unCommon News (December 2014)
unCommon News (December, 2014)
A crowd-powered newsletter for a writing-centered community
Thank you for your continued support of Writing Commons, the free, open-education home for writers. This month we had 237,844 total visitors who read 328,030 pages.
Each month, I receive emails from users asking to print sections of our open-education resources. As an open-education project, you may print this resource as you wish. For those of you who want to produce printed books for program-wide adoptions, I've spoken with Natalie Danner at XanEdu, Inc., and she has told me she would be happy to print copies for your institution if your students need a print copy. I'm recommending XanEdu because they've done a good job with the print editions we use at the University of South Florida. Just tell us what pages you want for your print book and we will work with XanEdu, if you like, to make those pages available for printing.
This month, we celebrate Amy Wrobel Jamieson's (Bowling Green State University) review of Weird Al Yankovic’s "Word Crimes," Kyle Stedman's (Rockford University) latest podcast, and two new webtexts: Literary Criticism: An Introduction by Angela Eward-Mangione (University of South Florida), and Identifying and Addressing Unclear Pronouns & Antecedents by Julia McMillan (Writing Instructor in Jena, Germany). With hopes of creating a worldwide community of dedicated writing faculty and writers, we are happy to feature your pedagogical works. See Contribute for specifics on author guidelines and our peer-review process. To help celebrate the contributions of our authors, please take a moment to vote for the Aaron Swartz Award for the Best Original Webtext published at Writing Commons during 2014.
Best wishes for a joyful holiday. For our students, let's give the gift that matters: a free textbook that helps them in any college-level course that requires writing.
Plugs, Play, Pedagogy Podcast
Plugs, Play, Pedagogy is diving into the use of games in teaching—and there’s so much playing to discuss that we split the conversation into two episodes of the podcast! The first of the two-parter, Episode 4: A New Hope for Games in the Classroom, focuses on the practical: what a games-based syllabus might look like in a course on rhetoric and writing, how to infuse games into non-game-related courses, and the importance of games that don’t fit the popular model of the gamer identity, like casual and analog games. I’m joined by my co-editor for these episodes, Stephanie Vie (associate professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of Central Florida), and you’ll hear interviews or segments from Samantha Blackmon, Kevin Moberly, Phill Alexander, Matt Beale, and Jason Custer. We invite you to listen—and to play alon
This month, we have some very interesting blog posts! Be sure to check out Democratization of Art by Futuro Berg, Frowny Face: Emoji and Written Communication and Fighting Words by Laura Klocinski, The F Word—Part 3: Curse of the Mary Sue by Susanne Goding, and Faith or Basketball? Why not both? by Sundus Alsharif.
My Campus has recently launched its social networking campaign. Through our social
media efforts we are building a bridge in dynamic spaces where writers can interact and share their appreciation for exceptional student writing. The My Campus hashtag is #MyCampus.
My Campus at Malmö
Malmö University’s My Campus blog group enters December with six writers and twelve editors on our roster and twelve texts published with almost eight thousand hits. Starting as Copy Editing students eager for hands-on experience, we quickly developed a constructive editing process with little more than a few peer-review based writing courses and our charming personalities to help us. Together, we have battled language barriers, political correctness, and commas. We help our blog writers to produce high-quality texts and give them confidence and editing experience they will need later as professional writers. Topics mostly relate to writing or university studies and range from NaNoWRiMo and foreign exchange studies to fan fiction and democratic art.
After seven months active on My Campus, we are proud to be the language-technical safety net for our creative minds.
Susanne Goding and Andrea de Cataldis
My Campus Blog Group at Malmö University, Sweden
Review: Yankovic, Weird Al. “Word Crimes.” YouTube. 15 July 2014. Web. 27 October 2014.
It is not uncommon to lament the widespread use of “textspeak” or what is perceived as the general decline of grammatically correct English. Enter Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” a parody of Robin Thicke’s controversial “Blurred Lines.” In the former, the lyrics denigrate the imagined listener for taking liberties with Standard English—but that assertion, I would argue, is just as controversial.
In the same way that Thicke’s song denies women their agency, Yankovic denies the value of dialects other than “academese.” Indeed, he sings that ”Literacy's your mission,” which narrows the definition of literacy to a specific type—a type to which new literacy and community literacy scholars, for example, might object, since its emphasis is on reading and writing in a particular style. Moreover, he calls the listener a “moron,” a “mouth-breather,” and “stupid” for, among other things, not knowing the difference between less and fewer.
