Issue For April 10, 2009
Retiring the Old Purdue OWL
In the first weeks of the summer, the old OWL - located here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/oldindex.html - will be retiring, and users will be redirected to the new OWL - located here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. To some of you, this may be difficult news. But we hope you are patient with the new OWL and take a little time to learn its organization and all the wonderful resources it offers.
We are retiring the old OWL because it is not as accessible for differently-abled users. In other words, the old OWL is not W3C, section 508 compliant. This means that users accessing the OWL with adaptive technologies cannot effectively surf the site. To read more about the W3C, you may visit this site: http://www.w3.org/. To learn more about section 508 standards, please surf here: http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/508/508-UAAG.html.
In addition, we are retiring the old OWL to make managing the site easier (by using a database to store resources) and to increase the usability of the OWL. To learn more about the OWL revision process, you may visit this page: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/612/01/.
We retire the old OWL with some regret because it has served millions of users around the world for many years; but, we are also excited about the new directions the OWL is flying as we incorporate usability research findings into our new design and as we continue to add writing resources. In addition to the new resources listed in this issue of Purdue OWL News, the new OWL features new areas such as the Research area - located here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/research/ - which includes information on the OWL Usability Project. The OWL also now features an Engagement area - located here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/ - which features projects developed with local community partners. Moreover, the new OWL boasts a new contact page here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/contact/.
As we retire the old OWL, we would like your feedback regarding the new OWL design, and we would like to know if you are unable to find a resource from the old OWL you have been using, so we can either point you in the right direction or retrieve a lost resource for posting on the new OWL. As always, we love to hear from you.
For technical issues, please contact Jeff Bacha: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/contact/owlwebmaster
For content and copyright issues, please contact Allen Brizee: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/contact/owlcoordinator
News from our in-person Writing Lab, located on Purdue University's campus in Heav. 226.
2009 ECWCA Conference a Hit!
This past weekend, April 3-4, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana hosted the 2009 East Central Writing Centers Association (ECWCA) annual conference. The two-day conference hosted 297 registrants from across the United States and featured 120 presenters participating through individual sessions, panels, poster presentations, and workshops. Other events included a labyrinth and an ice cream social in the Purdue Writing Lab that was accompanied by a spirited game of Rock Band.
The keynote speaker at this year's banquet on Friday night was Jon Olson, the Director of the Center for Excellence in Writing at Penn State University. His talk, titled The Writing Center as Sierra Club, covered ideas of writing centers as spaces for sustainable public scholarship and concluded with a rousing rendition of "This Land is Your Land" - lyrics altered to reflect a writing pedagogy theme. Jon led the sing along with his ukulele and soon had the banquet goers in the South Ballroom of Purdue Memorial Union crooning. The banquet also featured the annual awards for the 2009 ECWCA Outstanding Tutor and Outstanding Leader:
Outstanding Tutor (tie)
Meghan Dykema, Western Michigan University
Jason Frank, Youngstown State University
Allen Brizee, Purdue University
To provide more perspectives on the 2009 ECWCA conference, this issue of the Purdue OWL News features two articles by attendees Kristi Kohlenberg from Eastern Illinois University and Lauren Stowe from Columbus State Community College.
We hope everyone had as much fun attending the conference as we had hosting it! See you next year at Michigan State!
My First ECWCA: Collaboration in Practice by Kristi Kohlenberg, Eastern Illinois University
I am a first-year graduate student in English at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) and a consultant in EIU’s Writing Center. Last weekend, I attended the East Central Writing Centers Association (ECWCA) annual conference at Purdue University. Although I didn’t know what to expect before arriving, I was pleased to discover that the ECWCA conference truly is a place to learn best practices. I also learned how different each writing center can be. Although some writing centers differ in areas that I have no control over, such as in size and funding, there are a number of areas that I can impact. One of the sessions I attended was about online data collection. The presenters discussed the data points they track and how this information can be used to request funding, target clients, and revise writing center procedures. I also gathered information about data collection through other sessions, even if they did not explicitly address this issue, because many presenters explained what information is most helpful in their own administrations. I took notes and considered this information in the context of my writing center, and I already have specific ideas on how to improve check-in procedures and data collection in my writing center.
