Yes, I may just be a glutton for punishment. I began three classes yesterday! Two classes are for college credit and one class is directed by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) via her new book Reinventing Writing. I know, all of this is self-inflicted but surprise of all surprises the one that matters the most and that will help my students be successful is the one that will not count for any credit. I am taking a political science class and a Mexican history class, both online. These online courses are just like the traditional classes that I took from 1990-1995 in my undergraduate days. The only real difference is that instead of going to a lecture hall, I have to sit at home and read, do vocabulary (in .doc or .docx format only), and take essay exams once a week for four weeks. In one of the courses there is weekly discussion but it’s nothing like spending an hour in an education related twitter chat. In both of these classes regurgitation of factual information will be rewarded with grades. No premium is put on original thought. To quote one of the professors, “I am measuring your reading comprehension and engagement of what I assign.” 8-( Really, I mean really? NO OUTSIDE SOURCES!
When I reached the end of chapter one of Vicki’s new book, I was revved up and ready to set off on a further exploration of writing. According to my college transcripts, I am a social studies teacher, but in my heart I am a teacher of students and a lead learner. I love learning, especially learning about topics that are meaningful to me and lead by people who are also passionate about teaching and learning.
Mrs. Davis asks three questions at the end of chapter one of her book, “Is writing truly reinvented? What is different? What is the same?” These are the questions I will grapple with in this blog post.
The Same Old Words in a New Way
Writing is the same as it has been in my lifetime. I think of words or phrases, put letters together to form words, that are then (I hope) linked into grammatically correct sentences that make a point. When writing with paper and pencil, a person can always erase words and write them over. When using ink on paper if a mistake is made anyone reading it can see there is a mistake unless the entire page is completely rewritten. I remember having to type papers on an electric typewriter in high school. We had correction ribbon but it never quite worked right. So, if I made a mistake, I would more than likely have to type the entire page over again. I could try to use white out, but it wasn’t readily available and it tended to make things look messy anyhow. It seemed that if I ever moved the paper from the typewriter carriage it would never line up with any of the words properly, so it meant retyping a page.
When I was in college, the world of writing had moved into the dawn of word processing programs. There was Word Perfect and various other word processing and computer writing tools, but things began to standardize when Microsoft Word came out. Word is pretty much the world standard for writing papers today, or is it? I write my blog posts into my Evernote account and they are then accessible from every device that has the Evernote app or access to the web. A lot of people that write for a living use Scrivener and many other organizational writing tools. We seem to be moving away from the large ominous corporate behemoths like Microsoft and writing anywhere at any time misstake free!
Writing is the same but we are free to write any way our brains tend to process information. Let me give you a personal example. I hate outlines. There, I said it and I stand behind it. I probably have some old English teachers turning over in their graves right now. I don’t like to free write either. Some people can just write and write without a thought about spelling and grammar as they feel that it frees up their mind and they can go back and correct mistakes after they have their great thoughts down on paper. I process things first (mull things over in my mind for a while- – this can sometimes be for a week or more), then I sit down to write. I edit as I type and there is an inner dialogue that goes on in my mind. I am actually saying the words in my head and at my lips without moving my lips. If I don’t like something, or I type something incorrectly, or if something doesn’t make sense, it gets edited immediately.
Writing for the World
Personally, I think that the greatest change in writing is that of audience. In my blog alone I am writing for a worldwide audience. I would like to think that most of my audience is made up of other teachers who may be looking to learn something new or teachers who read what I write and come to the conclusion that they can do a better job than that guy, but I also know that there are pre-service teachers who are reading this right now and asking, “can I really take the risk to put something that unpolished out there for the world to see?” Hey, I’m not perfect. I do, however, enjoy writing. I just never thought that I would be writing to be able to understand myself better or that my audience might be other people in the field of education.
I believe that I learn the most from my writing. Writing is my way of reflecting on things that have my mind in a tizzy or ideas that might actually be half-baked. Writing also allows me to see if I understand something clearly and from that see things that I do not understand so clearly. Our students can take their ideas to the world at large to get feedback, constructive criticism, to move people, to persuade people, to understand others in far off places, or to share their understanding of the here and now. Young people today can start a movement through writing.
The written word is the same today as it always has been, but the words that we write can have a far greater impact without the need to be great or famous. I love the written word! Old or new I love to read the written word. Now, because I can write in a style that is comfortable to me, I love to write. My only hope is that my words make sense and that my words are helpful to someone else.
What do you think about writing? Do you feel that your writing could have a positive impact on someone? Is writing truly reinvented?