Sep 24

CWPA: Appetizer

While attending the Carolinas Writing Program Administrators annual fall conference at the Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland NC, I got some writing done. Doug Hesse was the keynote; however, he lead most of the “conference” as a writing retreat. Although he repeatedly told us we could write what we wanted and/or needed, many of us still worked with his prompts. 

Doug offered his prompts in “menu” format; for the second quick write, the appetizer, I wrote combined the prompt of my history of writing with my history of learning about what/how/why WPAs. 

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Guilia Forsythe

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Guilia Forsythe

Since I started off graduate school as literature scholar, I had no idea what a WPA was. I just knew that writing had always been difficult; at various points in high school and as an undergraduate I had pendulum swings of more often than not negative and positive experiences associated with my writing. When I applied for graduate school and started getting offers I was horrified at how many wanted me to teach writing as part of my funding package. Not the only reason, but definitely one of the major reasons, I agreed to Arizona State was because they gave me a tuition waiver without having to teach my first year. I was petrified of teaching.

My first introducing to what is a WPA came during the late spring of my first year at ASU. I knew I would be going through TA training in the late summer and taking the TA seminar during the fall when I started teaching my first writing classes. I scheduled an appointment with ASU’s current WPA, Duane Roen, and went to talk to hime about my fears. Instead of saying “I’m afraid,” I masked my fear with “I’d like to be better prepared, can you suggested readings that I might do this summer to prepare for TA training.”

This event, or these events (my history as a writer as well as my experience as a new TA at ASU), informed my interests of what is a WPA. Part of my scholarly interest/persona is integrally wrapped up in idea of how to facilitate professional development. Not that I don’t know or understand the myriad of other responsibilities a WPA has; instead, I’m just very sensitive to the fact that our writing instructors come with various experiences, confidences, and insecurities associated with teaching writing.

Sep 24

CWPA: Introduction

While attending the Carolinas Writing Program Administrators annual fall conference at the Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland NC, I got some writing done. Doug Hesse was the keynote; however, he lead most of the “conference” as a writing retreat. Although he repeatedly told us we could write what we wanted and/or needed, many of us still worked with his prompts. 

His first quick write prompt was for introductions; I followed the prompt of sharing my “guilty pleasure.” 

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Julia Wolf

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Julia Wolf

I like to watch shit blow up. No, I’m not a pyromaniac; I’m talking about my film genre preference. I didn’t know SBU was a film genre preference until my first grad class in my second (really it was my first awarded) MA program. I was taking a class with the newly hired film professor, a full professor from University of Arizona who was know for masculinity and pornography studies. In my first graduate film class with him, we were all required to go around the room, introduce ourselves, and briefly discuss what types of film we like to watch. I don’t remember exactly what I said, probably something along the lines of “science fiction, fantasy, and James Bond,” but I definitely remember his recoiled look of horror and the “ooooohh, you’re one of those; you like SBU films. Needless to say, having the instructor have such a negative reaction to my confession worried me a bit. Maybe I redeemed myself when he chaired my MA thesis about Alien as pornographic text.

Aug 12

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Aug 02

Mozilla & Open Badges

As I’ve been continuing to play with the gamification of learning (yes…vs gaming as learning; we can go down that rabbit hole later), I’ve been increasing interested in the Open Badge movement. This morning I was excited to earn (or well, at least “activate” the fact I had already earned them) my first two badges from 3D Game Lab. Although it was exciting to connect the Game Like LMS environment with Mozilla’s BackPack, I’m bummed that they don’t yet have a basic embedding tool that allows me to embed my BackPack on my website. Instead, I’m limited to linking out to my BackPack and/or embedding images (below).

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 6.35.54 AM

I was happy to find that there is a WP plugin for Open Badges. I at first thought it would help me display the badges. Although that was not the case, I am excited to find out it will allow me to make badges and connect them with the Mozilla BackPack system. I have no idea what type of back channel paperwork that might require; however, this is potentially very exciting for a handful of projects I’m juggling right now.

Jul 10

Why Zotero

zoteroContext of this Post

I’ve known about secondary resource management/citation tools for a while now; you know, things like EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero, and Mendeley. And I’ve wanted to get started working with them so I build my digital annotated bibliography resource list; however, I haven’t. Let’s be honest, these types of applications don’t pay off in the short term (building them for one project). They are about building resources over time and then being able to slice and dice your database to find the resources you want and/or need. Since I’m teaching ENGL794/894, Digital Writing Research, I’ve decided we will all start our databases. My hope is that the PhD students in the course will come back and thank me once they’ve started studying for their comps and/or working on their dissertations. I did, however, just talk with the one creative writing student in the course; she reminded me that most creative writers also have to do research for their projects! Whew…it will be useful for her as well!

