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September 26, 2013

10 Truths about Writing in the Digital Age

by fambrojoe

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.”

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