A little history on the SSAWW Newsletter

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.22.12 AMThe Fall 2015 SSAWW Newsletter is now available at the SSAWW site:


Since 2008 when I took over as SSAWW VP for Publications and newsletter editor, it has grown from 8 to 28 pages, largely because the members generously voted in 2010 to discontinue the paper version in favor of a web version.

Switching to the web had many benefits, as the members realized.

For one thing, all the money that used to go to printing now goes to the SSAWW Graduate Student Travel Fund. Eliminating printing meant eliminating a lot of paper waste, too, for a greener option.

The newsletter uses color now, which would have been too expensive pre-web, and the New Books pages added to the newsletter in 2011 are much more attractive in color.  The template is in Pages (an old version), and I chose the reddish header color so that it would align with the colors of Legacy (http://legacywomenwriters.org/).

If you want to see any of the back issues from 2008 on, they’re here: https://ssawwnew.wordpress.com/membership/newsletter/

Unfortunately, we don’t have any copies of issues prior to 2008, when the newsletter was edited by its founder and my wonderful predecessor, Karen Dandurand, for whom the SSAWW Lifetime Achievement Award is named: https://ssawwnew.wordpress.com/awards/  If you have copies, we’d like to scan them and put them on the site, so please contact me.

If Yosemite 10.10.5 broke Word 2008 on your computer, here’s a solution

Yosemite 10.10.5 descended on my Mac on September 19, and, as usual, programs began crashing in droves. Well, Word 2008 and Preview, the two programs I use most, broke, rendering the Mac useless for most work.

Word would open, crash, ask me about “Report this problem to Microsoft?” and display a crash report.  I tried opening in Safe Mode, restarting, resetting the Font Library, and other suggestions found online.

According to this thread and this thread, the problem is that documents with Track Changes were open in Word when the update occurred.  Here’s what worked:

  1. Open Word but hold down the Space bar as it opens to prevent the documents from automatically loading.
  2. Once Word opens, go to File -> Open Recent -> Clear Recent and clear out those files.
  3. Shut down Word and restart it.
  4. Open the files that you need. You can even open and save the ones that were open during the 10.10.5 update, and they seem to be unharmed.

This seems to work for Word.  It doesn’t work for Preview, so I have switched to Adobe Reader for now.

It’s not clear to me why Yosemite 10.10.5 has such a grudge against Word and its Track Changes feature, but that’s a matter for the wizards in Redmond and Cupertino to solve.

Site updates: Mary Austin

I’m updating the links on the Mary Austin page since they are out of date.

A lot of links at the site are out of date because they lead to the University of Virginia’s etext library, a great resource in the early days of the web, since these were reliably transcribed editions.

Now, however, these UVa resources have been locked down behind a subscription wall and are no longer available.

I’ll substitute Google Books links when possible, since these have the benefit of showing the page images.

Laptops in the classroom? A reasoned response.

Short answer: yes, if it works for your teaching, and no, if it doesn’t. Used selectively, they can really help. But “selectively” has proven to be the key, at least in the classes I teach.

I’ve been teaching with technology for a long time and have adopted new technologies as they emerged.  When laptops started being common in classrooms circa 2004, I took a wait-and-see approach.

“Wait” is a lot of what I did, actually.

Me: “Student, what did you see in this passage?”
Student: [Looks up from laptop and stares blankly at me.]
Me, repeating the question: “Student, what does X mean by this phrase?”
Student: “What? Where are we? I didn’t hear the question.”

Buoyed by the hype surrounding laptops in classrooms–because at heart I’m a tech enthusiast–I waited. I watched this process unfold for seven years before addressing it.

I watched student participation slow down. I wanted to believe the hype, but I wasn’t seeing the benefits emerge. It’s not the students’ faults; everyone has trouble staying focused with a ready source of distraction available.

