Composition Pedagogy

Blogging and the Extracurriculum of Composition

These are some apt quotations I culled from Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms: The Extracurriculum of Composition by Anne Ruggles Gere. They're just clippings; I don't have any commentary at the moment but to call your attention to the fact that all the blogging and Xanga-ing and LiveJournaling and Facebooking and MySpacing that college-age students do is an important part of the extracurriculum of composition -- but you already knew I'd say that.

In concentrating upon establishing our position within the academy, we have neglected to recount the history of composition in other contexts; we have neglected composition's extracurriculum. (p. 79)

my version of the extracurriculum includes the present as well as the past; it extends beyond the academy to encompass the multiple contexts in which persons seek to improve their own writing; it includes more diversity in gender, race, and class among writers; and it avoids, as much as possible, a reenactment of professionalization in its narrative. (p. 80)

[Gere points to] the need to uncouple composition and schooling, to consider the situatedness of composition practices, to focus on the experiences of writers not always visible to us inside the walls of the academy. (p. 80)

The extracurriculum I examine is constructed by desire, by the aspirations and imaginations of its participants. It posits writing as an action undertaken by motivated individuals who frequently see it as having social and economic consequences, including transformations in personal relationships and farming practices. (p. 80)

Like medical doctors who learn from nutritionists, shamans, and artists without compromising their professional status, we can benefit from examining how the extracurriculum confers authority for representation and how we might extend that authority in our classes. Our students would benefit if we learned to see them as individuals who seek to write, not be written about, who seek to publish, not be published about, who seek to theorize, not be theorized about. (p. 89)

Notes from Next/Text Rhetoric

What follows are my notes on the Next/Text meeting for Rhetoric and Composition. At first I was really vigilant about preceding people's comments with their names or initials, you know, so they'd get credit for what they said. But then things got so rapid-fire that I got lazy about it. These notes represent what we, as a group, said, and each of us made contributions: myself, Cheryl Ball, Cindy Selfe, Daniel Andersen, David Blakesley, David Goodwin, Geoffrey Sirc, Janice Walker, Jeff Rice, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Karl Stolley, Kim White, Michael Day, Victor Vitanza, and Virginia Kuhn. To give a little background, Next/Text is one of the projects of the Institute for the Future of the Book, which is part of the Annenberg Center at the University of Southern California. Next/Text is focused on classroom textbooks in particular. Our meeting was devoted to imagining how we in rhetoric and composition would go about creating a completely new electronic textbook -- new, as opposed to CD-ROM companions to print textbooks: your basic linear, text-with-images, PDF-esque, "take a book from the tradition of print, digitize it, and smack it up on the Web."

As we started out, we briefly discussed institutional constraints and realities -- the old hiring, promotion, and tenure. In any discussion of online/technological work, we can't put those aside or dismiss them. Although this part was kind of bracketed after the initial comment, I suppose it was always in the background. For a while, we talked about generalities: basic needs, realities of textbook publishing, realities of online projects which someone starts (a faculty member) and others work on and contribute to (e.g., graduate students/T.A.s, non-tenure-track instructors, etc.). There was a stated need for what we, for lack of a better term, called a datacloud with portals and axes that help to organize content (which I'm going to call tags here, because that's basically how they'd function). I kept smiling and thinking of a conversation I had once with (the brilliant) Geoffrey Sauer, who emphasized the need for me really to connect scholarship with what it is I do online. I was trying to offer ideas of what I thought he was driving at, and he kept saying, "no, it can't be just another archive!" I relayed Sauer's call for some new online endeavor that wasn't just another archive to the Next/Text group, who agreed vigorously.

Next/Text Meeting: Rhetoric Textbooks, Digital

I took copious notes at the Next/Text Rhetoric meeting of the Institute for the Future of the Book, but I still need to work on massaging them into blog-post suitability, and I have an imminent deadline for an article for S&F Online. Plus, I'll be out of town with spotty internet access until May 7, so posting will be pretty much nonexistent until then. For the time being, check out Jeff's notes from the meeting, Dan's notes, and the pictures I took during my stay in L.A. By the way, the folks at the Institute are terrific hosts. Great food and accommodations -- my first-ever stay at a bed and breakfast.

Jottings

  • I cringe in anticipation of Tina Fey's joke about this story on tonight's SNL Weekend Update.
  • Would it be so bad if I had the following meal? -- waffles with maple syrup, followed by a dessert of popsicles and yellow cake with chocolate frosting?
  • What are the pros and cons of getting a seven-year fraud alert on your credit report?
  • This summer I'll be teaching Rhetoric 3401, Internet Communication: Tools and Issues (one syllabus here, another here). If any of you have any tips on teaching online courses or suggestions of readings to assign, I'd love to hear them.
  • Recent reads: Down Came the Rain, Brooke Shields' memoir of postpartum depression. It was surprisingly good, but this is of course coming from a general fangirl who, while a child, had a Brooke Shields doll. Also, Life As We Know It by Michael Bérubé, which I've already recommended. I'm now reading Woolf's To the Lighthouse (for the first time!), and will probably read Writing a Woman's Life by Carolyn Heilbrun next.

Recent presentation on blogs and social bookmarking

On April 6, I did a presentation as part of a Technology-Enhanced Learning Seminar at the University of Minnesota's Digital Media Center. The topic was "Web 2.0: Promoting Collaboration and Student-Centered Learning," and I was the third person to present in this four-person panel. If you like, you can view the presentation; it isn't the best one I've done by any means, but you can get a sense of how I've used weblogs in my teaching and how I will use social bookmarking. Bradley Dilger is cited liberally throughout the social bookmarking section of my presentation.

