Computers and Writing nOOb

Monday, June 10th, 2013

First of all, this post really doesn’t at all convey my true excitement about all that I learned at C&W 2013. It only tries to get at the big picture points, as most of my blog posts do.

‘This past week I attended my first Computers and Writing (#cwcon on Twitter) conference. Before I tell you more, I have to confess one thing:

I do not write code. I am not a programmer. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

And at first, I thought this might be a stumbling block, or a complete dead end in the road, especially as I participated in the Graduate Research Network and met a ton of coders and computer programmer types. I just sat there through most of the conversations and wondered WTF, am I in the right place? What am I doing here? These people are great, I thought, but I have nothing to contribute to this conversation. My only knowledge of any code is basic HTML knowledge that I picked up in the mid and late 90s and by now that is probably so old it is akin to ancient rhetoric, though admittedly I still use it when I need to. And I mean, anyone who had a livejournal account and/or an angelfire site had to use some basic HTML. You want to bold and italicize, don’t you? You want to insert that link. You need that cool graphic on your livejournal. But do I code? Oh, hell no. In fact, I have some interest in coding, but not enough to get me started fully right now. I have started codeacademy, but my progress is slow, mainly because of everything else I am doing. But that is probably more or less an excuse.

But as I continued to participate in the conference, I felt more at ease. For one, no one was bothered that I was tweeting or using my phone during panels. People always assume I am not paying attention if I am on my phone or ipad or macbook, but normally I am and in most cases I was actually tweeting the conference panel. I also was able to participate in a number of discussions about social media and teaching, about creative writing and new media (and by the way, I met a ton of people who are creative writers and do use social media to distribute, promote, and work on their writing, so haha), and there was even some really fun and nostalgic discussions about angelfire, livejournal, and even Homestar Runner. In fact, I think a few of us got really nostalgic about Homestar Runner via Twitter. In some ways, these folks were speaking my language, even if I did not know Javascript or Python.

Along with that, I learned a lot, especially about multimodality. A lot of the panels I went to focused on multimodal pedagogy. Probably the most useful thing I came away with in terms of teaching was how to better my multimodal assignments, particularly the professional blog assignment. I realized I need to almost completely revamp that, particularly the rubric. Students have been kind of awful at the multimodal component of the blog, and after attending computers and writing, I understand why. I realized I need to make these things much more explicit to them and maybe eventually work to teach them some code, once i start to learn it. I also need to talk with them more about “hacking spaces.” I need to get them to use Google Drive, Google+ hangouts, etc more, especially in my online classes. What people discussed and presented on inspired me not to do more with technology, because I already do a lot and don’t want to start the Creepy Treehouse, but to do better with technology.

Finally, I don’t think I have been to a more friendly, collegial conference in my life. I think I must have connected with at least 30 people via Twitter and am still getting Twitter follows. But don’t go thinking this conference was some Utopia conference, especially considering the coffee situation, though that stuff was entirely contextual to Frostburg, or seemed to be. I think some things need to be improved (for example, I heard a few complaints about gender in terms of women who don’t code and the bias that surrounds that as well as how race has been treated at the conference), but I think those conversations are getting started, or seemed to be and I hope they are and that those conversations grow and continue. Either way, C&W has a great community with highly talented people and great ideas that are already being implemented. At one point in the conference, Karl Stolley said that ‘if you aren’t here, I don’t know what you are doing.” While that may sound harsh, he has a point. I don’t feel my connection to technology is a bad thing when it is a learning and teaching tool and has given me, and all of us, the opportunities we now enjoy and will enjoy later.

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