Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Writing to Reflect, Engage, Learn, Publish and Connect

Writing in the 21st century has gone digital.  We are keyboarding instead of applying penmanship. We post to message boards, blogs, emails, twitter accounts, corporate intranets, Facebook and various other web-based sites and services. Writing has also become 3 dimensional. You don't need the latest pair of 3D glasses to experience three dimensional writing. Just open up any webpage and you will find text that contains hyper-links to additional content, embedded videos, embedded documents and audio streams.

Students, teachers, and our 21st century workforce must posses the skills to navigate, consume, analyze, organize and apply information that is written in this format. In order to be successful in the 21st century we also need to learn how to write three dimensionally.  For our students, this requires opportunities to write for an audience by utilizing a web-based publishing platform.  

The recent edition of Educational Leadership, published by ASCD, focussed on the topic "Teaching Screenagers".  One particular article written by Will Richardson discussed the importance of student publishing their work online. The article quoted a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet  and American Life Project.  This study showed that 75% of teens regularly use social-networking sites and the vast majority publish updates,  photos, videos, and more (Lenhart 2010). Analysis of this activity identified that these posting are primarily "friendship-based" (MacArthur Foundation, 200*)

While it is an important skill for students to learn to navigate and find success in the "social web" it is equally important that they are provided with opportunities to apply the foundations of "what good writers do" to web-based publishing. Writing is a process. It is also a significant contributor to student learning and achievement. Reflection is an example of a writing process that can be applied to any subject area. In the past students maintained reflective journals on paper. These journals were written for one audience, the teacher. While there is value in the process of reflection and writing, our students are missing out on the opportunity to share their thoughts with an audience, collaborate with individuals who share similar interests, and learn from others who read and respond to their thoughts, opinions and summaries.

Journaling in the 21st century has shifted from the notebook to blog postings. Students  who are provided with the opportunity to publish their thoughts, ideas, and opinions in a blog are writing for a global audience. This forum differs from writing in the "social web"  They are now writing for an audience that they do not know.

As teachers we must  not only provide our students with opportunities to publish, we should also model it. Each year, a growing number of educators are  maintaining their own blogs. Teachers share their thoughts, instructional strategies, successes in the classroom, student work examples and new resources. Many teachers allow students the opportunity to guest post on a their blog. A student my write about a topic they are covering in class. Teachers may invite subject area exports to comment on student blog postings or to guest write a posting that students  may comment on.

When students maintain their own blog they open themselves up to new opportunities to learn from others. They create a digital presence for themselves. This presence is the first step in developing their online presence. As Will Richardson states " They are now Googleable".  The future for the job seeker is going to be less about the 2 page resume that is printed as a word document. It will be about the interactive portfolio of work, writings and just "how Googleable" you are.

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