Writing by Design

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How much grammar do you need to write well?

According to a recently-published article in the British Educational Research Journal, there’s little or no evidence from over 100 years of research to show that teaching grammar improves student writing.

Here’s an abstract of the findings:

Over 100 years of research and debate on grammar instruction.64 articles reviewed; results show that there is little evidence to indicate that the teaching of formal grammar is effective, and that teaching sentence-combining has a more positive effect on improving the syntactic maturity of students in English between the ages of 5 and 16 improving their writing quality and accuracy…the teaching of syntax (as part of a traditional or transformational/generative approach to teaching grammar) appears to have no influence on either the accuracy or quality of written language development for 5 to 16-year-olds. (p. 51)

The importance (or not) of teaching grammar to writing students still provokes heated discussion among teachers.  What do you think?

 

 

 

New, user-friendly data visualization tool

From the New York Times:

At an experimental Web site, Many Eyes, (www.many-eyes.com), users can upload the data they want to visualize, then try sophisticated tools to generate interactive displays. These might range from maps of relationships in the New Testament to a display of the comparative frequency of words used in speeches by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The site was created by scientists at the Watson Research Center of I.B.M. in Cambridge, Mass., to help people publish and discuss graphics in a group. Those who register at the site can comment on one another’s work, perhaps visualizing the same information with different tools and discovering unexpected patterns in the data.

Visit many-eyes.com

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Managing your power-hungry computer

The New York Times has an article about the non-profit Climate Savers Computing Initiative and their free software to help computer owners cut down on energy use.

In its drive to go green, the technology industry has so far focused mainly on big targets like corporations and especially computer data centers, the power-hungry computing engine rooms of the Internet economy.

Next come the hundreds of millions of desktop and laptop personal computers in households worldwide.

Microsoft, the nonprofit Climate Savers Computing Initiative and a start-up called Verdiem are combining to put a spotlight on the energy-saving opportunity in PCs, and distributing a free software tool to consumers to help them do it.

Read full article here…

Google and the hidden web

Imagine researching a topic in the biggest library in the world, with access only to the book titles.

It’s a crude analogy, but a warning for everyone–particularly scholars–not to rely too heavily on Google.

A recent study published in D-Lib Magazine found that fewer than half — just 44 percent — of a sample group of deep-Web pages from scholarly archives showed up in Google searches.

Read the article…

Courtroom dramas: 200 years of legal history from Times Online

“1832 — August 3, William Jobling, for the murder of Nicholas Fairless. The body was gibbeted on Jarrow Slake on August 6, and at night on the 31st it was stolen and secretly disposed of by some persons unknown.”

The Durham miner’s death, recorded in The Times, is thought to be the last public gibbeting in England — a notable account in the history of crime and punishment over 200 years.

Today that history, along with the unique archive of The Times Law Reports over more than 200 years, is open to the public as part of the complete contents of the newspaper from 1785 to 1985. Readers can access the Law Reports of the past two centuries through Times Online, in the format in which they appeared in the newspaper, as well as accounts of the most famous cases of the day — Oscar Wilde, Derek Bentley and the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial.

Rose Wild, editor of the Times Archive, said: “As well as the law reports, the history of crime and punishment is played out in letters to the editor, in leading articles and comment pages, court reports and trial transcripts.

Read more…

Not your average Facebook: social networking for humanists

Remmel Nunn, vice president for new product development at Readex, is
interested the potential for researchers to help one
another through a form of social networking. In “Crossroads: A New
Paradigm for Electronically Researching Primary Source Documents,”
he
explores how a new tool and a new collection might establish a new
paradigm for presenting, searching, annotating, and sharing material.

And from the Institute for the Future of the Book, a real-life experiment with social reading online.

In mid-October 3-5 readers will begin reading The Golden Notebook and carry out a conversation in the margins. The site will be open and the rest of us will be able to follow their reading and participate in a related public forum.

Who do you think should be the readers? The book is perhaps best known for its role in the beginning of the women’s liberation movements of the 1970s but it also confronts complex issues of race and the political fall-out from the ideological collapse of the soviet union. The original idea was to invite women from different generations, but we’re open to other ideas.

Please, tell us who you would like to see as the designated readers. We’re interested in general categories but also in specific recommendations. You can even nominate yourself. [The Arts Council grant includes a generous honorarium for each of the readers.]

Weekend treat: do you speak Canadian?

The Toronto Star’s recent coverage of a proposed International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for new immigrants to Canada set off a lively discussion among readers and in the blogosphere. The article itself began with a tricky grammatical question (and misleading answer):
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