Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Universal Authorship: can writing programs deal w/loss of control?

John Jones over at Digital Media and Learning wonders when educators and the institutions that employ them will grok the informal writing that our students do out-of-classroom. Fanfic, FB status updates, Twitter, chats, sms: we've never written more, especially those of us under 18. So why aren't institutions jumping to board down the mountain in this flurry of writing?

Some people find snow storms scary. It's a white out, can't see anything.

Like a blank page.

Like starting over.

Jones notes that routinely we warn students against the indiscretions that social media can make a permanent record of: don't post photos of you in the maid costume chugging everclear, don't break up in status updates, don't announce where you are. Come to think of it, just don't.

Should we who teach the young suggest right there in front of the whole class what is already pretty flipping obvious: that social media is fun? Can open up entirely new ways of finding and engaging like minds? Is a great way to find tasty vittles in the wee hours of the AM? Can make you smarter?

In a cogent comment on John's article, Daria Ng observes:
Educators need to complicate the dichotomy of formal and informal writing, and instead, build up students' writer identities. If students are able to identify themselves as legitimate writers/authors from the beginning and carry these identities with them across multiple styles and modes, then perhaps the idea of expressing themselves through writing will not be something they feel necessary to hide. In order to do this, students will have to engage deeply in the writing process as well as reflective learning, so that they are constantly evaluating themselves as writers and can see all the different mediums through which their voices emerge.

Nice, eh?

I'm especially struck by the portability of identity Ng extols: the idea that learning can travel into the classroom, grow and become something else, and travel out again into the world. Like several times a day. And at the semester's end, too.

Isn't this such a better idea than locking that growth, those new and evolving writer identities, behind CMS like Blackboard where it will moulder away, untouched by another mind that could actually use the ideas contained therein?

Informal learning = lifeblood to writers.


Melissa Leembruggen said...

This is actually very intriguing to me. As an author, publisher, and professor in communication I am observing all these items noted first hand. But as a home school parent of a teen writer, I see the melding of the informal and formal writing. My daughter and I discuss the humor and possibilities of her social media posts and follows those quick bites with formal writing and blogs. She is challenges my writing skills at the age of 14 that I have now developed at the age of 41. I would love to teach a class with combined writing for today's generation. It is a different skill that academically needs to be addressed. Both informal and formal writing are more critical than ever in our media driven culture.

Kathi Inman Berens said...

Your daughter is lucky to have your smart mentorship. Sounds like a great blend of informal and formal writing. Toggling between those POVs and imagined audiences is a crucial skill today, when social media aggregate all sorts of different communities into one place, even if you yourself have created that space through friending or following (eg, FB, Twitter).

Thanks for your thoughtful post!

Daria said...

Kathi, thanks for your mention of my comment on I've stumbled upon this blog and it's definitely one I'll be adding to my blog roll! It's always exciting to connect w/ others in the field.

~Daria or work website: