Transforming digital writing on Monday (and Someday)

Occasionally, I get accused of being “too big picture” and not practical enough. I’ve decided to start blogging about how these ideas might look in the classroom. I’ll tag these posts with “For Monday”

“My answer is that if you have a vision of Someday you can use this to guide what you do Monday.”
Seymour Papert 

In cherish plagiarism I argued that complex and creative work is always built upon the ideas of others and the individual isolate inspiration is a myth. So how might this new view of copyright and creativity be realised in the classroom.

Take writing for example. Our typical classroom approach for narrative writing still operates the same way as it did when I was at school. All students working on the same task, each starting with a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen, and working in isolation. While there may be some discussion between students together, the writing is largely isolated and individual.

This is not how writing happens in the real world. When faced with a complex task, good writers look for sources that they can reuse, that they can build upon. Good writers do not start from scratch and good writing is not isolated and it is not individual.

Modern word processors now have powerful collaboration features built into them. It is easy for multiple authors to work on a single piece of work, using track changes to review or using merging tools to combine and track changes between different versions of the same document. It is now extremely easy to share our work simultaneously with a large number of people. It is easy to get feedback. It is easy to allow others to improve our work.

What are the opportunities we now have for narrative writing?

Building upon the work of others
Students create a character profile, save it to shared location. Other students then choose a couple of characters from the pool of characters to include in their story.

Students create a character profile, save it to shared location. Other students choose a character at random from the pool and improve the character in some way before saving it back into the pool.

Students build upon characters from a movie or a novel to create a new piece of work.

Students save a completed story into a shared location. Other students then choose a story at random and write an alternative ending.

Students rewrite a story from the point of view a different character. The source may be another student’s work or a work sourced from outside of the classroom.

Providing feedback
Students send their half completed story to three other students who use the track changes feature to offer suggestions on how the story could be developed.

Students use track changes to write an alternative beginning to their story, they send it to three other students for feedback.


These examples are far from complete, would love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Note: For the purposes of this article I haven’t looked at networked writing on the Internet, where the opportunities for collaboration and coauthoring are obviously great.