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!