By Sean Hackney
When teachers and students work together to design a course around a shared set of educational values—writing for an authentic audience, leaving space for all voices in the conversation to be heard, and purposefully engaging many of the controversial issues of our time—the class becomes so much more than a repository for learning content and skills. Instead, it is driven by a shared purpose: to communicate with others, consequently expanding the opportunities for writing across the disciplines. Digital literacy facilitates this drive to communicate.
I started by having students create their own blogs, but I found that quite a bit of class time was taken up with questions on how to design the blog (not necessarily a negative, just not the focus of my class). Students would ask how to create a blogroll or add features to their blog instead of discussing author’s purpose or argument construction. I had to try something different. I decided to create an online magazine so that the class could publish content together and focus on the writing, not the design of the magazine. To facilitate this focus, we settled on using medium.com for our magazine. The features of the site are standardized, so writing the articles was the priority, not designing the magazine. We were on our way to creating texts that not only changed the way my class functioned but also changed the way my students interacted with writing in school. They grew to see themselves as a community of practicing writers, working together with a shared purpose for composing.