Encourage critical thinking and problem solving

What will encourage, motivate and stimulate students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers? Richard Miller’s “This Is How We Dream, Part 2,” architectural design includes “the best of humanities and the best of sciences” in one sustainable building. Miller suggests we post idea-driven documents that belong to no one on the web to show the best of what we are in the academy. We may be at a time in our collective history in which teaching courses across disciplines will best meet our students’ needs. For example, computer science programming classes, art digital media, physics, mathematics, philosophy—compositionists could choose a discipline to collaborate with based on interest or friendship with colleague(s) to bring what an instructor knows about the conversation in his or her discipline to the table for a course that incorporates a collaborative, across-discipline process. I, for one, would not want to sacrifice the connections between learning strategies and writing (Emig, CROSS-TALK, pp. 7-15). However, I repeatedly see pleasure at work in discussions of how we began and continue to incorporate computers into our lives. bell hooks writes in the last paragraph of TEACHING TO TRANSGRESS: “The classroom with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In the field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand…an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom” (p. 207).  If we, as composition teachers, do not want to step outside the border of our discipline, we still have options for interconnectivity within our community of scholars.

My argument is that visual literacy creates concepts in much the same way as writing. Sirc’s essay in WRITING NEW MEDIA argues for the use of Duchamp and Joseph Cornell’s boxes as models of “sustained inquiry” to scaffold through class members’ individual contributions to an interactive project (p. 140). Other examples of art that demonstrate concepts include: Rauschenberg and performance art. Wysocki argues for establishing a relationship to design that helps student to re-vision our relationship to it (WRITING NEW MEDIA, p. 173). Kristie S. Fleckinstein calls it “polymorphic literacy,” reading and writing that draw on verbal and nonverbal ways of shaping meaning (p. 613). I argue that both composition and visual, digital literacy instructors apply rigorous assessment and unwavering values about what it means to communicate conceptually through writing, images, and design: Look for opportunities to respond to the digital literacy infants now learn as they also begin to walk, talk, and engage cardboard picture books.


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