possible collaborative writing assignment for grad class

This semester in Writing for Electronic Communities I would like to try a collaborative writing assignment that uses a wiki or GoogleDocs. I’ve never done a collaborative writing assignment before. The assignment would have the following goals:

  • introduce students to wikis and/or Google Docs as a collaborative writing space as distinguished from blogging and micro-blogging
  • challenge students’ conceptions of authorship
  • think about how online spaces can help to construct the written text
  • provide a space where students can explore the course and other related texts in academic prose over a period of time

Here is what I have in mind for the assignment.

  1. In week 2, one student would compose a 3 – 5 page essay that addresses the overall theme of the course and builds on ideas that I originally compose in terms of the first text read for the class (most likely Vaidhyanathan’s Copyrights and copywrongs: The rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity).
  2. In week 3, another student builds on/complicates the first student’s essay by revising/writing about/adding 3 – 5 pages of ideas by the 2nd author read for the course.
  3. This continues until we have completed the required readings.
  4. Every 3 weeks we would revisit the essay in class and discuss where it is going, how it has changed, and so on.
  5. The resulting text becomes a reading itself, where we will discuss it in terms of its content, its revisions, and what it was like to write the text.
  6. The text is then revised over the course of the next week or so in terms of the discussion we had in class.
  7. The end product would be a 20 – 25 page paper that explores the central themes of the course using the required texts as sources. Perhaps students could also/would be required to cite from their own blog posts and tweets. (And if I do the API project I have in mind where students query an API and do some research with it) perhaps that could be worked in, as well.
  8. I then write an introduction to the essay and an analysis of the content, and it gets published somewhere.

There are, of course, a number of things that could go wrong with such a project. I can envision great success and untamed chaos. Perhaps both simultaneaously. But from this brief bit, what do you think about it? What possible positives and negatives do you see? Would you use a wiki or GoogleDocs? What other questions do you think I should consider? Thanks, as always, for your comments.

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One Response to possible collaborative writing assignment for grad class

  1. Karen Banks says:

    Hi, Bill. This looks like a fascinating assignment. I wish I were taking part in it and I wish I were giving the assignment. Are you doing it this semester? How is it going? Besides being chaotic and overwhelming, I think it has great potential. Let me know the progress. Karen

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