I am writing this post on April 5 and, I expect like many of you, I am preparing to attend at least some of the virtual 2021 CCCC meeting. I’m so looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues and former students, even if still only virtually. In the meantime, it has been spring break time and I’ve been doing some interesting reading. First, with my teenage grandniece, I’m reading Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy—very much in the mold of The Hunger Games, at least so far, but fairly well written and featuring two very appealing teen protagonists who, in the first volume, are serving as apprentice “Scythes,” specially trained and decorously robed professionals chosen to “glean” people at random in order to reduce the population in a “perfect” world no longer plagued by illness or poverty. My grandniece, who devoured the Harry Potter series when she was in elementary school and likewise The Hunger Games and other dystopian YA fiction, says she will “read anything” by Shusterman. Since I’ve been reading with her for most of her life, including all the Potter books, I’m interested to see if I will agree with her assessment. As we read, we exchange text messages about the books, and we will eventually write together about this trilogy. For my part, I’ll “read anything” that she writes—and love watching her develop as a discerning reader and writer. More in my lane, however, are two books I just heard about and am reading together, since I couldn’t decide which one to treat myself to first: Rhetorics Elsewhere and Otherwise: Contested Modernities, Decolonial Visions, edited by Romeo García and Damián Baca, and The Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric: The Longue Durée of Black Voices, edited by Vershawn Ashanti Young and Michelle Bachelor Robinson, with the help of thirteen other distinguished section editors. Actually, it’s turning out to be an enriching experience to read these texts together—a chapter or two in one and then some in the other—because they speak to each other so strongly. The African American Rhetoric is an anthology of recovery and celebration that beautifully bridges theory and practice in tracing the development of such a rhetoric and exploring its characteristic and transformational features. As a placard on the cover proclaims, “Black words matter.” Indeed, every page of this extensive volume instantiates that claim. The volume also supports the “pluriversality of knowledges” advocated by García and Baca in Rhetorics Elsewhere, one that moves beyond notions of postcoloniality to decoloniality, including the telling of stories “elsewhere and otherwise” that have been excluded. This shift away from “storytellers of the past,” such as the traveler, the colonialist, and the academic, to the “local individuals within local epistemic frameworks” and from Western epistemology to Border epistemology shows the potential of these stories to change the way we view history and rhetoric itself. Noting the relationship between the Eurocentric notion of rhetoric and “a logic of imperial expansion that manages identification, knowledge making, subjectivity, and deliberation,” this slim but powerful volume directly challenges this relationship by moving far beyond it to recognize, understand, and advance knowledge and scholarship “elsewhere and otherwise.” To give just one example of why I’m enjoying reading these works together, I can point to Kevin Adonis Browne’s “Moving the Body: Preamble to a Theory of Vernacular Rhetoric, or How a Caribbean Rhetoric[ian] Is Composed” (chapter 7 in Rhetorics Elsewhere), which I read alongside selections included in Chapter 9, “Caribbean Thought and Its Critique of Subjugation” in African American Rhetorics, selections which go toward the kind of “pluraversality’ Baca and García call for while expanding understandings of African American rhetoric to link the rhetorics of Black Americans in the U.S. to those in the Caribbean. I can already tell that it is going to take me quite a while to read and understand, to really listen to, these books—but that is going to be part of the fun, of dipping in and out, of moving from one to another and back again, and learning so much in the process. About one thing in particular Aristotle was surely right: learning is life’s greatest pleasure. Happy Spring Break and Happy Reading. Image Credit: "Thick encyclopedias with colorful hardcovers" by Horia Varlan, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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An essay excerpted in the thirteenth edition of Elements of Argument, Ishmeal Bradley’s “Conscientious Objection in Medicine: A Moral Dilemma,” addresses the dilemma faced by some health care providers when they are asked to perform procedures that violate their moral code. The prime example is abortion. The pressure extends from doctors to others, like nurses, who must assist in procedures to which they are morally opposed. Even a doctor or nurse who might normally be excused from participating may be forced to join the procedure in an emergency. Bradley succinctly sums up the dilemma: “Where are the boundaries between professional obligations and personal morality? Can personal morality override professional duty when it comes to patient care? . . . On the one hand, there is the argument that physicians have a duty to uphold the wishes of their patients, as long as those wishes are reasonable. On the other is the thought that physicians themselves are moral beings and that their morality should not be infringed upon by dictates from the legislatures, medical community, or patient interests.” In Arkansas, the legislature recently passed and the governor signed into law a bill stating that the moral code of physicians shall not be infringed upon. As a result, many believe that Arkansan politicians have put the lives of certain Arkansan citizens at risk. Some people are concerned that SB 289, The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, which allows doctors to refuse to treat a patient because of religious or moral objections, will give medical providers the right to refuse care to members of the LGBTQ community. By the end of January 2021, thirteen other states had proposed legislation that would limit the rights of transgender youth in particular, from denying them the right to participate in school sports to denying them the right to gender-confirming medication. Some pieces of legislation have passed; others never will. Even the threat of such laws is making some in the LGBTQ community rethink whether they want to live in these red states. In support of the law, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement: “I support this right of conscience so long as emergency care is exempted and conscientious objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people . . . Most importantly, the federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, and national origin continue to apply to the delivery of health care services.” Rather, Hutchinson argues, the conscience bill applies only to a particular health care service. The extent to which the law protects the health professional’s right to refuse to give a patient medical care depends on how one’s “right of