Reflection

An important aspect of writing that this class has taught me about is the value of multimodality in literacy. At first I resisted the use of images in my blog posts because I was unaccustomed to integrating them into my writing, but I was slowly able to branch out and adapt to the blog form of writing a little better. I think blogging is really valuable in that it allows anyone to post their opinions online, but it also holds those people accountable to an extent since viewers can comment and challenge their idea– like we did in class. It also is ideal for multimodality and allows the user to post multiple forms of information on their blog, thus catering to people with different learning styles and making the information more equally accessible to everyone.

 

This class has made me question my writing process, and the research we did on others helped me see the use of CTW classes for freshmen; I think that the freshman composition classes need to be re-analyzed and altered accordingly, but I do not think that schools should get rid of the class meant to help students develop life-long writing skills.

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“Reversing Notions of Disability” by Dunn and De Mers

Dunn and De Mers look at ways in which communities have adjusted for the sake of including “disabled” persons and apply this to ways in which the Web is a community that is being made accessible to all.  They list a number of W3C’s guidelines that attempt to make this an area of equal accessibility through access to various modes of information, such as pictures and videos.  The article then applies this concept to the field of composition; the authors focus on various “multimodal” ways of learning and of composing writing, and end with a discussion of the possibilities presented by the Web and its easy incorporation of several modes at once.

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The multi-modal reading response logs reminded me of what we do in this class; we think about and discuss the ideas presented in our readings in a number of different ways.  We discuss them first with each other online, through text, pictures, memes, gifs, video, or any other sort of media we choose to include.  Then we discuss them in class, engaging with the professor and to one another face-to-face.  With our Leading Methods Activities, we often utilize other modes of literacy as well–for example, we used sketches to learn about our own writing processes.  The multi-modal reading response logs include all of these different manners of engaging in the writing process (sketched logs, conventional written logs, voicemail logs, etc.)  It does not, maybe, include 3D presentation logs, which seem a little out there in encouraging the use of dance and pipe cleaners to interpret readings.  In this way I feel that the multi-modal logs could get a little side tracked from the main point of reading and engaging critically with the material at hand.  Still, I agree that the writing process should be made more accessible to those who may feel hindered by traditional composing methods.  I’ve been surprised by how helpful I have found a few of our methods to be–such as conducting our own mini research projects or drawing out our own writing processes; so maybe such strange methods are at least worth a try.

Shaughnessy’s Introduction

After reading Harris’s interpretation of Shaughnessy, I was a little surprised by her introduction.  She begins with a discussion of new admission policies in the 70’s allowing underprepared students into colleges and how teachers reacted to this.  Shaughnessy designates writers at this level as Basic Writers and states that her goal is to assist inexperienced teachers in approaching the subject of BWs.  From my understanding of Shaughnessy from Harris’s perspective, I assumed she would apply a didactic approach and enumerate the exact steps a teacher must take when addressing error with BWs–an approach that is frighteningly formulaic and fails to address the fact that each writer and situation is extremely different and should not necessarily be approached in the same way.  However, Shaughnessy (at least in her introduction) appears very conscious of this fact.  She writes:

“While I have sketched out a course plan in my final chapter which arranges the pieces of my analysis into teaching order, I do not expect anyone to accept it as a prototype.  It is, let us say, a tried way of beginning  a writing apprenticeship”(391).

Her emphasis on error, furthermore, seems reasonable; “[errors] demand energy without giving any return in meaning; they shift the reader’s attention from where he is going (meaning) to how he is getting there (code)” (395).

While Shaughnessy’s actual writing may contain more of the didactic, narrow approach that Harris accused her of having, her introduction contains some enlightening ideas and indicate that she does not intend for a step-by-step approach to solving the BW issue.  Going straight to the source instead of relying on another’s interpretation of it has given me another view on the issues at stake, and having more views on a subject is helping me in terms of gaining a better understanding of the subject being discussed.

