Saturday, 29 May 2010

Web Power

Where does the power of the Web lie? Are we preparing students for Web power?

I'd like to take up connectivism as it pertains to the writing process relative to these questions. After looking over a few readings prior to this post (Will Richardson's post on 'Connective Writing' was a good source), after completing two COTAIL Projects—most recently on Fair Use Policy and Practice, and after having spent the last five weeks having my advanced English as an Additional Language (EAL) students complete a Web 2.0 research and blog writing project, I'm convinced that web/ blog writing, especially for the second language (L2) learner, is a distinct genre and one that requires some explicit instruction.

It's the idea of 'live' writing that Richardson refers to. It's not that writers can't stop in the middle of writing for fear the idea can't be saved, but it's more the concept that the 'great unknown' audience is out there and can be connected to within the time it takes to click onto a link. And that great unknown holds the writer accountable for meaningful ideas to be shared and for meaningful ideas to be conveyed clearly. Richardson goes on to ask:
Are their certain skills or nuances around “flowwriting” for live audiences that we need to teach and nurture? Certain “rules” or norms for use?
So, I like this 'flowwriting.' It reminds me of 'stream of consciousness' writing that any high school student learns about in high school English literature (one prime example being the Holden character in Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger). But is flowwriting capturing that 'interior monologue of thought and feeling' in the same way? Or is there an inherent process going on inside the mind as the writer writes. As I metacognize writing this post, I do feel a sense of exposing my interior monologue, but maybe it's the level of coherence that differs. In the stream of consciousness, you can let your style wander and not worry too much about coherence or even whether the reader can follow along, but here, I am concerned with the reader following my line of thinking. But in either case, whether you expect a writer to use stream of consciousness as a particular style say in a pastiche, or you expect the writer to produce a blog in class, both require identification of text type (this 'Basic Text Types' has been adapted for use in the K-12 EAL department put together), appropriate vocabulary, verb tense, sentence structure and other language features.

Let's have a closer look at the text types here and see where blog writing might fit.

Is it more 'Diary/ reflection'?How about 'Exposition'?'Discussion'?'Persuasion'?
More 'Multiple texts'?

The 'multiple texts' text type is a safe guess at this point, but a more extensive analysis is required (and beyond the scope of this post and beyond the descriptions in these charts). But I am inclined to have a closer look at what constitutes the text type of blog writing and to make this explicit to my L2 students. And, as it goes without saying, most often, these explicit descriptions work well for all students to work with. Given that students are blogging in the elementary school, are assumptions made that students automatically know how to write a blog? And, in the high school, wouldn't it be to everyone's advantage to prepare students to write their blogs well as they enter college and the workplace where blog writing abounds?

Recently, I asked for student feedback in my Theory of Knowledge (ToK) class (#14) regarding the value of their blog posts for understanding the knowledge issues we've studied. One student responded that of course it's of value:

It's preparation for my world of writing and communication.
Then when I sat to write this post, I made the connection (connectivism?) that there's a bigger picture here. One that points to the 'ole 'scope and sequence' in curriculum writing, whereby we collaborate between schools and determine what needs to be taught where so that we are preparing students for the type of communicating they are doing and will be doing (unless blog writing is a mere fad). In 'Kids Don't Try This at Home...' by Jennifer Brown Banks, Franky Branckaute, one commenter, has an interesting idea:
Not every ‘writer’ is a great ‘blogger’ and not every ‘blogger’ is a great author.
But every blogger has the potential to be a great author. And in reading through the rest of the comments, I agree that the distinction seems more to be between being great at something vs. just being able to do something, as well as recognizing the distinction between formal and informal blog writing.

So, given our ISB standards, we choose the 'great' standard for most everything, which supports the argument for incorporating blog writing into language arts/ language curriculum somewhere and making its text type explicit so we can work to assess it.

And in asking where the power of the Web lies? I'd say it lies at the heart of our ability to effectively communicate in writing.

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