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Spring 2009 Syllabus

ENC 4260/6421

Advanced Technical Writing/Community Literacy

Professor: Dr. Trey Conner

office: 119A Davis, W 2-3, R 10-1


IM handle: rhythmizomenoid

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Research Assistant: David Havasi

lab: 280 Davis

image by Amanda Anseeuw


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Course Goals

ENC 6421/4260 is an advanced technical writing course that builds on a grant-funded inquiry into the culture, politics, and ethics of the open source movement, with special attention to the effects of digital culture, emergent technologies, and open-source software in our local school systems and community centers. In this outcomes-based, writing-intensive multimedia course, we will join together (albeit in a distributed, and sometimes even dissonant fashion) as a technical writing collective comprised of project managers, technical writers, and researchers concerned with issues, challenges, and possibilities clustering around our understanding of "community" and "literacy," today.

Specifically, we will research and write under the aegis of a partnership--forged at USFSP's Fall 2008 Civic Engagement Fair and cultivated by students and the professor in a Fall 2008 special topics course in rhetoric and technology--between USFSP and Mount Zion Human Services (MZHS), a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation serving Midtown, St. Petersburg. MZHS, established in 1983, provides a continuum of services to children, youth, families, and adults in need to serve and strengthen its’ local community. MZHS serves without regard to race, gender, economic circumstances, or religious preferences, providing preschool, before and after school care, summer camp, boys and girls scouting programs, a youth drum line, adult basic education, life skills development, literacy enhancement, tutoring, and affordable housing programs to Pinellas county residents. Sustaining these services creates a broad spectrum of technical writing scenarios ranging from grant-writing and research to writing FAQs and usability testing. In short--we are a client-based technical writing class, and we will band together as a team of writers. Our research and writing will address diverse needs and facilitate an array of ongoing projects anchored at Mt. Zion Human Services, Inc.

In Fall semester's Special Topics in Rhetoric and Technology course, we took the necessary preliminary steps towards establishing a Community Literacy program that will give the youth of Midtown exposure and instruction in computer technology. Our course, ENC 4260/6421 Advanced Technical Writing/Community Literacy, will conduct research, imagine technical writing solutions, and provide diverse deliverables in this context. In phase one, USFSP-engineered Linux-based thin-client environments running opensource software and services will supplement MZHS's small group tutoring program and after school program. Through mentoring and collaboration, phase two will establish community literacy projects and a transferable public domain opensource code/knowledge base that can be sustained by MZHS community and exported to neighboring community centers and schools. Although this is a client-based technical writing class that will begin by expanding on learning modules initialized and writing pods proposed last semester, our Spring 2009 edition of ENC 4260/6421 obviously requires no previous experience laying the groundwork of the nascent USFSP/MZHS partnership. Furthermore, this course is open to both technology novices and experts, and to all students who care about writing and open access to technological resources for creative practice.

Spotlight on Writing

6421 Nota Bene: Students enrolled in the graduate-level section will complete an additional assignment, and this assignment, which will be composed with FEAP outcomes in mind, and will require a 4 step process: a memo that proposes an assignment in FEAP terms, a draft, a peer-review session, a reflection on peer feedback, and a final draft.

When reading, planning, drafting, and revising, keep these student learning outcomes in mind (designated in bold are tags that you will apply to your best writing, so that you can easily assemble a portfolio of your best work)::

1. rhetorical knowledge RK


* purpose

* responding to the needs of different audiences

* kairos

* constraints (format, conventions, appropriateness/surprise value)

* tone

* genres

2. Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing CTRW


* writing for inquiry, learning, communicating, and commons-formating

* finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources

* mixing: integrate your ideas with those of others

* Understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power

3. Process


* recursion and drafting

* flexible strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proof-reading

* remixing - writing is an open process, by which early writing and the writing of others can be reworked, revised

* the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes

* critique your own work and others' works

* multi-person composition: learn to balance the advantages of relying on others with the responsibility of playing your part

* multimedia composition: use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences

4. Knowledge of Conventions KC


* awareness common formats for different kinds of texts

* genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics

* appropriate means of documenting your work

* surface features - syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


*read, write and arrive to class prepared to present, respond to presentations, and discuss the projects as they emerge.

*For the duration of the course, you will perform at least four significant writing actions per week to this wiki, and link your writing to your "home" page, which you will link to your section's class roster page. This means you will need regular and reliable internet access. More than three unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.

*Collaborate openly and effectively with your peers towards a FinalProject. This will involve informal communications, blogging, and experimentation, as well as polished "formal" pieces tailored to a specific audience. Late work depreciates one full letter grade per day!

*Complete informal writing, formal assignments, a proposal and a semester project in a timely fashion. The audience for this final project is different than the readership you imagine for your portfolio.

*Assemble an electronic portfolio. Even though the final portfolio is not due until the end of the course, you need to work on this project throughout the whole semester. Wiki allows infinite space for emergent composing processes; the portfolio is a way to make sure you design a lens on your writing and learning for people beyond our technical writing collective. The portfolio will include a cover letter in which you analyze what you have learned this semester as measured against the aforementioned course learning goals. Essentially, your assertion in the portfolio cover letter is this: “Here are the skills and knowledge that I have learned this semester, and here’s the evidence that I have acquired these skills and this knowledge.” Note that the evidence will be crucial, and you should draw on all sorts of sources to find that evidence—for instance, your journal/blog/wiki-presence, excerpts from formal/unit assignments (the deliverables we render for MZHS), notes from peer-group discussions, internet chats with the collaborators in your group, and any other record of your effort. You will turn in a draft of your portfolio at mid-term with a mid-term reflection to make certain that you’re on track. Be sure to click on the following link, where you will find a Student Portfolio Permission Form, which you will sign and return to the professor the second week of class.

