#CEE13 Recap: Conference on English Education, Fort Collins CO

Last week, I attended the Conference on English Education for the first time. It was close to home…. well, close if you consider a 4.5 hour drive close, which I do. And it was a conference devoted exclusively to the thing I’m most passionate about in my work–educating future English educators.

I liked:

  • the low-key tone of the conference. Everyone I met was convivial and seemed deeply interested in other people’s work. There was a notable lack of academic posturing, at least in the sessions I attended. There were tough questions asked at a couple of the sessions, but they were questions motivated by real engagement in ideas, not merely by the desire to display intellectual superiority. Those of you who have attended academic conferences will understand what I mean.
  • the setting on the Colorado State University campus. Despite the fact that I got lost every single time I left my dorm room. I got lost on about five separate occasions in the Engineering building alone. But wow, so many trees, so much green space, just gorgeous.
  • getting to visit Fort Collins for the first time. I didn’t really have time to do anything beyond attend sessions and prep for my own session (on using Twitter to build teacher identity in Methods courses), but I did hang out at Mugs Coffee House each morning and afternoon and did a tiny bit of shopping at Barnes & Noble. Good coffee goes a long way for me, and I had good coffee. Plus, Fort Collins is extremely cute.
  • learning more about what other Methods teachers do in their classes
  • the challenge of trying to follow quantitative research presentations. Holy moly! I actually ended the conference wanting to take a statistics class because I think it would teach me how to do some of the research I’d like to be able to do in my classes but don’t know how to do.

My impression at the end of the conference was that, much as I enjoyed it, there weren’t as many takeaways as from other conferences I’ve attended, but my notes are actually full of small ideas and insights as well as books and assignments that I’d like to explore further. A few highlights from my notes:

From Ruth Vinz’s keynote:

  • Hope, play, and joy need to circulate more in our teaching and in our rhetoric of teaching.
  • Nothing manifests hope more than our notebooks and sketches, those places where we tinker and work through ideas
  • The current rhetoric of education focuses on the end point, the “to be,” when really we’re always in the making, in the becoming, in process

From Nicole Sieben’s session on writing with pre-service writing teachers:

  • We have to help our pre-service teachers build hopeful identities as writers
  • There are specific actions we can take as teachers to build hope in students
  • Fixed vs flexible mindset questionnaire might be interesting to use in Methods
  • Have students articulate writing goals and keep a writing goals journal

From Amie Ohlmann’s session on community outreach teaching:

  • Wonderful ideas for getting pre-service teachers into classrooms for brief teaching stints focused on the text chosen for the annual Derek Project 
  • Advantages of these brief teaching stints seem to outweigh disadvantages
  • More wonderful ideas for National Day of Writing events

From Allen Webb’s session on his Cultural Studies-focused Methods course:

  • “Move toward controversy”
  • Ways to encourage students to be curriculum makers rather than curriculum takers
  • Take small steps toward radical and revolutionary practices

From Tom Lynch’s session on quantitative analysis of literature:

  • “shit literacy”: thank you, David Coleman
  • “to complexify”: I am so in love with the whole notion of complexification
  • voyeurtools.org

From Allison Carey’s session on ways she has incorporated more technology into Methods:

I’d like to write more about Kristen Turner and Troy Hicks’s session on digital literacy in Methods courses in a later post. It was probably the best session I attended and left me with lots to ponder about the ways I’m using technology and helping pre-service teachers build digital literacy in my courses. Next up, finishing Troy’s two books.


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