Why broadband access is an essential learning tool

Vol. 4, No. 8 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

I recently was going into a shop in a stripmall, and one of my son’s friends from school was sitting on the sidewalk outside the store playing on their phone. I chatted with them a bit, and then asked if either of their parents was in this shop. “No. I come here because we don’t have internet at home.”

In a recent  Education Equality and Accountability Office (EQAO) survey of grade 9 students in Ontario, only 55.2% indicated that they had “access to strong internet connection at home to complete my schoolwork.” In real numbers, of the 103,816 students who responded to the EQAO survey, 3502 (3.4%) said that they do not have strong access to the internet; 1236 students (1.2%) indicated that they have strong access “hardly ever.” Eight hundred and twenty-four (0.8%) students in grade 9 in Ontario indicated that they “never” have access to the Internet (EQAO, 2023; see Figs. 1 & 2).

A sample of school boards with significant rural and Indigenous populations (Algoma, Ontario North East, and Near North) had lower access to the Internet, as well as to laptops/desktops, compared to urban or suburban populations (Durham and Ottawa-Carleton), shown in Table 1.

Comparison of Internet and computer access for grade 9 students
in Ontario, by school board.

As someone who’s lived in both north western as well as in southern Ontario, in very small rural and very large urban communities, these numbers are not surprising.

In 2020-2021, there were 1,429,347 students in Ontario enrolled in secondary school (grades 9-12) (Statista, 2023a). Applying the EQAO number 0.8% here, the result is 11,434 secondary students without access to the Internet. If, on average, a high school in Ontario has ~710 students,ꟸ the 11,434 students is equivalent to ~16 high schools without Internet access, never mind broadband. Together, the Algoma District School Board (9) and District School Board Ontario North East (10) have 19 secondary schools. Viewed this way, this lack of connectivity should be considered an emergency.

What about broadband access?

What about numbers for Canada? This is not easily discovered. A 2020 StatsCan survey report shows that 94% of Canadian households have access to the internet (StatsCan, 2021) and a Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) report in 2021 shows similar numbers: 7.5% of Canadian households do not have access to the internet. This might make it appear as though Internet connectivity in Canada is strong. It ranks in the top 30 nations by connectivity at 92% compared to 60% globally, and ahead of Sweden (91%) and Germany (88%) (World Bank, 2023c). But, in real numbers, 7.5% of households nationally equals nearly 1.2 million people without internet access. Further, only two-thirds of Canadian households have broadband internet (StatsCan, 2021a) (rated as 50 megabits per second download and 10 megabytes upload) (FCC, 2014). In British Columbia, for example, according to B.C.’s auditor general, “…60% of rural and remote communities and 62% of rural and remote Indigenous communities still lack adequate [broadband] internet” (Indigenous Partnerships…, 2023, February 22).

In British Columbia, for example, according to B.C.’s auditor general, “…60% of rural and remote communities and 62% of rural and remote Indigenous communities still lack adequate [broadband] internet” (Indigenous Partnerships…, 2023, February 22).

The federal government’s High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy promises through its $3.2 billion Universal Broadband Fund to “bring Internet at speeds of 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to rural and remote communities” (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, 2022), “toward ensuring that 98 per cent of Canadians have access to [broadband] internet by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030” (Government of Ontario, 2023, March 16). Unfortunately, those students who don’t have broadband access now will be in their 20s in 2030. The difference in access to broadband is often the difference in being able to participate in a webinar (with video), watch HD video, or running several data-heavy applications at the same time. This is significant considering online delivery of course materials, tutoring, and instruction in education.

Broadband is a public health issue

Broadband access is a well-known determinant of public health, as “broadband access is important given its impact on other social determinants of health, including education and employment opportunities” (Bauerly, McCord, Hulkower, & Pepin, 2019, p. 39).