The Actual Post

I’ve decided to build my resource database in Zotero for a variety of reasons. First, members of my research lab are already building in there; therefore, if we are all in Zotero, we can all collaborate on building annotated bibliographies and crafting reviews of literature. The lab having picked it is a real world reason for selecting Zotero. I am, thankful, however, that I was already leaning towards Zotero for other reasons.

Second, Zotero is free! I know that ODU has a site license for EndNote; however, what if I leave? My students are definitely leaving and I want to collaborate with them? The only thing I’ll probably (most likely) spend money on is upgrading the storage on the digital server. And if I’m good, I’ll get that covered by a research grant so it is updating my space as well as the other faculty and scholars working with me!

Third, Zotero has some functionality I’m not seeing in the other options. First awesome functionality, and this is probably the most important one, Zotero allows for an indefinite number of notes associated with each resource/entry. So, that means for each resource I have the regular summary/abstract information; however, I can start a new note for each different project I associate with the resource. I also like that Zotero thinks like iTunes and keeps one “copy” of the resource and all it’s attached notes and then constructs “playlists” of grouped resources/entries based on what/how/why someone organizes them.

I am bummed that Zotero no longer has highlighting and annotating functionality in PDFs. However, they multi-notepage functionality more than makes up for this loss.

I was also WOWed by Mendeley’s social media functionality. And as I mentioned to the research lab crew, I think we’ll need to dedicate a lab meeting to setting up our Mendeley entries and plan to update them once a semester or year.

And EndNote, the other serious choice because it is available through ODU, was more of a citation manager than a resource manager, I wanted the robust note taking and collaborating functionality.

I’ll end with, now that I have a new laptop cover, and I’ve selected Zotero, I want my Zotero sticker!

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Alexandra Guerson

Jul 08

Disrupted Writing, Life Happens: Own It!

ownitI’ve had some graduate students take me up on the 5 Week Regular Writing Challenge. Go team; however, many of them have had difficulties:

  • waiting to get started (dang Stats class!)
  • starting with smaller chunks of time
  • distracted by family
  • still “binging” to meet deadlines (Laura, thanks for the prompt to write this, I’ve been meaning to!)

Over the past month I’ve struggled with my own regular writing, I too have lost time to conferences and family. I too still have to binge to meet deadlines (however, I’m finding the more I regularly write, the less this occurs). And now that I’ve started teaching a condensed summer class at the same time I’m getting “Revise and Resubmit” responses back, I’m struggling to keep up teaching, writing, and researching (you know the work you do before the writing!).

I just wanted to share that I struggle as well. Tom, my partner, has gotten used to me “making up” weekday writing time on the weekends (as a way to meet my 4-5 days a week). I occasionally only have a one, not two, hour writing day. Opportunities come up, or tight revise and resubmit deadlines emerge, and I have to binge to get the work done.

Usually, during that day, I feel guilty, especially for not writing; however, I just have to own it. Life happens, and we just have to own it. I’m not perfect! My mentors are not perfect. I don’t expect my graduate students to be perfect. Own it! Still have a boring website that needs serious time, energy, and better header art; owning it!

Part of owning it is accepting life happens. Owning it means owning your strengths and weaknesses. Owning it means acknowledging sometimes you’ll binge write (sometimes because you have to, sometimes because you want to). Owning it also means you get to celebrate the successes as well; even with my imperfect regular writing streak, I’m more productive and I’ve got proof. I get to own successes too!

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by zev 

Jul 06

Undergraduate Mobile Learning: A Project in the Making

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 7.04.42 PMContext of this Post

When I posted my 5 Week Regular Writing Challenge, I discussed tracking my regular writing. In response, a colleague mentioned that she regularly journals her research as a way to track it. Knowing that I need to be doing that, and having decided that the “angle” of this blog is professional transparency (I still need to write that post!), I decided that I should ask my ENGL794/894, Digital Writing Research, students to start a research journal for their projects. Of course, I need to model good behavior (and I’ve got the beginnings of a project that I can use to start getting in the habit).

