The Subject is Writing

April 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FYC, rhetoric, WAC 

Are you familiar with WAW pedagogy in writing scholarship? Click on the Wardle and Downs book for a useful bibliography on it.

     WPA Bib on WAW

For a number of semesters I’ve been using the Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing anthologies in two of my courses, and its plausible to believe the argument that Writing About Writing can address the long-time concern of writing skill transfer beyond a composition class.

By the way, Writing Spaces is freely distributed under a Creative Commons license, so adopting it provides an immediate solution to the over pricing of college textbooks.

Build Your Game Design Skills

January 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Creative Writing, New Media, Video games 

D3 Logo

 DESIGN                                                             For Cayuga students who share

 DEVELOP                                                           a common interest and curiosity in

 DEPLOY                                                             videogame design and development

D3 Interactive invites students to undertake five secret missions in Spring 2012.  Agents, who choose to accept these challenges, will participate collaboratively to level up their design skills.  No coding or design experience required.

Missions include…

  • (Feb 6)—Working Your Game Core
  • (Feb 20)—Taming War without Frontiers
  • (Mar 5)—Uncovering Passwords to Lost Enigmas
  • (Mar 19)—Melting Digital Metal into Physical Gold
  • (Apr 2)—Raising the Dead

Secret Missions

Drop by L-218 and talk with Professor Bower to receive your missions.

Cool Writing Tools & Gamification

December 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Video games 

I found “cool tools for school” mentioned on an education wiki the other day.

I recommend giving it a look, but keep in mind that whether using a pen or 2.0 web apps, tools to help someone write are only tools. I was reminded of this when within 1 day of posting how pleased I was with 750 Words, I missed a day. A month later I have not yet returned to the website. What went wrong? The tool/app is well designed; I followed its program for most of a month–a long enough duration to revise my writerly habits.

What I think happened was that I realized subconsciously that the game was not the goal.

As Jesse Schell has coined, “chocofication” does not work for everything and should be used discriminatingly in marketing, education, or behavior-changing goals because it’s not a silver bullet. In other words, adding chocolate makes a lot of things better, but not everything.  We wouldn’t try to add chocolate to cottage cheese or pour it over staplers to induce people to buy office supplies. Gamification of an activity may develop a structural toolkit for the participant, but transferring habits like productive, fluid writing outside a gamified structure is not automatic, nor likely to be guaranteed.

Building a game layer on top of the world is appealing for many of us in education. It promises to change what and how we learn. But we are never playing just one game in life, and we don’t play in just one environment.

For more on Gamification efforts and thinking, check out the wiki.  

750 Words – Private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily

November 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: invention, review 

As NaNoWriMo comes to a close, I’d like to mention a project to keep writers up on their daily wordsmithing practice. For if NaNoWriMo is the marathon of writing achievements, “a little thing called 750 words” ( is the daily training for any distance one might want to conquer.  It’s purpose is to encourage consistent writing behavior.  It meets that goal by making one accountable using a number of interactive features. For instance, one can receive daily email reminders. Yet it’s strongest accountability builds on the e-contract feeling that we need to report in. Many of us check our email, Google Reader, or Facebook account several times a day. This service builds on that tenacity.

The website gives credit to The Artist’s Way and Julia Cameron’s concept of morning pages. This heritage of uninhibited freewriting goes back further than contemporary Zen spiritualism to roots in surrealist automatic writing. But where the surrealist automation was about freeing us from modern mechanization and machine uniformity by knocking us out of our comfort zones, 750 strives for us to be comfortable, and it succeeds in this goal of feeding our writing machines.

