Skip to main content

Computers and Writing 2009

I attended Computers and Writing 2009, earlier this month and returned with mixed emotions.

First, the negatives -- so I can end on the positives of the actual presentations and keynotes.

As you can guess, the job market for writing teachers at all levels is weak. The reality is that a handful of instructors are losing their jobs; new jobs are definitely not on the horizon. Community colleges, four-year colleges, and full universities are all suffering from a lack of funds. Writing seems to be an easy target for cuts. In some cases, courses will migrate to online settings and in other instances graduate students will assume more teaching responsibilities.

Technology, especially online courses and hybrids, are letting universities outsource general education. This is definitely a rough trend to confront. While it is good for the online companies, which offer packaged online courses overseen by part-time, freelancing instructors with graduate degrees, the end result is that general education becomes homogenized and commoditized.

Some attendees told me that writing instructors at their institutions are never tenure-track faculty. Writing is seen as "blue-collar" and handled by instructors with annual contracts, adjuncts without tenure, and various part-time employees. At some institutions, writing instructors are employed by a myriad of departments, so the writing tasks can be focused on the disciplinary needs. Again, such instructors are viewed as laborers, not professors.

Now, the positives.

Most writing programs are embracing technology and alternatives to printed texts. Video and audio are accepted forms of composition, which gives me hope.

More of the presentations addressed fiction and creative non-fiction. This means we are allowing for more than the "academic" forms in our classrooms. That's a good thing.

The instructors recognize that students are living online, familiar with numerous media. In some cases, getting the students "off-line" is important, so instructors are experimenting with assignments that take students away from computers. Collage compositions was an interesting concept: create a collage representing you, then write about. Sure, this could be done digitally, but the idea is to move away from technology a bit.

There is an understanding that we need to balance many thing: virtual / physical, new media / traditional media, creative / academic writing. In the end, these aren't binaries, but our students need bridges to recognize that binaries exist to be challenged.

It was a good event, even if it reinforced how tough the job market is.


Popular posts from this blog

What I Studied in Graduate School

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superposed onto some guides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Asked to summarize my research projects...

Curiously, beyond the theses and dissertation, all my work is in economics of media and narrative. I ask what works and why when offering stories to audiences. What connects with an audience and can we model what audiences want from narratives? (Yes, you can model data on narratives and what "sells" and what wins awards and what nobody wants.)

Yet, my degree research projects all relate to design of writing spaces, as knowing what works is also key to knowing what could be "sold" to users.

MA: How poor LMS UI/UX design creates online spaces that hinder the writing process and teacher mentoring of students.

Also: The cost of LMS design and compliance with legal mandates for usability.

Ph.D: The experiences of special needs students in online settings, from commercial spaces to games to learning spaces and which spaces are best desig…

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

MarsEdit and Blogging

MarsEdit (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mailing posts to blogs, a practice I adopted in 2005, allows a blogger like me to store copies of draft posts within email. If Blogger, WordPress, or the blogging platform of the moment crashes or for some other reason eats my posts, at least I have the original drafts of most entries. I find having such a nicely organized archive convenient — much easier than remembering to archive posts from Blogger or WordPress to my computer.

With this post, I am testing MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software based on recent reviews, including an overview on 9to5Mac.

Composing posts an email offers a fast way to prepare draft blogs, but the email does not always work well if you want to include basic formatting, images, and links to online resources. Submitting to Blogger via Apple Mail often produced complex HTML with unnecessary font and paragraph formatting styles. Problems with rich text led me to convert blog entries to plaintext in Apple Mail and then format th…