Project options, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy

We’re ending up on these issues: reading and writing together in BW and how can we use the language of remix to help us connect to our BW students and help them figure out how to connect to the academy.

The final projects of the semester are going to have some options for everyone. Here you go.

Undergraduate Students

You must do a book review of one of the following texts:

Rehearsing New Roles: How College Students Develop as Writers by Lee Ann Carroll

What is “College-Level” Writing? edited by Patrick Sullivan & Howard Tinberg

Copy(write): Intellectual Property in the Writing Classroom edited by Martine Courant Rife, Shaun Slattery, and Daniel Nicole DeVoss.

A book review should be at least 3,000 words and do the following: describe the contents of the book overall, say who the audience is, who the authors/editors are, what the purpose is. Also, in this case, it’s vital to say where the book is found (on the WAC site)–and what does that say about the worth of the text and who it’s for.

The first book on the list is a full text about one project; the second and third books are collected essays about a topic. That means what you pick will also have an impact on the overall structure.

You should contextualize the book you choose by connecting it to materials you’ve read this term. Pick and choose, obviously, as you see fit or it won’t make sense. But do make connections between what you’ve read and the book you choose for this end-of-term project.

Questions? Let’s talk. FB message or email or we’ll talk at a meet-up.

Graduate Students

You need to do both Number 1 and Number 2, but you have options within each about focus.

Number 1:

You need to do an executive summary of a syllabus, lessons, ideas for teaching a BW class based on what we’ve read. THIS IS NOT a full syllabus, or a whole lesson, and certainly not a full schedule for a whole semester or quarter, but rather this should be a description of what you might think is vital to share with BW students to make them better writers (and/or readers). This needs to reflect, very clearly, works we’ve read to explain why you are doing what you’re doing.

This should contain several parts: a description of the class (objectives, goals, standards, outcomes–take from the documents that exist), lessons for writing and/or reading, and why you think what you propose would be useful. Please do not base any of your work on this project on materials that already exist for BW at AUM. Stretch beyond that please.

How long should this be? 2,000 words I would suggest.

Number 2:

Two options here: 1) a case study; or 2) an author study.

A case study will look at a BW program at a particular school. You can choose between these four:

  • AUM’s BW program
  • Accelerated Learning Program, Community College of Baltimore County
  • The Stretch Program at Arizona State University
  • English 90 at Boise State University

If you are interested in this option, I will give you detailed directions.

An author study is an exploration of one of the luminaries of basic writing. Pick one of the following scholars to investigate–both their works on BW and critics of their work can be explored, as well as their teaching lives.

  • Mina Shaughnessy
  • Edward M. White
  • Gregory Glau
  • Bruce Horner
  • David Bartholomae
  • George Otte
  • Mike Rose
  • Linda Adler-Kassner
  • Min-Zhan Lu
  • Peter Adams
  • Sondra Perl
  • Rebecca Mlynarczyk
  • Robert Connors
  • Keith Gilyard
  • Deborah Mutnick
  • Karen Uehling
  • Andrea Lunsford
  • Susan Miller
  • Ira Shor
  • Mary Soliday
  • Lynn Troyka

If you are interested in an author study, let me know and I will give you much more details directions.

For both of these options, I will post directions, but I do want to get a sense of what you want to do and be sure no one overlaps on authors, especially. Overlapping on the program case studies might happen, but we’ll deal with that as it comes up.


Basic writing resources 2/14/17

Happy Basic Writing Day! I’m just declaring that today is also Basic Writing Day besides being Valentine’s Day. Why not? There doesn’t seem to be a declared Basic Writing Day, so I’m just saying. For this year anyhow.

There’s so much that the first Mutnick article refers to beyond Shaughnessy (and including Halsted and Otte & Mlynarczyk), that I thought I’d put a bunch of the resources here for you in one spot. When you decide what you might like to explore on your own about basic writing, these will be handy places for you to visit.

Rebecca Moore Howard’s bibliographies linked to her book, Writing Matters, are always a great place to visit to get an overall scope of articles. Howard’s bibliographies are extensive, so be prepared to get distracted:

The logo on the page of CompPile.

The logo on the page of CompPile.