Given that the internet has become a fundamental component of so many aspects of American life, broadband access is increasingly recognized as an important social determinant of health as well as a public health issue. (Bauerly, McCord, Hulkower, & Pepin, 2019, p. 39)

In 2023, the Ontario Minister of Rural Economic Development, Gudie Hutchings, agreed,

We all know that the internet is no longer a luxury in this day and age—it’s a necessity. Having fast, reliable internet helps rural Canadians by levelling the playing field to access essential services like health care and education, participate in the digital economy… (Government of Ontario, 2023, March 16)

This is a recognition of what the federal government calls, “a national connectivity gap” (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, 2022). This gap is evident in the urban/rural divide in Canada, “[n]early all Canadian households (95%)” in urban areas “had a home Internet connection, compared with 88% of those living outside” of urban areas (Stats Can, 2021b). This isn’t a surprise to Indigenous communities, as these communities have heard promises of connectivity before. In 2004, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) passed the First Nation Telecommunication Technologies and Broadband Infrastructure resolution. The

​​resolution recognizes the socio-economic importance of broadband connectivity in First Nations across the country. It directs the AFN leadership to ensure that Industry Canada (both regional and national programs) complete the job of ensuring that all Aboriginal communities have the opportunity to develop and maintain their own broadband infrastructure. (Kakepetum, 2005)

But these connectivity problems continue, even as the importance of broadband access grows.

Broadband, tech, and rights

Early & Hernandez reason, in Digital disenfranchisement and COVID-19: broadband internet access as a social determinant of health (2021), “[a]ccess to broadband internet has become a basic need. The COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed our reliance on broadband internet, not as a luxury but as an essential utility such as water and electricity” (p. 609). They go on to say,

Advocating for access to broadband internet should also go beyond just calling for adequate infrastructure for widespread connection: Access also includes making it affordable, creating inclusive technologies, and enhancing people’s digital literacy to use the technology. (p. 609)

In Australia, broadband access was recognized by their federal government as a right as a result of lack of access and age discrimination:

The social and economic consequences of the relative disadvantage experienced by older Australians in using the Internet has led Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan to characterize this disadvantage as a form of age discrimination. (Australian Human Rights Commission, n.d.)

Currently, as many as 13 countries recognize access to the internet as a right in various forms, but few mention broadband specifically. Spain, in 2011, “added broadband access to its universal service, and stipulated that broadband connection…is to be provided through any technology (Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado, 2011; Psaila, 2022). Other countries that recognize broadband as a fundamental right include Finland and Kenya (Psaila, 2022).

In Kenya’s 2013 National Broadband Strategy, the national government describes the changes to the constitution to assure broadband access to its citizens: the “Constitution of Kenya 2010…provides for information access to all citizens as a basic right and the recognition that Kenya aspires to be a globally competitive and prosperous nation” (p. 3).

Equal access is a human right

For countries such as Kenya, the digital divide is significant, not only within Kenya, but in its ability to join the global knowledge society, and its commerce and exchange. Its National Broadband Strategy (2013) was updated in the National Broadband Strategy 2018-2023 (2018). This 2018 report recognized issues with connectivity,

…the first National Broadband Strategy (2013-2017) that aimed at transforming Kenya into a knowledge-based society enabled by high-capacity nationwide broadband connectivity. Besides infrastructure capacity limitations and inadequate institutional framework, cyber security, privacy and data protection have also in part affected the uptake of broadband services in Kenya.

The government of Kenya recognizes that moving toward universal broadband access is key for many reasons,

“Government intends to leverage broadband to deliver…food security, universal healthcare, affordable housing and manufacturing… the government aims at increasing access to broadband coverage of 3G to 94% of the population by 2020; and increase digital literacy in schools to 85%, expand broadband to the 47 counties and especially to have 50% digital literacy amongst the workforce. (Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, 2018, .. 10).

Importantly, Kenya’s strategy ensures “[a]ll citizens including children in primary schools and adults across the country would be empowered through digital literacy and awareness” (p. 14).

For countries such as Kenya with large rural populations (72% in 2021 (World Bank, 2023b)), broadband access becomes fundamental. Globally, 44% of people live in rural areas (World Bank, 2023c), many with conditions similar to Kenya.

According to the World Bank, globally in 2021, 1.23 billion people had access to “fixed broadband subscriptions” (World Bank, 2023d), which is only 16%. At the same time, globally in 2023, it is estimated that 86% of us own a smart phone, with a projected near-universal ownership in 2030 (Statista, 2023b).

