sabato 23 maggio 2009

Viva La Vida???

I’ve always appreciated the music played by Coldplay since their first hit Yellow, which is one of my favourite song!!!

Viva La Vida is certainly more complicated than Yellow. I remembered that the first time I listened to it I started wondering if the song had only one meaning or everyone was free to give the song a personal meaning. Indeed, there are many possible explanations.

In my opinion, the song talks about the unpredictability of life: things change very quickly and everything we made can be lost in a tick of time! For this reason, it’s necessary to reflect upon what we do in our life, trying to create something that will last more than a “castle of sand”. Moreover, we should surround ourselves with people who really care about us and won’t suddenly change their mind leaving us alone like a “puppet on a lonely string”.

Sometimes understanding the meaning is not essential. I can appreciate a song for other reasons, such as the melody and, as I’m studying English, the words used in the lyric: I always learn at least one new word in each song I listen to!


photo source

martedì 19 maggio 2009

My next target: Keep On Learning!!!

Now I’m realizing that I’m at the end of my University career! I’m attending the very last English lessons and in a week nobody will tell me what I should do to improve my skills. After the end of the academic lessons, the risk of feeling lost and losing my linguistic knowledge is very high! For this reason, I think a mindmap of my PLE is very useful because it will remind me about all the means I can use to keep on practicing the English language.

My PLE focuses on four aspects: tools, activities, context and people. First of all, my mindmap aims to show where I can improve my English (context) and it provides a list of all the activities that I usually do: reading, listening, writing and gathering information. Then, there is the part concerning the formal and informal tools that I can use to do the different activities. The majority of the tools that I wrote on the mindmap are connected to the Internet, which I think will play an important role in my future learning activities. Finally, there is a part focusing on the people that helped (e.g. teachers) or will help me (e.g. classmates, future colleagues at work, friends…) to better my skills.

This mindmap is not fixed and there is still the possibility to add something, especially concerning the tools I can find on the Internet. I hope my map will change and extend as I improve my skills. I really hope this map will help me to keep on learning and making progress!!!


sabato 9 maggio 2009

What happens to my personal data???

Nowadays Internet is part of our everyday life. We use it every day without reflecting on how much it is changing our way of living. On the Internet we buy things with our credit cards, we keep in touch with friends through emails, we write blogs exchanging personal opinions and feelings with other people, we upload photos,… In short, every time we use the Internet we put a little part of us online! Indeed, our personal information is always required, for example when we want to create an email account or have access to a particular website.

I’ve always wondered where my personal data are stored and who can have access to them. I don’t really know what happens to them! They could be stolen and used by someone else with bad intentions. That’s why I usually try not to register on websites that seem to be unreliable. But sometimes it’s impossible to avoid the registration.

I don’t think people should avoid using the Internet because they’re afraid that their personal information can be spread without their consent. Internet is a very useful tool and everybody should have the possibility to take advantage of all the service it offers! I mean, why should I avoid using a social network like Facebook that, for example, allows me to stay in contact with friends who are abroad? Just because I don’t know what happens to the information I put on it? I believe these kinds of website have the duty to respect the privacy of users, who should have control over their personal data and for example be asked if they want to allow other people to have access to their information (as suggested on the
article about Facebook and Privacy Rights).

There should be some more specific rules concerning personal data online. In the meanwhile, we can protect every little part of us we put online by attributing authorship to our writings, photos or videos and pay attention to the amount of personal data we share online by considering if it’s really necessary to make them public.


sabato 2 maggio 2009

Let's google our docs!

This week I had the opportunity to learn something more about Google Docs. I had heard about it before, but I never tried to use it… Maybe because I was waiting for somebody to teach me how to use it: I didn’t know it’s so easy to work with Google Docs! I decided to have a look at Take a tour to see what we can do with this tool. I think the most interesting activities we can do with Google Docs are the following:

* have access to our documents from any computer;
* invite people to work on a document and make changes together, in real time;
* avoid problems concerning local hard drive failures or power outages: documents
are saved online;
* use templates to create our documents.

Then, Google Docs is really easy to use because it’s based on familiar symbols and toolbar buttons. I think this is enough to convince everybody to google their docs!

photo source

martedì 21 aprile 2009

What kind of style???

