3/12: Retrospective Activity

As this class comes to a close, it’s important to consider what I’ve learned throughout the quarter and how I will apply what I’ve learned to other areas of my life, both academically and personally. To me, one of the most important aspects of writing, specifically through digital publication, is that our work can be broadcast to the world. Anyone has the opportunity to read what we have written. While this can be a great opportunity to share ideas, perspectives, and insights it’s also terrifying. Writing, in my mind, is a personal process and activity. Usually I don’t share my writing with anyone except for the professors who are grading my papers. The last time my writing was consistently read by my peers was in my two CTW courses because we were required to do peer reviews and evaluations. So for me, having my writing on a blog that anyone can access (as it is public) is a very strange feeling for me. I feel exposed, in a sense. Due to the public nature of my blog, I’ve become a lot more careful and self-conscious with what I’ve written, within this context and course. I’m still not completely comfortable with my blog being public and the possibility of anyone being able to read it if they choose. Despite these feelings, utilizing a blog throughout this course has broadened my understanding of writing within a digital and public framework. The experience of writing on a blog in this course will inevitably help me in the future, as our society is becoming more and more active on digital and technological fronts. I’ll be able to translate my experiences within this course to what I choose to do in other contexts, personally, professionally, and academically.

Due 3/10: NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies

“Young children practice multimodal literacies naturally and spontaneously. They easily combine and move between drama, art, text, music, speech, sound, physical movement, animation/gaming, etc.”

This quote speaks to the natural creativity that children have before they’ve gotten used to traditional classroom structures and instruction. As we get older, we are socialized by the educational system and these creative, unique, multimodal tendencies become less and less prevalent within the classroom. As someone who has gone through the educational system for 17 years, I find it difficult to engage in multimodal literacies. It seems unnatural and forced because it no longer comes naturally, which is really sad. I’m so used to writing standard essays with the standard instructions. While many of my classes at SCU have tried to incorporate multimodal literacies, they are nothing compared to the projects Shipka’s students completed (in the last reading).

It’s crucial that we expand our understanding of learning and teaching so more students can be included in the learning process. As mentioned in NCTE mission statement of support, multimodal literacies can enhance students’ success in the real world after they pass through their education, as it emphasis teamwork, collaboration, and creativity. However, I don’t think traditional styles of teaching and learning should be thrown away altogether. I think there needs to be a balance between to two to achieve maximum learning.

Due 2/3: Dunn and Dunn de Mers, “Reversing Notions of Disability and Accommodation: Embracing Universal Design in Writing Pedagogy and Web Space”

“Universal design helps us imagine writing pedagogies that tap into various people’s talents in debate, dialogue, visualization, drawing, and movement – all of which can be used to invent, organize, and revise conventional texts.”

As I was reading the introduction of the article, I couldn’t help think about Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. I was first exposed to the whole notion of multiple intelligences during my Sophomore when I took the course, Psychology of Education. We learned that intelligence is static and it can’t be boxed into one category. Intelligence is fluid and there are multiple types describe how different people learn and view the world around them. For example, I’m a very visual leaner. I like being able to see things as I’m learning about them in the classroom. I need to have the book/pictures/powerpoint slides to follow along in order to me to effectively absorb the information.

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As students, we all have different ways in which we learn better. As advocated by Dunn and Dunn de Mers , this concept of multiple intelligences, multiple methods, multiple avenues, and ways of expression can actually be advantageous for not only students’ learning processes but their academic, professional, and personal success as well.

“…writing pedagogy based on universal design concepts would offer more flexible, multi-modal choices in how that synthesis, analysis, and rhetorical judgment might take place”

I appreciated the author’s discussion on how writing and ideas about writing doesn’t always have to be framed through text or word processing.

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Just because this is the traditional and standardized way to express and articulate thoughts and arguments in writing classes doesn’t mean it is the best way. As Dunn and Dunn de Mers argue, it’s necessary that we, as writers, learn the importance of:

“climbing out of our own text-comfortable cocoons – the writing-as-learning blankets we’ve had draped around us for so long. We can still keep our blankets. They continue to serve us well. But it’s time for some spring clothes.”

