Libraries as places for Reading and Writing

I’ve been learning how to use Twitter lately.

I know, you all are thinking that I’m in my 20s and I should have already mastered this technology.  If I’m honest though, I didn’t see the point until just a couple weeks ago.  Don’t get me wrong, I had created a Twitter account almost a year ago for professional purposes; I just never took the time to figure out how to use it.

Now I’m slowly figuring it out.

And in figuring it out I have been overwhelmed with the amount of articles and information right at my finger tips.  I love reading people’s thoughts about teaching English, reading, and writing.  And I’m slowly becoming addicted.

Part of the reason that I’m making the jump to Twitter is because of a class: ENGL 517.  ENGL 517 is a “topics” class at my University.  It changes from semester to semester and this semester it happens to be about Public Policy and Writing.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.

If I’m being honest, I took it because it’s the last required class (other than my MA project) that I have to take and I’m ready to graduate.

But I was surprised.  I love it.

We’re all being asked to create an Action Plan about an issue that has to do with writing and/or teaching writing.  I came up with something last week and now I want to share it with you all: Helping Students Enjoy Writing.

That’s my issue.  At first, I felt like I was being too idealistic, but aren’t most teachers “idealistic”?  We want students to succeed.  We want them to enjoy  learning, reading, and more.

So, with my mom’s sounding board help, I came up with a way to, hopefully, put that into practice.  Let me explain some of my thinking to you:

First off, the basic idea: A Writing Incentive Program

Yes, I realize it needs a cooler name.  But I started thinking, libraries are places that support reading.  They also seem to be in the perfect position to support writing, because, well, someone has to write all those books that fill the shelves in the libraries.

And during the summer libraries have Reading Incentive Programs (usually with cooler names) that offer prizes to kids who read a certain number of pages or books.

Why not do the same with writing?

Why not offer students incentives (prizes) for the amount of writing that they choose to do?  And maybe it wouldn’t focus on the number of pages written (though it could), but on the number of genres the students explore through writing.  Maybe then students could find a genre that they enjoying writing in!

I feel like my head is spinning with ideas and I don’t even know how to put them all down on paper yet.  I just know that I don’t want to force kids to write because all too often that takes the enjoyment out of it and then my students dread it.  And I want students to be able to try out many different genres, because maybe all it will take is finding that ONE genre they enjoy.

This could branch out in so many ways… writing workshops hosted by the library, writing circles, displays/publications of the work these students produce…

My brain is spinning.  I may be an idealist, but I’m passionate about positive writing experiences.

What do you think?  What would you add?  What would you do differently? Thoughts? Please??


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Paying for Parking

Summer hangtags for parking at EMU went up to $100 this year.  I will be on campus a total of 9 days for around 6ish hours a day.  It would be cheaper for me to pay to park in the pay lots or to park where I normally do and pay a fine everyday for 9 days.  With summer classes being scheduled crazily (some are two weeks, some are eight weeks, some are five weeks) you would think EMU would have a better parking system.

Seriously Eastern…what were you thinking?

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Final Cookbook

I consider myself to be a digital native.  I grew up with technology all around me.  While technology and digital devices were not as readily available as they are today, I do remember using computers in elementary school as early as fourth grade.  We also had a personal computer at home, but all we could do was “type” on it.  I grew up knowing how to use most of the digital technology around me.  Recently, I have  begun to realize that being a digital native will impact the way I teach in the future.  This realization coincides with Stuart Selber’s work in Multiliteracies for a Digital Age.  In his book, he talks about three different levels of digital literacy: functional, critical, and rhetorical. In working through my cookbook, I have come to the conclusion that, even as a digital native, my current digital practices and habits fall primarily under the functional literacy.  I know how to use most digital technologies, or at the very least am willing to learn, and I am fairly confident in my uses of technology, but I have not yet taken that knowledge to the next level.  My cookbook explores how I as a digital native might continue to take strides toward becoming more digitally literate as well as how this will affect my students.