conscience” is defined and how far it extends. Hutchinson says that conscientious objection cannot be used to deny general health care to a whole class of people. Those who opposed the bill are quick to argue that doctors are now going to allow trans people to die. This argument may be an overgeneralization: the fear should not be that doctors will refuse to see LGBTQ individuals to give them vaccinations or to treat them for a sinus infection or to perform an appendectomy. A doctor who refuses to perform an abortion is not refusing treatment to the class of pregnant women in general, but is refusing to be a party to what, in the individual’s thinking, is the murder of a child. The moral objection to treating a trans individual comes when the medical professional is asked to aid or maintain the sexual transformation itself. The doctor would not be refusing to treat any trans person as a member of the class of trans people, but might object to participating in the process of helping a person transition. Doctors who perform gender reassignment surgery or otherwise help patients with the transition are a class unto themselves and work in that area, surely, because they have no conscientious objection to it. If a doctor refuses to see a patient for a treatment that the doctor routinely provides because the person is trans, that would be a clear case of discrimination. As always, in attacking the positions of those we do not agree with, we have to be careful not to attack for the wrong reasons. When we overstate our opponent’s position, we weaken our own. Yes, there may be medical professionals in Arkansas and elsewhere who would prefer not to accept LGBTQ people as patients, but there are federal laws that ban that type of discrimination. People seeking gender reassignment surgery will seek out doctors best trained for those procedures. The hope would be that there are medical professionals in every state with such training. The most difficult obstacle to overcome might be finding a doctor to prescribe gender-affirming medications, and that is where this battle must be focused. Fear is already mounting that the incidence of suicide among trans youth will rise when states try to deny them the medications they need to maintain gender-affirming physical changes. If doctors choose not to meet those needs, they will be able to use the new law to justify their refusal on religious or moral grounds. That is the reason Arkansas’s new law and others like it are viewed as a dire threat. Image Credit: "Take Action for Trans Rights" by Marc Nozell , used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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Let me begin by saying that I have no intention of entering into the murky morass that engulfs the many conflicting claims behind HBO's recently aired documentary, "Allen v. Farrow." What interests me, for the purposes of a cultural semiotic analysis, lies not in the series itself, nor its subject matter, but rather in the reaction to it, particularly the passionate defense of Woody Allen that has sprung up in its wake. Lorraine Ali of the Los Angeles Times describes this reaction in her article "What Woody Allen’s defenders are really upset about," as follows: Angry readers wrote to The Times in response to my favorable review of the series, insisting I was part of a lynch mob: "Shame on you!" Others railed against it on Twitter as an HBO hit piece. Heated arguments ensued across Facebook. Some of the upset was understandable: Robert Weide, who directed "American Masters — Woody Allen: A Documentary," spoke out in favor of his friend, complaining in a blog post that most of the press was guilty of "swallowing the HBO series whole, seemingly thrilled that someone was finally taking Allen down." But the immediacy and intensity of the response by those who presumably don’t know Allen personally are puzzling. His apex as a filmmaker was more than 30 years ago. The accusations detailed in "Allen v. Farrow" are nearly as old. Why are these fans so invested in defending him? Good question, and Ali's situating it within the context of a world that "has changed since the scandal around Allen and Farrow’s breakup in 1992, and even more since the 1970s and ’80s, when Allen’s films often seemed to be driven by an obsession with young — and occasionally underage — women," is a good place to start. For indeed, as Ali continues, "the #MeToo movement has shifted the power dynamics of Hollywood, and changed the perceptions of the American public regarding the role of women on and off screen. But more than that, it’s flipped the script on who is believed in 'he said, she said' cases, making Allen and Farrow’s case the perfect candidate for reconsideration under a more modern cultural lens." But as is so often the case in the highly overdetermined world of popular cultural semiotics, I think there is another angle to the story that is worth exploring. So here goes. In my last blog I celebrated the life of the late Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who, I noted, was a major contributor to America's mid-twentieth century's deconstruction of the traditional boundary between elite and mass culture, incorporating elements of popular entertainment into his own esthetically-driven poetry while encouraging and publishing the work of other poets (like Allen Ginsberg) who were also straddling the line between art and pop. So I find it striking that when I look at the career of Woody Allen I see something of the same phenomenon, but moving from the opposite direction—that is, from pop to art, with the television joke writer and stand-up comedian of the 1950s and '60s becoming the cosmopolitan auteur of the 1970s and onward. And herein lies one of the reasons for the angry defense of Allen today that Ali describes. At a time when movie genres that were once regarded as being properly for children—science fiction and fantasy, with their vampires, wizards, zombies, star ships, and superheroes—have taken center stage in America and shoved the art film tradition into the wings, Woody Allen can be (and, I believe, is being) seen as one of the last exemplars of the high art, urbane and sophisticated, cinematic tradition. An attack on the man thus feels like an attack on what he represents to his defenders, and they are responding accordingly. So I don't think that the shifts in gender power relations that Ali identifies are the sole motivation for Allen's defenders—that they are trying to hold onto a bygone era of all-powerful Hollywood men. The bygone era behind the ruckus is cultural as well as political, and it will be interesting to see what happens next in this ongoing family melodrama. "5261-Woody Allen en Oviedo" by jl.cernadas is used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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This time last year, we had an April Fool’s surprise for sure in the form of a burgeoning pandemic. This year, we are not so easily fooled, and approximately one third of us have been vaccinated. While we’d surely be fools to get ahead of the process, we at least know a great deal more about this virus than we did then, and we have hope of meeting students in our classrooms again. So, a tentative happy April first.