For those living in Canada, broadband was declared a basic service by the CRTC in 2016: the

Commission is establishing the following universal service objective: Canadians, in urban areas as well as in rural and remote areas, have access to voice services and broadband Internet access services, on both fixed and mobile wireless networks. (italics in the original) (CRTC, 2016, December 21)

The Commission declares broadband as “essential,”

In rural and remote communities, high-quality broadband Internet access service is essential for accessing services that may not otherwise be available due to distance (e.g. health services via videoconferencing and education). Further, increasing reliance by banks and governments on virtual services requires reliable broadband Internet access services in all areas, including in rural and remote areas. (CRTC, 2016, December 21)

What the commission failed to do is cap the price of broadband service, like it did with basic TV services (at $25/month in 2016) (Pedwell, 2016, December 21). While the federal government’s 2022 Connecting Families initiative proposes a $20 monthly rate for “low income families and seniors,” the “initiative relies on Internet service providers” to “participate voluntarily and without government subsidy.” A March 2023 Auditor General’s report criticized the federal government for the continued “digital divide” between rural and urban areas, “including First Nations reserves” (Connectivity in Rural and Remote Areas, 2023). OpenMedia, an internet-access advocacy group, goes further, “[t]he government and CRTC must ensure that both connectivity and affordability are key cornerstones to their funding for Internet buildout” (2023, March 27). Access to the cable that connects to broadband is not enough, when many cannot afford connection.

“Canadians can’t imagine moving to an area lacking broadband. Almost six in 10 Canadians say it’s very unlikely they would purchase a home in a location without access to high-speed internet. Only one in 10 says it is likely they’d be willing to make such a purchase.” (Canada’s Internet Factbook 2021)

Chatting about broadband

While a great deal of digital ink is being spilled on ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) tools, we in higher education need to also remember about the inequity and injustice of who has access to broadband and the equipment need to employ it, and for those 1.2 million Canadians who do not have access to the internet at all. This is a global issue that we need to keep in mind when assigning writing projects or providing online tutoring and writing support. To keep this in front of my mind, I remember my son’s friend getting their internet on a sidewalk in a stripmall.

ꟸ ~ 650,000 secondary students in Ontario / 920 publics secondary schools in Ontario = ~710 students per school (Council of Ministers of Education, 2023; Statista, 2023).


Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado. (2011). Ley 2/2011, de 4 de marzo, de Economía Sostenible. Retrieved from https://www.boe.es/eli/es/l/2011/03/04/2

Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). 8 A right to access the Internet. Retrieved from https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/8-right-access-internet

Bauerly, B. C., McCord, R. F., Hulkower, R., & Pepin, D. (2019). Broadband Access as a Public Health Issue: The Role of Law in Expanding Broadband Access and Connecting Underserved Communities for Better Health Outcomes. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 47(S2), 39–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073110519857314

Boerngen,M. A., & Rickard, J. W. (2021). To zoom or not to zoom: The impact of rural broadband on online learning. Natural Sciences Education, 50(1), 10–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/nse2.20044

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EQAO. (2023). OSSLT: Student questionnaire (SQ), technology access. Education Equality and Accountability Office. Retrieved from https://www.eqao.com/results/interactive-eqao-dashboards/

FCC. (2023). Types of broadband connections. Retrieved from https://www.fcc.gov/general/types-broadband-connections

Government of Ontario. (2023, March 16). Governments of Canada and Ontario invest nearly $2.4 million to bring high-speed internet access to up to 299 households in Campbellville. Retrieved from https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1002834/governments-of-canada-and-ontario-invest-nearly-24-million-to-bring-high-speed-internet-access-to-up-to-299-households-in-campbellville

Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase. (2023, February 22). Fixing the digital disconnect in First Nations communities. Retrieved from https://www.indigenoussuccess.ca/news/fixing-the-digital-disconnect-in-first-nations-communities

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Kakepetum, G. (2005). Open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin: Broadband connectivity in Aboriginal communities. The Journal of Community Informatics, 1(2), pp. 197-203.

