For next, and last time:
In this week’s blog post, Beth questioned how technology can be inserted into the learning process, focusing primarily on the semiotic domains presented in the excerpts from Gee and Tougaw. She called attention to Gee’s emphasis on active, innovative learning that transcends passive, content-centric education. At the same time, Beth suggested that some more practical advice on how to integrate the skills acquired in video games to success in an Intro Comp environment. Similarly, Beth seemed intrigued by the possibilities present in Tougaw’s use of dream blogging, but wondered how his innovations could be made more widely applicable in classes like English 110.
Karen zeroed in on Beth’s concerns about the wider applicability of Tougaw’s dream blogging exercises, and suggested that it is the personal narrative represented in these dream blogs that is the crucial (and replicable) element. She also presented alternative ways of envisioning and implementing blogs, such as using entries to assimilate information after a discussion rather than as a way to prepare for class. Iemanja, in agreeing with Karen, brought up the difficulty of having students engage with one another’s blog posts and called attention to the awkwardness inherent in intra-class comments.
Danica focused on the multimodal nature of the various technologies present in the articles, arguing that composition teachers should address various forms of literacy—learning to perform close readings of images, for example. In reflecting on the advantageous (and somewhat meta) blogging in which our class engages, Mike alluded to his own discomfort in assuming an academic persona via a class blog.
Heather pointed out that blogging allows students to express themselves in ways that are less constrained than the traditional academic essay, giving an example of a student who engaged with a reading in a manner that was personal, yet unorthodox. Finally, Eric suggested that Tougaw’s experiences with dream blogging might apply to his own topic—cultural identity. Eric also returned to Gee’s consideration of the semiotic domain of video games, focusing on their use as a tool for teaching design grammars, which in the context of English 110 might include stitching, key words, and so on. At the same time, he seemed to have some misgivings about the applicability of video games to the domain of Intro Comp.
This week’s readings make persuasive arguments for how technology can be used effectively in writing classrooms. I’m most interested in the way in which digital domains can help students become more adept at critical inquiry. This goal is echoed in the CCCC Position Statement, which encourages courses where students write digitally to both “engage students in the critical evaluation of information” and to “prepare students to be reflective practitioners.”
The Gee excerpt leans firmly in this direction, privileging process over product, addressing how technology, in this case video games, can make content meaningful, relevant and of course, fun, while at the same time, encouraging students to be active participants in learning new skills and solving problems. Gee speaks of moving beyond passive content in an attempt to “learn to innovate in [a] domain – how to produce meanings that . . . are seen as somehow novel or unpredictable (25).” I was interested in his concept of design grammars – how knowing the “underlying principles and patterns that determine what counts and what doesn’t count” (29) allows people to make judgments about things they may never have seen or encountered before. I wish he’d moved beyond a defense of the non-traditional video game domain to explore how some of the skills a “shooter” acquires can be replicated, via technology, in a research-based writing classroom.
The Tougaw article was fascinating on a number of levels. Having students blog about their dreams seems like a wonderful way to engage them in the writing process and to become more interested in the course readings. Dreams, unlike other aspects of life, are by nature mysterious, puzzling and unknown, a natural template for critical inquiry. As Tougaw puts it, “[Dream reports] didn’t read like writing burdened with the daunting task of inventing a university their writers had only just entered. Instead, these writers seemed to be energized by the challenge of inventing their dreams in language (253).” I was also drawn to the idea of “de-mystifying” voice as a way of helping students own and develop their own sense of authorship, to, in effect, “construct a self,” as Elbow says, with language (255). In the footnote, on p. 262, Tougaw gives some suggestions for how blogs can help students become aware of the “writerly choices” they make. These could be adapted to a course blog on just about anything. But I was also wondering how the idea of a dream blog, which is so appealing in so many ways, could be adapted to college writing courses that don’t specifically focus on Creativity or American Dreams.
