Friday, August 26, 2005

First-Year Composition: Writing Worlds

The guiding theme for teaching my first-year composition course at Purdue is "Composing the Digital Self" - a syllabus approach developed in line with the UR@ sequence of instruction developed by Dr. Thomas Rickert and Colin Charlton. The idea is to create a writing environment where students will realize the ubiquitous nature of composition, coming to recognize themselves as inextricably a part of "writing the worlds" they inhabit. Blogs and blogging anchor the fifteen weeks of work these students will do to unpack some of the many mysteries of the world wide web - to discover a number of the tools, tricks, and treasures that can be found there. Those of you who might be interested in following along can add "BE: Composing the Digital Self" to your blogrolls: you'll find my own (from time-to-time) efforts of writing to the assignments given in class and a blogroll of student writers addressing assignments as they relate to student-selected topics. As we are all teachers on some level, your comments there would certainly be a treat.

Now, I said all of that to say this: I recognize that I'm playing with emerging theory in composition when I venture into online spaces for defining media of instruction, so I found a good deal of encouragement in this story from The Christian Science Monitor. Reporter Charles Levinson discusses the connection between blogging/bloggers and the power of dissent among pro-democratic young Egyptians, Iranians, and others around the world organizing a "voice of the many" online and promoting public debate in an increasingly unstoppable movement:

Today, there are an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Iranians blogging, including former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi. During the 2003 student uprisings in Iran, Internet blogs and chat rooms allowed students to mobilize, organize, and communicate with one another, free of prying government eyes. Iran has since adopted "one of the world's most substantial Internet censorship regimes," according to the Open Net Initiative, a partnership of researchers from Harvard, Cambridge University, and the University of Toronto. But government resistance isn't thwarting this new generation of Middle East activists, who are finding that the pro-democracy sit-ins, and decades-old slogans of their parents, may not be the most effective avenue for change.
If in fact it can be understood that a central purpose in providing a quality education for a nation's learners (regardless of age) is to promote and inform a capacity for responsible citizenship and a thoughtful engagement in public debate, then equipping young writers with the skills to locate themselves as participants in online environments may speak to the very heart of a good education for the 21st century. I join a growing number of teachers across the country in believing so. I invite you to follow along with me at "BE" to see how the experiment turns out.


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