Works In Progress Research Symposium

What is Second Life?

Second Life is a user-drive, interactive virtual story space. Users interact with the space in different ways, but I’m more interested in pedagogical applications. Here’s a Second Life traditional classroom space:







Learning spaces can look however the designer envisions them:







Second Life can also be a corporate space where users make real money selling virtual products:secondlife-marketplace








It can also be an artspace and a space where real life companies (and universities) express their identities in a virtual space:


The Data

2005 – 0 posts

2006 8 posts
• “Re: Virtual meets real economies”
• “Second Life as a writing space?”
• “Re: on-line pedagogy & face-to-face meetings”
• “Re: The Celebration of Student Writing: The Movie”

2007 (1 Jan – 31 December 2007) – 36 posts, 4 threads
• “Second Life at CCCC”
• “thanks and saving $ at Cs”
• “Second Life Article – some educated opinions?”
• “Second Life Query”

All of 2008 – 12 posts,
• “Serious Games SIG at CCCC”
• “Creating Second Lifes”
• “Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage”
• “CHE: Academics Are Biggest Trailblazers in Virtual Worlds
• “Who Taught Us to Write (was New Brand Composition)”
• “Not Just Facebook: Niche Online Social Networks?”
• “Re: born-digital FYC”
• “ANNCMT: Computers and Writing 2010 Purdue
• “This is Not A Web | WWWW”
• “CFP Reminder Computers and Writing Online 2009 1/5/09 Deadline”

All of 2009 28 posts
• “Computers and Writing Online 2009: Ubiquitous and Sustainable Computing”
• “WPA-Lapalooza: Good News Fest 2009”
• “Fwd: CFP: Collection on Women’s Cultural Experiences in Second Life”
• “College Composition”
• “Creepy Treehouse” (huge thread)
• “Submission Deadline Reminder for C&W 2010 (“Virtual Worlds” at Purdue)”
• “looking for book recommendations”
• “Extended Deadline for Computers and Writing 2010 Proposals”
• “Re: Grades and Ethos”

2010 1 Jan – 31 April (48 posts)
• “Teaching with Second Life”
• “Online tutoring”
• “bloggers: tattered coats upon sticks”
• “Ma culminating portfolio”
• “Virtual Education Journal CFP”
• “Re: RNF program available for download”
• “Second Life at 4Cs?”
• “Re: What if you gave a panel — and nobody came?”
• “Re: Do you have a model “call for applications”?”
• “Re: De-emphasizing research: Inside Higher Ed article”
• “Re: Social Media Counter”
• “Re: Jersey Shores?”
2010 1 May – 31 June – 35 posts
• “Re: For-profit colleges”
• “UTEP’s FYC Documentary Film Festival on Second Life”
• “Re: UTEP’s FYC Documentary Film Festival on Second Life”
• “C&W Online: Saturday, May 8, 2010 & Sunday, May 9, 2010”
• “Re: What students can teach us about the iPhone”
• “Re: Teaching Jobs–A Question”
• “Job postings”
• “Re: Student Blogs”
• “MUVEs and games (was Question about effectiveness of online FYC)”

2010 1 July – 31 December – 26 posts
• “Re: query on M.A.s with TESOL / ESL / Adult Literacy specialities”
• “[WARNING : A/V UNSCANNABLE] Grant funding for writing research?”
• “Re: Where Is Basic Writing Going . . . and Why?”
• “Re: MUVEs and games (was Question about effectiveness of online FYC)”
• “Second Life”
• “Re: GoogleWave”
• “Re: herding cats”
• “Position Opening”
• “Re: questions, questions
• “Re: Has anyone heard of”
• “Re: Come to YOUR DIETY OR HIGHER POWER speech in Composition Class”
• “Interested in Second Life or Virtual Technologies?”

2011 25 posts
• Writing Centers in Second Life
• Re: source on white privilege and student evaluations?
• QUESTION: Distance ed administration models
• “Re: for those who write about food”
• “Re: Common Core Standards”
• “SWCA Conference CFP”
• “Re: The Ideal Writing Environment”
• “SWCA Conference 2012 CFP”
• “Re: collecting homonyms for teaching”
• “Reminder: SWCA Conference Proposal Deadline Approaching!”