It was hard for me not to read Rose’s piece and his discussion of remedial writing and not think of the Pharmakon, unjustly I–or rather unjustified–i think, yet maybe also fitting somehow if we consider that the three pieces here all take up or take on the privileged site of “standard english writing” and its counterpart, familiar speech or writing, and to lesser or greater degrees explore a liminal bridge between the two, or decided where to apply the scalpel. Both Mike and Patrick establish the various positions in a helpful way, so I would like to think about process some more and Villaneuva’s insights in “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers” since it harkens back to some of our past discussions on compositions by the old familiar Hair Elbow in which the emphasis was placed on the breadth of influences in the writing, and the affirmation thereof, as opposed to restricting the scope to the final written product. Not to dip to deeply into the past, but, again, I find it hard to imagine how in teaching writing a conversation about process, since most students are not able to produce the sort of writing sought after by automatic writing.
Though I first approached Villaneuva’s accumulated statistics skeptically, I found it hard not to resonate with his observations intuitively. Growing up in between two languages (something this article made clearer for me), even now when I write I proceed on sentence by sentence only slowly and skeptically, often consulting both the OED and the Duden every several words, a really frustrating process at times, though I would like to think (or hope…) that this sort of writing produces a divergent form that draws up and on its arguments laterally instead of vertically. Coming to understand how bilingual and bi-cultural positions influence the writing process is helpful in improving the writing only insofar as the arc of standardization tends toward WE and not toward preserving the tongues of dead white men as cryogenic ideals. To this end, Canagarajah’s article is helpful for imagining an expansion of the academic discourse, though I cannot but show reservation when I hear that the use of AAVE is established by its subjugation to the academic register since this reality determines the fate of a Dave Chappelle as the “I’m Rick James, bitch” comedian, and not the comedian whose jokes are still spreading out an elaborate root system of signification.
Sandra Perl’s The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers employs a scientific—or at least a quantitative—approach to untangling what happens when a student puts pen to paper (or, more likely, cuticles to keyboard). Mike Rose, on the other hand, despises what he calls the “scientistic” practice of counting errors and grouping mistakes. These theorists are experiencing C. P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” problem, each stranded in their own inaccessible theoretical space. These magesteria—Stephen Jay Gould’s term for these separate zones of knowledge—work on different assumptions and give primacy to their own favored methodologies. It seems that there is a profound disagreement in the discipline of Comp/Rhet about the use of metrics and “hard” data. The efficacy of using lots of numbers and fancy line graphs in corralling administrators is indisputable, and so this kind of measurement will continue to be a feature of both composition theory and the day-to-day operation of college writing classes for some time to come. Yet this kind of data seems to be widely distrusted, as Rose’s paper and our readings from last week show.
I have problems with both approaches. Perl’s methods and conclusions seem overly optimistic and too trusting of her data, while Rose fails to propose any solutions, becomes mired in semantics, and generally comes off as ineffectual. Perl’s idea is a good one, and in an ideal environment writing teachers would be able to analyze a student’s mistakes and provide advice on how to approach the process of writing differently. In practice, however, I think it might be difficult to uncover a student’s process merely by examining its product. While the case studies are useful in that they provide insight into others’ writing practices and thus force a reader to reconsider his or her own, I suspect that the kind of intervention suggested by Perl might be impractical to implement in a class like English 110. And while many of Rose’s points were well taken, his prescriptions for actual change are vague at best.
I find these perspectives somewhat frustrating because they cause me to reflect on how little I really know about the process of learning writing. Are studies reliable, or statistically significant? Are they asking the right questions? When I take stock of what I know for certain about the process of writing, I can only think of two actions that seem to reliably improve one’s ability to communicate via the written word:
Perhaps we’re doing something right as long as Intro Comp courses incorporate reading and writing into the curriculum. Unfortunately, the discipline of comp/rhet seems to be able to agree on little else. Perhaps quantitative research will eventually turn up some “magic bullet,” some method that represents a substantial and measurable improvement in the teaching of college writing. Until that day comes, however—and until the discipline can agree on the role of “objective” measurement in choosing teaching methods—I think we’re stuck with the basics.
