My 2017 #drive2cw

So let’s face it folks, I have some disabilities—diabetes, arthritis, and bursitis. I have trouble standing in a long buffet line or walking from a distant parking lot. I’ve always known that means no #ride2cw participation for me. I do as well as I can, but I’m not able to ride to and/or roll, run, walk around the Computers and Writing Conference.

Map showing route from Blacksburg, VA (24060) to Findlay, OHAnd that makes me a sad panda. So this year I thought, “Why not make up my own thing?” That, dear reader and potential supporter, is how #drive2cw was born.

On Tuesday, May 30, I will drive the 400 miles from Blacksburg to Findlay, and on Wednesday, May 31, I will tool around Findlay between meetings. During these two days, I will document my travels for those who contribute to GRN fundraising in these ways:

  • For every $100 donated to GRN, I pledge to post one Instagram photo (@tengrrl) highlighting a remarkable* aspect of my travels on May 30 and 31. Note that remarkability is completely up to my discretion and will likely involve photos from Love’s Truck Stop, Sheetz, and the McDonald’s drive-thru.
  • For every $1000 donated to GRN, I pledge to post a video related to my travels on May 30 and 31. The video(s) may be Facebook Live videos if conditions allow, but there are no promises. Those of you who watched my riveting Facebook Live video on the way to CWPA last July know what to expect.
  • If the $3000 goal for donations to GRN is met, I pledge to do something spectacular that I haven’t quite figured out yet (suggestions welcome).

Note that the pledged materials may not be posted immediately, since texting while driving is a really bad idea.

To partake of this excitement, you should donate to GRN, and then

Memes and Protest Posters

Women's March, January 21 2017, Chicago, by Jonathan Eyler-Werve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 licenseHow do the current political posters (say like at the women’s march) compare to political protest posters from another time period (let’s say the 60s)? I’m wondering if the rhetoric and content of image-based memes is influencing the phrasing and content of today’s posters.

Take that Grumpy cat poster, for instance. It’s building on the Grumpy Cat meme, of course. And it’s obviously referring to the Billy Bush tapes and Trump’s suggestion to “grab them by the pussy.” There were surely pop culture references in the protest posters of the past, but did they incorporate memes as this one does?


[Photo credit: Women's March, January 21 2017, Chicago, by Jonathan Eyler-Werve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license]

CWPA 2016 Presentations

Using the WPA Outcomes Statement to Support Innovation in Meeting Discourse Outcomes for a General Education Curriculum.” Sheraton Hotel, Raleigh, NC. 15 July 2016.


Toward a Programmatic Assessment Model for Multimodal Projects.” Sheraton Hotel, Raleigh, NC. 16 July 2016.

Writing on Eggshells

shellsDamn the uncomfortable readers. It’s time to start writing again.

Some time ago, more than a decade, I wrote on this blog all the time. There were daily updates on what I was writing, links to things that I found, stories about my crazy dreams, and varied random ramblings. Some of those posts are harder to find because I made some dumb decisions about post titles, and I haven’t fixed them all (it’s on my to-do list). The point is that they are there.

I said what I thought, talked about the things I was working on, and described what was going on each day. When I was sad and depressed, I talked about it. I have dysthymic depression, social anxiety, and have had issues with major depression a few times. I didn’t put the names to what I was going through, but I talked about being overwhelmed and sad and scared and anxious.

And that was the problem. My posts made some people uncomfortable. Someone came to me and told me that I shouldn’t write everything I feel because I was “making everyone feel like they were walking on eggshells around me.” I could write about what I was working on, but I was told not to write about being sad or depressed or anxious.

So I stopped writing. I’m a black-and-white thinker, so it was my standard response. I let the uncomfortable readers silence me.

Eventually, I started posting news links. If you check the archives, there are years where nearly every post is a summary of the links I have posted to Twitter about educational news and writing resources.

I wanted to write and post more, but there were people worried about walking on eggshells always in my thoughts. So I said nothing for a very long time. And now, I am going to start writing again. I’m going to say what I want. I’m not sure what has made me brave enough to talk again. Perhaps it’s that I started taking antidepressants again in November after six years without them (when I couldn’t afford them at $800/month). Maybe it’s that I am teaching again. Maybe I just feel like a writer again.

Part of it is that I finally figured out how to move all those news posts to their own page and take back the blog’s homepage. That’s what I am going to do: take back my writing space and say what I want. I will no longer worry about my readers. I will write on those eggshells and post what I want. Here’s to writing whatever I want to say whenever I want to say it.

Revising the Resources List on My Syllabus

Stack O' Books by Kurtis Garbutt, on FlickrThis week’s post on Bedford Bits describes the work I have begun on revising my course documents to make them more visual. The ultimate goal is to make them more engaging and more useful to students.

I started with the required resources, which has been nothing but a glorified book list for as long as I can remember. My revised version still lists books, but I have tried to add some negative space and color to make it easier to read and a bit more friendly.

