Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing Relief Blog

“Business as usual” after Hurricane Sandy quickly became an oxymoron.  Campus was closed; Moodle was down.  Entire communities:  gone.  Neighborhoods ravished.  There was need everywhere.  I, like many others, volunteered.  The tasks were overwhelming.  But I knew I could not continue on with the semester without acknowledging, and attempting to do something about, the many communities that were ravished. 
I "did something" both in my own practice and in my classes.  I designed a creative writing assignment to help make up some missed class time, an assignment I used in three of my classes.  I assigned my Creative Writing class to do Hurricane Relief work, and asked students to reflect on their experiences on a public blog.  They could have posted the assignment in Moodle, but I was hoping to create a resource that could extend outside of our classroom walls. 
To help achive this goal, I created a Tumblr Blog which allows outsiders to post without requiring them to have an account.  As the semester progressed, I asked those Creative Writing students to create lesson plans, using the power of writing and the arts more broadly to help facilitate service learning to affected communities.  I shared the blog and resources with faculty, encouraging them to use any of the material, and inviting them to share their lesson plans, make up classes, writings, etc.  I offered the blog as a space for their students to post, too, and as possible resource of makeup work needed due to college closure.
The site never went viral.  But the students created some stellar work.  Furthermore, students told me that publishing their writing in a public forum felt like it had higher stakes.  They knew the world was looking, not just me.

Update (2/13).  I have decided to extend the concept of the Hurricane Sandy Relief blog to Creative Writing Relief more generally, and to continue the use of that blog to archive exceptional student work, as well as to provide a space for students and faculty alike to think and write about Service Learning.  I am thinking about a few things:  how can technology promote service learning?   And how can we teach the use of social media to bring about social change?  Can you be a change agent through technology, or does activism still require face to face collaborations?  What would an all "E-learning" (including M-Learning and U-Learning) "internship" look like?  As the focus of the blog has changed slightly, so has the title and the text.  What you see in the link above is the result of this new shift  I invite comments and suggestions.

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