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Lazy Virtues
Teaching Writing in the Age of Wikipedia

Author(s): Robert E. Cummings

Winner of the MLA's Mina P. Shaugnessy Prize for an outstanding work in the fields of language, culture, literacy, or literature with strong application to the teaching of English.





Focusing largely on the controversial website Wikipedia, the author explores the challenges confronting teachers of college writing in the increasingly electronic and networked writing environments their students use every day. Rather than praising or condemning that site for its role as an encyclopedia, Cummings instead sees it as a site for online collaboration between writers and a way to garner audience for student writing.

Applying an understanding of Commons-Based Peer Production theory, as developed by Yochai Benkler, this text is arranged around the following propositions:

-- Commons-Based Peer Production is a novel economic phenomenon which informs our current teaching model and describes a method for making sense of future electronic developments.

-- College writers are motivated to do their best work when they write for an authentic audience, external to the class.

-- Writing for a networked knowledge community invites students to participate in making knowledge, rather than only consuming it.

-- A plan for integrating networked writing for an external audience helps students understand the transition from high school to college writing.

-- Allowing students to review and self-select points of entry into electronic discourse fosters "laziness," or a new work dynamic where writers seek to better understand their own creativity in terms of a project's demands.

Lazy Virtues offers networked writing assignments to foster development of student writers by exposing them to the demands of professional audiences, asking them to identify and assess their own creative impulses in terms of a project's needs, and removing the writing teacher from the role of sole audience.


Biography of Author(s)

Robert E. Cummings is the Director of the Center for Writing and Rhetoric and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Mississippi.

Reviews

  • "For those who value such a collaborative platform and students' rights to a traditional liberal arts education but are insecure with new technology, this book offers clear pedagogical grounding in theory, history, and tradition - and then gives practical collegial help."
    --from the citation for the MLA's Mina P. Shaugnessy Prize for an outstanding work in the fields of language, culture, literacy, or literature with strong application to the teaching of English.
  • Informed, smart, incisive, this book explores the radical hypothesis that the Wikipedia movement, too often linked with declining standards of credibility and correctness, could teach English composition faculty something they don't know about "higher education, making knowledge, and teaching writing". Cummings succeeds with marvelous skill at this delicate task. He offers teachers a way to connect the "'disconnected' core courses of composition to a real, authentic, knowledge community" and to provide new audiences for students' writing. Cummings' passion for this task is great, and his advice is sound. Your writing class may "never be the same," he notes, after you read this book-and, by the end of volume, you realize just how right he is.
    --Cynthia L. Selfe, Ohio State University, author of Global Literacies and the World Wide Web