Collaboration in Action!

I did a pretty good job of wallowing in misery in that last post, didn’t I?

Let’s just say that developing functional literacy ain’t easy. Shall I even mention the fact that I’m incredibly behind on my coding?

No! Because I have something rather positive to write about today!

Mary, Aaron, and I are working on a small article together about our experiences developing online writing modules for the UC (through a larger project called the Online Instructional Pilot Program. I’m sure “the public” will learn about this more as the program is piloted in Fall 2012). In a nutshell, OIPP is a UC-wide initiative to create online courses. Our role within this initiative is to author/design online writing modules to be used for an online writing course. What this course will look, we’re not entirely sure, and indeed, there’s much resistance for the modules to even BE a unified course. But I digress.

The article we’re working on is exciting because it explores some of the challenges we’ve run into as course writers and designers, relays some of the questions we’ve had developing these modules, and provides some critical and pedagogical connections for scholars to consider in future online course development. All very neat stuff!

Perhaps what’s most exciting, though, has been the process of working with Aaron and Mary. Initially, we all free-wrote, drafting our initial thoughts about the project individually. We plopped these free-writes into Google Docs and then, over the weekend, we all logged on to Skype together and collectively edited the Google Doc.

Now, I had shared documents in Google Docs before, but primarily for things like camping item check-lists. This was the first time I had composed anything serious in Google Docs and – lo and behold – how useful is this tool?

I suppose this should be a no-brainer; after all, I’ve been taking a class all quarter advocating for collaborative learning via new media. However, being able to speak with Aaron and Mary and watch each other’s curses course through our words in real time was a remarkable exercise. We went from three free-writing documents, each with very different and individual voices, to a robust article introduction, unified and coherent.

Granted, the essay is not done yet. We still have a bit to add in and edit.

However, this was really the first time I had engaged in collaborative writing on this scale and, if nothing else, these few short meetings we’ve had have really convinced me of how something substantial can really be composed in a group. Sure, it’s likely less “efficient” to write in a group than it is to write individually (and, indeed, in our information age, “efficiency” seems to be valued above all). However, I know that the product we’ve created is far more sophisticated and nuanced than I would have likely conceptualized alone. It certainly helps that Aaron and Mary have had greater experience writing pedagogy-focused articles; it is when writing these kinds of articles that I realize, as an English student, I will likely have to acquire skills for article writing in both the humanities and social sciences to bridge the gaps of the different academic communities.

But this exercise was not about my experience; it was about working with two determined and intelligent people and “practicing what we preach” by using the technologies to mediate our discussion and, in fact, enhance what we may have done in person on separate pads of paper.

One thought on “Collaboration in Action!

  1. I’m interested in your notion of efficiency and writing. If you, Mary, and Aaron are producing a more sophisticated text than a solo writer would produce – even if there are more false starts or repetition – then I’m not sure you can really compare the efficiency of the two processes. You composing a wholly different type of text, and the process of composition looks nothing like a ‘the lonely writer’ process most know.

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