The date is not my main reason for writing, however. I’ve been thinking lately about the relationship between reading and listening (see past posts here and here), and those ruminations took me back to a class I used to teach at Bread Loaf on the history of writing. I was fascinated by this history, about how writing systems developed and about what writing has meant in various cultures at various times. As we studied this history, students in my class would also study the history of their own writing, looking at the role literacy had played in their families’ histories and their own lives. We always ended our session at Rosie’s, a local restaurant, reading our histories aloud to one another (and eating some great roadhouse food).
One year, a student in this class also happened to be a brilliant pianist, one of whose specialties was New Orleans-style jazz he had learned from the masters in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with whom he had been invited to play. As we talked about the slow shift from a primarily oral to a primarily literate society and about what was gained—and lost—in that shift, he offered an analogy and a demonstration. He brought in the sheet music for Tony Jackson’s ragtime masterpiece “Pretty Baby,” a written version of a song that had existed in the aural memories of the ragtime players from whom this member of my class had learned to play it. He played for us what he thought of as the “oral version” of the piece—the “oral” one he had listened to and learned from the Black jazz players in New Orleans—and had us on our feet in seconds. Then he took a deep breath, pulled out the sheet music, and played the buttoned-down written version, for which two white producers paid Jackson $250 and then went on to rewrite the lyrics, “regularize” it “for mass consumption,” and make a fortune on it in various shows and a recording for Victor Records sung by the Irish American Billy Murray.
Stories of exploitation of Black musicians and singers are of course legion: see Alice Walker’s “Nineteen Fifty-five” for a powerful story based on the “relationship” between Big Mama Thornton and Elvis Presley. I had long known and taught about this issue in another course I taught on the history of intellectual property and, until recently, that’s the context in which I thought about this music in its oral and written versions.
I have come back to it now, however, via a different route—through thinking about the relationship between listening and reading sparked by encountering Nicole Brittingham Furlonge’s Race Sounds: The Art of Listening in African American Literature. Furlonge’s aim is to “unmute print,” to help us “read in print” and to hear in new (or perhaps old) and newly rich ways. She posits listening as an “aural form of agency, a practice of citizenship, an aural empathy, an ethics of community building, a mode of social and political action, a set of strategies for cultural revision, and a practice of historical thinking.” That’s a very tall order, but Furlonge delivers on it in analyses of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident, Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, and other works, all in search of ethical listening practices that will change the way we read forever.
Toward the end of her book, Furlonge turns to pedagogies of listening and describes her own undergraduate class on listening. For teachers of writing (and reading and speaking and listening), this chapter especially will resonate. This is a book we should all read and savor—and listen to.
Learning from this book has led me back to my class on the history of writing and to the return of orality in our time: technological advances that allow us to hear print read aloud (I’m just listening to President Obama read his memoir); the rise of spoken word and other embodied, performative arts; and the growth of aural imagery everywhere we look and listen. And now, as Furlonge suggests, we can teach ourselves and our students—through the artistry of African American literature—to unmute print texts, to “read” them as full of sound and music and voices.
I have a new way of thinking about reading now, and about ethical reading and listening practices. And I like it a lot.