The National Broadband Strategy. (2013). Ministryof Information Communication and Technology. Retrieved from https://www.ict.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/National-Broadband-Strategy-2023-FINAL.pdf

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Pedwell, T. (2016, December 21). CRTC declares broadband internet a basic service. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/12/21/crtc-declares-broadband-internet-a-basic-service-like-telephone.html

Psaila, S. B. (2011, June 10). UN declares Internet access a human right’ – did it really? Diplo. Retrieved from https://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/un-declares-internet-access-human-right-did-it-really/

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ChatGPT snapshot: University of Waterloo

Vol 4, No. 7 (Spring 2023)

Clare Bermingham,
Director, Writing and Communication Centre,
University of Waterloo

In April 2023, I asked writing centre practitioners to answer 5 questions on ChatGPT and their centres’ responses. Over the next month, I’ll post the response. If you have a perspective to offer, please use this form, and I’ll post it here. Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

What actions, policies, resources, or information has your institution put in place for ChatGPT?

At the University of Waterloo, the Office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic has shared several information memos and a FAQ resource, which includes guidance on the university’s pedagogy-first approach and maintaining academic integrity related to ChatGPT. Our university uses Turnitin and has just activated the ChatGPT detection option. The impact of this for instructors and students is unclear at this point in time.

Staff from academic support units, including the Writing and Communication Centre (WCC), have been working together to share information to support instructors and students, and to stay up-to-date on new developments. The Library has released a subject guide on citing AI like ChatGPT. The Centre for Teaching Excellence has a resource for instructors on talking to students about Chat GPT. The WCC is working on a student resource with guidance on ethical and productive ways to use ChatGPT and preparing a student-facing workshop for fall.

What actions, policies, resources, or information has your centre put in place for ChatGPT?

At the WCC, we have not put any formal policies into place at this point; however, we have been sharing information internally to help with any conversations that may arise with students. It’s important that we are familiar with the possibilities and limitations of ChatGPT to support students who have been directed to use ChatGPT or who may be anticipating using it in their co-op work terms. It’s also important to be familiar with the most up-to-date information on including AI in authorship and citation for assignments and publications.

We are working with other units to create a general student resource with guidance on ethical and productive ways to use ChatGPT, and we are planning a workshop for students for the fall. Our goals are to empower students to optimally use the technology in ways that support their writing processes; to educate them about its limitations and any potential areas of concern, such as privacy issues and  linguistic whitewashing; and to give them information about citation and academic integrity policies so that they can learn to use ChatGPT ethically and know not to use it when not permitted to.

Is your centre providing training for the writing centre staff?

Yes, we have been sharing information to this point, but we will engage in more active education and planning for fall peer tutor training over our spring term (May-Aug).

What are your students saying about ChatGPT?

Students are saying that there are a range of approaches to ChatGPT by instructors: not mentioning it, banning its use, incorporating it to some degree, and embracing it. One student recently noted that they are expected to do additional work to prove they have not used it.

What other comments, etc. would you like to add?

ChatGPT is new and exciting, and we will adapt, just as we have to Wikipedia, calculators, integrated grammar and spell check, and other technologies. This kind of AI will encourage educators to really think about what they want students to be able to do, and to be intentional about aligning learning outcomes with assessments. It will encourage students to show all of their sources of ideas and information, including the development of their own thinking.

One unfortunate aspect of AI detection tools is the possibility of false positives in reports. A role for writing centres might be to educate students about this risk and encourage them to keep a record of their ideation and drafting processes for assignments to show the development of their work.

Our students will be using tools like ChatGPT to write in their future workplaces. The more that we can guide, support, and educate students at this early stage, then the more prepared they will be to write productively and ethically with AI as they develop their writing capacities and processes. Ignoring or standing against these technologies isn’t the right answer; writing centres need to become familiar with AI text generators to be the best advisors for students that we can be.

Drafting a position statement for ChatGPT and LLM writing tools for higher education

Vol. 4, No. 6 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

Having a baseline foundation is important to building writing and tutoring programs and support for students. This is especially true when technology comes available that dramatically changes not only the way we teach, but the way we think about education. This is the case with CHatGPT and other Large Language Model (LLMs) tools. (Think: ChatGPT is to LLMs as Band Aid is to bandages, or Kleenex is to tissues.)

What is ChatGPT?

