Thursday, 20 December 2012

How do you retain teachers and attract them back into the profession?

I suspect that none of this will happen, but we dare to dream.

My Utopian Manifesto

To retain teachers and attract them back into the profession:

(1) reduce testing, marking and assessment regimes by 80%. Have we forgotten that education is about learning not testing? Constant externalised evaluation exists to serve the machinery of capitalism insofar as the latter thrives on selection, competition, and elites. Learners, like teachers, are being worn down by intrusive and unnecessary testing.

(2) cut admin and planning duties by 75%. Let us trust spontaneity and allow teachers to respond to a more participatory, learner-led environment. Education has become a factory production line and a bureaucracy.

(3) raise starting salary by 25%. Teachers are very poorly paid compared to the business and financial sector. They should be rewarded for their work, and for making a sustainable contribution to human life on the planet.

(4) trust teachers and schools to design their own curriculum. Let's put an end to the top-down one-size-fits-all approach to education. Radicals take this notion one step further and claim that teachers should be employed to assist the learners to design their own programmes and goals. Notice again the diminished role for teachers to engage in the dreary slavery that dominates the power model of educational control freakery.

(5) promote training and offer freedom to reflect through sabbaticals. Teachers need time reflect on their practices: in and out of the educational system. Sabbaticals are not holidays; they are emotional recharge and intelligent re-freshment.

(6) make school optional when students reach 15 years. I'd like to set an even earlier age for leaving school, but you will shoot me. If you have not read it, I recommend Ivan Illich's book De-Schooling Society.

(7) protect teachers from children and parents who attack them in any form; learning is a dialogue and a conversation; abusive parents and children should be removed from the formal school environment.

(8) offer options/ incentives for short placements outside teaching to broaden and enrich teachers' experience. Teachers need time out and also benefit from periods of work that are not part of the educational system.

But if none of that works, maybe it's time to read Ivan Illich and to commence a radical rethink of the role and effectiveness of our current systems of education.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Congratulating the 10 New Universities

As a former Professor at a College (Nene) that became a New University following the award of research degree powers, I would like to congratulate the higher education institutions that will now become Universities.

In my view, we need more creative disruption in higher education in Great Britain, and much of that innovation springs from the new blood that has been running through the system since the major expansion that took place in the 1960s.

In fact, Universities do not have to be super-instiutions that operate on an international scale and bloated global reputation. In order to be vibrant academic cultures what is needed is a capacity to serve the needs of students and their teachers; to value research and scholarship; and to connnect with their local communities.

I assume that all of that includes wealth creation in a sense that is larger, wider and richer than the familair slogans about business entrepreneurship


  • Arts University College at Bournemouth
  • Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln
  • Harper Adams University College
  • Leeds Trinity University College
  • Newman University College, Birmingham
  • Norwich University College of the Arts
  • Royal Agricultural College
  • University College Birmingham
  • University College Falmouth
  • University College Plymouth St. Mark & St. John
The BBC reports:

Previously, to be called a university, an institution needed to have 4,000 full-time students, and meet other criteria, but now that student number has been dropped to 1,000. This has opened the gateway for many specialist institutions to gain the university status they had wanted for some time.

Mr Willetts said: "These well-known and highly-regarded university colleges represent over 1,200 years of history between them. It is right to remove the barriers preventing high-quality higher education providers like these calling themselves universities simply because of their size."

Friday, 9 November 2012

21 Essential Tips for Community Film editing

  1. Some people like editing, others don’t. Find out early on in the project about people’s skills and preferences, and training requirements – don’t leave it all to the end.
  2. Edit the film as you go along, in a rough and ready fashion. If you filled half a tape accidentally recording irrelevant chair legs there’s really no point wasting that space on your hard drive.
  3. Respect people’s wish for their contribution to be deleted.
  4. Review the day’s shooting with participants, if possible
  5. Make notes on the best clips of the day. This is called logging. Invent the system that works best for you. Always label tapes or disks at the time of filming. 
  6. Keep a note of the best clips, and the ‘who, what, where, when’ bits of information.
  7. It should be possible to create a rough edit based on (a) a selection of the best material actually filmed; (b) the valued work of a trained editing person or small team; (c) referring back to the story and storyboard as guides.
  8. In community film it is essential to allow participants to view and comment on the rough edit. Misrepresentation is a crime!
  9. The rough edit screening is an opportunity for creative dialogue between the editor(s) and the other participants.
  10. How can we make our film more relevant?
  11. Despite our noble intentions - are we trying to appeal to too many disparate groups with insoluble differences between them?
  12. How can we strengthen the people/character element of the story?
  13. Is there anything that’s irrelevant, flabby or surplus? 
  14. Are we lingering tediously over uninteresting shots?
  15. What’s distracting our attention from the main message?
  16. Your best friend is CUT, not PASTE.
  17. How can we make our film shorter? (We seldom encounter a community film that we would wish to be longer)
  18. If there’s disagreement (excellent); if you can’t resolve it, why not identify an objective focus group for a screening of the rough edit?
  19. Have the editors gone overboard on special effects? (Children in the sweet-shop syndrome)
  20. Remember that you are editing SOUNDS as well as IMAGES...
  21. There’s far more advice on community filming and editing and sound tracks elsewhere on this blog.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Strategies to Cope with Writer’s Block and Depressive Illnesses