Image Credit: "Piano" by QYR, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Producing a podcast is just one way to explain a topic, make an argument, explore an idea, or convey any number of other ideas and subjects. This blog post explores an option for taking a podcast and turning it into another medium of the student’s choice: an essay, a photograph, a song, a video, etc. The remixing options are endless! Podcasts are well-established, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality. LaunchPad and Achieve products include collections of assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative. If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page " Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts ." If you are using Achieve, you can find information on assigning Grammar Girl in Achieve on the support page " Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course ." If your English Achieve product is copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “ Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products ” for more information. Using Grammar Girl Podcasts in a Remix Assignment Pre-Class Work: Ask your students to choose a podcast, or assign specific podcasts to your students. (Don’t forget, if you’re using an English Achieve copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “ Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products ” for more information!) You may wish to use a longer podcast for this activity. Some longer podcasts include: The Proto-Indo-European Language Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Singular They What Does It Mean to "Have the Receipts"? American and Other Demonyms When Is It OK to Be Redundant? In Class: As a class, discuss the podcasts you’ve assigned or that students have chosen. Consider the following: What is the audience? Does the podcast make an argument or convey information? Does it use any examples or stories to convey information? Are any sources cited? Then, each student should take 5-10 minutes to brainstorm how the podcast could be remixed into another format to express the same goal. How could this podcast be turned into: A lecture slide deck? A photograph? A poem? A text-based essay? A song or poem? A sculpture? Ask students to consider if a different audience would impact the medium chosen to convey the information from the podcast. Put students into small groups to discuss their brainstorms and develop any new ideas for 10 minutes. Then, ask students to choose an audience and a medium they would like to remix the chosen or assigned podcast into. If you would like students to remix into the same medium, try a lecture slide deck or a poem. Assignment: Ask students to implement their remix plan. Taking their audience and brainstorming, students should then remix the podcast content into a new form. Ask students to directly submit their files (via email, a file upload feature, or any other method that works for you) or ask them to upload to Google Drive, create a shareable link, & share that link with you. Reflection: Ask students to write 3-4 paragraphs discussing 1) why they made the remix choices they did, including their intended audience, and if their original plans changed over time, 2) what challenges they ran into, 3) what they would have liked to try but couldn’t due to time, technology, cost, or other restraints, 4) what they are most happy about in their final project. Credit: "baking ingredients" by Andrea Goh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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As my friends know, I’m a big basketball fan, having been the worst—but also tallest—player in my junior high and then really taught to understand the game by Beverly Moss, my mentor in many things but basketball in particular. So of course I am following the March Madness action, odd and unnerving as it is in this COVID year. And as a long-time Stanford faculty member, I have followed the women’s team very closely this year, through ups and downs and into the tournament. Last weekend, I watched them take on Utah Valley in a very lopsided first-round victory, and they’ve now also won in the second round against Oklahoma State! Over the years at Stanford, I got to spend a bit of time with head coach Tara VanDerveer and have heard her speak in passionate support of women’s sports in general and basketball in particular. When Stanford hosted the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, VanDerveer and the athletic director at the time both spoke about their mothers, who never had a chance to play sports, bringing the discriminatory practices up close and personal for both of them. So this week when one of the Stanford coaches posted comparison photos of the men’s and women’s weight rooms, I wasn’t surprised. But like that coach (and like VanDerveer, who blasted the NCAA over the discrepancy), I was plenty mad. As the WNBA’s Brianna Turner noted, "In regards to the NCAA wbb tournament weight room that looks like it belongs in a senior care facility... it's inexcusable.” Indeed. Overnight, the NCAA made some changes and issued an apology. But as women athletes have been pointing out for decades, the system discriminates against them in almost every way. So what does a teacher of writing do in a situation like this? A little research, to start with, to make sure of the facts. But this particular contretemps seems to me to offer an opportunity to engage students in some interesting research as well. They could begin with this controversy, looking for what they can find out about who made the decisions regarding facilities and comparing other elements of the men’s and women’s tournaments: when are they scheduled and why? Where are the teams staying and how do those facilities compare? What meals are offered to the players in both tournaments and how do they compare? What kind of equipment is provided for the players in the two tournaments? Who pays for these facilities and meals and equipment, and where does that money come from? Perhaps most important, where does the revenue from each tournament go—and why? And think of the opportunity for field research about this issue: students could conduct interviews with players and coaches as well as with fans; they could conduct surveys of attitudes toward the two tournaments and gather data about the size of viewership, about advertising dollars spent, and about network coverage. And so on, and so on. Students engaged in this kind of research are practicing research methods and techniques as well as synthesizing information and drawing solid inferences, all leading, perhaps, to a rhetorical analysis of a particular aspect of NCAA culture, to a narrative argument about equality between men and women’s sports, or to a report based on hard-nosed financial facts. And those would all be very fine responses to the NCAA. So go team! Image Credit: "Basketball" by popo.uw23, used under a CC PDM 1.0 mark
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Today's video concludes the "What We've Learned" video series, which brought to you Macmillan Composition, Literature, and Business and Technical Writing authors' reflections on teaching in the pandemic, teaching online, and how they've adapted their pedagogies. We hope you have found these videos useful, and if you missed any of them, just search for the tag "what we've learned."
