Questions on 21st Century Writing

We’ve just been asked to reflect on a presentation about the history of the Bread Loaf Teachers Network, the NWP, and the Technology Initiative Work. It has been useful to be reminded of this history, and think about where we are at in this unique moment. In particular, there are three questions that they want us to consider today and tomorrow as we engage in the working meeting:

  • What is the distinctive power that technology brings to learning to write and literacy? How does it enhance and change the way students learn to write? how does it enhance and chance the teachers teach writing and literacy?
  • As teachers use technology in teaching, and students use it for learning in the classroom, new challenges and vulnerabilities have become evident. What are the concerns, pitfalls, risks, and vulnerabilities that accompany literacy, and teaching literacy in the digital age? What lessons have we learned about these challenges and problems?
  • The definition of what it means to be literate keeps evolving. Through the ages it has referred to written communication and expression using pen and paper. The audience has been those who have had access to the hard copy product. In the digital age, these as well as other aspects of literacy have changed. Now, when you think about being a writer or being literate in the digital age, what is the same and what is different?

For the moment, I will focus on the first one and think about the question that I have — if we know that technology brings a distinctive power to the process of learning to write, and there is compelling (although not a ton of) evidence that it does, why are schools not opening embracing new models for teaching and learning writing? We know that schools are institutions that have power structures in place that are hard to change, but haven’t we come to a point in history where we, as a society, must make a substantial investment in both the hardware/software and also the professional development of teachers?

Questions/ideas/comments from others:

  • Focus on the infrastructure problem
  • When I look back at my NWP work, I have some truisms such as “All writing is rewriting.” I wonder what truisms we can write into the curriculum about writing with technology.
  • What are we doing to change the assessment of writing in relation to testing?
  • There is an opportunity for the teacher and the tech developer to talk about how the tools work and what innovations can occur.
  • We need to talk in specific terms about “technology” and what we mean by that term in light of particular tools.