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Course Syllabus - Winter 2011

Course Description

ENGL516 Computers and Writing: Theory and Practice (3 credits)
A review of current theory for constructing computerized composition and for applying computers in teaching writing at secondary and postsecondary levels.

Course Overview

ENGL516 provides students with an advanced study of theoretical and practical dimensions of teaching writing with computer technology. Computers and Writing, if we think of it as a sub-discipline, attends to the profound interplay of newer, networked technologies and composing practices, broadly conceived. That is, this course is concerned both with teaching and practicing writing in digital environments and, also, how an expanding digital milieu transforms (for better and worse) rhetoric, writing, teaching, classroom spaces, curricula. Our general purpose is to grapple with some of these changes in the interest of becoming more deliberative, adept, and inventive as teachers, writers, and thinkers.

We will begin the course with a series of questions meant to guide us as we theorize, teach, and practice digital writing. Among them are, What are digital literacies? In what ways are these distinctive from print literacies? What is gained or lost (and for whom) when we adopt an expansive notion of "writing" to include digital "texts"? How much must teachers of writing know about new and emerging technologies to teach new media composing? How can we possibly assess unwieldy, ethereal "artifacts" our students produce? Provisional assignments this semester include a series of blog entries, a compilation of word- and phrase-focused essays amounting to Keywords in Computers and Writing, in-class presentation(s), and a teaching document (syllabus, proposal, assignment, reading list, etc.) or substantial project.

Course Goals for ENGL516

Course goals for ENGL516 include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Develop a working knowledge of the evolving, interdependent relationships among composing practices, digital literacies, and writing technologies.
  2. Compose a series of texts as a distributed, recursive process that adapts to rhetorical contingencies, that responds to distinct audiences and genres, and that requires thinking and rethinking ideas.
  3. Gain fluency with theoretical dimensions of technology, computers, and new media, with an emphasis on pedagogy.
  4. Learn critical techniques of digital production using selected software applications and platforms.

Course Texts and Materials

What Technology Wants

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking, 2010. ISBN 978-0-670-02215-1. (required) Amazon.com | Half.com

Search Engine Society

Halavais, Alexander. Search Engine Society. Digital Media and Society Ser. Malden, MA: Polity, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7456-4215-4. (required)
Amazon.com | Half.com

Multiliteracies for a Digital Age

Selber, Stuart. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Studies in Writing & Rhetoric Ser. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2004. ISBN 0-8093-2551-9. (required)
Amazon.com | Half.com

Computers in the Composition Classroom

Sidler, Michelle, Richard Morris, and Elizabeth Overman Smith, eds. Computers in the Composition Classroom: A Critical Sourcebook. New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 2007. ISBN 0-312-45844-4. (required)
Amazon.com | Half.com

Writing New Media

Wysocki, Anne Francis et al., eds. Writing New Media. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004. ISBN 0-87421-575-7. (required)
Amazon.com | Half.com

These texts are available at the EMU Bookstore in the Student Center.

Further readings will be available to you as PDFs in EMU Online (see Doc Sharing). You should download PDFs for reading on the screen or, if you prefer, for printing and reading. Plan to spend as much as 20 USD on printing and photocopying over the course of the semester.


The work of the course is divided as follows


Participation, presence, and leadership 15
Discussion Lead 10
P1.Stream (immersive short-form writing) 25
P2.Keywords in Computers and Writing (word watcher) 20
P3.Lesson plan or extensive project (pedagogy) 20
P3.Ignite Presentation 10
Learning/Activity Inventory CR/NC

I will provide detailed comments in response to your work following deadlines and at any other time you request input from me. Comments may or may not include grade estimates, but they will provide you guidance for development and revision. Each of the numbered projects will be described fully in separate prompts that I will circulate at an appropriate time in the semester. When necessary or otherwise useful, grade estimates will be posted in the EMU Online (eCompanion) gradebook associated with this course. You must complete all major projects (i.e., P1, P2, P3, and P3 Presentation) and the Learning/Activity Inventory to be eligible for a passing grade in ENGL516.

Turning in Work

Google Docs
Unless otherwise specified, your writing in ENGL516 will be turned in via Google Docs. Your work will be commented and returned using the same platform. To submit a document for my review, place the document in the folder I have shared with you. If you seek feedback at a time other than a deadline, be sure to send me a brief email message including any questions or concerns you would like for me to address directly. When you move a document into the shared items folder, you do not need to share the document itself (i.e., it will be shared automatically).

File Naming
When you preparing to turn in your writing in Google Docs, adhere to the following conventions. Use the following naming formula: 516-FirstnameLastname-Assn. That is, your filenames should always include the course number, your last name, and the abbreviated name of the assignment, with a hyphen between each. For example, my own copy of Project Two would be named 516-DerekMueller-P2.