I’ve always had some problems with citations! Writing references to our sources is supposed to be an easy task, something that we do without thinking because we have done it many times. Actually, writing references is far from an automatic activity for the majority of students! I think the problem is that every book we read uses a different style and as a consequence we tend to be a little confused. The two websites that Sarah mentions in E-tivity 6 are clear: each of them provides the basic guidelines for citing sources and offers some useful examples. We just have to choose which style we prefer and follow it. It is necessary to make an explicit choice because the two styles are quite different from each other: we can’t use both of them at the same time. For example, there are some differences concerning references to books. According to the APA style, it is better to use initials for the author’s names and italics for the title of the book. The year of publication is written immediately after the author’s name. On the contrary, in the format elaborated by MLA, the author’s name is not abbreviated, the title is underlined and the year of publication is put at the end, after the publisher. Moreover, I noticed another difference concerning in-text citations. If we use APA style, we need to specify the year of publication when we quote or paraphrase from another work, while, in the format by MLA, the year of publication is not required and the number of page is not preceded by “p.”
I think it’s really important to choose one style and use it in every academic paper we write. If we change the style every time according to the advice of the teacher we are writing for, we risk mixing different styles and we’ll never learn to make references properly. This is my case: for my BA thesis I used the style preferred by my supervisor, which was more similar to APA style than MLA style. However, there were some differences: for example, for the in-text citations I used to put the direct quotation between inverted commas and then the author’s surname, year of publication and number of page in brackets (Author, year of publication:
All things considered, I prefer APA style because it’s more similar to the style I used in the past. Thus, I’ll follow the guidelines provided by the website, I’ll memorize them and, in this way, I hope writing references will be easier for me!

Research Article Analysis - part 2

The research article I’m analysing consists of a well-structured text that has an hourglass shape. There is an abstract that introduces the topic and an introduction in which the author talks about the SMS technology in general and outlines the focus of the essay. The introduction is followed by the body of the essay that consists of 3 parts and provides a series of arguments based on statistics and useful examples. Finally, there is a conclusion that summarizes the main points that result from the survey. In each part of the article, the arguments are linked in a logical way by using metalinguistic signalling devices: for example in Introduction 1.2, note the use of the conjuncts “nonetheless”, “in fact” and “however”. The use of these links allows the author to achieve cohesion. Expressions like as “we suggested at the start” and the use of “this”/ “these” (e.g. “on this basis”, “in these types of messages”) are used to make reference to something that is written before in the text. In this way, the different parts of the text are connected. As a result, it is easy for the readers to follow the author’s flow of ideas. In general, the writing is clear and simple and can be understood by common readers. However, it has to be noted that a certain level of knowledge about SMS technology and linguistic features of technologically-mediated discourse is required in order to understand the references made by the author to other works and studies.

I think any kind of text, even blog posts, should follow this kind of structure because it really helps readers to understand the text in an easy way. However, it is often difficult to respect a fixed structure when we write a post because, on our blogs, we tend to be more spontaneous. Generally, I first introduce the topic of the post; second, there is the body of the post where I support my ideas and finally I always try to conclude establishing a contact with my readers, for example asking them for their personal opinions.
We can avoid using a specific structure on condition that we organize our ideas in a clear way, for example using conjuncts and coordinators, because the reader should always find it easy to follow the flow of our ideas!

domenica 19 aprile 2009

I don't want to be a "plagiarist"!!!

When we talk about “Intellectual Property Rights” (IPR) we usually refer to those laws that were developed to respect the rights of the inventors of new tools and machines or of the artists. What about ideas and words used to express ideas and opinions? Even words and ideas have their original source and it’s really important to respect it! If we don’t attribute words and ideas to their original source we become guilty of plagiarism. For this reason we must pay attention to the words we use every time we write something that is not a shopping list! This means we must avoid plagiarism not only in our academic papers but also in our blog posts. Sometimes we find something really interesting in other people’s blogs that is very difficult not to copy and paste, especially when we realize other people express what we think in a better way. In an article published by The Boston Globe I read that blog plagiarism has become a very widespread phenomenon: every day, people read and steal other people’s blog entries, no matter how personal or famous a blog is. We should avoid doing so. I think a blog is something that we create to have the possibility to say what we think using our own words: copying someone else’s words doesn’t make sense! We can refer to other people’s opinions and ideas without using their words, for example paraphrasing or summarizing them. We can also use quotations and make explicit reference to the original source. Moreover, we should tell the reader where the photos or images we use on the blog come from, writing links to the source. In short, in our blog posts we should follow the same rules we usually respect when we write an academic essay. To have a general idea about the good way to write in our own words, have a look at this website “ABC of quotations and your own words and references versus plagiarism”. In this way, we obtain something that is personal and reflects our way of thinking and express our opinions.
Then we should protect our blog from other people’s plagiarism! As far as this problem is concerned, “
Plagiarism Today”, a blog dedicated to the issue of plagiarism online, says that plagiarism can be reduced in many ways, for example by putting a copyright notice on the blog. We really need to protect our English blogs: we are working hard on them, nobody can copy them without making reference! Do you agree with me?


(photo source)