Creativity and Digital Pedagogy in the English Composition Classroom

At Georgia Tech we are encouraged to teach composition as multimodal and to design assignments that incorporate all aspects of communication.  Gone is the mandated five-paragraph essay and in its place is the possibility of creating a blog, a Dipity time-line, a word cloud, or a Prezi.  My assignments frequently set up a series of tasks and objectives but allow students to complete those tasks in a variety of different ways, using their choice of digital format.

The space for creativity that this opens up has been exciting but challenging, and I will use my presentation to present some of the potential benefits I see in pushing student creativity to the forefront of the composition classroom along with some of the possible problems and pitfalls. For the display portion of the presentation I will showcase a “digital mapping” assignment from my current English 1102 “Literary London” course, along with the detailed assignment, the objectives, and the assessment rubric.  The maps the students are producing include both“geographical” maps like a Google map of locations and landmarks in Oliver Twist or an interactive, annotated map of Mrs. Dalloway’s journey around London, and “digital mapping” projects which visualize data such as the statistics on the plague victims in Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year or use word- and tag-clouds to analyze the occurrence of dialect and slang in Oliver Twist.

Some of the questions and problems implicit in my presentation, which I will address in my discussion or introduction, include:  To what degree should we expect our students to be creative or original?  Is there a place for that in the composition classroom? What are the problems with encouraging creativity in the classroom – does creativity mean  “free-reign” or “multiple submission formats,” or “harder to grade”?  Is there a point at which digital pedagogy becomes too much about the technology?  How do we insure that the students are cognizant of how these creative approaches to teaching and assignments are meeting the course objectives and, more importantly, how they are equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in all kinds of careers?

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