In today's video, Heather Sellers (@heather_sellers), author of Practice of Creative Writing, discusses creating nonjudgmental workshops for students, as a way to transition from an evaluative mindset to a growth mindset. This takes a different kind of close reading, a lot of student thinking, and an understanding that a piece of writing can be missing specific elements without being "wrong."
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I read with fascination a recent academic Twitter thread about why so many instructors still teach students not to use “I” in academic writing. A quick skim of the responses (which are all over the place) reveals that the worry is actually about the challenging task of teaching students to shape their writerly ethos. I’ve written before about helping students find their voice in academic conversations, without channeling a beginner’s arrogant authority. However you teach this in your own courses (and I confess, I’m curious to hear), using an “I” in writing should be seen as both a rhetorical and political decision. As a feminist scholar, I invite students to see the “I” as a truth-telling pronoun, acknowledging that the writer has a standpoint, with their own insights and biases. Knowledge doesn’t descend from the mountaintops, it is produced by humans whose experiences enrich and delimit what we think we know. Our students deserve to be invited into the fullness of this conversation as they, too, make decisions about their presence on the page. Two recent talks for on our campus by scholars Dr. Michelle Téllez and Dr. Diana G. Foster offered good models for the confidence and humility that can (or should) come with expertise. My students noticed. Dr. Michelle Téllez spoke about her groundbreaking work on reimagining borderlands, work which is also available on her visually rich website. Afterward, my students remarked on her expert insights earned from many years of ethnographic research and relationship-building, but also her humility as she makes evident that she continues to think, explore, learn, and test ideas. For example, Dr. Téllez said after she answered one audience member’s question, “That’s my best answer for now.” That’s a sentence to remember and use. Students heard similar humility in the appealingly written research by Dr. Diana G. Foster, the principle investigator of The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having — or being Denied — an Abortion. Foster spoke about her commitment to making the study’s findings accessible to the general public, both in the book and in the website, which has rich visual, quantitative, and qualitative data. Repeatedly in her talk and book, Dr. Foster says versions of, “I admit I was surprised …” and “I had expected to find X, but what we found over the long run was Y.” Rather than editing out this growth experience through the presentation of data, Foster reminds us that effective research involves being humble and open for the conversations to come. Isn’t that what we hope to model for our students? What academic voices do you consider models, for your students and for yourself? I’d love to learn. Image Credit: "The Letter I" by Marc Telesha is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
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Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: Acts of Composition
I teach a class called Careers in Writing that attracts humanities, social science, and other interdisciplinary majors who see the value in connecting writing to their professional futures. The class asks them to explore and understand their professional identities through critical thinking and writing activities and to create a variety of content artifacts to build towards a developing portfolio they eventually revise for the job market. I have found that students often struggle to communicate the relevancy of their coursework and skills to others. They often define and articulate their academic and professional interests in general rather than specific ways (English, Philosophy, Integrated Studies). I want them to form strong thoughtful answers to the question, “What is your major?”
Jonathan's Major Map The job market these days demands flexible, multilayered workers with a range of marketable skills. I encourage students to look beyond the academy and explore the shifting professional landscape that values skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, leadership, and multimodal knowledge.
Students benefit when they learn to identify particular skills and ways of thinking within their disciplines that they can communicate to their potential employers. Students are usually so caught up in the present and making a grade that they often miss the big picture and the ways their academic experiences and trajectories are specific and unique.
I am a big fan of mapping activities that get students to practice visual thinking and create meaningful associative connections—an important skill for multimodal composers. I borrow and modify the major map assignment (92) from the book You Majored in What? Designing your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks. It asks students to visually represent their major paths and distinctions through different mapping activities. Brooks recognizes that students generally speak of their majors in terms of deficits and encourages them to instead focus on “. . . what knowledge [they] have acquired” (85). Major Maps—a simple, but impactful assignment—helps students see connections between what they are learning and how that knowledge can be used.
The St. Martin’s Handbook - Ch. 25, Writing Well in Any Discipline or Profession; Ch. 26, Writing in the Humanities; Ch. 27, Writing in the Social Sciences; Ch. 28, Writing in the Natural and Applied Sciences; Ch. 29, Writing in Professional Settings
The Everyday Writer (also available with Exercises) - Ch. 13, Writing Well in any Discipline or Profession; Ch. 14, Writing for the Humanities; Ch. 15, Writing for the Social Sciences; Ch. 16, Writing for the Natural and Applied Sciences; Ch. 17, Writing in Professional Settings
EasyWriter (also available with Exercises) – Ch. 9, Writing in a Variety of Disciplines and Genres
Steps to the Assignment
Start with a class discussion about professional identities, academic interests, and relevant coursework. Abby's Major Map
Explain the idea of the Major Map in which students visually represent connections between their classes, knowledge, skills, and assignments.
Start with a blank sheet of paper and have students write down the following categories (91) and draw a circle around each one:
Theories or Ideas
Next, generate ideas about the different categories and place them on a visual map along with associational connectors to show their relationships.