You do not have writer's block as such. It's a myth!

It’s far more likely that you are stuck in an unimaginative rut, and that you are experiencing a shortage of stimuli, or a lack of variety in the brain and body soup that should be feeding and nourishing your creative mind. If things are really bad you may be depressed. The good news is that creative strategies may help to decrease the depth and frequency of your depressive phases.

Other Common Solutions to poor creativity that you might wish to consider are:

  • Engage in a variety of activities that are uncharacteristic for you. This may involve taking up a new hobby. It almost certainly means moving away from the torture of staring into a flickering screen. (See my other blog on internet and social media addiction, here.)

  • Start a new project. Sometimes it’s your determination to stick at a dead project that explains why you can’t move forward. But you can always return to older projects in the future, equipped with a fresh mind and new ideas

  • Learn to meditate. Become human again. Sometimes you are blocked by having too many thoughts. Too much creative flow is exhausting, especially if it remains chaotic, or it lacks the sense of an emerging shape or direction.

  • Read a random page of a random book and underline three magic words. That wonderful eighteenth-century word ‘Serendipity’ involves the art of finding what you need while you are looking for something else.

  • Take randomness a step further by using Tarot Cards to build character, or like composer and inventor John Cage, use dice, or the I Ching, in order to explore patterns beyond conventional expectations, and to help you to move away from bland stereotypes.

  • Read some poetry. Even better, cut it up and rearrange the words. Poetry is the ultimate mind-gymnasium for the creative writer.

Take a long walk. Take a few words for a walk. Let them go wander. Many great writers such as Charles Dickens have employed walking as a way to compose and liberate their creativity.

Did you read

52 Examples of My Creative Writing Activities ? Here.

Why not change the sex of your main character, and/or make him/her drastically older or younger? Absurd tweaks should initially be treated as harmless fun; but they may, nonetheless lead you in an unexpected direction. Great art involves patterns and destiny, but the aleatory, random dimension deserves to be better understood. In this case, risk means experimentation with improbability. One effect of this process is that the initial elements of a composition are re-constituted. Again, the emphasis is on removing a creative blockage in the way that you have been working.

Why not try transplanting the action of your narrative to another country, and /or different timezone or historical period. With a word processor a Search and Replace is a quick solution to this issue. If you don’t like the result, it is very easy to undo.

Make your hero into a villain. Show a wicked streak in your virtuous heroine. Chill out! This strategy of blending good and evil, virtue and vice, also helps to prevent your characters becoming tedious predictable stereotypes.

A popular exercise that many schools are now using in order to explore and develop style, and an awareness of a writer’s chosen linguistic effects, is to re-write a poem as a story, or a story as a poem, or a tragedy as a comedy, or to parody a fictional text using exaggeration of the stylistic effects. These can be seen as warm-ups to promote the parts of your brain that deals with words, thoughts and concepts.

Remember that you can start a story from the beginning, the middle, or the end. Many writers start in the middle (in medias res) in order to provide suspense. Then they explain how the characters came to be there (working backwards); finally they proceed to the end - which may involve another surprise.

e.g. car race; car hanging over a cliff; car falls (dull)


car hanging over a cliff;
feelings as the characters consider their selfish dull lives and learn to love each other for the first time;
they all die happy, unless there is a miraculous intervention, as their guardian angels intervene.

I often find that the opening is the last thing I write as it creates too much pressure to impress. Get your story down on paper and then select a new start by arranging your ideas in a way that is unusual and creative.

