The Future: Writing as Making

Cannot believe that this is our last blog post! Luckily, we have two rich articles to discuss. Our first resource was actually a video called “Writing as Making/Making as Writing by Connected Learning TV.” Considering we live in a digital age where a wealth of information is accessible online, including a video in our reading list instead of a scholarly article was refreshing. This video came with many related links, resources and even Tweets, reflecting its connected learning concept. The focus of this webinar was discussing the connection between the Maker DIY movement and writing. The speakers framed writing as a creative process that produces a made thing, similar to the tangible objects created by the DIY movement.

One of my favorite moments from the webinar was a quote by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl of the National Writing Project (16:31).
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Her quote shows a mentality shift about writing that society needs to embrace. I often find that students have a reluctance to write, feeling that their writing cannot be good enough. Personally, even though I have engaged in writing for years, outside of academic purposes, I still do not consider myself a “writer.” Eidman-Aadahl’s argues that anyone can write. Being a writer is not about a label placed upon you but about the process itself. Participants of the DIY movement do not wait for someone to tell them that they are a baker before they begin making those cupcakes. In the same respect, we need to push our students to write. We need to show them that writing is also a craft, a skill that can be learned. We need to teach them how to value the final product, and to show off their writing just as they show off that model car they built. Writing, too can be creative and full of passion. As teachers, we need to make this space in our classrooms. If we give students enough structured freedom to explore this notion of writing as a DIY movement, we may just find that they start to call themselves writers.

While the “Writing as Making” video showed a new vision of writing and how we frame it, our second article jumped back in time. K.B. Yancey’s piece, “Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century,” provided a historical background of how writing assessment has changed since the last century, leading up to a discussion of the current movement. The first wave focused on high-stakes testing. Then, in the 70s and 80s, holistic scoring emerged as a result of more teachers engaging in the scoring process. Next, the 20th century concluded with a focus on multiple texts and portfolio assessments. Writing-across-the-curriculum and program assessments also became popular. The current movement is not as easily summarized. Yancey describes three key themes including:
  • Learning outcomes linked to assessment
  • Emphasis on program assessment
  • Critical analysis of portfolios
Working in a public school, I see all three themes as being major influences in our education of students. I have personally participated in program evaluations and have also been part of committees that redesigned how students are assessed.

Of particular interest to me is the increased role of federal government in education. Yancey noted that during our current phase, “We have also seen the role of federal government move from a benign disinterest to a focused effort to encourage a certain view of institutions and to influence their practices” (187). With a teaching tenure of only seven years, I have never not known government influence in my profession. However, many of the teachers that I work with talk about a time period in which there were less demands on teachers outside of providing effective instruction. Many areas of education that teachers complain today about such as SGOs, Danielson rubrics, and PLCs, are the result of government mandates. I look forward to continuing to think critically about the role of assessment as I move forward in my career.