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Due 2/24: Myers, “ReMembering the Sentence”

“Despite the historical excesses of behaviorist pedagogy, most language teachers (both first and second languages) would probably agree that repeated exposures to and engagements with words in context do lead to learning and eventual internalization” (612)

Myers’ assertion of the importance of exposure and engagement really made me think about my own experiences with learning how to write in my English classes throughout my academic career, or what my middle school called it,“Language Arts”. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, I tend to support a more general, artistic, and experience based view of writing and the way in which I believe it should taught. I tend to shy away from the focus on grammar, sentence structure, syntax, etc. because I think content is more important than the tiny little mistakes that can be fixed easily. Also, to be honest, learning about grammar is boring.

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While yes, grammar and having the ability to structure the way in which one writes in a clear, elegant, and cohesive fashion tends to increase a writer’s authority, I still think content wins. However, I think incorporating Myers’ point is extremely important for this grammar vs. content debate.

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Continuous exposure to and engagement with words in context can lead to an internalization of process. So, because I have been learning about writing and how to write well for the last, let’s say 10 years, has this information just been internalized in me, so much so that I don’t even conscious realize that I’m utilizing it and reaffirming its importance?

On another, slight related note, this article really reminds me of the focus of my Psycholinguistics class I took last quarter. Many of the ideas and theorists Myers discusses in her article, such as Chomsky and how we learn language, was discussed in that class as well. Myers seems to focus on the importance of sentence combining and vocabulary within the social context. After all, language and writing is a way to communicate to others. Therefore, it’s needed, socially, in all contexts including academic discourse. One needs the proper tools in order to effectively communicate within the academic discourse. Ugh okay so now I think I’m starting lean slightly, just slightly, more towards the grammar end of the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still closer to content end of the spectrum.

Due 2/19: Shaughnessy, “Intro to Errors and Expectations”

“From these resources, I have reached the  persuasion that underlies this book – namely, that BW students write the way they do, not because they are slow or non-verbal, indifferent to or incapable of academic excellence, but because they are beginners and must, like all beginners, learn by making mistakes” (390).

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This excerpt from the reading stood out to me because it expresses Shaughnessy’s standpoint on, not only basic writers and the importance of including them into the academic discourse, but also on her view of errors. As someone who leans more towards content development, as evidenced by my last blog post and in class discussion today, I’m reluctant to claim that grammar and the mechanics of writing are more important than content. While I agree with her statement that beginners learn by making mistakes, I don’t necessarily agree with her overwhelming emphasis on grammar, error reduction, and the mechanics of writing.

My view on this may be because of my academic privilege, meaning that I’ve been explicitly taught the rules grammar and the mechanics of writing from a very young age. It has been drilled into me in the classroom. Have these rules become so ingrained within my writing style and writing process that I take them for granted? Maybe….

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Yet, I still think content wins. As mentioned in class, one could argue that having okay grammar and excellent content is better than having excellent grammar and okay content. What’s the point of knowing and employing good grammar when you have nothing worthwhile to say, you don’t have a story to tell, or a good argument to make?

Due 2/17: Harris – “Error”

“What is the point of having students read books (like Black Boy) that might speak to their situations and concerns if they are not then encouraged to draw on their life experiences in speaking back to it?” (105).

As Harris begins his discussion of “error” in this chapter, I related to his explanation of Rouse’s critique of how trying to rid a writer of error – namely the “relentless focus on the teaching of grammar” – can actually cause more harm than good. Writing while confined to the strict rules of grammar and the like can hang over you like a dark rain cloud. Personally, if I’m worried about the mechanics of writing while I’m engaging in writing, I find that I’m less likely to take risks in my writing and consequently, less creative and innovative.

