Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What it means to write in the 21st Century - a new paradigm

A new report released by National Council of English Teachers calls upon writing instructors to re-think what it means to 'compose" in the digital age and to adapt our teaching methods accordingly.  The report, available here, is authored by NCTE past president Kathleen Blake Yancey and recognizes that

"21st century writing marks the beginning of a new era in literacy, a period we might call the Age of Composition, a period where composers become composers not through direct and formal instruction alone (if at all) but rather through what we might call an extracurricular social apprenticeship." 

By way of example, Professor Yancey tells the story of a 16 year old Florida girl who looked out her window following a tropical storm and became alarmed at the rising flood waters threatening her neighbors.  In response, she snapped a digital photo and attached it to an email sent to several people asking help which arrived in the nick of time.  Professor Yancey says this example reflects the new model of composition in the digital era - the girl "saw a need; . . . she knew how to compose in a twenty-first century way," and she knew her audience.  The result was a digital message that clearly and very effectively communicated her message.

The report ends with a list of challenges facing writing teachers:  1.  Develop new models of composing; 2. design a new curriculum to support those models; and 3.  create new pedagogies enacting that curriculum.

Um, OK.  But first I've got to finish grading this pile of papers in front of me. 

On a serious note, I recommend this report to anyone who teaches writing - there's a lot of very interesting information about the history of writing instruction in this country.

Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.



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