Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making us stronger

So it is officially one week after the flood that tried to shut down the Salt Lake Community College Student Writing Center. They are are doing a massive clean-up asbestos abatement on our floor, we're back down in our building's lobby. We're not feeling so homeless this time, as we have a phone, a computer, and more students than we have chairs for. Our College's President and Academic Vice President have walked by regularly and have been impressed.

Here's what the hall near the SLCC Student Writing Center looks like some moments ago:

Sad. Well, as they say, whatever doesn't kill us....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Mic

Open mic was a great success! We all had fun, laughed, felt, were moved, and laughed even more. I will have to say that the entire trip was worth Paula using the phrase "Belching Divas" in reference to ordering cucumber seeds during the winter.

Sorry you all missed it.


Update. Here is a photo of me reciting poetry.

Here is the link to the SI Flickr site:

IWCA SI Days 3 and 4

To all the folks that missed the webcast: Boy did you miss out. I was great. But that was not all that happened on day 3, just the most public.

I had planned to write every night, but last night a group of us returned late--read 2345 local time--from a fantastic rendition of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." As Brad asked, "What made it fantastic?"

Well, the actors did not really hurt the situation, nor did the lighting, music, setting, and the script seemed to be useful. To be honest, the actors performed brilliantly. The adaptation made parts of the setting more modern--such as dress and props--but the lines were more or less original. And the dancing at the end was really great, also.

The more academic--if anything can be more academic than Shakespeare--activities of day 3 included an opening session discussing how to prepare consultants for working with multilingual writers. As you can tell, multilingual writers are something of a theme for the SI, but for good reason. They have a different set of needs and expectations when they come to us, and we need to understand and respect their needs and expectations.

At this point I will rant. The most common point of discussion so far has been directive vs. non-directive. This idea was complicated with the addition of directing as a middle ground, but the basic premise still stands: How much do we tell and much do we ask for? There is no place that this comes up more than with multilingual/cultural writers. Here is were I feel we--as a field--get too caught up in our own theory and practice to stop and look at an assumption: the writer wants us to be non-directive. Working from this assumption, the debate is free to wax and wane in theoretical discussions and pedagogical experiments.
What if this assumption is wrong? Yes, we can all cite North's axiom of "better writers, not better papers," and pontificate about authority, power, ownership, and collaboration. But what if the write does not want non-directive? What if they want directing? What if the want directive? Then what? Do we tell them, "Nope. We can not--and will not--do that. Sucks to be you"?
In this debate, the overlooked complication--in my view--is the writers' wants. We can tell them what they need all day, and they can ignore us for just as long. But what do they want?

Shifting out of rant mode, the next order of business on day 3 was the webcast, which you can go watch for yourself here.

After lunch on the town, I attended a session concerning podcasts in the WC. Brad and Nancy did a wonderful job explaining what they have done and what they plan to do in the future. I would highly suggest looking up their site and giving their work a listen.

The day ended--brain work-wise--with a thought provoking looking look at mass literacy presented by Deborah Brandt, a WU-Madison faculty and well known scholar in the her field. She pointed out how writing ability is rapidly becoming more important than the ability to read. It was truly eye opening, especially the socioeconomic ramifications and implications.

Which brings me today.
By this point many of us are starting to drag and arrive at the first session closer and closer to the starting point. So far Brad has not grumped at us, but I am not sure how long that will last.

The first session of the day was a brief look at OWLs and what they bring to, or remove from, the WC. The session seemed to create some new believers, but there are still a number of skeptics, for good reason. The question is not simple and the concerns are valid. But, I think, that a well trained and dedicated staff can produce high quality online responses that will serve the needs of the student, WC, and institution. In the event you disagree, please argue; I am getting lonely on this blog.

Following the OWL pelts, or snippets of discussion, we moved into a panel grilling, er, discussion, with some consultants and writers. There were many hard, layered, pointed questions thrown at this group of willing subjects, but handled themselves exceptionally well. I do not think they ever got stumped or were at a total lack of something to say. In fact, many of their answers were very articulate and thought provoking. One comment the stuck in my mind was made by a writer who uses the WC. She commented the she 'shopped' for her consultant. She said, "I tried them on. Some didn't fit right, others were just wrong." It got a laugh and points to the ever importance of rapport.

The last session I attended was about research in the WC. Neal, Paula, and Brad all outlined various ways to conduct research, were to find data, and how to use what is found. We were given many handouts; we discussed our personal research projects or dreams; we discussed what did not work; we discussed how to fund research. In the end, I think we left with a great place to start and encouragement to go forth and examine.

Here in a few minutes we are having an open mic event. For reasons that I am not going to explain, I will be reciting poetry. Think about that for a while BSU folks. Also, for the BSU contingent, they have a beer here called Fat Squirrel. It is rather good.

So long for now.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great flood of 2008

Great flood of 2008, originally uploaded by Student Writing Center.

Because of a problem with a new roof, the Student Writing Center was forced out of its traditional home by pouring water. We found a new space, however, in the foyer of our building.

Welcome home

It looks like is finally playing nice. Enjoy the new home!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still trying is being very uncooperative on the redirect to I'll keep you posted.


Hello all.

Another packed day here at the Pyle Center. The weather is holding, the food is good, the conversation stimulating: A good day.

