Take a Poll and Tell Me About You and Television?

I usually get to work before my colleague David Farley, and it’s become our habit that he stops at my office door and we talk about something related to writing, teaching, or family. This job we have teaching First Year Composition has carried me into digital writing, and David and I are often talking about digital texts in relation to the teaching of writing. I’m interested in the future of books, and I’m interested in how our internet habits will impact our reading, writing, and thinking. One day, David went over into his office and came back with Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Wikipedia (I’m getting more obsessed with it) tells me that Lessig “is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School.”

Lawrence Lessig’s Remix

Here’s something I wouldn’t mind hearing about from you in the comments section: Have your television watching habits changed? In this book, Lessig writes about Read Only (R.O.) and Read Write (R.W.) culture. Taking television as an example, I think it’s been R.O. By that, I mean you just sit there and watch it. You consume it. You don’t interact with it. Reading a Facebook post isn’t like that. Reading a Twitter feed isn’t like that. You get to Tweet back. You get to interact.

Television watching, from what I can see, is becoming more interactive. You can vote for your favorite American Idol. You can Tweet along with everyone else as they watch the NCAA basketball tournament. You can read what people say about President Obama and Presidential hopeful Romney on Facebook.  As I understand from Lessig, back when people went down to the town square to see entertainment, they were in a culture that tended toward R.W. They were entertained and had a chance to interact, to sing along, to talk with others, and to go home and try out the songs on their front porch.

With the rise of television and newspapers, R.W. went on the decline. People just consumed content with little or no chance to interact. Now with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other social platforms such as blogs, R.W. is on the rise. People read Harry Potter and go see the movies and then they write on fan fiction sites. All of these features of consuming and interacting seem significant to the craft of teaching and what it will mean to get an education.

Let’s consider for a second the teacher’s lecture.  Possibly BORING!!!! and most times heavy on the R.O. side of consumption.   I’d like to be as R.W. as I can when it comes to my teaching pedagogy. Perhaps I’m using the term wrong but for now, I know what I mean.  :)

More on Lessig’s book and some Golden Lines in the coming posts. There’s a poll below for you and if you’d like to elaborate on your TV watching habits, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section.

Writing Group Lesson Plans for College Composition Class

The writers in my classes regularly get into groups and read their writing to one another.  If left to their own devices about what to do in these groups, the students are usually either very quiet or they point out what they see as errors.  In the spirit of trying generate conversation, we read an except from Peter Elbow’s Writing Without Teachers.  During the class before the small group workshops, we practiced the methods outlined by Elbow as a whole class.  There were two brave students who agreed to read their work aloud to the class.  We talked about the text after the reading using the directions below.

Writing Groups in Action


  1. The entire essay gets read out loud by the writer or someone the writer chooses.
  2. Everyone should “listen” with a pen and, as Elbow says, “point” to words and phrases that get into your skull.  Mark these spots as you read or listen.

Complete 3-7 silently in your daybook and then share.

  1. When the piece is completed, everyone takes time to silently write ½ page in their daybook that describes the “movie of their mind” that occurred as they listened to the piece.
  2. Summarize the main points of the article by writing a sentence in your daybook.
  3. Choose a word from the text that summarizes it.
  4. Choose a word NOT in the text that summarizes it.
  5. Write a metaphor for the piece.  If it the essay were (an article of clothing, weather, terrain, an instrument, or anything else you can thing of) what would it be? In other words, I might say, “Jerry’s piece was a tornado.”

As you share 3-7 with your group, hopefully conversation will arise.

  • You don’t need to write it in your daybook, but how did the writer do when it came to a title, signal phrases, parenthetical citations, and a works cited page?  Can you help each other with any of these things?

After all the pieces have been read and discussed

  • Write at least ½ page in your daybook answering the following.  Explain how the group went today.  What suggestion do you have for improving the group’s interaction?  What went well?  What needs work?  What does the work have you thinking about?  What do you think needs to happen next with your essay?

This Semester's Writers Seem Especially Dedicated to the Process

My Reflections

As expected, the groups were slow to start but the students began to relax and talk more as the class went on.  I think I had the students writing too much in their daybooks.  The writing took awhile and I think it killed the conversation.  I think an adjustment would be to have the students write everything that is above except for the movie of the mind.  Someone could just speak that and students could offer their own thoughts in comparison to the one movie of the mind that is shared.

The students bring four copies of the paper to class.  One of those goes to me.  I think next time I’ll have the students write on the drafts instead of in their own daybooks.

Students are often late the day a paper is due.  I had students form groups of four and as soon as they had four, they began the workshop.  They were free to leave after they finished.  Some groups used the full eighty minutes and some were done in an hour.