Our students write papers for one-timeconsumption and are even penalized for re- using work as an act of plagiarism. When they submit a paper for a grade, theyessentially can’t think of it again (except for revision in portfolio-based classes).
I propose an “ecological” approach to writing classes that encourages re-use ofideas and recycling of papers as the primary goal of writing—the value of student work is determined by how well/much/often it is re-consumed by others.
The push for open access in academic journals hasnot yet resonated in the classroom. However, calls for more ﬂexible, more situationally dependent, and more creative assignments—combined withexperiments in open-access courses like MOOCs —place more emphasis on the purposes and potential re-use of texts created in class.
We know learning (and teaching!) doesn’t happen like this, but the image exempliﬁes the issue of effective re-use.Jean-Marc Côté created this picture postcard around1900, as marketing material for a company that went out of business before the cards were mass-produced. As a result, he had a nonexistent audience.
Isaac Asimov ultimately gained possession of the full set of 50 postcards and wrote a book about them, providing historical context for modern audiences.Without the re-use, these cards could have been lost. Chris Anson used the postcard about futuristiclearning in his 2013 Chair’s Address at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, giving the original image even more purpose. Why do we not hold the same goals for students?
Before coming to the university, students spend 13 years learning how to write to their teachers.If we re-conceive the goal of writing as purposeful re-use, students must consider how to negotiate the needs of their unfamiliar audiences. Writingwould become a purpose-driven act, rather than a set expectation to achieve.
One Chapman University student was asked towrite an “open letter” for his English 208 course. He wrote about an NHL lockout, making anargument for why the commissioner of the sport should work to remedy the situation. The letter was posted to a blog he made for the class.
A reporter for Yahoo! Sports found the letter, re-blogged it on the Yahoo! Sports page, and made the student’s blog popular overnight…essentially “going viral”. This practical re-use was only possiblebecause the work was visible publicly, by the intended audience and other stakeholders.
At the risk of over-extending my metaphor into inappropriate territory, we should view our assignment as fertilizer for the ideas our students have in class discussion, giving those ideas direction, energy, and purpose.We must also allow student work to air out, be seen outside the classroom, potentially inﬂuencing others and reﬂecting the real potential of writing: change.
Thank You Chris Friend @chris_friend Texts & Technology Transcript as Blog Post
Visual Gratitude• Blades of grass courtesy Apple• Door handle from adrazahl on Flickr• Côté postcard from Wikimedia Commons• Theater seats from Thomas Hawk on Flickr• Excrement from PKMousie on Flickr