A number of writing instructors and administrators from across Canada have created a shared document, Crowdsourcing Responses to Generative AI from Canadian Writing Experts, to provide a community of practice for not only responding to ChatGPT, but for developing pedagogy and teaching and tutoring practices everyone in the community can use. One element is a position statement. If you work in writing centres in Canada, please consider participating in the Crowdsourcing document. Continue reading “Drafting a position statement for ChatGPT and LLM writing tools for higher education”

ChatGPT snapshot: University of Saskatchewan

Vol. 4, No. 5 (Spring 2023)

Liv Marken,
Learning Specialist (Writing Centre Coordinator)
Writing Centre
University of Saskatchewan

In April 2023, I asked writing centre practitioners to answer 5 questions on ChatGPT and their centres’ responses. Over the next month, I’ll post the response. If you have a perspective to offer, please use this form, and I’ll post it here. Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

What actions, policies, resources, or information has your institution put in place for ChatGPT?

It has been an exciting but challenging term because there has been uncertainty about who would take leadership on the issue. There wasn’t any official guidance issued, but on our academic integrity website, an instructor FAQ was published in early March, and soon after that a student FAQ. Library staff (including me and my colleague Jill McMillan, our graduate writing specialist) co-authored these with a colleague from the teaching support centre. Continue reading “ChatGPT snapshot: University of Saskatchewan”

Writing a conference proposal: A step-by-step guide

Vol.4, No. 4 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR
Stevie Bell, Associate Editor, CWCR/RCCR

This is an expansion of the CWCR/RCCR post, Vol. 3 No. 3 (Winter 2022).

‘Tis the season, conference season. For those who have not written a conference proposal, it can seem like a daunting project. The thought of it can cause many to not submit at all. It can be difficult to know where to start and what to write, while following a conference’s CFP format and theme. We’ve had both successful and rejected proposals. As conference proposal reviewers and conference organizers, we’ve read many proposals and drafted several conference calls-for-proposals, as well. Here are some of the things that we’ve learned from experience. We hope this guide will provide you with some help to get your proposal started, into shape, and submitted. Continue reading “Writing a conference proposal: A step-by-step guide”

Academic vigilantes and superheroes

Vol. 4, No. 3 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

“Only those safe from fascism and its practices are likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists.” – Aleksandar Hemon, Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight

IWCA’s theme for their 2023 conference is Embracing the Multi-Verse, a theme taken up by the CWCA/ACCR’s 2019 conference The Writing Centre Multiverse. The 2019 conference’s theoretical basis was Marshall, Hayashi, and Yeung’s Negotiating the Multi in Multilingualism and Multiliteracies (2012). The CWCA/ACCR’s call for proposals states that the authors’ study’s Continue reading “Academic vigilantes and superheroes”

Academic writing and ChatGPT: Step back to step forward

Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR
Stevie Bell, Associate Editor, CWCR/RCCR

Sam Altman, a co-founder of OpenAI, creators of ChatGPT, said in 2016 that he started OpenAI to “prevent artificial intelligence from accidentally wiping out humanity” (Friend, 2016,  October 2). Recently, Elon Musk (also a co-founder of OpenAI) and The Woz (a co-founder of Apple) along with several high-profile scientists, activists, and AI business people, signed a letter urging for a pause in the rollout of Large Language Model (LLMs) AI tools, such as ChatGPT. The letter warns of an “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one—not even their creators—can understand, predict, or reliably control” (Fraser, 4 April 2023). A Google engineer, Blake Lemoine, was fired for claiming that Google’s LLM tool, LaMDA, had become sentient:

I raised this as a concern about the degree to which power is being centralized in the hands of a few, and powerful AI technology which will influence people’s lives is being held behind closed doors … There is this major technology that has the chance of influencing human history for the next century, and the public is being cut out of the conversation about how it should be developed. (Harrison, 2022, August 16)

Continue reading “Academic writing and ChatGPT: Step back to step forward”

Writing centres and ChatGPT: And then all at once

Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 2023)
Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR

A couple months ago, I asked OpenAI‘s ChatGPT to write blog post on writing centres and academic integrity. This week, I asked the new version of ChatGPT to write this piece again. For the old version of GPT, I used this prompt:

Write a five-paragraph blog post about the state of writing centres in Canada, with citations and references. The first paragraph is an overview of Canadian writing centres for 2022. The second paragraph is an overview academic integrity issues in Canada in 2022. The third paragraph is an overview of how academic integrity affects Canadian writing centres. The four paragraph provides a preview of possible academic integrity issues in Canada in 2023. The fifth paragraph is a summation of the first four paragraphs.

