Friday, July 23, 2010

Synopsis of Computers and Writing Conference 2010 By Katie Wozniak

In May, I attended the annual Computers and Writing Conference at Purdue University. Scholars in the rhetoric and composition field have become very cognizant of the role that technology plays in the writing classroom and the way that it shapes both student and faculty perceptions of writing situations. The Computers and Writing conference supports the development and continuation of study in these areas. Presentations at this year’s conference covered topics ranging from social networking to gaming, digital scholarship to multimedia composition, and new media to research methods. Major authors in the Computers and Writing field include Cheryl Ball, Kathleen Blake Yancey, Patricia Sullivan, David Blakesly, and Cynthia Selfe.

My conference presentation, titled “Hacking the Writing Classroom: A Floor Plan that Merges Virtual and Face-to-Face Learning Environments,” was a response to a presentation by Walls, Schopieray, and DeVoss at last year’s Computers and Writing Conference. In essence, I proposed a restructure of the physical and virtual writing classroom with special attention to the functions of collaboration, access, and a/synchronicity. Moving from the linear, industrial age setup of the classroom, I suggested a spider web structure as an heuristic for thinking about learning, technology, and writing. This spider web heuristic might be applied not only to the floor plan or layout of the classroom, but also to furniture, technology, and communication within the classroom.

In addition, I attended several presentations that focused on writing technologies and learning environments, as these are my research interests. Here are a few synopses of select presentations:
  • One presenter described her experience with Aspergers autism, the stereotypes surrounding autism, and the limits and enhancements she has experienced in the writing classroom (both face-to-face and online). She noted that autism has been regarded (incorrectly) as a completely debilitating disease, especially when it comes to communication; however, many students with Aspergers autism have found that they are able to communicate better with “normal” students through writing rather than speaking in class, especially when an ongoing discussion is available on an internet forum.
  • Several presentations focused solely on the latest (and greatest) writing technologies for brainstorming, annotating, and collaboration. These included applications such as Dabbleboard, diigo,, WriteBoard, SubEthaEdit, Google Portfolios, and Google Docs.
  • Since more and more students are using multimedia both as resources and modes for writing, concern has grown with how to properly document and cite them. One presenter offered the following video, titled “How to Cite a Cereal Box in MLA Format”: This video isn’t just about how to cite a cereal box, however. It presents an interesting way of looking at citation styles as “guides” rather than “rules,” helping students to critically analyze the reasons why we cite in the first place and how they can problem-solve when they can’t find the “right rule,” especially for multimedia sources.
  • I can’t rave enough about the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives, sponsored by over thirteen colleges and universities. It is a repository of wonderful stories about reading, writing, and learning from people across the world, documented forever on the web. You can contribute your own literacy narrative, too!

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