The first piece to my cookbook is a response to an article I read by Dr. Kathleen Godfrey about how to teach digital natives.  Part of my response to this article stemmed from my personal experience as a digital native and how that would affect my teaching.  I contemplated the fact that there are many digital devices that I had only recently begun using and I had begun using them only because they had been introduced in a class I was taking.  I began to question how we were teaching students to use technology and if we were teaching them to use it effectively.  After reading Selber, I now also wonder if we are teaching them to use it in critical and rhetorical ways as well.  This was really the jumping off point for my cookbook as a whole.  This piece helped shape the direction my cookbook collection would take.  I began to think about how I, as a digital native, could teach my digital native students.  This brought up questions for me about how I could learn about new technologies and how I am using technology currently.  This article also made me think about what type of technology others are using in classrooms and writing centers, how they are reaching digital natives and how they are becoming more digitally literate as well.

When I was contemplating what to include in my cookbook, I realized that I needed to look at the ways I use digital technologies.  That is when I decided that I needed to work out a top ten list of digital resources I use when I perform digital writing.  After mulling over what I would include in the blog post, I realized that I did not want to just write a list of ten items that I use regularly.  Instead, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use some sort of technology to illustrate how I use technology.  I finally settled on using a screencast.  I had been introduced to this technology the previous semester through a website called  I was considering using this tool for a dream assignment post also, so I decided it would be in my best interest to give screencasting a try.  To prepare for this screencast, I wrote a script and chose the technologies that I wanted to showcase.  The website platform I was using would only allow for a five minute screencast, which I had not realized when I wrote my script.  I ended up putting my conclusion paragraph into the blog post as text because there was not time to include it in the screencast.  Putting together the screencast also gave me an appreciation for what I could be asking my students to do in the future.  There were some frustrating times putting it together.  Trying to figure out how to have the websites ready to go and still finish the screencast in five minutes was a challenge and as i was recording interruptions occurred– the phone rang, the dog barked, I sneezed.  Not to mention, trying to get the video to post to my blog was an adventure (WordPress requires an upgrade to embed videos other than as a link).  When I put together this screencast, I realized that my list of technologies seemed very narrow.  They were basic tools that everyone seems to use.  Even as a digital native, the scope of my technological use seemed very small.  Making this list and screencast allowed me to view my technology habits a little more critically as I began to question why I use the technologies I use.

The third component of my cookbook was launched partly as a continuation of the screencast I created previously.  I wanted to create a dream assignment that would allow me to learn from my students but also have my students possibly come to the same realization I had about my technology habits.  When I started the brainstorming process, I realized that I was very tired of using my computer and decided to work out some of my ideas using markers and cardstock.  It helped me realize that as much as I like using the computer and technology, sometimes I need to take a break and brainstorm the old-fashioned way.  The assignment I came up with was a way to introduce myself and my students to new technologies.  In the assignment I created, students will create their own screencast about a website that allows them to create something.  They will explain how the website works and what it could possibly be used for.  The reason I wanted students to choose a website and showcase it, is because I realize that as new technologies come out, I will not be able to keep up with all of them.  Having students work through this assignment allows me to continuing learning about new technologies and allows my students to teach me about something that they might use on a regular basis.  The student will become the teacher.  After reading Selber’s book, I realized that this assignment primarily focuses on the functional aspect of digital literacy, however, I also hope that students will consider how they currently use technology as a part of this assignment and they will gain some aspect of critical literacy in the process.

The last piece of my cookbook was an interview with the Writing Center Coordinator, Frances FitzGerald, at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.  When I talked with her I wanted to learn how they are reaching the digital natives in their student population and also how incorporating digital technology into the Writing Center has changed Frances’s  technology habits.  I gained a lot of helpful information from Frances about the types of technology she has incorporated into the Writing Center and what students’ reactions have been.  Overall students enjoy the technologies and are proficient in using them.  The environment at Madonna’s writing center is one in which the tutors, students, and faculty introduce new technology to each other.  Everyone is very open to learning about new ways of doing things and Frances even said that she is enjoying the process of learning about new types of technology.  The Writing Center at Madonna incorporates technology development into their professional development meetings for tutors.  The situation that students and tutors are in allows them to begin thinking critically about new technology and how they can incorporate it into their Writing Center.

