Farewell, web page assignment

I am trying to get my ducks in a row for English 328 for the fall, a term that will see a couple of “firsts” and/or “haven’t done that in a long time” sort of milestones for me. It will be the first time in a long time where I have taught a “full load” because I have no administrative/quasi-administrative obligations next year. It will be the first time in three or so years (not counting the year I was both the writing program coordinator and the WPA) in which I will teach all on campus– no online courses for me in the fall.

And, and I say this with some sadness, it will be the first time since I started teaching English 328 ten years ago where I will not be including some kind of “make your own simple web page” assignment.

There’s basically three reasons why I decided to axe this assignment.

First, I really wanted to include a simple video/movie assignment in the class and something had to go. I think the “invent your own writing technology” (where students have to make things and reflect on some of the theories of writing as a technology readings from people like Ong and Baron and the like) is really fundamental to the whole idea of the course, that writing is a technology and the technologies we use to write has a direct impact on what/how/why we write. I think the “style project” (where students read, compare, analyze, and write about a couple of style manuals, my current choices being Strunk and White and Williams’ Style: Toward in Clarity and Grace) because I think it’s critical that students in this advanced writing course think about and pay very close attention to their writing in this nitty-gritty sort of way. In theory, most of the people who take English 328 are wanting to be some flavor of professional writer (journalist, PR person, tech writer, etc.) or a high school teacher. It seems to me that those people ought to have some critical awareness of “the rules.” And I didn’t want to give up on the comic assignment because it’s still comparatively new to me, it’s a great way to introduce the connection between “the visual” and text, and it will serve as a great gateway to a motion picture/multimedia project. So in an odd way, the web site became kind of the odd man out.

Second, there’s a lot of other ways nowadays to publish stuff on the web and a lot of other ways to incorporate a set of “technology literacy skills” into a class like English 328– Google docs and various related tools, blogger, flickr, wiki software, chat software, audio tools, YouTube, etc., etc.  All this “web 2.0” stuff, whatever that means.  And a pretty good argument could be made that for most students in English 328, students who tend not to keep maintaining a web site after the class is over, these other writing and literacy tools are a whole lot more useful than learning how to make and revise a simple web site.

And third– oh, I don’t know, I guess it’s just not that relevant anymore.  Static web sites are still useful– I’m in the process of creating a new one here for my English 328 materials—  but in an age of blogging tools, facebook, linkedin, myspace, etc., etc., does it really matter if someone has something like a “homepage” anymore?  I abandoned that assignment in English 444:  Writing for the World Wide Web last term and instead had students convert/re-purpose a print text to the web, and I think that was a more useful and better assignment.

This might not work out.  I think a pretty compelling argument can be made that basic HTML and basic CSS are still fundamental building blocks to all things web and web 2.0-oriented.  I might be doing students a disservice by skipping these details.  But after 10 years– more than that, if you count the times I was teaching web page authoring before EMU– I think it’s time to give this one a rest.

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3 Responses to Farewell, web page assignment

  1. bonnie says:

    i’m glad you shared this, Steve, and i look forward to pilfering from you liberally :)

    actually, i have a fall sabbatical, so i won’t be teaching for some time now, but i will be working with web document design. and this brings me to your comment about static pages, “homepages.” do we have them? i have one, but i update it about as often as i change the oil in my car. i’m much more active w/ my blog. is my homepage relevant?

    do you have a homepage?

  2. Steve Krause says:

    Well, this is pretty much it nowadays. I have a link here to my CV, which I need to keep updating actually, and links to other stuff I go to all the time. But that’s it. I used to have a “real” homepage, and I guess you could call the page I have here a sort of homepage. But that’s more a placeholder nowadays for me. I list this page on my CV, for example.

  3. rik says:

    There was something to be said for having my students work in Dreamweaver and battle it out with tags (and it wasn’t all good), but like you, with all the other tools to explore, it was difficult for me to imagine keeping in that sort of web development, when we can talk about and compare the various CMS platforms out there, for instance.

    Aren’t blogs the new homepages, anyway? The ability to have multiple pages using WordPress or TypePad does everything I’m needing to do. But is that still a blog?

    Your “invent your own writing technology” sounds like a really cool assignment! I promise to give you credit somewhere on the assignment prompt page if there’s room. ;)

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