Connective Writing: A Video by Prof Ron

A video I made on connective writing, which means that our writings should be connected to the writings of others. New technologies make connective writing easier and more authentic than ever before.

Use Auto Text Expansion to Save Time When Giving Feedback or Writing Emails

“If you find yourself doing something over and over,” Omar tells me and the developers that work under him, “that is something you can automate.”

How often as teachers do we write the same comments again and again in feedback and emails? Maybe you have a document with common comments that you copy and paste from, but there is an easier way that will save time and allow you to give more detailed messages: text expansion. Mac computers have a built in text expander, but I use aText, which costs five dollars and is more convenient.

For a text expander, you enter codes and then type in the text that goes with it. I always use a semicolon at the beginning of my codes to distinguish them from ordinary writing. For example, I use  “;topic” for the subject line of an email: “English 214: Feedback on Your Topic Proposal.” As soon as I have written the code, the expanded text appears with a satisfying click. I love that click!

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Collaborative and Integrated Composition Classes (with New Media Support)


Scholastic writing used to be disconnected. From research: reading and writing took place in different spaces at different times. From other writers: writing was a solitary activity. From previous steps of the process: each piece of writing produced along the way was discarded. From a real audience: students wrote to prove something to a professor who claimed they were engaged in an imaginary “academic discourse.” From authentic purpose: writing ended up in the garbage can and all the student’s hard work, knowledge, insights and craftsmanship were wasted.

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“Putting 2.0 and Two Together”: An Article — and a Response! — by Chris Gerben

I wrote this annotated bibliography for a class on using new media in composition classes, then posted it on my blog. To my surprise, Chris Gerben responded to the partial criticism in the last line, that he does not offer concrete techniques for the classroom. I contacted him and he gave me some very good ideas for using Facebook and blogs in the classroom. I urge you to look into other articles he has written and even to contact him for more ideas on using new media in the classroom. (Since I am moving this post to my teaching blog, I have copied and pasted those comments below.)

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“Sorry, English Major, the Engineers Have Triumphed”: An Article by Nate Anderson

This article attempts to assess the impact of the internet on attention span in response to Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr argued that he used to be able to follow lengthy articles or narratives, but now he finds his mind wandering after a few pages. To judge Carr’s claim, The Pew Internet & American Life Project polled 895 Internet experts. Respondents were nearly unanimous in agreeing that new technologies were activating different parts of the brain but this was not necessarily “bad,” just “different.” Many agreed that authors would move away from longer to shorter texts. Kluth of The Economist said, “This will result in a resurgence of short-form texts and storytelling, in ‘haiku culture’ replacing ‘book culture.’” Some also expressed concern that writers will not produce lasting texts, just “throw-away” texts like SMS and blogs.

Anderson, Nate. “Sorry, English Major, the Engineers Have Triumphed.” ars technica 19 February 2010. ars. Web. 22 February 2010.

“The Changing Space of Research”: An Article by James P. Purdy

Before Web 2.0, research and writing were separate, spatially and conceptually. Research took place in the library and then writing happened elsewhere. Even if writing took place in at study tables or a computer room within the library, these spaces were still separate from research spaces, as were the activities: research came first, then the writing second. With Web 2.0, James P. Purdy argues, students are creating their own research spaces by bookmarking pages, subscribing to RSS feeds, and personalizing sites such as JSTOR, and these research spaces are not fixed geographically, but are available wherever the internet is accessible, nor are they limited to a particular project, but will continue to be available after a paper is finished and students graduate; therefore, these self-created research spaces challenge the authority of an academic monopoly on knowledge. People today are using the internet as the primary source of research and so it would be blind to continue to insist on library-based research (sources selected by professors and staff), rather than helping students to develop the critical skills they will undoubtedly need to evaluate sources of information in the digital age. Most importantly research and writing have become interconnected tasks, helping students to realize they are not just consumers of knowledge, but active producers, evaluating, summarizing, criticizing, expanding, and integrating what they read while they read it. The writing students produce then becomes a real part of the knowledge pool, instead of disappearing in the teacher’s wastebasket after grading or in a box in the students’ garage, so students can see a real and immediate, lasting significance to their work.

Purdy, James P. “The Changing Space of Research: Web 2.0 and the Integration of Research and Writing Environments.”  Computers and Composition, forthcoming 27 (2010): 48-58. Web. 16 April 2010.

“Educational Blogging”: An Article by Geoffrey Middlebrook

Over 112 million blogs crowd the blogosphere, mostly self referential blogs about personal experience. Geoffrey C. Middlebrook argues that teachers of advanced writing courses can use blogs, since they conform to current student-centered, active learning models. It is a space that writers can develop their voice and explore their interests “in a medium that appears to have life and longevity,” offering the potential of a wide and authentic audience and for developing a students’ disciplinary and professional identity, “an incipient sense of self in the discourses of one’s field.” Blogs can empower students, stimulate the initiative to write, engender information sharing, help reputation building and facilitate personal expression. He insists that his students adhere to the course objectives to “write clear, grammatical, well-structured prose; discover and convey complex ideas critically; appreciate the nuances of good argument; identify and speak to specific audiences in a voice of authority and persuasiveness; and address the academic, public, and professional aspects of writing within disciplines and career fields.” Although some may argue that Blogs may actually harm reputations, Middlebrook’s students have won awards and received high-level job offers. However, he warns that in a recent study students appreciated the use of technology when used effectively, but felt it was a waste of time when managed poorly or poorly integrated into the class.

Middlebrook, Geoffrey C. “Educational Blogging: A Forum for Developing Disciplinary and Professional Identity.” Computers and Composition Online Spring 2010. Web. 25 April 2010.

Teaching Writing Offline (With Online Support)

Even though Scott Warnock’s book Teaching Writing Online: How & Why focuses on writing classes that take place entirely over the internet and hybrid classes which are about half online and half in person, any writing teacher in the digital age can glean important advice from his book on how to update and enhance their own teaching practices. Here are some suggestions I thought I would adopt and adapt, with comments and musings about why they are significant.

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