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On Writing from the Perspective of Students

by Ryan Bretag

May 11, 2008

The recent PEW <http://pewinternet.org/>  survey Writing, Technology
<http://pewinternet.org/PPF/r/247/report_display.asp>  and Teens has
prompted a number of writings across the Net over the past few weeks. While
much of the writing focuses on different areas of the study, it seems one is
causing unjustified assumptions and another critical part of the survey is
relatively non-existent in these discussions.

Teen Bloggers and Writing
One finding of the PEW <http://pewinternet.org/PPF/r/247/report_display.asp>
Survey was that teenage bloggers write more (47% compared to 33%) and find
more value in writing (65% compared to 53%) than non-blogging teens. On the
surface, these numbers are quite intriguing especially for those that see
blogging as a strong curriculum piece. However, these numbers are misleading
and seemed to be the cause of unjustified assumptions such as a recent
eSchool News  <http://www.eschoolnews.com/> article, Blogging
<http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/?i=53663;_hbguid=e0da166a-2d66-434
d-9c7c-01286ec3b126>  Helps Encourage Teenage Writing, states that Blogging
is helping many teens become prolific writers citing the above statistics as
support.

Here is the problem. There is nothing in the survey that identifies blogging
as the reason for the increase in writing or the increase value in writing.
Many of these students could have appreciated writing before blogging and
because of this value, found blogging to be a natural extension of such
passion. Many of these bloggers could have been writing prolifically before
become bloggers but found blogging as another outlet. It very well could be
that blogging helps encourage teen writing, but none of this was made clear
in the research even though some want to grab onto anything to prove just
how valuable web 2.0 is in education. Instead of making assumptions, let's
ask these questions and perform the research that is needed to justify these
statements.

Education has enough of this type of rhetoric being spread throughout
various forms of media that is highly disappointing to see such statements
being made. This is not to discredit the PEW <http://pewinternet.org/>
findings; it is a criticism of individuals and organizations using it to
draw false conclusions from such statistics and highlight those conclusions
in headlines because that is what they want the stats to say. In fact, there
is a lot that can be used from this survey that should be the center of
attention specifically what teens say motivate them to write and what
schools can do to improve writing instructions.

Teens and Writing Instruction Best Practices 
While the study had many interesting points, an area that really stood out
to me was what teens felt motivated them to write and how they believed
schools could improve writing instruction. The survey showed that many
students saw the following as important in these areas:

- Choice
- Opportunity for Creativity
- High Expectations/Challenge from Adults
- Audience
- Interesting Curricula
- In-class time
- Computer-based writing tools
- Feedback

Rather intriguing is how well these ideas align with research on best
practices in writing instruction: a supportive environment of peers and
adults, regular in-class time including workshops, choice and ownership,
authentic writing opportunities, modeling, and frequent, constructive
feedback to name a few.

What is also interesting is how a proper blogging program could potentially
address some of these areas in a way not entirely possible by other means.
First, the idea of audience is something that a long-term blogging program
could address for all students. Whether via a walled garden, open space, or
mixed model, blogging offers the opportunity for writing to be made public,
something that the students surveyed feel enhances their work:

Well, if I knew that other people were going to read what I wrote and react
to what I was writing then I would make it better and I would want to do the
best that I could at it. Teen 1

I write differently that I would if I was writing it for my teacher because
of pressure from your peers. Teen 2

With the potential for a global audience, blogging offers an amazing
opportunity to maximize audience. Obviously, blogging that is project based
or course base will struggle to develop that global audience, but a blogging
program that grants students access to the same blog over a long period of
time offers a greater chance for such an audience and a greater chance for
higher levels of writing motivation.

Second, the idea of feedback that is constructive and consistent is
something that is well known as important; however, it is one that many
teachers struggle with balancing amongst all of their students who need
support. When work becomes public, feedback comes from more than just the
teacher once an audience has been established. In fact, when writing is made
public such as with a blog, it affords teachers a variety of options of
creating various sources of feedbacks.
One in particular is through partnerships with universities and their
pre-service teachers, which I've seen first hand as a masterful way of
adding another source of constructive feedback on student writing. By no
means does this imply the teacher should not be directly involved. It is
simply adding more feedback and greater expectations, both of which students
say are important to their motivation and improving writing instruction.

Most importantly
The PEW study on <http://pewinternet.org/PPF/r/247/report_display.asp>
Writing, Technology, and Teens is packed with interesting findings that
teachers and administrators will want to discuss. Most importantly, 93% of
students in a recent PEW student say they write purely for pleasure and 86%
say good writing is important for success. These are exciting pieces of
information that schools need to support and continue finding ways to
maximize whether with technology or not.

Technorati Tags: blogging <http://technorati.com/tag/blogging> , PEW
<http://technorati.com/tag/PEW> , research
<http://technorati.com/tag/research> , eschoolnews
<http://technorati.com/tag/eschoolnews> 

Posted on Sunday, May 11th, 2008 and is filed under Blog/blogging
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About Metanoia

Metanoia represents a shift or change of mind. This blog documents my shift
towards a broader and deeper understanding of what it means to learn and
lead for today and tomorrow. This shift, this metamorphosis, is the heart of
my blog. For that reason, the writings found here are always works in
progress and always open for internal and external debate. Thus, I encourage
you to challenge, question, and inquire about these ideas as we shift
together as learners and leaders.

Contact Information

Email: rbretag @gmail.com
Blog: www.ryanbretag.com/blog
Skype: ryanbretag
Twitter: ryanbretag
Second Life: Existential Pain


About Metanoia


Welcome to Metanoia, a blog by Ryan Bretag.

Metanoia represents a shift or change of mind. This blog documents my shift
towards a broader and deeper understanding of what it means to learn and
lead for today and tomorrow. As Senge notes in The Fifth Discipline,

Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through
learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do
something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world
and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to
create, to be part of the generative process of life.

This shift, this metamorphosis, is the heart of this blog. For that reason,
the writings found here are always works in progress and always open for
internal and external debate. Thus, I encourage you to challenge, question,
and inquire about these ideas as we shift together as learners and leaders.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and
write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. " Alvin Toffler
<http://www.alvintoffler.net/> 

 

 

 

Dan Kern

AD21, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone:  (636) 583-5195

Extension:  2426

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

 


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