I like this place too: CompPile. There are any number of areas of you could find articles about from this place. Many of my comp/rhet friends have worked on this, including the writing of the Norton Field Guide to Writing, Rich Haswell. It’s a reputable site to explore writing studies:

You know the Journal of Basic Writing, of course, but here’s the link just the same (always good to bookmark this one):

There’s also the Council on Basic Writing Share:

And here’s the basic writing e-journal:

And for looking beyond the specifics of basic writing, because there are great articles about BW in another journals in rhet/comp. It pays to know the journals in the field and have a broad perspective when doing research in a field. The WPA pages are instrumental is defining our field from an administrative perspective–with loads of important documents and policy statements (as does NCTE/CCCCs). If you ever undertake administrative roles, this is the group to get involved with–there is no better. Here’s the list of journals on their page:

With all of these resources, you’ll never need to worry that you’re out of the loop when it comes to BW or writing studies in general. Finding time to read all this is another story. That’s something every single one of us will worry about us regularly. One way to tackle such a history and plethora of scholarship, pick a small topic and then: start exploring; take your time; stick to it; it will take time; but you’ll have time because you’ll make time. That’s how scholarly endeavor works; it’s how eudaimonia works; it’s how life-long learning works.





Open education resources needed more now than ever 2/7/17

I just can’t believe that something I wrote an age ago, once again, or continues, to have relevance. Sigh. Sorry that’s the case but not sorry to share. #sorrynotsorry

We may not have the leadership we like in education, but we can each be leaders and take our students to places online where their learning can commence or continue as they wish. I love a book called DIY University by Anya Kamenetz. Every student should have a copy, issued freshman year and consulted regularly as they move along through their college careers.

Open education resources may not be the future because: money. BUT they can be and have been a joy to me. I am a lifelong learner. Nothing is more important to me than learning always about all kinds of things. Everything connects eventually–like six degrees of separation and Kevin Bacon–and I enjoy seeing how the threads all link up and weave to make a beautiful picture. I only get that from learning.

I don’t have time to get more formal education right now, but I can dally with OER. And frankly, college education or continuing education can be expensive. My favorite question: what’s a pirate to do?

From six years ago, see the below. I haven’t check the links, but honestly, if you want to know more about OER, google OER and you’ll find amazement: OER Commons, for instance. These are the kinds of things that make or break a life in college. Think about the resources of learning that could help students. If you’re in an art history class and can’t quite get it, take some online classes or search resources to help you study. You’ll find stuff and be joyful–and tell your students. Kahn Academy (listed below) helped me tutor my son in math things that I didn’t get and/or couldn’t remember.

“Seek and ye shall find” is apropos for OER. Now the big question: writing and OER. We’ll be talking about this towards the end of the term. Just FYI.

So long ago and yet it still feels so right.

I’ve been reading grim statistics about college education. I am disheartened by the Thomas Hobbesian news. Are you?

But I’m an optimist, so my view of the future is Star Trekkian in nature. I believe it will all be okay, and that we all really want to be gentle with one another. However, I also know that’s not necessarily the case right this minute. I’m on the realism train right now, waiting for my transfer to the science fiction train. In the meantime…

You’ve probably heard of all the hikes in college costs even if you haven’t felt them personally. I’ve seen it at my institution and at those where many of my friends work: tuition increases up to 30% (or more) and reduction in faculty pay or no raises, or the cashiering of whole departments, both academic and administrative support. Goodbye, Mail Room, it’s been nice knowing you. We’ll miss you, Physical Plant, you were great (thanks for handling my heater crisis last winter; I hope I never have any problems with my 40-year old heater again). Ciao, Italian Department, I loved you so much; in bocca al lupo.

Casually looking online for information about college education and income and what the landscape is like these days, it has been easy to get blue. Good news is coming, though–I mean later in this post–so hang in there like you’re in a Great Depression soup kitchen line: there’s shelter and warm food ahead. But first some somber moments brought to you by the government and the New York Times. (It could be the case that everything has turned around in the last month or so because I’m hopelessly out of touch with the world in some ways… wouldn’t that be great? But it’s not likely.)

The short, brutish, nasty news that I dug up without really trying:

  • Only 57 percent of 1st time students seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution at the beginning of this millennium finished in 6 years or less. [U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). The Condition of Education 2010 (NCES 2010-028), Indicator 21.]  (Took me nine years for a four-year degree in the last millennium. Just saying.)

Oh man.

  • Between 1998-99 and 2008-09, the cost of undergraduate college attendance (tuition, room, board) at public institutions rose 32 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 24 percent, after adjustment for inflation. [U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). Digest of Education Statistics, 2009 (NCES 2010-013), Chapter 3.]

Oh man.

  • Median household income in the U.S. actually fell from $51,295 in 1998 to $50,303 in 2008. [See this brief post at or the U.S. Census Bureau Report issued in September 2009 on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage.] [That was almost a decade ago–holy moly.]

