Composition Pedagogy

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On Foot Composition

Want to know what my voice sounds like? Download this mp3 and find out. It's my response to Jenny's call:

A call to y’all: your voice (and feet). My podcast piece for 4Cs–titled “On Foot Composition”–will involve a reflection on mobile writings. My hope is to assemble many voices talking about writing through and with mobility. The assemblage on assemblage, in other words.

All you have to do is record a 30-second (or shorter) description of the last time you “wrote” on foot. By this I mean the last time you puzzled something out, or figured yourself into a problem, or composed an email you would love to send, etc. Were you walking, sitting on the bus, shopping? No meta reflection necessary. Just a description. You can record this in Garage Band or any other format you’d like. Then send it my way to: edbauer [at] psu [dot] edu. No background music or anything fancy.

I put background music in my recording just for fun, but I can always re-record it if the music is disruptive in some way.

Oh yeah, and here's how I look as a Simpson (via Brendan):

Edited: This one is probably more accurate:


Title lifted from Dean Dad. These are some items I need to mark here so that they don't keep occupying a window with 500 tabs open:

Mike Garcia's dissertation notes. It's going to rock the field of rhetoric and composition; I'm sure it's going to be one of the best critiques of assessment out there. I also like what he's doing with

Some of you know that I've recently suffered a series of crushing career-related disappointments, and I want to be honest about that in this space, if vague and oblique. This has made it a lot more difficult to finish my dissertation. I'm not facing a running-out-of-funding situation, but I am still determined to be finished by this summer. So: I'm interested in inspiring stories, like this one about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and this one about several other women who accomplished so much under much more adverse circumstances than mine.

What's also helped me during this time is reading beautiful posts by outstanding, talented writers about What Really Matters, like this one from Flea:

And after his shower, he asked me, "Mommy, do you still like me?"

"Not only do I like you, I love you," I told him, towelling off his hair, "I love you more than anyone."

I felt like I had to cram six years of talking to him into this one day, because I didn't know if I'd ever have it again. I had one day to find out if he liked Tae Kwan Do, if he had any friends at school, what he did in gym class, if he was having difficulty in any area. One day to help him with reading and tying his shoes, one day to tell him how much I loved him before he disappeared back inside himself. Which he did, today. That sweet little stranger that curled up in my lap yesterday morning and sang "Rich Girl" and showed me his fancy dance moves and looked right into my face and laughed and smiled is gone today. Is that what parents of normally functioning children have every day? And, if that's what you have every day, why would there be a rush to put that kind of kid on Ritalin?

And Dooce's latest monthly newsletter:

A few moments later he returned to tell me that they had found a seat for me and that I needed to hurry, they were holding the plane. I took off flying, my suitcase turning flips behind me, and as I ran down the indoor tarmac someone suddenly called out my name. I stopped suddenly to scan the faces in the crowd only to see my mother standing twenty feet in front of me, my beautiful, perfect mother. It seems ridiculous now, but in that moment it seemed as if she had appeared out of thin air, that she had dropped out of heaven. When I saw the features in her face, the way her cheekbones meet her thin nose in symmetrical angles, her milky complexion peeking out of the black of her business suit, I realized that everything was going to be okay. That was one of the most spiritual moments of my life.

I wanted to tell you that story because that is my hope for you, that no matter how far away you go or how different we may become — I know it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of time — that when you see my face you will find strength. Look for me.

Also, the new issue of Kairos just came out.

And to close with a few things coming up that I'm excited about: first, I'm going to do a stint of guest-blogging at The Valve soon. Second, I've been invited to participate in a meeting for the Institute for the Future of the Book. We'll be talking about digital/networked textbooks in the field of rhetoric and composition. Finally, I'm going to be interviewed for a story in The Minnesota Daily about my use of blogging in my teaching. [Edited to clarify: The story is about using blogging in teaching in general; it's not an entire story devoted to MY use of blogs in my teaching.] I'm thinking of this as an opportunity to be pushed to find something new to say about using blogging in teaching. It's tempting sometimes to make it easy and trot out the same old examples and comments.

