Saturday, March 24, 2007

CCCC '07 New York City - Day 2

I feel like I kept getting foiled in my attempts to go to a few different sessions today. I went in too late to catch the 9:30 session, but made it for the session following that, "Open Source Is Ready and Waiting for Composition," which was pretty interesting. I didn't really hear too much unexpected, other than to hear what people were doing, and how they were doing it, which is what I was hoping for. The crux of the session seemed to be that there was a lot of collaboration and programming one could learn and incorporate into the classroom; and the relationship between composition and open source, itself a potential type of writing literacy, is something that could be really interesting to investigate. Each speech seemed to touch, however briefly, on collaboration, though, which isn't surprising, but there do seem to be quite a few options in terms of what an English or writing teacher could do to incorporate Open Source software into the classroom, even if the teacher could have the chance to do that programming herself. There were four individual speeches: "Open Source Chewing Gum"; "Creative Commons in Composition: The Collaborative Construction of a Classroom Identity"; "Building Software Applications for Education: The Writing Teacher-Researcher-Programmer and Open Source"; and "The Technology Funding Crises and Open Source Solutions: An Interdisciplinary, Collaborative Process." A few web sites that I made a note of were mentioned, and I shall have to dig them out and check them out.

Meridith and I had made plans to meet at the location of the next session, itself one that I wasn't specifically interested hearing about ("The Power of the People's Language and the Culture of Literacy"), but I was interested in hearing Peter Elbow speak. He was one of the better speakers I heard, and his speech, "Literacy and the Struggle for The People's Eloquence," was interesting insofar that he touched on the problems of student voice in writing, how that conflicts with American standardized English, and the problems associated with relegating other Englishes to the outskirts of written language.

Meridith had also wanted to go to Harry's session - "(Un)Covering Identities: Theorizing the construction, resistance, and interplay of minority identities in a majority academy and world" - another session in which I hadn't marked to attend - but I had a free block of time and I knew three of the speakers so I was happy to go. Unfortunately we got sidetracked by the Exhibit Hall so we missed most of the session, and were too wimpy to go in at the end just to hear the Q-and-A.

I'd originally planned on staying for one more session - "Studies of Blogging in Composition Classrooms" - which I now wish I would have stayed for - but I was heading back to Pennsylvania this weekend to get Mom's car inspected (temporarily on loan while the clutch in my car remains in the broken state that it's in) and I didn't want to be so tired on the drive home that I was dangerous. I probably could have stayed, but as these things go, it's really easy to go to four or five or six sessions in a row and not eat or take a break, and I suppose one has to draw the line somewhere.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

CCCC '07 New York City - Day 1

I went in late this morning, and have only managed to get through one (admittedly interesting) session – “(Writing Uncertainty) Quantification: English + Engineering = Innovative Collaboration” – which was entirely about the collaboration between an engineering department and an English department at Wright State University in Ohio, but which proved interesting because there was a good discussion about technical writing and a collaboration between two departments that was aimed towards helping (many times foreign and non-native English speaking) engineering students improve their writing.

I tried going to another session – “Instant Messaging and Other Outside Literacies” Bridging the Gap between Informal and Formal Literacies” – but I was disheartened by two of the presenters not being present, and the first presenter (who was not associated with any academic institution) who used transparencies (from which she read verbatim), in order to educate the audience with what instant messaging was, and to give us actual examples. (Note: she asked everyone, before she began, how many people knew what IM was; how many used IM themselves; and how many knew their students used IM – and nearly every single person raised his hand as an affirmative response to each question.) This did not bode well, so I wandered off, and ultimately, I only managed to go to just three of the six sessions I was going to go to today.

The session I chaired - "Research in Tutoring and Conferencing" - went well. We had only about a dozen folks come listen (last session of the day, and all), but the speakers each did well. One grad student gave a talk called "Are You Talking to Me?: Personal Pronoun Use in Tutoring Across the Disciplines"; a doctoral student read her paper "Power, Privilege, and Position in Conferencing: A Case Study of Community Literacy"; and a Writing Center director gave a talk on "Exploring the Functions of Silence in Writing Conferences."

The SIG I went to - "English Education/Composition Connections" - I'm very glad I went to it. Aside from running into Dr. Lindblom (who's on research leave this semester) and Dr. Dunn (both of whom I'd hoped to run into), I heard some very interesting talks. We broke into groups of four, each group around a different group of facilitators, each of whom had prepared different mini-presentations. I heard four very interesting ones: "Using Case Studies to Teach Writing"; "Ink: Serious Games & Collaborations between Writing Centers, Writing Programs, and English Education"; "The (Art) Museum as Muse"; and "Transforming Moments: College Writers to Writing Teachers." I was able to take away something from each, which is something I'd been hoping I could but which can be tenuous as best.

One of the reasons I went to this evening's SIG, admittedly, was because I was hoping there might be another occasion in which I could get invited to dinner, which is exactly how it turned out. Last year there were 20 of us out at dinner, but this particular evening there were only seven, which was probably just as well, since we still wound up having to split ourselves up. But it turned out to be another really good evening. (And I got bought dinner again! I really should buy Dr. Dunn and Dr. Lindblom something small as a thank you.)

