Useful links, sites & tools

PBS: FRONTLINE video archive Living Faster: Daily life in the age of nonstop connection.

When writing about what your sources or authors "say" in their writing, it is important to be more specific and vary the language referring to the writer's words according to their rhetorical tone. (i.e. instead of repeating generic terms like "says" or "writes" consider whether the writer is arguing or illustrating or questioning or outlining or....

See the website Other Words for "said"

Using wikis for writing and research will be the central focus of one of my Spring 2011 workshops but you can get a preview with this link.


Have you ever experienced "writer's block?"

If you've had that sense of terror that arises when, deadline looming, your mind becomes as blank as the page before you - you are not alone.

Such mental freeze-ups are not uncommon for writers and they may actually be partly a side-effect of the technology of writing. The reason for this connection is a longer discussion, but it can be helpful to remember that as a species and as individuals, we began our relationship with language in speech or oral composition. Except for stage fright, most of us never get "speaker's block" and we can easily and fluently compose our thoughts out loud.

One of the best and easiest ways to improve your writing is to always read your work ALOUD to yourself.

In human history and in our own intellectual development, speech came before writing. The things we call "words" are not what you see on this page.

Words are not text, words are acts of speech. Text is just a complex system of alphabetic symbols that represent these speech acts.

We compose our thought in speech as well as in text, but with differing fluency and using different muscles and parts of the brain.

Next time you feel "writer's block" coming on, take a moment to record your ideas on a small digital voice recorder and then type

a transcript of your oral composition - this becomes your rough draft which can be developed through revision. When we reflect on the nexus of speech and writing we begin to notice sound and the rhythms of language, thus enabling us to enhance the musical or poetic qualities of our writing.

One easy way to get around writer's block is to speak. Oral composition of ideas comes most naturally and can get our thoughts flowing. When writer's block threatens, record your ideas on your cell phone, laptop or other portable digital device.

Below are two digital tools I've used to gather sound:


click below for .WMA audio file of peeper frogs

When communication technology changes as rapidly as it has in the past few years, it can be overwhelming to consider jumping into the flow - especially for those of us who are "digital immigrants." One way to ease into this new realm of writing is with basic, easy-to-use digital tools like the voice recorder and camera above. I wanted to find equipment that was relatively inexpensive, simple and small for portability. While it is possible to find digital tools that will deliver much higher quality, these seem fully sufficient for my pedagogical purposes with the added bonus of affordability, ease of use and portability that is often lacking in more advanced equipment.

The white voice recorder is an Olympus WS-110 that I bought at Radio Shack for about $80 and it can record almost 70 hours of sound. Controls are easy to use and sound recordings can be easily dragged on to your desktop by plugging the recorder into the USB receptacle on your computer - PC & Mac compatible. I have used this for giving audio grading feedback, recording class lecture notes for online courses and for recording TV & radio clips for rhetorical analysis. The WMA audio format can be manipulated in an audio software program and is compressed so that shorter recordings can be sent via email.

The camera pictured is a Nikon "COOLPIX" model S210 that I bought online for about $125 and it can take hundreds of still pictures or up to 30 minutes of video with sound! Like the voice recorder, I found this camera easy to use even with my big hands. The camera comes with a cable so you can download your images or video to your desktop for collection or composition.

However, this is NOT an advertisement - I get no kickback from Canon or Nikon for my recommendation. Though I find these two specific models useful, you may not - shop around, play with the various models you find and get one that is easy to use and that has the capacities you need.

And, once you get your equipment, if you feel overwhelmed or confused, don't hesitate to ask a student "digital native" for help - we're all on this steep learning curve together and collaboration is clearly the survival tool of the future.

Finally, in spite of centuries of academic bias, we're beginning to discover that creativity and play are crucial to effective learning so once you get your digital tools be sure to experiment and HAVE FUN!


Audacity Sound Editor




Edison usually gets the credit, but he wasn't the first record sound, but he was the first to record a sound he could play back.

Check this slide show to find out about the recent discovery of the earliest voice recording and its amazing digital translation: