Churning is a word that usually refers to turbulent mortgage or security markets. Yet it’s a word that aptly describes the rapid changes in literacy we are experiencing today.
We can easily see the effects of technology use on our reading habits. But, the effects on writing, while not often discussed, are just as profound, according to technology guru William Richardson, who also happens to be a veteran English teacher.
“Connective writing” is the term Richardson uses to describe this evolving form of writing. Far from thinking that writing is becoming obsolete, Richardson firmly believes writing is one of the most important skills students will need to be successful in their lives. It’s just that the practice and purpose of writing has changed.
What was once a monologue is increasingly becoming a dialogue. Students used to write in closed spaces, for the classroom, for their teachers, for themselves. But now when they write online, they have the potential to reach a global audience, Richardson says. They have the opportunity to connect with people who share their passions and interests and who can become their teachers.
Not very long ago, a reasonable answer to the question, “what is the purpose of writing,” would have been, “to express my thoughts and ideas.” But that was then. A more updated take on the purpose of writing, according to Richardson, is that it is to connect with others in order to share and build on each other’s thoughts and ideas.
With all the uncertainties that surround the many changes in literacy practices, many educators have taken the conservative stance. They are the keepers or guardians of the written word as we know it. But one result of this approach is that the literacy practices that most people engage in every day online “don’t count” in school as much as traditional practices such as reading books and writing essays.
Schools are wary of online writing for other reasons besides questions about its value. They also want to keep students focused on learning rather than on all the distractions of social networking and protect them from predators.
With 2 billion people now online, Richardson says teaching and learning can take place anywhere, anyplace and with anyone.
Here’s Richardson’s biggest dare to schools: Instead of seeing this global community as 2 billion potential predators, look at it as 2 billion potential teachers and collaborators. Rather than keeping every student beneath the radar, help each student graduate with a prominent internet profile and global connections.
Webinar with William Richardson now available on CD-ROM “Motivate students to improve their writing with technology-driven strategies”