unCommon News (October, 2014)

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unCommon News (October, 2014)

A crowd-powered newsletter for a writing-centered community

Dear Friends,

Welcome new readers! Bienvenido Spain! Välkommen Sweden! Willkommen Germany!  During September, an average of 5,629 people visited Writing Commons each day. Our global readership continues to increase, particularly in Spain, Sweden, and Germany.

Please visit The Aaron Swartz Award for Best Webtext, 2014 to vote for the best webtext published at Writing Commons during 2014.  This  award, which was first conferred to Andrea Scott (Pitzer College) for Formulating a Thesis  in 2013, is given in Aaron Swartz’s name to celebrate his contributions to open access and the contributions of our authors.

Last month, I mentioned that we would like to publish reviews of research and scholarship or texts that impinge on the discipline of Writing Studies. Our goal with this initiative is to help disseminate important works to our global audience.  This month we are publishing our first book review.  Jason Tham, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, reviews Melzers’ Assignments Across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing.  If you’d like to nominate a work for review or if you’re willing to write a review, please notify us.  We seek a range of in interesting reviews.  For example, we would welcome a review of Grammar Revolution or Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes or The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.

In addition to publishing three new webtexts this month, we are proud to co-sponsor (with Kairos: a Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy) Kyle Stedman’s second podcast, Attack of the Cloned Teaching Statements.  We have long sought multimedia webtexts, and we hope Professor Stedman’s engaging podcasts will inspire you to submit multimedia texts to Writing Commons.

As November approaches, we eagerly anticipate attending International Writing Studies: Sharing Research and Pedagogies at Malmö University, 11/6, in Malmö, Sweden.  It’s not too late to register for this free and engaging gathering of international researchers and scholars in Writing Studies. Register or check out the conference details at malmowsc.com.

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 http://toolsforwriters.com.  Note: we are limiting attendance to 100 participants so we encourage you to register ASAP at Eventbrite.

As the spring semester approaches, please consider adopting Writing Commons.  Unfortunately, some students are prevented by the high costs of textbooks from pursuing their academic and professional goals. Writing Commons is a peer-reviewed, comprehensive resource suitable for any college-level course that requires writing, so why assign a $100 to a $150 book?  Programs such as the University of South Florida’s Professional and Technical Writing Program deploy Writing Commons as the required textbook for Communication for Engineers, Writing in the Health Sciences, and Technical Writing.  In addition to numerous composition and technical writing resources, we have a dozen or so articles on creative writing and creative nonfiction.  Please check us out before assigning an expensive textbook.  And if we don’t have the resources you need, consider developing them and submitting them to be peer-reviewed.  We promise to give your works a timely yet thorough review.  Writing Commons provides a global audience for your pedagogical works, and we are happy to provide to our authors access figures on their webtexts for tenure and promotion reports.

Finally, I thank Alston Chapman, Visualeight.Com, for serving as CTO (Chief Technology Officer) over these past two years.  Alston worked tirelessly to update us to the newest version of Joomla, and he also created the My Campus blog environment.  Alston is a joy to work with, always articulate and focused, and we will miss him.  Thankfully, Shelly Hayes, a doctoral student at USF, has agreed to return to her former position as CTO.  Welcome back, Shelley.

Joe Moxley, joe@writingcommons.org

Plugs, Play, Pedagogy Podcast 

Plugs, Play, Pedagogy has published episode 2: Attack of the Cloned Teaching Statements! Instead of focusing on the practice of teaching, we talk about teaching—especially in documents where we explain what we do in the classroom and why we do it.

I’ll admit that the impulse behind this episode was selfish: I find that teaching statements are often pretty lousy, and I wanted to figure out how they can be better, both when I’m writing them and (yawn) reading them. Even for skilled writers, it’s a tough situation: putting your (perhaps unexamined) personal philosophy of teaching into conversation with discipline-wide philosophies of teaching, all while avoiding clichés.

To help me, I turn to three experts in this episode: Laura Runge (University of South Florida), who discusses the rhetorical stance of the teaching philosophy statement and why 1 page is a good length; Karen Kelsky (theprofessorisin.com), who describes 8 pitfalls you should avoid when writing a teaching statement; and Kathie Gossett (Iowa State University), who discusses how digital scholars represent their teaching online, including (but not limited to) the teaching statement.

As always, if you’d like to suggest a topic for future episodes of Plugs, Play, Pedagogy, or if you’d like to submit a segment for the show (maybe a review of a scholarly article, maybe a discussion of your favorite Writing Commons webtexts, maybe a narrative about problems you have in the classroom), email plugsplaypedagogy@writingcommons.org.

Kyle Stedman, Assistant Professor
Rockford University
Plugs, Play, Pedagogy Podcast

Assignments Across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing

Dan Melzer. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2014. 148 pp. $24.95 pbk.

Reviewed by: Jason Tham, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN

Writing assignments are one of the fundamental pieces of classroom discourse that contain rich information about the rhetorical contexts of writing across the curriculum (WAC). This book presents Melzer’s study of 2,101 undergraduate writing assignments in 100 postsecondary institutions in the United States. By examining the rhetorical situations, genres, and discourse community contexts of each assignment, Melzer offers a panoramic view of college writing assignment patterns across the natural sciences, social sciences, business, and humanities. Among his eight major findings is the evidence that the “Research Paper” is too diverse to be a genre often divorced from rich social contexts and complex ways of making knowledge. Thus, he recommends alternative research writing in “poststructural” genres such as ethnography and hypertext. Melzer’s other observation of courses connected to a WAC initiative reveals that such courses require students to write more, write more often, and write in greater variety of rhetorical genres than non-WAC courses do. This makes a compelling case for the importance of the WAC movement.