Noted and Recommended

  • A follow-up to my post about the MLA forum on political literacy: Patricia Roberts-Miller has posted the paper she presented at that session. My summary didn't do her presentation justice, especially the "political Calvinism" idea she set forth. Highly recommended read.
  • Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend taking a look at Donald Lazere's (another presenter in that forum) textbook Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy. You can download and read chapter 1 (PDF) for free.
  • Finally, via Michael Bowen with a tip from Yvette Perry, a paper (PDF) on race and blogging titled "Black Bloggers and the Blogosphere" by Antoinette Pole of Brown University. I recommend both the paper and Bowen's post about it.

New Article on Online Paper Mills from Kelly Ritter

Remember our mini-conference/maxi-review of Kelly Ritter's article titled "The Economics of Authorship: Online Paper Mills, Student Writers, and First-Year Composition," from College Composition and Communication June 2005 (56.4)? I had a couple of posts: "It don't matter. None of this matters." Or, composition pedagogy and Ritter's article on plagiarism and More on Authorship, Intellectual Property, "Templates," and Student Writing. Anyway, Ritter emailed me yesterday saying that the CCC article had originally been a longer piece, but that she had split it up into two articles. The second article, "Buying In, Selling Short: A Pedagogy Against the Rhetoric of Online Paper Mills," is now available in the latest issue of Pedagogy. [Note: When I say "available," I mean it's actually available for anyone who would like to download the PDF. So lack of access shouldn't be a deterrent to discussing the article.] It coincides with an article from today's Post on college entrance essay writing services. It's by a woman who worked for one of these services, first as an editor of students' essays, then as a writer for "model essays" that were supposed to serve as "inspiration" but instead were sent right off to the schools. The correlations with Ritter's work are striking, as some see the essays not as cheating or stealing but as fairly compensated labor (my emphasis):

This form of organized, for-profit cheating was unfamiliar to me, so I decided to look into how pervasive it might be. Of the 30 online editing companies I checked, four list the mock or model essay as a service. A handful of others offer varying degrees of application assistance. The least impressive but most affordable allow students to scan thousands of sample essays from a database, arranged by category, for a mere $20 a month.

At the other end of the spectrum is the fully commissioned piece written on a student's behalf -- of course, always for "inspiration." They call it the "authentic" essay. The hypocrisy isn't subtle. On the Web site of one such service, which also offers term-paper writing, is a blinking banner proclaiming: "Worry about plagiarism? Aaaaaaaaa! We write only original papers!"

I should point out that, as far as I have been able to determine, many of these companies are legitimate. They do not offer "model essays," just proofreading and light editing. Maybe I just picked one of the bad apples. But any company that offers something like the Comprehensive Package and then turns a blind eye to the possibility of its misuse inevitably facilitates cheating.

The Internet has made it possible to cheat with unprecedented ease, speed and sophistication. "Cheating is nothing new," one college admissions officer told me, "but organized cheating in the college application process is a growing problem." Like all the admissions officers I spoke to, he was aware that, as schools become more selective and applicants come under increased pressure, there's an obvious market for companies that, however unethically, will sell students a competitive edge.

[. . .]

Having braved the application process myself six years ago, I fully sympathize with how stressful it is. But there's a significant distinction between hiring a professional editor and buying an unethical product.

Students who believe they are ready to attend college should not be searching for this form of application assistance. My clients thought they were gaining something by hiring my professional services. But in the process they were losing something far more important: an opportunity to define their own authentic voices.

Anyone game for doing a massive multi-thinker online review of this latest Ritter article? And, on a more personal note, I've recently discovered that someone is copying and pasting my blog posts onto his/her own blog and not giving me credit for them, and I must admit, it's really sticking in my craw. Any suggestions on how to handle it?

