New Literacy … writing is alive and well

Clive Thompson writes about the Stanford Study of Writing – one of the first research-based arguments that student writing is in actual fact, alive, well, and thriving in the digital age:

… young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

Read the rest of the Wired article here.

Mixed Ink

Really interesting idea – takes collaborative writing a bit further than the tools we’ve become familiar with (like google docs or wikispaces).

With Mixed Ink, writers can participate in a group with the goal of producing a single, final document. Writers can draft their ideas individually or on smaller teams. Individuals and teams write and read each others’ work, borrowing when they find strong ideas (always giving the originator credit) and re-drafting at will. Group members continuously rate the submissions until one final document emerges.

According to the folks at Mixed Ink, the tool has been used by the White HouseCongressional offices, and news publishers. It looks to have great potential for classroom use, giving a whole new meaning to peer review and the concept of editing and revision. Mixed Ink suggests applications such as:

  • persuasive writing
  • vision statements
  • word problems
  • letters to editor / public officials
  • how-to writing
  • film/literature analysis

I’m sure teachers could think of many more uses. Here’s a descriptive video:

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.