Last spring, I taught a course in Electronic Writing and Publishing at Georgia State University themed around the Occupy Movement. The students and I called it Occupy Class. The goal of the course was for students to design, compose, edit, and publish their own content to the web that documented the unfolding narrative of Occupy, especially in its local manifestations in Atlanta. The project was edited by students Bekah Hogue and Ian Sheffield.
Our articles for Occupy Class needed to contain both context (analysis of multiple sources) and content (original material). Writers benefited from studying IMR contributors’ ability to, in short bursts of intelligent text, thread together a shared theme, a media selection, and their own interpretation. The class was full of English majors, and reading posts on IMR proved that the academic skills they had learned to engage novels, plays, and speeches were also valuable in relation to events in the world beyond the campus.
We talked often in Occupy Class about what makes an expert. In the clip I’ve included, Will Shirley, a student in the class, interviews a member of Occupy Atlanta beginning an occupation outside the AT&T building in Atlanta. This interview represented a significant amount of work on behalf of the class. After cultivating connections with individuals in the movement, we were informed about the protest ahead of media outlets in the area. Will was the first “journalist” at the protest and was able to conduct interviews and capture footage of police arrests that happened soon after it began. He had become an expert on the events of the day and was able to compose and publish an article for the Occupy Class site within a couple of hours. Experiential learning moments like this one are rare and invaluable, but they were built on familiarity with how the article was going to look on the web and how to complement it with other forms of media.
Composing in digital spaces opens unique collaborative and cross-disciplinary potential for students, but it requires style, content, and design models. IMR demonstrates values that became important to Occupy Class. Its visual design, active engagement, and context-building provided a dynamic source from which we could build our own digital literacies and writing style.