Remix & Remediate: Social Composing for More than Just the Web
One of the most difficult challenges of teaching first-year writing at the university level is moving students from a set of tightly held, prescriptive beliefs about what constitutes good writing into a space where they can broadly consider the unique rhetorical situation of every composition. Each semester, multiple students tell me they’ve never written anything for school other than a five-paragraph essay, and they look at me incredulously when I tell them that their thesis might not be best located in the last sentence of their first paragraph. They tell me good writers put five to seven sentences in every paragraph and never use contractions, and I tell them that this semester, we’re going to break all those rules and write with more than words on a page or a screen, just to see what might happen.
According to the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing (2012), successful postsecondary writers should cultivate eight habits of mind, including creativity, curiosity, openness, engagement, flexibility, metacognition, persistence, and responsibility. These habits, according to the National Council of Teachers of English, the Council of Writing Program Administrators, and the National Writing Project, can be fostered in classrooms that foreground critical and rhetorical thinking, help students pay attention to writing processes and develop knowledge of disciplinary and genre conventions, and encourage students to compose texts in both traditional and new media environments. As a first-year composition instructor at a regional public university, I work to seed these behaviors and orientations by giving students in my classes a wide range of choices about the texts that they create, access to and support for a variety of digital composition tools and composing heuristics, and perhaps, most importantly, the freedom to try new and difficult projects by untangling project failure from course failure.
Excerpt from Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely