Making And Creating

Curated by Kevin Hodgson
July 24, 2012

Have you heard of or been part of the whole “Make” Movement? It’s a shift towards helping us see the value in the act of creating instead of merely consuming. Consideration of this shift is increasingly important as more young people spend their time online. The question of how to give them agency as creators instead of falling into the role of passive users is something we need to consider. Although much of the focus of the Make Movement is centered around physical projects — things you can hold in your hands and tinker with — there are plenty of connections that we can make to writers and technology.

This collection explores some of the ways that technology and media are providing (or perhaps not providing enough, if that is your line of thinking) avenues for people to take charge of creating content for themselves– and pushing some boundaries along the way. Think along the lines of publishing, of audience, of remixing, of mixed media, of the skills that go into creating something.

The stereotypical vision (but based, unfortunately, in reality) of the drone kid, sitting on the couch with a gaming device in hand while immersed in advertising overload on multiple screens around them, is a picture I’d like to push aside  and reconfigure — sort of like an etch-a-sketch. Shake it up, and redraw that scene. Let’s provide our young people ways to expand their own sense of wonder as writers, video producers, game designers, composers.

Just to spark some thinking visually, check out this interesting graph on The Myth of Web 2.0 Participation by Gary Hayes. I’d argue that while most of the users of technology and digital media are still on the left side of the chart, what we as teachers want to do is help our students move down the slope to the far right. Where are YOU on the graph? What kind of modeling do we do for young people?

Along those lines, then, in NWP’s Digital Is, I’d like you to considering exploring Peter Kittle’s collection entitled “Engaged Writers: Crafting New Texts.” In particular, take a bit of time to experience Bee Foster’s enlightening piece on “redefining text.” You’ll never look at a football play in the same light again, and you might think differently about those kids who doodle on the edges of notebooks or design plays for their sports teams.

Laura Beth Fay examines the idea of the “participatory culture” of the digital landscape (ala Henry Jenkins) and it is worth asking ourselves, how far do we go to provide our students with opportunities to tap into those experiences?

And Bud Hunt takes us on a journey into Connective Writing, giving us a nice entry into what it means to be a connected writer, teacher and student. I’ll point you to a resource within Bud’s collection, in which Paul Allison shows the Youth Voices network provides a viable, and live, place for rich conversations. Those young writers in those kinds of networks are making content, and making connections.

A few of my own resources revolve around ways that I tried to give power and agency to my students, and connect them with the world. What I hope they are making is content, connections and compositions that give them entry into the world.

For example, our Youth Radio project used podcasting to zero in on voice, and provided a platform for my students in our little suburbia to feel part of something much, much larger than our classroom. And there was the Many Voices for Darfur, which brought world politics into our classroom, and that shaped how my student began interacting with the world. Our Making Connections project was designed to bring writing into online spaces, but really, it was about finding a platform for urban and rural students to make something unique: a shared writing space. And finally, I want to suggest you consider my own exploration into the possibilities of bringing video games into the classroom — not as another “gamification” idea but as a way for students to design, create and publish their own video games.

Helping students make that transition into the role of maker/creator is the shift we should be exploring in our classroom and learning environments. How are you helping your students make that shift? Consider adding some thoughts and experiences as a comment thread here, and let’s build on those discussions.

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