The first selection I will address is “Writing as Making/Making as Writing” by speakers Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Nichole Pinkard, Bud Hunt, and Andrew Sliwinsky. In a refreshing change of pace, this assignment is a recorded video chat conversation between four speakers on the importance of writing as an interdisciplinary skill, and how this skill can be introduced to people with all kinds of different interests. This talk strikes a familiar chord with our class, as it is related to the National Writing Project, an organization with which we are all familiar.
The entry point into this conversation comes from Elyse Eidman-Aadahl who speaks about the young person as the productive agent in the learning environment. Eidman-Aadahl places immense importance on this fact, and emphasizes the importance of teachers realizing this and treating students with respect to this title as agent. After all, as is noted in the video chat, writing is not just about essays and research papers, it’s about making. As Eidman-Aadahl says, “Writing is craft.” Writing is a tool for the creator and, whatever the project, it should be recognized as such. We have talked about this idea extensively throughout the semester- how students need to be encouraged to write in relevant ways.
Another point that Eidman-Aadahl made that I think is important to note is the role of the teacher as “maker.” I think it is extremely important for a teacher to stay relevant in his or her field by contributing. In doing this, the teacher never stops learning and participating in their fields of interest, which keeps the subjects fresh for them and enables them to be inspired, which is good both for them and for their students. I remember talking about this more extensively in the second part of this class (coming for everyone else next semester), but I think it was an interesting and crucial thing to note in the context of this talk.
Crucial to this talk is the concept of the “maker space,” which is a learning space established as a separate entity from schools. Most excitingly, these spaces aren’t just limited to the natural writers! According to our speakers, “writers are made, not born.” Additionally, they aren’t all English majors. Contributor Bud Hunt comes from a STEM perspective and made a case for such spaces as “promoting habits across domains.” Nichole Pinkard, a computer programmer, speaks to the importance of maker spaces as places which cultivate the “integration of literacies.” Gone are the days in which students could limit writing to the English classroom, and thank goodness for that!
I appreciate the idea that anyone can be a writer. For some reason, it seems that people have the concept that writers are born with the talent to write, but Eidman-Aadahl points out that in other fields (engineering, computer programming, etc.), it is understood that knowledge is gained through hard work. This is also true for writing! I do believe strongly that people are born with certain talents and propensities, but I think that much can be learned through training and perseverance.
Writing should not be work, it should not be an obligation. The best thing that could happen to the perception of writing would be for it to be seen as a joy, and an outlet. Andrew Sliwinski sites a quote from William Morris: “Art is man’s joy and labor.” He does this for the purpose of pointing out that labor is necessary but, when joy is involved, the product comes naturally. It’s not about training, necessarily, it’s about love of the craft– whether the craft is writing itself, or anything else you could be interested in and want to share with the world.
The biggest thing I got from this talk is that writing is inter-disciplinary, open to students of all walks of life. As I noted above, each of the speakers in this talk had something different to offer, and each came from a different world. It’s for reasons like this that students can no longer have an excuse to not care about writing, because it is completely relevant to all fields and interests, and can find a home in any kind of passion. The concept of maker spaces is fantastic to me, because it separates writing from school assignments. I was particularly struck by the concept of maker spaces as having “low floors and high ceilings,” which is an incredibly inclusive and inspiration concept. It’s also refreshing to have hope that writing will evolve with the times and remain an important part of scholarship, whether it is writing in the traditional research paper sense, or writing to convey interest and excitement in Minecraft.
I enjoyed this video because it felt like a fresh take on the topics we have discussed in class. Because it’s not another paper, it felt more interactive and engaging, and overall I enjoyed the discussion.
In a stark contrast to the first selection, the other assigned selection is “Writing Assessment in the Early Twenty-First Century” by author Katheen Blake Yancey. Whereas the first conversation focused on the importance of maker spaces and interactive and practical applications of writing, Yancey brings the focus back to writing assessment in the contemporary classroom. As much as it hurts to think about, tests like the SAT still exist to assess student’s knowledge, and it’s still the teacher’s primary job to prepare them for these examinations. Traditional classroom writing instruction isn’t going anywhere so the discussion becomes, “how can we best introduce this to students in a way that they will understand?”
In this piece, Yancey dissects the current movement in writing assessment, which she defines as “complicated, dynamic, and…in flux” (172), which certainly does seem to be the case. Writing instruction has evolved to include themes that have become prevalent in writing in recent years, including race, social status, ESL, and the digital world, among others. In a way that faintly echoes the sentiments of the speakers in the first selection, Yancey makes note of the fact that the environment surrounding writing is changing and there are far more variables surrounding the field that must be taken into account.
A particular approach which has been implemented over the years is the portfolio approach, which requires the student to compile a portfolio of drafts throughout the semester, culminating in a final work. The goal of this approach is the ability to trace progress throughout the writing process. In regard to the conversation surrounding portfolio grading (granting the fact that I am not a teacher), the portfolio seems to be an effective way of observing student, as long as it is observed by the teacher throughout the semester. If the portfolio were to be collected at the end of the semester with no prior review, I fail to see how this would help the student. If the portfolio were to be compiled throughout the semester with periodic reviews and conversations regarding process, I feel that this approach could be quite effective. However, the unfortunate truth is that this might prove to be idealistic, considering that teachers have limited time.
This piece is a far more technical essay than the first selection, which made it challenging to follow, but I’m looking forward to seeing what my classmates were able to draw from the conversation. Personally, I was engaged by her discussion of portfolio grading, so I would especially like to hear from the teachers in class as to if they think this is an effective solution.