English is, without question, the lingua franca of today’s world. But as Canagarajah points out, World Englishes are on the rise, asserting primacy in certain contexts over the former gold standards of British and American English. I was fascinated by his notion that even monolingual speakers must be conversant in varieties of nonmainstream Englishes to be “functional postmodern global citizens.”
I suppose the South Asian call center is one such platform in which ME speakers must engage with WE speakers. Even in the most homogeneous swaths of the American heartland, African American Vernacular English is immediately recognizable, luxuriating in the realm of pop culture and mass media. And, of course, there’s the internet. Strains of WE abound in the comment sections of Economist articles and YouTube videos alike. We’ve become remarkably adept at negotiating these inflections. But are there limitations to these lateral movements? Where might WE speakers have the upper hand? How much longer can/will ME hold onto its dominance in formal, “serious” contexts?
Canagarajah attempts to address this with his code meshing proposal, which calls for a continuing subversion of ME. He believes that the introduction of WE “into the dominant discourse will serve to both play the same game and also change its rules.” Geneva Smitherman may be one example, but she writes from a privileged position, being firmly entrenched in academe. What about composition students? Lu’s interrogation of the anomalous “can able to” phrase and the subsequent conversation it spurred didn’t strike me as particularly convincing. I agree that “[there] are many pedagogical benefits from teaching students to negotiate grammar for their rhetorical purposes.” Maybe I’m being narrow-minded, but code meshing in a composition course seems like it would create more problems than it solves.
Here’s a website you should bookmark; it serves as a clearinghouse for CFPs (calls for proposals) for a huge range of scholarly journals and conferences: http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/
Searching specifically for some upcoming conferences related to our class, I found the following:
full name / name of organization: ACLA 2014 Meeting
contact email: email@example.com
In Pascalian Meditations Pierre Bourdieu implies that the acquisition of cultural capital through the exercise of academic discourse simultaneously devalues alternative discourses. Given that academic discourse underwrites the University as a privileged site of inquiry, how might academic discourse operate as a dominant discourse, or with respect to the Western university a colonial discourse, that erases modes of inquiry governed by the rules of other discourses? Does—or can—the University (e)valu(at)e discourses in opposition to academic discourse? Are academic and oppositional discourses mutually definitive? This session invites proposals of critical, creative, and pedagogical projects that advance inquiry by describing and/or demonstrating oppositional discourse.
To submit a proposal for this seminar, please visit the ACLA website: http://acla.org/acla2014/annual-meeting-theme/
Deadline for proposals: November 15, 2013.
full name / name of organization: NeMLA
contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Host: Susquehanna University
This panel seeks proposals that demonstrate awareness of technology’s effect on discourse – not simply as a means of delivery, but as a mode of signification necessary for today’s college composition students. We hope to stimulate a conversation about facilitating our students’ engagement with these discourses in the writing classroom by exploring deep structural integration of technology in these courses. Please send 250-300 word abstracts to William Magrino and Peter Sorrell, email@example.com.
Deadline: September 30, 2013
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)
The 2014 NeMLA convention continues the Association’s tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. This capitol city set on the Susquehanna River is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, historical sites, the National Civil War museum, and nearby Amish Country, antique shops and Hershey Park. NeMLA has arranged low hotel rates of $104-$124.
The 2014 event will include guest speakers, literary readings, professional events, and workshops. A reading by George Saunders will open the Convention. His 2013 collection of short fiction, The Tenth of December, has been acclaimed by the New York Times as “the best book you’ll read this year.” The Keynote speaker will be David Staller of Project Shaw.
Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable. http://www.nemla.org/convention/2014/cfp.html
Also, here are links to two more generic CFPs from the major scholarly organizations in college writing, CCCC and NCTE:
The posters this week were especially intrigued and focused on Elbow.
I highlighted some themes that came out below:
Communication: Many of us discussed our experiences translating and learning foreign languages, almost always relating back to the idea of successful communication. Karen discussed her success facilitating grammar exercises with her students always in context, when they communicate something. Communication was a central theme, and Heather picked it up by discussing Amy Tan’s essay and, at the end of the day, good writing’s ability to be “communication and sense.”
