I’m jealous of @comcastbonnie. Okay, that’s a little extreme. I wish I had the resources she has and could use them to help writing students and teachers.
Bonnie Smalley, also known as @comcastbonnie, was the focus of “A Day with 400 Tweets Starts with Simplicity,” a recent New York Times article that describes how she provides customer service for the cable TV and Internet service provider Comcast.
As the article explains, Smalley is “one of 10 representatives who reach out to customers through social networks, rather than waiting for them to find Comcast’s support site.”
Imagine if we could do the same thing to help student writers! I’d love to prowl the Internet, on the lookout for students lamenting that they can’t figure out an assignment or they can never remember how to use the semicolons.
If I ran a writing center, I’d set up and publicize a school hashtag and then ask online tutors to watch for basic questions. In quick exchange on Twitter, a tutor could answer simple questions about grammar and punctuation, define literary terms, and point to additional explanatory Web pages on a site like the Purdue OWL or Colorado State’s Writing Studio. When student writers ask more complex questions, tutors can encourage them to set up an appointment for a more in-depth session.
If we could support students the way @comcastbonnie runs customer service, writing program administrators might monitor the Internet for questions about program requirements, prerequisites, and course registrations. An English Department could answer similar questions for majors and minors as well as for incoming students and those interested in applying.
But why limit the help to students? Just think how we’d benefit as teachers from having someone out there on the Internet dedicated to helping us find what we need just when we need it — whether it’s standards and guidelines, convention details, or a second opinion on a troublesome situation. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could “reach out” and give them the help they need when they need it? Now there’s a job I’d love to have!