ENGL 1190: Winter 2016


We Use a Process Model With Three Steps

Maps are not only the colorful squares and globes that we traditionally imagine when we think of them. We “map out” a strategy, or we “map our future” when we plan a career. Thus, to “map” something means to understand it. Our maps are going to be drawn in words, in ideas, and in our general understanding of a topic. When you write, you will understand what has already been thought, and then you will be improving the “map” by adding, removing, and correcting information. Maps and mapping are a useful way to think about what you do when you write. Think about these three steps in creating a map of whatever it is that you are writing about.

Step 1. Mapping the Territory

Writers—and you are learning to be a writer—begin by making maps of how others have explored a subject. This anchors them by giving the names of important landmarks, methods of exploration, and discoveries. To write well is to improve existing maps, and this means that you have to know the field. Writers build their voyages on the maps—writings, ideas, achievements—created by others, and thus they must perform basic tasks such as identifying trustworthy sources, developing acute reading skills, and sifting the important from the irrelevant. Your first step is to map the world . . . the world of other writings.

Step 2. Identifying Gaps in the Map

Explorers explore because the maps are always incomplete. The gaps are an invitation to propose a new geography that respects prior discoveries but also demands original additions to the field. Explorers and writers map the field so they can find the blank spots where they can write their own discoveries. Explorers do not want to simply repeat the discoveries of others. They want to add to the existing map. The blanks in a map motivate the exploration, give it focus, and connect it to the discoveries of others.

Step 3. Re-Drawing the Map

Explorers can discover a new island, a new lake, or even a continent. These discoveries force them to re-draw the map. The old map still matters because the explorers connect their discoveries to what is already known. Your writing will do the same thing. You will produce a new “map” (paper) that uses existing knowledge, but you will make discoveries that require a re-writing of the map to improve it. Good writing offers new ideas to the world. Your redrawn map becomes the map to which future writers will respond. It is an endless process of improvement.


Digital Redlining

For our project, we will first build background knowledge about types of education, socioeconmic classes, and our own experience in education. It is an experience shaped by educational software, curricula, politics, and many other forces.  We will read and write about some of these. Our work will improve our own understanding of how they control our lives.

There’s little recognition that most educational software track students, collect data, and use it for product design, curricular constraint, and the sort of predictive analytics that ultimately create a new kind of redlining -- what some call “digital redlining.” We will ask  questions about digital identities, privacy, quantified selves, big data, and the commodification of students and education. 

After you have completed your background papers, you will use them to produce a carefully documented argument about the relation of these issues to Guided Pathways to Success (GPS). Your paper will examine how GPS attempts to create and enforce "step-by-step roadmaps and intrusive guidance to on-time completion" of college. By avoiding pro/con thinking, we will come to understand how this program identifies problematic issues in American thinking about education.