A Pedagogy of Generosity: HCWE Writing Scholar in Residence Embraces Trying, and Failing, with Writing Technology

A Pedagogy of Generosity: Embracing Trying, And Failing, With Writing Technology

by Mandy Olejnik
Published February 18, 2020

HCWE Writing Scholar-in-Residence and Assistant Professor of English Tim Lockridge is a self-professed writing technology nerd. He’s dedicated to understanding different writing processes and helping others think more deeply and critically about how and why they write.

“I would like to see writers–whether they be students or faculty or people in the workplace–approach a writing task with wonder and excitement,” says Lockridge. “The more I talk to writers, the more I think that there’s so much possibility in that prewriting space where you have to linger with ideas, where you have to chew on questions. And I want to help writers dwell in that space.”

According to Lockridge, the tools we use to write and generate ideas are integral to critical thinking and creativity. He conducts research on the intersection of technology and the writing process, focusing on workflow—how we complete writing tasks and what space and tools we use to do so—and how the tools we use to write shape our process and how our process shapes the tools we use. “How do these tools affect writers?” he wonders as we sit at the HCWE. “How do they shape the way we see the world? How do they constrain possibilities or encourage new ways of doing things?” These are questions that he will help us explore at the HCWE during his residency, and ones that inform his unique insight on the writing process.

The Impact of Tools on the Writing Process

Writing tools and technologies are crucial parts of how we write but are often overlooked in our day-to-day practices. “Becoming more familiar with writing tools helps you determine what's truly important to you,” Lockridge explains, in terms of both faculty and student writing practices. Slowing Becoming more familiar with writing tools helps you determine what's truly important to you.down to consider why you approach writing the way you do and the affordances and constraints of the technologies you use can lead to creative, innovative thinking. “When you start to look at writers who are not using typical tools, you see really interesting, cool practices. There are ways of being and thinking that are creative, that are mindful, and that offer new possibilities.”

One example of innovative thinking lies in the creative potential of concept mapping, and in the ability to “play around” with ideas and thoughts before putting them down in writing. “What does that begin to look like in writing?” Lockridge asks. “How do we linger in a space where we can generate ideas and questions and think through them—and not immediately rush to answers? How do we develop these ideas over time? Tools can be a helpful part of that.” His forthcoming book with co-author Derek Van Ittersum, Writing Workflows: Beyond Word Processing, further discusses the importance of “workflow mapping” and finding ways to visually and spatially interact with your work and your ideas.

Toward a Pedagogy of Generosity

In the classroom, tools and technology offer students opportunities to further engage with ideas and possibilities in their writing through trial and error, which is a key component of Lockridge’s pedagogy and his own introduction to tools and technology. “When I got my first computer as a kid, I would crash it,” Lockridge reflects, laughing. “I would tinker with things in the command line and then I wouldn't be able to boot the computer anymore. And my mom would breathe a heavy sigh and come back in with the reload disks. This taught me that it's okay to break stuff because there's a way to fix it. I think about that in terms of my pedagogy–let's try new tools, new approaches, new ways of thinking. And if something breaks, we'll just deal with it. We'll find a way to work through it.”

Providing students with the space and room to work through ideas with different tools and If you are generous to students and if you are really interested in working with them... they'll give anything a go.technologies without a fear of failure is important for their writing development. Learning to write, in several ways, requires experiences with failure. “Writing is a process of accreting,” Lockridge reminds us. “It's a process of building something over time. I think that the best writing is something that slowly comes into form the more you sit with it and think through it. Because of that, I think that writing has to be based on some degree of failure. You have to be generous to yourself and to understand that failure, those dead ends, are part of it. They ultimately take you where you want to go.”

For Lockridge, teaching writing and technology ultimately comes down to meeting students where they are. “I find that if you are generous to students and if you are really interested in working with them and listening to them, they'll give anything a go. They'll say, ‘OK, let's try this and see if this works out.’ Generosity is very reciprocal.”

We now ask you: what tools do you use to write? And how do they shape the work you do and the ideas you have? Following Lockridge’s advice, we encourage you to try a new writing tool or technology this semester, either for yourself or in your classroom. For more on the HCWE and Lockridge’s innovation with tools, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where you can keep up with our #WritingToolTuesdays and learn more about how tools can impact your writing process.

Lockridge teaches a workshop on writing technologies.Lockridge conducts a workshop on writing technologies