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Aligning with the quote above, and the argument Harris makes in this chapter, writing is about more than simple mechanics and error reduction. It is about drawing on personal experiences and allowing those experiences to shape the way in which you analyze the world and portray your opinions and beliefs. This discussion reminds me of conversations revolving about community and discourse, specifically academic discourse. Is getting rid of a writer’s “errors” molding them to be more of a member of the prescribed academic discourse? As Harris argues in chapter 5, Community, academic discourses and communities do not operate under one singular value position or “Truth”. There are multiple opinions, theories, conversations, and beliefs that operate in every community and that must be acknowledged and celebrated. However, I can’t help but feel that focusing on the mechanics of writing and fixing a writer of all errors doesn’t coincide with this model. Yes, grammar and mechanical issues like this matter, however I would argue (and similar to what Harris argues) that it is not the most important thing. Harris discusses this when he references Joseph Williams, who argues that:

“[the] point is not that we should downplay the significance of error but that we should focus our attention and energies on those mistakes that really count, on those that seriously impugn a writer’s authority” (116).

What counts as an “error” to one person doesn’t necessarily count as “error” to another. We must recognize that subjectivity.

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Due 2/12: Prior & Shipka, Chronotopic Lamination

“Rather, literate activity is about nothing less than ways of being in the world, forms of life. It is about histories (multiple, complexly interanimating trajectories and domains of activity), about the (re)formation of persons and social worlds, about affect and emotion, will and attention. It is about representational practices, complex, multifarious chains of transformations in and across representational states and media (cf. Hutchins, 1995). It is especially about the ways we not only come to inhabit made-worlds, but constantly make our worlds—the ways we select from, (re)structure, fiddle with, and transform the material and social worlds we inhabit.”

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This specific excerpt from the piece stood out to me the most because of the unique way in which literate activity is defined. As I was reading this piece, I noticed how much it stood apart from the other course readings we’ve read throughout the quarter. While the way in which the piece was written seemed different to me, I was able to make connections from past readings and class discussions to inform my understanding of the piece as well. As the authors mention, “literate activity is about nothing less than ways of being in the world, forms of life”. As I read these words, I was reminded of our discussions about community, identity, and voice. From my understanding, the authors seem to argue that literate activity is heavily influenced by our experiences and identities within our communities and in the world. It is highly influenced by our social relations and interactions with others. The case studies presented in the piece also get at the notion of context, which parallels the piece we read for last class. From my understanding, the authors are trying to explain how where one is, in relation to others and the world, matters to their writing process or “literate activity”.

The inclusion of drawings in the case studies is a unique and interesting methodological tool. It seemed to help both the participants in the case studies, as well as the researchers better understand what was going on and make sense of each unique writing process.

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Using multiple methods of representation better capture the experiences of the writers and how they engage in literate activity. The methodology of this project reminds me of my qualitative research methods class I’m taking right now, as it employs core concepts of qualitative research such as self-reflexivity, thick description, and context.

Due 2/10 – Berkenkotter & Murray, Decisions and Revisions

“In the latter case the writer is generating, testing, and evaluating new ideas, rather than reformulating old ones. I could observe the differences between the two modes of composing Emig describes, given Murray’s response to the task in which he was engaged. When the writer was thoroughly familiar with his subject, he dictated with great fluency and ease. However, when he was breaking new ground conceptually, his pace slowed and his voice became halting; often the drafts broke down, forcing him to return to his daybook before attempting to dictate again.” (159)

This excerpt from the article highlights an aspect of writing that’s importance to consider when discussing the writing process. Despite Murray’s tremendous amount of writing experience, when compared to a college student, he still struggled with the writing process throughout the course of the study. As mentioned, when Murray broke “new ground conceptually”, he had to wrestle with his ideas and ways in which to convey them through writing. However, when he wrote about subjects he was very familiar with, the process came easier to him.

