“Mash-Up” Writing Revisited

With all the talk of mash-ups (music, videos, Google maps, etc.) I thought I would revisit a writing exercise I wrote about back in June that involved writing mash-ups, especially with the advent of a wonderful new (and FREE) writing tool. Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, a quick rehash of my writing mash-ups is in order.

Begin a story, but only write the first two sentences. Have someone else sit down at the computer and write the next two sentences, and another person for the next two, and so on until the story comes to an ultimately absurd end or you run out of writers. When it’s done each writer gets a copy of the document. They are then welcome to rearrange, edit, remove, and otherwise rewrite the story using the collective ideas of the class, instead of just their own writing. In this way students are able to draw from a larger pool of creativity and gain incite as to how to make their writing better by reading how other students interpret their work.

Enter Writely.com, a completely fabulous website-based word processor that allows you to share your work with others, save your stories online, and look at past revisions with the click of a mouse. You can even invite others to share your work and publish directly to your own blog. Todd, our resident language arts expert, introduced this tool on his site, writing about some simple, yet effective, uses for it. Among his ideas for using Writely are peer-editing papers, collaborating on notes, or editing examples of bad paragraphs as a class. He writes much more eloquently than I on the topic, so please read his post for more details.

As for my mash-ups? I’m eager to use it for my class’s next creative writing assignment in Science. Not only will they have the opportunity to read other students’ understanding of our science concepts, but they’ll also be able to lend their own creative influences to the rest of the class. After they’ve each had a turn at adding their own two bits to the story they’ll be able to save the final version to their individual computers and go to work on their own, while still being able to go back and check earlier versions or revisions that other classmates might have made. Through ease of sharing and collaboration, Writely and mash-ups should make many students more aware of their audience’s tastes, while giving them more avenues to pursue their creativity.