Research and Stuff

Chronicles of research paper in progress...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spanglish...

So I’ve been spending a lot of time at the CAMP center place (I say it like that because it’s a headquarters/lounge area/study lab/computer lab). The little place they have in the corner of the River Front center (I think that’s what is called) is really interesting. I had never been there before this project. I know a few of the people that work there, student staff that I’ve know for a while from my undergrad days in MECHA and I’ve heard a lot about the program but I have never been involved with it directly..

I know my focus is more on the student and no so much on the CAMP program or the place itself but I can’t help admitting how pleasant it is to spend my time there, at least for me.

Students come in and lounge around as they please and Spanish and English flies out of people’s mouths, sometimes simultaneously. It’s hard to explain the giddiness I get when I hear them, or at least the sense of comfort. For the last four years, every time I hear a word of Spanish in a hallway or in a table of the union I have to turn and look at who’s speaking because it seems so rare (considering I spend most of my time in Calaveras and Douglas). I can go weeks without that happening. To have a room where everybody speaks like that, it’s like heaven. They are so funny too, at least in the lounge area. I seems like a very nice place to de-stress. I sometimes feel sorry I never knew of that place before, I would have been here every day. I drew a diagram of the place, click on the picture to see it in more detail:



One thing to note is that CAMP students have their own computer lab. It’s only eight computers in a little room, really, but when I ask them how often they use it almost everybody says “oh, every day.”

So, about how my project is going. Well, I’m terribly shy, so taking up an interviewing process for my paper is a very significant challenge for me. It takes me a while before I can walk up to a group of students because I feel a little bit like a salesman and they eye me with an initial look of natural skepticism. I hate to imagine what they think when I walk up to them and begin talking: “Are you guys/girls CAMP students? Do you have like 15 or 20 minutes right now?” and they look back at me like, “ok, what does he want us to buy.”

It only takes a couple questions to feel at ease though. Most of those students are really friendly and they get really surprised and immediately feel more at ease when they notice that I speak Spanish. That’s something to think about. I wonder if they would give me the same answers if I was somebody different? Probably. It’s easy to get into more of a conversational tone with them because after a while it doesn’t seem like a survey. Sometimes I forget and I start asking questions in Spanish and they answer in either language. Some students are very serious though and they don’t forget it’s a survey.

Most of my interviewees also tend to ask me where I was born right from the beginning and when I tell them I think it’s even more of a surprise for them. “And you’re an English major? That’s funny.” I get that a lot. Everybody seems to get a laugh from that… when I think about it I have to laugh too.

It’s been barely this week when I’ve really had the time to seriously sit down and interview a good number of people. Some that I knew would not have the time then but really wanted to participate offered to fill out a questionnaire form for me.

The one question that I always love asking is the following: “What language do you speak the most?” the students look at me for a moment and think about it and then they ask: “does Spanglish count?” Ha ha ha. Seriously, most students have said that.

By the way, the movie by that name sucks...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Hey

To gen an idea of the number of students that are helped/affected/empowered by the CAMP program, a picture is worth 999 words. I barely started my interviews this week and I'm finding a very even dislike of composition classes on the part of the students. For many of them, composition represents their most significant academic weakness. The answers on technology are mixed. Some are quite versed while others not as much.

"CAMP stands for College Assistance Migrant Program, a unique educational program at California State University, Sacramento that helps students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds to succeed in college. CAMP was established in 1981 and has helped thousands of students accomplish their educational goals. CAMP offers you pre-college transition and first-year support services to help you develop the skills you need to stay in school and successfully graduate from college."
-- From Sac State's
CAMP website.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Trigger...

This is half "justification" and half "question proposal".

The though of any composition class for me always triggers a troubling memory: A certain student who sits quietly in the back, unsure of his place and deeply uncomfortable in his chair, in the classroom, in the building, in the institution. To him the whole experience is new and strange and deeply traumatizing. He is in a place where perhaps he senses that he doesn’t belong, struggling against a language that sometimes still escapes him. He asks himself how he got there and what’s keeping him there and no simple answer comes and no convincing argument arises. I think it’s that memory, as melodramatic as it may sound, that set my eyes on the CAMP students here on campus for my project.

CAMP stands for College Assistant Migrant Program. It’s a university sponsored program that provides special support services to the children of farm workers who are the first in their families to attend college. I will talk more about the program itself in future entries.

I want to research how varying levels of access and knowledge of technology (and by this I mean computers, basic word processing programs, and anything else above that) has affected performance in composition classes of low income, minority students, who learned English as a second language and who are among the first in their families to attend college. (coincidentally, almost everyone in the College Assistance Migrant Program here at Sac State fits this description). I was never in CAMP but I can relate.

I was planning interviewing as many CAMP students as possible. They interviews will be discussions I hope, rather than questioners. The types of questions I would be something like the following, though I probably need to work on the exact language a bit more.

Is English your first language?
How would you describe your experience with technology (computers, word processing programs, etc)?
Have you had previous experience with computers and if so where?How often have you used word processing programs?
When was the first time you used them?
Where did you learn to use them?
What factors, if any, have limited your access to technology?
What composition classes have you taken at Sac State?
To what extent did you use computers and technology in your last composition class?
How did you do in that class? (The student will have the option of not disclosing his grade and simply giving an overall opinion).
What difficulties, if any, did you have in your last composition class?
How would you describe your experience of your first composition class?

Afterwards, I really want to see if I can find any patterns based on correlations (knowledge of and access to technology and final grades and the opinions of students). Assuming that most students have taken at least one composition class at this point, they will be able to share their experience and the extent to which technology did or did not play a part in their ability to do well in a college composition class. I will be surprised if technology is not an issue for a considerable number of these students.

I’m planning to place special attention on how language comes into play. No doubt for most of the student’s language is a barrier and I am curious to see how, if at all, technology was helpful in overcoming this.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In the Beginning...

So this is my first post. Not much new, I guess this will just be a test. I went to the CAMP office yesterday (tuesday) and talked to Marcos Sanchez, the director of CAMP. He's a pretty cool guy, (turns out he knows my mom) and he told me he would help me with whatever he could. I went to the CAMP meeting and he let me announce my intent to interview as many students as possible. The class had 40 to fifty students in it. I stil have to narrow down the questions I'm going to ask. If you are wondering what my question is I'll post my prompt soon. For now, I just wanted to see if this thing worked.

A.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in my reading for the class, here it is:
Horning, Alice S. "Digital Critical Literacy for Generation 1.5 and Everyone Else."
Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal 4.3 (Nov 2004): 134-44.
(Download as PDF)