Even as a digital native, I realize that I still have quite a bit to learn about technology and writing.  I have even more to learn about how to use it critically and rhetorically.  I feel like my students will benefit from my understanding of myself as a digital native and how I view digital technology.  One of the ideas I tried to capture in my cookbook is that I want students, as digital natives, to be able to teach me about new technologies.  I believe this is an important mindset to have as I enter my teaching career.  It is also a way for me to continue developing my own digital awareness.  It seems that often, professional development is not offered in these areas and I believe that by incorporating students into my learning process I can continue to grow in these areas.  I also walked away from my cookbook with the understanding that, as a teacher, I need to use the technology I might be requesting my students to use.  When I used the technology that I wanted to use during my dream assignment, I learned things about the technology that changed the way that I would require students to use it in the scope of the assignment. Going through this process, I began to understand that the way I view digital literacy does not necessarily incorporate the critical and rhetorical aspects that Selber discusses in his book.  I feel like I now have a perspective on digital natives and digital literacy that will help me grow toward a greater digital literacy myself.

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Writing Center Technology Interview

I had the privilege of interviewing Frances FitzGerald, coordinator of Madonna University’s Writing Center, about the use of technology in the Writing Center and in her own life as a result of what she has learned in the Writing Center.

Holly:  Let’s just jump right in.  What are some of the ways you use technology in the Writing Center (WC)?

Frances:  We have seven Dell computers and four Macs that students work on. In addition, we offer live, online tutoring. We do have the capability for Skype, but so far, we haven’t had any takers. In addition, we use Inspiration and Grammar Key software to help students with, respectively, organization and sentence-level challenges. We’ve also found some great, free, online tools, such as Tom March’s thesis builder.

H: It sounds like you’re incorporating technology quite a bit into the WC. How do students respond to that technology?

F:  Most students are comfortable using the computer and software programs. They grew up with technology, and they’re not scared of it. However, some of the older–and a few of the younger—students are very reluctant to use the computers. In many cases, it’s because they lack keyboarding skills.

 H: What are tutors’ feelings about the technology that has been implemented into the WC?

F:  Most of our tutors are comfortable with technology, although most of them prefer the PCs to the Macs.

H: What types of technology would you like to implement into the WC in the future?

F: I’m not sure what kind of learning technology is out there. We’ve talked about adding podcasts to our Madonna home page to give little mini-lessons on creating outlines, avoiding comma splices, writing an abstract, etc. We’re also working on a video, a kind of welcome to the Writing Center, especially geared toward our ESL students.

H: It sounds like you’re working on implementing a lot! How has this type of technology changed the way you perform tutoring sessions?

F: One way technology has changed the way we tutor is that we can show students how they can help themselves, as with Inspiration or the online thesis builder. These options allow students to work more independently, and I think that gives them a little more confidence.

H: On a more personal note, what are your attitudes regarding technology in writing centers?

F: I’ve gone through an evolution regarding technology. When Ann hired me, I’d never used a flash drive or created a PowerPoint. I was scared to death of computers and terrified of being “found out” (that I was computer illiterate). Today, through necessity, I’ve become much more proficient, although I still have a long way to go.

H: That’s a healthy attitude to have. How do you learn about new technology and digital tools that you may want to implement?

F: Tutors like you, Holly, helped drag me into the 21st century. Beth Hoffman and Cheryl Henson at the HelpDesk have also been a huge help. Before, I was convinced that I was simply unteachable regarding computer matters. I’m certainly no computer genius, but at least I know I can learn some new things and even enjoy the process.

H: With everything that you’re trying to implement, what types of training do you have for the different technologies (for tutors, students, and yourself)?

F: We have professional development meetings for Writing Center tutors six or seven times a year. Occasionally, we’ll reserve a computer lab and either Beth Hoffman or one of the tutors will teach us some new technology.

H: That’s great! What types of obstacles do you face in trying to introduce new technology or digital tools to the WC?

F: Obstacles would include budget limitations and our inborn fear of change. However, we’ve come a long way, and I think we’ll continue to do so. Ann Russell, Director of the WC, embraces change, and that attitude trickles down.

H: What about you and technology? How has using technology and digital tools in the WC impacted your personal use of technology?

