I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.--Didion

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In Consideration of Sustainability: Is Crude Oil Really That Bad?

Third student reblog—this post is well-developed and really reflects the informational tone of science blogs. 


Crude oil, also known as petroleum (or “black gold”), is a naturally occurring liquid substance made of hydrocarbons. This liquid fossil fuel is incredibly combustible and when combusted, releases a massive amount of energy. Thanks to our “over-use” of crude oil, we have saturated our atmosphere…

Filed under Composition Classroom Writing Sustainability Digital composing

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In Consideration of Sustainability: Greener Products for Greener Building

Here’s another blog entry from my student about eco-carpet. As an interior design major, he’s especially aware of the value of sustainable construction which shows well in this well-developed post.


Currently there is about 4 billion lbs of carpet added to American landfills each year. This carpet is added to a disgustingly large amount already sitting there today. It takes at least 7 years for carpet to decompose and yet an estimated 9 billion lbs of new carpet are sold a year with the only…

(Source: interfaceflor.com)

Filed under digital composing composition digital composition sustainability classroom interior design

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In Consideration of Sustainability: Why You Should Buy a Real-Live Christmas Tree (And Keep That Plastic One in Storage)

The first contributions by my students to our class Tumblr were posted this week.  Here’s a particularly savvy post by my student Jake about the benefits of live Christmas trees over fake.


-Rachel Thomas, christmas tree farm

Each year around December, many American families make the trip to find and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. Some families, like my own, opt for a less traditional plastic tree. My family bought ours the year I was born with the intent of…

Filed under Digital Composing Composition Christmas Trees Education Student Writing

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Class(es) Blog!

Announcing…a class Tumblr!

Since the scope of Auburn’s English Composition II curriculum is pretty far-reaching in terms of content, I’ve decided to move a little bit of the course into the extracurriculum of Tumblr. My class blog, In Consideration of Sustainability, will eventually contain at least 75 Tumblr posts from my students about different issues related to sustainability. They’ll use this project to compose writing for a real audience while learning how knowledge is transfered more and more through social media.

I hope to expand a little more on what I learn from this project as students start submitting work. For now, here’s the prompt and rubric for the assignment.

Filed under Sustainability Tumblr Tumblr in the classroom Composition

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Writing Assignment #2—thoughts

I just completed Writing Assignment #2, just to get a student’s perspective about how they might have approached the work. I chose two advertisements for Converse shoes:

I chose this ad from 1961 to compare to this ad from 2008-2009:

My response links here. My thoughts about the assignment:

1. I found myself being repetitive—what I wanted to say about logos seemed to be the same as what I wanted to say about pathos.

2. The kairos question was the hardest by far. I’m not sure if it’s because I picked such an old advertisement for the first ad, but I feel like a student might have a hard time answering that question if she doesn’t already know a lot about the political, cultural, economic, and social conditions of the particular decade.

3. I wrote pretty lengthy answers. I was thinking that the questions would be 2-3 sentence answers, but I wrote more.

4. The assignment took me 30 minutes. I’m a pretty efficient writer, but it still took longer than I imagined it would given my knowledge of Aristotelian rhetoric. I’m thinking my students will finish it anywhere between 30 minutes-1 hour. I really hope that they didn’t spend more than an hour writing the assignment.

Overall I think this is a good way for students to start looking at details and making conclusions. I’ll ask my students what they thought about it tomorrow, but early finishers can post a response here.

Filed under Advertising Converse Chuck Taylors Retro Writing Writing Assignment Pedagogy Aristotle Rhetoric Argument Teaching Students

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Poor Kairos

A discussion of the Aristotelian pisteis, or means of persuasion, is incomplete without a brief discussion of kairos. This term was one of the two words the Greeks had for the concept of time. Whereas chronos/khronos referred to empirical, measurable time, kairos refers to the idea of right time and seasons, or proper measure and association.

Kairos is a huge part of an argument’s context, or situation in which the argument exists. Sometimes, that context can mean the difference between an argument’s persuasiveness and its ineffectiveness.

The link I’ve posted above explains the poor timing of a Levi’s ad recently introduced in the UK. To some, the video, which features young people rioting, seems too similar to the recent riots in London. This is a perfect example of kairos gone wrong—only the poor timing of the ad in relationship to current events makes it a tasteless and ineffective way to sell jeans.

Of course, context is contingent upon the audience. If this ad were shown in America, we might not care so much since we’re a little removed from the violence in England. For us, right time means something different.

This isn’t the first ad campaign to fall victim to poor kairos. Can anyone out there think of other ad campaigns criticized for bad timing?

Filed under kairos Levis chronos proper time argument Aristotle

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First Day of School: Technology

Today is the first day of classes at Auburn. My students will be looking at this site for the first time—if that’s you, welcome! Feel free to follow me on your own Tumblrs and respond/comment to my posts.

Today I asked my classes to draft a technology policy for our classroom. I will add the policies they choose, mostly unedited, as an amendment to our class syllabus. Why do this?

In the past, I’ve been sort of a luddite in the classroom. No laptops, cell phones or other tech items are allowed. In the comp classroom, they tend to be more of a distraction than not. Yet at the end of the period, I would join my students in checking my phone and writing a quick text/email. The composing process, which I tried to explain for the past hour in a tech-free environment, continues outside of the classroom in a technical environment.

That’s not a good thing—by alienating my students from their technology, often their most comfortable way of composing, I’m effectively saying, “I don’t care how you write. I don’t care about your literate practices.”