Public Health, Diabetes, Exercise

Has anyone else been reading those scary stories about diabetes in the Times (it's a series)? If not, do so now. The gist of the stories is that diabetes has become a serious threat to public health, especially among the poor and predominately Latino and African American. This brings up a lot of issues related to public policy, the economy, government funding for health care, and race-based medicine, and it serves as a cautionary tale about diet and exercise for everyone, especially for those of us who have a family history of diabetes. I've already decided that the next first-year or advanced composition course I teach is going to have a public health theme.*

On a related note, a few weeks ago I read that if you run or walk eleven miles a week, you won't gain any visceral fat. That's the kind I always gain, so I'm implementing this advice: I've been doing one mile on the treadmill three days a week, two miles the other four days. I didn't run at all yesterday, so today I did three miles.

* Edited to add that I've been thinking more about this as the day has progressed. I'm seeing this course as having five units:

  1. Complications related to obesity
  2. HIV/AIDS and safer sex campaigns
  3. Anti-smoking campaigns and smoking ban legislation
  4. Infectious disease (in this case, I'm thinking about using bird flu as a case)
  5. Environmentalism and public health (I'm thinking along the lines of environmental racism)

Any other suggestions, like for assigned reading? A good friend of mine has already recommended assigning Super Size Me.

English Studies and Political Literacy

Here's the second installment of my MLA session-blogging. Two down, two three to go. This is from "English Studies and Political Literacy," a forum which has already been covered at Tech Central Station, the Chronicle, and Acephalous, but I'll throw my notes in there too; why not? As with all my conference-blogging of years past, these are simply notes I took. They're probably direct quotations, but I don't use quotation marks because I don't want to have them in every sentence, and I'm not sure enough of the exact words to use quotation marks. You'll find very little commentary here, because, well, it would take even longer for me to post these if I also offered commentary. Notes are in order of speaker:

Donald P. Lazere, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In his introduction to the forum, Lazere said that students are caught in a double bind: They need a degree for a job, but they can't afford college. Students are pressured to major in areas that are expedient to getting a good job, not allowed to take a variety of humanities courses. They're also having to work while going to school.

Lazere cited the NEA "Reading at Risk" study and the "literacy crisis": only 21% of students read newspapers. (Note: What counts as a newspaper? In my three years of teaching at the University of Minnesota, when I walk into the classroom each day, nearly all the students are sitting in their desks engrossed in The Minnesota Daily. Some of them read City Pages too, which admittedly is mostly an entertainment guide but also contains some very smart articles about social and political issues.)

December Carnivals

New Kid, who has really outdone herself, has raised the bar for the Teaching Carnival, with the most comprehensive one yet. [NOTE: I see that all of New Kid's archives from December 10 to the present are gone all of a sudden. I'll leave the link up in the hope that the post will come back. UPDATE: This has happened at all TypePad sites. What we're seeing now at places like Frogs and Ravens, 2 Board Alley, and New Kid's blog are backup copies.]

The Happy Feminist is hosting the December Feminist Carnival, which features lots of topics such as sex, the arts, women's political representation, and women's work.

By the way, this is my 999th post. Does anyone want to suggest a topic for my 1000th? If not, it'll probably be my library story.

Edited to add, as long as I'm linking to stuff, a link to Composition Forum, which recently went from print to online with some (a lot of!) help from Bradley Dilger.

A Scattershot Stump Speech

Back in September at the New Media Research @ UMN conference, I saw Lee Rainie give a wonderful, enthusiastic stump speech about internet research (his characterization, not mine). At the beginning of his talk, he told us that he was going to give us some background about the Pew Internet & American Life Project and its history and then he would gesture, scattershot-style, toward some of their current and future projects. The speech was excellent in every possible way, and when it was over, I thought, that's what I want to do at MLA.