Read the full details in the blog post on the Macmillan Community site.

Image: Stack O' Books by Kurtis Garbutt, on Flickr

Connecting Selber and Halliday

Cover of Selber's Multiliteracies for a Digital AgeEver since I looked at the review of Stuart Selber’s Multiliteracies for a Digital Age in Composition Forum 14.2 (Courtesy of a tip from Bradley Dilger), I have been reflecting on my notes about M. A. K. Halliday’s literacy engagements.

I have a pile of old notes on how I thought Halliday might be used to understand technology engagement from my time at ReadWriteThink when the site used Halliday to structure the site.

Halliday’s literacy engagement system (learning language, learning about language, learning through language) parallels Selber’s. There are nuances that would need worked out, but generally I think I could argue that literacy learning follows the same kinds of meaning making, even when the kinds of literacy are different. I’m just not sure that matters as an observation. What does that knowledge really bring to the conversations and scholarship on literacy?

The Harm We Can Do

Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on FlickrSara Kadjer shared “Can Reading Logs Ruin Reading for Kids?” from The Atlantic. The piece dredged up some memories for me, good and bad.

I guess I am an oddity, but I always loved tracking what I read when I was in school. Reading doesn’t really come with a tangible thing to point to when you’re done, and those logs let me say, “Look, I did all this!”

I know there are problems with the pedagogy when tracking takes away from the joy of reading. It made me recall Troy Hicks’ recent blog post on the troubling need to quantify everything students do.

That leads me to my bad memory. On the first day of class in 9th grade, the teacher asked us to write down all the things we read over the summer. I busied myself with a list in categories: mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, and so forth. I had to think in categories to remember them all. As I scribbled titles down, the teacher moved through the classroom. She paused at my desk, and I expected her to be impressed with the list of all the things I had read. Unfortunately, she instead announced to the full class that I had to be lying because no one read that many different books.

I try to remember that moment to remind myself that the long-term harm of my comments as a teacher can last forever. After all, I was in 9th grade a very, very long time ago; and I still remember that moment of shame very well.

Image: Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Alphabetic Text as the Only Text

Page from a French ABC picture book for the letter A, showing asparagus and an ostrichI’m befuddled by this MLA call for proposals for a volume on the Changing Role of Writing in Composition.

Everything I understand about multimodal texts tells me that any alphabetic text is not tapping the linguistic mode alone; but from reading this CFP, you’d think that spatial and visual modes (for say a paperback book) weren’t a thing until this “turn toward multimodality.”

I’ve read and reread the call, trying to figure it out. I thought maybe I was just not getting something (blame imposter syndrome). For the life of me though, I can’t figure out how to respond to that while talking ONLY about alphabetic text (which is culturally limiting in addition to not making sense in a multimodal context). I’d really love to submit something to the call; but I can’t figure out how to work within such a limited vision of what it is to be multimodal.

Image: abc album p1 by patricia m, on Flickr, used under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Free Access, If You’re Patient and Persistent

Covers of the Journals with Articles included in the Rhetoric & Change CollectionRoutledge (Taylor and Francis) is offering a nice collection of articles to mark the RSA conference this weekend: Rhetoric & Change: A Free Access Article Collection in Collaboration with the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA).

It looks like a grand collection; however, the fact that you have to read and download everything one-by-one leads me to believe that Routledge is more interested in trying to keep you on their site than actually providing free access to key pieces.

A well-designed site would have a “Download All” option. I would have been willing to fill out a short survey and give them my email address for such access. Sure free != easy, but it could and often should. Shame on Routledge!

distinguished instructors?

Filigree – Nicolás Paris (1977), by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 licenseToday’s news bulletin from Virginia Tech announced, “Two faculty members receive 2016 SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award.” It’s a good and wonderful thing for the two professors: Jacqueline E. Bixler, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Spanish, and Michael F. Hochella Jr., University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences.

It also gave me a couple of ideas. One rarely hears of a “Distinguished Instructor.” If the academy really wanted to support and recognize the work of the best instructors, we would find a collection of Distinguished Instructors at every school. But we don’t.

Further down, the article mentioned that “Bixler is an inductee in the Academy of Teaching Excellence….” Now the ATE is a Virginia Tech organization, and instructors can be included. As my eyes wandered over that sentence however, I wondered why the discipline hasn’t created some national or international academy that recognizes excellence on the part of adjuncts and other non-tenure track faculty.

Since adjunct positions frequently require instructors to teach at multiple institutions simultaneously and/or to hop from one institution to another, as the job market requires, those in the adjunct category may not be able to build the recognition at one institution to be recognized by its academy. Why not create something as a field that allows us to recognize the body of work across institutions and raise the profile of some of the hardest-working teachers out there?


[Photo credit: Filigree – Nicolás Paris (1977), by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license]