| Writing As Design |
Mike Frenkel teaches English at Brooklyn Tech HS in New York, and is a collaborator and colleague with Ed Goldman, whose teaching is featured in DITC. One of their most interesting projects aims to have students develop a more flexible understanding of designing by coordinating the teaching of it to the same students between Mike's English and Ed's tech ed classes. (One of the first groups to describe the idea of writing as open-ended problem solving (designing) was Linda Flowers and Dick Hayes from Carnegie Mellon University.)
In MOVIE 1, Mike describes the ways he presents writing as a design process to his students. He builds his case by linking Goldman's five criteria of design (function, structure, aesthetics, economy, integrity) to a 1946 essay by George Orwell on clear and concise writing entitled "Politics and the English Language." (You can find "educational use" versions of this essay on the web.) The study and adaptation to an audience, use of research, different brainstorming techniques, and working in teama are shared by writing and designing. Probably the most obvious shared point is how rewriting essays is much like doing iterative design.
In other ways, making a connection between writing and designing is difficult. The role of nature in showing how a designed device fails and doesn't is harder with an essay. Nature doesn't proofread or give feedback "when writing is broken" like a mechanical system. Getting people outside the classroom to react to writing is an instance of Authentic Assessment that can make writing more design-like and real to students.