Urging students to write in the age of Twitter, texting, and Facebook

These benefits of writing are, in part, why the Common Core State Standards focus heavily on language arts and the incorporation of analytical writing into many subject areas.

However, though there’s a major emphasis on incorporating writing in today’s 21st-century classroom, currently there’s a heated debate as to whether or not texting and social media have a negative impact on students’ writing abilities.

“I think it makes sense for these social conversations to be lightweight or light-hearted in terms of the syntax,” said President of Dictionary.com Shravan Goli in a recent interview with Education World. “But ultimately, in the world of business and in the world they will live in, in terms of their jobs and professional lives, students will need good, solid reading and writing skills. I’m a little worried about where we are in America with literacy levels dropping. Are these [electronic devices] helping us, or making it worse? I think they may be going the other way and making it worse.”

But in a recent study, “Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students,” Jeff Gabrill, a writing professor at Michigan State University, and his colleagues found that 93 percent of college student participants said they wrote for personal fulfillment.

Why’s this important? “Our students write more than any generation in history,” explained Gabrill in an interview with MindShift. “They have to be doing something right.”

Students’ mobile devices are legitimate platforms for writing, Gabrill argues, and it would behoove schools and teachers to accommodate what changes that might bring on.

It’s about getting students interested

Whether educators and parents believe the popularity of texting and social media have a negative impact on student writing, the question becomes not how to get students to write—they’re writing all the time—but changes to focus on how schools can get students interested in analytical writing?

One of the easiest ways is to introduce current technology students are already interested in.

“Technology has the capacity to allow for a broader vision of literacy instruction,” say Carol Bedard and Charles Fuhrken, authors of the book When Writing with Technology Matters. “Not only can students in the language arts classroom learn reading and writing, but a technologically infused curriculum can develop multiple essential literacies: technological literacy, visual literacy, informational literacy, and intertextuality.

“Conceptualizing literacy in these ways transforms the classroom from solely a text-based literate environment to one that embraces multiple literacies, and the richness that comes with a technological landscape is continually evolving,” explain the authors.

The book aims to show teachers how to create a classroom environment that allows students to become invested in writing and provide detailed descriptions of elementary and middle school literacy projects that teachers can follow step-by-step or use as a guide when planning their own technology-based projects.

Some projects included in the book include writing to launch moviemaking, turning stories into movies, visual nonfiction essays, and creating independent projects.

(Next page: Technology resources for writing)

Meris Stansbury

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