(And no, doodling on paper or looking out the window isn’t the same thing. These are students communing with their own brains, not someone else’s, and I have no problem with that. There’s research to show that this may actually heighten the listener’s awareness.)

Then I limited the use of laptops in classrooms except under certain circumstances. I explained why, and I said that three hours a week was not too much for all of us to devote to talking to each other about literature. We still use laptops, but on selected days.

Here’s the principal result: More engaged students and better class discussion. Better retention on quizzes. Better analysis in papers.

TL; DR: I wanted to believe that the experience would be enhanced with laptops, but the opposite proved true over 7 years. Your mileage may vary, but that’s why I limited laptop use in my classes.

Project REVEAL: Scanned mages from American authors’ archives at the Harry Ransom Center

In Project REVEAL, The Harry Ransom Center has put scans from its collections of manuscripts, photographs, and printed texts of American authors online:


The Writers of Project REVEAL

“The speed with brains behind it” –Royal Typewriter Ad, 1920

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.09.57 AMFrom The Outlook, vol. 126 (1920)

When I was reading through The Outlook the other day, this ad caught my eye. As ad copy, it hits the features as well as the benefits (thank you, Don Draper, for teaching us the difference) but it’s also fascinating for where it positions the women who did the typing.

It’s 5 o’clock. The woman in the picture is between the office boy (I’m guessing, due to his wearing knickerbockers, which a businessman wouldn’t have worn) and the desk where she’s putting down the built-in cover over her typewriter. She’s at the center of things, not the typewriter; although it’s displayed prominently below, it’s not actually shown in the narrative part of the picture, instead being linked by the gray background.

The machine is fast, certainly–the ad mentions “speed” eight times in this short amount of copy–but “the speed that counts” is “errorless speed.”

The typist herself makes this errorless speed happen, with her “sensitive fingers.” She creates “the speed with brains behind it.” It’s her brains and sensitive fingers as she operates the typewriter that create “the big steady pulse of modern business.”

There’s a delicate balance here as the ad elevates her from being just part of the machine of modern business to being a vital part of the brains (and, to judge by “big steady pulse,” its heart) that make the giant beast work.

I’ve been working recently on this rhetoric of connections between women and machines, and this is an ad that constructs the relationship in a sophisticated way. Don Draper would be proud.

Downloading and uploading graded papers to Blackboard

The new Blackboard really, really wants you to use its inline tools to grade and comment on student papers. But what if you have a system in place already, including autotext comments you’ve prepared (which won’t work inline) and don’t want to follow Blackboard’s master plan?

This is largely a bookmarking post so I won’t forget how, so please feel free to click away if you already know how to do this.

To download papers (pretty straightforward):

  1. Go to Full Grade Center.
  2. Go to the column where the assignment is.
  3. Click on the drop-down arrow and scroll down to Assignment File Download.
  4. Check “Select All Users” or “Select Ungraded” or whatever.
  5. Download these as a zip file.

Once you’ve graded them, how do you get them back on Blackboard? There is probably an easier way, but this one works.

  1. Go to Full Grade Center.
  2. Go to the Assignment Column. In the gradebox where the student attempt is, click the little drop-down arrow.
  3. Go to Attempt.
  4. In the right-hand box, where it says Feedback to Learner, click on the drop-down arrow.
  5. Underneath the Notes box, there’s your old friend the paper clip, which means that you can attach the graded file.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.00.53 PM

Here’s another way, no less obscure:

  1. Go to Full Grade Center. In the Assignment column, under the arrow, click on View Grade Details.
  2. It will take you to the Grade Details Page. (If you click Attempts at this point, you’ll be back in the “Attempt” menu, as above.)
  3. Click on Edit Grade. Now, you won’t see the attachment icon here, because it’s hidden in the extended menu.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.56.18 PM

    Figure 1. Nothing to see here, right?

  4. Click on the down arrows, though, and you’ll see the paper clip attachment icon.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.56.35 PM

    There it is!