I was invited to be on the NCTE-sponsored panel at MLA, titled "Digital Scholarly Publishing: Beyond the Crisis," along with Kristine Blair, David Blakesley, and Mary Hocks. I'm scheduled to go first, so I'm planning to give about 3-5 minutes of background on "the crisis" for the uninitiated, but after that, I'm going to talk about some of the work that people are already doing online every day. For the purposes of this talk, I'm positioning myself as a human aggregator, gathering and presenting the best ideas of what scholarly publishing could be, well, beyond the crisis.

The crisis, as I've always understood it, is an economic problem, an unsustainable business model, consisting of 1.) the conflict between the book-for-tenure model and the financial troubles (and subsequent cutbacks of number of titles published) of university presses; and 2.) price-gouging on the part of scholarly journal publishers and libraries' declining ability to afford journal subscriptions (which also affects book sales). This article in Inside Higher Ed provides a good status report on the latter. The former was heralded by Stephen Greenblatt in his famous letter to members of MLA. Greenblatt outlines the problem, pointing out that "books are not the only way of judging scholarly achievement." He suggests:

We could try to persuade departments and universities to change their expectations for tenure reviews: after all, these expectations are, for the most part, set by us and not by administrators. The book has only fairly recently emerged as the sine qua non and even now is not uniformly the requirement in all academic fields. We could rethink what we need to conduct responsible evaluations of junior faculty members. And if institutions insist on the need for books, perhaps they should provide a first-book subvention, comparable to (though vastly less expensive than) the start-up subvention for scientists.

This letter spurred a lot of discussion, at least in circles I frequent, about alternative requirements for tenure, especially online publishing. Certainly we in rhetoric and composition have been thinking about online publishing's place in the tenure and promotion process. I'm going to try to condense the major points of all those sites I linked into a few minutes of background information on the conversations about online publishing in our field.

Then, I'll segue into the scattershot ideas by making a few remarks about the work that Collin Brooke is doing and summarize some of John Holbo's many contributions to the thought about the future of scholarly publishing. Obviously there's no way I'll have time to do their work justice, so I'll need to decide what's most important in conjunction with what I'm talking about and then create a bibliography with all the articles I'm linking to here.

Then I want to focus on some particular cases.

  1. Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. This is an edited collection of essays that we published using weblog software.
  2. Computers and Writing Online 2005. For this online conference, we made the review process public (a "public feedback process") and have kept the content up at Kairosnews, with a Creative Commons license, so that others can copy and distribute the presentations -- e.g., for a course pack.
  3. Rhetoric and Composition: A Guide for the College Writer. Matt Barton of St. Cloud State University, along with students in his rhetoric courses, has done a lot of work building a free rhetoric and composition textbook using a wiki.
  4. Carnivals. Collections of posts on a given topic, like informal journals representing the scholarship that's being published on academic weblogs.
  5. Massive Multi-Thinker Online Reviews. Holbo's play on MMORPG, these are seminar-style events in which a group of bloggers reads the same book or article at the same time and blogs about it.
  6. CC-licensed online readers for courses. This is something I've been trying to plug for a long time, but it hasn't caught on just yet. There's all this Creative Commons licensed content online, and it would be so easy to reproduce essays on a given topic, group them into themes, write an introduction à la an edited collection, and assign it in a class. I'm working on one, which I'll unveil as soon as it's finished, but I'm too busy with my dissertation right now, so it has gone unattended lately.

I want to close with a return to the larger social context, meaning, and goal of scholarly publishing -- to disseminate new knowledge -- and point out the benefits of open-access online publishing to anyone (academics or nonacademics) who doesn't have access to a large research library. I might draw upon some of the arguments presented at a recent conference at the University of Minnesota, Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest.

Sigh. There's a lot more to say on top of that. I haven't even touched the problems related to archiving and indexing all this content, and I haven't said as much as I'd like about intellectual property and alternative copyright models. Maybe during the Q & A.

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