2012 – 20 posts
• “CFP: A Flock of OWLS, online conference in Second Life”
• “FW: [techrhet] Don’t sit and listen, interact!”
• “synchronous online tutoring options?”
• “Re: WPA-L … Adobe Connect & Second Life”

2013 – 0 posts
2014 – 0 posts

The Wonderful World of TutorCon: The Birth and Evolution of a Peer Tutoring Conference presented at IWCA 2014

J. Rauch, Taylor Brack, and I lunch at Disney after presenting at IWCA 2014

J. Rauch, Taylor Brack, and I lunch at Disney after presenting at IWCA 2014

What a fabulous talk my co-presenters and I had yesterday with those who attended our presentation at IWCA, and it was wonderful to reconnect with my colleagues at The University of Mississippi. We talked about TutorCon, a peer tutoring conference I founded in 2011 in my capacity as Regional Writing Centers Coordinator at The University of Mississippi. The conference was created to meet the unique needs of our writing centers; the three centers were scattered across the state, and the conference helped the writing center tutors and administrators stay connected and collaborative across that distance. That first year was so small – there were ten of us in one big room, talking about the work we do and how we can do it even better. The conference was so successful that we decided to do it again. And again. Over the course of the next three years, TutorCon grew and the community expanded each year to include other tutoring units on campus, a local community college, and a high school writing center in the area. This year, TutorCon has teamed up with MSWCA conference (with the help of our SWCA state rep Brad Campbell), so now tutors from all across the state will come together for TutorCon.

Since I’ve moved on from my position at Ole Miss to pursue a PhD at Ohio State, J. Rauch, writing center director at UM-Desoto, has taken over my post as TutorCon planning chair in collaboration with Brad Campbell, the main campus writing center director at Ole Miss. Accompanied by peer tutor Taylor Brack, who attended the very first TutorCon, Rauch and I argue that though planning a conference is work, it’s feasible and valuable for most writing center situations. In our presentation, we provide a rough guide for making it happen. If you missed the talk (or if you attended and want to access the Prezi again), you can find the Prezi below.


The Digital Rhetoric Collaborative

I’m delighted to be a graduate fellow with The Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative this academic year. You can view my introduction post (with cats) here or click on the Youtube link below.


The Mississippi Writing Centers Association Annual Conference

The Mississippi Writing Centers Annual Conference was a few weeks ago, and I am thrilled to be part of revitalizing this organization. During the meeting, we drafted our bylaws and elected representatives, and I’m pleased to say that two of the writing consultants from The University of Mississippi were elected to be student reps. It’s bittersweet to know that I’ll be leaving these wonderful colleagues this fall, but I’m sure we’ll continue collaborating and crossing paths at conferences.

Paula Miller and consultants pose at MSWCA

Two of my favorite writing consultants from Ole Miss pose during a break at The University of Mississippi Writing Centers Association conference

Keep doing good work, Ole Miss and Mississippi. I’ll miss you!

Getting Into Grad School

I am delighted to be deciding between several great PhD programs this Spring, which is both an agonizing decision and a stark contrast to my experience last year when I applied to PhD programs. This year, I applied for 8 program and was accepted with funding to 5 of them. Last year, I didn’t get into any of the four programs I applied for, which was a huge blow to my ego, especially when I considered that I’d been working full time in the field I was hoping to study. After dusting myself off, I regrouped and re-evaluated my approach to the applications. Some friends who are preparing to apply for programs next year asked what I did differently the second time through to produce different results. Acknowledging that this isn’t necessarily a perfect approach and it’s difficult to know exactly why my experience was so different from the first to the second year, I am delighted to share with them and you how I prepared for PhD program applications.

1. Over the summer, I started a writing group. I invited widely, so we ended up with compositionists, TT librarians, and literature scholars, both faculty and graduate student. We used the Wendy Laura Belcher book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Success as a guide. The value of the group was twofold: I got some feedback on my writing sample, allowing me to revise, but I also got to see my colleagues’ writing processes. Seeing what they write and how they write helped me refine my approach. Helping people with their writing helps me write better.

