All of the following are potential
assignments that could be used in an Open Source composition classroom.
Currently, only one of the projects fully conforms to the Open Source
pedagogy. The other assignments lack the class discussion that went into
the process of completing the projects and so they qualify as Open Access,
but not yet Open Source projects following our method for the composition
classroom. Open Access itself is an important step towards completely
shared and collaborative resources, so all of these are excellent examples
for further development.
Assignments that have been
- Websites for Local
Non-profit Agencies (Jeff Rice, Mike Pennel, and Jim Dubinsky)
- In Jeff Rice's Advanced
Business Writing class, students designed and developed web pages for
local non-profit groups. The class assignment is available here, and
the class web logs which provide a record of the process of student
work and their thoughts on the process are linked from this page.
Mike Pennell's 2002 Business Writing Class also featured assignments
that required students to work with businesses or community organizations
in order to improve those entities' web presences. Pennell's course
materials, aside from the class discussion and class work, are available
Similarly, Jim Dubinsky's class Teaching Technical Writing also featured
an assignment for assisting a local museum in grant writing. Dubinsky's
class writing samples and discussion are also not available online;
however, his syllabus, resources, and other excellent course materials
are available here.
- MOO Assignments
- UF's NWE hosts a brief lists of potential MOO assignments for use
by other teachers. In addition to these Open Access assignments, the
assignments also provide directions on how to view and interact with
the projects as they exist in the NWE's MOOville. The list of assignments
is available here
and one assignment, the "Trials in MOOville" also has the class discussion
during the process of the class and this assignment available here.
- University Documentation (Blake Scott and Bradley Dilger)
- In 2000, Blake Scott and Bradley Dilger organized one class in developing
tutorials for the University of Florida's Networked Writing Environment
(NWE). These tutorials fall under the Open Access guidelines, but the
class project and class discussion are not available, so it remains
and incomplete example. The tutorials are available here.
- Professional/Technical Writing Documentation (Jennie Marie
- Jennie Marie Blankert's Spring 2003 class projects are available online
and the projects are documentation for software that many people use.
The documentation examples, syllabus, and class calendar are also available,
Like Dilger's projects, the class discussions are not available and
it is unclear whether these projects were collaboratively written and
designed, so this is also an incomplete example. However, Blankert notes
that her students wrote about a sense of fulfillment from giving back
to Purdue through their writing: "Many of the students commented on
the nature of this assignment allowing them to give back to Purdue and
their majors because they created documents that would help future students"
(2003). This inherent desire
to share with the community underpins much of Open Source and of an
Open Source Pedagogy.
- emerAgency: Combining Academics and Communities (Greg Ulmer)
- Ulmer describes the testimonial project in this way: "Major premise:
the internet and world wide web, in the context of an increasingly predominant
electronic culture, create new communications possibilities capable
of supporting new relationships across the institutions of society.
For these possibilities to be realized a new general writing practice
is needed. The Testimonial is intended to be such a practice."
He also provides these instructions for internet researchersemerAgentsconstructing
their own testimonial:
1Research and document a community or public problem
For more information, see the online documentation.
2Document the details of a memory associated with a personal
Design a website in which 1 functions as a metaphor for 2 (or vice
Base the format of the site on the structure of advertising. (1998,
Other potential assignments
- Community Cultural Map
- This project, aimed at students in their second year (or later), asks
students to construct a collaborative, interactive "map" of
their college's community. Students would build a hypertext "atlas-web"
directed to help incoming students acclimate to college life. The specific
topics, locations, and formats would be selected by the students, with
the instructor guiding them in the development and implementation of
the atlas-web. In particular, the instructor could emphasize elements
of rhetoric, style, and presentation during the peer review process.
This assignment has several potential benefits. First, the metaphor
of the "map" ties nicely into the dominant metaphor of the
World Wide Web (navigation) and to post-modern understanding of identity
formation in the electronic age (as with Jameson's "cultural mapping").
The design aspects of the project can spur students to examine the rhetoric
of new media, and perhaps to innovate their own rhetorics. While students
will shape the project, the instructor can encourage students to use
another dominant form of the Web, self-documentation (as in Blogs),
to document the "nodes" on the atlas-web; such self-documentation
also ties nicely into expressionist or autobiographical theories of
composition. Finally, the atlas-web meets Faber's requirement that projects
be extensible. Since the project "maps" the community, it
can easily integrate new information and be updated by later classes,
using input from new students as "halo" reviews.
Later classes could create maps of the wireless network areas, which
would lead to a discussion of layers within spatial domains.
- Course journal
- Many instructors already implement a version of this assignment as
a collection of work done for the course. This assignment suggests that
students could choose a specific themeor use a course-specific
one in the directed reading/writing coursesas a topic for an issue
of a "journal" to be published at the end of the semester.
The project would require that students divide the editorial work of
journal-production as well as the authorial work. The work of the course
would be to prepare the journal for press, ending with publication of
the journal for distribution on and around campus.
This project has the added feature that it can be done in a traditional
classroom or in an electronic one. By publishing a journal for public
distribution, students would engage with external readership. Students
in later semesters could build on the project started by the first group,
doing follow-ups, later issues of similar journals, or heading off in
- Technical Writing Documentation
- As more schools implement
Open Source software, the need for documentation and tutorials on that
software increase. With this increased need, this project suggests that
technical writing classes orient themselves around solving this need.
Initial assignments would mirror traditional technical writing assignments
such as writing business letters and memos. For this project, those
letters and memos would be written to actual Open Source Software developers
to begin the process of writing, editing, and maintaining documentation
for that OSS. Later assignments would include:
- Keeping a blog on the
progress of the project;
- Creating maintenance
notes so that the later writers would be able to easily modify the
- Writing the actual OSS
- Communication back and
forth with the developers and the OSS community to make sure that
the documentation is accurate and efficiently designed;
- And, while all projects
would be web-based, the collaborative groups would also make decisions
on whether or not to provide printable PDFs of the pages, other
sorts of handouts for students learning about the OSS, slides for
teachers teaching this project or the software, and tutorials for
- Writing Video Game Walkthroughs and Help Files
- Like the technical writing documentation project, this project would
be geared towards writing documentation for a specific program. In this
case, the program would be a video game. The initial class assignments
would center around writing about playing and exploring the video game
as a text and keeping a course journal of that play, of the game design,
and the game's failings. Later assignments would include writing game
plot summaries, character explications, and walkthroughs for how the
game is played and how to best succeed at the game. All of these assignments
would help students to view the video game as a text to be explored
while also allowing students to work within the video gaming community
that frequently creates code patches and game walkthroughs as part of
its gift culture. The video gaming gift culture provides both a complement
and a foil to the gift culture of Open Source because some video game
cultures are gift cultures of skill and shared resources, while others
are gift cultures where cultural ranking is a one-upmanship process
based on how much the person gives to the culture.
Using the video game writing assignments, students would investigate
these different computerized writing cultures while also investigating
the internal language known as 'l33t speak' in many of these cultures.
L33t speak ("elite-speak" the language of elite users) provides
students with new ways for investigating community conversation and
writing, especially because l33t speak is often written with combinations
of letters, numbers, and other ASCII characters making the writing heavily
textual yet heavily stylized.
Next: Works Cited