The Actual Post

The point of this first posting assignment is to share ideas for a research topic and discuss what/how/why I’m invested in the topic. Since I had a Web 2.0 SoTL project go sideways a few years back, I have been very interested in mobile learning. I’ve been following the ownership and usage stats about mobile devices from Pew, Nielsen, and EDUCAUSE. Specifically, I’m interested in collecting similar ownership and usage data about undergraduate students, especially those enrolled in FYC writing courses. First, I want to be able compare that data to national numbers; second, I want to also collect qualitative data that can help develop user profiles like the SO-LO-MO (Social, Local, Mobile) example by in the 2011 State of Mobile Media report by Nielsen (p. 23, see attached).

I am interested in collecting this data to share with Writing Program Administrators across the nation (think WPA Journal submission!); with this in mind, I’m hoping some colleagues at other institutions might collect the same data with me. I’m also interested in my local, ODU, data to use in context of other mobile projects I’ve got in the works.

Jun 15

My Name is Shelley Rodrigo and I’m a Binge Writer

Medium shot of me talking at a podium. My Name is Shelley and I’m a Binge Writer; I have been regularly writing for a little over two months.

My binge writing started as most binge writers do, I hated writing. In high school and undergraduate I waited until the last minute to complete writing assignments. In typical fashion I stayed up late the night, or the few nights before, major assignments were do. I still, however, did well enough to graduate high school as valedictorian and go to college.

In college I started to feel the negative affects of binge writing; I earned a C- and C in my first year composition sequence. Because of those grades, my self confidence as a writer was shot.  I’ll never forget talking to my honors thesis advisor after she read the first draft of my honors thesis (which, of course I took only a week to complete); she told me I had to start over. At least I waited to leave her office before I cried. And even though I graduated with my BA in English, with honors, and I knew I was planning to go to graduate school, my self confidence as a writer was extremely low.

I turned down graduate school offers that wanted me to teach writing the first year. How could I teach writing if I was a bad writer? In graduate school I continued to binge write, I would submit some end-of-course papers with letters to the instructor with “if I had more time, I would do…” explanations.

I became a functional Binge Writer, I got articles and book chapters published, co-edited a book, co-authored a textbook, and finished a dissertation all as a Binge Writer. Obviously I could not do any of these project the night before; however, I did not complete them by regularly writing. Instead, I would go on writing benders, whole or multiple day, and get a bunch of work done at once. Although those were effective, they were not efficient. I would spent large chunks of time getting back into the project before I was able to actually produce writing.

My dissertation advisor and one of my mentors, Duane Roen, constantly told me to “write a little bit every day.” Not until I was in a position that made my job dependent on writing did I start to really hear that advise. And it still took other prompting. I knew I needed to carve out time to regularly write and make that time my highest priority; but I didn’t do that either. It wasn’t until I read Paul Silva’s How to Write a Lot and started tracking my regular writing that I finally started to write regularly. Like anyone who diets, I fall of the bandwagon; and all I can do is dust myself off and get back on. Besides using a spreadsheet to track my writing, I also appreciated Silva’s reminder that you can not reward the completion of a writing project with no writing (thank gosh he didn’t say I couldn’t reward myself with something yummy!). And as you can see from my earlier reflection, regularly writing has made me regularly productive.

Let’s be honest, two months of regular writing is not a long time. I look forward to repeating this “speech” in two years. I know I’ll fall off the bandwagon a few more times; however, as long as I immediately get back on the wagon never leaves me in the dust (for example, if I don’t write a week day, I usually do make up the day on the weekend; but, the missed weekday still counts as a miss in my spreadsheet).

I’m writing this post as an introduction to a Five Week Regularly Writing Challenge for my graduate students and I hope that a few will join me with their “hello I’m a Binge Writer posts in the next 30 or 60 days.”

Jun 15

The 5 Week Regular Writing Challenge

A person typing on a laptop at a small table in an empty room.Graduate students, I know that many of you legitimately think you do your best writing as a last-minute and/or a Binge Writer. And I will confess, that may be the case; however, can you really know whether or not you are more effective and efficient as a regular writer with out sincerely trying to regularly write? Check out the “weird writing habits of famous authors.” Although they have their quirks, most of them also write regularly!

This post is my challenge to you! I want you to be successful in whatever you do; but, most importantly, I want you to finish graduate school. My challenge: spend five weeks writing regularly. Don’t wait for a good time to start, start now! If you have a vacation week already planned, just plan to skip over that week, otherwise, write through the rest. Hard week at work, still write (I wrote through finals week)! Commit to writing at least one, I’d argue 1.5-2 hours, 4-5 times a week.

