Computers and Writing

Whoo hoo! They accepted my proposal.

Your proposal “Ensuring Information Literacy and Sustainable Learning across Socioeconomic Backgrounds” has been accepted for the Computers and Writing 2009 Conference. As you know, the theme of the 2009 conference is Ubiquitous and Sustainable Computing @ school @ work @ play. The conference will be held at the University of California, Davis, June 18 – June 21, 2009. the conference website

It promises to be an outstanding 3 1/2 days of workshops and panels. I am also happy to announce our keynote speakers–Bill Cope (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and Barbara Ganley (Centers for Community Digital Learning / Middlebury College). Friday night will feature the annual Computers and Writing Awards ceremony. Saturday night will include an exhibit of digital artworks/multimedia narrative projects. Following a long standing C&W tradition, bowling will be available for those interested (We have an alley on campus, and have already reserved lanes!).

In keeping with the theme of ubiquitous computing, I would like to encourage you to consider presenting a working version of your project at the online portion of Computers and Writing 2009. The online portion of C&W ’09 runs Feb. 16 – Mar. 2, 2009. Potential venues for online presentations include:
* synchronous sessions in Second Life,
* synchronous sessions using Adobe Connect Pro,
* 2-day list-serv discussions,
* week-long forum topics in Sakai,
* week-long wiki building activities in Sakai,
* podcasts played through Sakai, or
* other innovative online formats.

The CFP for the online conference is at The online portion of C&W 09 is being hosted by a group of California universities (University of California, Irvine; San Jose State (CSU San Jose); University of Southern California; University of California, Santa Barbara; Sacramento State (CSU Sacramento); and University of California, Davis). The online submission form will be available at the conference website following Thanksgiving.

I’d love to submit a working version of my paper. But what venue should I use?

Are you getting enough presentations and papers published?

If not, this UPenn site may have what you need. It has regularly updated CFPs and essay solicitations.

Both of my essay proposals for publication which have been accepted came from there. I hope to also be writing an encyclopedia article, which was okayed but not formally accepted, from that list as well.

In addition, I found a national conference which I have good credentials and papers for which I had never heard of and I applied there.

Part of what makes an instructor marketable is the presenting and publishing. (If you aren’t sure of that, check out my response to an interview discussion. Or look at this conversation on publishing and job offers.)

Working on a paper and finding other things to do

I am working on a paper for CCTE’s State of the Profession. I’ve worked on it from a lot of angles and I am not happy with it yet. I know it is going somewhere, and I know where I want it to go, but the paths I’m taking to get there are not right yet.

While I was searching my hard drive for some quotes I took note of, I found an old paper that I worked on twenty years ago. I had started updating it and realized that one of the Call For Papers would be perfect for it, if I revise it just a little. So I am going to do that.

And I found another CFP that is for an online journal. One of the papers I have just begun working on would be perfect for that. So I need to flesh out the proposal a bit and send it on.

The Pen and the Byte Offer Different Benefits in Teaching, Training, and Scholarship

As teachers of English, we are used to creating learning environments that emphasize reading and writing. These days the learning environment can be physical or digital.

The pen and paper method is a positive one because we have ample experience with it, we have strong pedagogical models for it, and there are plenty of practitioners to offer guidance in it.

The digital environment, on the other hand, is more recent, we have less experience with it, and, while pedagogical models are coming into existence, the models are presently being formed by practice and not informing it. The pen remains mightier than the byte, yet scholarship, training, and teaching are migrating to the web at a rapid pace. What does the internet offer that traditional methodology does not?

The strength of tradition in English is strong and so reliance on pen and paper remains, but the shift toward an internet presence is increasing, because of real-world rewards.

There are non-classroom audiences on the net, when we or our students are posting and blogging.

The physical, time, and geographic constraints for in-place training or teaching are minimized through the adaptation of courses to the internet.

In addition, the immediate access to scholarship offered by its placement on the web has led many, including Harvard University, to move towards a net model.

Does this mean that the byte is mightier than the pen? No, it does not. But it does offer teachers additional tools for creating learning environments and facilitating learning, as well as a chance to remember what it is like to be a novice rather than an expert. A thoughtful use of both would best benefit schools, students, and teachers.