*Open a tab for this wiki in your browser whenever you are online. Check the CourseCalendar, read your peers' wiki posts, and read ShareRiff's mind...in other words, keep "tuning up" regularly and you'll stay in tune with weekly assignment prompts.

Prosody Workshops, Peer-Review, and Response-able Participation

We will dedicate a large portion of each class meeting to reading our writing aloud, making presentations based on our readings, interviews/legwork/research, and workshopping our writing as it happens. Because our course is premised on the idea that ideas and revisions emerge by means of frequent and dynamic exchanges, students will be expected to visit our recent changes page and revise pages in common, daily. In-class participation will depend on staying in tune with our wiki's activity during the week, by reading and responding to each others' writing. Although daily blogs, responses to peer blogging, and early versions of working drafts need not be “polished,” our early-and-often uploads should address the prompts and issues of the week, as well as address and solicit feedback from your peers. Under no circumstances will I accept a “final” version of a major assignment, proposal, or final project unless I have seen a regular rhetorical process. Students show up to class on the day an important draft is due without having posted draft work by midnight the night class will forfeit all possible participation points for that week.

Attendance, Participation/Assignments, and Grades

Attendance in this course is required. While it is understood that emergencies / University-sanctioned activities may arise which result in your missing one or more classes, frequent absences will negatively affect your final grade. As a rule, one or two absences will have little impact on your final grade, assuming you participate enthusiastically when you are in class and realize you are responsible for all material covered during the missed class(es). In the event that your prepared attendance, or lack thereof, becomes a problem, I will ask you to meet with me to discuss our options. These options may include a failing grade or a lower grade than you might have earned had you attended classes regularly. In short: show up prepared to talk and write about the wiki's recent changes.


*weekly wiki'ing and in-class activity (all blogging, linking, tagging, planning, mapping, reflecting, feedbacking, and peer-grading, in-class and on the wiki), first 10 weeks: 100 points

*4 polished and formal deliverables: 100 points (25 points each)

*final project/research paper: 100 points

*portfolio: 100 points

Total possible points: 400

Peer-calibrated grading

We will rigorously pursue an evaluation process known as peer-grading. Response-able and consistent interaction in wiki will help us create rubrics for each assignment, and each student will do an evaluation of each group assignment. We will be well-prepared for this response-ability, as we will frequently engage in small-group work in class so that everyone can benefit from multiple forms of feedback. In order to create and sustain a livable writing practice, writers need thoughtful feedback on their writing. This "swarm" approach will ensure a steady and ample rate of useful and ongoing feedback on our projects. The professor will, in turn, grade the evaluations, and pay special attention to the written rationales detailing and justifying each evaluation performed. Also, where necessary and at his discretion, the professor will override any "off-the-mark" peer-assigned grades.


These standards build on the WPA outcomes listed above and will help us produce accurate, consistent, and rhetorically-informed assessments of the 4 polished compositions and final projects.

Course Portfolios

The final course portfolios will be graded holistically by a team of writing instructors in a blind review. They will be scored on the following criteria: rhetorical knowledge, critical reading/writing/thinking skills, process, and knowledge of conventions. The outcomes will be rated on a 1-5 scale:

Beginning (1)

Developing (2)

Competent (3)

Mature (4)

Exemplary (5)

The score for the portfolio will count 25% of your final grade for the class.

Incomplete Grade Policy

An “I” grade indicates incomplete coursework and may be awarded to an undergraduate student only when a small portion of the student’s work is incomplete and only when the student is otherwise earning a passing grade.

Information Management

Please back up everything you write for this course. You should either write your wiki posts in a word processor and save before posting. Or, if you like the feel of writing directly in wiki, cut and paste your work to an open word processing window, saving a back-up version in this way as you proceed. Information technologies carry a trace of instability, so it is always good to have redundancy in your writing process: make copies and put them in different places!

Freedom of Speech and Cognitive Liberty

This is a rhetorical space, one where composers are response-able to each other: they think and write in response to each other, and not to a preconceived notion of each other. Assume the best in those you study with and be generous with your respect, and you will teach them to respond in kind.

As you will see and hear, classrooms and wikis are both spaces devoted to free inquiry

The First Amendment of The United States Constitution

Religious observance absence policy

Students who find a meeting time in conflict with a major religious observance must provide notice of the date(s) to the instructor, in writing, by the second class meeting.

Disability access policy

In my capacity as instructor, I will do everything I can to make fully available the educational resources we use and create this semester. Any student with a disability should be encouraged to meet with the professor privately during the first week of class to discuss accommodations. Each student must bring a current Memorandum of Accommodations from the Office of Student Disability.

Academic dishonesty policy

Spring 2009 Required Texts:

We will supplement these common texts with resources we select from the web, which we will add to our LinkPile as we proceed.

Kelty, Chris Two Bits

Ito, Mizuko, et al Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning, November 2008

Grant Seeking in an Electronic Age

Bowden, Melody, and Scott, Blake. Service Learning in Technical and Professional Communication xeroxed handouts

Lessig, Lawerence. Free Culture


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