The book sums up six recommendations for WAC practitioners, writing program administrators (WPAs), writing center specialists, first-year writing instructors, as well as high school teachers attempting to bridge the gap between high school and college writing. Among his most enthralling arguments is to require a second-semester composition course focused on introducing students to writing across disciplines, since his survey has shown that the Learning to Write across the Curriculum (WTL + WAC) approach is too complex for a single first-year composition course. For many WPAs and faculty, this is a call to reevaluate their existing writing programs. As a graduate instructor, my takeaway is that WAC seems to have a lot of potential waiting to be unearthed and WPAs should be devoted to collecting evidence of the effectiveness of WAC initiatives to ensure survival of the movement as a whole.

My Campus

Things are busy on My Campus. We just added six new interns, and they are developing creative, engaging content. If you have a moment, check out Katherine Soldatova’s post, “My Swedish Exchange Experience,” and Laura Klocinski’s “Freshman Year and the Dreaded First Paper.” If you know of a talented student who might like to join our team, please encourage them to visit “Contribute” on the My Campus site. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please contact Kate Pantelides at kpanteli@emich.edu. Enjoy reading the new content!

Kate Pantelides, kpanteli@emich.edu
Editor-in-Chief, My Campus
Assistant Professor of English, Eastern Michigan University


November 6, 2014, 2014 International Writing Studies, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden

In an effort to meet the urgent need for more comprehensive and systematic knowledge about writing and writing pedagogy and to generate meaningful and pragmatic answers to these issues, the Writing Unit at Malmö University and the Rhetoric and Composition Program at the University of South Florida will host the colloquium: 2014 International Writing Studies: Sharing Research and Pedagogies. Registration is now open and free. For more information please visit the conference site at malmowsc.com.

July 12th-15th, IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Join your colleagues with a specialization in communication at the University of Limerick, Ireland.


2015 Digital Writing Tools for Global Citizens 

January 16, 2015, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

This free colloquium is intended for Writing Program Administrators and researchers in Writing Studies.  This Colloquium explores and celebrates the impacts 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.

New Webtexts

We are pleased to publish three original webtexts this month.  Please contact me if you have any questions about submitting an original webtext to Writing Commons.

Quentin Vieregge, UW-Colleges
Assistant Professor of English
Editor-in-Chief, Writing Commons

In “How are Your Sources Using Sources?Ryan Dippre, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides strategies for studying how other writers use sources; studying their usage will help student-writers more purposefully and reflectively use sources in their own writing. The author encourages student-writers to ask questions about the depth of source discussion in a source, the organization of source discussion, the way the sources reflect on the reputation of the author, and how all these questions imply an intended audience. This webtext, along with the numerous ones Dippre links to, will be useful in any writing course with research-based assignments.

Wilma Davidson and Tod Roberts, both from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, surveyed more than 250 people with writing experience in the workplace, asking them questions about their writing processes, their confidence in their writing, and the types of writing they do (such as e-mail, reports, PowerPoints, and proposals). In their webtext, “Get it in Writing: New Survey Reveals Paradoxes About Workplace Writers,” they present their findings in ways that relate to the needs and concerns of student-writers. This webtext would be especially useful for technical writing and business communication classes.

In “Audience Analysis: Primary, Secondary, and Hidden Audiences,” Deedra Hickman provides readers with a way of thoroughly understanding the potential audience of a technical writing document. Hickman uses “Audience” as an acronym to list eight different considerations when analyzing an audience. This webtext also looks at ways of avoiding biased language, giving specific examples of poorly written sentences and successful revisions.

 Traffic Report

This month we welcome back The Ohio State University and Coursera, who are using Writing Commons for Writing II: Rhetorical Composing, a ten-week MOOC.  Welcome to the Open Education Home for Writers!

For September, we witnessed a significant increase in traffic: 5629 users each day. In comparison to last September, for September 2014 we had a 36% increase in users, a total of 168,890 users visiting 274,008 pages.  Most positively,  17.4% of users were returning users this september as opposed to 14.6% last September.  We also were happy to see users spent on average 20 seconds longer per page—a total of 2 minutes and 48 seconds per page.  The top page this month was Rhetorical Appeals, which had 16,817 total page views, 14,703 unique views, with an average of time on the page at 4 minutes and 34 seconds.

When examining visitor traffic by country, comparing this September to last September, we are happy to see a terrific increase in traffic from Spain (539%), Germany (114%), and Sweden (225%). While most of our users (78%) are from the U.S. and 92% are from English-speaking countries, we are happy to see that some students and teachers from non-English speaking countries find Writing Commons to be a useful resource.  Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could secure funding to provide translations in multiple languages?

According to Google Analytics, 27% of the users are between 18 and 24 years old; 33%, 25-34; 15%, 35-44; 12%, 45-54; 5% 65+.  On average, 46% of our visitors are female and 54% are male.


Dartmouth Summer Seminar for Writing Research

Announcing the 2015 Dartmouth Summer Seminar for Writing Research:“Data-Driven Inquiry: Process, Methods, Results

We welcome new and seasoned writing teachers and writing program administrators from all types of institutions and writing positions, including two-year and four-year colleges and universities, writing centers, writing across the curriculum programs, writing research laboratories and groups, or centers for teaching excellence. Participants may be researchers looking to expand their repertoire of methods or new researchers. We encourage research groups to apply.

The program is designed to support members of our field who would like to engage in data-driven research but have not had the opportunity to develop their expertise in understanding, choosing, and using particular research methods, effecting quantitative and qualitative analysis, carrying out critical analysis with (and of) statistics and statistical software, and preparing for publication of this kind of research. It is also valuable for faculty who have experience doing this work but would like some input into a particular project they wanted to workshop.

Applications are due on December 15th, 2014. Find more information about this seminar for Writing Research on Dartmouth’s website here.


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