Harris on Error

“We need to make sure that in distancing ourselves from poor practice (a focus on error alone) we don’t seem to advocate an equally unconvincing stance (no concern with error at all).” (Harris 118)

In his chapter on Error, Harris discusses the shift from Shaughnessy’s focus on error, on teaching writing by teaching grammar, to a focus on academic discourse–a focus on critical thinking (113).  While composition teachers stress higher order concerns in writing–such as a clear idea and a clear argument, Harris reminds us that lower order concerns, such as errors in grammar, are equally important in that they threaten the credibility of the author.  He states that “it is precisely because many mistakes (lapses in spelling or punctuation, for instance) seem so trivial that their appearance in a writer’s text can seem to speak of a lack of care or ability” (115).  Harris also points out that sometimes the reason we catch errors in student work that we might not catch in published work is that we look for and expect such mistakes in a paper.

In his postscript, he includes Andrea Lunsford and Karen Lunsford’s research about the decline in spelling and grammatical errors in student writing as a result of writing softwares, as well as an increase in errors concerning sentence structure and the use of wrong words.  These come “not only from carelessness or inexperience but ambition” and show “that a writer is struggling to articulate” (122).  This shows that the writers have the interest necessary to learn the grammar needed to better express their ambitious statements, although it also raises the issue of voice and the question of whether or not these students should be feeling such pressure to write over-ambitiously and consequently incoherently.

Chronotopic Lamination

Prior and Shipka’s chapter on chrontopic lamination follows four of their case studies–writers whom they asked to draw different pictures demonstrating their writing process, to explain the drawings and comment on their writing process, and to share additional materials such as notes and drafts.  Chronotopic lamination is the notion of “the dispersed, fluid chains of places, times, people, and artifacts that come to be tied together in trajectories of literate action.”

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What stands out among the drawings in the four case studies are the similarities in terms of integration between private and communal spaces and between solitude and socialization, and how all of these play into the writing process.  I think that these drawings present an interesting opportunity for both researcher and subject to learn more about an individual’s writing process; by thinking about a highly conceptual and analytical process in a more spatial form, the writer can potentially get a better grasp on certain things that are hard to put into words, or he may draw something that would not have ordinarily come up in a simple reflective paragraph about his writing process.

Research on Process: Natural Habitat vs. Artificial Lab

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In her long term study of an experienced writer, Carol Berkenkotter addresses the   “context stripping” phenomenon (as named by Janet Emig) that occurs in writing research.  EMI claims that, by removing writers from their “natural” writing habitats and forcing them to perform as subjects in a writing lab, researchers inevitably influence their subjects’ performance.  In the first part of the project, Berkenkotter’s subject, Donald Murray, spent 62 days speaking into a tape recorder whenever he was composing; in the second stage, he was given one hour to compose aloud, working on an unfamiliar task; and in the third stage, Berkenkotter observed Murray working at his home as he revised an article he was working on.

The results indicated a large percentage of time spent planning–although Berkenkotter realized that revising and planning were inseparable and described the two as a process of reconceiving (162). Since the writer constantly “moves back and forth between planning, drafting, editing, and reviewing” planning can be seen as a recursive process (166).

In terms of the study itself, I found stage two of the project most interesting.  In the more traditional research setting of a writing lab where the “rat” is given an unfamiliar task to complete, Murray, experienced as he was, obviously struggled.  He had difficulty imagining his audience–either young adults (around age 12) or the grandparents buying the magazines for them.  Murray had originally stated that writers only consider their audiences when editing and polishing; however, the study shows that he was so accustomed to speaking to an audience after his years of journalistic experience that he did so automatically.  In his own reflections on being the subject of the study, Murray noted his surprise that he was so aware of his audience throughout the process of writing.

It makes sense to me that a professional writer may be more aware of his audience than he believes; at some point, it just becomes habit to keep that audience in the back of your mind.  However, Murray also notes that he worries that being too used to the process of writing can make “the experienced writer… too glib, too slick, too professional, too polished–can, in effect, write too well” (172).  The notion of writing too well seems strange because there is always room for improvement in one’s writing.  Yet if a writer is too used to his audience, maybe he stops questioning the ideas he is writing about and focuses only on “polishing” the work towards what his audience wants to see or hear.  Stage two becomes even more interesting then, in that, while it does not accurately portray the writer’s full composition process since it takes place in a strange environment, it does force the writer, having been removed from his comfort zone, to reconsider his writing process.  Future studies should consider using both methods to gain a better sense of a writer’s “natural” process while also forcing the writer to consider that process in a new way.