Oh man. [It’s not a lot better by a recent and quick online search.]

I beg your pardon, if my naivete is showing, but it looks like there’s a problem here. [Still.]

Could there be any good news? I think there is. Folks are talking about college readiness, what that means, and how we can be sure students in high school have it, if they want it (or maybe despite them not wanting it), before they get to college. And some folks are talking about helping those under-prepared for college to get college-ready as soon as possible while they attend the first year or so of college, through summer bridge programs or developmental courses. All that’s good.

Standards are being talked about and written up (but that’s not so hard to do really: “learn this much… ah, there you go, you got it–check, done that–now move on”), and outcomes have been created for nearly everything imaginable. I really like outcomes and standards and rubrics and assessment; it’s good to get on the same page with other educators, with students, across a discipline, to have something to talk about using the same kinds of words and ideas to communicate (avoids the problem Cool Hand Luke had with the Captain: a failure to communicate). (But the “end” is only a start, right? Teaching to meet and exceed all expectations is important still, yes?) The Council of Writing Program Administrators did a wonderful job of developing outcomes for first-year writing, a statement that informs a whole lot of what I think about as a WPA, as someone involved with writing across the curriculum, as a teacher of upper division and graduate courses in my discipline (writing and literature, English studies is a fine name, maybe). The WPA outcomes are great stuff because they are forward thinking addressing what faculty can do beyond first year writing because becoming a writer is never over. We just open the door in freshman comp, students walk down the writing hallway forever after that. But the WPA folks are always doing this sort of thing: thinking about how to clarify what learning can be, how we can work together, bridge gaps, meet needs. So this is all fine, too.

But is that it? Even if it is (it’s not), I wouldn’t dream of giving up on the doing of college degree work of any kind. Some of it is better than nothing, and most of it is pretty great. Even a little can go a long way in changing a person’s life. But there’s a disconnect if so many students can’t get through it all.

For those who need extra support to get through college, there is hope. At least there is learning to be had that isn’t that expensive. For the price of a computer or time spent in a computer lab (if you’re already in college and have access to a university computer), one can get a LOT of really great learning experiences online. If only students knew where to look, so that those 43% who die on the vine at college might could maybe hopefully stick around and get something for their energy and investment. How could we help them? Hmmm. Oh, wait. There’s open educational resources (OER). Here’s the gist from a relatively old document (February 2007), a report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (5):

The definition of OER varies a bit according to where you look (and 2007 as the date for this makes it long in the tooth by online standards), but this is fine with me (it’s the H of the Hewlett Packard…how off can these people be?). Creative Commons (see footnote) is a licensing entity that allows folks to understand a thing’s origins and intended uses: “Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally.” They actually define themselves this way (very sharp): “Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” They are all about intellectual property management. Just wow.

OER can be whole courses like those at MIT and other schools (over 200 universities around the world) like those who participate in the Open Courseware Consortium which are made available to anyone who can get access (accessibility is an issue for some, but OER visioneers are working on changing who and when and how access happens). Other groups impress me with how they are working to get educational materials into the hands of everyone (in no special order):

  • College Open Textbooks (an amazing place with loads of books… open–already yours; it was started by a huge group of folks including community colleges, nonprofit groups, funding organizations, government agencies and more–please go and see this. Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 1 is listed among English & Composition texts. Well done us.)
  • MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (get past the first page–it’s hard to read)
  • Connexions (at Rice University)
  • Next Generation Learning (I like this because: 1) it smacks of Star Trek; 2) they are looking at both secondary and post-secondary OER; 3) it’s so right–well, I want it to be so right–it’s really just beginning.)
  • Kahn Academy (I am taken by this OER–one guy started this–just began teaching math.) [I LOVE THIS OER.]
  • AND check this out: P2PU. Peer 2 Peer University. Courses are FREE; all materials are openly available on the web; groups of peers come together to learn. Inconceivable. Well not really, but still, it had to be said. Scenario: I heard about Python the other day while listening to a talk–I wished I knew more about it. Apparently, it’s a computer program of some kind. P2PU offers a course called, “Learn Python the Hard Way.” The leader is a biologist who has taught programming to 7th graders and believes it’s a skill and art as important to education as learning English and math. Well. Maybe I should take the class. I could if I wanted to: free.

