I love writing—I love to do it, to read it, to teach it. Unlike some, I’m not worried that my students’ brains have gone soft with too much texting and unrestrained Internet usage. I just figure that when we’re essay writing, we all need to learn to write to our audiences and when we’re texting, we write to that audience, and one of my jobs as a teacher is to help students learn how to recognize and write for particular audiences. In class, since our class is online, the students and I are writing all the time even in those instances when in a face-to-face class we’d be speaking.
The new Carnegie report A Time to Act calls for a “literacy revolution” in our schools. Yet when they were developed in 2004, NCTE’s Beliefs on the Teaching of Writing already predicted a change in the nature of and expectation for literacy and, along with that, a change in the nature of writing. The Beliefs went on to say, “Much of that change has been due to technological developments, from pen and paper, to typewriter, to word processor, to networked computer, to design software capable of composing words, images, and sounds. These developments not only expanded the types of texts that writers produce, they also expanded immediate access to a wider variety of readers.”
But there are some who take issue with the influence of technology in our schools. In “Cursive Writing May Be Fading Skill, but So What?” (Yahoo! News, September 21, 2009), some West Virginia parents have expressed dismay that instruction in cursive writing is taking a back seat to lessons on using technological tools to write.
Others couldn’t be happier. The students in “At-Risk Students Make Multimedia” (Edutopia Magazine, October 2009) and in “Stop the Presses! Revamped Journalism Courses Attract Hordes of Students"(The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 21, 2009) are more than happy to be using new forms of composition: blogging and broadcasting, video game-making and tweeting.
I agree with NCTE member Dennis Barron who points out in 'A Better Pencil' (Inside Higher Ed, September 18, 2009), an interview on his new book A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution, it’s highly unlikely that new writing technologies are doing damage to the English language.
New 21st century forms of composition are behind NCTE’s idea to develop the The National Gallery of Writing—a place to collect and display the writings of our citizenry, writings of all sorts. With 17 national galleries and nearly 1,000 local galleries, the public will be able to view varied kinds and modes of writing submitted by people of all ages and occupations. When the gallery goes live on October 20, 2009, the National Day on Writing, and until the display ends in June 2010, writing researchers will have the opportunity to use the submissions to analyze writing today, to help get to the root of the debate on the present state of writing.
Currently NCTE hypothesizes that we’re in the midst of a writing revolution, that people are writing more than ever but that, perhaps, the youngest of us are doing most of that writing outside of school as Writing Between the Lines—and Everywhere Else indicates.
Being able to study across the samples of composition submitted to the gallery will help NCTE learn how to better help teachers of writing help student writers improve their craft. As part of the bargain the Council offers writing resources for all writers.
What do you think we’ll find out about writing today?