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Collection by
Katherine Frank
Oct 20 2010

Resources in this collection

4 Resources in this collection
Linda Biondi reviews Teaching the New Writing, edited by Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran, and points out a common theme throughout the book: how technology and its uses in the classroom draw out and feature the collaborative nature of writing. She describes the book as a “reflective instrument” both in terms of how each chapter is written and the way the book inspires readers to reflect on their own practice. Readers are placed in a situation similar to that of their students, and they can thereby experience the empowerment, effects of active learning, and challenges and rewards of engaging higher order thinking skills that create 21st century scholars, educators, and citizens.
How does an educator survive in this “world of instant collaboration and communication”? Karen Chichester describes how using Twitter allowed her to establish an effective Professional/Personal Learning Community (PLC). Through collaboration and communication, Chichester not only improved her classroom practice, but more importantly, she developed as a professional and came to recognize that she had something to contribute to the larger conversation.
Laura Beth Fay introduces readers to “The Scratch Community,” a resource that allows students and educators to use programming language as a “means of expression, collaboration, creative thinking development, and often just plain fun.” This community is described as a safe place for both students and educators to learn from others and to use feedback mechanisms as both a means of gathering information and a vehicle for improving one’s work. Students, especially, benefit from the introduction to the professional realm of publishing that the site provides, including an examination of the complexities of using others' work responsibly when introducing a new contribution to the public sphere.
David Boardman concedes that writing—the words that appear on the page—are still often perceived as sacred. Yet, he asserts, “Sometimes students find their writer voices through the voices of others.” In this resource, Boardman argues for and provides examples of ways to use digital writing in order to allow students to develop a collaborative voice, and, in the process, to help them to develop confidence and perspective as writers. For, “[i]n the end,” Boardman emphasizes, “writing is about communicating ideas that build or transform community. ‘Digital’ brings that community within the scope of possibility.”

“'Tis mine and it is likewise yours”

From yourdon's flickr stream

In the preface to the long-awaited publication of “Christabel,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge addresses charges of plagiarism levied against him after the poem, started in 1797, was finally published as a fragment in 1816 and subsequently criticized as resembling works by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Coleridge first refutes these charges of plagiarism by identifying dates when stages of the still-fragmentary poem were completed. However, later in the preface, Coleridge softens his response and requests, should his verse bear a “striking coincidence” to that of his fellow writers, that they consider the following:

Tis mine and it is likewise yours;
But an if this will not do;
Let it be mine, good friend! For I
Am the poorer of the two.

At a time when copyright legislation was at the center of discussions about authorship and publication, Coleridge points out the tension inherent in these discussions: Who owns the ideas? Is writing ever a solitary act? And if literary genius is a questionable concept, then really, is writing ever free from direct or indirect collaboration? Is it ever not part of a larger conversation?

This collection uses the lens of 21st century writing and its dependence upon and perpetuation of collaboration and communication to examine authorial ownership and appropriation within a contemporary academic setting. Linda Biondi’s review of Teaching the New Writing emphasizes the “collaborative nature of writing when using technology and what it looks like in the classroom.” The links throughout the article, including a YouTube video by educator Anita Benton that combines the lyrics of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” with classroom images and reflections on 21st century literacy, feature the conversational and collaborative approach to invention, production, and expression that characterize the new writing.

The other three resources in the collection use both form and content to reveal the interdependent relationship among 21st century writing, conversation, and collaboration from both the teacher’s and student’s perspective. Karen Chichester’s “Cross-country Collaboration: It All Started with Twitter” describes an ideal Professional/Personal Learning Community (PLC) facilitated through Twitter that allowed her to define the conditions of her ideal PLC, and which, through informed and immediate conversation, empowered her to find her own voice as a teacher-researcher and leader. Dave Boardman in “Building on the Voices of Others” and Laura Beth Fay in “The Scratch Community” discuss how joining a larger conversation, adding one’s own voice to this conversation, and collaborating with others in order to determine how to use published and public work responsibly help students think about professionalizing their own writing as they contribute to larger discourse communities.

