In the class I am taking about teaching writing, I am learning a tremendous amount. My classmates are all fellow-teachers and we all share strategies that have worked for us in teaching writing. One technique that has come up time and time again is the idea of reinforcing writing strategies by saying, “That’s the way professional writers do it.”
Whenever I see this, I think, without any sarcasm, “Really? There’s a way?” I get a little jolt and think that if I could just be let in on the secret, it would make this whole writing thing a lot easier. I am not exaggerating when I say that my heart beats a little faster at this prospect.
The summer after college, while waiting to deploy for the Peace Corps, I lived at home and got a job driving a bright blue-green bus around to low-income neighborhoods in New Hampshire. My partner and I would read stories, do a related activity, and then lend out books to the children. It was a great summer job and led me down the path to where I now find myself: cultivating literacy in teenager as a high school librarian.
But this post isn’t about literacy, it’s about what I did with my first paycheck: I bought a guitar.
For a graduate class I am taking, we need to describe our vision of the ideal future of writing. Here’s mine:
“Writing will survive, but it will survive in a debased form. It will lose its richness. We will no longer read and write words. We will merely process them, the way our computers do.” Nicholas Carr, writing in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica Blog. The culprit: technology.
As for me, while I see the potential pitfalls of technology, the changes I am seeing are all positive. In fact, I believe that advances in technology will make more people writers and will allow those writers to share their work with an ever-increasing audience. Students will enjoy writing, and will do it on their own time because it allows them to connect within and without their community. Most importantly, students will be empowered by writing.
Writing has always provided a way for us to connect to others. Technology is allowing that reach to go farther and to more people. Sometimes people say that a drawback of online communities is that people will write things they never would “in real life”. This can also be a positive. Recently I told an English teacher, Tim Gillis, about the Parent-Teacher-Student journals described in Engaging Parents Beyond the Back to School Night. He decided to add a parental component and asked students to interview their parents about whether or not they had ever read Moby Dick, the class text. Some parents talked about how they had never read it, but remembered other books they read. Some liked what they had read in high school, others didn’t. Graham’s father took over the computer and wrote a very poignant response. You can see all the responses at his blog, Moby Tweet.