Continue reading “Writing centres and ChatGPT: And then all at once”

Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)

A surveillance on the ledge of a building with a cloudy sky in the background.

Vol. 4 No. 1 (Fall 2022)

Brian Hotson, CWCR/RCCR Editor
Stevie Bell, CWCR/RCCR Associate Editor

Like many teachers on a late-August vacation, education companies can see September on the horizon. The difference is that these companies aren’t relaxing. They’re sending e-mails and booking video conferences with offers of freshly printed textbooks, handy workbooks, new online tools, and easy-to-use mobile apps that promise to make student life easier and save universities and colleges money.

The business of education is very large, with total global spending estimated at $4.7 trillion (USD) (UNESCO). By comparison, the total GDP of all African nations in 2021 was $2.7 trillion (USD) (StatisticsTimes, 2021). In 2018-2019, “public and private expenditure on [postsecondary] education” in Canada was $41.5 billion. Education companies would like a share of the money. In this context, a new-to-Canada online writing and tutoring tool, Studiosity, has appeared. Continue reading “Friends don’t let friends Studiosity (without reading the fine print)”

ProTips for Essay Writers: From OWL Handouts to Videos

Image of Stevie Bell, a white woman with cropped hair, and Brian Hotson, a white man with a grey beard, smiling with the text: Pro Tips for Essay Writers

Vol. 3 No. 9 (Summer 2022)

This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs

By Stevie Bell, York University Writing Department & Brian Hotson, Independent Scholar

The digital turn in education, part of the COVID turn, initiated by the pandemic reenergized, recentred, and reoriented asynchronous writing instruction where students engage with writing resources and connect with writing tutors on their schedule. At York University’s writing centre, where Stevie is located, renewed attention is being paid to developing a repertoire of online resources to engage students differently than traditional PDF instructional handouts or webtext pages. Stevie was given a .5 teaching credit in an experimental initiative to develop instructional videos for the Writing Centre and learn about student preferences, engagement, production processes, etc. Of course Stevie invited Brian Hotson, her writing partner, on the adventure. Together, they produced ProTips for Essay Writers. In this piece, we reflect on lessons learned and share some of the behind-the-scenes production workflow, how-tos, and video analytics. Continue reading “ProTips for Essay Writers: From OWL Handouts to Videos”

Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres

Vol. 3, No. 5 (Spring 2022)
Brian Hotson,

I recently interviewed with Casey Wong who is the keynote speaker for the 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference. Wong (he/him) is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is co-editing a forthcoming book, Freedom Moves: Hip Hop Knowledges, Pedagogies, and Futures?, with H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang.

Thank you for taking the time for to speak with me. 

Wong: Thank you! I’m excited about entering into community with you and the CWCA/ACCR attendees.

First off, I’m interested in how you got to where you are now. What was your path to your PhD and UCLA? 

Casey Wong
Case Wong

Wong: I love this question, and I imagine I could begin academically, but I might start with my upbringing. When I’m thinking about the power of language and rhetorics, I think about all I witnessed growing up in communities in Southern California that were some of the poorest by size in the country. I saw a variety of literacies spraypainted across train cars that actively passed through one of my central places of upbringing, Colton, California. I consider how I grew up among interconnected and overlapping peoples from the African/Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander diasporas. I consider how local Native peoples were actively involved in my elementary school in San Bernardino, California. I think about how White supremacy often found its way into the voices and lives of my poor and working-class White peers, but how often there were deep co-conspiracies and solidarities that went unnoticed. With so many peoples, from so many places, it made having access to multiple varieties of language a deep advantage, and their value, and beauty–even as Dominant American English was widely seen as the ideological norm in very oppressive ways. I saw this personally as my Cantonese father secretly refused to let us know he spoke Cantonese, nor let us learn–something myself, my brother and sister would not find out until he passed away while we were in high school. Continue reading “Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres”

Writing a conference proposal: A guide

an auditorium filled with people with two presenters

Vol. 3 No. 3 (Winter 2022)

