I showed my students Dakota and Genius and Ashcroft Online, asked them to brainstorm ideas for their term papers, and fifteen minutes later almost all of them told me “I want to make something!” I’m amazed. I think I’m so stuck in the idea of a university education as a series of 15 page double spaced term papers that I hadn’t quite believed that students given the choice of making or writing might actually choose making.

If I’d asked them to brainstorm ideas for term papers after showing them a pile of 15 page double spaced essays, would they all have told me they want to write essays, I wonder? See, I never thought of that. The mechanisms of control are subtle, even to me, the teacher, who’s supposedly in control.

They won’t just be making, of course. They’ll write and contextualise and theorise too. I hope some will just write, too. Writing’s good. Imagine having to argue for writing.

1 Comment

  1. chuck

    One of the coolest projects I ever had in graduate school was a “montage” where we could take images (photographs, drawings, film stills, magazine cutouts, whatever) and arrange them in a dialectical montage (with or without text). The project was modelled on Benjamin’s Arcades Project and produced some interesting (and in some cases disappointing) results. We did this project in 1995 or 1996 in a fairly traditional English class. My sense is that if we had done the project now, with a little help from a web design program, we could have done something very cool. Sounds like a lot of fun.

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