Links on Writing, Wikipedia, and More

Bradley Hammer comments on the writing his students do at Duke University in A New Type of Writing Course, arguing that technology can make writing more meaningful to students:

In great contrast to only a few years ago, most of my students write several hours a day. I’m not talking about technically perfect papers, focused on grammar and the rules of structure. These students are tirelessly blogging, texting and responding to their peers in lengthy e-mail. And rather than dismiss this kind of writing as lacking in academic merit, I’ve started thinking about how schools can embrace, in academic ways, the emerging forms of writing students have already claimed as their own. ...

As part of this change, technology has radically extended the spaces for academic debate. In real ways, blogging and other forms of virtual debate actually foster the very types of intellectual exchange, analysis and argumentative writing that universities value. 

Along these lines, Can MySpace make better writers talks about how technology is changing writing and how it can motivate students in their writing.

Amy Gahran, in Straight to the Point: The Miniskirt Theory of Writing (via Downes), asserts,

If you want to make a point in writing, make sure you nail the “so what” in your first 62 words.

Of course, as she admits, reader tastes vary and cites Dave Taylor as saying "more educated, intelligent readers prefer longer, more thoughtful and eloquent content." There's no question that the first words are important in "hooking" one's audience into continuing to read. But hopefully, one's posts will not become mere sound bites.

How Wikipedia Works: And How You Can Be a Part of It (via Downes) is an excellent online book written by Wikipedians Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, and Ben Yates. It includes an appendix for teachers.

Blogging Pedagogy has a recent post on integrating multimedia into newspaper readings Deconstructing and Reconstructing Media and Messages:

For those of you looking to invite students to interact with different media, you might consider adopting and adapting the lesson plans conveniently provided as part of the Humanities Institute’s Living Newspaper Project. In this case, the four kinds of media are printed news reports, play script, oral reading, and theater performance.

What you can't win in court: "After you’ve been called racist by some students, can you sue to get your reputation back?" That's what Richard Peltz, who teaches law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, did. He began a lawsuit against students who had accused him of being racist because those accusations had led to him being "barred" from teaching certain courses. One of the accusations concerned his having students "focus more on their writing."

While defending his intent, Peltz pledged in his new memo to never again offer the writing tips “lest I again be maligned for trying to improve student writing.”

The article shows that it is not difficult to undermine the university as a place of learning and discussing ideas.

William Major, an associate professor of English at the University of Hartford, takes Another view of bias:

There’s a great deal of discussion in academe about a perceived bias amongst the professoriate, though Horowitz is looking in the wrong place. If he and his acolytes want bias, I have no doubt that there is plenty to go around. But playing favorites has the potential to do real harm to the student, ourselves, and to an ethic of professionalism. There is the spirit of fair play, unwritten and rarely acknowledged, through which we show our students and colleagues and, most importantly, ourselves who we are and what we are about. I suppose it’s called character.

Mark Richardson, an assistant professor of writing and linguistics at Georgia Southern University, takes aim at the myths surrouding learning to write in Writing is not just a basic skills:

From that vantage point, first-year composition is only indirectly preparatory to writing in other disciplines: What a student will learn is somewhat applicable to writing a history or psychology paper, but significant gaps in preparation will remain. Psychology professors who want students to write effective papers, even at the introductory level, can't count on first-year composition to have done all the preparatory work.

And here are a few more links on writing:
John Updike reflects on the challenges and satisfactions of the aging writer.
Zhura releases world's first online, collaborative editor for comic book writers
On college: Essay writing critical to getting accepted