Once they are complete, students take pictures of their major maps and upload them to a collaborative Google slide show that I present in class.
Discuss observations and inferences related to the maps to initiate interesting disciplinary conversations and identify relevant skills and practices.
Students then follow up with a review of current online job ads for keywords, skills, and other industry expectations and compare them to the ideas generated in their major maps.
Reflections on the Activity
Meghan's Major Map This kind of major mapping activity helps students realize the value and depth of their academic work and the ways they might leverage these skills in professional settings. As one English major said, “going through all these writing and literature classes you begin to realize all the potential in the skills you acquire.” They learn to identify the characteristics of strong workers who are “persistent, hardworking, and self-sufficient.” This visual mapping exercise helps them recognize the interdisciplinary overlaps and connections between their work, or as another student comments, “My map ended up demonstrating the integrative part of integrated studies.” This multimodal major map helps students take ownership of their choices to identify and promote skills as they continue their journeys.
Brooks, Katharine. You Majored in What? Designing Your Path from College to Career. Plume, 2017.
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I haven’t posted a blog for several weeks now, despite scheduled deadlines. I apologize. A year ago this week, my university gave faculty and students an additional week off following spring break, and then we returned—virtually—to complete the semester online. Two of the four classes I was teaching were already online, so for me, the initial impact of the pandemic may have been muted somewhat, at least in terms of instruction. And while I recorded mini-lectures and redesigned assignments for the online space, I learned to manage multiple trips to stores to find toilet paper or ground beef or yeast or buttermilk, to handle committee work and conferences via Zoom, to coordinate schedules with my 16-year-old son and my husband, and to refrain from the headache of trying to police conspiracy theories on social media. And I revamped my calendar. For April 2020, I created a calendar in a Word document, and each Sunday afternoon, I would map out what had to be done the following week, adding bullet points to designate each day’s t0-do list. Each morning, I settled on the couch with a cup of coffee and my open laptop, and I tackled the list. At the end of the day, I used the strikethrough command to cross off each completed item. Whatever remained undone was cut and pasted onto the next day’s list: Create works cited handout for 1102 Answer emails Submit book orders Write a blog post The process was efficient, and when several items were crossed off, satisfying. But as I added rows for weeks into May and June, and my document expanded into the summer and fall semesters, I noticed some items never quite got done—I would cut and paste for the next day’s list, for the next week, for the next month. The pre-tenure review materials had a firm deadline, so the blog post could wait. I would pen a quick apology for whatever I had missed and promise myself to catch up and do better soon. Our fall semester was hybrid: I had a small group of students one day and a separate group another. About half of the assigned work occurred in asynchronous online spaces. I recorded in-person classes via screen capture, kept my distance when on campus, and strained to make my voice clear from behind the layers of my mask. Once home again, I washed my hands, checked the to-do calendar, and rested my voice, sipping hot tea. But my mind reeled. When I needed to read, the words on the page seemed to blur, and the annotations I had jotted the night before were unfamiliar. Blank pages where blog posts should have appeared remained empty; words and sentences did not arise from the fog in my mind, despite all the tricks that would (as I had once confidently assured my students) demolish writer’s block. I cut the bullet points from the day’s list yet again, posted them on the calendar a few days later, and drafted yet another apology. According to a recent article in the Atlantic , prolonged stress—such as the past few months of the pandemic—can induce this brain weariness (“mild cognitive impairment”). As winter turns to spring, I am still teaching in hybrid mode, and here in Georgia, university faculty are not yet eligible for vaccination. I still cut and paste unfinished to-do items from one week to the next, and as I remind myself that summer is coming, I try to focus on what is essential—including at least two weekly reminder/update emails to students, along with encouragement to press on. And they send their apologies to me: “Dr. Moore, I am sorry I missed the conference. My internet was out.” “I’m so sorry about that discussion post—I just forgot.” “I’m sorry I didn’t get this to you on Friday. I had to be out of my old apartment by Saturday.” “I was exposed to Covid, so I cannot make it. I’m sorry.” “I apologize for being out of it during class—my doctor switched my anxiety meds and I’m in a fog.” “I missed my meeting with the writing fellows—could you help me reschedule?” “I’m taking my dog to the vet this morning.” “Could you record class for me—I need to babysit my little sister.” “I know it’s not an excuse, but I can’t seem to get started on this paper. It’s like my brain is in a fog. Does that even make sense?” Why yes, yes, it does. In responding to these apologies this semester, I’ve found myself much more willing to adjust, to cut the due date and paste it into the calendar a few days later, giving the students (and myself) a little more time to breathe. And for some students, the best option has been withdrawal—cutting the entire course and pasting it into next semester. A composition course in conjunction with the chaos in their lives right now is just too much—family, health, or work takes precedence. When they make that decision, I remind them that no apology is necessary. If you have struggled with brain fog, anxiety, malaise, or acedia created by pandemic teaching and would be willing to share your coping strategies, I would love to hear from you.