Students like learning grammar: Both Karen and Iemanja wrote that their students thoroughly enjoy learning grammar. Karen even likened grammar to candy. Like Danica wrote, it’s the “first time” her students become “invested” in their writing. Others brought up their various experiences learning grammar, most noting that learning a foreign language/college was the first occasion for learning these concepts as well. We might want to think about how students loving grammar changes, or should influence, our conversation!
SWE, Foreign Languages, & ELL: This is not a new theme to us. As mentioned above, many people brought up their own experience learning a second language. Iemanja proposed adapting an “immersion” approach to 110, furthering the connection between grammar and foreign language (as most of us noted, it seems like a foreign language when introduced to students for the first time!). Eric uses a translation approach when helping students find his ELL students “capture the meaning” of a word in their native tongue. Heather, as mentioned above, shared her own experience learning Spanish but only learning the, I imagine, SWE equivalent (castellano) and falling short during conversation. Mike, I think, summed up our sentiments in saying, “We seem to have internalized a hierarchization of mother tongues in the English language.” We wonder how other languages (i.e. anything Other than SWE) can and should fit it.
Okay, so it looks like we have some things to consider for this week:
1. Honestly, how do we deal with SWE in the classroom? Is it a given we are going to teach and assess it? To what extent should it be undermined?
2. With regards to grammar, what is in students’ best interests? What about ELL students?
3. How and to what extent do we assert the authority of the “Mother Tongue” a la Elbow?
4. How do we encourage students to love language, and what can we do with their interest in grammar?
5. What likeness does learning grammar have to learning a foreign language and what does that mean for us?
This week’s readings ranged quite a bit in their Focus; Elbow, with expected facility, placates the those in the academy whose views of SWE are more stringently confining while reasoning that that SWE, which is no one’s mother tongue, is malleable enough to absorb other Englishes. Elbow saliently advises on how to present SWE as the language of Prestige and power to students, particularly those whose mother tongue is at a further linguistic remove than that of the White middle to upper class speaking subject, suggesting that the authoritative voice (a la Bakhin) be made available to them to be put in use, if they so please, alongside/in conjunction/in Opposition with their mother tongue. I find it important to assert from the get go that SWE is the dominant language of Power and Prestige straight up, moreso for those more comfortable in SWE than those who are not, since the latter will already be well Aware of this reality. I believe making the fissure evident between the authoritative discourse and the internally persuasive discourse provides a powerful opportunity to empower students, and brings to mind the words of Poet/translator Murat Nemat Nejat, who in his Essay A Question of Accent, wrote: “What is, then, writing which has an accent? It is a writing which does not completely identify with the power, authority of the language it uses; but confronts, without glossing over, the gap between the user and the language. Such writing reveals an ambiguity towards power: the writer chooses to embrace a language (because of its pervasive centrality) which he/she knows is not quite his/her own, is insufficient for his/her inner purposes. Accent in writing has little to do with explicit theme or semantic context; it rather has to do with texture, structure, the scratches, distortions, painful gaps (in rhythms, syntax, diction, etc.) caused by the alien relationship between the writer and his/her adopted language. Accent is cracks (many unconscious, the way a speaker is unaware of his or her accent when speaking, does not have to create it ) on the transparent surface.”
Switching gears, I enjoyed reading Connors Mechanical Correctness as a Focus in Composition Instruction, and found the doing away with rhetoric in the academy fascinating. To me it seems that rhetoric, if anywhere seems a great place to start teaching grammar (if anywhere) since ipso facto the intended audience is named and claimed. Another reason why its a shame there is not a greater emphasis on language learning in the US. The only strict grammar per se that I have learned, came from learning other languages from the base up. In this sense, I find Elbow could be useful in asserting the inherent authority as language in every mother tongue and suggest studying the different internal mechanisms of These languages and what the exact structural differences are as a means of exploiting These cracks in the codified nom du pere.
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