CCCC 2011 Elevator Conversations

Stories about elevators at CCCC each year are legion. This year, finding the right bank of elevators at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis meant walking in circles to find the elevators that actually went to the floor you wanted to get to, and then circling again to get out. And, of course, getting from the 31st floor to the 30th floor meant riding the elevator all the way down to the lobby, and again walking the elevator circle (reminiscent somehow of Danté?) to find the bank that went to the 30th floor, and, well, you can take it from there!

But standing in line for elevators that don’t go to the right floor is only part of the CCCCs elevator saga. Eavesdropping on conversations on elevators is as edifying a part of the conference experience as are the conference presentations themselves—sometimes more.

I still remember the TV newscasts broadcast in the elevators at the 2001 CCCC in New York, as the US invaded Afghanistan, while many CCCC attendees were participating in peace rallies in the streets of the city. Watching snippets of war between floors was frighteningly surreal.

This year there was no TV news in the elevators. But the conversations in the elevators were still interesting in their own way.

Conversation #1

Person 1: “You’re from Australia? We should hold the CCCC there one year! You guys speak English and everything.”

Person 2: “They don’t have to speak English to host the conference in a country.”

Person 1: “That’s true. That’s where we’re needed most.”

This exchange bothered me on so many levels. Of course, the idea that “we” are needed to teach English to non-English speakers seems to imply that everyone “needs” to know English (as well as that what we are about is teaching the language, which at CCCC is not really a truism). Secondly, the idea that the only people involved in college-level “composition and communication” issues are those who speak English is exceedingly problematic.

Conversation #2

CCCC Person to Marriott Staff Person: “I bet you’ll be glad when you don’t have to put up with all these wild English teachers, huh?”

Marriott Staff Person: “Oh, no, you guys are tame. You ought to see the people who come for the comic book convention!”

Me: (to myself: Hmmm, some of them are us, too: like my colleague, Michael Pemberton!)


Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy

Call for Proposals

Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy. September 22-24, 2011

Deadline: April 15, 2011

Location: Coastal Georgia Center in the historic District of Savannah

Please submit your proposal via the website. The online submission link of the website will provide all of the information you need to create and submit a proposal.

For more information, contact:

Janice Reynolds


2011 Graduate Research Network

The Graduate Research Network at the 2011 Computers and Writing Conference invites you to join us! We need presenters and discussion leaders. GRN discussions are informative, exhausting, and not to be missed. Please spread the word!

Follow the links for information about the CW/GRN Travel Grant Fund as well. Apply for a Travel Grant, or donate to the fund if you can.

Hope to see you there!

I just made a new Voki. See it here:

Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 2 released

Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2, is a collection of Creative Commons licensed essays for use in the first year writing classroom, all written by writing teachers for students.  Edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky.

There’s an App for That!


OMG! I just added the WordPress app for my new Droid phone, and I’m posting from my phone.

So how cool is that?!

NCTE and Vocabulary – A Rant

“FREE Vocabulary Resources!”

“Do you know these 100 words? You should!”

Everywhere I looked in the exhibit hall at this year’s 2010 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference, I either saw mice (ok, well, we were in Disney World…) or exhibits hawking wares to teach vocabulary.

I teach first-year composition at a mid-size research-intensive university in the southeast. At the beginning of each semester, I ask my students, most of them fresh from high school, to tell me what they hope to learn in the class.

The last couple of years, almost all of my students have said they wanted to improve their vocabularies. While over the years that I have been teaching first-year composition courses, I have had many students who NEEDED to improve their vocabularies, it was a rare student who included this as what they hoped to learn in a college course.

I have always had students who came to college with their brand new copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, or, more recently, their online bookmarks (far fewer brought a dictionary—thank goodness for!), I had never heard so many students concerned with knowing more words.

Thinking back to my own educational experience, I remember “vocabulary words” in grammar school, but not much after that. Many textbooks in middle and high school did contain glossaries, of course, where students could look up words/terms they didn’t know. And we were encouraged to look up words we didn’t know in other reading as well, or, occasionally, someone would actually ask the teacher what a word meant, or the teacher would define terms s/he was using in class discussions.

Now, suddenly, vocabulary building seems to be among the most important features of K-12 English instruction???

OK, so it only took me a few minutes to figure out where this is coming from (yes, I know, I’m a little slow sometimes…).

Can you say, “standardized testing”?

SATs and other standardized tests, as I vaguely recall, do ask for students to match definitions and words, so vocabulary is something that these tests measure. While I haven’t looked at how our students fare on this particular item, someone somewhere must be looking. So, I presume, students are not faring well on vocabulary.

But do we really, really need to focus on memorizing vocabulary words and definitions in our classrooms? Wouldn’t it make a bit more sense to focus on reading, writing, and (especially) critical thinking skills—and help students to understand any terms they encounter along the way—instead?

Well, I guess the moral here is that, if you want to make money, develop teaching materials for vocabulary building so that teachers can teach to the tests. It’s all the rage!

But, if you want our students to think, to be appropriately critical, to …. Well, I guess we all know that the test-givers aren’t interested. L

Ok, so, had to rant.

–verb (used without object)
1. to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave: The demagogue ranted for hours.
–verb (used with object)
2. to utter or declaim in a ranting manner.
3. ranting, extravagant, or violent declamation.
4. a ranting utterance.
1590–1600; < D
ranten  (obs.) to talk foolishly
(Copied and pasted from 

Nuff said!