June 10, 2013

Connections Roundtable: Writing Center & Library Collaboration

The Writing Initiative was created with the goal to improve student writing across disciplines, and as a part of this initiative, the Writing Connections program was started. The Writing Connection involves collaborating with area schools to share the best practices in teaching writing across disciplines.
In 2013, we've expanded our outreach to include 2 and 4-year colleges in NJ and NY to share best practices in Library and Academic Support collaboration.
Our roundtable discussion with librarians, faculty and writing center staff will be held on Thursday, June 13, 2013 at Passaic County Community College, from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM. 
The topics we will focus on include:
1.      creating sustainable partnerships between library and writing center programs
2.      fostering faculty support and collaboration
3.      improving information literacy skills across the curriculum
The goals of this meeting are to establish a connection among college libraries and writing/academic support programs that will continue into the future, share best practices and discuss challenges that we face in library and academic support collaboration.
The next post will share the findings of that meeting.

June 1, 2013

Twitter in the Writing Center: Guest Post by Mike Shapiro, University of Wisconsin–Madison Writing Center

I'd like to welcome Mike Shapiro to the blog this week. Mike is a graduate student and the online coordinator of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Writing Center. Welcome Mike!

In a post earlier this month on the UW–Madison WritingCenter’s blog, I argue that writing centers
have a lot to gain by establishing a serious, sustained presence on Twitter. At the heart of that argument is the observation that too many writing centers, including ours, saw Twitter as just another public kiosk where they could post announcements. Even though writing centers see all writing as conversation, we have strangely avoided the opportunities social media make available for entering into conversations with our students.

Our solution has been to monitor what students at our university are saying about their papers. Twitter makes this exceptionally easy to do. To see what our students in Madison are saying about the papers they’re writing, we can run a search for “paper OR essay near:madison,wi." Some of the other searches round up tweets that mention “madison” and essays, all the tweets that link to our website materials, all the tweets about writing centers, and so on.

As an aside, this powerful search is one reason Twitter is likely to remain an important force in campus life even as Facebook’s popularity plateaus.

Many of the results from this search are not relevant to our writing center, of course. The search picks up high school students, for example, and it finds many students who are complaining in unproductive language about having to write at all. But many students are tweeting about writing their essays, and when we find them we can easily respond with a note of encouragement.

This direct contact with students shocks many of the people who have heard me discuss our Twitter strategy, and it’s the part that shocked me when I first heard about it from our university’s social media professionals. After all, this is peering into our students’ lives and talking to them from an institutional account. As writers who have grown up recognizing a clear divide between our public personas and our private selves, many of us are uncomfortable with the thought that an institution can interrupt a conversation between a student and her friends.

But students who use Twitter do so knowing what they say is public. Many students choose Twitter because of its no-nonsense privacy controls. Almost anyone who has tried to change Facebook’s privacy settings has encountered the “friends of friends” problem: it is easy to set your account so that some people you thought couldn’t see your posts and comments in fact can. Twitter’s privacy settings are, by contrast, foolproof: your posts are visible by default to the entire world; by flipping one switch, the Twitter user can ensure you’re visible only to the people you want. The Electronic Frontier Foundation announced this month, in its annual survey of online privacy protection, that Twitter is the only major social network that fights for its users’ privacy in every arena (https://www.eff.org/who-has-your-back-2013).

Students who tweet about what they are writing are conscious of the fact that their schools can see them, and have been regularly delighted to hear from us. Here are a couple recent interactions we have had with students:

As these examples show, students who learn that our Writing Center has a Twitter presence will begin to ask us questions about our services, and to engage with us as part of their academic lives. As our director, Brad Hughes, has written elsewhere, writing centers occupy a privileged place in the university that allows us to be flexible and responsive to academic needs. By maintaining a conversational Twitter presence that listens and responds to student interests, writing centers keep an eye out for the next collaborative opportunity at the same time they help prove that all writing is interactive.