The running word count at the page bottom is timed as if one were keeping score in a videogame.  In fact, words translate into a point system if one is interested in measuring writing production in that way. Most successfully in 750 Words, writers acquire badges for maintaining their daily writing streak, and these badges reward the same way as when we loved getting stickers as kids. Furthermore, the fact that the writing may be done anytime during that 24 hours (not a minute before or after), even start and stopped during the day to meet one’s schedule, gives the participant a considerable amount of personal control over what can normally be a burdensome task.  Accomplishing the daily words earns badges that begin with an egg , progress to flighted birds , and extend to mythical incarnations such as the Phoenix, extinct Pterodactyl, and undiscovered Space Bird. Badges claim to be mysterious, and the page on badge taxonomy suggests others might appear at any moment to comment on our writing behaviors and budding abilities for eloquence and fluidity. The promise is that even if one were to achieve the 500 day badge, there’s still more to be gained. The brilliance of this cannot be understated, for this parallels the spontaneity and emergence that freewriting ideally produces.

Another worthwhile feature is the stats provided for the day, month, and eternity.  An algorithm attempts with some success to understand the words we type and to identify our writerly moods and content.  And as one might expect, the website’s designer provides links to a blog, personal settings page, and a patron level, where one has the opportunity to sponsor this free service.  More advanced features include the ability to reviewing one’s past writings according to the day, storing words under secret password protection (the equivalent of a diary lock), searching old entries using a word or phrase that is complete with an export tool, and a monthly challenge that includes a “Wall of Shame.”

Like many Web 2.0 applications, the site provides users the experience of what’s come to be called social presence. That means even solitary writers who like to spend time with their own thoughts and expression are gratified by knowing others elsewhere are doing the same thing. The most individual and isolated among us feel the benefit of finishing with a satisfying visual confirmation, and feel intimately part of something larger when our name appears next to others who just completed their 750 words minutes before or seconds after us. Different time zones add to this global presence when the minutes match those around us but the hours indicate that someone somewhere on the other side of the world put one word and line after another into their own narratives–building talent through the exercise of daily writing muscles.

Any pressure to write bestselling literature is removed.  Sometimes, participation is about nothing more than misspelling words that no one would be able to read even if they were made public.

Personally, I’m going to keep writing using 750 words for as long as I can, or at least until I can earn the 100 day badge. It’s right for me because it supports my writing identity, and the first and last rule to define writers is that they write. It’s a simple dictum, even if it is far from easy to become good at it. But becoming good isn’t the main point of being a writer, and it certainly isn’t the point of participating in 750 Words. The point here is that this 2.0 Web App understands writing is a process of becoming. Or as we say in rhet-comp, “writing is a practice.” And whether writing 1 or 751 words daily, that is the journey that defines our path.

NOTE: this entry was written and revised over three days using 750 Words. 

Period Space(s)

September 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FYC, History, Professional Writing 

Jesse Schell mentioned the following article on Facebook, and I think it’s something worth passing on.  I grew up told to put two spaces after a period.  Then, I came to think of the space as a rhythm indicator for prose; two spaces equal two resting beats.  I’ve long known one space had become the norm, but do we (including me) do it?  No, I don’t, and my students in English 101 today admitted being taught to use two spaces.  Only one student had been trained to use a single space.  Thus, even when it comes to the “simple” period, the standards depend on circumstances.  In taking a look at the article, we come to understand that typographical font with monospaced type would still require it.  E-documents would not.

Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.

(Note how many spaces I used in my post.)


Writing Intensive Presentation

August 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Professional Writing, WAC 

Faculty may now designate courses “WI” (writing intensive) on transcripts by applying to the WAC Committee.  The following slide show is from the Faculty Forum. It provides some resources in defining the writing assigned as Writing-to-Learn (informal writing to help students master course content) and Discipline (WID) Writing that is more concerned with form, function, and formatting.

Designing Writing Intensive Classes

The template for applying will be available soon.

Angel Training Off the (2.0) Map

January 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Media 

Cayuga provided Angel training today for our online, hybrid, and web-enhanced courses.  Two bits of information that struck me as useful.  The first was not a surprise.

  1. Angel will be replaced within the next couple of years with another LMS.  Since Blackboard purchased Angel and is likely to replace it with one of its products, more discussion needs to happen.   And I’d encourage everyone with experience in online learning to take part.
  2. The second was an excellent reminder for those “writing” with new media or looking to add select widgets to your webtext.  To find the perfect app, the Map of the World 2.0 can be browsed using the Mosaic or searched more strategically using the application reviews.