Although I strongly recommend that you should distance yourself from negative thoughts, don’t be frightened of constructive criticism, or re-thinking how you theorise your practice.

Literary criticism is your creative friend, not your despised antagonist.

Monday, 6 August 2012

What’s involved in creativity? Solo, or Group?

Factors involved in Creativity

Making an Effort: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Courage: to take risks.

Stamina: not to give up, to revise and redraft many times.

Perfect Imperfection: knowing when to stop.

Mentors: to follow, and to rebel against.

Style: it’s not just what you say but how you say it.

Surprise: walking the unexpected, deviation from norms, serendipity

Flow: an intense state of mind when you deliver peak performance

Skills and Tools: to build and develop projects

Confidence: to aspire and to avoid destructive thoughts and negative outlook

Team work: ability and willingness to collaborate effectively and to respect others

Solo or Group?

It is often forgotten that creativity is not just individual, it can exist within a group or a community. Typically a small group will develop more ideas than a person working alone. That's why everyone is getting into co-creation now, from wiki, to games, free source and life hacking. But is there also a danger of group-think compromises and weak statements?

On or Off

Do you have the ability to just turn on the creativity switch?
Yes. It is a kind of skill that can be learned by anyone, in my view. But there is always room for improvement, and some days (and times) are better than others.
Resistance also takes many forms and need to be deconstructed and analysed.

Do you need a Moment of Inspiration?

No. That's the myth of romantic genius that appeared in the late eighteenth century. I don’t want to deny that there is a spark of inspiration. Rather, you need plenty of fuel to sustain and to develop your fire in a sustainable and memorable way.

Do you have to focus and create the mood for creativity to happen ?

Focus is good, but if you try too hard for too long you come up with what has been done before. 

When you say mood I'd suggest that it helps if you are contented rather than disabled by the worst kinds of depression.

Or is it out of your control?

This sounds dangerous. Part of creativity involves a faith in yourself, the ability to take risks, a sense of playfulness, and the cultivation of spontaneity. Spontaneity can be developed by doing things that are unusual or out o character. Again that comes down to confidence in yourself.


Film, collaboration and creativity link
The 32 dangers of collaboration link

General Discussion of the Topic


Mihaly Cskszentmihalyi. Flow.
Mihaly Cskszentmihalyi. Creativity and  the Psychology of Discovery and Invention


In the Wallas stage model, creative insights and illuminations may be explained by a process consisting of 5 stages:

(i) preparation (preparatory work on a problem that focuses the individual's mind on the problem and explores the problem's dimensions),
(ii) incubation (where the problem is internalized into the unconscious mind and nothing appears externally to be happening),
(iii) intimation (the creative person gets a "feeling" that a solution is on its way),
(iv) illumination or insight (where the creative idea bursts forth from its preconscious processing into conscious awareness); and
(v) verification (where the idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied).

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The 15-point Exam Self Examination

book cover of 

The Final Exam 

 (School of Fear, book 3)


Gitty Daneshvari 

 I hope that your exams have not been as traumatic as mine were at school. In this blog, I have taken a long hard look at exam success and failure.

Obviously my research is based on real experiences, rather than irrelevant and dodgy theories.

In my experience of 30 years of teaching in English, and in the Arts, in Schools, and in the University sector,  these are the most common reasons for poor results:

1.    Anxiety based on lack of confidence, poor planning and fear of the unknown

2.    Lack of familiarity with past exam questions

3.    Poor memory skills

4.    Failure to produce model answers in exam conditions

5.    Revision that does not edit and select key points

6.    Revision that does not tailor knowledge to the exam

7.    Answers which are too short, or too long.

8.    Poor awareness of what the examiners are looking for

9.    Not answering the question

10.    Not explaining your thinking processes

11.    Poor range of evidence

12.    Weak communication skills

13.    Not understanding how to plan and structure your answer effectively

14.    Too much time wasted on opening and closing paragraphs.

15.    Running out of sufficient time to complete the required number of well-rounded answers.

The good news is that each of these issues can be addressed.

By reflecting on them and taking action you will significantly improve your exam performance.

You might even learn to enjoy the experience, and become an advocate for examinations.

If you would like to receive further examination tips and advice please drop me a line.

Dr Ian McCormick

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Nonprofit Twitter Guide - 25 Top Tips

Classic Non-sense Poet - Edward Lear

Even some of the more successful charities, NGOs and nonprofit groups have failed to adapt effectively to the new opportunities afforded by social media. Twitter has often been neglected as irrelevant and vain.

