Writing: Still fun, still far from easy

Today I was asked by the lovely folks at DML Commons to participate in a webinar about writing and collaboration, and it was so much fun to chat with several fantastic academic writers about their writing ideas and habits.grantwriting-tablescape

In short, I’d say that the major lesson was that (surprisingly or unsurprisingly!), writing
is hard for everyone. That, and we all are addicted to coffee.

Here’s my tablescape from yesterday’s grant writing. A nice window, coffee, tea, and knitting are just some of the ingredients in my successful writing sessions. I have to have caffeine and a distraction for my hands.

Sometimes, I don’t think that my students believe me when I tell them that I have a difficult time with writing, too. It’s tough to make the time to sit down and hash out what I mean. It’s even tougher when I show a messy draft to someone else and that person doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say.

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#walkmyworld: Googlemaps Biography

As a part of my School University Dialogues research project, I’ve been visiting high school and college writing classrooms. I spent some time with my UNH colleague Leah Williams yesterday. She’s a creative writer, primarily, and has done some amazing things as far as developing techniques for teaching students about multimodal writing and digital composition. I sat with her students, who were writing stories about first jobs and summer camps, landmarks and realizations.

They were working on Googlemaps biographies —using maps to chart their narratives through physical locations — which seemed like a lovely way to think about this week’s #walkmyworld theme, our Journeys.

So, I tried it. I didn’t include full stories or original photos for every location I’ve lived, but I enjoyed combining the map, my own stories, and images that I’ve made and saved over the years. This snapshots-like technique appeals to the poet who still lurks inside of me (and is a little afraid of long-form personal writing).

googlemaps-bio

Here’s a link to my Googlemaps essay. You can’t see much in this tiny screenshot.

#walkmyworld: Identity

For this past week’s #walkmyworld, I spent a long time thinking about various possibilities and events for sharing. I’ve been many different people over the course of becoming the professor I am today, but I’ve thought of myself as a teacher for many years. My first teaching gig was as a teenager, when I taught horseback riding. When I abandoned my original graduate school plans to study education policy — by writing an undergrad thesis, I had learned exactly how much I disliked reading and writing that kind of research — I went with something that felt plausible, comfortable, familiar. I decided to become an English teacher.

harvest-manipIt sounds too easy when I tell the story like that, though.

One thing I’ve found is that there’s very few people have easy, straightforward career stories. In the midst of this unrelenting winter, my methods students have been interviewing for their full-year certification internships. As they jump into planning their own careers as teachers, I can see the tension rising. They’re seniors, soon to be graduate students, and they want to know that their plans will resolve into solidity, too, eventually. So, I’ve been trying to talk through my own life more often. It’s complicated, even in hindsight, and I have to laugh at myself.Read More »

Testing: Way Back

Bascom_Hall_at_duskI originally started this blog as a test platform for Teaching and Learning Insights, a web-magazine that I began along with Sandra Courter as a part of a UW–Madison College of Engineering 2010 project. During the time of the 2010 grants, several Engineering departments investigated ways to encourage student retention, particularly among women and students of color, groups that were (and are) generally under-represented in the field of Engineering. The College hired a few graduate students from Education (including me) to help think about pedagogy, and so I spent a year talking with the Engineering faculty about their teaching practices. TLI was intended to communicate both strategies and supporting research related to teaching and learning in college engineering classrooms and it was distributed to all faculty, instructional staff, and students.

I eventually decided to hand-code the template for TLI during the 2007-2008 academic year, and I interviewed many engineering professors in order to write its various articles.

Image credit: CC Wikimedia picture of UW-Madison’s Bascom hall. Original photo (and quite a lot of history of the university) can be found here.