One of the shifts new technologies in the educational system gets me thinking about is that writing is not just about words on a page. It certainly does not mean having good or even legible penmanship or keyboarding skills. When thinking about reasons to write, I settle on the thinking that we write to communicate ideas.
Effective communication remains a skill that is included on 21st century “must teach because students must have” lists. Teaching “writing” in the 21st century no longer means just having correct spelling and mechanics or even varied sentences and word choices. Effective writing can mean communicating ideas via video or audio platforms. For example, a recent grad class assignment asked that a collaborative group design a position paper on an assigned topic. The group did not think twice about whether or not that meant we could include links to and embed videos in our “paper” and the course facilitator commented on how they were enjoyed. 21st century writing can take the form of music, computer programming language, photo blogs, video logs, and any conceivable thing we can imagine and probably some that we cannot.
A big change in the way writing needs to be thought of is that the ideas that are communicated get published for a worldwide public to view content. There is more to the process than just reading and getting information from the content. The process includes reflecting and commenting on it, asking questions, and making critiques. When composing the position paper, information to support our topic position was just a few keystrokes away. With super speed connections, we could link to a wealth of varied content. Our group could connect our ideas from where ever we were because today writing is much more collaborative. Collaborative writers connect even across continents! There can be collaborations taking place at the same time through chats and Skype session or asynchronous partnering in wikis. In some instances users are able to take what is there and remix or mash up the content to create the next idea and keep the connections flowing and growing.
The change in writing accommodates more of the multiple intelligences than an academic system pushing just verbal-linguistic skills in writing programs does. This means teachers need to give choices about the ways students can communicate ideas and be open to the possibilities that writing can take using technology and collaboration. It means teachers must educate themselves about new technologies that will make exchanging ideas easier. It means schools have to be open to new ways of looking at curriculum. And of course, we have to think about how to make access equitable and teach safety and netiquette, too.
What shifts in writing have you thought about or embraced?