Each resource in this collection is layered with different voices and perspectives; each models the communicative and collaborative practices it features. Together, then, the resources create a collection in conversation, an ongoing conversation about writing and learning in the 21st century that is much more complex, productive, and realistic than a long-worn myth of solitary genius.

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<p>Similar notions are discussed in Steven Johnson's new book <em>Where Good Ideas Come From </em>(2010)<em>, </em>described in this<em> </em>engaging 4-minute book-release video:&nbsp; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU.&nbsp; Johnson earlier gave a 20-minute 2010 TED talk about the ideas he fleshes out in the book:&nbsp; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af00UcTO-c.&nbsp; </p> <p>His summary of his central idea at the end of the TED talk and the 4-minute video is "chance favors the connected mind."</p>
<p>Thanks for posting these, Margaret. Both really interesting (as well as entertaining!) and I like the fact that your response itself involves multimedia, so thanks for adding these as the discussions here in Digital Is are just getting up and running.</p> <p>In the TED talk I was particularly struck by Steven Johnson's examples of how "liquid networks" support innovation, and how, at least in the one example of scientists sharing in a lab setting around a conference table at their weekly sharing meeting, that more often than not what was shared that led to the good ideas were "mistakes, errors and noise in the signal." </p> <p>Interesting to think about what can be learned from that too.</p>
<p>...yes, and Johnson makes the point, in several places in the book, that mistakes can be productive, generative--a notion to think about in our "right-answer-manic high-stakes-testing-driven" teaching environment.&nbsp; </p> <p>On our NYCWP listserv, Joe and Julie posted this 11-minute video, I'm guessing by the same animator as the four-minute Steven Johnson book-launch video, of Sir Ken Robinson talking about education reform, and he gets to the issue of mistakes, too:&nbsp; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U</p> <p>Great to meet you, Christina,</p> <p>Margaret</p>
<p>I want to echo your point here about how standardized testing, and the need to at least push our teaching in the direction of student achievement on those tests, narrows the margin for allowing creative mistakes in students. I think we are more apt to "correct" our students, and not necessarily fuel that mistake into a new path towards something interesting. I hate that I feel less flexible now than I used to.</p> <p>But, when it comes to using technology and media for creation, that flexibility raises its head. If you are not flexible with technology in the classroom -- if you are rigid that <em>this must be done this way</em> -- the learning experience is most likely doomed. Technology in the hands of young people forces flexibility, I think. Particularly if you want them to discover something new. (do we?)</p> <p>Kevin</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>I don't think there is any doubt that the current culture of standardized testing is moving us away from the process of students making productive mistakes. Things are so high stakes now, it's hard to convince a student it is ok to make mistakes along the way, though most of us would agree that's how we learn many of life's lessons.</p> <p>Another area that the focus on standardizeed testing seems to be hurting us in is the development of long, slow thinkers. Many of our greatest innovations were developed by people who would describe themselves as long, slow thinkers. With the increase in curriculum and testing, it hardly seems there is any time for them to develop any longer.</p> <p>-Chris</p>
<p>Adding to the sequence of replies on the same theme...</p><p>In industry more generally, but particularly in innovation-focused industries, the importance of productive failure cannot be overestimated. &nbsp;We have ideas, they lead to prototypes, prototypes work in some ways and fail in others, the failures help define new problems to work on or new understandings of old problems, and then we make new iterations. &nbsp;This is also how the writing process works...we draft, it works in some ways and fails in others, we see the draft anew and get response that helps us understand where a piece it going in a way that we couldn't even see before we had a draft, then iterate, iterate, iterate. &nbsp;Writing is like innovation more broadly, only with text as the core mechanic.</p><p>But policy structures for schools have created a punishing environment for 'failure', which leads many to be risk-averse. High stakes testing leads many students to be risk-averse. &nbsp;Despite all the policy emphasis now on innovation and "winning the future", this simple point that you are all making is not getting much attention. &nbsp;Thanks for turning up the volume about this in our DI community.</p>