Brian Hotson, CWCA/ACCR 2022 Conference Co-Chair
Stevie Bell, CWCA/ACCR 2022 Conference Co-Chair

If you’ve not written a conference proposal, it’s hard to know where to start and what to write, all while following the conference CFP format. This guide (links below) will provide you with some help as you get your proposal started, into shape, and then submitted. This is a step-by-step guide, leading you through each part of the CFP:

  • Title
  • Detailed abstract
  • Proposal description
  • Type of session
  • References

Provided are instructions on how to structure each section using examples, leading to a final Proposal Description sample. Use it for your own proposal and share it with your colleagues and tutors.

Writing a conference proposal: A guide

2022 CWCA/ACCR Conference CFP – Reckoning with Space & Safety in the COVID Turn

If you need support, please contact the conference co-chairs,
Stevie Bell, stepbell@yorku.ca
Brian Hotson, brw.hotson@gmail.com

“I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre

the word "Play" in green against a brown backdrop

Vol. 3 No. 2 (Winter 2022)

Editor’s note: This is a Session Reflection. If you have a unique tutoring experience to share, submit your Session Reflection to Brian Hotson cwcr.rccr@gmail.com

Stevie Bell is an associate professor in the Writing Department at York University and CWCR/RCCR co-founder

A sticker with the word "essay" that looks like its meltingWriting centre tutors may be seeing an increase in multimodal writing projects (DWPs) now that students are primarily producing and submitting their work online―at least this is the case for me. Today’s students have the opportunity to use colour, sound, gifs, and video elements to enhance even traditional essays, and these elements are becoming not just common, but often expected. Students are also being assigned creative projects that require them to focus on becoming design-savvy producers of multimodal texts, using design elements and theory that isn’t always in their writing toolbox

Where on campus can students seek help with multimodal projects? In my opinion, writing centres are well positioned to extend the work they do supporting students as they use writing as a tool of thinking and communicating to include multimodal processes that do not prioritize alphabetic/linguistic modes. Writing centre tutors already know the structure of argumentation, the rhetoric of academic writing, and styles and formats required for writing at university or college levels. They also know how to think along with students, as well as to think in and through the tasks, challenges, and blocks that students come to the centre to work through.

Continue reading ““I don’t know, let’s play”: Multimodal design support in the writing centre”

Creating writing centres in neocolonialism

Vol. 3 No. 4 (Fall 2021)

Brian Hotson, Editor, CWCR/RCCR
Stevie Bell, Associate Professor, York University
Guest editor: Lauren Mackenzie

In 2008, the then CWCA/ACCR president participated in “setting up of the first writing centre” in India (Holock, 2009, p. 6) through the University of Ottawa. In a piece in the 2009 CWCA/ACCR Newsletter, Writing into India: Setting up the first Writing Centre in the country, Holock describes his experience at Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science in Gogol, Goa, India in a travel diary style recounting,

On Friday, June 27, 2008, we step off of our fifteen-hour flight in Mumbai, my boss and I, and immediately feel the weight of our endeavour. It is not only the heat and thickness of the air, but the realization that we have finally arrived to start work on Monday, in a country and an educational system that neither of us have ever been exposed to. (Holock, 2009, p. 6)

Continue reading “Creating writing centres in neocolonialism”

If you could say anything to faculty about academic integrity…

Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 2021)

Stephanie Bell, Associate Professor, York University Writing Centre; co-founder, CWCR/RCCR

A clear-cut strategy for undermining the writing centre’s relationship with student writers is to become reporters, adjudicators, or punishers of plagiarism and cheating (Bell, 2018).

