And still, outside of school, people wrote…

Author: Susan Diaz, Secondary Literary Specialist

In grad school, one of my professors assigned an article for us to read by Kathleen Blake Yancey, the former president of NCTE, entitled “Writing in the 21st Century.” (To read this article, go to http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Yancey_final.pdf.)  I distinctly remember falling in love with this article for several reasons: her writing style is AMAZING, she succinctly summarizes a history of composition in a mere few paragraphs, she reminds readers of the social nature of writing, she asserts that technology has allowed everyone to become writers and that these writers who embrace technology “want to compose and do” for each other, a real and defined audience.

I would like to focus specifically on Yancey’s views on the role of audience and the social nature of writing that has become more prominent because of technology.  Everywhere we look, we see examples of students writing—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, text messages.  Deborah Brandt, professor emerita of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls this self-sponsored writing, “a writing that belongs to the writer, not to an institution” (Yancey 4).   In these platforms, our students mix text and media effortlessly and WILLINGLY in order “to share, to encourage dialogue, to participate” (Yancey 5).  Writers, and just as importantly, AUDIENCES are everywhere.  Our students dive into this digital environment yet they seem reluctant to write for us in the classroom.  We stick to the traditional model of literacy with pen and paper first, then the computer, and, finally, if at all, the networked computer.  We limit the power of the computer by only using it as a word processor.  We limit our students’ creativity and interest when we ignore how they “naturally” communicate through the writing.

Yancey ends her article with the idea that writing throughout history has mostly been for a public audience. “If this is so, we need to find a place for it both in our models of writing and in our teaching of writing.” (7). And this is exactly why our students write outside of school—because of an audience.  Shouldn’t we encourage this?

Source

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, Writing in the 21st Century. NCTE Web,  31 July 2012.


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