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Today’s guest blogger is Tanya Rodrigue, a n associate professor in English and coordinator of the Writing Intensive Curriculum Program at Salem State University in Massachusetts. My last two blog posts, “Facilitating Online Peer Review” and “Various Methods for Conducting Peer Review , ” provides instructors with a scaffolded approach for orchestrating online peer review as well as several different peer review methods and activities that can be employed in an online or face-to-face environment. While a pedagogical approach and directed activities are sure to create a productive environment, the only way students will find peer review productive is if they believe it is a valuable activity and will result in feedback that will help them revise their work. Students who believe in peer review as a worthwhile endeavor are more likely to give productive feedback to their peers as well as take up peer feedback for the purposes of revision. Yet how do we persuade our students that peer review is valuable? In this post, I offer several possibilities for doing so. #1 Deconstruct the notion that peer review is only for “struggling writers.” Students often think any kind of revision feedback, whether it be in peer review or at the writing center or from an instructor, is an indication that they are not a “good” writer. Many think that if they were a “good writer,” they wouldn’t have any “mistakes” and thus not need to revise their work at all. Students need to be explicitly told that feedback is not synonymous with mistakes and is one of the strongest mechanisms in helping people grow as writers and thinkers. #2 Share your experiences with peer review. Students don’t often recognize that their own professors engage in peer review on a regular basis, either giving or receiving feedback. Students would benefit from knowing the circumstances in which professors partake in peer review and the peer review processes. For example, a professor might discuss the process of journal manuscript submissions with students and show them real peer revision recommendation letters. They may talk students through the process of what they decided to take up and how they decided to revise based on particular suggestions. They might then discuss the differences between the original submission and the revised document. An activity like this would help students immediately recognize that teachers and students share something in common: they are all writers in an academic setting who receive feedback in efforts to revise and strengthen their writing. #3 Show students the value of feedback using student work. Students can see the true value of peer feedback in the classroom by looking at other students’ work. An instructor, for example, may ask students to read through a previous student’s draft, the feedback comments they received on the draft, and the revised version that took up some feedback suggestions. A strong revised piece of writing that used feedback effectively would show other students the instrumental role they and their peers could play in supporting one another in producing effective writing. #4 Show students peer (in the broadest sense) review is ubiquitous. While students may buy in to peer review from learning about its function and value in an academic setting, they are more likely to be persuaded when they understand peer review in broad terms and that it happens in all shapes and forms in life outside the academy. A peer can be thought of as anyone who understands and is willing to read one’s work, and this act can occur in both personal and in public spaces. Students would benefit from specific examples of how professionals and everyday people provide each other with feedback for the purposes of revision. For example, a person on a marketing team might ask their boss for revision feedback on a PowerPoint presentation. A grandmother might ask her adult grandchild to give revision feedback on a letter to an insurance company. A musician might ask their band manager for feedback on a song. People read and give each other feedback in all different settings, inside and outside of school. The recognition of feedback in personal and public spaces normalizes and destigmatizes the practice of peer review and positions it as a common way in which people strengthen their writing. The combination of fostering student buy-in and using a scaffolded approach to orchestrating peer review is sure to create an atmosphere in which students, their writing, their feedback, and their interaction with each other are important and are valued.
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In today's "What We've Learned" video, Heather Sellers (@heather_sellers), author of Practice of Creative Writing , discusses the unique structure of an online course, equating creating an intentional online course to structuring a short story or a poem.