This is my proposal for CCTE’s State of the Profession.

How I used the presidential primaries in class

This is a presidential election year, which can provide plenty of fodder for non-academic research. Usually when I am approving topics, I eliminate those which require primarily the use of news sources. Though the reading level in Opposing Viewpoints is often not a lot higher than that of a newspaper or online news source, the articles are generally longer and more complete. However, because I think it is important for students to know what is going on in the country they live in, even if it is not their country, I like to have controversial issues papers during the election cycle.

Introducing these can be difficult. I can’t simply list these off, because while I pay attention to politics, I ignore a lot of issues that are controversial. This may be my own bias in thinking that those topics aren’t controversial or it might be that I have read a lot and haven’t been persuaded one way or another, so I avoid the elephant and her doo-doo. And sometimes trying to look up a complete list of controversial issues online just drops you down a rabbit hole.

This year the way I introduced them in some of my classes was through online quizzes, before the primaries were finished. There were several news quizzes that listed issues and had you pick whether you agreed or disagreed with them. Then it let you know which candidates you were most in agreement with. One of those,, now presents a list of issues for you to agree or disagree with on a continuum and asks you to rate their importance. Then it tells you whether you are closer on the issues to Obama or McCain. I am not sure how they can do that when politicians swing like weathervanes, but at least they have made a stab at it.

After the students had identified themselves with certain positions on various issues, I asked them to take one of those they felt strongly about and research two candidate’s sides, looking for persuasive arguments. Right now this would come out more as a position paper, describing McCain and Obama’s rhetoric, so I used this before the primaries in the spring. Now I would ask them to look for arguments on both sides of the issue, not relating to a candidate. Often the candidate’s are asked to speak in sound bites, so their presentation might be minimal. However, people arguing on both sides of an issue can be found in the stronger political blogs. I would refer them, perhaps, to some of those: Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, Michelle Malkin, and Townhall. From there it would be easier to follow links to other sources.

This is from my TYCA-SW talk on controversial issues in the classroom.

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

To summarize, the students at the community college level include dual credit, traditional, and returning students.  Women dominate and the majority of students are under the age of forty.  Many are of low socioeconomic status and more than one-third are the first generation in their families to attend college.

The highest variety of courses community college students are taught can be found in English as a Second Language courses, with as many as twenty-seven ESOL courses at a single college.  The courses with the highest section numbers, developmental writing and freshman composition classes, are evenly distributed among full and part-time instructors.  And college-level literature courses, mainly American, British, and world literature, are almost entirely taught by the full-time faculty.

The full-time faculty teach a typical course load of twelve courses a year.  They teach five classes each long semester and a two course summer session.  Research is not supported, although doing it can improve the likelihood of receiving a teaching award.

One in four community college teachers has a PhD.  And only about one in four is employed full-time.  They are not necessarily the same fourth.  One eighth of the teachers are tenured.  Even full-time jobs are outside a tenure track one third of the time.

Clearly teachers at two-year colleges are demographically different and teach different courses to different students than teachers at four-year residential colleges or research universities.

With half a million students attending two year colleges in Texas, an awareness of who is teaching what to whom is essential to an understanding of the state of the profession.

Other articles on this topic:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Who are the two-year college students taking these courses?           

An increasing number of high school students are on campus taking dual credit courses.  Public high school students usually attend in the evening, but many homeschoolers attend the college for dual credit and they often come in the daytime.  Lone Star College has just added an on-campus, full-time, dual-credit program for at risk students, usually non-white males, who are interested in college but are maintaining less than a C average in high school their sophomore year.  This has been an attempt on the college’s part to help limit the dropout rate and has been very successful to date (Pearson). 

These younger students can offer some frustrations for freshman composition teachers who are expecting eighteen and nineteen year olds in their classes when the fourteen year old on the fourth row can’t come up with a topic for “most traumatic event” in their lives.  This came up on my campus after 9/11.  The teacher told the student that he could write about that.  He ended up in her office explaining that he had been restricted from television that day, as he was only eleven at the time.  For some reason he didn’t want to announce that in front of the whole class.