This reminds me of the ways in which I approach writing for my different courses. When I’m writing about something I am familiar with, I am able to convey my thoughts and ideas much more effectively and fluently. I’m a much more confident writer in my Women’s and Gender Studies major and my Psychology major than I am in this course. Due to my previous experience and knowledge about writing in those disciplines, I am able to write more quickly and I experience less “internal writing turmoil”. I generally just write and it usually turns out well. I don’t have to meticulously go through the steps of the writing process when writing in these courses. However, when writing in a course that’s outside of my comfort zone – like this class – I often have a harder time with my writing because the subject matter and context is completely unfamiliar. I feel like a fish out of water. It’s very uncomfortable.

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Due to my unfamiliarity with the subject matter and context, I have to pay more attention to the writing process. Well, that and because this is a English class and one of the course themes is Writing Studies. I do a lot more editing and revising in this course than in my other courses. As evidenced by the study of Murray and his writing, there is a lot of planning, decision, making, revising, and editing that goes into the writing process which eventually helps the writer develop what he/she is trying to convey. But not everyone has the kind of time to devote to writing as Murray does. It’s his profession and writing and engaging in the writing process is what he does. There’s a little bit of a disconnect between the study and our experiences with engaging in writing processes as students (who aren’t all English majors). But I guess that’s one of the things Berkenkotter was examining – how a writer functions in an unfamiliar setting.

In Class Writing Activity 2/5 – Process

In regards to other students’ writing processes, I have observed a couple of different strategies and ways of engaging in the writing process. I’ve seen some students engage in the writing process more than others through their use of outlines and meticulous planning of structure. These students tend to spend time a fair amount of time researching for their writing assignment and coming up with an outline. Once the research and outline are completed, generally students in this group move to their first draft. For this type of writer, the writing process is definitely more clear cut and it’s easy to see the various steps in their writing. However, I also know that not all students engage in this type of writing process. I have seen students write papers, the night before they are due (even a few hours before the assignment is due), in a less methodical fashion. This writing process (if you can even call it that) is expedited. Sometimes students just don’t have the time to engage in a lengthy writing process. However, these students still usually get a good grade on their writing assignments so I take issue with judging the first style of writing to be somehow better than the other. People’s writing styles are different and honestly, if they’re happy with it I have no right to critique the way in which they get it done. Both of these different writing styles support and critique the notion of “focusing on process rather than product”. Due the the way in which our educational system is set up, it’s almost more advantageous to write for the product rather than the process.

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Due 2/5: Harris – “Process”

“Emig wants Lynn to view writing much as herself does – as a complex and sometimes painful yet ultimately self-revealing process. When it becomes clear that Lynn does not see writing this way – she instead views it as a fairly simple task, as a means to an end and not much more – Emig interprets this self-confidence as a sign of repressed neurosis” (Harris 80).

Harris discusses in this chapter the notion that writing should be evaluated more in terms of a process rather than a product. Just as Harris describes the disconnect of this notion between Emig (teacher) and Lynn (student), I also struggle with this concept as I’ve had to write a lot of papers the past four years here at Santa Clara University. While I understand the notion of viewing writing as a process, sometimes students just don’t have time to write in this way.

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Often times, I have multiple papers due during the same time throughout the quarter so my strategy is to get them done quickly and efficiently. While I spend a fair amount of time on each paper, as I care about getting good grades, I evaluate my writing based on end the product not the process. I know I know I should care less about getting a perfect grade. That’s all well and good but at the end of the day, the educational system in our society is structured around the notion of “end products” by administering grades at the end of each quarter/semester/term. Admittedly, I tend to give more thought and analysis to the papers I write for classes I truly enjoy so I guess in that regard, I focus more on the process of my writing in specific classes.

Going back to the quote above, I think it’s dangerous and absurd for a teacher like Emig to assume that Lynn’s lack of “process” is somehow due to her “repressed feelings and neurosis”. This parallels previous discussions in class and on the blogs about the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship should be symbiotic in nature, not one sided. While teachers generally have a lot more experience than students, they still have a lot to learn from students as well. Teachers aren’t always smarter and they aren’t always right. Each person in the student – teacher relationship has a lot of insight to offer the other and it’s so important to acknowledge what each person brings to the academic table.