than other genres, such as academic articles or essays. I think that the main purpose of blogs – be they academic or not – is to share useful information, and sharing information always implies interaction. This is the reason why bloggers, besides providing information about a specific subject, are constantly concerned to keep some kind of interaction with their audience. As far as differences are concerned, the subject, and consequently, the register of the message is undoubtedly the main one. Blogs we found in e-tivity 5 treat personal learning environments, which is a serious subject: a lot of research has been carried out on it. On the contrary, my blog is about my language learning. So, blogs about personal learning environments are much more formal than my blog is. My blog is primarily meant as a means for my English course, that is a means for improving my English, and to be read by my peers. Academic blogs are intended, written, and maintained for a much greater number of readers who bloggers generally don't know. This is the reason why it's always very important for these people to write their posts carefully, deeply reflecting upon the audience's expectations.


Task 2
Since I'm becoming even more interested in the blogosphere, I chose an academic article who examines identity and language use among male and female teenagers creating and maintaining blogs. Its title is Gender, Identity, and Language Use in Teenage Blogs. As far as text structure is concerned, this article perfectly follows the so-called hourglass structure: there is an introduction, a central body where the research is developed, and a conclusion summing up what the study has examined. Since this is an article, the argument is developed on a large scale broken down into smaller parts. Each part then contains claims that are supported by data with underlying warrants. For example, in the first part immediately following the introduction metalinguistic signaling devices like first, next, thus, finally, in short are used. The whole article is structured like this. Other words used to logically link sentences are however, on the one hand, on the other hand, in either case, by contrast, similarly, for instance. It's quite obvious that academic writing makes use of this kind of formal linking words. This is a research article that is supposed to expose the results of the study carried out in a clear, logical way, so that the reader can understand all the steps of the article easily. Cohesion is another characteristic that academic writing should have to be clear and redeable. Examples are the following sentences: “these features are especially important...” where the demonstrative these is pointing back to the points previously developed, or “there were two scores” where there were is pointing forward in the text. Similar examples of both cataphoric and anaphoric reference can be easily found throughout the article. The purpose of these types of reference is to make as easy as possible the reader's understanding of the various parts making up the text structure. As concerns the complexity of this article, I think it's quite simple and clear. Not only are short sentences preferred to complex ones, but also lists, graphics as well as tables are used to expose the information. For example, when explaining the purposes of the study a list made up of four items is used: “of particular interest to us is: 1) the extent...; 2)how emotive features...; 3) how sexual identity... 4) how language is used... . Many further examples could be provided. In this way, the text is much easier to understand, and the steps easier to follow.
Finally, as far as the text's assumed audience is concerned, I don't think there is a specific audience intended to read this article. Obviously, it's meant for people interested in this topic, and in new virtual means of communication in general. I can also assume that it's not meant for adolescents because it would be very difficult for them to understand it.
I believe that all these points should be followed when writing blog posts, too. A blog post should always be formed from an introduction, a central body, and a conclusion, and each of these parts should be evident to the reader. Finally, messages on the blog should be logical, cohesive, clear, and bloggers should keep in mind who their assumed readers are. In short, what changes is the subject and the consequent way of using language, but the structure, logic, cohesion, coherence, and clarity should all be followed in a blog post, too.
That's all for now!
See you soon,
Michela

Friday, 17 April 2009

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Tips for avoiding plagiarism

Hello everybody!
First of all, I really hope you had an happy Easter!
Now, let's keep on working!
I must admit that I became familiar with the concept of plagiarism only when I wrote my thesis. Soon I will have to start working on my dissertation, so I'm very interested in what I can do to avoid it. Searching the web, I found a lot of interesting information about plagiarism, in particular suggestions you can/should follow to avoid legal actions. The information that follows gives you details about plagiarism.

1-First of all, in my opinion it's important to say what a source is. As Aaron states, it can be anything, "a book, an article, a movie, an interview, a microfilmed document, a downloaded image, an anonymous newsgroup posting" (Avoiding Plagiarism).

2-The question you always have to ask yourself is whether the source you found is trustworthy, reliable or not (see this list of criteria).

3- The most common ways to avoid plagiarism are quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. You can write the author's exact words in quotation marks, or convey the same ideas with your own words and naming the souces you used. It's better to name the source within the text (e.g. "X says", "X argues, maintains, states,..."), and not just at the end of the paragraph. As far as correct quotation is concerned, the APA system and the MLA system are commonly used.

4-Internet sources have to be treated like the other kinds of sources. So you're supposed to give name of the author, date when you retrieved the information, title, and URL.

5-Another important distinction has to be drawn between information that is protected by Intellectual Property Rights and common knowledge: the former obviously needs the original source while the latter is part of the public domain. Unfortunately, it's not always so easy to decide whether a piece of information is common knowledge or not.


I saved some useful information about this issue in Delicious.
See you soon,
Michela


Friday, 3 April 2009

4 comments
Once found, never lost!
Hello everybody!
Did you image that you could lose youself in a virtual place, too?And that sometimes this is so easy?...
I found the task about evaluating online sources really very interesting. I already knew some of the criteria you should follow to decide whether online information is trustworthy or not. Specifically, I always follow these basic rules:
-who is the author? Is s/he known?If not, could s/he de considered authoritative?
-do cross-referencing to see if you can find the same information in other places
-once found a trustworthy source, I use links in it because I presume these are trustworthy, too.
However, in class we pointed out other criteria that you have to keep in mind when searching the Web. Besides that, our English teacher showed us some tools where you are provided with information already filtered. I find them very useful,and by now I'm going to use them often and often. The Web is so wide that it's impossible that you find what you want immediately. Searching Google Blogs, Google Books, and Google Scholar you know what kind of information you retrieve: blogs, books, or academic writings and articles. Finally, it's quite obvious that the importance of these three sources changes in accordance to the work I'm doing. If you have to write your thesis it's much better if you search for books and authoritative articles (even if reliable information can be found in blogs, too); on the contrary, if you want for example to see how language is used on the blogosphere, it's better if you go through other blogs. Once you retrieved the information that interests you, you can then save it as a bookmark on Delicious. In this way, you can have a look at it whenever you want, wherever you are, thus avoiding losing time, or, even worse ... losing yourself on the Web!!!
I'm curious to know what you think about it! By now it's time to retrieve the material for my thesis!
See you soon,
Michela
 

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