You can learn a lot more from The Free to Learn Guide (there are ever so many more OER sites and creators and innovators in that document than I could intelligently list here–go, read, learn–for free). I’m overwhelmed by the choices available to me as an educator, as a student, as a life-long learner, but I am determined to embrace this OER thing in all aspects of my life (especially as a person responsible for nurturing one young life). I have never believed education should be limited to those who have easy access, so this is all the way down to the very end of my continuum of the right things to do. Do I want students in Singapore to use OER I might create and prosper because of it? I wish. My dreams come true. And in Zimbabwe. In Germany. In Romania. Anywhere. Anytime. And do I want teachers to improve upon what I do or do something fascinating with what I create that I couldn’t imagine alone? Yes. 1,000 times yes.

Community matters, collaboration matters, cooperation matters, communication matters, composition matters, creating citizens matters–all the Cs matter. (Alliteration matters. Of course. I’m was an English major for heaven’s sake.) Developing OER in sustainable ways so that communities of educated citizens of the world grow and prosper together, understand one another better, work well together to problem solve… well, who could be against that? Are you against world peace? I hope not.

Money matters, too. Students can be poor and still want to learn. I get that when I look at books that cost over $100 or into the $200 range. It’s so bad crazy to think a book I’d read once and over the course of  a few months is a third of what some people in the world make in a year. The disparity of it riles me. When I was an undergrad, I bought used books a lot, sold back my used books (at a fraction of what I paid, and then only read parts of them, or none of them–sigh). I remember scraping together money to buy more books I needed to learn whatever I needed to learn. Yuck. I dreaded the book buying each semester. Okay, I loved it. I love getting new books, but it was always expensive. OER texts for students is just one tiny reason this stuff is so great. Remember how 43% crash and burn in some way, and remember how the economy sucks? I’m taking a geography class this term and am lucky to have gotten a book from a friend for free, because it costs $150 at the bookstore. And while I’m employed at a university and can attend classes for free, $150 is still a lot of meals to give up to buy a book that I’m reading half of for the term. LOVE my class and my teacher, but $150 is also a pair of shoes, or a fabulous dinner out for my father and me, or half my airfare to visit my best friend 1,000 miles to the west. (By the way, I think every teacher needs to go back to school and take one class with a great teacher. It’s wild stuff to be in someone’s class at this point in my career as a student. I’m learning as much about teaching as I am about geographic information systems–I also have a writing assignment due soon that will be a blog post at some point, of course. I can’t wait. I have criteria; it rocks.)

But OER isn’t just about money, or about not having much money as a student, it’s also about creating a community of learners that isn’t restricted to those other 19, or 249, or 5 students in a class. It’s about all the students studying geography, history, Italian, or immunology. It’s about all teachers of whatever subjects are possibly taught anywhere anytime in any way finding a connection to each other, to learn together through curriculum, texts, and ideas that can be remixed, reused, and revised, and rewoven to teach, teach, teach.

And learn, learn, learn. Students who are struggling with math–go to Kahn Academy. Students who are struggling with writing–go to Writing Spaces. Students who are struggling with understanding cash flow statements–go to MERLOT. Students who are struggling with Immanuel Kant’s view of the mind and the consciousness of self–go to the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Students who need to know programming and don’t: P2PU. It’s all like having a teacher in your pocket.

It’s joyful for me to contemplate how I am mixed up in all this in a small way through Writing Spaces. I already see how it, and OER in general, is changing the way I teach, how I think about collaboration, curriculum development, textbooks, learning, and digital stuff/new media/whatever you want to call it all. How I think is changing.

OER is a concept that could literally change the world; it’s like having a teacher in my pocket. Whenever I want to learn about anything, I just ask. That is so Star Trek.

Fire all 1/31

Engage. Get in there. Mix it up. Go big or go home. Don’t think outside the box; blow the box up. Show ’em what you got. FIRE ALL. Be bold. CUT ME MICK. (Rocky reference for those who are as old as me. Rocky 1, that is, super old.)

Online learning is like getting involved with a secret society–or a pirate crew–you must be in it and committed in order to achieve your ends (the take over of the world or booty–whatever). We’ve just begun, but it bears repeating here that online is ON line, and even if you don’t know each other IRL (in real life), you can get to know who you are for this class. You give yourselves away and we all honor who you are and what you think or feel.

Already some of you have been so open and honest. Beautiful. And thank you.

Keep that going, mates. You win when you all win.

Channel your interior Elizabeth Swan. Own this fight. Thank you.