As a useful social media tool, Twitter has often lagged behind Facebook. I suspect that's because the first impression of Twitter is that it is chiefly populated by celebrity gossips and ephemeral personal details that have no relevance to the goals of social transformation and ethical awareness.

Having researched this topic I would like to offer 25 tips for nonprofits to make effective use of Twitter.

1. Tweets (comments posted on Twitter) need to be written with professional care and attention, just like any other form of writing. That means that Twitter will have an impact on your resources. But don't let it take over...

2. Avoid flippancy, rudeness, and excessive personalisation. By the same token, a dull corporate tone starts to sound quite tedious if it lacks any emotional intelligence.

3. Check Tweets for accuracy and errors. It's important to build a reputation for reliability.

4. It makes sense to follow sister and like-minded charities and nonprofits. That means being part of a community and collaborating by co-creating value.

5. Ration your tweets. Excessive tweeting may be compared to an irritating chatterbox at a party who refuses to let you speak or comment on what they've just said. At the outset I lost many followers by tweeting too enthusiastically.

6. Use words and phrases such as 'Please', 'Check out', 'Help me/us to' if you want people to re-tweet your comments. Polite requests are highly valued and respected.

7. In the most common re-tweets (RTs) Questions (?) were more popular than Exclamations (!)

8. Strong positive words are generally preferred to weak words and negative sentiments

9. Avoid emoticons. They are the sign of infantile desperation of the worst kind.

10. Popular RTs include some form of relevant news content

12. Research suggests that people are more likely to RT earlier in the working week (Monday-Wednesday) and during working hours (9-5 EST - USA)

13. A significant proportion of RTs contain a link to further information

14. Tweets are more likely to be re-tweeted as they pass through more hands (in a chain of trusted replication)

15. Tweets that are trusted and valued will have more viral impact for nonprofits, than ones that lack objectivity or are transparently propagandist.

16. Witty and humourous tweets can be effective but they may also backfire or alienate some followers.

17. Your tweet stream and your favourites should constitute a valued and trustworthy experience.

18. Do not endorse what you have not tried and tested yourself.

19. Engage your readers by offering free resources

20. Provide news items, alerts, and thematic or critical insights into current topics in the news

21. Support your readers with helpful resources and advice for common problems

22. Information that warns people about risks or dangers is valued and tends to be re-tweeted

23. Never spread rumours.

24. Build participatory engagement with requests to vote on topics or to take part in competitions

25. Ask readers to comment on blogs or topics and to request further information on topics that they identify as significant for their work.

Please send in any other suggestions and I will add them to the list. Please feel free to copy this blog for use in your own community or nonprofit newsletter. But please attribute the author and the website.

Dr Ian McCormick, recently published a new book:

The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

UK version 
Smashwords e-book 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Toxic Individualism and Corporate Community

As a participant in the The 17th International Symposium on Electronic Art I was struck by how many delegates were hostile to the notion of community. Is it that, in the humanities, perhaps, academia is fatally geared to recognition of solo-achievement at the expense of collaborative methodologies? Perhaps that’s because the ‘art’ element is still understood in terms of romantic-period notions of self, ego, genius, and originality?  In these terms community is the wicked Father called Family, or Tradition. Individualism, in contrast, is Rebel Energy; it is innovation and creativity. The available writing on the self has arguably been more inspiring than that on the community, which tends to fall into windy utopianism or dreary sociological treatises.

But we certainly have a degree of nostalgia for our self-willed creativity, despite the thinly veiled reality that the majority of human beings are merely tiny cogs in the global machine. In part, the delusional component arises because the global conglomerates constantly promote the notion that we are actively making democratic choices; the money-driven system relies on the glorification of the free consumer while masking the grim realities of massive global inequality. It is a sad realisation that every sleek gadget is a displaced testament to an undocumented exploitation of a poor exploited sweat-shop factory worker.

Or consider how the global entertainment industry creates myths of the superhero while demonstrating its necrotising groupthink uncreativity by relying on a corporate production line of sequels and prequels dreamed up in the boardrooms of film studios. For Hollywood these fan-cash-machines now represent 80% of its business activity and are at the core of this dominant marketing regime. This species of film, backed by so much global advertising that it seldom dares to fail, is not the product of the heroic creative individual, an undiscovered J. K. Rowling, toiling away in a cafeteria to keep warm. So let’s not despair: it appears that the local genius still breaks through by means of her sublime efforts to embrace the larger issues of culture and humanity, woven superbly into a well told story. And if you break through then you too will have your global film franchise. We know how to reward success.

