So. Here I am, at the coast on my own for three days. Time to think and read and write. Bliss. It’s 7.30 at night and I’ve finished dinner (but still got my apron on); a salmon and bean frittata with an avocado, pea and olive salad. A glass and a half of cheap but pleasant red wine. I’ve been for a walk on the beach during a break in the wet weather, there’s a fire on, and I’m like a pig in poo.
I’m planning to write a short blog post each day. I’m here to sort out the focus and structure of the second half of our ‘literacy across the curriculum’ unit which I wrote about in my last post. The focus for our final four weeks is writing.
I’ve just re-read the post, and Teresa’s comment. She wondered about my proposed research questions, and very politely suggested that they didn’t quite hit the mark. She’s right. They lack punch. They have no real charge, they don’t challenge pre-conceived assumptions. I need to work on them.
My students come from all the secondary disciplines, and they’re in the middle of a five week block in schools, where I’m guessing some of the bigger educational questions will be subsumed by concerns about classroom management and finding the time and energy to prepare properly. Some of the students may well be wondering about the relevance of four weeks back at university thinking about writing.
And while they’ve been out in schools, I’ve done my own wondering. I’ve been thinking and writing about the many different tacks that we might take when we’re looking at writing. What is the function of writing? Does writing imply an exclusive focus on the written word? What about multiple modalities? 21st century literacies? Literacies in the digital age? There are so many potential tacks that it’s easy to get lost.
So today I’ve been trying to find a charged and challenging question that cuts through some of this. Something that takes us into the heart of all this complexity and tension.
How about something like this:
Writing-as-composing, Multiple-modalities-in-writing, writing-for-web-2.0. What Now? What Next? Is all this distracting me from my core disciplinary business?
I like that this one acknowledges the skepticism, then asks us to examine it. I also like the way it invites us to think carefully about what our core business is, and to see if re-thinking aspects of writing fit into this core.
And it doesn’t have a simple answer, like my earlier version. There’s a strong debate going on in educational circles about this very question.
How does it sound to you Teresa? Others? Better?
Finding the right words for our focus question is just one part of the planning. There’s also the students’ reading (I’m going to adapt Michael Wesch’s idea on ‘how to get my students finding and reading 94 articles before the next class‘); the development of a composing skill (I wrote about this in my last blog post); the way we might use the University Moodle and a Ning; the content of the tutorials; and so on. In some ways, the precise wording seems such a small part of what needs to be done. But (because I’m going through a bit of a Dickens-phase in my reading at the moment), I’m reminded of the way Dickens used to spend weeks playing with titles for his books before he could begin the real creating. The title often held some kind of essence for him. That’s how I feel about the focus question.