I think technology fits well with the famous document composed by the Conference on College Composition entitled, "Students’ Right to Their Own Language." Though the amendment was drafted in 1974, and it really refers to student dialect, I think that we can comfortably say that technology by composing is a sort of dialect, an inflection on the English language. Certainly, we can agree that technology creates new dialects, such as lolspeak and txttlk.

I’m especially drawn to the first sentence of the document:

"We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of
language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they
find their own identity and style.”

I think of “identity” and “style,” and find that my own identity is almost inextricably linked to technology. As a teacher, I plan my classes exclusively using technology. As a researcher, the majority of my research takes places on scholarly databases. As a human being, I’m connected to world communities through digital social networks. Technology is my style and identity. For my students that have grown up in a technologically driven world, it’s theirs too.

So, in deference to their “diverse heritages” as technology users, I’m letting them choose their composing processes. Hopefully, it will make the class more enjoyable and relevant to their continued lives living with technology.

Filed under Conference on College Composition and Communication Technology Freshman Composition ENGL 1120 Student's Right to Their Own Language Classroom Dialect

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Thinking about Language, Strangers from Hawaii, and Putting Money to the Mouth

I reblogged this from a Tumblr I made for one of my graduate seminars. It reflects my anxiety about allowing students to use their own linguistic practices in the classroom.

I was extremely suprised and pleased to see that Dr. Serviss assigned us “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” from January 2011’s College English. An encounter with a stranger at the Bedford Party led me to attend a panel on World Englishes and Code-Switching. In attendance: Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, and Vershawn Ashanti Young, who, as panel moderator, actually read from this very opinion piece as he discussed the particulars of code-meshing (the concept of “meshing” as identified by Young is the literal combining of parts and elements of multiple languages/dialects together in a composition). The stranger we met was Richard Nettell of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He gave a very interesting talk (albeit five minutes) about how we should look at pidgin as a distinctive language with its own rules and conventions, rather than just a hybrid of two different languages. Formal code-meshing I guess.

At dinner we had an engaging conversation about language. Dr. Nettell’s background is in linguistics, a subject traditionally touchy about what constitutes “proper” and measured language use. Throughout our conversation, he was emphatically suggesting to us that we should let students write in whatever language they want in their writing. As long as we can suitably understand what they’re saying, they might as well use the language that they’re most comfortable in, the language used in their other composing practices. He said a lot of other things too (mostly about the pointlessness of certain parts of the conference; an idea which this blog entry will not explore), but this was the major gist of our discussion. I thought that this was well and good, but I didn’t know what it meant to me, a new teacher of composition. So I asked him what to do:

“So…how do I start respecting my students’ uses of language in the classroom. What should I do?”

He gave me two pieces of advice:

1. Make your students include some sort of clause at the end of their papers about how they acknowledge that they have the freedom to use the language most comfortable and accessible to them, and that their grade will be based only on the merit of their ideas, and

2. Prove to your students that you respect translingual writing practices by engaging in code-meshing in your own graduate seminar papers and other written works. (He might have said “walk-the-walk” but I might have made that up.)

I had a lot of thoughts about what he said. They came in a stream in my mind, and I think many of them were addressed by the College English article. Here was my stream of consciousness, so far as I can remember:

-My grad professors won’t approve of code-meshing in my writing.

-Wait, maybe my comp professors would

-But what codes am I “meshing?” I only speak one language

-No, I have the “language” of popular culture, the type of writing I do informally on the web and my academicized writing.

-But what I do is nothing compared to students meshing SWE with AAVE or Spanish or whatever else they speak

-I think my students would dig a translingual approach to writing seeing as how they might be stigmitized by their Southern dialects in the future

-I suppose I shouldn’t be so annoyed at my students when they write me emails without capital letters or punctuation

-But really, I could never turn in a seminar paper with my “multiple” languages

Ok, so out of this mess of thoughts, I think the authors do a good job of addressing some of these concerns. Yes, I do speak multiple “languages” as I engage in a number of writing practices all requiring a different type of writing. Yes, I should be “develop[ing] ways of taking up [translingualism by] changing the kind of attention [paid] to our language practices, questioning the assumptions underlying our learned dispositions toward difference in language, and engaging in critical inquiry on alternative dispositions to take toward such differences in our writing and reading” (313). I’m obviously getting this questioning thing down.

But in terms of “walking the walk” and being a good model to students, I don’t think the article covers that idea sufficiently enough. We don’t see a lot of models of translingual writing in our field; if we do, they’re not looked upon as being normative. The opinion article was written by four scholars, all with distinctive lingual practices. Yet each of them had to eschew these differences in favor of a language (very formal, full of voice yet voiceless) that could best negotiate all of their voices. Surprise! It happens to be SWE they write in. So, how do we “walk the walk” as scholars? That seems unclear, and problematically so, because as the article and Dr. Nettell have so emphatically suggested, it is our responsibility as instructors to both welcome and embrace these open language practices.

So, of course, I’ve been obsessively thinking about my language. I write handwritten endnotes on essays in letter form. I typically catch myself using shorthand like b/c for because and @; however, that’s my shorthand language, and I should be acknowledging this fluidity…right? Anyway, I’m not worrying about it anymore, and just letting the shorthand fly.  I am, however, a little less confident about code-meshing in my graduate papers…

(Source: thecompblog)

Filed under Code Meshing Code Switching Dialect Pedagogy AAVE SWE CCCC Composition Literacy Translingualism Language