But such film-industry-style commercialisation is not altogether new. The notion that writers cater for the market can been witnessed in the work of Shakespeare, who wrote several popular history cycles. Let’s congratulate the BBC (backed by American finance in this cases) which is currently screening Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V, delightfully titled The Hollow Crown.) But Shakespeare showed us both the allure and the responsibility of absolute power; he showed power, cynically, as a necessary performance, a scripted regime; and he showed us the life of the people - warts and all.

Richard II

But community does sometimes hold people back when it is not open to growth, vulnerability and metamorphosis. Vibrant inter-cultural communities where genuine dialogue is enjoyed and conversations fostered can be highly successful. Throughout the world we witness the inexorable rise of super cities and mass migration from rural to urban areas. Indeed, the closed local community can be the most absurdly oppressive place to live (as satirized in Little Britain’s solo-homo Welsh Village ‘I am the Only Gay in this Village.)

Village Rights

But we also tend to romanticize the individuals who struggle against all odds and who gleefully challenge traditional expectations of them. Such is the tap-dancing working class romance Billy Elliot. It is a wonderful and very necessary mythology.

It seems that we are doomed to run our lives between the twin pillars of toxic individualism and oppressive community expectations. Between who we want to be and what society expects of us. The Scylla and Carybdis of individualism and communitarianism. Arguably, then, each term needs to be qualified, such that they can function in dialogue, rather than as reductive and destructive binary oppositions. Either that, or we change the system. Over to you!

Let's Dance our Way into the Future

Monday, 16 July 2012

Get More Children Reading: A 15-point Action Plan:

In recent years I have been working with parents and children to improve reading skills. There is strong evidence that boys' reading skills are increasingly falling behind those of girls, and that boys come back to school after the summer holidays with poor reading skills.

These are the questions that I asked in this blog:

How can we guide and support the enjoyment in reading and help to improve skills?

How can we link reading with creativity, community, and interactivity?

The results. Here are 15 motivational tips (with an emphasis on reading for boys):

1. Any reading is good reading. 

Boys often re-read books that they have enjoyed. But don't just stick to fiction; there are great factual illustrated books, top tips for boys, motor car books, jokebooks, sports annuals, magazines and graphic novels. Don't just stick to the classic fiction that adults say they enjoyed reading in their childhood.

2. Lead by example 

Children copy those around them. If a boy sees his brother, dad, or uncle reading, then he will be more likely to identify reading with positive male role models. Demonstrate that reading is a normal human activity. Try newspapers, car manuals, TV guides, celebrity books, survival guides ...

3. Install bookshelves.

Having a place to keep your books safe shows that they are a valued resource and part of the living furniture of the house.

4. Start to use the local library.

We hear a lot about cuts to library services but the truth is that many children's libraries are an excellent resource. Take time to explore and select books.

5. Listen to recommendations. 

Asks teachers, librarians and bookshop staff for recommendations. Explain what kind of books you like. Sometimes it is better to build on existing tastes rather than developing new ones.

6. Boys like gadgets!

So I'm not excluding online reading, e-readers and kindle. Let children research their reading styles and preferences.

7. Friendly, polite conversation, and open questions build confidence. 

Children like to talk about what they read and why they liked something. Often they will be delighted to tell you the full story in their own words. Ask them about their favourite moment in a book! This process is the beginning of critical reading and creative insight. Talking about reading builds the activity into the fabric of school and community life.

8. Build creatively on what you read. 

Make your own picture books and story continuations (prequels and sequels) based on favourite books. Or try alternative endings. Make a short film or radio broadcast about your favourite reading.

9. Set an agreed reading time.

This approach involves trial and error. Reading by discipline misses the point that reading ideally is self-motivated. However, reading may be a good wind-down evening or night-time activity - half an hour at the end of the day is often enough. It does not have to be every day.

10. A sense of progress. 

Some children work well with a target and a bar chart of their daily reading progress. Try setting a token reward for boys who get past page 100. (Research shows that many children give up before then.)

11. Collaborative reading. 

Children love reading and being read to. It helps if you both try out funny voices or read the characters with facial expressions. Children's reading groups and clubs are also an excellent way to share reading experiences. Why not set one up in your local area? Also look out for reading activities at your local school or library.