When you are tired and your heart aches… 1/30

When you’re tired and your heart aches and you think, “I don’t know what to do,” do something for someone else. Let your students know they are safe in your classroom, at the very least. It doesn’t cost much, and it could mean the world to someone who is having a horrible day, week, month. Writing classrooms, especially, need to be places where love reigns and safety is the first order of business, because it’s collaborative, because we share our thoughts, because we are so vulnerable when we write. The professors in basic writing classrooms are overcoming years of discomfort and distress–so they must be understanding of student fear and help allay in all ways possible–including posting signs or including statements like this in their syllabi.screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-39-19-amThis image is a bit fuzzy because it’s a screen shot from Facebook, but why not create one WITH your students FOR your students BY your students and YOU.

The best writing comes from a place of vulnerability. Don’t be afraid of that. Embrace it for your basic students. They already know how vulnerable they are: being graded, assessed, evaluated, judged. Help them understand that in your writing class, they are vulneralble but safe: no one will hurt them with words of pure anger, hate, bitterness. And if anyone is dares such an incursion into your classroom, you must promise to jump in immediately to insist it stop, ask why, push for answers, and have a conversation. Such a thing might be the hardest work you ever do, but you cannot let such behavior pass if your students are to believe you are the creator of the environment in which they can and will flourish.

We live in some really difficult times, no matter your political persuasion, but the one thing you can do is be entirely open and honest about what you’re doing as a professor. And what matters to you and that is always ensuring your students have a place to flourish in your classes. Human flourishing is called eudaimonia, a Greek work that means… human flourishing (more than that, but that’s all I’m dealing with at the moment).

Human flourishing is the point of higher education–not to be an expert in pharmocology, or English, or history of the year 1859, or physics. Sure, you can become specialized, but the point of the core classes and a LIBERAL ARTS base is to stretch the brain beyond one small area of certainty. The way we do higher education (at AUM) is about getting multiple patterns of learning into your life and head and heart so that you can flourish and keep on flourishing–always–as you choose in ways you choose in fields you choose. You. Choose. And best yet, you can always choose again because You know how to learn. Higher education isn’t an end game. It’s the starting point for creating a fulfilling and happy life. Maybe it’s about earning money, but that cannot be all it is, because when the money goes, what have you?

And we enter into this college thing vulnerable as babes. Professors of Basic Writing need be especially nurturing to help the students on the brink of non-flourishing to pull themselves in the right direction to keep going. It’s a lofty and noble profession that few folks call that. But ask any student who’s started in BW (or a similar math) about their experiences in getting over this hurdle. It’s like the cow jumped over the moon.

[image by Caitlin Dundon, artist,]

[image by Caitlin Dundon, artist,

I like to show three videos to students as they try to figure out how to manage in college.

One is by Brené Brown, a sociology professor at University of Houston. It’s a TED talk on the power of vulnerability. It’s now been viewed over 28 million times. 45 of those are me. She’s become an important voice since 2010 when she first gave this talk–a voice for facing our fears, for daring to try, for understanding how shame can drive us, and the importance of knowing creativity comes from vulnerability. My students have loved this and changed the way they see themselves because of her words.

Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

Another video that is wonderfully powerful to share with BW students is this one by Elizabeth Gilbert. She dispels the myth that every writer needs to wait for a muse or a bolt of lightening to charge down from the heavens directly into their fingers so they can write. Writing is work. The more you work, the more you have to say–whether that’s thinking of your own things to write about you or doing research so you have something to say about a lot of other people’s ideas–the more you can write. It ain’t magic, baby, it’s thinking in your brain, on paper, through conversation, through drafting, through BW classes, through writing together and alone. Writers write and it’s hard work. This one’s been viewed over 12 million times since it was published on the TED site in 2009.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Creative Genius

Another of my favorites is by Sir Ken Robinson about whether schools kill creativity. And the answer is yes, some schools do. My BW students recognize this and are angry and Angry and ANGRY when they see what’s happened. Then we back up and figure out a way over this hurdle–the cow jumps over the moon. How does the cow do it? The cow believes it can.

So we need to change the way we think of what’s happened to us and start thinking about how WE (profs and BW students) can use higher education to start us on our journeys to jump over the moon.

Sir Ken Robinson on Do Schools Kill Creativity?

You cannot teach people to write who are afraid to write a word, say a word, be in a classroom. You need to recreate the place where they work, see themselves differently, see the work in a new way.

You thought your job was teaching Basic Writing, but it’s really about revising how writing happens, how beginning writers see writing, how they see themselves.

Just like writing is so much about revision, teaching writing is so much about revision.