In its heavy-handed discourse around academic dishonesty, the institution draws a divide between itself and students. Students arrive on campuses to find themselves positioned as likely criminals, and their work is policed by AI that scans it for infractions. Ironically, the institution’s academic dishonesty rhetoric can so undermine the institution-student relationship that it fosters academically dishonest student behaviour (see Strayhorn, 2012). To fulfill their missions, writing centres must carefully navigate the issue of academic dishonesty and the institution-student divide it constructs. Continue reading “If you could say anything to faculty about academic integrity…”

A Short History of CWCA/ACCR: Fifteen years on

Vol. 3, No. 1 (Fall 2021)

Brian Hotson, CWCR/RCCR Editor


Volume 1, Issue 1 Halifax Gazette, March 23, 1752

Although writing centres in Canada date to the mid-1960s (See Table 1) (Proctor, 2011, p. 418; Bromley, 2017, p. 35), writing tutoring and writing instruction, of course, didn’t begin with the first writing centres. Writing instruction has a progenitor dating to the first European colonizers in what is now called Canada (Halifax Gazette, 1752). Because the Canadian writing centre field is young, many of the key founders and figures in its development continue to add to its literature and practice. These writing centre practitioners in the past thirty years have created a significant body of work, including publications, repositories of information, modes of practice, national and regional associations and conferences, and proactive advocacy and social justice work. While there have been times in the past where shifts in writing centres in Canada have caused worries about centre funding and importance, writing centres will not disappear from  Canada’s  education field. In fact, writing centres will continue to grow in importance, as writing centres Continue reading “A Short History of CWCA/ACCR: Fifteen years on”

One year on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada

Vol 2, No. 3 (Spring 2021)
Brian Hotson, Co-Editor, CWCR/RCCR

At the beginning of the lockdown across Canada and the move to online support, we asked our colleagues to provide a snapshot of their centres. These posts from March 2020 (here, here, here, and here) are historical markers and records of an unprecedented time in higher education in Canada. One year on, we’ve asked again for a March snapshot–how have tour centres changed, what have you learned, and where are we going. Here are the responses.

Continue reading “One year on: COVID Snapshot of writing centres in Canada”

Supporting students for interview assignments

Vol 2., No. 1 (Spring 2021)
Brian Hotson, Co-Editor, CWCR/RCCR.

Google slides for presenting this material as a workshop.


Interviewing gives students greater intimacy with an event or subject in a way not otherwise possible with secondary research. In interview assignments, students connect first-hand to an individual’s accounts of, for instance, their participation in a protest event or reflections on their career in ways that support their understanding of course content. Interviewing is a process that is very much like writing; it involves stages of researching, outlining, writing, rewriting, and editing. For this reason, writing specialists and tutors situated within locations of writing support have much to offer students as they prepare for and write about interviews. Continue reading “Supporting students for interview assignments”

Free-falling into the Digital Divide: Reading on smartphones in writing centres

Vol. 2., No. 6 (Winter 2021)
Brian Hotson, Co-Editor, CWCR/RCCR

How does fundamental change happen? Sometimes slowly, and then all at once.

Students started saying that they didn’t need to hand in a printed copy of their papers; the instructor asked them to submit them electronically only. They weren’t getting hardcopies of their assignments from their instructors either; they were showing us their assignment instructions on their phones. I remember the all-staff training session where I said that we would allow students to use their devices to show us their assignments. There were protests and conversation, but we agreed that it was the right thing to do for our students. It was a fundamental change, and we all felt it. I developed guidance for the tutors and students. The students were happy with the change, and the tutors who protested adapted were happy the students were happy

Of course, now this is quaint nostalgia. None of us has seen student work on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper since March 2020, and many of us won’t see one again until maybe September, if ever. Continue reading “Free-falling into the Digital Divide: Reading on smartphones in writing centres”

Is it really worth it to write for a blog?

Image of woman at her computer

Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter 2021)
Brian Hotson, Co-Editor, CWCR/RCCR

Brian Hotson is the director of Academic Learning Services at Saint Mary’s University. He is the current Co-Editor the Canadian Writing Centre Review / revue Canadienne des centres de rédaction (CWCR/RCCR), and past editor of the WLN blog, Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders.

You’ve just received an unsolicited e-mail to write a post for an academic blog. The blog looks interesting, and you’re considering replying. But you have questions

Blogging is growing, not waning, in importance for academic writers who are interested in testing and workshopping ideas, as well as finding collaborators and publishers. When used in combination with other media platforms, such as twitter, blogging can amplify a writer’s voice, audience reach, and provide a platform to promote ideas and concepts into their field and literature. Writers can use info graphics, gifs, and other multimodalities in addition to text, things often associated with academic journals. And, they are usually fairly quick to turn out. Continue reading “Is it really worth it to write for a blog?”