*Insert terrible DragonBall Z joke here*
Moving past these overused jokes and memes,
Thinking back on my own writing through school, I could recall this particular moment in my freshman year in high school where I was completely lost on the kind of writing structure that my English teacher had wanted us to write in. Having just transferred out in the middle of the year from a school whose English instruction was practically non existent (thanks for nothing private school 😒), I felt like a fish out of water the whole time in that class because I couldn’t for the life of me grasp how the teacher wanted me to write an essay. Writing was something that I had thought I was marginally good at back then but in a new environment, I floundered.
Dumb fish puns aside, Russell talking about in how writing “does not exist autonomously, divorced from some specific human activity.”(8) hit home for me. There have been classes in college and in high school where I couldn’t adapt so easily to the writing style that was required of me because I only had a limited skill set that wasn’t as versatile as I needed it to be.
Writing is an intricate and complex thing, but Russell’s ball analogy really helps put things in perspective in the ways we can think of how writing functions within different aspects of our life. I like that simplicity in his explanation that, “Some people are very adept at some games and therefore at using some kinds of balls, while they may be completely lost using a ball in another game because they have never participated in it” (9). This makes me think of video games (sorry, it always seems to come back to that for me) but like I love Role Playing Games and those are the ones that I gravitate towards. I can identify and know my way around the system that those kinds of games are built in. Yet, I’m terrible at any kind of puzzle game or puzzle challenge within a game. It’s not that I hate them, but I just don’t have the patience or great perception skills for that kind of thing.
As Russell puts it, there is no “generalizable skill called ball-using or ball-handling that can be learned and then applied to all ball games”(9). I really like that he puts it that way and I feel like this is something that honestly needs to be plastered everywhere and shoved in the face of our academic structures. Writing has been thought to be this singular, isolated thing that everyone should be able to do right off the bat. But as we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the semester, writing is social, dynamic, and it’s ever changing. It is not as this stiff construct as it’s been dressed up to be; writing should be taught as being malleable.
In my internship, we’ve been trying to get all these students to gather up their work and look at how their writing has (or hasn’t) evolved over the years. Through trying to engage them in creating their e-portfolios, it’s pushing them to create a different kind of literacy with the use of technology and their own webpages on WordPress. It’s not easy, for them or for me. There are lot of confusion along the way because it’s getting them to interact with a kind of literacy they aren’t accustomed to. Yet, in having this big class that allows for mutual collaboration, it creates this atmosphere of reliance with one another and helping each other figure it out. This comes back to what Russell was saying about how “Activity systems are inherently social”(6). It’s very interesting to step back and see that in action. It helps me get a better perspective on this idea about how writing functions in different environments and used as a tool in a variety of ways.