Writing is more important than ever because of the internet and social media. From blogging to updating status, modern writers must be scholars of a new composition to be effective.
I've been annoyed for 11 years. That's why I developed CompScholar. I've also been inspired this year, and the result is this blog at CompScholar.com.
What happened 11 years ago? I started teaching composition courses at local community colleges. I first taught as a last minute replacement only two weeks before the semester started. I inherited the textbook the suddenly retired English faculty had ordered for the class. As a rookie I designed the class around the textbook following the chapters one-by-one. It was so stifling that I had to abandon the book in week three and apologize for the money students paid for it.
I now know that college textbooks are the worst thing to use for teaching anybody anything. Reading textbooks kills the spirit of a student. All motivation is gone. Suddenly the student loses all trust for the course and blames the college or the teacher. Still, thousands of comp courses are built around ineffective textbooks. That annoys me.
I finally left the English department for the private sector, designing elearning. But, I missed teaching. I was lucky to find an adjunct position teaching at ITT Technical Institute. Teaching at night got me back in the classroom without interfering with my 9-5 job. In those night classes I found inspiration.
The students at ITT are technically savvy and practical. Freshman Composition and Comp II are a hassle for many of the students who prefer HTML to paragraphs and essays. I heard grumbling every quarter about the comp courses. I dismissed it as typical student complaining.
Then Twitter came my way. I knew instantly that writing was going to be different forever. Twitter may not be the platform forever, but status updates and micro-messaging will be here for good. Struck by Twitter's vast impact on writing, I was inspired to listen to students and realize that studying comp in this information age means studying online: blogging, commenting and sharing microblog messages.
I mainly launched CompScholar for my students at ITT. I am also thinking about other students at other colleges and universities who are bogged down by the heft of a textbook. I am thinking about other teachers and professors who recognize the major shift of web 2.0 and social media. And I am really thinking about the entrepreneurs online who are learning on their own. I will solicit writers from all of these groups to contribute articles, blogs and comments to CompScholar.
I like being inspired much more than being annoyed. The world is flatter and the hierarchies are reduced by hyperlinks. Here are the top five reasons why everyone online needs CompScholar:
- Information Age: Every web site, every screen, combines text and image as the elements of communication. Writing gets judged. If you are updating Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter or writing blogs, you should be a scholar of composition.
- Email & Texting Eliminated Etiquette: The ease of email and texting led to many, many people writing with disregard for any writing etiquette. Suddenly everyone was writing many times a day. Badly. You want to be seen as better than them.
- College Text Books: I've read many. They are often full of good content. Even so, they are useless for teaching. Motivation is needed for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Textbooks drain all motivation and energy from anyone near them.
- Elearning: I design elearning for a living. I build the flash-based movies that you've probably seen. But reading online is elearning too. I dare say you are elearning right now. I think the richest potential for learning is in comments. Commenting needs to be discussed. We need to get better at it. I have learned more from two line comments than I have from the entire article above!
- Real Freshman Comp: Freshman Composition is a rite of passage for American college students. But hardly anyone becomes better at writing after taking freshman comp. The textbooks are a big part of that problem, but so are time restraints and expectations. It is a major recurring failure of colleges and teachers to expect comp students to get really into it and allocate hours and hours to their process of writing. It's a fantasy explained in the CompScholar Rhombus post. We need to get real so people can be scholars of comp and learn to write effectively.
Looking for links! Do you know of websites to link to for similar content or to enhance and extend the material in this post? If not, write something and let us know the URL in a comment!
I also have some questions that might generate helpful comments:
- What is, or what was, your experience in freshman comp?
- How have you learned to write successfully? Any advice?
Here are links to related content:
- The CompScholar M3 Plan - discusses the micro, macro, and meta organization of this post
- Alltop Writing - top websites and blogs that discuss writing and writing for the web
Please share this blog with friends and followers all over the web.