Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

Click ‘Spam’ to open tin. Contains pure classic comedy cuts

A couple of months ago fellow Scot  Alan Gillespie, an English teacher and one of my Twitter PLN, wrote a very interesting and amusing article for  The Guardian on the use of spam emails as an exercise in persuasive writing for students. It was such a compelling argument – and such an obvious context for learning and teaching an essential element of digital literacy – that the only wonder is no one had thought of it before. I urge you to read it (imperative mood, urgent tone) if you haven’t already done so.

Alan’s article caused me to reflect on the sheer volume of spam – or fake – emails and messages travelling across cyberspace, including those which appear as ‘comments’ in response to a blog post. Many of these are obvious fakes and are thankfully filtered out without the blogger having to read them. There are so many of them that I usually just press the ‘Empty Spam’ option and move on to read the genuine comments. Sometimes however, there are those which have been filtered out by WordPress’s filtering service Akismet  which may actually be genuine but simply expressed in poor English. How many of these comments which have appeared on my blog recently would you have been tempted to ‘approve’, simply on the grounds that they might inflate your ego even further?

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While you are making up your mind, I must go and reply to an urgent letter from my friend Dr Mills.

Greeting in the name of our lord and savior, my name is Dr. Cadman Atta Mills the younger brother of late Prof. John Evans Atta Millis whose untimely demise on the 24th July 2012 whilst  in office has distraught the heart of many Ghanaian both at home and in diaspora not excluding the international communities, taking into consideration the colossal condolence and glorious tributes we have thus far received from various  Head of states including the president of the United States of America Pres. Barack Obama, Prime Minster of Great Britain David Cameron, Pope Benedict,  Secretary of the United Nation Mr. Ban Ki-Moon the list goes on and on.

My brother as I affectionately call him was the third President of the fourth Republic of Ghana. He was inaugurated on the 7th of January 2009 having defeated the ruling party candidate in the 2008 election. He once served as the vice President of the Republic of Ghana from 1997 to 2001 under the presidency of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings.  Based on my position as member of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by Dr. Gobind Nankani I have very credible information of a contract in the total sum of US$ 6,500.000.00 (Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) I’m seeking for an experienced business person who can chivalrously work with me in receiving this contract sum into his designated Bank account for an appropriate investment.
It’s very vital I also bring to your notice that this transaction will be handled with absolute confidentiality, so we have to always do the needful to get it accomplished, it is very important also that you quickly provide me with the listed information as stated below to enable me commence with the official documentation of the contractual paper work with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Ministry of Energy.  Taking into consideration that we have from now till next month to finalize and officially submit all contractual paper work with the said Ministries.
Upon the receipt of your responds I will officially submit all your particulars including the contractual documents for verification and approval by the Finance Ministry. I intend to part 50% of this fund to you while 50% shall be for me. I do need to assure you that there are practically no risks involved in this.  It is going to be a bank-to bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original beneficiary of this fund you are not to worry as I will provide all legal documents, Contract document, International Competitive Bidding certificates, Bank documentation and also refer you to the Ghana Procurement Board to prove that you are entitle to this fund. You do not need to worry, if you do according to instruction everything will work fast and effective without any problems at all.
I will immediately proceed with the contractual documentation and agreement with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and  furnish you with all documentation for your meticulous perusal.
I look forward to a very mutual and beneficial business relationship with you.
Yours Faithfully,
Dr. Cadman Atta Mills
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50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers

I was surprised and delighted yesterday to be contacted by Samantha Miller of Online University Reviews in America, to tell me that The Literacy Adviser had been included in their 50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers. I’ve had a look at the other forty-nine and selected a few of them to give you a flavour of the exalted company which I am more than happy to be keeping. Blogging from outside the USA, which let’s face it is quite a big place, makes the inclusion on the list that bit more special.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day : Every day, Larry Ferlazzo blogs websites of particular interest to the ESL, ELL, and EFL communities, making it an excellent and indispensible resource.

 PainInTheEnglish.com : This very delightful blog explores “the gray areas of the English language,” shedding light on the subjective, perpetually changing nature of human speech.

 Grammar Girl : Mignon Fogarty’s extremely popular blog and podcast at Quick and Dirty Tips answers extremely common grammar questions as well as those pertaining to some of the more esoteric corners of the language.

 Language Log : Teachers and students alike who harbour a love of grammar, the history of communication, phonetics, and other related topics simply must read over (and bookmark!) Language Log.

 The Grammarphobia Blog : Both the blog and the surrounding website make for an excellent reference for teachers and students alike who find themselves baffled by some of the oddities in the English language.

 The Punctuator! : With punctuation being one of the most confounding elements of any language for anyone, it pays to understand all the whats, whys, and hows behind the marks.

 Literacy is Priceless : Bon Education founder Anna Batchelder blends together her love of technology and teaching literacy to offer teachers an excellent, comprehensive resource on promoting reading and writing.

 huffenglish.com : Another blog on the intersection between technology and education, focusing its energy and resources on issues regarding how they apply to teaching English.

 Free Technology for Teachers : Although Free Technology for Teachers targets educators in most subjects, there is enough here to engage and interest those emphasizing literacy to warrant its inclusion on the list.