<p>This resource, and Margaret's response, reminds me of the debates I used to have (raging ones, actually) when Napster was front page news as the music pirates of MP3 sharing. My friends would always take the side of the music companies (see how well they have adapted) and I would stake out this ideal position on the other side, arguing that "art" in all of its forms should be free to be re-used, re-mixed and adapted for various purposes, and therefore, Napster was a good thing.</p> <p>Note my word, ideal. I knew then, and I know now, that this concept potentially hurts the artist, who then may create less art, and so on and so on. But I hold true to the idea that the world is a better place when we have free access to all kinds of art -- music, writing, paintings, etc.</p> <p>I wrote this poem a few years ago, when I was having yet another debate with a friend on the same topic (although Napster had long since been hammered by the legal process and iTunes was just emerging to make us pay for everything).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Adrift on a Raft</strong></p> <p><em>(<a href="http://www.box.net/shared/static/sumhb3jvm8.mp3">the podcast version</a>)</em><strong><br /></strong></p> <p><br id="h.t_" />"Art <em>should </em>be free,"<br id="u3.g" />I insisted but she didn't believe me --<br id="loob" />she couldn't believe me -- she wouldn't believe me --<br id="lm3s" />and she insisted on arguing her case for copyright laws<br id="htfk" />and profit margins<br id="lt2d" />and the theft of ideas through digital handshakes,<br id="sd5s" />advertising along sidebars of poetry and images and music --<br id="p_en" />after which she drifted into some story about the writer suffering for his art <br id="g7od" />while his words floated free on someone's high-tech liquid screen<br id="arr1" />with no compensation, <br id="ayil" />no expectation of payback for all that thinking and planning and producing.<br id="t48q" /><br id="cnmb" />Her eyes teemed with fury as she talked and I, well, I just blinked,<br id="d1dm" />and quietly hid my hard drive from her gaze so she would not think me<br id="zn56" />the pirate that I am, the collector of words.<br id="wzz." />The point I wanted to prove to her was:<br id="m2zt" />if the art is powerful,<br id="n8xy" />if the art is meaningful,<br id="bqjq" />if the art is transformative,<br id="v6le" />then let it go by releasing it to the wind,<br id="jy44" />and pray that it will move someone to tears <br id="elrc" />or laughter<br id="t6br" />without us first grabbing a dollar from their wallet or a coin from their pocket.<br id="fh2l" />We suffer enough with pop culture stereotypes not to add<br id="exv8" />"shakedown artist" to the list and what is money anyway<br id="p._k" />in a place where ideas are currency?<br id="yhld" />She laughed at me then, scoffed at such notions, and ended our conversation<br id="oyoz" />with a simple, "You are so naive," and then left me with my idealism under attack.<br id="i69o" /><br id="ympe" />So here I am, now, turning <strong><em>her </em></strong>into a poem<br id="jueu" />and then pushing her out the door of my mind on a raft of words<br id="tdep" />into your ear, dear reader, dear listener,<br id="r5lr" />hoping only that she finds anchor in some friendly port <br id="xy0u" />on the other side of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </blockquote>
<p>Margaret,</p> <p>Thanks for posting these videos. &nbsp;It reminds me of the importance of teacher collaboration, which is the heart of the Writing Project. &nbsp;By opening our classroom doors and venturing into other's teaching lives our ideas have a chance to evolve. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The interconnected world needs to be reflected in our educational climate as well. &nbsp;I know some of my best teaching moments are a result of brorrowed ideas. &nbsp;Steven reminds us that sharing ideas is the engine of innovation. &nbsp;This is true in education as well.</p> <p>I hope the next generation of teachers embraces connectedness and openness.</p> <p>Thanks for sharing,</p> <p>Jason</p>