Then there are the traditional students, ages seventeen to twenty-one.  They comprise 43 percent of the community college classes, the largest percent for a single age group.  The next largest cohort is the twenty-two to thirty-nine year olds, who make up 42 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  So, 85 percent of the students being taught in two-year colleges are under the age of forty.

The gender divide is clear in community colleges.  Women comprise 60 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  The young ladies tell me this makes it a little bit harder to get a date.  I have not heard any male students complain though.  The two community colleges I have taught in are both perfectly aligned with the norm on this.

Most community college students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Tai).   A common explanation for that status is single parenthood, which 17 percent of the two-year college population experience.  But parenting can be an issue even in two-parent households.   Some traditional age students are married to other traditional age students, which makes two teenagers married to each other, another contributing factor to low socioeconomic status.

Community college students include 39 percent who are in the first generation within their family to attend college (“Community College Stats”).  This varies from school to school.  One of my colleges has 95 percent first generation students, while the other has 20 percent.  The geographic area that the colleges pull from makes the difference.  At one of my colleges the students primarily come from a low socioeconomic neighborhood, with some rural.  There the rural students are the most likely to already have parents with college education.  At the other of my colleges, most of the students come from an upper middle class neighborhood, with some rural.  At this school the rural students are the most likely to be first-generation college.

To summarize, the students at the community college level include dual credit, traditional, and returning students.  Women dominate and the majority of students are under the age of forty.  Many are of low socioeconomic status and more than one-third are the first generation in their families to attend college.



 “Community College Stats.” American Association of Community Colleges.  January 2008. 10 August 2008 <>.

Pearson, Dr. Kathleen.  “The President’s Welcome Presentation.” Adjunct Faculty Meeting for Lone Star College: Kingwood.  21 August 2008.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses

What are the five courses a semester that the teachers are teaching at community colleges in Texas?

The community colleges teach English as a Second Language, Developmental English, and college-level English. 

The number of these courses vary significantly.  Wharton County Junior College offers no English as a Second Language courses according to its catalog, while Lone Star College System offers a total of twenty-nine, including nine classes for listening and speaking, six for reading and vocabulary, and nine for grammar and writing.   A sampling of the community college systems show that they either lean toward ESL, with twenty or more classes, or away from it, with one or none.

Developmental English courses have less variation.  Austin Community College offers none, the least, while Lone Star offers four, two in reading and two in writing, the highest numbers I found.  The most common number of courses was two.

Then there are the college-level English classes.  Since these are designed using the Texas Common Course Numbering System for easy transfer to a four-year college in Texas, the number of possibilities is limited.  There are only twenty-eight possible courses offered under this system (Lower-Division).  These courses include two freshman level courses, which some colleges further designate as Honors or Self-Paced.  The TCCNS further differentiates freshman composition for non-English speakers.  Those two numbers are not used often in two year colleges.

Other writing courses include two semesters of creative writing, a year of freshman business writing, and a single semester or a set of two one-semester classes in technical writing.  The most commonly used of these courses was the single semester technical writing course, followed by the two semesters of creative writing.

Then there are literature courses, offered as a single semester course or two semester courses, with the number for the one semester course being different than the first of the two semester courses.  These literature courses include British, American, and World literature.

Also in literature there is a one semester Chicano literature course and a one- and two-semester series of Forms of Literature course.

The final possibility offered within the Texas Common Course Numbering System is the Academic Cooperative which comes in two and three semester credit hour versions.

Those are the only choices that the two-year colleges have, if they want their course work to be accepted at four-year colleges in Texas.

But the community colleges do not offer this many courses.  Since the highest level courses they can offer are sophomore, this makes sense.  Think of what your colleges offer in terms of sophomore level courses. There is not a great variety.  However, the two-year colleges do offer more than might be expected.  The range in the community colleges I looked at went from ten to eighteen.  Most of the colleges offered two semesters of British literature, two semesters of American literature, and two semesters of world literature.

Why would they offer three different sets of sophomore literature courses?  Obviously variety is an issue.  Giving three choices makes sure that students have a choice of sophomore level English courses, assuming they need them, and it also gives the faculty different courses to teach.

I would guess that the issue of faculty options is the strongest one.  Many of the adjuncts at my schools have taught for ten years, but I am the only one who has been given a sophomore literature course to teach.  All of them have said that they would like to teach a literature course.  So why aren’t they teaching one?  Because the full-time faculty teaches all the sophomore literature courses, including those offered in the evening, with one exception.