But what a day. It started with an in-depth cursory look at diversity in the writing center. Follow me on this one. It was in-depth because we discussed and questioned many oft-overlooked topics within diversity, but cursory because we could not run all the conversations out to their full length or strength. I doubt any conversation about diversity within any institution can ever be really run out, but we did not even get fully warmed up. One point that really stood out to me about the discussion was the varied--and often unaddressed--expectations. It seems that so many topics and points within diversity are hung up on unreconciled--or inadequately articulated--expectations, which are not being met. Since diversity means different thing in different situations--rhetorical or otherwise--and since each mean carries specific, if unexamined and unarticulated, expectations, part of the solution must be understanding what is expected by all parties involved. This sounds clinical and calculated; maybe it should be because it is so wrapped up in emotion. If we can step out of the hyper-emotional view and understanding of diversity, maybe some solutions to difficult questions would be easier to indentify, understand, and implement.

The next session focused on how tutors/consultants are 'trained.' The quotes are a result of the discussion that we do not so much train tutors/consultants as we educate them. A subtle delineation between training and education was drawn, a delineation that I agree with and find important. In short, as Nancy Grimm phrased it, "I train my dog, but my dog educates me." Training is focused on specific skills and steps that are to be followed. Education is focused on understand and analysis. The goal, therefore, is for tutors/consultants to be educated in the theory and practice of the writing center.

This was all before lunch.

After lunch, we made posters of our centers. Many participants--including me--brought photos and artifacts from their centers, which were then posted on colorful poster board and displayed around the room. The session was then centered around our centers and what is/was central to our layout--be it limitations or decision. Much discussion for and against cubicles--now called carroles (sp?)for reasons I am not fully aware of--ensued. As expected, no one view carried the day, but a compromise was reached: Do what you want in your own center. Other aspects of center layout and decoration were discussed, and there was a great presentation by Delma McLeod-Porter and Linda Larson outlining how they re-build their writing center after hurricane Rita.

I then attended a break-out session that was a continuation of the opening session. The small group and conversational nature led to more questions than answers, but the very fact that we are looking at the minute details and aspects of diversity will help our centers broaden our practices.

Many Special Interest Groups (SIGS) have been formed, each around a specific topic or question. They meet during lunch or for dinner. There is a varied selection and I am unsure which one--if any--I will attend this evening.

Remember the webcast tomorrow!

Any questions? Let me know!



The server on which PeerCentered was hosted was caught in a flood. I have, therefore, moved PeerCentered to its own domain, Hopefully all will go well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

IWCA SI 2008

To follow on Clint's message about the webcast, I would like to make a few comments about the SI and who it is progressing.
To begin; we are busy and a great deal of information is being shared and discussed. There is no real way to contain it all, but the discussions and ideas that have spawned are intriguing and inspiring. To we began the discussion by looking at the similarities and differences between the varied centers represented. Four basic types of centers were detailed: high school, community college, American universities, and international universities. Each has specific needs and goals, but they all are focused on writing and writers.
From there we discussed the use of theory and how it to use 'theory' as a verb, not just a noun. This took some work to wrap my head around, but by the end of the session, my mind--and it would appear the minds of those around me--were spinning with new ideas and possibilities.
One phrase that I hear over and over hear: "I'm going to steal that," referring to a technique or practice. The goal of writing centers--as I understand it--it to explore, learn, tease, and collaborate; that is what we are doing here. Working next to a group of motivated, talented, dedicated, and energetic writing center folks is not easily categorized. I think it must be like living through a historical moment that everyone will remember where they were when it happen, like when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I makes everything seem achievable.

While this is not even an iota of what has occurred, I have limited time.
More to come.


How Did We Get Here?

The IWCA Summer Institute (an annual gathering of writing center professionals from around the world which focuses on writing centers and writing center development) will conduct a live webcast this year:

How Did We Get Here? Finding and Mapping Writing Center Literature
Presenter(s): Neal Lerner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton, Southwestern University
Status: Not Started
During this interactive webcast session, originating from the 2008 IWCA Writing Center Summer Institute, we'll survey the field of writing center literature, identifying and discussing key texts and ideas that helped define and continue to shape the field. We'll do this, in part, with game playing to examine participants' knowledge of writing center literature. Next, we'll move beyond surveys and games to take a critical look at writing center literature and consider such questions as, have some of our founding texts become codifying and limiting, and how can our scholarship reach wider audiences? Finally, we'll walk-through the process of using search engines to locate relevant literature that you'll need either to support the claims you make to colleagues about your work or to pursue your own research. For more information about the 2008 IWCA Writing Center Summer Institute, please visit

Here's a link to the webcast: How Did We Get Here? Finding and Mapping Writing Center Literature.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

High school writing centers

I'd like to introduce Kayla into our peer-centered discussion. She's posting under my identity because she will be here only fleetingly. We would love to hear any of your comments! Here she is:

Hi! My name is Kayla Sinclair. I am a sophomore at Meridian High School in Idaho and I am part of the TRiO Upward Bound program. TRiO is a program helping first-generation college students with low income get into college and get the job they want.
One thing TRiO does is a five-week summer program where the students stay on Boise State University campus for five weeks. While we're here, we take two classes and do a lot of activities, including service-learning projects. Some students are doing internships instead of their second class. My internship is at the BSU Writing Center.
Since I've been working at the center, I've been thinking that it would be really nice, not to mention really useful, to have a writing center at Meridian High. I am working on an article to put into my school newspaper this coming year to persuade students and staff of the necessity of a high school writing center so I'm asking you for any information or advice you might have on anything I could, or should, include in my article. Thank you!

Dear me...

Dear me, It's not about you, but it will affect you, this work. Expect that. Learn to embrace that--the fact that your writing voice ...