12. Multiple languages.

Some books are available in parallel translations which helps if English is not your first language.

13. Encourage your child to read with other children. 

There is not reason why an eleven year old cannot teach his seven year old brother how to read. When the child slips into teacher mode he or she will have a massive confidence boost.

14. The ideal present. 

When you have find out what your child likes, remember that a book is a great gift. Or give book tokens and allow the children to make their own choices. But books should not be the only present. 

15. Reading should not be like a term in prison!

Although I've read thousands of books there are still some days when I prefer a walk, or just listening to music. Motivated reading is more about freedom, and less about control. Parents who are too ambitious can do quite a lot of damage. Use your common sense and find a negotiated balance.


Shared time may, in fact, be the most rewarding human interactive element in reading.

Over to you! Do you have any tips, recommendations, or questions?

© Dr Ian McCormick. But please do contact me if you want to use this article as a guest post on your blog. With attribution offered I seldom refuse!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Online publishing opportunity

Online publishing opportunity CFP for academic and non-academic writers

Visible Margin is a new section of #Alt-Academy which will feature high-quality critical writing in the form of peer-reviewed essays and blog posts, as well as creative writing and work in other media.

In keeping with the theme of #Alt-Academy, we are especially interested in contributions from authors and scholars pursuing alternative, non-tenure track, and non-academic careers—individuals whose voices are heard less often within the academy.

Complementing #Alt-Academy’s existing clusters, Visible Margin will focus on cultural and intellectual production, with the aim of increasing the visibility of this growing majority of knowledge workers and of democratizing knowledge within and outside the university.  

We also welcome contributions from non-academic writers who share our goals.

Call for Submissions:

We are interested in a variety of submissions, including essays, topical articles, blogs, reviews, fiction, poetry, visual art and multimedia work. The essays and articles will typically be within the author’s area of expertise and should be written in accessible, polished prose.
General topics for essays and articles may include but are not limited to:
Arts and Culture: Anything from book and film reviews to critical or reflective essays on any topic within the arts and humanities.  

Politics and activism: current or historical issues or a combination of both.  

Science and Technology: digital publishing, digital humanities, discussion of recent innovations or any topic within this category.  

Academic Research: excerpts from recently undertaken research presented to an audience outside your discipline; reflections on research or the process of doing research while pursuing an alternative career.  

Writing and publishing: discussions of different forms of writing and publication; transition from academic to other kinds of writing; the publishing field; advantages and limitation of writing for academic and non-academic publications and audiences. Alternative academic careers: essays and edited groups of essays directly addressing this topic may be submitted to the existing clusters on #Alt-Academy’s main page. Review the cluster descriptions and follow the "How It Works" submission instructions.
Reviews: Reviews of recent books, films, or any other material of about 800 words in length are welcome. Reviews could also be part of a blog (see below).
Creative Work: High-quality fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, visual art and multimedia projects. While there are no specific guidelines for these genres, the work should be compatible with on-line publication and in line with the site’s focus on intellectual exchange.
Blogs: The publishing platform for #Alt-Academy, MediaCommons, supports blogging. If you would like to start a blog within the MediaCommons network and have it aggregated and listed as a part of Visible Margin, please submit a brief description of its scope and topics and a sample entry to the email address below. Blogs could be individual or collaborative and should be updated at least twice a month.

Collaborative Writing Projects

This website is strongly recommended for

collaborative writing projects:

Writing Spaces Open Textbook Chapters

Each of these titles is available under a Creative Commons license (consult the individual text for the license specifics). Click on the title to view the chapter abstract and a downloadable PDF of the chapter. Click on any of the keywords to see a listing of chapters tagged with that keyword.
On the main information pages for each volume, you can also download full versions of
 Volume 1 or Volume 2.
Titlesort icon Author Series Edition Keywords
A Student’s Guide to Collaborative Writing Technologies Barton, Matt and Karl Klint Vol. 2 collaboration, collaboration technology, Doodle, drafting, editing, Etherpad, Facebook, Google Docs, Google Scholar, instant messaging, Mindomo, news reader, prewriting, research paper, RSS, social media, Twitter, Zotero
Annoying Ways People Use Sources Stedman, Kyle D. Vol. 2 attribution, citation, paraphrasing, patchwriting, quoting, research writing, source integration, summarizing, works cited
Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps Toward Rhetorical Analysis Carroll, Laura Bolin Vol. 1 advertisement analysis, argumentation, audience, Bitzer, constraint, contextual, emotion, ethos, exigence, first day, genre, guidelines, implication, logos, media, pathos, persuasive, questioning, rhetorical analysis, situational, social, tone, triangle
Beyond Black on White: Document Design and Formatting in the Writing Classroom Klein, Michael J. and Kristi L. Shackelford Vol. 2 alignment, APA, contrast, design elements, document design, documentation style, font, formatting, graphics, headings, illustrations, images, margins, MLA, proximity, repetition, resume, typography, visual design, white space
Collaborating Online: Digital Strategies for Group Work Atkins, Anthony Vol. 1 collaboration, digital, dysfunctional, Google Docs, group, member role, oral presentation, productivity, task evaluation, teamwork, technology, wiki, Wikipedia
Composing the Anthology: An Exercise in Patchwriting Leary, Christopher Vol. 1 anthology writing, arrangement, assignment, cut-up, editing, found poetry, memoir writing, patchwriting, peer evaluation, plagiarism, poetry writing, student opinion, student publishing, table of contents, teacher story
Composition as a Write of Passage Singh-Corcoran, Nathalie Vol. 2 academic, argument, assessment, composition studies, FYW, knowledge transfer, professional writing, research, rhetoric, rhetorical analysis, WAC, workplace
Critical Thinking in College Writing: From the Personal to the Academic Dasbender, Gitanjali Vol. 2 academic, analysis, critical reading, critical thinking, engagement, evaluation, FYW, main idea, primary sources, problem solving, reflection, summarizing
Everything Changes, or Why MLA Isn’t (Always) Right Walker, Janice Vol. 2 academic, AP, APA, attribution, citation, credibility, documentation style, information literacy, intellectual property, MLA, new media, plagiarism, quoting, rhetoric, source critique, WID
Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother With Logic? Jones, Rebecca Vol. 1 argumentation, Aristotle, burden of proof, classical rhetoric, closure, complexity, deductive, duality, ethical, ethos, freedom of speech, implicit, inductive, jargon, logical, logos, nonadversarial, pathos, Plato, pragma dialectical, premise, Quintilian, reasoning, relevance, standpoint, Stephen Toulmin, topoi, validity
Finding Your Way In: Invention as Inquiry Based Learning in First Year Writing Lessner, Steven and Collin Craig Vol. 1 Anzaldua, audience, bullets, composing, creativity, critical freewriting, exercise, focused freewriting, freewriting, FYW, graphic organizer, inquiry based, invention, outlining, peer evaluation, reader strategy, rhetorical, sample
From Topic to Presentation: Making Choices to Develop Your Writing Hewett, Beth L. Vol. 1 author story, brainstorming, composing, drafting, essay writing, peer evaluation, projector, revising, teacher as writer, topic, writer choice
Googlepedia: Turning Information Behaviors into Research Skills McClure, Randall Vol. 2 annotated bibliography, focus, Google, Google Scholar, information literacy, Internet research, library databases, preliminary research, research, research paper, source critique, thesis, Wikipedia
How to Read Like a Writer Bunn, Mike Vol. 2 active reading, audience, context, critical reading, genre convention, purpose, read like a writer, reading, reading questions, reading to write, writing process
I Need You to Say “I”: Why First Person is Important in College Writing McKinney Maddalena, Kate Vol. 1 academic, discourse analysis, exigence, expertise, first person, guidelines, insider, integrity, objectivity, ownership, scholarly, science writing, situational, sophistication, style, viewpoint
Introduction to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews Driscoll, Dana Lynn Vol. 2 data collection, ethics, hypothesis, interview, observation, primary research, primary sources, research ethics, research question, researcher bias, sampling, survey
Introduction: Open Source Composition Texts Arrive for College Writers Cummings, Robert E. Vol. 1 introduction to the volume, open source, open textbook
