Vision Unbound: Computers and Writing Presentation Part One

This is my Computers and Writing presentation in two parts. The links to this and the next entry will be posted at the conference site. As the weekend ends and my massive grading is finished (this is finals week and grades are due Monday), these two entries will be added to and refined somewhat. However, if you read it today, this is the essence of the presentation.

When I get to this point in my Computers and Writing panel, I fully expect to have double-vision. Joe Erickson’s experiences as Design Editor for Computers and Composition Online sit on one side of me and our panel respondent, Editor-in-Chief Kristine Blair and her wealth of experience in the field and as Editor sit on the other. Having acted as Senior Editor for CCO since Kristine Blair took over as Editor, I remember the original redesign we did early in 2003 using Angela Haas’s Technical Writing class. This was co-mentoring at its best. First, it gave real-world experience  with an actual client to the class. Next, it gave the instructor (then an instructor, but now an Assistant Professor at Illinois State University) a chance to do the kind of co-mentoring she received as a student in a similar class with Christine Tulley (see Haas, Angela, Tulley, Christine, & Blair, Kristine. “Mentors versus masters: Women’s and girls’ narratives.” Computers and Composition 2002). Finally, it gave me my first experience as a project leader in academia, something I’ve done many times since. As a student in the midst of Ph.D. coursework with experience in literary journal editing, the opportunity to shape the appearance and the vision (the look and the mission) of CCO was everything I always wanted to do. The best part was being taken seriously: this was a team, even if it was one that normally didn’t go for sports metaphors. For us, feminist co-mentoring was the goal, and I believe we achieved it. This experience, that of CCO’s first years, was detailed in “Computers and Composition Online: Feminist Community and the Politics of Digital Scholarship.” (co-authored with Kristine Blair), a chapter in Performing Feminism and Administration in Rhetoric and Composition Studies (Editors Krista Ratcliffe and Rebecca Rickly, Hampton 2009). That chapter was also my first fully successful experience with collaborative writing, and I like to think that the many, many students who have done collaborative writing projects in my classes since benefited from my experience writing with Kris Blair.

When I moved across the country in 2005 to be an assistant professor, I kept my editor’s hat and vowed to give others the same opportunities that made my graduate years a rich balance of theory and praxis through editorial mentoring. However, my program is a masters program rather than a doctoral one, and the students have a wide range of goals for their graduate work. I do not teach technical writing, the natural space for someone so focused on editing, and doubt that I ever will. Instead, I, once again, have double-vision: my teaching is (and students are) evenly split between rhetoric and composition and creative writing, especially poetry.  The rhet/comp is mainly theory classes for grad or grad/senior only, with creative writing classes in poetry, creative nonfiction, and advanced fiction (science fiction and fantasy), which are mainly for undergrads. These are my students, and although the creative writing students in particular hunger for journal editing experience, it is a romantic hunger that sees it as reading submissions, which it is, but does not also see the masses of production work needed to bring a volume to print ( or to the web). As a teacher, scholar, and co-mentor, I must create mentoring opportunities that fit their professional goals.

In order to mentor my masters’ students within the world of CCO, I needed to create opportunities in the classroom. One example was the degree paper that turned into the CCO webarticle, — by Phillip George. He began this paper as a seminar paper in my graduate-level issues in rhet/comp class, “Digital Rhetorics and Pedagogies.” When George came to me asking me to be first reader for his degree paper, I proposed that it be a webtext and written with CCO in mind, since that would be a potential publication for him. he did so, and his webarticle is in the current double issue.

Of course, that is the traditional route envisioned for mentoring, but another way is the collaborative class project. Also in the Digital Rhetorics and Pedagogies class, I set up a Digital Dictionary Project. It’s purpose was to define terms in Computers and Writing that those outside the field, primarily English Education majors and classroom teachers who formed the majority of that class, need to know when reading scholarship. As co-editor of a proposed edited collection with another CCO alum, Elizabeth Monske, I was able to offer them a real chance at publication, and they appreciated both the chance for publication, but more importantly, the knowledge tht what they were writing was real, useful for others, and seen as real by others, not just another student project. This spring Liz Monske updated and added to the chapter with her students at Northern Michigan State. It is under consideration for an upcoming 2013 co-issue of Computers and Composition and Computers and Composition Online.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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