 The Elegant Variation : The Elegant Variation exists as one of the top literary criticism blogs on the web, helping visitors learn how to hone and apply their reading and comprehension skills

 A Year of Reading : Two seasoned veteran teachers – each with over 20 years of experience under their belts – blog about their thoughts regarding the children’s and young adult books they encounter along the way.

 The Book Bench : Indulge in The New Yorker’s highly literate look at the world of reading and writing and the ways in which it shapes society for better or for worse.

 Flashlight Worthy : Flashlight Worthy, though not structured like a traditional blog, fills a definite niche in the online literature community. Any parents, teachers, students, or bibliophiles looking for reads that fit their needs and wants can easily immerse themselves amongst the listings containing hundreds of specialized recommendations.

View the whole list of 50 here.

A blog is only as good as the extent of the networks you create of course, and this particular blog would be much poorer without the steady stream of ideas from those I follow on Twitter, and the blogs I look at on a regular basis, which are listed under the heading ‘Blogroll’ at the bottom of the right-hand panel.

Happy Birthday Blog

Just realised that today marks the anniversary of my first blog post, and I was reflecting on the changes it has made to my life in that time. The original motivation for starting the blog was to take myself through the process of setting it up and go through the various stages of development, so that in turn I could take others through the process and prove that the technical bits were just challenges to be overcome rather than insurmountable barriers ( I was already convinced that here at last was a tool to put learning, and writing in particular, in the hands of the learner). I have to say in that respect it has been fun – if at times very frustrating – and I am learning a new language as I go – the language of posts and inserts, tags and categories, uploading and embedding, not to mention wikis, wordles and widgets.

In terms of developing literacy skills, there is no doubt in my mind that creating blogs and wikis in the classroom, and making full use of Web 2.0 technology, most of which is free and far less technical than many teachers imagine, is the way forward for learners and teachers, allowing them to make links within the school and out to the wider world. What better motivation to write creatively and accurately than to know that your peers, the most critical audience of all, are reading, watching and commenting on what you produce! What better motivation to write than to know that what you are writing  isn’t only being read by one critical adult, and it isn’t coming back with a grade on it? As someone somewhere once said, the best motivation is self-motivation. Incidentally, if you want to see how blogs can be used in the classroom, have a look at this one from Australia, or this one from Perth Academy in Scotland.

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Recently, signing up to Twitter and developing an expanding network of friends and colleagues with common interests, I have added a new dimension to my social networking and opened up a whole other world of possibilities, enlisting in what Mike Coulter has referred to as “an army of researchers”. I’d like to thank all of them for getting me this far, especially those listed in my Blogroll (and who would have thought I’d ever say that a year ago!). Look forward to talking, sharing and working with you for a long time to come.

Monkey Business in Orkney

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Do I Have To?

Resting up after what was a fantastic couple of days at the Orkney Learning Festival in Kirkwall Grammar School,  despite the horizontal rain! This was my first visit to Orkney and all the stories about the hospitality of the Orcadians had clearly been understated. There was a real buzz about the festival and I am very grateful to folk like Emma Taylor who, in her seminar on blogging and Rafi.ki made me aware of bunnyhero labs, where I adopted mickey the monkey as soon as I was able to have him downloaded – what a great way for kids of all ages to enliven their webspace! (check out Mickey in his new home on the other side of the page). Thanks also to Tim Geddes (Broadcasting on the Internet), Russell Mason (Web 2.0) and Andrew James (Scran) whose excellent seminars I was able to take in while I was there. There were other benefits to the visit too in the amazing seafood at the Ayre Hotel and the best Indian food I have ever experienced in the Dil Se restaurant, which has an unfortunate claim to fame as the scene of one of the most famous murders in recent Scottish history, when on the 2 June 1994 a masked gunman walked in to the restaurant and shot the manager at point blank range. It took until just over a week ago to secure a conviction for the murder, which was racially motivated. The trip was eventful to the end as we took off into headwinds of over one hundred miles an hour and swayed and bumped into Glasgow airport just over one and a half hours later. By this time I was feeling a bit green but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.



Literacy in the 21st Century

Had a great meeting with Mike Coulter yesterday about some of the technical aspects of blogging as I move gently along the learning curve. We ended up talking about running marathons, triathlon and the connection between sport and mental health, but that’s another big story for another day. Mike also pointed me in the direction of the Slideshare website, a terrific resource for anyone who has a presentation to prepare, and it’s searchable by keyword. I have added a good example of a presentation on Literacy in the 21st Century by David Warlick.

Taking it Easy

Hi,

Writing this from Bergamo in northern Italy where I am taking it easy for a week and catching up with some reading, including various helpful articles on the art of blogging and the benefits to teachers of introducing it into their classroom practice. I know instinctively that the idea of having your work read and possibly commented on by an audience way beyond the teacher must be a motivation for young people to write and to be more conscious of the effect their writing has on a reader, so I am determined to explore it and to encourage teachers who have an innate fear of technology, the web and social networking in particular. As the old saying goes, if I can do it………..

Picked up a copy of The Word magazine at the airport on the way out. I had forgotten how good it can be if you want to check out what’s new in music and writing. The latest edition has an interview with Will Self, enigmatic as ever but always interesting.