Note: MediaCommons launches a month-long "Teaching with Technology" discussion with this one-week special cluster by the editorial team of Web Writing.
When I began teaching my undergraduates how to enhance their expository writing at my liberal arts college, I was surprised by how little had changed since I was in their seats several years ago. Despite the potential to reach broader audiences with the Internet, most college essays still were written for exactly one reader: the professor. But the recent growth of freely accessible web-based authoring, annotating, and publishing tools inspired me to redesign some writing assignments to connect with broader audiences, both inside and outside of our classroom. My students and I learned how to manage a "crowd-writing" exercise, and also how to organize simultaneous peer review with Google Documents. We published student web-essays on WordPress and wondered: if you build it, will they come . . . and comment? Posting work on the web can be a powerful, authentic motivator for student authors, but in my role as the instructor, it also introduces legal issues on balancing the competing interests of public writing and student privacy.
Sitting down with my faculty colleagues to discuss the teaching of writing on the web generated far more questions than answers. Why should (or shouldn't) we integrate the Internet into our college-level essay assignments? How does student learning and faculty pedagogy shift when we share drafts of our ideas and comments on the public web? To what extent does the content of the writing change? What types of digital tools deepen -- or distract from -- thoughtful reading, authoring, and editing? What are the potential rewards and hidden risks of web-based writing for liberal arts education?
Since no book satisfactorily addressed all of these questions, we decided to write one, and invite you to join us as co-creators. Our work-in-progress, Web Writing: Why & How for Liberal Arts Teaching & Learning, is a born-digital edited volume, where readers and contributors actively shape its direction during its developmental stages. Participate in our open call for "Essay Ideas & Proposals" (through June 15th, 2013) by posting and responding to comments on our discussion page. The Center for Teaching and Learning at Trinity College will award five $300 subventions to support the authorship of outstanding essay proposals (with preference based on financial need). All contributors are welcome to submit full essays by August 15th, in preparation for the open peer review by designated experts and general audiences in Fall 2013. We are particularly interested in works that blend the “why and how” by making effective use of the open web platform to blend thoughtful insights with illustrative examples (including links, screenshots, images, etc.). Essays selected by the editorial team to advance to the final round will be revised by authors and copyedited for an open-access digital publication, sponsored by the Center, possibly in partnership with an academic press, in 2014. Web Writing builds on innovative models in scholarly authorship and publishing, including Kathleen Fitzpatrick's Planned Obsolescence and other works by MediaCommons Press, and my experience as co-editor (with Kristen Nawrotzki) of Writing History in the Digital Age (forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press). Learn more about our editorial process and timeline. Share your response here, and/or post a comment directly on http://WebWriting.trincoll.edu.
Image on front page by ted_major and available on Flickr.