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How Technology Will Help Fix the “Writing Crisis” in America’s Schools

by | Posted November 28th, 2012

In recent years, writing scores for students in grades 8-12 has been on the decline. What teachers are finding is they don’t have enough time in a day to help the student improve their writing along with the task of planning lessons and grading other homework. They can write as much feedback as they want on a student’s paper – brackets, carrots, spelling error checks, sentence re-writes – but students generally ignore their feedback, feeling “miserably overwhelmed by the volume of comments.” Plus, with the pace of some high schools, they’re already planning what they have to write for their next paper and disregard the comments that could help them improve.

A recent article written in The Atlantic explains how technology is being developed to help bridge the teacher-student writing problem that so many teachers are faced with each year. Unlike Microsoft Word that shows the green or red squiggly line whenever you make a grammar or spelling error (respectively), “[t]his technology will soon even be able to review the student’s “corrected” paper and assess how well he was able to integrate the grammar lesson — and then report this information back to the teacher.” It will make grading papers more manageable as well as help the student become better at writing and more productive and aware of the errors they made and what they need to do next time to improve.

Some might think this technology will reduce the teacher-student interaction, but it is quite the contrary. According to the article, “[It will instead] help build and protect these interactions, making them more productive than ever,” saving the teacher hours of wasted effort in an attempt to improve a student’s writing who might never look at the feedback given on their graded paper.

Meta-Writers: The PWs of the Future?

by | Posted November 27th, 2012

Beware, writers: robots are taking over the world. Ok, not entirely. But there is the possibility that they will soon be trouncing all over even the most human aspects of the web.

Take the company Narrative Science. They’ve developed a platform that trains computers to write news stories. As if journalists didn’t have it hard enough these days! This writing engine gets its power from high-quality data, gathered and prioritized by an algorithm that then contextualizes that data against the subject matter. Sounds complicated, right? Consider subjects like sports and finance—both topics involve lots of numbers and statistics, and who better to make instantaneous sense of such content than those creepy-crawly robot spiders scouring the web?

But all is not lost. Someone has to turn all that analysis into narrative. You might be asking, OK, what’s the difference here? A computer serves up a bunch of useful stats, and the writer has to turn this into digestible prose. Seems like something any old journalist, blogger, proposal writer, you name it, does on a regular basis. (more…)

From Publishing Trendsetter: “Publishing Lingo, Then and Now”

by | Posted November 27th, 2012

Different industries have their own “lingo” or phrases and words they use to describe certain things in and around the specific work they do. Publishing is no different. Publishing Trendsetter recently featured a blog post on several different key words and phrases used in the publishing industry that anyone not in publishing might not understand. For example? “Metadata:”

“Information about a book that’s tied to it but isn’t the text itself.” 

The post continues to explain what it usually means, and then continues to inform readers what it means now in the modern twenty-first century publishing.

From Kim Garst: “Why Community is Important in Social Media”

by | Posted November 24th, 2012

“A social community is the act of sharing a common mission or purpose.” -Kim Garst

A social community is more than just having a hundred comments or likes, but instead comes when there are side conversations or interactions within those comments or shares. So why do you want a community on your social media site? Kim Garst brings you three reasons why this is important in “Why Community is Important in Social Media“. Eventually, your social community will become your online family and will help you to run your sites and connect with others. This article is a defining tool that is important for writers and bloggers everywhere.

From Creating in Flow: 5 Ways Not to Write a Novel

by | Posted November 23rd, 2012

In honor of National Novel Writing Month, Susan K. Perry and Creating in Flow bring you the five ways not to write a novel. These tips range from ways to write your characters, to simple sentence structure, to scene writing. Perry also provides links to her other articles about writing, which include “writers’ resolutions” and “bad writing advice.” These five tips don’t only apply to novels, but can be helpful in any writing that you plan to do.

“Penguin Random House” What does this merger mean?

by | Posted November 21st, 2012

Penguin - Random House Merger Infographic

If you’ve been following our site, or any general news source, by now you know about the merger between two of the Big Six, now known as Penguin Random House. We touched on this merger in a post early last week (see the post here). But what does this merger mean for the book industry? Technology is becoming a large part of the publishing industry (i.e Amazon and Google) and the companies of the Big Six are worried with staying competitive. Metro brings together different critics, editors, and authors to weigh in on what this merger means for them, and for the publishing industry as a whole.

Even combined, Penguin Random House is still less than one tenth of Amazon’s size. Critics of this merger worry that the competition between publishing houses and Amazon will lead to more mergers down the line, ending with potentially only two publishers left in the “Big Six”.

Not only will this competition mean potentially big changes in the Big Six, but the merger also impacts small publishers across the world. The fact that two of the biggest publishers had to merge makes it harder for smaller publishers to even begin to compete with the large firms and the online firms.

WIDE-EMU ’12

by | Posted November 20th, 2012

On a Saturday in October, scholars from all across the region assembled in East Lansing to attend the second annual WIDE-EMU ’12 (un)conference, an institutionally collaborative gathering sponsored by MSU’s Writing in Digital Environments Research Center (WIDE) and Eastern Michigan University’s Written Communication Program.

WIDE-EMU came to be on a car ride home from CCCC Atlanta in 2011. Bill Hart-Davidson, Steven Krause, and Derek Mueller took note of the cluster of smart people in the region, as well as a lack of informal opportunities to gather and share ideas. The creators challenged themselves to use the available resources at their institutions (EMU and MSU) to hold this gathering to foster the relationships and ideas of the rhetoric and writing scholars in the region.

From this emerged the foundational DIY ethic of the unconference, which is manifested as a conference with no registration free (*jaw on floor*); rather, attendees are asked to print their own schedule and program or download it to their laptops, tablets, or smartphones, as well as printing or making their own name tags, or reusing one from a previous conference. Another cool manifestation of this DIY ethic is as simple and attentive as providing a space on the conference website for attendees to communicate about room and couch sharing.

The entirety of WIDE-EMU is organized in three phases: Phase 1 is to propose; Phase 2 to respond, or to share an expansion of the proposal in the form of a blog post, slidedeck, video, podcast, etc.; and Phase 3 is the conference.

This year, in addition to folks from Michigan State and Eastern Michigan, participants came from the University of Michigan, Purdue, Bowling Green, Wayne State, Illinois Institute of Technology, Oakland University, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Illinois State, Eastern Kentucky, University of Detroit Mercy, and Saginaw Valley. The #wideemu hashtag was ablaze that Saturday. Check out this Storify slideshow of the 250+ tweets from the day of the conference.

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From SocialMedia Today: Maximize Your Content Sharing

by | Posted November 20th, 2012

Are you trying to promote yourself via social media? Whether it be through blog posts, Twitter, or Facebook, you should constantly be trying to improve your sharing and social media presence. SocialMedia Today brings you tips and Techniques to Maximize Content Sharing for the three aforementioned social media platforms. With straightforward tips like “Create short, provocative headlines”, “Do not use technical jargon in your tweets”, and “Don’t post more than once a day” this article is a helpful tool for anybody that uses social media, or wants to learn how to use social media in the right way.