The exception to the full-timers’ teaching of literature is the miniterm.  The miniterm does not count toward my college’s 10.5 month contract, so a full-time teacher teaching during miniterm does so for the same pay I get, about $3500 less than their salaried teaching OR they have to teach the miniterm and another course in one of the two summer sessions.  Since this fills up more of their time, it is not a popular choice.

The reason I was able to teach the course is I have a flexible schedule.  Most of the other adjuncts are public school teachers and are unable to meet a three-hour course five mornings a week during the month of May.

Besides the fact that colleges don’t have the students taking enough college-level English courses to warrant teaching twenty-eight classes, there is also the fact that the four-year colleges don’t accept a lot of transfer credit in English. According to their catalogs, the different four-year schools in Texas accept a range of college-level English courses.  Texas A&M lists two courses they will accept.  Texas Tech accepts five, while Baylor takes six. University of Houston will accept seven.  And University of Texas will accept seventeen.

There is not a lot of reason to offer courses for transfer, if the colleges the students will be transferring to don’t accept the courses.  So the two-year colleges wisely don’t offer those.

Of course, a listing in the catalog does not guarantee a regular offering of the courses.  This fall the Lone Star system lists seventeen ESOL and developmental English and fourteen freshman and sophomore courses across the system.  Even those aren’t offered everywhere. Lone Star: Kingwood is offering ten ESOL and developmental English courses and five freshman and sophomore classes.

Those are still a lot of courses; they are especially a lot of courses when the bulk of them are not accepted as credit hours toward graduation or transfer.  The students must be taking them, though, or they wouldn’t continue to be offered.  



Alamo Community College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Austin Community College.  Catalog.  2008 8 August 2008 <>.

Dallas County Community College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Lone Star College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Lower-Divison Academic Course Guide Manual. Texas Common Courses Numbering System. 2007. 7 August 2008 <>.

Navaro College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

San Jacinto Community College. Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Temple College.  Catalog. 2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Wharton County Junior College. Catalog. 2008. 8 August 2008 <>.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus

Two-year colleges focus on teaching. They sometimes focus on it to the extent that even tenure reviews ignore presentations and publications (Berry). Teachers are free to pursue research, but do not generally receive much institutional support (Woolston). That does not mean there isn’t any though.

One of my college systems has in-house presentations of research. This can either be work already presented or something someone is trying to get accepted. The other college system does not have this, but they will allow teachers to assign extra work to the students and take a class day of in order to go present.

While the focus of community college schools is one teaching (Jacoby) and not on research, according to an older study from the 80s, those who do research are more likely to receive teaching awards than their non-published counterparts at a rate of 31 percent to 17 percent (Oromaner). And a 2005 study looked at the top ten factors relating to the rewarding of Exemplary Teacher awards in a community college system; four of the ten factors could be considered research (Silvestri). So while there may be little institutional support for research, it is still valued.

Whether or not there is strong support, though, research is important. Teaching the same course or same two courses every semester for years without doing any research is an easy way to burn yourself out and make your teaching stale.

Even as a voluntary adjunct, I’ve found that to be true.

Two-year college teachers stay busy teaching and without an institutional commitment to research, the continued development of scholarly expertise can easily disappear. The course load for the two-year college teacher is five courses a full semester and, for 10.5 month contracts, two summer courses.


Berry, David A. “Community Colleges and Part-time and Adjunct Faculty.” Organization of American Historians. 1999. 10 August 2008 <>.

Jacoby, Daniel. “Effects of Part-time Faculty Employment on Community College Graduation Rates.” Journal of Higher Education (November 2006). 12 August 2008 <>.

Oromaner, Mark. “The Community College Professor: Teacher and Scholar.” Eric Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges. May 1986. 10 August 2008 <>.

Silvestri, Jacob.  “Exemplary Professors: Factors Leading to the Development of Award Winning Teachers.” On Research and Leadership 17.1 (Fall 2005). 10 August 2008 <>.

Woolston, Chris.  “The Community College Scientist.” Chronicle of Higher Education. 25 February 2003. 9 August 2008 <>.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary