Douglas Eyman
Cape Fear Community College

Contributing author:

Cindy Wambeam
New Mexico State University

Contributing editor:

Mike Salvo


CWTA at the MOO: Inventing the Alliance

      Now that we have heard *what* we are experiencing and what we would like to see in the future, I would like to move the discussion to *how* an organization like the CWTA can help us get there.

      What do you expect of a national alliance of Computers and Writing TAs? What can such an organization hope to accomplish? What will we need to begin our work? How do we get "there" from "here"?

      You can find out more about the CWTA by contacting Cin, douglas, Eric, JudiH, KarlaK, or me, MikeS, at MediaMOO, you can join the CWTA discussion group, or check out the CWTA web pages:

      Before we began our discussion of how the CWTA could help graduate students, it was agreed that the CWTA would have to affiliate itself with an organization which could address the issues of computers and writing as a field--beyond the boundaries and concerns of graduate students in that field (such as the ACW):

Snickity [to Green_Guest]: grad students face the problem of only being resident at an institution for a short time...and lack the administrative force to enact change.
GregS thinks that a graduate group might need to get support from "grownup" grous like the ACW, too.
KarlaK nods gregs. some of the issues overlap
MikeS says, "clearly we need to make connections with more mature organizations on common issues. However, are there issues that we as TAs and GAs, etc., face that makes the CWTA important?"

      When we turned our attention to what we can do for ourselves and for each other, the suggestions started flying. One of the main common threads we found while discussion our situations--that our institutions don't know what to do with us--prompted the suggestion that the CWTA help establish definitions and standards for utilizing computers and writing TAs in a fair and responsible manner:

SCog says, "We can try to get departments to hire people with computer knowledge, teaching knowledge, theory. WE can help them distinguish between tech support, which is honorable but not what I do."
KarlaK [to SCog]: definitions, that's what you're calling for.
MikeS says, "How about stating clear guidelines and making detailed descriptions of "proper" job titles/descriptions for CWTAs?"
GregS nods MikeS!! Job descriptions need to be solidified for all TAs!!!
MikeS says, "Yes. I think it is very important to have a sample of what is a *reasonable* workload! "
KarlaK says, "Maybe we can collect "job descriptions" from those of us who can put them together, as a beginning of a sample reasonable workload."
barrym [to KarlaK]: It is better to write cite specific job descriptions..for a number of reasons..but models will help.
KarlaK [to barrym]: Yep, but we gotta start somewhere. I think it's hard to know what a reasonable job description is--especially when the position is new.
SCog will submit her dept's computers and english job description, such as it is. It really gives me lots of latitude.
Eric is going to post his job description (freshly revised) on the web.

      One of the main missions proposed for the CWTA was to create a network of members who can devise and carry out plans for promoting the computers and writing field both locally and universally. It was suggested that CWTA members could find ways to publicize what it is that we do and recognize our membership for achievements in our field.

Green_Guest says, "I think we have an opportunity to "create" a field of upcoming experts in this area. The more the group can publish/adverstise itself, the more notice it will attract."
Green_Guest says, "Especially in terms of collaborative publications, etc.--both on the Net/web/ and in print media."
douglas says, "I think groups like CWTA can also put people in touch with each other for purposes of working on research and scholarship together--showing the administration at each place that what we are doing is valued elsewhere."
nickc says, "One thing the group can do is ask CWTAs to register and see if they'd be willing to be part of an editorial service, available to write short pieces for local papers, college newspapers, teacher's notes columns in academic journals and other outlets which talk about what teachers try to do with computers."
douglas says, "How about producing a *small* printed journal/newsletter (in addition to webbed) that could be sent to grad. programs--extolling the programs that do right by the TAs and summarizing research and scholarship in our field, for instance."
GregS nods douglas--"We certainly have to move beyond the Web (unfortunately)."
SCog [to GregS]: this is totally corny, but... awards? honors for achievements?
GregS [to SCog]: That'd be good, but I think we should give awards/credit to good *programs* rather than ourselves.
GregS [to SCog]: Recognize programs that do good work *with* their TAs... show the others examples of what can be done.
SCog nods, though one's professional organization recognizing one's above-and-beyond is not a bad thing on a vita, just speaking of convincing the dusty ones.

      Many of the participants envision the CWTA as an organization which could not only act as an advocate for C&W TAs, but also as a support service for those seeking employment after graduation. The CWTA can thus promote change both at the graduate level and in terms of overall recognition and propogation of computers and writing as a legitimate field.

nickc says, "I pay especial attention to job listings which ask for people with computer backgrounds, most I've seen are for writing teachers. One thing CWTA can do is chart the % of position announcements which look for that. Another is to consider the shrinking job market in academia and look at where else the expertise we develop can be used."
SCog says, "CWTA could send info to departments thinking of hiring, with info encouraging them to consider electronic discourse as a specialization."
SCog wants the specialization to be larger than lit, comp, rhet; she wants it to be its own thing.
Green_Guest says, "I also think the outside economic pressures are going to prevail and that more and more universities are truly going to need people like us."
nickc says, "I agree with Green; compared to traditional jobs, computer backgrounds I think will fare better."
SCog [to Green_Guest]: not unless you explain to them how to think of it. SCog doesn't want to denigrate anybody's work, but to me the distinction between tech support and university teaching is critical for respect.
KarlaK says, "There's another potential function of CWTA--to provide a network for finding out what the real job description is...
SusanL [to KarlaK]: That is an excellent potential function. Some of these descriptions are so poorly written, or governed by internal politics, that they want everything and nothing simultaneously.
KarlaK [to SusanL]: That's at least a good underground purpose. The more people you know / have access to, the better decision you can make.
douglas says, "We could also, after working together, provide letters of recommendation, etc. "

A quick summation of the main points follows:Onward!

To put this all in context, you can peruse the full moo-log for Tuesday, November 14, 1995 at

CWTA Moo Dialogue CWTA Interview 4C's '95 CWTA SIG CWTA Editorial CWTA Web Pages

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