Saturday, April 9, 2016

Report from the Conference on College Composition and Communication

Kelly Sassi and Kim Donehower are at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Houston, Texas from Wednesday through Saturday, April 6-9th. I (Kelly) am traveling with two graduate students from NDSU, Heather Flute and Phil Bode. We will be speaking at a panel presentation titled, “ If You Build It, Will They Come? Extending the Writing Center Inside and Outside Our Walls.”
The importance of the National Writing Project became apparent first thing the next morning at the Opening General Session, where Sondra Perl was honored with the CCCC Exemplar Award. She talked about attending her first CCCC conference in 1976, when the program book was only 84 pages (compared to today’s at 368). After reminiscing about what the organization has meant to her, she then talked about her “second professional home”: the National Writing Project!
Sondra Perl said that the NWP supported her as she developed her core beliefs that have influenced
her as a writing teacher over the last forty years. For example, she said when she looks out over her classroom, she sees writers. Even if they may not see themselves that way (yet). She also said that she believes that as writing teachers, it is important for us to have a sustained practice of writing. Sound familiar? It was really a joy to hear Sondra Perl speak and especially to hear her speak about writing project principles we all relate to.
Next up was Joyce Locke Carter, and while there were many parts of her talk that were amazing (the punk rock that bookended her presentation, the visual effects on the twin screens behind her, the list of maker products people in our field have produced, to name a few), the part that really stood out for me, as an English educator, was her disaster movie trailer-like warning, “Imagine a world . . . where First Year Writing is not taking place at the college level.” She warned that if us college comp folks don’t engage with what is happening in high school writing, discussions that we are used to be taking part in will take place without us.
Thank you.
As someone who has skipped back and forth between teaching high school and college writing, she is exactly right. We need to be willing to cross institutional borders and engage in these discussions. Together. Our site’s grant to scale up the College-Ready Writers Program is an opportunity to facilitate this kind of exchange.
Her call to action was for us to step up and engage in advocacy and innovation. When we engage in advocacy, we need not always be the asker, always asking “Please sir, may I have some more?” Rather our advocacy should reflect our role as leaders in the three areas that businesses are most looking for today: critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. Our profession is not an add-on, but central to education.
In terms of innovation, Joyce Carter specifically referred to the kind of innovation that leads to the making of things. She then did a review of the many wonderful products made by people in our field. I’m going to list some here, with links to where you can find them, but I missed a few—she went through them pretty quickly. I invite others to add any I may have missed in the comment section below. Here they are:
Eserver--  The EServer is an open access electronic publishing cooperative, founded in 1990, which publishes writings in the arts and humanities free of charge to Internet readers.
Kairos-- Kairos is a refereed open-access online journal exploring the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. The journal reaches a wide audience—currently 45,000 readers per month—hailing from Ascension Island to Zimbabwe (and from every top-level domain country code in between); our international readership typically runs about 4,000 readers per month.
WAC Clearinghouse--The WAC Clearinghouse, in partnership with the International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs, publishes open-access journals, books, and other resources for teachers who use writing in their courses.
Parlor Press--Parlor Press has been an independent publisher of scholarly and trade books and other media in print and digital formats since 2002.
ComPile--an inventory of publications in writing studies, including post-secondary composition, rhetoric, technical writing, ESL, and discourse analysis.
ICivics--iCivics is a non-profit organization dedicated to reinvigorating civic learning through interactive and engaging learning resources. Our educational resources empower teachers and prepare the next generation of students to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens.
WriteLab--WriteLab's algorithms analyze your writing and generate comments to help you draft, revise, and polish your writing. Upload a document, copy-and-paste, or type directly into the WriteLab editor. WriteLab will respond to your writing in a matter of seconds.
Writing Studies Tree--The WST is an online, crowdsourced database of academic genealogies within writing studies; in other words, it is an interactive archive for recording and mapping scholarly relationships in Composition and Rhetoric and adjacent disciplines.

Rhet Map--a map of PhD programs and jobs in rhetoric and composition.

Les Perelan’s Babel--A program to fool automated testing by generating a gibberish essay from 3 keywords.
Rhetoric is a boutique data repository for writing studies and related fields. The mission of this project is to provide an institutionally independent, centralized location for writing researchers to make their own datasets public. By publicizing our datasets, other researchers as well as the non-academic public can find and further writing research through analysis, remix, visualizations, and other uses of boutique data.

WIDE at Michigan State University--WIDE (Writing, Information, and Digital Experiene) is a Research Center in the Colelge of Arts and Letters. Founded in 2004, WIDE maintains its historical focus on creating new knowledge about digital communication. We are committed to results that have impact via academic literatures and via more public outcomes, such as software, events, and workshops.
Joyce Locke Carter cajoled us to not “take the enfeebled stance of technological determinism.” It was a great Chair’s address, and I felt inspired to go to sessions and learn more about the advocacy and innovation the Cs members are involved in and to think about what my (and our site’s) contribution could be.