Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coming this Fall on MTV: Real World Freshman Comp Class

This past autumn, I was fortunate to take part of an English course at The Ohio State University designed to offer experience and guidance in writing articles for professional journals. For the course, designed and taught by Dr. Cindy Selfe, we students were prompted to select a previously written (in some form) essay that we see as being a strong candidate for publication. We selected our work and the target journal and set about revising for the audience we now hand in mind. Additionally, we assumed the mantle of reviewers for the pieces that our clasmates wrote. The entire course was not only an opportunity to better understand the process of producing and re-producing (AND . . . re-producing) an article for a professional journal, it also gave "real-world" application (that is to say an actual audience and purpose) for the writing we were doing in the course.

This real-world application for freshman composition is often harder to achieve for many reasons. As graduate students with backgrounds in Rhetoric and Composition, we in Dr. Selfe's course shared a common discourse community that--despite our specializations and journal selections--kept genre from being an issue in peer review. Likewise, our experience with writing cannot be discounted. Finally, despite what we may believe, I would hazard a guess that most school administrators and department heads (even publicly vocal former heads) would argue that the writing in our classrooms should be designed to be applicable primarily for the writing done in other classrooms (and secondarily to keep T. Rex from symbolically destroying the fabric of the universe). That is to say, composition is first and foremost an instruction in academic literacy. And, in many senses, this class is no different.

However, by turning our attention to blogs while simultaneously writing many conventional schoolroom compositions, we in 109.02 may are trying to better acquaint ourselves with both the academic essay as genre and the blog as genre. A better understanding of both makes for a better understanding of either. At least, that's the hope.Like other classes that try to make such writing tasks more palatable, freedom of topic choice is key. Such is so for the blogs we write, and it is so for the outsider blogs we are expected to read and comment on each week.

Despite this freedom, I am fully aware that most students would not participate in reading blogs weekly (no matter the topic) and contributing comments unless a grade depended upon it. And depend upon it it does, so we will be participating in something quite artificial, even as we venture into the "real world" and comment upon the blogs of others. So the best I can hope for is that at some point during any given comment, the spirit of the conversation inhabits the writer, the 109.02 blogger, and she or he finds herself or himself posting comments of interest, out of the need to communicate, expressand further the conversation--even if the spirit grips for merely half a sentence.

Of course, I may be seller the 109.02 bloggers short. They've had some fun reads thus far.

No comments: