Course Proposal for (first) McMurry Summer Arts Institute

Here’s the final (?) draft of a course I’m proposing for the Summer Arts Institute that the McMurry School of Arts and Letters is organizing.  This is the first time we’ve done this Institute, and will hopefully go really well–I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of courses my colleagues in other departments are proposing.  The course is geared toward ages 15+.

Course Title: Can I Write It In Crayon? Messages, Media, and Writing Technology

Course Description

How is composing with a pencil different from typing on a blog? Why don’t we use clay tablets anymore? Why can’t I turn in my essay written in crayon? In this course, we’ll experiment with an assortment of writing technologies, exploring relationships between messages and the technology and media we use to create and share them

Goals & Objectives:

Learning Goals: Participants will

  • See the influence of writing technology on the process, content, and product of writing;
  • See the influence of technology on how texts are read or consumed;
  • Explore relationships between messages and the media used to create and share them;
  • Learn about the history of writing technologies.

Doing Goals: Participants will

  • Create written artifacts with different technologies;
  • Reflect on those artifacts in writing and discussion;
  • Practice descriptive, narrative, literary, expository, reflective, multimedia, and other types of writing;
  • Present their creations, reflections, and findings to audience members at the Summer Arts Institute Exhibition.

Activities & Projects

Daily meetings will involve multiple writing and discussion activities (see “Daily Schedule,” next section).  Each day, participants create one or more artifacts with a different writing technology, exploring issues such as creation, preparation, permanence, ethos, planning, style, composition, process, product, and distribution as they compare the writing technology du jour not only to technologies used on other days, but also to those they use in their normal lives.  Participants will explore how they interact with technologies to create texts, the affordances inherent to those technologies, and relationships between messages and the media used to produce and share them.

For example, on the first day, participants will be given blocks of clay to write on; they will have to prepare writing surfaces, discuss how writing on clay is different from writing on paper, and think about how their writing process changes when technology doesn’t allow for easy changing.  On the second day, participants will compare how sizes and types of paper influence written and printed products. On the third day, we will compare writing with a pen to writing with a pencil, and writing with lines to writing without. On the fourth day, we will explore the very definition of writing by using crayons to write literary texts. On the fifth day, we will explore our “native” composing environment, the computer, and make broad connections about how computers and print affect how we create and consume texts on a daily basis.  Writing tasks and topics will vary each day.

Participants will complete five (or more) artifacts in different media, and will type up descriptive or reflective texts for each of their artifacts.  Depending on available space, all or part of these will be displayed at the final exhibition.

(Tentative Project) Participants will spend part of each day working on a short, 6-10 minute scripted video or PowerPoint on writing technology and the week’s activities to be shown at the exhibition. This could easily be shown gallery-style, and does not have to be lecture-style.

Tentative Schedule

Week Schedule

  • Monday: Writing on Clay
  • Tuesday: PnP (Pen and Paper)
  • Wednesday: The Pencil Revolution
  • Thursday: Going Multimedia: The Crayon?
  • Friday: From Typewriter to TypePad
  • Saturday: Exhibition

Materials & Supplies

  • Nontoxic Modeling Clay (any color, 4 oz per person),
  • Short, pointed wooden skewer (1 per student, for stylus),
  • ¾” hardwood dowels (for rollers),
  • Unsharpened #2 pencils,
  • Ballpoint pens (no eraser),
  • 1 box 8ct crayons per student,
  • 3 pkg Unlined white paper,
  • 3 pkg college rule paper,
  • 1 pkg wide rule paper,
  • 1pkg 3×5 notecards,
  • Access to computer lab or tablet PCs (1 computer per participant)

Instructor Bio

Chris Andrews teaches rhetoric, composition, and literature in the McMurry University English department. He’s also a doctoral student in the Technical Communication and Rhetoric program at Texas Tech University, studying rhetoric, composition, and digital technology.  He like blogs and gel-grip pens, but can’t stand the sight of mechanical pencils.


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