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10 Truths about Writing in the Digital Age

Edutopia released a September update to their “Big Thinkers on Education” series entitled “Writing in the Digital Age” by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl.  Elyse Eidman-Aadahl is the co-director of the National Writing Project.  The video is full of statements that describe the current state of writing and that are critical for language and literature teachers to digest.  I pulled 10 truths about writing in the digital age from Elyse’s ideas.

 1. Humans are communicators

(00:02)  “Human beings are born storytellers.  We’re communicators.  That’s in our DNA.”

2. Writing is technology

(00:17)  “Human communication is gone in an instant.  ….  Writing, at the base, is technology.  It’s something we have created to extend communication into the future.”

3. One person can do it all

(01:12)  “It used to be that the writer made the words, the writer handed them to a new person, that new person was an editor.  That editor was followed by a publisher, a designer, someone who distributed and marketed and circulated the book.  All of these professional niches, now, can be done by one person using new digital tools.”

4. No more controlled channels

(01:50)  “We can control our own publication.  Anybody can circulate content to any other person if they are connected via the internet.  Point to point.  One computer connected to one computer, anywhere.  So we don’t have to go through controlled channels anymore.  We can share with and learn from anybody else connected to the internet.”

5. The entry barriers are low

(02:17)  “The opportunity to link computers together to collaborate among people to create evermore sophisticated maps of content, … to build knowledge together, even if actually we’ve never met and may never meet.  All of these things have very low barriers of entry.  … Things which just a few years ago could only be done by professionals after long periods of apprenticeship and really expensive equipment, now can be done by anybody, even children.”

6. Writing isn’t getting easier

(03:20)  “Just because the tools that we use to write and publish might be getting ever easier to use, doesn’t mean that writing itself is getting any easier.  To write well means to really think about purpose, and audience, to be able to really have credibility.  To study, to prepare.  To be able to put something out there that represents something significant that you want to say.”

7. Craft requires more attentiveness

(03:57)  “So now that we can all actually see our writing be published, we probably have to engage with the fact that we really are writers.  When we put something on Youtube, we really are a video maker.  When we build a website, we really are a content publisher.  So, that actually means that we have to be much more attentive to craft.  We really have to take more responsibility for what we put out there.”

8. New types of writing are being created

(04:26)  “With that craft comes the knowledge of some new kinds of writing.  We certainly still have novels and we certainly still have the long form in journalist, and people who make their living as authors.  …  But when I am writing a wikipedia entry, I am thinking about both what I want to say but also how what I am writing fits in this amazingly larger context.  So the sense that I am a participant and a contributor, as opposed to a kind of a lone, solitary author, is really different.  It really means a more collaborative stance on writers and more of a sense of building knowledge together.”

9. Tools for ‘now’ aren’t enough

(05:20)  “The issue is in this really rapidly changing, innovative moment in communications technology, how do we help students, how do we help young people, understand the form, the context, the purpose, the potential in the tools and get ready to learn about that – about ever new tools?  It’s now what’s out there today.  For teachers, it’s not whether you are using Facebook or Twitter, so much as its how are we preparing people to use whatever is going to be there in five and ten years from now.”

10. Teaching writing isn’t about the tool

(05:55)  “The real core of learning to write and teaching writing isn’t actually about the tool.  It’s actually about what you’re going to do with the tool.”


Technology & Innovation “Look-Fors”

Walk-throughs, sometimes referred to as Learning Walks, are a common practice in schools used for building collegiality and providing feedback for teachers on instructional practice and classroom management.  A walk-through can be a short 5-minute observation or a longer 30 or 45 minute time period and is not meant to be an evaluation of an individual teacher, but instead a means to provide on-going data collection of “look fors”, monitoring of specific program or professional development training practice, or build a common understanding among teachers in a school of instructional practice.


Walk-throughs are often conducted by principals, but also can be conducted by headsof department, grade level leaders, other teachers in the school, or by a group of teachers.  There is often a protocol used that has a list of “look fors” that the observer makes comments, sometimes in the form of questions, that can be given to the teacher being observed.  Some schools organize their walk-through look-fors to include Marzano’s Instructional Strategies (Marzano, 2001).  Another option is to organize the look-fors around Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction (Gagne, 1965)  or Hunter’s Elements of Lesson Design (Hunter, 1984) as a framework.  There are many formats and protocols for walk-throughs to consider.

To what extent should technology integration and innovation be included in walk-through look-fors?

One element that is starting to show-up in walk-throughs is educational technology use.  The way in which the category is developed on the walk-through and the feedback given can be a critical component in helping build a common understanding of instructional practice and expectations within a learning community.  Certainly, the lone use of an educational technology component on a walk-through will not provide the change in practice without additional supports, but it may be helpful when used in addition to other educational technology professional development and training within a school.

Questions that come to mind regarding including the educational technology integration component on a walk-through:

1. Should the look-fors focus on use of technology alone or the integration of technology into the instruction in the class?  How would these look different on the walk-through form?

2. How should integration be included in the look-fors?  Could an integration model, such as SAMR, be translated into look-fors for a walk-through?

3. To what extent should innovation be a look-for in a walk-through?  If innovation in learning, transformed classroom learning, is the one of the goals in educational technology use, how could we provide feedback to teachers on a walk-through form?

“The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction [Paperback].” The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction: Robert J. Marzano: 9781416605713: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

“Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne).” Conditions of Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

Marzano, Robert J., Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001. Print.

“University of Tasmania, Australia.” Mary Ann Hunter. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

Hunter, M. (1984). Knowing, teaching and supervising.  In P. Hosford (Ed.), Using what we know about teaching (pp. 169-192). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.