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In an excellent February 2021 article in the Atlantic entitled “5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Making,” Zeynep Tufekci contrasts the recent reception of the COVID-19 vaccine with the reception of the polio vaccine in the 1950s: “When the polio vaccine was declared safe and effective, the news was met with jubilant celebration. Church bells rang across the nation, and factories blew their whistles. ‘Polio Routed!’ newspaper headlines exclaimed. . . . People erupted with joy across the United States. Some danced in the streets; others wept. Kids were sent home from school to celebrate.” In contrast, on November 10, 2020, “[t]he first, modest headline announcing the Pfizer-BioNTech results in The New York Times was a single column: ‘Vaccine Is over 90% Effective, Pfizer’s Early Data Says,’ below a banner headline spanning the page: ‘BIDEN CALLS FOR UNITED FRONT AS VIRUS RAGES.’” We teach our students how slanted language can affect an audience’s reaction, how the connotation of individual words can influence opinion. We are also influenced by what is included and what is left out or, in this case, what is emphasized and what is relegated to a single column. Why is there so much emphasis in the media on the negative possibilities of the vaccines and so little celebration of the fact that they exist? Have we become so cynical that we worry about the new variants to the point that we can’t appreciate the drugs’ effectiveness in saving lives? This type of media coverage plays into the hands of anti-vaxxers who welcome any opportunity to denigrate vaccines. Opponents of vaccines in general or of these in particular like to argue that there is really not that much more that Americans can do once they have had the vaccine than they could before it. Yet well below the glaring headlines are the sweet stories about grandparents finally getting to hug their grandchildren again and of nursing homes cautiously opening their doors to visitors. Does the news media’s reluctance to celebrate the vaccines arise from political partisanship? Perhaps. After all, former President Trump issued a statement recently on pseudo-White House stationery, trying to take credit for their existence: "I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful 'shot' for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all. I hope everyone remembers!" His choice of verb tense (“if I wasn’t president”) reflects his refusal to admit that he lost the 2020 election, or perhaps he’s just not that astute a student of grammar. His supporters might celebrate with him his gift of the vaccines to the American people, but for others, the very thought of Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic from the beginning might dampen down any spirit of enthusiasm. However, it’s not as though we have to give credit to former President Trump for the existence of the vaccines, but rather to the scientists who labored to create them and the volunteers who participated in the development trials. Should our optimism be guarded because these vaccines were developed quickly? It was unprecedented to develop a vaccine, let alone several, in a matter of months instead of years. As Tufekci put it, “Vaccines that drastically reduce hospitalizations and deaths, and that diminish even severe disease to a rare event, are the closest things we have had in this pandemic to a miracle—though of course they are the product of scientific research, creativity, and hard work.” They show what can be done when the full power of the scientific and pharmaceutical communities come together in a shared mission – something, again, to be celebrated rather than feared. Unfortunately, our nation is not prepared to come together, as a nation, to celebrate anything at this point. We could not celebrate together the inauguration of a new president - not when large numbers of Americans believed the former one’s claims of a stolen election. Nor could we, as a united nation, celebrate democracy and the peaceful transition of power because of those same dissenters, some of whom turned to violence in an effort to stop the lawful counting of electoral votes and disrupt the election of Joe Biden. For the moment, everything is seen, still, in political terms. In a nation where wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID or not wearing one became a political statement and led to injury and death for some trying to enforce mask mandates, rolling up one’s sleeve for a vaccination can hardly be seen in apolitical terms. Likewise, it’s hard to celebrate the “reopening” of America when many feel it is coming too soon. We long ago left behind the idea of news as an objective account of the world’s happenings. To deny the political leanings of the news networks would be ludicrous. Maybe the time has come to move back toward some type of balance at least. Ideally a network would report any problem with the vaccines while also reporting successes in getting the vaccines out to more people and making strides toward ending the pandemic—and to keep both sets of facts in proportion. Maybe a time will come when, even if Americans don’t take to the streets in celebration, we can at least breathe a collective sigh of relief that we are returning to something closer to normal, in our news media and in our lives. Image Credit: " A newspaper with the headline Coronavirus News " by Jernej Furman, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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Well, of course, The Social Dilemma is the title of the much-watched and much-reviewed documentary film by Jeff Orlowski. It includes a series of hair-raising interviews with many of the people who brought us social media in the first place but have now had second, and third, thoughts about its dangers—so much so that many of them make sure that their children are NOT users of social media. I have a grandniece whose access to screens and social media has not been curtailed, and watching this film practically set my hair on fire. I could relate many of the stories told in it to what I’ve seen in my wonderful grandniece’s experience and behavior. I came away shaken. And so, as we teachers do, I watched the film again and did some reading of reviews, including a neutral one in the New York Times, two critical ones in The Verge and Nir and Far, and several largely positive ones, including a review in Variety. I also went back to re-read Jaron Lanier’s page-turner of a book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Lanier is featured in The Social Dilemma and I’ve followed his work for many years, finding him reasonable and fairly even handed. Indeed, he concludes his Ten Arguments by saying he knows it is asking a lot to delete all social media and so he asks simply that readers take a pause—a week, maybe a month—and then assess how they feel free of the constant invitations to click, click, click—and to be manipulated. So I’ve often recommended Lanier’s book to my students, asking them just to hear him out and them to consider taking a break from all social media. Some have taken up the challenge, but a lot have not. So I’m left this week not with answers but with questions. Just what is the “dilemma” that social media pose to us and especially our students? How clearly and persuasively is it delineated in Orlowski’s film, or how much is the argument there itself exaggerated in an attempt to manipulate us? And most important, what is our responsibility, our obligation, to our students in continuing to bring these issues to them, to insist that we try working through them together? For my part, I have not deleted my social media accounts yet—but I rarely use them beyond sharing my blog posts. I would very much like to hear your take on the “social dilemma” of our times. Image Credit: "Social Media" by magicatwork, used under a CC BY 2.0 license
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Today's "What We've Learned" video features Stuart Selber, one of the author's of Technical Communication, on thinking of online environments as models of technical documents, showing the type of technical communication that is asked of from students.
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