CCCC 2006: Day One

Ahh. Day one, and how do I spend it? Fiddling about for a while in my room. I didn’t go to a morning workshop, so there seemed no reason to rush. I did go downstairs to make myself a nametag and check on all my NCTE coworkers, to make sure that no one needed help. I decided to go ahead and lug my heavy laptop to the workshop so that I could take notes on the session. I was fortunate enough to get a seat near a plug, so I didn’t run out of battery power. The battery on this thing seems to only last about an hour :-/ Perhaps I should see if I can buy an extra battery for it, or maybe this is another excuse to get that baby Mac that I want.

There is no wireless in the meeting rooms so all I could do was take notes. No live blogging from CCCC it appears. Delayed blogging will have to do, so here goes:

I’ve broken in on an afternoon workshop, Fostering and Sustaining a Community and Culture of Digital Writing, with Doug Eyman, Dànielle DeVoss, Joy Durding, Angela Haas, Stephanie Sheffield, Martine Rife, and Suzanne Rumsey. The room is relatively full of people, but I managed to get here early enough to get one of the outlets in the room. The group has introduced themselves, and Danielle even introduced the handouts and CD of resources (and an excellent parallel Web site with copies of the resources).

After a brief introduction, we’ve been set to work as a group to think about
quuestions sent to folks in advance–basically defining the genre of digital
writing and exploring the pedagogical and professional issues and goals involved.
Issues that came up include:

  • Lack of professional development
  • Challenge of working in a completely paper-based classroom and meeting
    students current literacy demands
  • How to build community and programs, at the beginning of the process
  • Conception of literacy in general, not just decoding words on a page
  • Distinguishing between technology as a media and technology as a mode of
  • Goals: using tech because we can, or because students really need this
  • How does it shape community
  • Not just techne of it but also critical analysis
    of the media

There was lots of discussion of the term digital rhetoric, with one definition that focused on “anything you can transmit by the Internet”—an oddly limiting definition. Also focusing on word and image, none of the other modalities. Someone mentioned CAPTology (computer aided persuasive technology). Most visual assignments focus on image as argument/persuasion. Need to consider other modes of discourse.

Sharing of group goals for the workshop, and for exploration of digital rhetoric at home institutions. Importance of sharing, fact-finding. There was discussion of whether the word digital was necessary. If rhetoric is communication by any available means, isn’t the word rhetoric enough? And that exchange led to a crowd favorite question: “What is the opposite of digital rhetoric—analog rhetoric?”

Throughout the session, there were many video clips and Web site examples of
writing and pieces for students to discuss and explore. All were excellent,
but my favorite has to be the World of Warcraft video—”Grab your dick, and double click for porn.”

There were a number of specific assignments described, and I didn’t begin to
get them all written down. Here are a few:

  • List the different digital communities you belong to and think of the ways that you interact in those communities. An idea that was somewhat a combination of things included in the ReadWriteThink lesson Defining Literacy in a Digital World and Paying Attention to Technology: Writing Technology Autobiographies.
  • Focus on an exploration of the Variety of ways that we represent themselves in those different communities, including analyzing current representations and creating creating new ones. Doug Eyman described a variation where students began by investigating themselves online. Another example was to have students create a profile for a group or organization that they belong to. Parts of the conversation overlapped with the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Naming in a Digital World: Creating a Safe Persona on the Internet.
  • Analyze various Web sites and then apply what you learned to designing your own Web site, an idea shared by Joy Durding, which she used with 9th graders. I rushed up to ask her to submit it to ReadWriteThink. She had the resources. She just needs to make it fit our format. And it’s definitely a lesson that we could use on the site.
  • In discussion, ask students to consider what you need to know to compose
    the various digital texts that they interact with. While mentioned as a simple
    point of discussion with students, the idea seemed like a possible lesson plan
    idea to me. It could be a sort of variation of Defining Literacy in a Digital World, which really focuses on reading. What we need is a parallel Composing Texts in a Digital World lesson plan that focuses on the ways that people create these various texts. I’m thinking not of something that teaches all composing skills so much as asking students to look at available texts and analyze the composing skills behind the texts.
  • As discussion swirled, another lesson plan idea came to me, and since I had
    my laptop, I just began writing. I tentatively named the lesson Exploring
    the Digital Divide: A Social Action Project
    . It seemed to me that perhaps an important project was to ask students to do some actual exploration of the issues of
    access around them. The working overview that I came up with is “Students define
    issues of digital access and the resources necessary to take advantage of digital
    resources. With their definitions in hand, small groups complete an environmental
    scan of the digital resources available to them in a specific setting (e.g., the classroom, the school or local library, the workplace) and determine how
    they are effected by the digital divide in a local community. Inspired by this
    field research, group members propose and complete a social action project
    appropriate for their findings.” It may be too much, so I may end up focusing
    it more; but it’s a start and I think it could be a useful lesson plan.
  • Dànielle described a postcard assignment. She has students get postcards
    of the university and then analyze them: how does this represent the university?
    After exploring, they create their own postcards that represents how you
    feel about your school? Might be able to create a ReadWriteThink lesson plan
    that does similar things with postcards from their state or region, or they
    could use other documents on their location (e.g., pamphlets and resources
    from the chamber of commerce or visitor’s bureau). Another variation might
    be to ask students to look at historical postcards to determine what they can
    tell about the place and time as it is communicated in the text of the card.
    Juniors and seniors might get postcards from college visits and complete the
    assignment as Dànielle described it.