Writing For The Network

I was reading a post by Bud the Teacher called "NCTE Brain Dump."  I wasn't at the recent NCTE conference in Texas, but I like what he points to from it.  [emphasis below is all mine]

"Kathleen Blake Yancey, president of NCTE, gave perhaps my favorite presentation of the conference, a stunning mix of image and speech, of thinking about teaching and thinking about technology, specifically the technologies of composition. (I hope that it is soon in video form so that I can share it with you. She has said she has interest in producing such a video, and you need to see what she did and what she said about composition here in the early days of the 21st Century. I’ll share if it makes it online.) Just before she closed, she reminded us all that, “If you are writing for the screen, you are writing for the network.” NCTE gets the shift, has defined it, and is beginning to talk about it in a thoughtful way.

That post led me to another by Will Richardson

"...you get the sense that this whole blogging thing may finally, finally, finally be tipping over the edge in terms not just of a tool to publish but of a tool to connect... For as much as I am writing this right now to articulate my thoughts clearly and cogently to anyone who chooses to read it, what I am also attempting to do is connect these ideas to others’ ideas, both in support and in opposition, around this topic. Without rehashing all of those posts about Donald Murray and Jay David Bolter, I’m trying to engage you in some way other than just a nod of the head or a sigh of exasperation. I’m trying to connect you to other ideas, other minds. I want a conversation, and that changes the way I write. And it changes the way we think about teaching writing"

In a course I'm teaching this semester at NJIT, all my students are required to have a blog where they post "assignments" from the course. There were 14 this semester and a few students have done more than that, but most of them have not made the shift to seeing their blog as more than an assignment. Sure, it's "authentic" writing and it has a "real audience" to address beyond myself and the class, but there's more that I want from them. (Of course, they have to want it, not me.)

The blog has been a good way for my students to create a writing portfolio. They seem to quite naturally reflect on their previous posts and link to their own writing and that of others. For that particular course, I'm also using the blog as a visual design tool, so the way they they write for the network (Web) includes more than the words.

The big mistake that many profit & non-profit institutions have made in moving their traditional print materials online is that they often do JUST that - move them online. The press release that they used to mail to newspapers is now a pdf that they email. No color images that can be reproduced, no links to more material or mail links to key individuals. This has been improving over the past five years, but it is still not ubiquitous.

I agree with NCTE that:

"Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups."

Maybe it's time for us to get The End of the Essay back out on the road...


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