Map of the World 2.0

Moodle is in.

January 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Media, review 

Kairosnews posted the following music video yesterday. It’s a student project by Chandler Birch, Josh Stephens, and David Perkins out of Taylor University published to YouTube on November 26, 2010.

After playing the video a few times, I find it persuasive through two means: 1) it taps into the irritation people feel for Blackboard Inc because of their LMS’s complexity and confusion, and 2) the music isn’t half bad. As one comment said, “My kids don’t even know what [Moodle] is but they won’t stop singing your song.” The creators can’t hide that this is a student project, but using the most of their resources, they still clinch some of the moving features for this music genre.

Do you find it persuasive? Do you find it persuasive if you’ve never used online course tech?

I’ve written elsewhere that if one looks, there are lots of open source options for online learning.

The Community College Writer: Exceeding Expectations

September 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FYC, Professional Writing, review, rhetoric, WAC 

Exceeding Expectations Howard Tinberg and Jean-Paul Nadeau’s recent study confirms many details faculty working with community college writers know, but their research also presents some surprises.  CC students do exceed expectations considering the “tidal wave of life” they face.  They desire a challenging study of writing–not watered down assignments or standards, but they require very clear procedures of what to do.  Tinberg and Nadeau find that their CC curricula is anchored in current-traditional rhetoric (definition, classification or division, narrative, description, and process) with a heavy reliance on skills-based instruction.  However, “a more complex picture of writing instruction emerges from the remaining genres represented in student portfolios: the memoir, film review, experimental lab report, journal (especially informal reactions to reading), writer’s autobiography, resume and cover letter” (62).  Revision beyond surface conventions is infrequent.  Many comments made on students’ papers don’t help them because they’re misunderstood, yet “85% of faculty reported seeing improvements in student writing as a result of faculty feedback” (40).  Most writing is completed for English classes, but inside and outside composition class, the writing assignments train students toward academic and professional writing goals.  One of the more interesting survey results in the study, I found, was that while nearly all faculty saw student writing as important for future employment, less than half of the students thought writing would be relevant to them beyond school.  Students want a writing experience different than in high schools, and so it seems where continued academic writing may fail to engage community college writers, vocational awareness and assignments based on those kinds of procedural rhetoric (genre based, critical-cultural studies purposes) might be embraced for its potential in practicing rhetoric-composition, instead of avoiding or categorizing it as merely skill-centered or remedial.

Digital Distraction Debate (& Possible Evidence)

June 8, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: History, New Media, Video games 

We know attention is as important to writing as it is to most any practice, and a lot competes for our attention these days.  But are we more distracted than in the past?  The discussion has gone something like If you are distracted constantly, you become dependent on the stimuli in your environment–digital life and multitasking have “shallowed” our ability to attend to the world and our very bodies.

Or There’s no such thing as distraction–being distracted means we pay attention elsewhere.  We’ve always multitasked, and we’re smarter for the engagement it provides.

Debate can help frame our concerns, and we can pick sides in this.  But without getting out of our skin or applying multiple tools, we can’t know the accuracy of our perceptions.  A Feburary 2, 2010 Front Line found MIT students thought they were more productive when juggling tasks, but their reaction times slowed.  Thus, we’re beginning to test how multitasking is or isn’t impacting us.

This Sunday’s New York Times Article, Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, focuses on a forty-something multi-tasker, not simply the youth as is usually done.  Care to check yourself for distraction?  There’s a test provided.

Admittedly, I found the test exceptionally easy.  But instead of congratulating myself on my abilities or doubting the test’s validity, I couldn’t help think the test was easy because it was a stripped down skill set I’ve acquired by playing video games.

Care to weigh in on this?  It’s an ongoing question: what does digital life mean for writing?  I’d be most interested in hearing what you think are the best tools to test our arguments.

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