Academic journal article Language Arts

Redesigning the Everyday: Recognizing Creativity in Student Writing and Multimodal Composing

Academic journal article Language Arts

Redesigning the Everyday: Recognizing Creativity in Student Writing and Multimodal Composing

Article excerpt

The ability to recognize student composing as creative is central to supporting students' creative development as writers and meaning makers. Teachers who are able to recognize creativity in student compositions can play an important role in supporting their development as creative composers. The way that teachers conceptualize creativity, then, is crucial, since our conceptions of creativity affect how we recognize creativity in our students' work. Creativity is often perceived as a possession of a few who have been born with inherent creative abilities (Banaji & Burn, 2007). This perspective mystifies creativity, leaving students' creative writing and multimodal composing processes to go unrecognized and unsupported. However, Vygotsky's (1950/2004) discussion of an "everyday idea of creativity" (p. 10) offers a different perspective, and a very useful one for teachers:

Creativity is present, in actuality, not only when great historical works are born but also whenever a person imagines, combines, alters, and creates something new, no matter how small a drop in the bucket this new thing appears compared to the work of geniuses. (p. 11)

This conception of everyday creativity is important. It helps us understand that creativity is not just a privileged ability that some students have and others don't; it emphasizes that we all exhibit acts of creativity throughout our everyday lives and in many different ways. In this column, I will develop the concept of everyday creativity by exploring sociocultural theories of communication and thought that describe how individuals draw upon elements of their material and social environments in the making of signs and meanings (Bakhtin, 1935/1981; Vygotsky, 1950/2004, 1978). Central to this perspective is the idea that our thoughts, ideas, ways of understanding, and means of expression-as well as our creative acts-originate from our social interactions and participation in culture and everyday life. This sociocultural perspective on creativity and student composing comes with the assumption that "children's culture needs a much more central place in explorations of childhood and creativity" (Marsh, 2010, p. 50). A sociocultural perspective on creativity conceives of student composing as a complex process in which the creator draws upon previous experiences, events, and contexts as sources of meaning, which are then creatively put to new uses in the text being composed (Banaji & Burn, 2007; Marsh, 2010; Pahl, 2007; Ranker, 2007; Walsh, 2007). Banaji and Burn summarize a sociocultural perspective on creativity as follows:

For the purposes of teasing out some relationships between media literacy and creativity, then, the most productive approaches to invoke are likely to be the culturalist and cultural psychology approaches. These have the advantages of emphasizing cultural contexts and resources, of theorizing the social development of identity and of providing a dialectical account of how imaginative work, play, and intellectual development together make up the creative process. (p. 67)

I draw upon this sociocultural perspective on creativity to consider the question of how to recognize creativity in student writing and multimodal composing. From this perspective, at its center, creative composing is a process of creating new combinations of images, ideas, and other composed elements. Thus, creativity can be seen not as some mysterious process, but instead as the creator's process of transforming and assembling images, ideas, experiences, and events, and then recombining them into a new, creative whole. Following from this, I will also discuss how our conceptions of "originality" factor into teachers' recognition of student creativity.

We often look for originality in highly unusual and never-before- seen types of compositions. However, from a sociocultural perspective on creativity, students can fashion highly original compositions by "redesigning" (New London Group, 2000) or "orchestrating" (Kress, 2010) seemingly ordinary and everyday aspects of their experiences and ideas. …

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