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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Democratizing composition: bringing together thoughts, people & resources

Kids surrounding the MakerBot at makerfaire by bre pettiss

Kids surrounding the MakerBot at makerfaire by bre pettiss

I’m increasingly concerned with democratizing composition, a pedagogy built on these beliefs:

  • Writing is one form of composition or making, tantamount to the rest.
  • All modes of composition are valid and valuable methods of expression.
  • All modes of composition benefit from design thinking, rapid prototyping (a.k.a. repeated failure), iteration, and user feedback.
  • The monopoly of text in schools impoverishes student learning, self-expression, and educators’ understandings of their students.
  • Students and teachers should compose and make in response to learning.
  • Composing and making should be fun or otherwise deeply fulfilling in a personally meaningful way to students and teachers.
  • To borrow from the National Writing Project (NWP), teachers should compose and make with their students.
  • User feedback determines whether or not a composition or product works and fulfills a need; grades are unnecessary, superfluous, and harmful to the work of composition and making.

Democratizing composition is a means to help each student

  • Create a positive digital footprint.
  • Participate in the democratic processes of debate, decision-making, research, and self-discovery enabled by social media and, perhaps, the quantified self.
  • Gain broad experience in a number of digital and physical media production techniques.
  • Gain deep experience in areas of student-selected, self-directed learning.

The goal of democratizing composition is to allow students to experience positive “digiship”, “an immediate citizenship, one that takes advantage of everyday technologies and materials to let kids rapidly prototype, share, and reiterate solutions to the problems and opportunities they see around them and in their own lives.”

Professional development on broadening our definitions of composition can help us reach more students in our classrooms, and events like hack jams can help us adults problematize the monopoly that print- and screen-based texts hold over our schools.

Over the summer and the course of next year, I plan to build a resource for democratizing composition that shares out possible assignments, materials, methods, and resources in support of democratizing composition in schools.

If you have a comment, criticism, question, or suggestion, please let me know by email or on Twitter. Please comment below, as well, of course.

In the meantime, here are some of the resources I’m exploring right now in scaffolding my classroom for next year (please suggest more):

Coding & Making: MaKey MaKey

Modeling & Visualizing: Minecraft (soon to add book-making), Neatline, Roominate, Tinkercad

Webmaking: Thimble

Other avenues of making will include working with other, multiple, traditional and new media, building Rube Goldberg machines, re-designing the room into a modern play- and workspace, and continuing our small-group HTML/CC/Javascript camps. In addition to creating some kind of democratizing composition resource, I will help my students create a “what we made today” blog to share out what they make and why they make it. I will also help students curate and reflect on their digital lives with some kind of new media portfolio – hopefully I can help each student learn to code one for him or herself.

If you would like to team up over space and time, let me know and consider joining this Google doc about developing a Middle-school Open Online Course inspired by ds106. The “middle-school” part is just a red herring – all democratizing composers are welcome in all parts of the project!

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About Chad Sansing

I teach for the users. Opinions are mine; content is ours.

Discussion

9 thoughts on “Democratizing composition: bringing together thoughts, people & resources

  1. It’s about time such a project was begun, Chad. Thanks for having the vision and taking the initiative. I began democratizing my grad course three years ago when we started creating bookcasts (not book reports/reviews but multimedia responses to books) and 5-minute videos of final projects. I’d be happy to help with the student course. Also, I bet you know Shelley Wright’s work. She seems to democratize writing beautifully — http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/07/blogging-is-the-new-persuasive-essay/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kqed%2FnHAK+%28MindShift%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

    Posted by Cris Crissman (@Cris2B) | July 10, 2012, 1:04 am
  2. Hey Chad! Great post. I’m intrigued by the term “Democratizing Composition.” I’m interested to see where you’re going with this, and I note quite keenly your numerous references to the design process and design thinking. I’ll be presenting a paper at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA’s) Education Symposium in August. In many ways, my thoughts in that paper and in the numerous writings I’ve done for my students (during our design unit) and on the IDSA website…in many ways we are clearly on a very similar wavelength. I’ll be signing up on you google doc immediately. Thanks for this.

    Posted by Garreth Heidt | July 10, 2012, 5:12 pm
  3. Keep it up! Anything we can do to engage kids and adults for that matter in education is a good thing. Be well. Duffy

    Posted by Duffy Leahy | July 13, 2012, 2:35 pm

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