CCCC Wrapup

A 4Cs wrapup post is long overdue. I saw just about everyone I wanted to see, plus met some great new people, including Madeleine, Tyra, jo(e), Deb, timna, Steve, Bradley, Brendan, and Sharon.

I attended some sessions, but I didn't always take notes. I know there are many defenders of the "read a paper" presentation model, but I have less and less patience for it with each passing year. It does sometimes work okay, but only rarely, and only if there are enough extemporaneously spoken asides to keep the audience's attention. The cadence of reading is so very different from extemporaneous speaking -- so much less animated and more monotonous -- that, for me, it's almost impossible to follow. I'm in agreement with William Major that we should do conference presentations more like how we teach.

My paper follows below the fold (and my slides are attached to this post). It looks disjointed, but I spoke extemporaneously a lot of the material. That's what I usually do at conferences: I have either no paper at all and just some notecards, or a paper with cues like this one. I hope you get something out of it. NB: Links to the original article and all the posts I cite are here.

Notes on 2006 CCCC Blogging SIG

NB: Mike Edwards contributed heavily to these notes. In fact, most of what's here is his work, so I want him to get credit for it.

The CCCC Blogging SIG had a large and productive meeting Thursday night in Chicago. We began by discussing some of the initiatives the SIG had proposed the previous year, including the one-page paper handout guide for teachers new to blogging (which, we might hope, will continue to be revised collaboratively and kept up to date as necessary), as well as thoughts about assessment of weblog writing, outcomes of weblog use in writing courses and professional endeavors, and a possible large multi-institution study investigating the classroom uses of weblogs.

Following the initial discussion, we split up into five small groups focusing on action in specific areas. The groups discussed their areas and reported back when we reconvened. Here are the results of our discussion:

  1. Securing grant funding for a large, qualitative multi-institution study on weblogs in writing pedagogy: This group thought it would be most appropriate to start with simply laying out the steps in the grant-writing process. So:
    1. Put out open call for researchers on Kairosnews and other weblogs: have you done classroom- based blog research, and would you be willing to share the results? (This, initially, might likely involve a simple survey with questions about the number of students involved, the longevity of the study, what the classes were (tech comm? FYC? Advanced composition? Literature courses? etc.), and so forth.)
    2. Mine past CCCC programs for presentations on qualitative blog studies to get a sense of what classroom research people have already done on blogs.
    3. Use the information gathered to shape the drafting of possible research questions focused on the consequences of assigning weblog work. (Feedback here with considerations for shaping those questions is welcomed!)
    4. Review grant guidelines again given the information gathered. (CCCC research initiative and the NCTE Citigroup technology grant are possibilities; again, other suggestions are welcomed.)
    5. Compose a budget. (Possible line items include funding for research assistants to code data, consultants with expertise in qualitative research, SRSS software.)
    6. Flesh out the grant proposal, especially with expected outcomes from the study. (One possibility suggested might be an annotated bibliography, in the manner of Bedford, of weblog scholarship.)
  2. Assessment and outcomes considerations for weblogs and teaching, possibly including questions of genre (Facebook, MySpace, et cetera). This group analytically framed its approach as a highly specific (and provocative) question: what constitutes an "outcome" for a single blog post? Top-down solutions for constructing outcomes seem problematic, so what happens if we look for a Web 2.0-style bottom-up mode of analysis; using "dynamic criteria mapping" to see how evaluative criteria (as tags) cluster themselves, and possibly setting up a space for that online -- what would that look like? (Well, let's do it and see!)
  3. Institutional blogging / social software considerations. Action here seems fairly straightforward: Compose a position statement to push to the resolution committee next year; something that covers comprehensively all these areas we're talking about, partly to help move away from the problems of ad- hocracy.
  4. Weblogs and professionalization. Again, fairly straightforward: we need to move the profession towards a space where we're more aware of blogging as professional activity. To what degree can we "get credit" for blogging? And, deriving from that, how can we start thinking about blogging as professionals? (One question that was asked in response: if blogging becomes a professional activity, does it lose some portion of its value as teaching/writing tool?) It might be useful to compile blog posts that illustrate the professional virtues of blogging (viz. Deborah Hawhee's post in order to respond to those frequent doubts and questions about the professional value of blogging. There's a need, as well, to map and illustrate (viz. Clancy's map of p2p review) for our colleagues how academic interaction operates on blogs.
  5. Rethinking the design and architecture of weblogs and other social software tools as a necessary component of our discipline, and possibly thinking about weblogs as a "gateway technology." With blogging, there's a need to move beyond composition's ubiquitous pedagogical imperative and ask other questions: perhaps about the pitfalls of institutional support (e.g., those who see it as not "cool" to use university blog spaces because of the perceived lack of "ownership"); about how to aggregate or represent or link to student work (e.g., the question of whether to use a hub or a distributed model; about doing more work with design rather than plugging content into preexisting templates.
So: an ambitious agenda, with lots of stuff to do. The next necessary question would seem to be: are there people who would be willing to shepherd these projects, either individually or collaboratively? Finally, two questions and an announcement:
  • Would it perhaps be useful and productive to merge the efforts of the Blogging SIG and the Wiki Rhetoricians SIG -- perhaps into the CCCC Social Software SIG?
  • Would a SIG blog be useful? (Consensus: yes.) There seemed to be broad agreement that the easiest solution might be adding a SIG category for posts at Kairosnews. [Done.--Clancy]
  • And now the announcement: During the meeting, Collin proposed that Kairos name the Best Academic Weblog award after John Lovas. We felt that it was the best idea presented the whole night. Mike emailed Doug Eyman, who wholeheartedly agreed. Thanks to everyone for a great meeting.

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

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Care to respond, composition scholars?

They're talking about us over at The Valve. I want to (and probably will) say something, but it's hard to know where to start.

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