F: Frankly, by the time I get home, I really don’t want to use the computer. I do want to learn some new things, like how to edit film digitally. I’m more confident about learning that than I would have been five years ago.

H: Are you excited about using technology in writing centers? Why?

F: Yes, I am excited about the way technologies are transforming learning. It’s easier to present lessons in a more creative and vibrant way. I think most students enjoy working on/playing with the computer, and we’re finding better ways to engage them and make them participants in their own learning.

H:  Thanks for answering my questions, Frances.  I think you’re implementing a lot of interesting changes in the WC by using technology.

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What Students Need to Know for Workplace Writing

Being new to the English field and the teaching field, I had never thought much about how the literacies and writing students are doing now need to translate into a work environment.  Of course I knew that writing was both in the workplace and in the classroom, but I don’t think I fully realized the extent of what is needed.  From the chapter in HALR I pulled a couple of ideas that we need to be teaching our students.

  1.  The direct correlation between writing level and work position level.  I hadn’t realized this before (I don’t know why, it seems rather obvious now).  Students need to know that their level of writing translates into higher or lower positions in the workplace, which, in turn, translates into higher and lower pay.  Sometimes if you want to get students attention, you need to talk about monetary benefits.  In this case, higher level writing within the workplace environment correlates to higher pay. (240)
  2. Students need genre awareness within their field of study.  They need to be exposed to what types of writing is needed and acceptable within “non-profit agencies, government agencies, biologists, stamp collectors, physicists, literary scholars, and other groups” (249).  If they are planning on working in these fields, they need to know what types of writing they may have to perform.  They also need exposure to technology based writing practices as these have become increasingly common within the professional realm.
  3. Students need to learn how to learn (250).  “Learning how to learn, as literate communicative future employees, is probably the biggest academic goal educators could aim for with their students” (250).  Above all else, we need to teach our students how to learn.  Because if our students are willing to learn as they enter the workplace, then they are highly valuable to employers.

Those were a few of the ideas that I pulled out of the chapter that I thought were crucial for students to know and for us to be teaching them.  I don’t fully know how to implement these ideas into the classroom, but it’s something that I’m aware of now and can be working on for the future.

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Dream Assignment: Write, Create, and Produce your own Screen Cast!

Write, Create, and Produce your own Screen Cast!

Supplies Needed:

  • Computers with Internet access
  • Built in microphones or external computer compatible microphones
  • Scripts
  • Headphones
  • Time

General Overview:

Students will choose a website and explain through a screen cast how to use the website to create something.  Students will write their own script, choose and learn how to use a website, determine how to navigate the website during the screen cast, revise scripts, and record a screen cast.


  • Students will understand how writing with a visual component differs from writing without a visual component.
  • Students will learn new and technical vocabulary that is used in screen casting (i.e. screencast, video screen capture, etc.).
  • Students will learn how to use (a free screen casting platform).
  • Students will make decisions regarding visual content and audio content.
  • Students will demonstrate how to use a creative website.
  • Students will practice diction, inflection, and rate of speech (reading out loud).

Breakdown of Assignment:

  • Introduce the class to what screen casting is.  Show examples of screen casts.
  • Students should choose a website that allows them to create to feature on their screen cast.  Some examples of possibilities include: Facebook, Twitter, Prezi, Wordle, TagCrowd, Google Docs, etc.
  • After students have chosen a website, they should write a 3-5 minute script explaining how to use the website and what the website could be used for. Note: Due to limits, screen casts cannot go over 5 minutes.
  • Once a rough draft of the script has been written students will make decisions about how to navigate the website they have chosen including what features to include and how to show everything they want to show in the time allowed.
  • Students will then revise their scripts, keeping in mind time allowed and that with the visual component some items can just ben shown and not told.
  • After revising the scripts, students will then record a rough draft of their screen cast.
  • Students should listen to their rough screen casts, paying careful attention to speech (rate of speech, diction, and inflection).
  • Students revise and re-record their screen casts until they are satisfied with the quality.  Students should pay close attention to speech articulation, smoothness of screen transitions, and importance of all instructions.  Students should ask themselves the question, “Would someone who had never used this program before know how to start to use it now or would my directions be confusing?  Am I missing any steps?”
  • By the due date, students should publish the screen cast to the web and send the link in an email to the instructor.

