#cwcon 2013

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Woot! I had a blast at my first Computers and Writing (2013) this weekend! A quick shout-out to the organizing team led by Jill Morris and the hosting university, Frostburg State University, MD, for a job well done.

My panel consisted of Matt Barton (my thesis director), Jack Hennes, and myself, and we presented Friday morning in the first session. We briefly introduced MOOCs to the audience and talked about the implications of MOOCs on teaching composition and higher education as a whole. The session was well attended by scholars who are interested in topic.

My experience in the 4-day conference has been rewarding and beneficial to my thesis development. Cindy Selfe, Susan Delangrange, Risa, and Kristin Arola are among the scholars whom I have read in my rhetorical and composition theory classes and had the opportunity to discuss issues concerning massive online model of education with them at this conference.

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Jack, Matt, and I at the bowling social night.

I must admit that I was a little star-struck when I shook their hands for the first time and introduced myself. But these folks were so welcoming that my fear disappeared almost instantly (for some, after a couple drinks with them). Michael Day, Janice Walker, Cheryl Ball, and many other graduate students (and recent grads) from the discipline are extremely friendly and personal.

This conference has really opened my circle to the theorists and scholars in the field and those who I would like to study with in my PhD program. How I wish my Mass Communication program (my second master) would have conference like this to connect students with the most prominent thinkers in the field and prepare them for their doctoral pursuit. Maybe the CW community is simply unique. It’s indeed an honor to join their rank in the near future.

For now, it’s time for some post-conference recovery, if you know what I mean.

Blogging for Social Change

college-studentsCollege is a time when students are given the opportunity to learn more about the world around them. While attending classes and participating in various service-learning activities, students are exposed to diverse environments and are forced to interact with people who come from different background. It is during their college career that students begin to develop their own sense of identity and take position in public policies as different social issues are brought to their attention.

When I was a freshman, I admit that I paid little to no attention to social issues and problems that were happening around me. I was ignorant about the situations that others had to experience and was selfish to not take any actions to help solve the problems. However, as I learn more about the power relations among institutions, corporate systems, and social structures, I began to realize how many people were oppressed by higher authority and the privileged. My freshman writing class, human relations, and some introductory courses in journalism were the springboard in my awakening to knowing that I could play a role to stop institutionalized oppression.

As an instructor, I feel strongly about opening my students’ eyes to the inequality and injustice cases that are happening around them. I want to take advantage of the technologies available around us to introduce them to ways they could contribute to making their society a better place for all. Among the means of public writing, blogs are a good tool that enables students to fight for social justice.

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Using blogs to curate and inquire information
We live in a world of opinions. Using blogs, students can work in groups to investigate and collect information that they decide are credible and accurate in a particular social issue. Students may start reading about the issue from other blogs and websites where they could get a better idea of the current situation. As bloggers, they may immerse themselves into the bloggers community and get connect with other bloggers. Students can drop by at news aggregating sites and news blogs to comment on the reported issues and reflect on the topic via reflective writing in their own blogs. They may also collect different viewpoints and analyze them rhetorically. Student blogs thence become a space where they meet and grapple with opposing opinions and make an informed judgment about an issue they care about.

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Using blogs to create awareness
Moving beyond the reader’s level, students can strive to create public awareness on the issue they’re exploring. They may use the information they have collected from various sources to make an argument about why some actions need to be taken immediately. Using blogs as a platform for advocacy, students can call the public’s attention to unveiled injustice and promote equality. To take an even bigger step forward, students can ask the public to join as advocates in a certain issue and participant in shaking up the social norm.

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Using blogs to promote democratic citizenship
As the culture of social-sharing continues to be amplified through social networking media, students can use blogs as their foundation in advocacy to encourage community building and accumulating collective knowledge. In their campaigns, students can inter-link social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., to stimulate more conversations around the issue. For instance, students may use blogs to announce an event, whereby the details of the events are also set up on Facebook event page and could be shared among millions of users. In collaboration with a nonprofit or civic organization, students can learn more about democracy and how to instill it in their everyday lives.

Though new social media (such as microblogging trends on Twitter and Facebook) are slowly threatening the existence of blogs today, many individuals and organizations have taken blogs to different levels where blogs serve as community organizers — something that’s beyond their original intention for journaling or vain self-publications.

Blogging as Personal Branding

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For those of us who have been in the blogging cycle long enough, we have seen evolving trends around the blogosphere and how some writers have shifted from journaling their daily routine to developing content for professional disciplines.

When I first started blogging in 2006, I was writing mainly about my life and treated my blogsite like a diary. About two years later, I began to feel bored to write just about anything and everything that was happening in my life. So I embarked on a project of creating a new site to write about a topic of my interesting – design and communications (mostly marketing and advertising stuff). Soon, I became aware that there are a lot of writers out there who are experts in their respective fields and are constantly producing content about trendy topics in their field and curating newsworthy items.

I began to look to thought leaders in my field and followed their footsteps. In about two years, I have published work that I have used to demonstrate my knowledge in the industry during job interviews. I remember there was once when an employer who looked at my sites said that she was impressed by my work and hired me.

I think students in writing classes could use blogs as a place to start exploring their professional interests. Instead of journaling about their feelings of the day, students could write about their vision and understanding of their exploration in the discipline. Also, blogs are a perfect tool to curate news and information. Students can subscribe to/follow these thought leaders on their personal sites to keep up with the trends in their field. Later, through blogging, students can express their thoughts about a particular topic in response to the thought leaders. Furthermore, students can also use blogs as their portfolio showcase platform to exhibit their work.

home-way-to-useWhile these are not the only ways blogs could be used, developing content about their profession can help students to establish a credible outlook online. Especially in today’s hiring practice where HR specialists are using search engines to look up talents and are filtering social media profiles to better understand their potential hires, having a strong online presence will boost a student’s ethos and may benefit the student in a long run. Digital personal branding — that’s how I’d call it.

Blogging about relevant topics in the industry, making them “share-able” on social networking sites, and getting recommendations from co-workers, teachers, and people that the students have worked with – blogs are a great tool for students to communicate their expertise and (hopefully) land a job.