One of the most difficult parts of a conference, as a rule, is realizing that one also must make several treks through the Exhibit Hall, which in this case is chock full of vendors who want you to use their books, buy their books, take free copies of their books, give them your name and address so they can send you free copies of their books, give them your e-mail address so they can set you up with a trial account of the nifty new software/web-based helping-you-teach product. I managed to contain myself (slightly) in only getting copies of three or four book, copies of two or three copies of different software to try, and stacks of catalogues. I was good!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CCCC '07 New York City - Workshops

Today is the first day of 4Cs, although tomorrow is the kickoff for the concurrent sessions that run all day Thursday, Friday, and most of the day Saturday; and being a good studious person, I went to two half-day workshops today. The first – “Empowering Students to Self-Evaluate and Revise by Sideshadowing Response to Writing” – turned out to be very informative and interesting; during the workshop we were give one particular method of response to student writing, a method that was then modeled for us, having workshop participants write a (very) rough draft based on a prompt, and then working on the method of sideshadowing. It was a good beginning to the conference since it got me really thinking about methods of teacher response to student writing.

The next workshop – “Across the Drafts: Responding to Student Writing” – was less helpful. It was very much like a three-and-a-half Writing Center Staff Meeting, in which we were given a student draft, given an opportunity to read it, and then were expected (with the help of discussion leaders) to discuss how we would help that student improve his or her writing. While a very helpful concept as a practice, I am already very comfortable in doing this (given my Writing Center background) so it was really just not what I needed. I’m more interested, at this point in my non-career, in hearing about specific practices that I can use – especially if they’re not widely known strategies; discussing a student paper is not really insightful at this point.

There were plans to hang out at a bar in Greenwich Village after the workshops, so Meridith and I took a cab downtown to get a drink and hang out with other nerds of the same ilk. We ran into Harry (whose gig this was, I believe), as well as Derek, the Writing Program Director from St. John’s; Dr. Belanoff; and the former visiting professor from UC-Santa Cruz. (Add to this the usual graduate students from all over, and other conference attendees.) I dislike bars – I’m very uncomfortable – so I didn’t really mingle too much at first, but by the end of evening I was glad Meridith and I had gone.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What A Busy Month!

I've been busy burying my head in the sand, over the course of the past few weeks, and ignoring several problems, most notably math. I did very well on math midterm number one - I got a 92% - but I haven't been doing well on the homework, because my interest is waning (and so is my motivation). I've had to miss one class within the past few weeks because of the three mandatory New York State teacher certification workshops I need to take in order to receive my initial certification (one of which started during class), and I'll be missing both the recitation and a lecture this week because of my going to 4Cs (this year it's being held in New York City), which I'm planning to attend at least Wednesday (for a few workshops) and Thursday (the day in which I'll be chairing a panel), but I may go in Friday as well for a few sessions. Of course, the following Thursday is math midterm number two, and the very next weekend is NEWCA, this year being held in Connecticut, after which Spring Break kicks in.

In the middle of all of this Amrita and I met Maria's family, and went out to lunch with her mother, both grandmothers, and two great aunts. And my car is temporarily on the fritz; it needs a new clutch, which is one of the pricier things that needs fixing, and I don't really have the money for that right now. (The mechanic I took it too quoted me $1,000 to fix it.) I had to call them today to tell them I'll pick it up on Monday, as opposed to last night, when I had said I would retrieve it, because of the ice storm we got yesterday.

I had made arrangements to drive down to Virginia to hang out with Tommy for a couple days, but I'm thinking that may not happen if I can't get my car fixed. Mom has been letting me drive her Geo, but I don't want to drive it more than I have to.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Spring Cleaning.

A couple of weeks someone drove into my car and managed to break my car's left taillight and caused a nice curvy dent. I hadn't gotten around to having it fixed until this past weekend because it's money that I don't quite have, and I was also concerned how long it might take.

When Mom & Dad had come to visit for my birthday a few weeks ago, Mom and I worked it out that I would go visit and help clean out my grandmother's house one of the first few weekends in March; I thought that since I don't have classes on Mondays or Fridays, I'd drop my car off at the body shop place on Friday and grab a bus from the Port Authority to Allentown. I didn't hear from the auto body place over the weekend, and I realized before I left for Allentown - but after I had dropped off my car - that I have these New York State Teacher Certification workshops to attend. Since Mom's taken ownership of Grandmother's car, and she still has her ex-car, she's loaned me her ex-car until she comes up for the St. Patrick's Day parade. Tomorrow morning I'll go pick up my car and hopefully I'll be legal (albeit possibly slightly bumpy) once again.

Mom and I spent maybe 5 hours or so cleaning up various aspects of my grandmother's house; it was pretty difficult. I cleaned out what used to be Patrick's room, and Mom went through years' worth of paid bills, paperwork, all sorts of things, many of which Oma had been keeping since before Opa died. We didn't get all the way done, but we did go through various drawers, sorted books and decades' worth of correspondence, some clothes, etc. I didn't really help too much, in the grand scheme of things, but I think my presence was as much a help as anything.

It looks as though the house will be sold, which makes me sad, too. Anne, Pat, and their families are settled ; Bronwyn, Ciara, and Aidan are young and clearly not in the market for a house; Justin is established in San Francisco; and I would buy the house I'm hardly financially able to right now.

Mom, Dad, and I did go see Wild Hogs on Saturday night, though. It was not, as the reviewers say, an Oscar-contender, but it was extraordinarily funny.