Questions I still have:

  • Should I ask them to find a use that connects the website use to their field of study?  Or is there another “condition” I could place that they need to connect the use to?
  • Should there be a presentation of the screen casts or should only the instructor see them?
  • How will these be assessed?
  • Should there also be a reflection paper/blog post/something else at the end of this project?
  • I know I need time, but how much time?
  • What about the student that is unsure about using a computer? This obviously wouldn’t be the first assignment in the class, but do I need to incorporate computer usage and internet usage into the plan for this assignment?
  • Recording will probably have to be done during class time.  Would there be enough computers to go around with the proper equipment?


These are just a few of the questions rolling around in my head right now. I think getting this assignment to work would require the right place in the schedule and the availability of the needed supplies.

As a teacher, I think I could learn so much from my students.  Even though I consider myself a digital native, I am sure there are many websites that I could be using that I’ve never heard of before that perhaps my students know of.  I really feel like I could continue my education into the digital world through my students.  This assignment would be for me as well as them.

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Sometimes you just need to break out the markers and brainstorm…

Preview of a “Dream Assignment” that is coming soon:

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Filed under ENGL 516

HALR Chapter 7

My first thought upon reading this chapter was, “Duh.  Of course we want our students to be engaged in Academic Literacy.  This seems like a no brainer”.  But as I read the article I got excited about it.  I loved reading about how teachers were actually implementing this into their classrooms.  Because, as we know, it’s one thing to say “Duh. Of course we should be doing x,y, and z” and a whole other thing to actually implement this into our classrooms.

Will Brown’s idea of the “Preambles” that he has his students write reminded me of a chapter I read in “What is ‘College-Level’ Writing?”.  The chapter was by Sheridan Blau and discussed this idea of allowing students to discover what is involved in a genre by writing.  They find what is acceptable or unacceptable in that genre.  The students can then develop into contributing members within the discipline.  I don’t feel like I’m explaining it very well here, but I feel like this is what Brown was doing with his students.  He was allowing them to learn the language, to learn the discourse specific to Chemistry, and to become contributing members in the classroom.

I think the idea that I’m getting at is that both of these teachers (Blau and Brown) allowed students to develop a voice in the classroom.  Their ideas and contributions were valued. I think that’s one of the primary ways to engage students: value what they have to say as part of classroom/academic discourse.


Filed under ENGL 515

happenings on the homefront…

My dog is on benadryl.

Apparently he has severe allergies (we think, he has a vet appointment today). The thump, thump, thump of his paw hitting the floor as he scratches himself can be heard almost any moment of the day. He has chewed his hair off in some places because he itches so bad. I feel sorry for him. But he’s also driving me insane. I can only take so much more of the thump, thump, thump.

He’s staring at me now. I think he knows I’m spilling his secrets on the internet.

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HALR ch. 23 response: Literacy is complicated

While reading this chapter, the sentence that stuck out right away was this: “When it comes to boys and literacy, things are more complicated than you think” (360, emphasis original). Maybe it jumped out at me because my immediate thought was, “Duh.  Isn’t everything more complicated than we think it is?”  But I think it’s an important idea that we need to continually remind ourselves about.  Literacy is complicated.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.  There isn’t even a single definition.  There are about a bazillion different kinds.  Literacy, and everything that goes with it, is complicated.

As I’ve been going through this course, I’ve begun to understand a fraction of how complicated literacy is.  While before my definition of literacy might have been just the ability to read and write, I’m learning that there is so much more to it.  I think this concept of literacy being complicated is one that we need to keep reminding ourselves and others of.  When we get discouraged trudging through what literacy is, we should remind ourselves that above all else, it is complicated.  When our students are struggling through material or with tests, we need to remind ourselves that literacy is complicated.  We don’t have all the answers to literacy.  Some days I’m pretty sure I don’t have any of the answers.  Other days the answers change every ten minutes.  That’s because literacy is complicated.

And I’m starting to be okay with that.

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