For my first three weeks, I had to write first thing in the morning (that’s when I think best). Writing first thing in the morning also means you get it done and life can’t “happen” and impinge on your writing for the day. Writing early also might mean you get up early enough to have the house to yourself (writing without distractions). Once I got writing, however, I could easily get writing done later in the day. I will confess, each time I start a new project, it is difficult to reboot and I usually have to go back to writing in the morning. Check out these quick tips for “rebooting a writing habit” for some other ideas to help get (re)started.

Those of you who have projects that need writing up (dissertations, write-up of studies and/or revision of course papers,etc.) it will probably be easy to identify your first project with which to start. However, many of you might not have writing immediately needing completion. In How to Write a Lot, Silva also suggests having a list of the writing projects you want to get done. I’ve got this going in a couple of ways:

  1. I have a five year plan I keep in spreadsheet (for each page, 12 months across the top and 31 rows). This includes things like my annual review dates and tenure clock, conference proposal and grant deadlines, as well as dates when I want to submit specific pieces of writing.
  2. I have a one page document with all the pieces of writing I want to publish (in many cases multiple pieces per project I’m working on). On that same sheet I have my short term writing goals and a list of what is in the pipeline (proposals out for review, articles/chapters out for review, etc.).

Although I will definitely not complete everything in these documents in the timeline I’ve set up, they keep me moving forward! So before, or maybe as the last 30 minutes of your first day of writing, make your list of the writing projects you want and/or need to get done. This list will also provide what you immediately move on to next when you finish something (or are waiting for comments from your committee). If you really don’t have anything, commit to writing robust annotated bibliography entries (think EndNote or Zotero entries) of works you’ve already read and/or read and take notes of work you know you’ll use in future writing.

Finally, it is OK to have some days were you do not write. You may spend a two-hour slot copyediting, formatting, or putting in citations. You may spend 3-4 days in a row reading and taking robust notes for the next section of writing. Do, however, make sure whatever work you are doing in your 1.5-2 hour slot is directly supporting writing. For example, I’m working on projects that will eventually be written up; however, they are not yet at that phase. I will not work on those projects in my 1.5-2 hours of writing.

I sincerely hope you take me up on this challenge. I’m happy to chat with you and be a cheer leader and/or motivator, I’m happy to share the various tracking and listing documents, I’m happy to talk with you about what projects you are working on…I’m happy to do any of that and more as long as you are writing regularly!

Other tips, resources, and motivators to help get started:

CC licensed image posted at Flickr by Phillip Kalantzis Cope

UPDATED 6/16/13: An annotated image of the spreadsheet I use to track my writing

May 31

Writing a Little Bit Every Day

If Duane, my dissertation chair, ever reads this posting I will get the classic “I told you so.”

book cover to _How to Write a Lot_ by Paul J SilviaIt’s almost been two months since I attended the ODU Women’s Caucus Tenure and Promotion workshop. During the workshop one of the panelists suggested Paul Silvia’s How to Write a Lot. I promptly went to Amazon and downloaded a copy to my iPad; I proceeded to read the entire book that same weekend. In the text Silvia emphases one thing: schedule writing time and treat it like any other appointment you can’t miss (like class time). This was nothing new, and obviously it hadn’t been helping much or I would have been consistently doing it. Silvia also mentioned using a spreadsheet to track your writing…ahh, tangible accountability!

Image of my laptop through a program digitally seeing the corners. That next Monday I started scheduling writing time in my schedule (no more than two hours) 4-5 days a week and tracked whether or not I was getting the writing done. Some interesting data I have at this point includes:

  • I’ve actually wrote on 32 of the 44 days I scheduled “write” in my calendar.
  •  I’ve worked on writing projects (so it may include reading; however, it’s reading to contributing to writing, not reading to contribute to conducting a study or collecting data) for approximately 66 hours.
  • I’ve written approximately 17,000 words (my spreadsheet says 16,968; however, even that number is approximate on some days).
  • I’ve sent out 3 book chapters (two with collaborators) and one small invited piece for review (and the invited piece already bounced back after peer review and I’ve resubmitted it).

Basically it has taken about a year for me to start figuring out what methods, and motivations, will work to help me keep productive with my writing. Definitely the “write a little bit every day” advice Duane always gave me is true; however, I need to see results and tracking my work on a micro-level has been a wonderful motivator. And, a nice side result about being more disciplined about writing is that my schedule is starting to provide little gaps for things like blogging! I’m looking forward to spending this summer continuing to write as well as starting to rebuild a new virtual professional identity.

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