2. I collected Statements of Purpose from my friends who had successfully gotten into fully funded graduate programs, spread them all out on the table, and looked for patterns. This is a strategy that has worked well for me when writing cover letters, and it helped me take a completely new approach to my SOP.

3. I reconsidered my recommendation writers and swapped out one very busy colleague for a former professor from my MA program. This particular colleague had been busy, and writing my letter slipped off her radar until the last minute. Though we worked closely, she showed me that the letter she eventually did submit was a modified generic recommendation form letter, so I knew I needed someone else. Even though I had been out of graduate school and working for four years, a former professor was happy to write me a letter, and moreover, he has been a great resource for advice this application season. To make it easier on him, I sent him the papers I’d written for his class, my current CV, and a link to my website.

4. I built a professional website. The advice of one of my mentors was, “give them as many opportunities to see you as possible,” so even though the website is fairly simple (my CV, a statement of research interest, a teaching statement, and a blog), I didn’t think it would hurt my chances. That’s how this blog was born.

5. I felt a little silly about this one. Last year, when I submitted my applications, I treated my SOP as a cover letter, and I didn’t use letterhead. When I was at the CWPA conference in Savannah, I had a conversation with some colleagues about what they look for in an applicant, and they both talked about both the cover letter and the SOP. For some reason, I had assumed that they could be the same document. This year, I wrote a separate cover letter that discusses my work experience and what I would bring to the department as a TA. I put it on department letterhead, which gives it some gravitas. If you are currently a graduate student, you should have access to departmental letterhead. Just ask.

6. I asked lots of people lots of questions, and I took their advice. We are all resources to one another, and people who are further ahead in the field may be busy, but they also want to help you succeed because, chances are, they are successful due in part to the support of their mentors.

If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not a reflection on you as a person. It’s just that your application packet didn’t showcase you as well as it could, and you can work with that. Spend your year out of grad school developing yourself professionally in whatever ways make sense to you. One option is to pick up a course adjuncting at a university that offers free classes to their part-timers. With your free class credit, take a course that would allow you to create a new writing sample, and then throw yourself into making it as awesome as possible. Take advantage of all the resources you have available to you on campus to revise the rest of your packet.

Go out for lots of coffee dates with people who have succeeded. Ask their advice. It’s worth the investment.

Rhetorical Analysis of Campaign Ads

For the business-themed composition course I teach, I like to begin the semester with a rhetorical analysis assignment. Sometimes we do an advertising analysis. Last semester, we analyzed food packaging. This semester, my students are going to analyze the rhetoric of political ads. There are lots of resources floating out there on the web to support this kind of assignment. My favorite so far has been, part of The Museum of the Moving Image in New York. The site includes presidential campaign ads since 1952, lesson plans, and a video editor so that students can remix their own campaign ads.

One aspect of campaign ads I want to emphasize is that the same footage can turn a candidate into a hero or a village with a little clever editing. To do this, I spliced together some footage from The Campaign and then edited it in iMovie, changing the music, words, sound effects, and filters accompanying the same footage to change the mood. For ease of presentation, I stuck the edited footage into a Prezi. I’m considering how something like this could be morphed into an assignment for the students.

Image Mapping Composition using Prezi

It’s no secret that Prezi is a useful addition to the classroom, but it can be so much more than a more dynamic version of Powerpoint. This Fall, I started using Prezi to supplement lessons in my writing classes, and the students responded better than I’d imagined. The first Prezi was a pretty simple presentation, used as a visual anchor for our class discussion. It was pretty powerpoint-y:

I got some pretty interesting comments on my end of the semester evaluation. When asked what they found especially helpful in the class, they said they loved the way we used Prezi in class, but they also appreciated being able to revisit the Prezis from class. Surprisingly, they didn’t view them linearly. Instead, they used them to review specific parts of the lesson, much like an image map.

Prezi sort of straddles that line between slideshow and image map anyhow, so the comments about Prezi on their evaluation started me thinking – what if I just push my Prezis designs more toward image map than slideshow? They’d still be useful for guilding in-class lessons, but they’d be more useful for students who revisit them outside of class. I designed next semester’s syllabus for WRIT 102: Business with the image map idea in mind:

Instead of flipping through a three page syllabus, students can scan this one image to find answers to their questions about course policies and expectations. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.