Like many in the field of rhetoric and writing studies, I packed up and headed to Atlanta last week for the annual meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. If my math is correct, this was the 62nd meeting of the group, which began in 1949 when a few scholars got together to share concerns about “freshman English.” When I was in graduate school in the 70s—and I think the particular year was 1976—the CCCC program chair called my advisor Edward P. J. Corbett to say he had only a few proposals and to ask for help in recruiting presenters. What a difference a few decades make! The first CCCC program was a tiny little pamphlet: this year’s is nearly an inch thick!
I attended my first CCCC meeting in Boston—in 1970, I think, and then when I began graduate school in 1972, I began going to the meetings regularly; I believe I have been at every meeting since about 1974. So going to this conference is in a way like going home to me: I get a chance to see so many friends and so many former students that it is always a highlight of my year. And this year was no exception. Atlanta had put on her most beautiful spring face for us, and the program was, as always, packed with many more sessions than I could possibly attend. As I look back on the conference, I am struck by how much wonderful work I saw relating to new media or multimedia or multimodal writing—and to performance. It seems that writing teachers and scholars are in the forefront of bringing new genres and new forms of writing into the college classroom. I saw inspiring demonstrations of student work: podcasts, films, audio essays, video collages, graphic essays, techno performances that fairly made my head spin. These new possibilities for student writers are tremendously exciting, but they also remind me of one of the biggest challenges facing writing teachers today: how can we hold on to and teach the very best of the old literacy while offering students an opportunity to embrace the best of what the new literacy presents? Finding a way to establish and maintain this balance, as well as finding the best ways to teach new literacies (not to mention the best ways to evaluate them) may well be the most pressing issues of our time.