Insults are an easy way to generate laughs, and I do not presume that Yankovic meant for his song to be used in the classroom, at least not primarily. And even if Yankovic meant for his song to be instructive, shame is a powerful motivator (ethics aside, of course). Yankovic may have good intentions with “Word Crimes.” For all of the discussions among rhetoric and writing scholars about honoring home dialects, writing instructors are often tasked with preparing students for the university and beyond, which often means teaching them to communicate in Standard English. Yet if instructors want to use this video as a pedagogical tool, they must create space for critical interrogation of the implications of the insults Yankovic uses so carelessly and the threat of violence for not conforming to the correct mode of expression; according to one verse, the figurative use of the word literally (to describe not wanting to get out of bed in the morning) “really makes [him] want to literally/ smack a crowbar upside your stupid head”—the viewer is expected to take that statement at face value: that Yankovic would in fact hit someone because he is using the formal definition of “literally.” It does not appear, though, that Yankovic has recently consulted the Oxford English Dictionary, which has recently decreed that both uses of the word (i.e., “exactly” or to emphasize) are acceptable.
“Word Crimes,” then, at first glance, may look like a fun way to introduce grammar into class discussion; however, it is far better suited for conversations about literacy and privilege.
Amy Wrobel Jamieson
Bowling Green State University
Doctor of Philosophy in English Student
2015 Digital Writing Tools for Global Citizens
January 16, 2015, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
On January 16th, 2015, the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, Florida is hosting a free, daylong workshop, Digital Writing Tools for Global Citizens. You can view the abstracts for presentations by Chris Anson (NC State), Val Ross (UPENN), Suzanne Lane (MIT), Joe Moxley (USF), Christiane Donahue (Dartmouth), and Kate Pantelides (EMU) at https://toolsforwriters.com. To register, see Eventbrite.
This free colloquium is intended for Writing Program Administrators and researchers in Writing Studies. This Colloquium explores and celebrates the impact that digital writing tools have on the act, study, teaching, and assessment of writing. We are especially curious to evaluate ways digital tools globalize writing pedagogy, research, practice, and literacies. As we look across programs, universities, and continents, we wonder how we can leverage the big data that is aggregated by some digital tools to measure the development and transfer of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal competencies.
We have two webtexts to celebrate for Writing Commons this month, both of which could be especially helpful for students. In Identifying and Addressing Unclear Pronouns and Antecedents, Julia L. McMillan identifies several common issues related to vague pronoun usage and unconscious bias, and she provides examples of how to resolve those issues; this webtext would be invaluable in any course where students address sentence-level clarity, including composition, business communication, and creative writing courses. Julia L. McMillan is an academic editor and writing instructor in Jena, Germany.
In Literary Criticism: An Introduction, Angela Eward-Mangione defines literary criticism and offers short definitions and examples for a wide array of critical lenses, including New Criticism, structuralism, deconstructionism, and post-structuralism, biographical approaches, reader-response theory, psychological criticism, feminist (gender studies) criticism, new historical/cultural materialist lenses, and Marxist, Ethical, and Post-Colonial critiques. With each approach, Angela provides key terms, examples, and questions to ask; this webtext could help students analyze texts in literature classes or creative writing classes. Angela Eward-Mangione is currently a candidate for a doctoral degree in English at the University of South Florida.
University of Wisconsin-Barron County
Invitation to Participate: Use My Reviewers for free during the Spring 2015 Semester
At the University of South Florida, we have been working on developing My Reviewers, a web-based software tool, to improve the process of giving feedback on student papers, conducting peer reviews, and assessing writing programs. Between 2009 and the Fall 2014, approximately 300 teachers and 20,000 students have assessed approximately 200,000 essays in the first-year composition program. Beginning this fall, we extended our USF pilot to approximately 9,000 students, encompassing FYC and general education and STEM writing courses. As outlined at https://myreviewers.com/about/research/, we have also conducted a variety of research studies regarding ways My Reviewers can enable instructors and administrators to make real-time, evidence-based curriculum changes, to mentor new instructors, to coordinate a variety of distributed assessment approaches, and to prepare accreditation reports.
To learn more about My Reviewers or to pilot the tool, see: https://myreviewers.com/start/
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