This idea of best practices was also evident in my own presentation, “Helping Students Negotiate Dialects in the Writing Center.” After giving the framework for dialects, describing the example of African American English (AAE), and detailing recommendations for addressing dialects in the writing center, I invited comments. The discussion was valuable, and the experience shows me that the conference can be a great forum for raising awareness, sharing information, and collaboratively arriving at best practices that I can apply in my own consulting sessions.
There were other practical benefits of my attendance at ECWCA, including a campus visit. Purdue graduate students gave me tours of Purdue’s Writing Lab, the Online Writing Lab headquarters, graduate student offices, and the facilities used by the English Department. I garnered information on the PhD program and also saw key buildings on campus. This conference experience was also important for networking. Everyone I met was approachable and willing to entertain whatever questions I had, whether the person was an undergraduate tutor or a published scholar. Overall, the ECWCA conference showed me an environment where administrators and consultants could share information and invite responses. By listening to these exchanges, I saw how a conference could function not just as a medium for presentations, but also as a forum for discussion and feedback.
Space for Scholarship by Lauren Stowe, Columbus State Community College
By lunchtime at the East Central Writing Centers Association conference, I felt less hungry for the delicious food and more ravenous to begin my own research project. I attended the conference hoping to find new resources and ideas to improve my work as both a writing instructor and a tutor. Not only did I learn some great new techniques, but I also left encouraged about ways to frame my own work as more of a teacher-scholar.
My vantage point as both an adjunct instructor and writing center consultant at Columbus State Community College sometime leaves me uncertain of my place in academia. I arrived at the conference nervous to be outside the traditional spheres of either peer tutor or full-fledged professor. However, the first session alleviated any concerns I had. A well-organized trio discussed captivating concepts about how writing centers can expand the realm of scholarship. Alexis Stern from The Ohio State University suggested that more peer tutors could (and should) engage in academic research. Laura Plummer from Indiana University explained how a newsletter could build community, practical job experience, and a support network among past and present peer tutors. And Barbara Bird’s impressive coding of transcripts from tutor sessions led into a fascinating description of how reviewing qualitative research could improve the guidance tutors provide.
Each presenter asked for feedback from the audience and encouraged listeners to brainstorm how such research could relate to our own institutions. Participants shared ideas about guiding hesitant undergraduates through research projects. We offered thoughts about how technology can create a more cost effective newsletter. And, we listed other actions tutors perform that could be added to an evaluation of tutor behavior. Overall, the 75 minute session was engaging and left me buzzing with ideas.
While these three presenters might have intended to speak to Writing Center directors or undergraduate tutors, I related their concepts to my own role in the middle. I want to use my perspective on both the tutor’s and teacher’s view of an assignment to fuel work as a teacher-scholar. It is easy to forget how our personal experience can inspire research; and as instructors, it is also easy to forget how much we have to share and learn about writing center literature. Now, I have ideas about beginning a tutor blog to celebrate the work adjuncts accomplish. I feel empowered to embark on my own research project, and I hope to model such work for students.
As Stern pointed out in her presentation, if we ever expect our students to put forth the effort and time into academic research, then we have to lead the way and share our own projects. Next year’s conference theme “Converging at the Vanishing Point,” co-hosted by Michigan State University and Lansing Community College on April 9-10, seems like a good reminder that where we meet within the setting of a writing center can serve as a place that accomplishes more than individual tutoring sessions. Perhaps that environment can be redefined as the space for scholarship where all members—peer tutors, adjuncts, instructors, directors, tutees, and other faculty members—participate in rigorous, meaningful academic work.
Lemonade Stand Helps Raise Awareness of Writing Lab on Campus
The Purdue Writing Lab will again be running The Lemonade Stand program on campus to help raise awareness of the lab's services and to help quench the thirst of students working hard at the end of the semester. On April 15, from 10:00 - 2:00, the Lemonade Stand will be providing free lemonade and free pens and pencils in the Beering Hall lobby. On April 16, from 10:00 - 2:00, the Lemonade Stand will be providing free lemonade and free pens and pencils at the Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) Showcase in the Stewart Center, rooms 218A-D and 204. Tutors will also be available to answer questions about the Writing Lab and its services.
New and Updated OWL Resources
The Purdue OWL is happy to announce a new resource and an updated resource:
- Purdue OWL Flash Movies on contrast, alignment, and repetition: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/739/01/
- Internet References Lists: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/738/01/