Late Work
All work must be submitted before the start of class on the due date to be considered on time and therefore eligible for full credit.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation

ENGL516 is a technology-intensive graduate seminar. Participation, involvement, and engagement with the activities of the class will be factored into your overall grade under the area of "participation, presence, and leadership" listed above. Absences and lack of preparation for class will affect your colleagues' work as well as your own. The work you do in and in preparation for each class is as important as the polished assignment you turn in for a project. In addition, our syllabus and schedule are only a projection and may be subject to occasional changes and revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. That is another reason why your attendance is vital.

If you must miss a class, you are still responsible for all work assigned, including turning work in by stated deadlines. Class time cannot be reconstructed or made up, and your performance, your work, and your course grade will be impacted by absences. If you miss more than two classes without any official documented cause, you will not be able to pass the course.

We will meet this semester in Sill 101, which means we will be surrounded by technology. You will at times be tempted to use the computers for checking email or browsing the web. As a rule of thumb, I ask that your in-class uses of mobile devices (e.g., cell phones) and desktop computers be focused on class-related activities. Obviously, you should silence your phones before coming to class. As long as everyone is respectfully attentive when someone is speaking, in-class technology use will not be a problem. In-class attentiveness, engagement, and preparedness (i.e., having read and prepared for each class) are what I mean by "presence."

Computer and Internet Usage

We will be interacting with a variety of sites on the internet during the course. Please let me know if you have not had any experience using a browser such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. When using a computer, save your work frequently, always make backup copies, and plan your projects with extra time allowed for unexpected challenges.

You will receive comprehensive instructions for turning in new media projects. Nevertheless, I strongly urge you to plan ahead, to familiarize yourself with file formats and with the submission process, and to approach me with questions about submissions well in advance of the due dates. Some of the work you do for this class will be composed using a word processing application, such as MS Word, Open Office, or Google Docs. When turning in documents like this, please use an easily readable typeface, such as Times New Roman 12. Assign one inch margins and adhere to MLA page layout and documentation conventions. At times you may be asked to turn in work in other formats (PDFs, images, blog or wiki entries, etc.).

Communication with Peers; Communication with the Instructor

While you can expect a considerable amount of leadership and direction to come from me, you should also make arrangements early in the semester to communicate with your colleagues. In other words, you are strongly encouraged to identify one or two (perhaps more) peers in the class with whom you can discuss readings and assignments, work through questions brought up in the class, and approach when you find something unclear. In short, my hope is that we all will prefer climate in which dialogue and interaction runs between the instructor and students and also between and among students when questions come up. Finally, you should always be proactive about asking questions when you have them, either by raising questions during class or contacting me or one of your peers privately.


To communicate by email we will use our emich.edu accounts, accessible via mail.emich.edu. You can send email to me or to classmates via the EMU Online (eCompanion) site associated with this course. You may call and leave a phone message, but you will at times find it more effective to use email to contact me about your work in the course. You can also set up an appointment to meet with me on campus, or to ask a question. With rare exceptions, I will respond to all email inquiries within 48 hours.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately passes off another's words or ideas without acknowledging their source. For example, turning another's work in as your own is plagiarism. Because of the design and nature of this course, it will take as much (or more) work for you to plagiarize in it than it will to actually complete the work of the class. Consequences for blatant plagiarism may include failing the assignment on which you are working and having your case passed to the university for additional disciplinary action. For a more detailed explanation of Eastern Michigan University's stance on academic integrity, refer to Section V.A. of the Student Conduct Code.

Disability Resource Center (DRC)

If you have a documented disability that affects your work in this (or any other) class, the Disability Resource Center can provide support for you. It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students, including those with disabilities that may impact their learning in this class. If anyone believes they may have trouble participating or effectively demonstrating learning in this course, please meet with me (with or without a Disability Resource Center (DRC) accommodation letter) to discuss reasonable options or adjustments. During our conversation, I may suggest the possibility/necessity of your contacting the DRC (240 Student Center; 734-487-2470; swd_office@emich.edu) to talk about academic accommodations. You are welcome to talk to me at any point in the semester about such issues, but it is always best if we can talk at least one week prior to the need for any modifications.

Academic Projects Center

The Academic Projects Center is located in 116 Halle Library (487-0020, extension 2154). The Center is open M-Th from 11-5 and is staffed by University Writing Center consultants, Halle Librarians, and Information and Communications Technology staff who can help with writing, research, or technology needs. No appointment is necessary. When you visit the Academic Projects Center, be sure to bring a draft of what you're working on and your assignment sheet with you.

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center (115 Halle Library) offers one-to-one consulting for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can make appointments or drop in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Students should bring a draft of what they’re working on and their assignment.

The UWC also offers small group workshops on various topics related to writing (e.g., Strategies for Successful College Reading; Peer Review; Revising and Editing Your Writing). Descriptions of all UWC workshops are posted at www.emich.edu/english/writing-center. Workshops are offered at various times Monday through Friday in the UWC. To register for a workshop, click the "Register" link from the UWC page.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2019 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"In a digital universe, word, sound, and image share a common notation. They are, at a fundamental level, convertible into one another" (465). Richard Lanham, "Implications of Electronic Information"

"These days all technology follows computer technology" (159). Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants

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