Looking for Trouble: Finding Your Way Into a Writing Assignment Savini, Catherine Vol. 2 academic, argument, critical thinking, deadline, discourse community, genre, problem solving, questioning, research, success, WAC, writing assignment analysis, writing process
Murder! (Rhetorically Speaking) Boyd, Janet Vol. 2 audience awareness, colloquial, connotation, context, denotation, ethos, eulogy, euphemism, genre, jargon, logic, logos, pathos, rhetoric, rhetorical appeals, rhetorical situation, tone
Navigating Genres Dirk, Kerry Vol. 1 arrangement, form content, genre, genre knowledge, popular music, purpose, rules, situational, thesis statement
On the Other Hand: The Role of Antithetical Writing in First Year Composition Courses Krause, Steve Vol. 2 antithesis, argument, audience, debate, opposing arguments, position paper, research, research writing, thesis
Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context Kahn, Seth Vol. 2 analysis, authority, context, description, ethics, ethnography, evidence, fieldnotes, fieldwork, inductive reasoning, interview, participant-observation, primary research
Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources Rosenberg, Karen Vol. 2 academic, active reading, audience, critical reading, discourse, prior knowledge, reading, reading as joining a conversation, reading to write, rhetorical reading
Reflective Writing and the Revision Process: What Were You Thinking? Giles, Sandra Vol. 1 author story, case study, composing, letter to the reader, process, reflection, revising, sample, self-reflection, student-teacher memo, writer intention
Reinventing Invention: Discovery and Investment in Writing Trim, Michelle D. and Megan Lynn Isaac Vol. 1 activity, audience, brainstorming, creativity, discovery, genre, group, guidelines, implied reader, individual, interest, invention, needs analysis, problem solving, process, purpose, sample, topic
So You've Got a Writing Assignment. Now What? Hinton, Corrine E. Vol. 1 apprehension, argument, assignment, audience, directive verb, emotion, evidence, format, guidelines, interpretation, panic, procrastination, purpose, questioning, resources, sample, stylistic
Storytelling, Narration, and The Who I Am Story Ramsdell, Catherine Vol. 2 advertising, character, communication, creative nonfiction, grant writing, literacy narrative, memoir, narrative, narrative discourse, narrative structure, narrative theory, organization, professional writing, story, storytelling, who I am story, word choice
Taking Flight: Connecting Inner and Outer Realities during Invention Antlitz, Susan E. Vol. 1 apprehension, composing, compound topics, connection, content, creativity, digital, email, emotion, exercise, graphic organizer, growth, heuristic, ideas, invention, journal writing, meditation, messaging, personal, play, PowerPoint, prayer, private public, procrastination, random words, sample, social, writing ritual
Ten Ways To Think About Writing: Metaphoric Musings for College Writing Students Reid, E. Shelley Vol. 2 argument, audience, description, detail, invention, metaphor, purpose, show vs. tell, story, style, writer's block
The Complexity of Simplicity: Invention Potentials for Writing Students Charlton, Colin Vol. 2 audience, creativity, critical thinking, draft, feedback, focus, FYW, invention, invention activities, invention questions, inventiveness, rhetoric, writing assignment analysis
The Inspired Writer vs. the Real Writer Allen, Sarah Vol. 1 academic, alienation, author story, authoring, Bizzell, composing, inspiration, jargon, motivation, myth, quality, real life, teacher as writer, writer strategy
The Sixth Paragraph: A Re-vision of the Essay Lynch, Paul Vol. 2 argument, clarity, concise, essay, interpretation, introduction, Montaigne, personal essay, reflection, thesis, use of I, writing as exploration, writing to learn
Walk, Talk, Cook, Eat: A Guide to Using Sources Haller, Cynthia R. Vol. 2 assignment analysis, Burkean parlor, Google, Internet research, library databases, research, research paper, research strategies, source critique, sources, Wikipedia, writing process
What is Academic Writing? Irvin, L. Lennie Vol. 1 academic, analysis, argumentation, assignment, audience, closed assignment, communication, complexity, controlled, critical, definition, first person, genius, genre, grammar, interpretation, myth, open assignment, purpose, researching, semi-open assignment, situational
Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web Reid, Alex Vol. 2 argument, audience, description, essay exam, freewriting, metaphor, paragraph, primary audience, purpose, read like a writer, reader perception, repetition, rhetoric, secondary audience, show vs. tell, weblog, writer's block
Why Visit Your Campus Writing Center? Rafoth, Ben Vol. 1 audience, collaboration, conferencing, confidence, motivation, needs analysis, student opinion, tutoring, writing center
Wikipedia Is Good for You!? Purdy, James P. Vol. 1 accuracy, changeability, collaboration, dialogic, guidelines, interactive, internet, invention, resources, review writing, revision, term paper, Wikipedia
Writing “Eyeball To Eyeball”: Building A Successful Collaboration Ingalls, Rebecca Vol. 2 affinity diagram, collaboration, communication, conflict resolution, creativity, ethics, group theory, innovation, invention, professional writing, project management, reflection, teamwork, WAC, writing process