IWCA SI Days 3 and 4
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.