Tech in the Center: Beyond The Basics

When I speak with another writing center administrators, I’m fascinated by the patchwork of apps, programs, and social media platforms in use to connect with students and clients. In addition to the standards–such as WCOnline and Google Docs–we’d love to hear from you and share with our community:

  • What’s your best and most innovative technological discovery?
  • What program or app helps you organize the flow of people, information, and events?
  • What interesting or new things are you doing with well-known technologies?
  • What website or service could you no longer live without?

We’d like to post a series short testimonials on what works best for you. Please e-mail Amy Hansen at with your answers. Include as much information as you can: links, photos of the technology in action, of you, your staff, or your writing center, and most importantly, a short (300-400 word) description of the technology, how you use it in your writing center, and what logistical or communicative need it meets.

WLN News Round-Up January 18-31

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Connecting Martin Luther King, Jr. and writing center initiatives. A tutor at DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning, Kieran G., commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by connecting the practices of the DePaul’s Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research, which holds weekly events for English Language Learners, to themes of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. She explains,

Ideas like equality and justice can sometimes seem abstract and distant, and, in a way, they are. At the same time, we can’t forget that those simple actions we don’t normally see as significant, like learning about someone else’s culture, can embrace the same message that Dr. King posed in 1963.

How can we avoid plagiarism and “de-plagiarism”? Stuart Rigley discusses how allowing students to see their TurnItIn reports leads to “de-plagiarism,” or the ability to see where they’ve copied large chunks of text and change words and phrases while still using the idea. To avoid this, he suggests writing by hand and more writing centers in the UK!

From EdSurge

From EdSurge

A FitBit approach to higher education. Rather than banning technology from the classroom, this article suggests that higher education embrace data collection on teaching, learning, and student habits in the classroom. My question is: how can writing centers specifically capitalize on this approach? Let us know in the comments!



WLN News Round-Up January 4-17

Happy New Year from WLN! Here is some of what has been on our news radar lately:

New year, new journal. Looking to set a resolution for the new year? This post suggests that writing daily in a journal can yield benefits ranging from bolstering creativity to helping you lose weight. [Upworthy]

Write Here connects students and community. Student tutors from Westminster College in Utah are providing tutoring to community members of the city of South Salt Lake through a program called Write Here. Tutors work with community members on tasks ranging from writing personal narratives to homework. [KSL]

Technology trends enter the classroom. From wearable technology to virtual reality, 2016’s technology trends are poised to enter higher education. What kind of new technology would you most want to see used in your writing lab? [EdTech]

From NPR

From NPR

Can setting goals change your life? Research shows that expressive writing combined with goal-setting, a process that Dr. Jordan Peterson  of the University of Toronto calls “self-authoring” can aid in motivation for students, especially among at-risk populations. [NPR]


New Blog: The Writing Centre @ UWC

If you were previously following the University of Western Cape’s blog, it’s time to update your blogrolls! They’ve migrated to a new wordpress site, The Writing Centre @ UWC.  They’ve been maintaining an active web presence, with weekly posts on topics ranging from the position of the writing centre in the university to tutor training techniques. Check them out!

Writing in Psychology: New Additions to the Writer’s Web Handbook

I’m pleased that our university’s undergraduate Writing Consultants constantly are developing new materials from their majors, including sample writing with faculty commentary and video interviews. Our latest efforts add content to our handbook about writing in Psychology, including best practices on our campus for lab reports.

Writing in the disciplines proves tricky work at most writing centers, I’d wager, as tutors majoring in the discipline avoid giving writers content.

At Richmond, we achieve our balance by moving examples and advice onto the shoulders of our faculty, who appear to be more than happy about volunteering help. Often, they and their students will submit a paper or two with commentary written reflectively and after the fact. These models explore the “what ifs” of the roads not taken or that were taken incorrectly.

We hope readers here will enjoy browsing our latest update to Writer’s Web.

Update 2/27/13: Sorry for the broken link to the site! That has been mended.

From Local Center to Global OWL: An Interview with Muriel Harris

The PCCC Writing Center Blog welcomes Muriel Harris, founder of the Purdue OWL. Muriel Harris is professor emerita of English, Writing Lab Founder and Director (retired), founder and current editor of the Writing Lab Newsletter and founder of Purdue’s award-winning Online Writing Lab (OWL). She has published books, including The Prentice Hall Reference Guide and The Writer’s FAQs through Pearson. In this interview, Harris talks about the Purdue OWL best practices, its humble beginnings, and what’s next for the online lab.

PCCC Writing Center: The OWL at Purdue is known as the oldest online writing lab but also one of the most comprehensive. How did the OWL get its start? Can you talk about the process of establishing an OWL?
Muriel Harris: The Purdue OWL started as a small e-mail service and morphed into a huge website along with the technology that was available at each stage of its growth. Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no Internet, most writing centers had cabinets filled with paper handouts to use in tutorials. When the earliest e-mail became available (before web browsers), I decided it would be helpful for students writing their papers at night (especially on Sundays) if we could make the handouts available online. Somehow, by securing small bits of funding, I managed to find students who could type those handouts in ASCII characters and upload them so that they’d be available 24/7 by e-mail request. The attempts at formatting were minimal in that limited online environment. But a student with programming skills was able to set up the service so that a user could send an e-mail requesting the index and get an instant response. Then, the student could browse through the index and request specific handouts listed there, send off the e-mail request for them, and again get an instant response.

CFP: Winter 2012 AEQ

Hello All!

The Winter 2012 Issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly is still accepting submissions until the end of August for its special section on Writing Center Theory and Practice.  Articles may explore issues of theory, practice, and experience in writing center work, including qualitative and empirical studies and discussions of pedagogy.

Articles may also consider the following: How writing center professionals cope with change and the eventuality of needing to expand their efforts in response to new economic and demographic challenges.  Furthermore, as we move towards increasingly viral and technologically dependent learning communities, how can these efforts help meet the evolving demands of our students?

In addition to Writing Center Directors and other Administrators, submissions are also welcome from professional staff, faculty tutors, and graduate students who work in the writing center.  Manuscript length should be between 2,000 and 3,000 words.  Please identify your submission with the keyword “Center-2.”

For more information, please visit

Thank you!
K Charron


How Much Technology in the Center? A Question of Ethos

In Richmond’s Eng. 383 course that trains our Writing Consultants, I used to run across Michael Pemberton’s “Planning for Hypertexts in the Writing Center . . . Or Not,” warning about technology in our practices:

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether it is really the writing center’s responsibility to be all things to all people. There will always be more to learn. There will always be new groups making demands on our time and our resources in ways we haven’t yet planned for. (306)

My short answer for new media writing is “we had best be this one new thing to as many people as possible, or some other organization will do it for us and perhaps put us out of business.”

As this community of Writing Center professionals grows online, taking its place alongside WCenter , WLN, and other treasured print and digital resources, I want to stake a strong claim as to why I disagree, in a civil but nearly absolute manner, with Pemberton’s claim.

My response is one most applicable to those starting Writing Centers in places that have never had them or even a tradition of what we Yanks call “peer tutoring.”   The ethos accrued in helping writers with new-media projects could be immense. Such clout will help to protect centers and their staff from what I’m seeing here in the States, an ever-more predatory environment as campus services compete for budgets in a time of austerity.

Continue reading